‘De-certifying’ the Iran Deal May Be Trump’s Most Reckless Decision Yet


(Image: SS&SS / Flickr)

Despite heavy competition, Trump’s latest Iran move ranks near the top of the list of the most reckless actions of this ever-so-reckless presidency. The president announced recently that he was refusing to certify Iran’s compliance with the landmark nuclear agreement it reached with the U.S. and several other world powers during the Obama administration.

This dangerous move won’t scuttle the deal entirely — at least not yet — but it undermines the strength of the international agreement and ultimately increases the threat of war. While Trump has said he’s not pulling out of the deal just yet, he’s threatening to do so if Congress doesn’t pass new sanctions .

With virtually every Iran expert on the planet in agreement that Tehran is keeping its end of the nuclear deal, it’s clear that Trump’s motives are purely political. That makes his decision only more dangerous.

Outright Lies

The Iran nuclear deal — officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — is widely recognized as one of President Obama’s most important diplomatic successes, and it’s working exactly as it was designed to do.

The UN nuclear inspection agency, the U.S. intelligence community, and every serious expert on Iran’s nuclear program from across the globe, all agree that Iran is complying with the requirements of the deal. That means, among other things, that Iran’s supply of low enriched uranium is now about 1 percent of what it used to be, it has no highly enriched uranium, and its nuclear program is under tight international inspection.

Trump scorned pleas from key U.S. allies, members of Congress from both parties, and his own top security advisers, all of whom urged him to maintain the deal.

In withdrawing from a deal that Iran was keeping in good faith, Trump abandoned any pretense of maintaining U.S. credibility as a reliable negotiating partner. Instead, he justified decertifying Iranian compliance with a combination of exaggerations, complaints about actions that have nothing to do with the actual terms of the deal, and outright lies.

In remarks announcing his action, Trump claimed that “the Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement — for example, they exceeded the 130 metric ton limit of heavy water.” As the Guardian pointed out, that statement was “misleading at best. On two occasions, Iran’s stockpile of heavy water flowed over the ceiling imposed by the deal, but the situation was quickly rectified and Iran’s reserve is now below the limit. Nor is heavy water a direct proliferation threat.”

He also tossed out the line, without a shred of evidence, that “many people believe Iran is dealing with North Korea.”

He lied about Iran getting “paid up front” when the deal was signed, “rather than at the end of the deal when they have shown they’ve played by the rules.” Trump implied this was a payout from the West to Iran, but didn’t mention this was Iran’s own money, long frozen by the United States and its allies. And in point of fact, those funds weren’t released until the UN nuclear inspectors had determined that Tehran was indeed complying with the rules.

Finally, Trump lied about conditions inside Iran, claiming that the deal resulted in sanctions being lifted “just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime.” Despite U.S. threats and crippling sanctions (which had far more impact on Iran’s civilian population than on the government), the Iranian regime was and remains very far from “total collapse.”

Trump also refused to acknowledge that Iran and the United States are actually fighting on the same side across the region. Washington and Tehran support the same governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both have deployed troops and planes to fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. (Of course, this isn’t particularly good news — both the Afghan and Iraqi governments are deeply corrupt, and the U.S. and Iran have each been responsible for war crimes in Syria — but it shows the hypocrisy in Trump’s deeply oppositional view of Iran.)

Furthermore, while they support different sides in the Syrian civil war, U.S. and Iranian military forces are often close together, and remain in constant communication to prevent any friendly fire attacks on each other. Indeed, while Trump announced new sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps for their alleged support for terrorism, he was careful not to add the IRGC to Washington’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, because that would threaten U.S. soldiers fighting near IRGC troops in Syria.

Because Trump couldn’t point to any actual violations of the terms of JCPOA by Iran, he claimed instead that Tehran “is not living up to the spirit of the deal.” He condemned Iran’s missile developments, bemoaning the deal’s “failure” to deal with them. But of course, it wasn’t a deal about missile technology — it was a deal about nuclear enrichment. That was the only way to get all sides on board, and scuttling it when Iran’s in compliance will inevitably make it more difficult to strike a deal on missiles or anything else in the future.

Rogue State Behavior

Trump’s new Iran position doesn’t end the multi-party Iran deal; it doesn’t even pull the United States out of the deal or end U.S. obligations under the deal — yet.

Instead, it tosses the decision back to Congress. The JCPOA is a multi-lateral agreement, not a treaty, and didn’t have to be ratified by the Senate. In order to prevent political problems, Obama negotiated a separate deal with Congress, which requires the president to certify every 90 days that Iran is still in compliance with the deal.

If the president refuses to do so, as Trump just did, Congress then has 60 days to decide whether or not to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. That decision would indeed violate Washington’s obligations (which included ending nuclear sanctions), and Iran and the other signatories would rightly blame the U.S. for wrecking the deal.

Trump’s “America First” actions have seriously damaged Washington’s already-dubious standing in the world. This latest move goes further, gravely weakening international cooperation, concern for civilian populations, efforts towards non-proliferation and disarmament, respect for international law, and the credibility of the United Nations, which endorsed the deal.

It’s dangerous because it tells Iran, Washington’s negotiating partners, and the world that the United States isn’t committed to the deal it signed, and is looking for a way out. It’s dangerous because it tells North Korea that they might as well not bother negotiating with Washington, because the United States can’t be counted on to abide by its agreements.

It’s dangerous because there’s already strong anti-Iran and anti-JCPOA sentiment in Congress, as well as strong outside pressure (from Israel’s supporters, among others) on legislators to follow Trump’s reckless decision with an equally reckless move of their own. If Congress imposes new nuclear sanctions on Iran, that would threaten the real collapse of the deal — unless, as has happened before, the Iranian government shows more restraint and more political maturity than its U.S. counterpart.

Abandoning the nuclear deal shows utter disdain for our negotiating partners in China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK, which together helped craft the deal, as well as for Iran itself. It also slaps the unanimous UN Security Council Resolution 2231 endorsing the deal, which reminded signatories that they were obligated under international law “to accept and carry out the Security Council’s decisions,” including by carrying out the “full implementation” of the JCPOA.

As Iran’s UN Ambassador Javad Zarif told CBS:

“You know, the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council. And if it’s not going to uphold a resolution, that not only it voted for but it sponsored, then the credibility of the institution that the United States considers to be very important would be at stake. Nobody else will trust any U.S. administration to engage in any long-term negotiation because the length of any commitment, the duration of any commitment from now on with any U.S. administration would be the remainder of the term of that president.”

Trump’s cascading recklessness in his Iran policy continues to put the United States, Iran, the Middle East, and indeed the world at great peril. His actions make the threat of war far more likely. And if Congress doesn’t fall into Trump’s trap, and instead rejects his demand to impose new nuclear sanctions, Trump will come face-to-face with his promise to cancel the agreement himself.

Such an act would indeed prove, to anyone not yet convinced, that the United States is a rogue state.

The post ‘De-certifying’ the Iran Deal May Be Trump’s Most Reckless Decision Yet appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


Who Suffers the Most from the U.S. Drug War? Families


(Photo: Shutterstock)

Angela Pryor, a 41-year-old woman from Ross County, Ohio, is not living the life she thought she would.

She used to stay at home and take care of her kids while her husband, Jesse, went to work as a carpenter. But as Jesse fell into opioid addiction, Angela had to pick up the slack. It became even harder when he ended up in jail for selling drugs. And harder still when Jesse overdosed and passed away in 2015.

Now Angela’s struggling to care for her five children alone. She’s even lost her house, the Atlantic reported recently.

A few hundred miles to the east, in Washington, another familiar scene played out in the pages of the New York Times.

When Charlene Hamilton’s husband, Carl Harris, was jailed for selling drugs, she was left behind to take care of the kids, pay the rent and feed the family. Like Angela, Charlene found herself homeless more than once. She slept in a car for a month while her kids stayed with other relatives. Meanwhile in prison, Carl started using the drugs he once sold.

The similarities in their stories don’t stop there. Both families lived in communities plagued by joblessness. In Ohio, the decline of good-paying manufacturing jobs combined with health problems have led to a drug epidemic, largely among white men, that was responsible for more than 3,000 deaths statewide just last year.

Meanwhile, majority-black communities have been suffering from unemployment for decades. In the District of Columbia the unemployment rate for black residents — now at 13.4 percent — has actually gotten worse since the recession, even while every other racial and ethnic group in the city has seen an improvement.

These are the conditions that can lead a husband and father like Carl Harris or Jesse Pryor to turn to drug use, abuse and trade. It is what’s called economic despair. And it’s happening all over the country.

As extreme inequality gets worse and the middle class disintegrates, many formerly middle-income white Americans are now experiencing the sorts of pain long suffered by poorer communities of color.

All that’s bad enough. But there’s one man who seems determined to make it all worse: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Reversing an Obama-era guideline, Sessions recently told federal prosecutors to go after low-level drug offenders and to seek the toughest possible penalties against them.

It’s an unmistakable return to widely discredited mandatory minimum sentencing laws that treat drug use and abuse as a crime, rather than a mental or physical health issue. (Interestingly, Sessions shows little interest in prosecuting the white-collar criminals who are the cause of much of the income inequality that can lead to drug use in the first place.)

The effects of a return to harsher drug law enforcement go beyond the loss of our white and black fathers, husbands and friends. These policies will stifle children for generations to come, as new data show.

Sociology professor Kristin Turney “found that children with incarcerated parents were three times more likely to suffer from depression or behavioral problems, and twice as likely to suffer from learning disabilities and anxiety,” The Nation reported.

That same story quotes a former New Orleans city councilman and former teacher who is an ex-offender himself. He said that when he speaks to schoolchildren and asks if any of them have a family member in prison, “just about everybody raises their hand.”

These students are more statistically likely to drop out, too, which of course makes it more difficult to get a job, continuing the cycle of economic despair.

Poor white families who are now suffering can learn a lot from the suffering that poor black families have endured from this system for decades. These communities can come together to fight reactionary drug war policies like Sessions’, which exacerbate everyone’s suffering.

The Essie Justice Group is one such effort that brings together those often forgotten victims — the women and the families left behind — of the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the economic inequality wrapped up in all of it.

Gina Clayton, who founded the group, has this message for those women like Angela and Charlene: “This loss that I’ve experienced is not OK, and we all need to do something about it.”


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A Commencement Address for the Most Indebted Class Ever

(Photo: Chicago Jobs With Justice)

(Photo: Chicago Jobs With Justice)

Congratulations, college graduates! As you enter the next phase of life, you and your parents should be proud of your achievements.

But, I’m sorry to say, they’ve come at a price: The system is trying to squeeze you harder than any previous generation.

Many baby boomers, perhaps including your parents, benefited from a time when higher education was seen as a shared social responsibility. Between 1945 and 1975, tens of millions of them graduated from college with little or no debt.

But now, tens of millions of you are graduating with astounding levels of debt.

This year, seven in 10 graduating seniors borrowed for their educations. Their average debt is now over $ 37,000 — the highest figure for any class ever.

Already, some 43 percent of borrowers — together owing $ 200 billion — have either stopped making payments or are behind on their student loans. Millions are in default.

This debt casts a long shadow on the finances of graduates. During the last quarter of 2015 alone, the Education Department moved to garnish $ 176 million in wages.

There’s no economic benefit to this system whatsoever. Indebted students delay starting families and buying houses, experience compounding economic distress, and are less inclined to take entrepreneurial risks.

One driver of the change from your parents’ generation has been tax cuts for the wealthy, which have led to cuts in higher education budgets. Forty-seven states now spend less per student on higher education than they did before the 2008 economic recession.

In effect, we’re shifting tax obligations away from multi-millionaires and onto states and middle-income taxpayers. And that’s led colleges to rely on higher tuition costs and fees.

In 2005, for instance, Congress stopped sharing revenue from the estate tax — a levy on inherited wealth exclusively paid by multi-million dollar estates — with the states. Most state legislatures failed to replace it at the state level, costing them billions in revenue over the last decade.

In fact, the 32 states that let their estate taxes expire are foregoing between $ 3 to $ 6 billion a year, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates. The resulting tax benefits have gone entirely to multi-millionaires and billionaires — and contributed to tuition increases.

For example, California used to raise almost $ 1 billion a year in revenue from its state-level estate tax. Now that figure is down to zero. And since 2008, average tuition has increased over $ 3,500 at four-year public colleges and universities in the state.

Florida, meanwhile, lost $ 700 million a year — and raised tuition nearly $ 2,500. Michigan lost $ 155 million a year and hiked average tuition $ 2,200.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Washington State went the opposite route.

Washington taxes wealthy estates and dedicates the $ 150 million it raises each year to an education legacy trust account, which supports K-12 education and the state’s community college system. Other states should follow this model, and students and parents should take the lead in demanding it.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said at a Philadelphia town hall that there’s one thing he’s 100 percent certain about.

If millions of young people stood up and said they’re “sick and tired of leaving college $ 30,000, $ 50,000, $ 70,000 in debt, that they want public colleges and universities tuition-free,” he predicted, “that is exactly what would happen.”

Sanders is right: Imagine a political movement made up of the 40 million households that currently hold $ 1.2 trillion in debt.

If we stood up and pressed for policies to eliminate millionaire tax breaks and dedicate the revenue to debt-free education, it would change the face of America.

Graduates, let’s get to work.

The post A Commencement Address for the Most Indebted Class Ever appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Fifth Split This Rock Poetry Festival Presents Nation’s Most Acclaimed Poets

For immediate release: March 29, 2016


Contact: Sarah Browning, browning@splitthisrock.org, 202-787-5210 

Washington, DC – Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, DC’s biennial national festival, will showcase poets working at the intersection of the imagination and social change for four days during National Poetry Month, April 14-17, 2016. On April 13, 7 pm, Juan Felipe Herrera will conclude his term as the 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress with a lecture titled “Pioneers of Flower and Song,” kicking off Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

The only one of its kind in the country, Split This Rock Poetry Festival includes readings, workshops, panel discussions, open mics, youth programming, and activism. Executive Director Sarah Browning says, “In the face of growing violence and bigotry, Split This Rock Festival poets speak for resistance and hope. In the face of hate, they demand that we recognize and celebrate the humanity in one another.” On Friday, April 15 festival participants will take poetry to the streets from 10 to 11 am, standing against hate and fear by sharing poems of love and welcome throughout the Farragut neighborhood.

Poetry magazine, the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world, has collaborated with Split This Rock, publishing a special portfolio in the April 2016 issue, with new poems by festival featured poets. The portfolio is co-edited by Poetry editor Don Share and Split This Rock Executive Director Sarah Browning, with an introduction by Browning.

Featured readings, free and open to the public, will be held in the National Geographic Auditorium, 1145 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC (entrance on M Street, NW). The venue is wheelchair accessible and all readings will include ASL interpreters. The reading schedule is as follows:

  • Thursday, April 14, 7:30 pm – Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Craig Santos Perez, and 2015 Split This Rock Poetry Contest Winner Sara Brickman
  • Friday, April 15, 7:30 pm – Jennifer Bartlett, Jan Beatty, Regie Cabico, and 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Contest Winner Lauren K. Alleyne
  • Saturday, April 16, 4:30 pm – Dominique Christina, Martha Collins, Dawn Lundy Martin
  • Saturday, April 16, 8 pm – Reginald Dwayne Betts, Nikky Finney, Ocean Vuong
  • Sunday, April 17, 11:30 am – Amal Al-Jubouri, Rigoberto González, Linda Hogan

Among the most significant and artistically vibrant poets writing and performing today, the festival’s featured poets exhibit exemplary public citizenship as activists, teachers, and supporters of marginalized voices. They represent the great diversity of poets writing and performing in the United States today: poets writing in all poetic styles, poets with disabilities, men and women of many races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, and social classes.

Full biographies and photographs of Split This Rock 2016 featured poets can be found at www.splitthisrock.org.

Other free events include:

  • Social Change Bookfair, Saturday, April 16, 10 am-3:30 pm, Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives, Room 300, 1201 17th St, NW, Washington, DC.
  • Poetry Public Action, standing against hate and fear. Friday, April 15, 10-11 am; gathering at the Human Rights Campaign, 1640 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC, at 9:45 am.

Festival registrants are invited to three events at Busboys and Poets: two open mics (Thursday, April 14 at 14th & V and Friday, April 15 at 5th & K, both starting at 10 pm) and the FLO(W)TUS Party on Saturday, April 16 at 10:30 pm. The Dark Noise Collective co-hosts this festive Michelle Obama-themed event with music by DJ Mane Squeeze. The public is welcome to attend. These events are free to festival participants. Open mics are $ 5 at the door, cash only. Tickets to the party can be purchased in advance online at busboysandpoets.com for $ 10.

Cost: Full festival registration costs $ 140. Students are $ 50. One-day passes are $ 60. The full schedule and registration are at www.splitthisrock.org.

Locations: Festival readings will take place in the Grosvenor Auditorium of the National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC (entrance on M Street). Daytime readings, panels, and workshops will take place at the AFL-CIO, Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives, the Human Rights Campaign, the Beacon Hotel, the Institute for Policy Studies, University of California – Washington Center (UCDC) Auditorium, and Foundry United Methodist Church.

Festival Partners are Busboys and Poets, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Poetry Foundation and POETRY magazine. Upshur Street Books is the official festival bookseller.

Split This Rock Poetry Festival is made possible in part by support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz, Compton, CrossCurrents, and Reva & David Logan Foundations, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and many generous individuals. Cosponsors include the AFL-CIO, Arts and Humanities Center for Synergy at the University of Maryland, Jimenez-Porter Writers House at University of Maryland, Letras Latinas at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, Poets & Writers, Spectrum of Poetic Fire/Poetry Posse, The Maryland Writer’s Association, the Beacon Hotel, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Community Sponsors include the Academy of American Poets, CantoMundo, Hurston/Wright Foundation, Kundiman, Lambda Literary, Story District, The Dodge Poetry Program/Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University, Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and The Watering Hole.

The post Fifth Split This Rock Poetry Festival Presents Nation’s Most Acclaimed Poets appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


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This Kids’ Clothing Ad Might Be the Most Whimsical Depiction of Child Labor Ever – Adweek

This Kids' Clothing Ad Might Be the Most Whimsical Depiction of Child Labor Ever
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