US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker says it will be Pakistan’s loss if it continues with its plan to boycott the big international conference on Afghanistan’s future starting next Monday in Bonn, Germany. Pakistan adopted this stance late last year after US air strikes against one of its outposts along the border with Afghanistan.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN.
** QUICK HITS. Putative on and off Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney’s wife Ann “joked” today that she would like to strangle the press, which she says is playing up her husband’s woes because they are for Obama. She wasn’t so critical of the media when they were caught up in the “inevitable Romney” meme. … Yes, it has been an unusually dry winter in California. The Sierra Nevada snow pack is only 30% of normal for this date. Get a feeling of drought going and Californians may at last be ready to deal with water policy down the line. …
** NEW SURVEY: IRANIAN PEOPLE ARE VERY NEGATIVE ON AMERICA. With the nuclear crisis surrounding Iran and Israel at a high level of tension, a new Gallup Poll survey of the Iranian public shows that the view of the US there is among the lowest of any nation in the world.
The good news is that it hasn’t gotten worse in the wake of tough new sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration.
The bad news is that it would be hard for it to have gotten worse.
Only 8% approve of the US, while 67% disapprove.
Yet only 46% support cutting ties with nations such as the US who have imposed these sanctions, while 31% do not.
Intriguingly, Russia and China are not viewed all that much more highly than the US or UK, despite the fact that Moscow and Beijing have done some serious backstopping of Iran, though not always.
Iranians’ already low approval of U.S. leadership did not get worse after the U.S. toughened sanctions in late 2011. Eight percent of Iranians approved of U.S. leadership in late 2011 and early 2012 — one of the lowest ratings the U.S. receives worldwide. While nearly half of Iranians (46%) support cutting ties with countries that impose economic sanctions on Iran, nearly one in three (31%) do not, showing a sizable minority of Iranians still value relations. …
The U.S., the U.K., and the EU in recent months have imposed some of the toughest economic sanctions on Iran yet to thwart its nuclear program. Iran has responded with threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for one-fifth of the world’s oil. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on state TV last week that, “no obstacles can stop Iran’s nuclear work.”
Tensions over Iran’s disputed nuclear program escalated further last week after Iran refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials to investigate nuclear activities at a military base. The IAEA reported after its recent trip that Iran had stepped up its uranium enrichment, sending oil prices soaring to a nine-month high Friday amid concerns about a confrontation with the West. …
In a speech this morning to the United Auto Workers, President Barack Obama said that critics of his successful rescue plan for the auto industry “are trying to rewrite history.”
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
He and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama then delivered remarks to the United Auto Workers conference at the Washington Marriott at Wardman Park.
At 9:45 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden have lunch in the Private Dining Room.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
They have much to talk about.
The veteran California political figure meets soon with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is arriving in Washington. The principal topic of discussion, of course, is the crisis with Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s moves, including threatened air strikes, against it.
Obama meets on March 5th with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who will spend most of next week in the US drumming up support.
No major new developments today, at least on the surface, in the crisis with Iran and Israel.
Protests continued today in Afghanistan against the burnings of Qurans at Bagram Air Base eight days ago.
The suspected killer of an American colonel and major in the highly secured Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul on Saturday has not been apprehended. He is reportedly a 25-year old Afghan intelligence officer.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this morning denounced efforts by the Assad regime to say that adoption of a new constitution means major change in Syria, where the regime continues cracking down on protesters.
While Obama monitors and manages these multiple geopolitical crises having to do with the Arab Awakening, AfPak, Iran and Israel, and Iraq, the Republicans who hope to challenge him battle it out in today’s primaries.
Mitt Romney will win Arizona, as long expected.
But he is in real trouble in his home state Michigan.
Fearing a loss today in his home state Michigan primary, Mitt Romney charged Rick Santorum with “cheating” by having automated phone calls to Democrats who might vote in the primary.
In fact, late polling on Monday night appears to indicate a move to Rick Santorum.
Or, I should say, a move back to Santorum. Who surged to a lead in the state where Romney’s father was a popular governor and car company CEO, overcoming Romney’s huge lead, only to fall back under the weight of massive negative advertising against him by Romney forces.
The question may be whether or not Romney has enough votes already cast before election day to hold off this late surge for Santorum.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Los Angeles.
On his way back home from a big trip to Washington, Brown stops over today in LA to meet with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.
He’s touching base, as he frequently does with major labor and business leaders.
But it should be noted that the AFT is the national parent of the California Federation of Teachers, the number two teachers union in California, which is pushing a tax the rich initiative for November rivaling Brown’s revenue initiative. Which is itself backed by the state’s largest teachers union, the California Teachers Association, which has fare more in political resources than the AFT’s state affiliate.
On Monday, Brown attended the National Governors Association closing session, then took part in a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.
Following that, Brown met with the California Congressional delegation and holds some talks with national labor leaders.
He got some expected news late Monday when the state Senate declined to take up his reappointment of Herbert Carter as chairman of the California State University Board of Trustees. The appointment requires a two-thirds vote to extend Carter’s tenure, which began with his appointment by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But Republicans, seeking relevance in the chamber as their power wanes, opposed Carter, and state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg didn’t bother to push a pointless exercise.
Carter had come under fire from many quarters for CSU’s practice of big pay hikes for top executives even as the system has undergone serious austerity measures.
Brown also got some flak on his budget in the form of an assessment by the Legislative Analyst Office, which says that the administration is overstating future revenues in the latest budget.
The dispute is over how much there will be in the way of capital gains as the economy improves, as IPOs increase, and as the stock market goes up. The LAO takes a more conservative view than the state’s Department of Finance.
** DEBATING IN DISARRAY: SEARCHING FOR SOME CLARITY IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL MESS. If Wednesday night was the last Republican presidential debate, it sure was another missed opportunity. And a great example of the deep disarray afflicting the Republican field at this stage of the race.
What do we know, in this period after the last debate and before Tuesday’s must-win primaries for Mitt Romney? … From my February 24th essay.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH: ECLIPSING THE EMPIRE STATE. In the latest dramatic sign that California has supplanted New York at the premiere locale for Barack Obama’s fundraising, the Democratic president raised, according to sources, close to $8.5 million here last week on his two-day swing through the state. Even before this, it was clear that California was well ahead of New York in Obama’s fundraising operation. … From my February 21st essay.
** DRIFTING TO WAR WITH IRAN: BEWARE THE HYSTERIA. … From my February 16th essay.
** RICKROLLED: ROMNEY WILL BE “INEVITABLE” AGAIN WHEN … … From my February 9th essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION, THE BIG NEVADA BUST, THE ROAD AHEAD (AND THE RISE OF RICK?). … From my February 7th essay.
** ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT SILVER: HOW NEVADA AND THE WEST GOT SHORT-CHANGED. … From my February 3rd column.
** WHAT LIGHT FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE? What light has been shed by the Florida Republican presidential primary? It’s not easy to see how Newt Gingrich wins. And it’s not hard to see how Mitt Romney falls. … From my February 2nd column.
** REPUBLICANS LOSE BIG ON REDISTRICTING GAMBLE, BROWN MOVES FORWARD. … From my January 30th essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: WILL GINGRICH BLOW IT (AGAIN)? … From my January 26th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in several major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $108 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $74 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $6 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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