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Obama Acknowledges Broad Gaps Between 2 Sides in Iran Nuclear Talks

WASHINGTON — The gap in negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program remains “significant,” President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday, a day before the deadline for the talks.

“The good news is that the interim deal that we entered into has definitely stopped Iran’s nuclear program from advancing,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with the ABC News program “This Week.”

“Now the question is, can we get to a more permanent deal? And the gaps are still significant.”

The negotiations are continuing to play out in Vienna. Secretary of State John Kerry met on Saturday with the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and said on Twitter that he had been conferring by phone with international partners, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

But Mr. Obama said he was not worried.

“I’m confident that if we reach a deal that is verifiable and ensures that Iran does not have breakout capacity, that not only can I persuade Congress, but I can persuade the American people that it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

He cast a possible agreement in sweeping terms, saying it could remake the world’s long-troubled relations with Tehran.

“What a deal would do,” he said, “is take a big piece of business off the table and perhaps begin a long process in which the relationship not just between Iran and us but the relationship between Iran and the world, and the region, begins to change.”

Resistance to such an agreement could also from hard-liners in Tehran, some of whom have warned against agreeing to severely constrain Iran’s nuclear program.

Another possible sticking point could be Iran’s demands that the international sanctions imposed on it — which have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy — be removed immediately.

But Mr. Obama said the Western position, which calls for sanctions to be phased out gradually as Iran proves its good faith in complying with the accord, was not negotiable.

“I think Iran would love to see the sanctions end immediately, and then to still have some avenues that might not be completely closed, and we can’t do that,” he said.

Police refuse to rule out use of rubber bullets and teargas in expected Ferguson protests
The Guardian

Authorities around Ferguson, Missouri, have refused to make significant concessions to proposed “rules of engagement” from protesters, in advance of unrest expected to follow an announcement on whether a white police officer will be charged for killing a black 18-year-old.

In a formal response from police chiefs to a 19-point set of requests from a coalition of groups demonstrating over the death of Michael Brown, authorities agreed only to basic demands such as prioritising “preservation of human life”.

Requests for police to rule out using armoured vehicles, teargas and rubber bullets, as they did repeatedly in answer to unrest in August, were rejected by police chiefs. So was a call for journalists and legal observers not to be considered participants and to “be allowed to do their jobs freely”.

“If protesters are not violent, police will not be aggressive,” Francis Slay, the mayor of St Louis, said at a press conference in Clayton. “But if some protesters turn violent or threatening, police will respond to keep everyone safe.”

Protests are expected following the announcement of a decision by a state grand jury on whether officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown dead on 9 August, should face criminal charges. There is a widespread assumption among demonstrators that he will not.

A spokesman for Bob McCulloch, the St Louis county prosecutor who is overseeing the process, said in an email to reporters on Friday “the grand jury is still in session”. While he began making logistical plans for an announcement of the decision, he offered no anticipated date or time.

The 19-point request was issued by the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which consists of about 50 protest groups. Officials said that while the list was discussed in five meetings or phone calls in recent weeks, there was “no negotiation” on any of the points. Police agreed to 10 and partially agreed to two others. But they declined to move on any of the protesters’ most contentious requests.

Slay said anyone engaged in civil disobedience following the announcement “will, in most cases, be given a chance to adhere to the law before being arrested”. He said occupations of public spaces may be permitted for longer periods than usual.

However, the response from the so-called unified police command – comprising chiefs from the St Louis metropolitan police, St Louis County police and Missouri state highway patrol – refused to rule out mass arrests and the containment tactic known as kettling. Chiefs also declined a request to be more tolerant of what protesters called “minor lawbreaking”, such as the throwing of water bottles, which has on past nights prompted a firm crackdown from police.

A request that “intimidation and harassment of protesters will not tolerated” met with a response from police that demonstrators “should renounce harassment of police officers and the release of personal information by protesters”.

Authorities were unable to explain why officers at the Ferguson police headquarters had on the previous two nights swiftly emerged in riot gear to deal with nonviolent protests. Five people were arrested on Wednesday night and three on Thursday.

Asked why the officers had responded immediately with such equipment, Daniel Isom, Missouri’s director of public safety, said: “I don’t know why. I can’t say why.” Asked if they had been incorrect to do so, he said: “I don’t know that they were incorrect.”

The response to the protesters’ requests was unveiled as Eric Holder, the US attorney general, announced that the Department of Justice was giving new guidance to regional police forces on “maintaining public safety while safeguarding constitutional rights”.

In a video message accompanying the announcement, Holder said law enforcement departments should “avoid needless confrontation” by paying attention to their policies and training and in “choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms”.

Without naming Ferguson, he stressed that “the vast majority of law enforcement officers have honourably defended their fellow citizens” during recent events. Similarly, he said: “In most cases these demonstrations have been both meaningful and responsible and have brought vital issues to the attention of the public at large.”

However, Holder sought to remind demonstrators that the most successful protest movements in US history had been “those that adhere to nonaggression and nonviolence”.

Michael Brown Sr also urged protesters in a video message on Thursday to remain peaceful. Citing Brown’s request that “I don’t want my son’s death to be in vain,” Slay said at Friday’s press conference: “I’m here to tell you that it can’t be, and it won’t be.”

Isom added on Friday that officers engaged in training since Brown’s death had been taught “to try to work on restraint” and “to try to understand people’s perspective”. The military-style response to August’s demonstrations received broad criticism.

Earlier in the afternoon a small group of demonstrators staged a mock lynching from a tree opposite St Louis’ old courthouse, where the slave Dred Scott was denied freedom for him and his wife in 1847, in a case that would culminate 10 years later in a notorious ruling against the rights of African Americans by the US supreme court.

“People of colour are treated unjustly in this country in how they are processed and brutalised in the system by law enforcement,” said one of the protesters, Rae, who said she was 23 and lived in St Louis. “It’s all a lynching, and it’s a big mess.”

Hillary Clinton backs Obama's immigration action, calls it 'historic step'

EW YORK -- Hillary Rodham Clinton says she supports President Barack Obama's executive actions to protect about 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, calling it a "historic step" and urging Congress to pursue a measure approved by the Senate last year.

Clinton placed the efforts aimed at changing immigration policy in the context of families, many of whom she said are longtime residents raising children and paying taxes.

"This is about people's lives," she said Friday during an appearance at the New York Historical Society, adding that it was about "people who serve us tonight, who prepared the food tonight."

Clinton is considering a presidential campaign in 2016 and her embrace of Obama's actions come in sharp contrast to Republican condemnation of the changes the president has ordered.

"I think the president took an historic step and I support it," the former secretary of state said in her first public comments on the issue. She had issued a statement shortly after Obama's speech Thursday night expressing support.

Obama's actions were in line with previous moves by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, she said. However, many Republicans in Congress accuse Obama of overstepping his executive powers.

Charging hypocrisy, the Republican National Committee released a Web video earlier in the day that included the audio of an April 2008 Clinton speech in which she criticized President George W. Bush's use of signing statements and other means "to transform the executive into an imperial presidency."

Clinton spoke about the immigration plan during an interview with Walter Isaacson, the biographer and CEO of the Aspen Institute, at the event. She said she was studying the life and presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and discussed the need for Americans to find a "common purpose."

"I think we just need to get back into that can-do, problem-solving spirit that the Roosevelts exemplified," she said.

The former first lady jumped back into the political conversation as dozens of her staunchest allies gathered at a New York hotel earlier Friday -- even though she has yet to say whether she will run.

Ready for Hillary, a Democratic super PAC unaffiliated with Clinton, convened the meeting of 200 financial backers and Clinton insiders to prepare for a campaign.

"It was a leap of faith," Harold Ickes, who worked in Bill Clinton's White House, said of the Ready for Hillary effort. "We didn't know if people would come to us, but we now have 3 million names, which will be important to her if she runs."

Clinton sits far atop a hypothetical field of Democratic candidates that is beginning to take shape.

Vice President Joe Biden and outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley are potential challengers to Clinton, as is former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who has opened an exploratory committee.

Discussions at the session included lessons learned from the 2014 election, the media landscape and what the 2016 campaign might look like.

Attendees said they had no inside knowledge on when Clinton would make her decision. But they said the early organizing on her behalf would facilitate the transition from private citizen to candidate. Ready for Hillary has identified 3 million supporters and raised more than $10 million.

"It's given her the luxury of time," said Jerry Crawford, an Iowa attorney.

They cautioned against the notion that Clinton would have a big advantage because of her existing network from her husband's two terms and her own political operation. "She's not inevitable," said Adam Parkhomenko, Ready for Hillary's executive director. "It's not going to be easy."

The ballroom included leaders of Democratic groups Priorities USA Action, American Bridge 21st Century and Correct the Record.
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