OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse. The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal. But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity.
It notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple. ”We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.” Greaves said one potential design involves a pentagram, a satanic symbol, while another is meant to be an interactive display for children. He said he expects the monument, if approved by Oklahoma officials, would cost about $20,000. More
President Obama is sending two of his top diplomats to Capitol Hill next week in a final bid to stop new sanctions on Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry and his lead Iran negotiator, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, will testify in public before House and Senate panels about the preliminary deal reached last month in Geneva. Their goal: Convince skeptical lawmakers that levying new punishments on Iran could derail the sensitive nuclear negotiations. “Passing any new sanctions right now will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue by giving the Iranians an excuse to push the terms of the agreement on their side,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said this week. A senior Republican Senate aide portrayed the administration’s message differently. “They want the opportunity to go on national news and say over and over (…) ‘we’re on our way to peace in our time and if you take some kind of action you’re going to screw it all up’,” the aide said. On the flip side, the GOP aide said, sanctions proponents will get to press the administration to explain how the talks would be put at risk by the sanctions, given that they would only be triggered if Iran reneges on its commitments. Sanctions advocates say a trigger would bolster the administration’s negotiating position by ensuring that the international sanctions regime — which took years to build — won’t collapse if the nuclear negotiations stall. “From my perspective, it strengthens the administration’s hand,” Senate Foreign Relations panel chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told The Washington Post. “It would make clear to the Iranians if they don’t strike a deal, this is what’s coming.” Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the Senate remain committed to trying to pass new sanctions before the end of the year. They’ve been trying to build bipartisan support for an amendment to a must-pass Defense bill that the House would have to accept and pass by the end of next week.
“Our goal still remains getting something into law by the end of the year,” the GOP aide said. If Congress fails to act by then, the White House “dodges a huge bullet” because it will be a “lot more difficult” to find a convenient legislative vehicle. The sanctions bill is a priority for pro-Israel groups. “We are continuing to support efforts by senators to move legislation that would contain additional sanctions that would be implemented should Iran violate the agreement or fail to agree to an acceptable final deal,” said an official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. The White House’s stance against sanctions has the support of at least one of the six nations negotiating with Iran. “The time for additional measures will come if Iran reneges on the deal or if negotiations fail,” British ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott wrote in an op-ed for The Hill last month. “Now is not that time.” Kerry will brief the House Foreign Affairs panel on Tuesday, with Sherman and Treasury sanctions official David Cohen following suit on Thursday in front of the Senate Banking Committee. They will face deep bipartisan skepticism about the initial Iran deal, which temporarily freezes Iran’s nuclear program — but doesn’t end all uranium enrichment — in exchange for a loosening of sanctions. “I continue to have serious concerns that the agreement the Obama administration negotiated does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and our allies,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in announcing the hearing. “This hearing will be an opportunity for Committee Members of both parties to press Secretary Kerry to explain why the Obama Administration believes this sanctions-easing agreement is the right course.” The Hill
The government has refused the Senate access to the secret text of the trade deal it is negotiating in Singapore, saying it will only be made public after it has been signed. As the final round of ministerial talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership resumed on Sunday, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote to each of the 12 participating nations warning that the deal and the secrecy surrounding it presented ”grave risks”. Australia’s delegate, Trade Minister Andrew Robb, has told Fairfax Media he is prepared to agree to so-called ”investor-state dispute settlement provisions” in return for access to markets including those of the US, Japan and Canada. The provisions, rejected by the previous Labor government, allow foreign corporations to sue sovereign governments. Tobacco company Philip Morris is suing the Australian government over its plain-packaging legislation using the ISDS provisions of an obscure Hong Kong investment treaty.
The company is pursuing the suit even though it lost in the Australian High Court. Mr Robb agreed to ISDS provisions in order to clinch the South Korea-Australia free trade agreement announced last week but with what he said were ”carve-outs” in ”areas such as public welfare, health and the environment”. An observer at the talks, Patricia Ranald, of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said the US was resorting to setting up so-called ”green rooms” in which small groups of ministers tried to reach agreements that they then presented to the larger group. ”In some cases, it is who the US feels will agree with them,” she said. A leaked draft of the intellectual property chapter published by WikiLeaks and Fairfax Media shows the US attempting to extend patent terms, weaken the negotiating power of member countries dealing with pharmaceutical companies and to outlaw presently legal behaviour on the internet. Australia’s Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, has written to the president of the Senate refusing a request to table the agreement before it is signed. ”Pre-emptive and unilateral release of such confidential information would damage Australia’s standing,” he writes. Greens senator Peter Whish Wilson said although it wasn’t normal to demand to see a text before it was signed, this deal is so far reaching we fear that once it has been signed it will immediately become political.” ”The media machine will crank up and we’ll be told it’s the best thing that’s ever crossed our borders” he said. The text of any agreement Australia signs will be tabled for 20 sitting days, during which time the Parliament can vote not ratify it. The Sydney Morning Herald
NEW YORK – The High Line, a park that turned a dilapidated stretch of elevated railway on Manhattan’s West Side into one of New York’s newest tourist attractions, may have brought a different kind of visitor: a cockroach that can withstand harsh winter cold and never seen before in the U.S. Rutgers University insect biologists Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista said the species Periplaneta japonica is well documented in Asia but was never confirmed in the United States until now. The scientists, whose findings were published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, say it is too soon to predict the impact but that there is probably little cause for concern. ”Because this species is very similar to cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment,” Evangelista said, “they likely will compete with each other for space and for food.” That competition, Ware said, will likely keep the population low, “because more time and energy spent competing means less time and energy to devote to reproduction.” Michael Scharf, a professor of urban entomology at Purdue University, said the discovery is something to monitor. ”To be truly invasive, a species has to move in and take over and out-compete a native species,” he said. “There’s no evidence of that, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about it.”
The newcomer was first spotted in New York in 2012, by an exterminator working on the High Line. The scientists suspect the little critter was likely a stowaway in the soil of ornamental plants used to adorn the park. “Many nurseries in the United States have some native plants and some imported plants,” Ware said. “It’s not a far stretch to picture that that is the source.” Periplaneta japonica has special powers not seen in the local roach population: It can survive outdoors in the freezing cold. ”There has been some confirmation that it does very well in cold climates, so it is very conceivable that it could live outdoors during winter in New York,” Ware said. “I could imagine japonica being outside and walking around, though I don’t know how well it would do in dirty New York snow.” The likelihood that the new species will mate with the locals to create a hybrid super-roach is slim. ”The male and female genitalia fit together like a lock and key, and that differs by species,” Evangelista says. “So we assume that one won’t fit the other.” Fox News