Obama just won two huge endorsements for the Iran nuclear deal By Maxwell Tani8 hours ago(REUTERS/Jim Youn) President Barack Obama meets with former Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Oval Office. President Barack Obama just nabbed two key endorsements for the multinational nuclear deal with Iran that’s currently under consideration in Congress.On Sunday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview on NBC’s Meet The Press that he supports the nuclear deal, which mandates that Iran drastically reduce its nuclear-development programs in exchange for the easing of international sanctions.”I think it is a good deal,” Powell told host Chuck Todd.Powell, who served as secretary of state during the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency, cited the terms that ensure that Iran shuts down most of its centrifuges, reduces its levels of uranium and plutonium, and submits to international inspections.Powell specifically rebuffed criticism that the deal would put Iran on a path to building a nuclear weapon, saying that the country has already been doing this for years.”We’re forgetting the reality that they’ve been on a superhighway during the last 10 years to create a nuclear weapons … with no speed limit,” Powell said.”We’ve stopped this highway race that they were going down, and that is very important,” Powell said.Powell, a key military leader during the Gulf War who was long seen as a possible Republican presidential candidate, has also thrown his weight behind Obama at other key points during his career.Powell endorsed Obama in 2008 despite the former secretary of state’s friendship and long working relationship with Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).Following the interview on Sunday, Obama quickly tweeted out his appreciation for Powell’s support.Obama also won another key endorsement over the weekend.In a press release on Sunday, Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) came out in favor of the deal.(Studio08Denver via Flikr) „This agreement is not perfect. But I join many in the belief that with complex, multilateral, nuclear non-proliferation negotiations with inherent geopolitical implications for the entire world, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ deal,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.”This is the most difficult decision I have had to make in the nearly 23 years I have served in elected office, and this vote will be the most consequential.”Though Obama already has enough votes in Congress to ensure that the nuclear deal will survive a legislative attack from opponents, the administration has continued to sell the deal to skeptical Democratic members of Congress in order to avoid a messy legislative battle later this month.NOW WATCH: Obama has been getting the best of Trump for years
Obama observes Labor Day, extends contractors’ paid leave By JOSH LEDERMAN45 minutes agoView photFILE – In this Aug. 31, 2015 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in Anchorage, Alaska. Obama will sign an executive order Monday, Sept. 7, requiring paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors, including 300,000 who currently receive none. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Showing solidarity with workers on Labor Day, President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Monday requiring paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors, including 300,000 who currently receive none.The White House wouldn’t specify the cost to federal contractors to implement the executive order, which Obama was to address at a major union rally and breakfast in Boston. The Labor Department said any costs would be offset by savings that contractors would see as a result of lower attrition rates and increased worker loyalty, but produced nothing to back that up.Under the executive order, employees working on federal contracts gain the right to a minimum of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours they work. Stretched out over 12 months, that’s up to seven days per year. The order will allow employees to use the leave to care for sick relatives as well, and will affect contracts starting in 2017 — just as Obama leaves office.The Obama administration has been working on the executive order for months, and chose Labor Day to announce it as Obama works to enact what policies he can before his presidency ends despite resistance in Congress to laws he’s proposed to improve workplace conditions. That push has reverberated in the 2016 campaign, where Democratic candidates are seeking to draw a distinction with Republicans on who’s most supportive of the middle class.”There are certain Republicans that said we can’t afford to do this,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. He lamented how paid leave is seen as a partisan issue in the U.S. despite broad support in Europe. „The Republican Party is out of step with similar conservative governments around the world,” he said.Roughly 44 million private sector workers don’t get paid sick leave — about 40 percent of the private-sector workforce, the White House said. In his speech to the Greater Boston Labor Council’s breakfast, Obama was also to renew his call for Congress to expand the requirement beyond contract workers to all but the smallest U.S. businesses, an idea that has gained little traction on Capitol Hill.The Labor Day gathering in Boston was attracting other well-known politicians, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh among them. Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering entering the Democratic presidential primary, was to echo the labor rights theme in a march with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Monday at a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh.Unable to push much of his agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, Obama has in recent years used executive orders with frequency to apply policies to federal contractors that he lacks the authority to enact nationwide. His aim is to lay the groundwork for those policies to be expanded to all Americans. Earlier executive orders have barred federal contractors from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, raised the minimum wage for contractors and expanded the number of contract workers eligible for overtime.Although labor groups have hailed those moves, they remain deeply skeptical of Obama’s push to secure sweeping new trade deals with the Asia-Pacific region and with Europe. Many unions have warned that the deals could lead to the widespread elimination of certain types of U.S. jobs.The White House said it couldn’t estimate how many federal contractors don’t offer paid leave now, citing a maze of state and local laws that make crunching the numbers difficult. Officials also declined to put a dollar figure on how much contractors would face in added compensation costs.Cecilia Muniz, director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, said the administration has an obligation to get the most out of every federal tax dollar._Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
Migrants in the Balkans: Everyone wants to be Syrian By DUSAN STOJANOVIC10 hours ago HAJDUKOVO, Serbia (AP) — A Pakistani identity card in the bushes, a Bangladeshi one in a cornfield. A torn Iraqi driver’s license bearing the photo of a man with a Saddam-style mustache, another one with a scarfed woman displaying a shy smile.Related Stories
Documents scattered only meters from Serbia’s border with Hungary provide evidence that many of the migrants flooding Europe to escape war or poverty are scrapping their true nationalities and likely assuming new ones, just as they enter the European Union.Many of those travelers believe that using a fake document — or having none at all — gives them a better of chance of receiving asylum in Germany and other western European states. That’s because the surest route to asylum is to be a refugee from war and not an economic migrant fleeing poverty. That fact has led to a huge influx of people claiming to be Syrian.Serbian border police say that 90 percent of those arriving from Macedonia, some 3,000 a day, claim they are Syrian, although they have no documents to prove it. The so-called Balkan corridor for the migrant flight starts in Turkey, then goes through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the European Union in Hungary.”You can see that something is fishy when most of those who cross into Serbia enter January first as the date of their birth,” said border police officer Miroslav Jovic. „Guess that’s the first date that comes to their mind.”The chief of the European Union border agency Frontex said that trafficking in fake Syrian passports has increased.FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 file photo, a migrant looks at the barbed wire fence from the …”A lot of people enter Turkey with fake Syrian papers, because they know that they’ll get asylum in the EU more easily,” Fabrice Leggeri said.In Germany, customs authorities have intercepted packages mailed to Germany containing Syrian passports, both genuine and counterfeit, the finance ministry said.Syrians transiting through Serbia are concerned about the trend.”Everyone says they are Syrian, even those who are obviously not,” said Kamal Saleh, pointing toward a group of people camping in a Belgrade park. „That is not good for us Syrians because of limited number of people who will get the asylum.”Saleh left everyone he loves back in Syria — his wife, a baby boy and a shattered home in a Damascus suburb.FILE – In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2015 file photo, a group of migrants walk along a dusty road towards …But, unlike many other migrants surging into Europe, he feels fortunate: he has a Syrian passport that he keeps carefully wrapped in a plastic folder and tucked inside his secret trouser pocket. The document, if genuine, should prove that he is a refugee fleeing war, and not a migrant fleeing poverty or economic hardship. A huge difference when asylum applications are considered.His countryman, who identified himself only as Yemen, added: „There are too many people saying we are from Syria, but he is not from Syria. He is black and he said ‘I am from Syria.’ Unbelievable. „International aid agencies estimate that nearly 340,000 people have sought to cross EU borders since January. Two-thirds of the latest European arrivals are believed to be from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea — countries considered by international aid groups to be „refugee producing states,” due to ongoing war or records of human rights abuses.According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, those fleeing violence and persecution are entitled to basic rights under international law, including the right not to be immediately deported and sent back into harm’s way. A migrant could be someone who chooses to resettle to another country in search of a better life and is eligible for deportation.EU rules say the country where a migrant first arrives must process the asylum claim. But Germany last week abolished this obligation for Syrians, triggering a surge of people trying to travel through the EU to get there, adding that only refugees fleeing for their life, and not those fleeing poverty, will be allowed to stay.Aware of the potential asylum rejection, many migrants fleeing poverty are getting rid of their identity documents altogether.Among those who had no second thoughts about ditching their true identity was Rafik from Pakistan.”I’m leaving my old life behind,” said Rafik, who gave only his first name because he feared repercussions when applying for asylum in Germany. „I’m starting a new one.””I don’t have a passport, nor any other identity paper,” he said, as he dashed under the fence into Hungary. „Let’s see which country they will choose to kick me back to.”
Several Turkish soldiers killed in major PKK attack By Stuart Williams, Dilay Gundogan31 minutes ago Istanbul (AFP) – Several Turkish soldiers were killed and more wounded in a major attack in southeastern Hakkari province carried out by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, the military said Monday, keeping tight-lipped over the scale of the death toll.Related Stories
The Turkish air force immediately scrambled warplanes to strike PKK targets in southeast Turkey in retaliation, marking a further intensification in the latest flare-up of the decades-long conflict.In a sign of the gravity of the attack on Sunday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu broke off a trip to Konya to watch a national football game and summoned an emergency security meeting in Ankara, the official Anatolia agency said.The army said the PKK attack on two military vehicles in a convoy in Daglica district of Hakkari — a known stronghold of the Kurdish militants — had killed several soldiers and wounded others.”Two of our armoured vehicles were severely damaged by improvised explosive devices left on the road,” the army said, adding: „Some of our brave soldiers were killed and others injured as a result of the explosion.”Two Turkish F-4 and two F-16 warplanes were deployed to carry out strikes in a „heavy air campaign” against 13 targets controlled by the militants in retaliation, it added.Kurds people hold up their hands during clashes between Kurdish activists and Turkish government for …Many „terrorists” were killed in the air strikes, Anatolia said, without giving a precise toll.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was „very sad” about the attack on the soldiers, telling the A-Haber channel in a live television interview: „A mine attack has been staged. There will be a very particular and decisive fight there”.He added the attack happened during a „clean-up operation” against PKK militants.- ‘Act of sabotage’ -The PKK claimed the attack as an „act of sabotage” in a statement on the website of its military wing, the People’s Defence Forces (HPG).Turkish soldiers carry the coffins of three soldiers during their funeral ceremony on August 19, 201 …The group, which is known for sometimes exaggerating tolls of attacks on the security forces, said 15 soldiers had been killed.Unofficial reports on the Internet had also indicated that the death toll was considerably higher than in any other PKK attack during a current spike in unrest in Turkey.It is extremely unusual for the army not to give a precise death toll after an attack, leading to speculation that the number was unusually high, or simply not known.Davutoglu, who had watched Turkey defeat the Netherlands in a key Euro 2016 qualifier in Konya, was rushed in his motorcade to attend the security meeting with officials, including army chief of staff Hulusi Akar and spy chief Hakan Fidan.The PKK has been staging daily attacks against the armed forces as the military presses an over month-long operation against the group in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq.Children look at seized weapons from the Islamic State group on September 6, 2015 in Kobane, norther …The violence has left in tatters a 2013 ceasefire aimed at assisting the search for a final peace deal to end the PKK’s three-decade insurgency, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.The PKK initially took up arms in 1984 with the aim of establishing an independent state for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, although latterly the demands focused on greater autonomy and rights.- Newspaper attacked -Turkey has been on heightened alert since Ankara launched a two-pronged offensive to bomb Islamic State militants in Syria and PKK rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey.Earlier Sunday, two police were killed in an attack in Sur district of the southeastern city of Diyarbakir that was attributed to the PKK, security sources told AFP.Some 70 members of the security forces have been killed since July in attacks blamed on the PKK, while official media have claimed that at least 967 militants have been killed.The unrest comes at a explosive time in Turkey as the country prepares to hold snap elections on November 1 following June polls where Erdogan’s ruling party lost its overall majority.Riot police were called to disperse some 150 protesters who attacked the office of the Hurriyet daily in Istanbul’s Bagcilar district, accusing the newspaper of misquoting Erdogan.Commenting on the recent unrest in Turkey, Erdogan earlier told the pro-government A-Haber channel: „If a party had got 400 seats in the elections and reached the required number in parliament to change the constitution, the situation would be different.”Hurriyet tweeted a headline saying: „Daglica comment from Erdogan: This would not have happened if 400 mandates had been won.”But the post was later deleted and AKP supporters launched a Twitter campaign calling for protests against the daily, which does not always follow the government line in its reporting.
Tens of thousands rally to demand Moldova president resign 9 hours agoRally organisers said between 50,000 and 100,000 demonstrators had gathered in Chisinau’s central square to demand the resignation of Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti, seen here in Bucharest on May 3, 2012 (AFP Photo/Daniel Mihailescu)Chisinau (AFP) – Tens of thousands of Moldavans rallied in the capital Chisinau on Sunday to demand the resignation of President Nicolae Timofti and the election of a new head of state, organisers said.The demonstration was sparked by public anger over a $1 billion banking scandal which has shaken the former Soviet country, one of the poorest countries in Europe.”We will stay here until our demands are fully met,” shouted lawyer Andrei Nastase, one of those who organised the rally.Organisers said between 50,000 and 100,000 demonstrators had gathered in Chisinau’s central square to demand Timofti’s resignation and a plebiscite to chose a new head of state, who is currently elected by parliament.They also called for the resignation of top officials at Moldova’s central bank and the attorney general’s office, demanding the government pursue integration efforts with Europe.Leaders of the demonstration presented their demands to Moldova’s new pro-European premier, Valeriu Strelet, who took up the post at the end July pledging to crack down on corruption.Elsewhere, activists from the so-called „Red bloc” — the radical leftwing „Our Home is Moldova” party — tried to break into the prosecutor general’s office, provoking clashes with the police, who arrested several people.Last year, Moldova, which lies between Ukraine and Romania, signed an association agreement taking it closer to European Union membership despite opposition from former Soviet master Russia.Moscow promptly slapped a ban on Moldova’s fruit imports in apparent retaliation for its shift towards the West.Disagreement over a similar pact sparked the current crisis in neighbouring Ukraine, where Russia has been accused of fuelling a bloody separatist conflict in the east.Russia maintains thousands of troops in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestr, and has for years provided money to prop up the impoverished region of 500,000 people, which is home to some 180,000 Russian nationals.
Thousands of Palestinian structures under Israeli demolition orders 2 hours ago Jerusalem (AFP) – Some 13,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank are currently under Israeli demolition orders, leaving residents and homes „in a state of chronic uncertainty and threat”, the UN said Monday.A report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also highlighted the difficulty Palestinians face in obtaining building permits needed to prevent such demolition orders.More than 11,000 Israeli demolition orders relating to an estimated 13,000 Palestinian structures are currently awaiting implementation in a huge swathe of the occupied West Bank, said the report entitled „Under Threat”.”While only a minority of the orders issued are executed, these orders do not expire and leave affected households in a state of chronic uncertainty and threat,” it said.”Where the orders are implemented, they have resulted in displacement and disruption of livelihoods, the entrenchment of poverty and increased aid dependency.”The report cites data from the Israeli authorities relating to the West Bank zone under full Israeli control, known as Area C and covering 60 percent of the territory.Israeli, foreign and Palestinian activists take part in march to protest against the demolition of t …The data was obtained through a freedom of information request.Area C is an administrative region created under the Oslo accords in 1995. Data cited prior to 1995 in the report refers to locations that would later become part of Area C.Between 1988 and 2014, Israel issued more than 14,000 demolition orders against Palestinian-owned structures, of which upwards of 11,000 are currently outstanding, it said.”In many cases, the same order targets multiple structures owned by the same household (e.g. their residence, an animal shelter, a storage room and a latrine),” said the report.Last month 31 international organisations, including Oxfam and Amnesty International, criticised what they called a „surge” in West Bank demolitions.A Palestinian family argues with members of the Israeli security forces as an army bulldozer with a …They cited UN figures showing Israel’s destruction of 63 houses and other structures in a single week in August, leaving 132 Palestinians homeless.Israeli authorities did not respond to requests from AFP for comment on the OCHA report.They have previously said such demolitions are carried out because the structures were built without the required construction permits.Palestinians say such authorisation is routinely denied, forcing unlicensed building, an argument echoed by the UN report.”The planning and zoning regime applied by the Israeli authorities, including the ways in which public land is allocated, makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in most of Area C,” the report said.OCHA said there were currently about 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C, and cited Israeli data as saying that about 356,000 Israeli settlers live there also.Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law and are a major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on land Palestinians consider to be part of a future state.
Refugees get hero’s welcome in Germany as UN raps Europe By Frank Zeller44 minutes agoBerlin (AFP) – Thousands of exhausted migrants received a hero’s welcome as they streamed into Western Europe, but Austria warned the emergency measures are only „temporary” as the EU struggles to establish a united response to the crisis.Related Stories
As crowds of well-wishers turned out at train stations across Germany to greet the new arrivals, the UN’s refugee chief said the crisis could be „manageable” if European countries all pulled their weight and agreed on a common approach.The issue is expected to dominate Europe’s political agenda on Monday, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Berlin and the EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner will hold talks with Austrian officials in Vienna.Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II has sparked a flurry of diplomatic wrangling, with Turkey reacting furiously to what it called the closed-doors response of „Christian fortress Europe” as migrants stream across its soil.But in Munich, Frankfurt and other cities, the welcome for thousands of refugees who had made a perilous trip across land and sea and finally set foot in Germany — seen by many as a promised land — was overwhelming.As they stepped off trains in Munich, many clutching young children, the newcomers were met by crowds of cheering well-wishers holding balloons, who handed them food, water and toys.Medical staff check migrants after their arrival at the main railway station in Munich, southern Ger …Dismounting from one train, two boys, perhaps seven or eight years old, pushed out their chests like football stars and beamed smiles as they traversed the throng of applauding people.”The people here treat us so well, they treat us like real human beings, not like in Syria,” said Mohammad, 32, from the devastated town of Qusayr, his eyes welling up with tears.German police said a record 14,000 people had arrived from Austria over the weekend by late afternoon on Sunday, the majority of them fleeing the civil war in Syria, and some 3,000 more were expected during the evening.- ‘Deeply dysfunctional’ system -Austria threw open its borders over the weekend to allow thousands of migrants to travel from Hungary to Western Europe after chaos erupted at Budapest’s main train station where thousands had been stranded in temporary camps.Pope Francis addresses worshippers gathered at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, on September 6 …Most of the migrants are hoping to reach Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, which is expecting a record 800,000 new asylum seekers this year, four times the number in 2014.But Chancellor Werner Faymann on Sunday said the „temporary” relaxation of border rules would have to end, and that „a measure of this type cannot be a solution” to the migrant crisis.EU interior ministers are meeting on September 14, and Austria is among those pushing for a summit to be held swiftly afterwards.The 28-nation EU has struggled to build a coordinated response to deal with the flood of people at its borders, and on Sunday UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres criticised the huge disparity in members’ responses.”The European asylum system is deeply dysfunctional, it works badly. Some countries make the necessary effort, and the effort of many others is nearly non-existent,” he told French broadcasters.Shoes and clothes collected for migrants are collected at a community center near the train station …But he said the situation could be tackled „if everyone agrees on a joint action plan,” calling for unity days before European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to unveil a plan to relocate 120,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary.Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper said the EU plan, expected to be released on Wednesday, would see Germany accepting 31,000, followed by France with 24,000 and Spain with almost 15,000.- ‘Christian fortress Europe’ -The human cost of Europe’s refugee crisis, which has seen more than 350,000 people attempt the perilous crossing from North Africa this year, was brought into sharp focus by pictures of a Syrian toddler found dead on a Turkish beach last week.In a passionate speech Sunday to members of his Christian Democratic party in Milan, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pointed to a picture of the drowned Syrian child, and said there were „thousands like him”.”We need rules, we cannot take in everyone,” said Renzi. „But nothing will ever stop us trying to save a life whenever possible. This is our challenge.”But Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, whose country has become a key transit route for refugees fleeing war in neighbouring Syria, on Sunday lashed out at the „ridiculously small” share of refugees EU countries were accepting.Writing in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he hit out at „Christian fortress Europe” pointing out that Turkey had already taken in more than two million people from war-torn Syria and Iraq.His remarks came just days after Hungary, which is building a wall to keep out migrants after some 50,000 new arrivals in August alone, raised the alarm over the impact of mainly Muslim refugees on Europe’s „Christian culture”.But Pope Francis urged a different approach in his Sunday sermon, urging „every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe” to take in a family.”Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers fleeing death (as) victims of war and hunger who are hoping to start a new life, the gospel calls on us to be the neighbour of the smallest and the most abandoned.”The Vatican’s two parishes would take in two refugee families „in the coming days”, he said, setting an example for more than 50,000 other parishes across the continent.