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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Israel Presses U.S. on Iran

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the U.S.’ failure to draw “red lines” for Iran’s nuclear program is allowing the Islamic nation to obtain “nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs.” These comments come two days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview “we are not setting deadlines.” These words were echoed by State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday, who also reiterated U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment not to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. There has been progress in Iran’s nuclear program. When Obama took office in 2009, Iranians had enough fuel for one bomb. It is estimated that it now has enough to produce five or six bombs, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israel’s Netanyahu has been ramping up his rhetoric, warning that his country is running out of time and suggesting that it could intervene in Iran alone. U.S. officials replied that attacking Iran would only drive nuclear production underground. The U.S. believes there is still time to negotiate with Iran, but Obama’s unwillingness to set an ultimatum seems to have infuriated Netanyahu, who commentators say is using the presidential election to put pressure on the incumbent.

Protests in Egypt, Libya Over Anti-Muslim Film

People protesting a film insulting to Islam have breached a wall surrounding the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Protesters took down the American flag, replacing it with an Islamist banner. The film is said to have been produced by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who burnt copies of Koran earlier this year. The U.S. embassy issued a statement that denied reports that guards shot on the protesters, and condemning religious hatred. “The continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions,” the statement reads. ”We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” Gunmen in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi raided the U.S. consulate over the film, and set fire to the building. Reuters reported the death of one American staff member, citing Libyan security sources.

China Accuses Japan of Stealing Islands

China accused Japan of stealing a group of islands whose status is disputed in the East China Sea, after the Japanese government announced it bought the islands from private Japanese owners for almost $30 million. The Chinese government sent two ships to the islands, known as Diaoyu in China, and Senkaku in Japan. The Japanese government said it bought the islands to prevent Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara from buying them, as his plan to develop them would have increased tensions with China. Commentators believe that raising the profile of such disputes is a way for Chinese officials to distract from the fact that the once-in-a-decade political transition isn’t going well. China President Hu Jintao’s successor Xi Jinping hasn’t been seen in 10 days. Reuters quoted a source saying that Xi is “unwell, but it’s not a big problem.”

“Extraordinary Acceleration” in Flow of Syrian Refugees, U.N. Says

The United Nations said today there has been an “extraordinary acceleration” in the movement of people displaced by the civil war in Syria, with 18,500 refugees in June, 35,000 in July, and 102,000 in August. The pace isn’t showing signs of slowing down, as 2,000 people are crossing into Jordan each day. The total number of refugees is now around 250,000, with 85,000 Syrians in Jordan, and 78,000 in Turkey.  In the city of Homs, half a million people need help in the form of health care, food, and water, the World Health Organization said.

Facebook CEO Calls Stock Performance “Disappointing”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today at a conference in San Francisco that the performance of the company’s stock has been “disappointing” since it started trading publicly in May. Still, he said, investors should look for the long term and the “legacy” the company will have in a decade or two. Zuckerberg also said Facebook’s ability to create revenue on mobile should not be underestimated, a comment that helped the stock rise in late trading. The stock has lost 49 percent of its value since the initial public offering on May 18.

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