EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 26, 2013

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — WTO chief: Negotiators fail to reach global trade deal

GENEVA (AP) — Negotiators came close but failed Tuesday to clinch a free-trade deal that could have helped boost the world economy by $1 trillion a year and cleared the way for a broader global agreement.

Diplomats from the World Trade Organization’s 159 members had been trying to forge an agreement before a trade ministers’ meeting next week in Bali, Indonesia. Achieving a deal in Bali is seen as a final effort to revive a broader 12-year effort to ease global trade rules.

The mini-deal discussed in Geneva had been intended, in part, to reduce delays and inefficiencies at national borders. Making it easier to move goods across borders could boost the global economy by nearly $1 trillion a year and support 21 million jobs, according to a report co-written by Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow in international trade at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The lack of a global deal hasn’t prevented individual countries from seeking agreements among themselves. But experts say the failure to reach a global deal leaves poorer countries worse off.

“This should be a no-brainer for developed and developing countries,” Schott said.

Analysis: Iran’s nuclear dealmakers hone new pitch for Revolutionary Guard

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Even before Iran’s envoys could pack their bags in Geneva after wrapping up a first-step nuclear deal with world powers, President Hassan Rouhani was opening a potentially tougher diplomatic front: selling the give-and-take to his country’s powerful insider interests led by the Revolutionary Guard.

Iran’s ability to fulfill its part of the six-month bargain — which includes greater access for U.N. inspectors and a cap on the level of uranium enrichment — will depend largely on the Guard and its network.

The Guard’s influence stretches from the missile batteries outside key nuclear facilities to the production of the equipment inside. It runs from companies making Iran’s long-range missiles to paramilitary units that cover every inch of the country.

Rouhani’s praise for the deal announced Sunday has sounded at times like snippets from the national anthem.

“The Iranian nation again displayed dignity and grandeur,” he said in a televised address. He went on to laud the “glorious” affirmation that Iran can continue uranium enrichment under the accord — at levels that can power Iran’s lone energy-producing reactor but well below what’s needed to approach weapons-grade material.

Obama administration, Senate spar over Iran sanctions plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — An agreement secured with its greatest global foe, the Obama administration pleaded Tuesday with a more familiar if often difficult negotiating partner not to scuttle last weekend’s Iran nuclear deal: Congress.

Just back from his diplomatic triumph in Europe, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a video message to legislators as he urged that they not introduce new economic measures against Iran at a time the U.S. and fellow world powers are withdrawing some sanctions in exchange for the Iranians curtailing their nuclear program.

Kerry asserted that now is the time to get to work on a final agreement that removes any suspicion that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons. “We all know that if the agreement falls apart, Iran is going to quickly face even tougher sanctions,” he said in the message.

Although Kerry was reaching out personally to key senators, Democrats and Republicans appeared determined to increase the pressure on Tehran. Many in Congress are skeptical, if not outright hostile, to the deal reached in Geneva. Two key senators already are at work on legislation to reinstate the full force of sanctions and impose new ones if Iran doesn’t make good on its pledge to roll back its nuclear program.

“The American people need an insurance policy to prevent a rerun of North Korea,” said Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is crafting a bill alongside Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. Critics of the accord reached in Geneva believe it could allow Iran to trick international monitors while it assembles an atomic weapons arsenal, similar to North Korea last decade.

US bombers fly across new Chinese air defense zone in defiance of claims to disputed islands

WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after China asserted greater military control over a swath of the East China Sea to bolster claims to a cluster of disputed islands, the U.S. defied the move Tuesday as it flew two B-52 bombers through the area.

The U.S. said what it described as a training mission was not flown to respond to China’s latest military maneuver, yet the dramatic flights made clear that the U.S. will not recognize the new territorial claims that Beijing laid out over the weekend.

The two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers took off from their home base in Guam and flew through China’s newly designated air defense zone, then returned to base, U.S. officials said. The bombers were in the zone for less than an hour, thundering across the Pacific skies during midday there, the officials said, adding that the aircraft encountered no problems.

While the U.S. insisted the training mission was long-planned, it came just days after China issued a map and a new set of rules governing the zone, which includes a cluster of islands that are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

U.S. officials would not publicly acknowledge the flights on Tuesday, but State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said China’s move appeared to be an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea.

Winds could ground balloons in Macy’s Thanksgiving parade; rain and snow snarl holiday travel

NEW YORK (AP) — Thanksgiving travelers scrambled to book earlier flights Tuesday to avoid a sprawling storm bearing down on the East Coast with a messy mix of snow, rain and wind that threatened to snarl one of the busiest travel days of the year and ground giant balloon versions of Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants in the Macy’s parade.

The iconic characters that soar through the Manhattan skyscrapers every year may not lift off Thursday if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a woman spectator.

Current forecasts call for sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 36 mph.

“At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons,” said Macy’s spokesman Orlando Veras. “On Thanksgiving morning, Macy’s works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights.”

Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade’s 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971. They’re set to be inflated in Manhattan on Wednesday evening.

New breed of Wi-Fi-pumping discount buses draws Thanksgiving travelers weary of airport hassle

CHICAGO (AP) — As millions of Americans hurtle through the jumble of transportation arteries for Thanksgiving, many are discovering that bus travel may be the cheapest, comfiest and even coolest way to stay Zen during the nation’s largest annual migration.

After nearly half a century of decline in the bus industry, a new breed of sleek, Wi-Fi-pumping intercity coach is transforming the image of buses as the much-ridiculed travel option of last resort. With free Internet connections, tickets as cheap as $1 and decent legroom, companies such as Megabus.com and BoltBus are luring holiday travelers disenchanted with the hair-pulling rituals of airports and driving.

“I’ve been doing it for a couple of years and it is a nice ride,” said theater student Natalie Sienicki, 22, sitting inside a blue double-decker Megabus idling on a windy, snowy street corner near the grand colonnades of Chicago’s Union Station.

Her journey on Monday was not only cheaper than flying ($56 roundtrip) but also took her all the way to her destination in Ann Arbor, Mich. If she had traveled by air, Sienicki would have had to make a side trip through Detroit.

The new bus services are capitalizing on generational and technological shifts: younger urbanites are espousing a car-free lifestyle, and gadget-wielding travelers of all ages increasingly expect to buy tickets online and stay connected for the duration of their trip.

Pope issues mission statement for papacy, saying he wants missionary, merciful church for poor

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis denounced the global financial system that excludes the poor as he issued the mission statement for his papacy on Tuesday, saying he wants the Catholic Church to get its hands dirty as it seeks to bring solace and mercy to society’s outcasts.

In a 224-page document, Francis pulled together the priorities he has laid out over eight months of homilies, speeches and interviews, pushing to shift the church away from a focus on doctrine to one of joyful welcome in a bid to draw in believers in a world marked by secularization and vast income inequalities.

The document, Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of the Gospel), is the second major teaching document issued by Francis, but is the first actually written by him since the encyclical “The Light of Faith,” issued in July, was penned almost entirely by Pope Benedict XVI before he resigned.

Francis’ concerns are laced throughout, and the theological and historical citations leave no doubt about his own points of reference and priorities: Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, who presided over the Second Vatican Council, which brought the church into the modern world, are cited repeatedly.

And in a first for an apostolic exhortation, as this type of papal pronouncement is called, Francis cited various documents of bishops’ conferences from around the world, an indication of the importance he places in giving the local church greater say in church governance.

Comet giving astronomers ‘wild ride’; one day looks about to die, next day looks better

WASHINGTON (AP) — Comet ISON is teasing the solar system as it dances with the sun and it’s giving astronomers mixed signals.

Will it meet a fiery death — or survive — when it whips around the sun on Thursday?

The icy comet will be only about 1 million miles away from the sun’s super-hot surface during its close encounter on Thanksgiving. On Monday, it looked like it was about to die even before it got there. On Tuesday, it appeared healthy again.

“We have never seen a comet like this,” Naval Research Laboratory astrophysicist Karl Battams said during a NASA news conference Tuesday. “It has been behaving strangely.”

Because it is so close to the sun, ISON (EYE’-sahn) will likely not be visible from Earth on Thursday — except via a fleet of NASA telescopes and spacecraft aimed at the comet as it gets closest to the sun at 1:37 p.m. EST, he said. And it will be a few hours before scientists know whether the comet survives.