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Obama denounces Republican letter on Iran nuclear talks

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White House accuses senators of making common cause with Iranian hardliners, while Tehran expresses surprise at Republican tactics

Mohammad Javad Zarif, pictured with John Kerry earlier this month, expressed astonishment that Congress members would write directly to a foreign power. Photograph: Reuters

by Julian Borger

The Obama administration has reacted furiously to an open letter to Iran from Republican senators aimed at derailing nuclear negotiations. The White House accused them of seeking to circumvent the constitution and trigger a “rush to war”.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also poured derision on the Republican letter in a statement expressing astonishment that members of Congress would seek to undermine a US administration by writing directly to a foreign power, and suggesting that the letter’s authors had much to learn about international and even US law.

However, the sharpest reaction to Monday’s open letter came from the White House. President Obama accused its 47 Republican signatories of “wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran”.

The US vice-president, Joseph Biden, said the letter, drafted by Tom Cotton, a freshman senator from Arkansas, was “expressly designed to undercut a sitting president in the midst of sensitive international negotiations”.

It was “beneath the dignity of the institution I revere”, Biden said in a statement.

The letter was published as the 18-month-long negotiations on the future scope of Iran’s nuclear programme approach a deadline at the end of this month for a framework agreement. The document, signed by all but seven of the Republican Senate majority, suggests that the Iranian leadership does not understand America’s constitutional complexities and warns that any agreement signed with the Obama administration could be overturned “with the stroke of a pen” by the president’s successor.

Biden said the Republicans’ constitutional argument was “as false as it is dangerous”. He said the “vast majority” of America’s international commitments through the nation’s history had taken effect without congressional approval, adding that the nuclear agreement, if signed, would also be a commitment to the other parties to the talks: the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

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“In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which senators wrote directly to advise another country – much less a longtime foreign adversary – that the president does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them,” Biden wrote.

Many commentators noted that the letter, like the Republican invitation to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to address Congress last week without consulting the White House, marked a dramatic break from the tradition that partisan politics should “stop at the water’s edge” and not spread into critical US defence and security policy abroad.

The White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, portrayed Republican tactics as dangerously reckless. “The rush to war or at least the rush to the military option that many Republicans are advocating is not at all in the best interest of the United States,” he said.

The New York Daily News went much further in denouncing the Republicans’ direct communication with a geopolitical adversary at the height of negotiations. It published photographs of some of the signatories on its front page, over the headline: “Traitors”.

Among the seven Republican dissenters who did not sign the Cotton letter was the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker, who noted that its signatories were only Republicans, and that he was focused on gathering a bi-partisan two-thirds majority aimed at forcing Obama to submit any nuclear deal to Congress.

Zarif, like President Hassan Rouhani and several other senior members of the Iranian government, holds an advanced degree from a western university, and appears to have taken umbrage at the condescending tone of the senators’ letter. He delivered his own lecture in response.

“I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law,” he wrote.

It is as yet unclear what effect, if any, the letter and its fallout could have on the seven-party nuclear talks that are due to reconvene in Switzerland on Sunday.

According to deadline laid down by foreign ministers, the negotiations are supposed to produce a framework agreement by the end of March, including the main parameters of the issues in dispute, like Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity and the lifting of western sanctions. Diplomats then have until the end of June to fill the intricate details essential to making any agreement work.

 

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Wave energy milestone demonstrates ‘Australian ingenuity’

In an Australian-first, wave energy is supplying electricity to the national grid as a result of Australia’s investment in a broad range of renewable energy technologies.

Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane officially switched on Carnegie’s Perth Wave Energy Project at Garden Island in Western Australia on Wednesday (18 February), which is supported by an investment of $13.1 million of Federal Government funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The Australian Government is investing a further $13 million in developing the next generation of Carnegie’s wave technology.

“This project will supply power to Australia’s largest naval base, HMAS Stirling, in a tremendous achievement for both Carnegie and wave energy in Australia,” Macfarlane said.

“It’s the first time in Australia’s history that a renewable wave power array has been connected to one of our major electricity grids.

Dual benefits

“The project has the dual benefit of also including a desalination plant, which produces zero-emission fresh water from the waves.

“CETO wave energy technology is a world-leading home grown product that has been developed over 10 years by Carnegie.

“The submerged buoys operate under water, away from large storms and not visible from land, moving with the motion of the waves to drive offshore seabed pumps.

“High pressure water from CETO 5 buoys drives onshore hydroelectric turbines with 720kW peak capacity and feeds a desalination plant, providing renewable energy and fresh water.

Among the best in the world

“Australia has great potential for further wave energy applications, with the resources on our south and south-west coast among the best in the world. It makes sense to tap into this renewable potential that will help diversify our energy mix.

“The Carnegie project is great evidence of a commercial success in renewable energy.   This type of practical application will guide future development of Australia’s renewable energy sector.

“The Australian Government is investing further to support advances in wave technology, through a second tranche of funding of $13 million for Carnegie’s CETO 6 Project – which is in its preliminary design phase.

“Renewable energy is an important part of Australia’s energy profile, and the Australian Government is working to ensure it continues to play a role both here in Australia and through international applications.”

 

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Infegy Releases Report of “The World’s 50 Most Popular Brands” Based on Analysis of Billions of Online Conversations

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Kansas City, MO  – Infegy, a provider of social media intelligence technology for marketing and research professionals, today released a report of “The World’s 50 Most Popular Brands of 2014.” The year-over-year report is based on data compiled through Infegy’s flagship product, Infegy Atlas, a next-generation analytics platform leveraging advanced algorithms to deliver brand and consumer insights in easily digestible stories and headlines.

The fully interactive report analyzed more than 800 brands and drew on billions of online conversations from 2014 and Infegy Atlas’ powerful analysis to determine:

  • The brands the people talk about most
  • Overall positivity and negativity surrounding each brand
  • Levels of positive purchase intent
  • The topics people reference most when talking about brands
  • Rankings based on several metrics including volume and sentiment

A umber of newcomers cracked the top 50, most notably Flappy Bird. Flappy Bird was the only game to hit the list, even though a number of other popular games, including the widely successful Clash of Clans, are tracked. FitBit saw the highest purchase intent at 36 percent, highlighting the emerging trend of wearable tech and how important fitness integration is for these devices.

Google claimed the top spot for the second year in a row thanks to volume of conversations, positive sentiment and overall passion for the brand. No. 6 Disney garnered the most positive brand sentiment, with an overwhelming 86 percent positive conversations. At No. 31 on the list, CNN experienced the most negative brand sentiment, with 52 percent negative, 41 percent positive, and 7 percent mixed feelings.

Though No. 4 Apple’s chatter peaked in September and October, coinciding with the launch of the iPhone 6, total conversations were down 32 percent compared to 2013. Of all brands, Chevrolet saw the biggest change in ranking, dropping 13 spots to No.  46, while Chipotle experienced the biggest increase, moving up 10 places to No. 30.

“As the popularity of online and social brands gains momentum, this report shows how the world is changing and how a new generation is interacting with and responding to brands,” said Justin Graves, CEO and founder of Infegy. “Marketers will need to make adjustments to their campaigns and initiatives in order to strategically reach consumers in a positive and engaging manner.”

To view the report and to see complete details on each of the 50 ranked brands, including gender, sentiment, purchase intent and trends, visit: top50.infegy.com.

 

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5 Tax-Saving Strategies To Help Your Family This Tax Season


Overlooked Deductions May Cost You Thousands

Millions of Americans face a challenge in meeting their budgets every month – not just financially, but also in their time budgets, says investment advisor Reid Abedeen.

“Knowledge is power and time is often money, but what if you don’t have the time to empower yourself with knowledge? For many households, that often means losing out on thousands of dollars through tax deductions,” says Abedeen, a partner at Safeguard Investment Advisory Group, LLC (www.safeguardinvestment.com).

“As a family man myself, I understand what it means to work hard to provide the best possible for my wife and children. Had I not worked in the financial sector for almost two decades, I might not have understood how to best troubleshoot my tax return, I sympathize.”

Abedeen offers the following strategies that may be relevant for your family this tax season.

•  Take tax deductions for capital loss. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, the excess can be deducted on your tax return and used to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately. However, you may deduct capital losses only on investment property, not on property held for personal use.

•  Fund your retirement to the max. You can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA in tax-year 2014, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older. Workers in the 25 percent tax bracket who contributed $5,500 to an IRA would save $1,375 on their 2014 tax bills. You’ll want to check your eligibility and understand the deadline for the 2014 deduction. If you make a deposit between Jan. 1 and April 15, you need to tell the financial institution which year the contribution is for.

•  Advisory fees are tax-deductible.  Don’t feel like spending money to save and make money? There’s a workaround. Before closing the door on the possibility, inquire with a financial expert. Most are happy to give a free initial consultation, and you don’t have to be a millionaire to make it worth your while. 

•  Gift assets to children. You don’t even have to file a gift tax return on an asset that’s valued less than $12,000, which is not taxable. If the fair market value of the gifted asset is more than $12,000 per person per year, but less than $1 million, there is the requirement of filing a gift tax return, but you won’t be taxed. The gift still is not income taxable to the recipient.  

•  Deduct a home-based office when used for your employer. If space in your home is used exclusively and regularly for a trade, you can count that as a deductible. Calculate the square footage of your home office and divide the area of your office by the area of your house. If the percentage is 14 percent, for example, that represents the percentage of your total home expenses that can be allocated toward the home office deduction. For further questions, consult a professional.

“You’ll want to be very vigilant regarding these details of these deductions,” Abedeen says. “For any questions, I seriously recommend consulting a professional.”

About Reid Abedeen

Reid Abedeen is a partner at Safeguard Investment Advisory Group, LLC (www.safeguardinvestment.com). As an investment advisor, Abedeen has helped retirees for nearly two decades with issues such as insurance, long-term care planning, financial services, asset protection and many other areas. He holds California Life-Only and Accident and Health licenses (#0C78700), and holds a Series 65 license, and is registered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Abedeen is a family man who owes much of his fulfillment in life to his wife, Smyrna, and his three children, Yusef, Leena and Adam.

 

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Is Twitter Going To Beat Linkedin At Becoming A Recruitment Powerhouse?

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Twitter TWTR +0.72% remains my favourite social network by far. Working out why I like it is sometimes hard, and there are times when it frustrates me beyond belief, but generally I live on it more than almost any other online service. What’s interesting to me, as someone who ranks Linkedin as his least favourite network, is that Twitter seems keen to position itself as a resource for people searching for jobs.

If you’ve ever looked for a job, you’ll probably have tried everything. When I went from a full-time job, to freelance journalism I put hours into my Linkedin profile, and as far as I can tell, it did very little for me. Perhaps you need to be more pushy, and ask people for work more directly. But I’m British, and that’s not how we do things.

Perhaps Twitter has heard this very British problem, because it is just about to launch its first UK job fair. It’s got a live Q&A session with the winner of The Apprentice UK – which I think is of dubious value, even if the man in question now runs a recruitment service – but the UK National Careers Service will also be involved.
According to a Twitter survey, 77 per cent of polled UK Twitter users think the service could help them find a job. That’s a fairly high number, and if so it could prove to be hard news for Linkedin, which has really billed itself as being a place for finding work. In this UK push, Twitter is working with companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Deloitte and Nestle to connect people with jobs. There’s also the inevitable hashtag #YourJob too.

Interestingly, I did actually get work offers through Twitter. Within a month of me announcing my move into freelance writing I had made contact with people who needed some content. These were small jobs, but they were a big help in easing the transition from full-time to freelancing. And because I have a lot of Twitter followers who work in the same industry as me I was able to reach a lot of people very quickly and say “I’ve left my job and I’m available for work”.

The more I think about it too, the more I realise that actually, Twitter is kind of a natural way to find out about work. Even though I’m no longer looking for full-time employment, I still follow the service that aggregates job adverts, and many publishers who I might be interested in working for. That means I get to see new positions pretty quickly, without the need to search recruitment companies or the websites of those employers directly.

There’s also a handy anonymity to things that Linkedin doesn’t really offer. I always remember an old boss telling me you could always tell if someone was looking to move on by their Linkedin activity. That’s not ideal if you’re trying to secure a new position before quitting. I also like the fact that you can build a list in Twitter. Once you’ve got the job, you can ditch it and not have to unfollow dozens of individual accounts.

 

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Ruckusmaker day

gold-diggerby Seth

About to be celebrated all over the world for the first time, tomorrow is annual Ruckusmaker Day.

Tomorrow would have been Steve Jobs’ 60th birthday. Steve’s contribution wasn’t invention. Technology breakthroughs didn’t came out of his workbench the way they did from Land or Tesla. Instead, his contribution was to have a point of view. To see something and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. To not only have a point of view, but to change it when the times demanded.

Most of all, to express that point of view, to act on it, to live with it.

There’s a lot to admire about the common-sense advice, “If you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say anything.”

On the other hand, one reason we often find ourselves with nothing much to say is that we’ve already decided that it’s safer and easier to say nothing.

If you’ve fallen into that trap, then committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude and your trajectory.

A daily blog is one way to achieve this. Not spouting an opinion or retweeting the click of the day. Instead, outlining what you believe and explaining why.

Commit to articulating your point of view on one relevant issue, one news story, one personnel issue. Every day. Online or off, doesn’t matter. Share your taste and your perspective with someone who needs to hear it.

Speak up. Not just tomorrow, but every day.

A worthwhile habit.

 

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Port of Oakland shuts down as union skips work, federal officials intervene

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Ken James / Bloomberg News
Containers at the Port of Oakland, with downtown Oakland in the background. The Port of Oakland shut down operations Thursday as longshore workers attended a union meeting instead of showing up to work amid a protracted labor dispute with shippers.

The Port of Oakland shut down operations Thursday as longshore workers attended a union meeting instead of showing up to work amid a protracted labor dispute with shippers.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, based in San Francisco, is holding its monthly meeting on Thursday during normal business hours, leading to the disruption in service, said the Port of Oakland. The union represents 13,600 workers in 29 ports along the West Coast.
The work stoppage will freeze the loading and unloading of containers on 12 vessels, said the port. Import and export activity will also stop.

 

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