Congress moves to boost Iran talks oversight


A critical bill that Congress must pass before it begins its winter recess contains a rider that would give Congress increased oversight over talks with Iran as the Islamic Republic continues to negotiate with the P5+1 powers over its nuclear program. The rider, attached to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015, which will allow the government to stay funded through September 2015, will, per the Times of Israel, “require the administration to report to Congress every 30 days regarding Iran’s compliance with the terms of the interim plan as well as offer an assessment of the state of Iran’s nuclear program.” Foundation for Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz on Friday called on Congress to “defend the sanctions house it built” by designing what he called a “sanctions firewall” that would “signal to the administration how much it can give up in the negotiations and, after a nuclear deal is reached, help the administration enforce it (even if it is not inclined to do so) against Iranian noncompliance.” Audio surfaced in October of Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes telling a group of staffers and progressive groups in January that the White House was already making plans to freeze Congress out of Iran negotiations, heightening tensions on Capitol Hill in the weeks before Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Vienna for nuclear talks. Lawmakers have for months pushed for increased congressional oversight over negotiations, following promises made by the administration as far back as November 2013, when the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) was inked in Geneva, to work with Congress to impose new sanctions on Tehran in the event that a deal was not reached. The parties had in July agreed to extend talks through November, and were unable to reach a final agreement by the November 24th deadline. Diplomats involved in the talks announced last month that negotiations would continue through mid-2015, and talks are expected to resume next week in Geneva.


A two-headed salamander tadpole has Israeli scientists scratching their heads about the deformity. Researchers at the University of Haifa found the mutant tadpole in the Community Ecology Lab. The salamander of Israel is an endangered species, mainly due to factors which have disturbed its habitat such as soil and water pollution and the destruction of its natural habitat. Researchers at the lab, Dr. Ori Segev and Antonina Plavikov, say they’ve observed an incidence of deformity, especially among the limbs of salamanders, in the past but such cases of two heads were rarer. They attribute the mutation to one of three theories: pollution of water sources, changes in radiation and the influence of a small population. In the Community Ecology Lab, headed by Prof. Leon Blaustein, research into understanding the biological mechanisms of this unique life form has been underway for many years. The goal is to help the nature and parks authorities maintain the existing population and revive populations in danger. According to researchers at the lab the salamanders act as a signal for the general health of the environment because they are so sensitive to pollution and environmental changes and so they are the first to be harmed. (via Israel21c)

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