State Dept. pressed on Iran talks after Rouhani declares Tehran building new nuclear reactors


The State Department on Wednesday faced a barrage of questions about the status of Iran negotiations after the Iranians announced that they would expand their nuclear program and take action against an American journalist imprisoned in the country. Iranian media conveyed reports that day resident Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran had already begun construction on two nuclear plants. Asked about criticism from lawmakers that ongoing negotiations are allowing Iran to build up its nuclear program, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf doubled down on longstanding administration claims that the Iranian nuclear program was in fact frozen, and credited negotiations between Iran and the West for getting to that point. Reporters immediately asked Harf about Rouhani’s Tuesday announcement declaring that the Iranians had begun building two new nuclear reactors, to which Harf responded, “I didn’t see those comments.” Reporters took to Twitter to openly mock the Iranian announcement – Bloomberg View reporter Eli Lake sarcastically tweeted that “our diplomats have been assured these are moderate, not hardliner, centrifuges,” a gesture toward claims made last year by some in the foreign policy community that Rouhani, who was then a presidential candidate, was a “moderate” alternative to his rival candidates. Iranian media had earlier Wednesday conveyed reports that Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian had been indicted and will stand trial, but did not elaborate on the charges against the Post’s Tehran correspondent. Meanwhile, reports published Wednesday indicated that both the House and the Senate would in the coming weeks move to advance legislation boosting pressure on Iran.


As of December 31, 2014, there is a new law on the books in Israel mandating that all public transportation must be wheelchair-accessible. Still, this does not completely solve the issue of mobility difficulties on buses, trains and taxis for people with disabilities. “Galgalim Darom” (“Wheels in the South”), an innovative program tailor-made for Israel, was recently launched for people whose physical or mental challenges hinder their ability to get around independently. Galgalim’s mission is to provide various forms of transportation assistance to individuals with different kinds of special needs, so that they can be as active participants in society as everyone else. The program will help the 67,000 residents of southern Israel with a disability – and eventually all of Israel’s approximately 697,000 disabled adults between the ages of 21 and 65 — to get to work or shop at a mall without the added pressure of calculating how they are going to manage the trip itself. According to Tal Goldman, project manager for the Tel Aviv-based non-profit organization Transport Today and Tomorrow, which is a partner in the program: “This will open up new vistas for people who otherwise would be limited in their ability to find employment, to visit friends and family and to have the ability to enjoy their leisure time. Goldman told ISRAEL21c that the program will include an information hotline to provide assistance in planning rides on public transportation and everything connected with travel, such as advance purchase of tickets and eligibility for discounts. This line will also serve as the address for receiving “first aid” advice and for filing complaints. The bulk of the program, however, will revolve around an extensive network of volunteers teaching the target population how to use public transportation, often accompanying disabled travelers to their destinations. (via Israel21c)

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