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Obama, Zuckerberg meet – Silicon Valley Getting Hot Again!!

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By Cecilia Kang

PALO ALTO, Calif. – President Obama and 26-year-old Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire college dropout, may seem like an unlikely duo.

But when the two took the stage together Wednesday to talk about the nation’s poor fiscal health and plans to cure it, the pairing highlighted the increasing interdependence between the president and Silicon Valley.

Obama was introduced to much of the nation through Facebook and Google’s YouTube, companies he says are bright spots in the economy. They produce the kinds of jobs that he believes will maintain the nation’s economic edge in the future.

“The administration recognizes that companies like Facebook and so many other tech companies are at the forefront of job creation and hold the key to economic recovery,” said Ray Ramsey, president of Silicon Valley trade group TechNet. “The administration also understands they can’t take the Valley’s support for granted and their actions are showing this.”

To understand the importance of high-tech firms and Obama’s association with them, it’s only necessary to look at the tech-heavy Nasdaq stock index, which on Wednesday hit its highest level since last October.

Meanwhile, Facebook needs to have good relations with Washington regulators and lawmakers. It is under increased scrutiny by federal officials over how its social networking business – where information is the currency for business online – could curtail the privacy of consumers.

As it tries to expand globally – particularly in China – Facebook’s ambitions may also rub against a U.S. diplomatic agenda that aims to bring to the rest of the world an ethos that opposes censorship and endorses online activism.

(Washington Post Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook’s board of directors, and the newspaper and many Post staffers use Facebook for marketing purposes.)

Facebook has promoted Obama’s visit as a major honor, a validation of the firm’s influence as a communications platform. The White House has boasted that the audience it will reach through Facebook’s live video broadcast is comprised largely of middle class, typically younger Americans who would be harder to approach through traditional media.

Even increased government scrutiny of Facebook and other Bay Area firms such as Twitter and Google is unlikely to dampen the mood surrounding Obama’s visit here. He’ll attend three San Francisco fundraisers to tap into deep pockets of Democratic donors in the Bay Area.

They like his promise to bring mobile high-speed Internet connections to all Americans, and they tend to support him because of their individual political leanings, tech lobbyists and political strategists say. And they want to have more exposure to the president whose administration says Internet privacy rules are needed.

“There has been tremendous support for Obama and in part that’s because he understands the Internet and appointed people who have technology expertise. But policy-wise, business leaders approach those policies like libertarians,” said Markham Erickson, a tech lobbyist and partner at Holch & Erickson in Washington. “There has been a view among tech companies that you can invent or design around what Washington does.”

Some tech lobbyists say privately that they are disappointed that Silicon Valley firms find themselves on the defensive with the Federal Trade Commission on the privacy question. Meanwhile, they believe the bottom-line issues where they want government help, such as patent reform and tax repatriation, aren’t being addressed fast enough.

“There is some disappointment on bottom-line tech policies,” said one tech lobbyist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so by his tech clients. “The stuff he’s accomplished on tech policy so far won’t directly impact these Internet firms today and maybe not for years.”

Facebook, just seven years old, is responding to the increased government focus on its company by expanding its lobbying operations. Still small by K Street standards, the company’s Dupont Circle office grew from one person three years ago to 10 today, and it has hired outside lawyers as consultants. A source familiar with the company’s thinking said it has plans to grow even more.

There are a number of former high-level White House officials on Facebook’s staff: former Obama White House economic adviser Marne Levine heads its policy shop and former Bush administration aide Cathie Martin is also on its policy team.

Facebook wants to enter China and it is facing criticism for its approach to Internet policy abroad. Google and Twitter have actively protested government regimes that require censorship and worked with State Department officials to help dissidents protest and organize against repressive regimes such as in Iran and Egypt. But Facebook has a more nuanced approach, saying it abides by the policies of local governments.

Zuckerberg, who wasn’t personally engaged in Obama’s 2008 campaign like Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, joins his business contemporaries relatively late. He and Apple CEO Steve Jobs only began to interact more closely with Obama in the past year. In February, both were part of an exclusive presidential dinner with a handful of CEOs, hosted by Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr.

Obama, meanwhile, has nurtured strong high-tech relationships throughout his tenure. Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, joined Zuckerberg and the president at the town hall. She sits on Obama’s council of economic advisors. AOL founder Steve Case heads his Startup America initiative to help small business growth. Eric Schmidt of Google, Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini regularly attend meetings at the White House as economic advisers.

Those leaders bring expertise and money to economic initiatives. Intel, Microsoft and IBM have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to science education programs. They also widen Obama’s campaign network with big donations and lucrative events.

He will attend an exclusive fundraising dinner at the home of Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com, a cloud computing company that provides business software applications on-demand. That firm on Wednesday saw its stock rise 8 percent.

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AIPAC ORDERED BUSH TO ATTACK IRAN

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By Gordon Duff STAFF

In a unique interview with an official at the highest policy levels of the Pentagon, White House and, eventually, CIA, we are offered a unique “behind the curtains” look at areas of policy making during the period between 1999 and 2007. Extensive notes have been taken of meetings with President Bush and all his top policy advisors. This is only a teaser.

A highly placed source within the White House and CIA confirmed, in an interview, that the invasion of Iran was sheduled for 2006 but planned in 1999. We have heard some of this before but not with so many pieces and, I am told, more to

WHITE HOUSE INSIDERS PLAN WAR ON TERROR

come. In an interview with a Bush administration policy official:

Q. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your work at the White House? You have read my articles, what do you think of my take on things?

A. You are closer than anyone else in understanding how things worked, the only person willing to simply put it out there. You also come at things like the Pentagon people I have worked with, the ones who stood against Bush, Cheney and the AIPAC gang at the NSC (National Security Council.) I can also see that you don’t have background material that you need. Some of it you have wrong, particularly the motives for Iraq. It was always Iran, Iraq was simply a door.

“The Iraq invasion was a ‘done deal’ in 1999, but not as you thought to steal oil and bilk billions, that was all gravy. Iraq, the entire Bush presidency, had one purpose, to remove Iran from the picture.”

Q. You talk about journalists. What has your experience been?

A. I have good friends at the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Washington Post and others. They know all of this. They aren’t fooled. They could write anything but it would never hit print.

Q. Back to the 2000 election. The first impediment was, I am told, removing John McCain from the picture. Was this the case?

READ ABOUT SEX, LIES AND VIDEO TAPE, 9/11, IRAQ AND NEOCON AMERICA

A. “He was enemy # 1, stubborn, unpredictable and already tarnished by the Keating 5 scandal, with all his faults, he didn’t have the serous skeletons in his closet that would fit the bill. McCain couldn’t be blackmailed like Bush, thus McCain is a risk. Unless you can be controlled, blackmailed or bought or both, you will go nowhere in Washington.

McCain is a womanizer, the real thing. For a war hero, with McCain’s charm that’s nothing, he would never fall into the kind of trap Clinton did. Rove was assigned the job of getting rid of McCain. We all saw what was done in South Carolina. It was a masterful job.”

Q. When you talk about McCain not being vulnerable, he certainly was in South Carolina, a few rumors and smears and he was gone. You say Bush is more vulnerable?

A. “A window into a lot of this can be found in the Rosen-AIPAC lawsuit. Bush has serious issues, let’s just leave it at that.

As for Rosen, he just wasn’t an AIPAC lobbyist, he sat inside the National Security Council until 2005 as the Rand Corporation’s Director of Foreign Policy. When the press talks about an AIPAC employee and spying, he didn’t join AIPAC until later, after his arrest.

The FBI investigation and his indictement for spying covered a time when he was at the center of the Bush administration, a key policy formulator at the highest levels of government. Rosen, indicted in 2004 for spying for Israel, was responsible for formulating American policy in the Middle East and largely responsible for the fate of the Palestinian people, a bit of a conflict of interest for an Israeli lobbyist and accused spy.”

Q. Rosen has made some accusations, says AIPAC spies all the time and that they do nothing but watch pornography there. You worked with this guy, what do you know?

A. “Rosen has dirt on absolutely everyone. His divorce depositions are fascinating reading. They are sealed now but there are copies out there. I know that reporters at Time Magazine have them, others too. The FBI has tons, they were after Rosen for years. As for AIPAC, Rosen told me of their spy operations many times, but nobody needed telling, they were more than obvious to all of us.

Q. You talk about Rosen and his “black book,” that he has dirt on “everyone.” The news stories mentioned only porn. That doesn’t sound so
serious. Dirt, not just porn, what kind of dirt?

A. “Mostly sex stuff, gay bondage, clubs, expense money being spent on sex, liasons in public restrooms, that kind of thing. Many of the key people around the president are involved and there is FBI surveillance, massive amounts of it, photographs, videos, and one or more undercover informants recorded conversations with top National Security Council members. Spying, nuclear secrets passed to Israel, this was common place.

I witnessed, with two others, the top Bush counter-terrorism official, actally primary advisor to Bush on counter-terrorism, who had served Clinton and others, pass nuclear weapons plans to an Israeli agent, like it was nothing.”

Q. Did the FBI know about this?

A. “For years, FBI agents, I have a list of names, worked to stop this. Then I learned that the Department of Justice killed the prosecution, Rosen’s lasted into the Obama administration before it was dropped. Witnesses were threatened with prosecution and the guilty, the spies, were allowed to keep doing what they are doing. This is what Rosen knows and what he is talking about when he says AIPAC was involved in spying. It isn’t just that AIPAC is said to receive information it is that it came from top administration officials.”

Q. Let’s get back to the sex thing. How high up does it go?

A. “One famous joke around the NSC, there was a photo of someone kissing Laura Bush on the cheek and shaking hands with President Bush. The same person had, not that long before, using those same lips and hands in a men’s restroom.”

Q. What do you know about 9/11?

A. “9/11 was planned as early as 1999 or before, to be executed as soon as the Bush team was in place. One meeting in April 2001, a meeting outlining the invasion of Iraq, may have been the green light.’ Chalibi was in place early on, from day number one. I remember telling them he was a known crook, totally disreputable and that things in Iraq would fall apart immediately. Nobody in the National Security Council ever spoke about what they would do once Saddam was overthrown. Nobody really seemed to care.

Of course, none of those people have real experience with military issues or, in fact, much of anything else.”

Q. How was the Iran invasion supposed to work?

A. “This is where so many have it wrong. In fact, there was never serous discussion about terrorism or Al Qaeda or bin Laden. These things weren’t even a sideshow. The only talk about any of it was how it could be used to justify going into Iraq and then attacking Iran.

Q. The intel on Iraq, we all know it was wrong. When was that learned?

A. “The administration didn’t believe false intelligence, it created it, order it in place before the election to be ready for, well I guess, 9/11. Silencing Plame and Joe Wilson, those were the same people who planned the creation of the phony intelligence. There was never a discussion of a serious terrorist threat against the United States. These guys would have fallen off their chairs laughing themselves to death. It was all a joke to them, 9/11, the Iraq invasion, all of it.”

Q. Back to Iran, how was the invasion to start?

A. “Everything was going to happen in Bahrain. Plans were to attack Americans, blow up clubs, restaurants. There were plans to stage a “Tonkin Gulf’ type attack and blame it on Iranian torpedo boats. Guys in the military were aware of this and there was strong opposition. Marine Colonel Joe Molofsky was the real hero here. He did more to scramble administration plans than anyone else, Molofky and General Mattis. These were really straight shooters, how I learned to trust the Marine Corps.

The government there, their security services, I believe they were deeply involved. It would have been good to see something about this in Wikileaks.”

Q. You said that war had to start by 2006. Was there a timetable?

A. “Absolutely. General Petraeus was sent to Iraq to quiet things down, not to win a war or create a lasting peace, nothing like that. His job was to shut things down so an operation against Iran could be staged from Iraq.”

Q. But that never got off the ground…

A. “No kidding, and Bush was enranged. It was the only reason he was put in office in the first place, as long as Iran survived, he was a failure, no matter what happened to the US.”

Q. Didn’t they know that war with Iran would have driven oil to $300 a barrel and collapsed the American economy?

A. “There were never briefings on that like there were never briefings on stabilizing Iraq. Nobody cared, nobody noticed and it was never discussed. It was really all about Iran and orders came in and people did what they were told like good little soldiers.”

Q. Orders? From where?

A. “All of it, all foreign policy issues, were out of AIPAC, they ran everything in the Bush adminsitration. That was the whole point of it. We never were told why we had to destroy Iran only that it had to be done. Nobody ever asked why. Nobody ever believed Iran had a credible nuclear program and, eventually, we were all very certain they never would. There was never an issue about Iran being a threat or not. There was never an issue of motive of any kind. These were orders, plain and simple, the administration that will come into office in 2001 will be tasked with destroying Iran, tasked by AIPAC who will control all key position in the administration.”

Q. Was there talk about Lebanon and the threat of Hizbollah?

A. “There really weren’t talks at all, only planning on how to follow policy, never on what policy should be or what was right or wrong. There was never a discussion about the United States, what was good for America or bad for America. People were generally oblivious to there being an America.”

US-Russian disarmament comes full circle in Prague

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The US and Russian presidents will meet in Prague Thursday to sign a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty a year after Barack Obama called for a nuclear-free world in the historic Czech capital.

By Jan Flemr

PRAGUE: The US and Russian presidents will meet in Prague Thursday to sign a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty a year after Barack Obama called for a nuclear-free world in the historic Czech capital.

After months of difficult negotiations between the two nuclear powers, Obama and Dmitry Medvedev are due to sign a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired last December.

The choice of Prague as the venue to seal the deal was not random: Obama called for a world free of nuclear weapons in a keynote speech here last April, while acknowledging he that he might not live to see that goal achieved.

Obama has made talks on replacing START the central element of his efforts to “reset” strained US-Russian relations, an initiative that helped earn him the much-disputed Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

In the justification of its decision to pick Obama, the Nobel committee said it had “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

The US president, whose country is set to host a key nuclear security summit on April 12-13, took another major step on Tuesday when he unveiled a new nuclear policy reducing the role of atomic weapons in the US national security strategy.

After agreeing its outlines last July, Obama and Medvedev targeted the new START agreement to drastically reduce nuclear stockpiles for late 2009, but negotiations dragged on.

US and Russian negotiators were reportedly bogged down in disagreements over US missile defence.

One reason that Obama decided to speak from Prague last year was that Washington had planned to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

In September last year however, the United States scrapped that version of the initiative, which had been a major source of tension between Washington and Moscow.

Poland may now host an anti-missile system under a revamped deal, but the Czech Republic was left out of the programme, which according to Czech pundits, made Prague an attractive choice of venue for the Russian side.

Missile defence will nevertheless be on the table Thursday, for Russia has warned that it may pull out of the treaty if it feels threatened by the new US anti-missile initiative. Hailed by analysts in Washington and Moscow alike, the new START deal will specify limits of 1,550 deployed warheads: about 30 percent lower than a previous upper limit on warheads set in 2002.

The treaty, which must be ratified by the US Senate and the Russian Duma, will limit missile forces to 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons.

The cap on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine launched missiles will be set at 700, the White House said.

The original 1991 START led to huge reductions in the Russian and US nuclear arsenals and imposed verification measures to build trust between the two former Cold War foes.

The Prague signature is scheduled to take place on Thursday noon in the Spanish Hall of the Prague Castle, a richly adorned Renaissance hall built during the reign of King Rudolph II (1552-1612).

Obama is to arrive in Prague Thursday morning, take part in the formal signing ceremony, then hold a formal lunch with Medvedev and Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

He will also have a one-on-one meeting with Medvedev.

Later on Thursday, the US president will meet 11 leaders from eastern and central Europe, in a bid to reassure them that the new treaty poses no threat to them, according to the Czech News Agency CTK, citing diplomatic sources.

On Friday, Obama will hold a joint summit with Klaus and Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, before returning to Washington. Medvedev is expected to come for his first official visit to Prague from neighbouring Slovakia on Wednesday evening to meet with Klaus. He is scheduled to leave the Czech capital Thursday afternoon.