Tales from the Trail

Iranian leader’s plane shares tarmac with Air Force One

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport after a visit to Latin American countries January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 – As President Barack Obama and passengers on Air Force One left for campaign events in Ohio on Wednesday, there was an unusual sight spotted from the presidential aircraft: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s plane.

At Joint Base Andrews, which houses the U.S. president’s jet, reporters traveling with Obama spotted a plane marked “Iran Air” parked on the tarmac.

The 89th Airlift Wing, which oversees the runway at Andrews, confirmed the Boeing 747 was indeed Ahmadinejad’s plane, which was used for this week’s United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York before parking at the U.S. military base.

“It is something we afford all heads of state,” said Major Michelle Lai, a spokeswoman for the 89th Airlift Wing. “It’s a courtesy that allows them a place to put their aircraft and provides a little bit of extra security,” she added.

Washington Extra – Gift of the gas

 

Gasoline drips off a nozzle during refueling at a gas station in Altadena, California in this March 24, 2012 file photo. Picture taken March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

After negotiating a tricky stretch of road, the Obama campaign may be easing into the straightaway in the gas-driven presidential race.

News on Monday of a delay in the planned closure of the largest refinery on the East Coast could mean an end to skyrocketing gas prices. And that would effectively take the wind out of a forceful Republican line of attack — that the president is to be blamed for $4 a gallon gas, arguably the most visible price in the American economy today.

Best of the debate: Ron Paul v. Michele Bachmann

Presidential debates allow voters to hear how candidates differ, and there are few policy differences as great as that between Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann on Iran. Take this exchange from last night:

Bachmann:

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.”

For what it’s worth, Politifact has looked into Bachmann’s claim and rated it “false.”

Washington Extra – Waiting for Hugo

Grab a chair, some drinks and snacks and get ready for the show.

The United States slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil giant PVDSA for trading with Iran, a move that could worsen Washington’s already sour relations with Caracas. Now we’re waiting for President Hugo Chavez to respond.

Expect a lot of noise, in typical Chavez fashion. In the warm-up act, one ally called the sanctions “ridiculous” and accused the United States of wanting to “once again…turn into the global policeman.”

Chavez himself might make some threats against his biggest foe, including an old one about cutting off oil supplies to the United States. He’s done it before — in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010, and maybe more times than we can count.

Clinton doesn’t want Iran taking ‘one iota of credit’ for Mideast revolutions

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says when it comes to the pro-democracy movements sweeping through the Middle East give credit where credit is due. And that means not to Iran.

The United States has long been at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear program — the West suspects Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, Iran says it is trying to provide energy for its people. USA/

Now the United States, which sees Iran as a major threat to the region,  is also suspicious that Tehran is trying to capitalize on the Middle East revolutions.

One Washington day is not like another for Mr. Hu

USA-CHINA/China’s President Hu Jintao was feted with full fanfare at the White House on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, honor guards and a state dinner. Things might not be quite so fancy on Thursday when he goes to Capitol Hill.

There he will see Republican Speaker John Boehner in the House of Representatives, then cross the Capitol to meet Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither bothered to attend Wednesday’s state dinner.

Also attending the House and Senate meetings will be several other lawmakers who want a word with Hu about human rights in China, as well as China’s dealings with Iran and Chinese trade practices.

McCain sees India, U.S. teaming up against “troubling” China

SUMMIT-WASHINGTON

As President Barack Obama begins his visit to India, his erstwhile rival John McCain is voicing hope that Washington and New Delhi will tighten up their military cooperation in the face of China’s “troubling” assertiveness.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told a think-tank audience in Washington on Friday that the two huge democracies were natural allies in the quest to temper China’s ambitions.

“While India and the United States each continue to encourage a peaceful rise for China, we must recognize that one of the greatest factors for shaping this outcome and making it more likely is a robust U.S.-India strategic partnership,” McCain said.

Happy Birthday, Mr President? Palin takes on State Dept in Twitterburst

palin

Sarah Palin has a beef — and a tweet or two — for the U.S.  State Department.

Palin tweeted her outrage following a tongue-in-cheek tweet from State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley that wished Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a happy birthday.

Crowley, who regularly tweets as @PJCrowley to about 6,250 followers, marked the Iranian leader’s birthday on Thursday with a plea for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, two American hikers who have been detained in Iran for more than a year and face trial on suspicion of espionage.

Washington Extra – Storm clouds over Haiti

There was a tremendous outpouring of goodwill and money for Haiti after the quake, which prevented a further humanitarian catastrophe. But so far, nine months after the capital was devastated, progress in “building back better” seems painfully slow. haitiRubble still chokes the narrow streets of Port-au-Prince, and 1.3 million people occupy every available scrap of land in tents awaiting resettlement, or even just a government plan on what to do with them.

Given the mind-boggling scale of the disaster, the weakness of the government and economy even before the earthquake, the lack of land as well as clearly defined land ownership records, it is unfair to expect too much.

But today everyone seems to be asking: What has all this goodwill achieved in terms of lasting benefits to Haiti? One thing that is clear from our interviews this week is the government, local elites and the international community seem to be playing something of a blame game.

from Reuters Investigates:

In case you missed them

Just because it was summer, doesn't mean we weren't busy here at Reuters. Here are a few of our recent special reports that you might have missed.

IRAN-OBAMA/ECOMOMYTracking Iran's nuclear money trail to Turkey. U.N. correspondent Lou Charbonneau -- who used to cover the IAEA for Reuters --  followed the money to Turkey where an Iranian bank under U.S. and EU sanctions is operating freely. Nice to see the New York Times follow up on this today, and the Washington Post also quizzed Turkey's president about it.

 

 

USA-ELECTION/JOBSBlue-collar, unemployed and seeing red -- Chicago correspondent James Kelleher went on the road for this story about the long-term unemployed and what that means for Obama and the Democrats at November's midterm elections.