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Inside Politics: Myanmar grants nuclear concession

- - Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Little noticed during President Obama's landmark visit to Myanmar was a significant concession that could shed light on whether that nation's powerful military pursued a clandestine nuclear weapons program, possibly with North Korea's help.

Myanmar announced that it would sign an international agreement that would require it to declare all nuclear facilities and materials. Although it would be up to Myanmar to decide what to declare, it could provide some answers concerning its acquisition of dual-use machinery and military cooperation with North Korea.

President Thein Sein's agreement to allow more scrutiny by U.N. nuclear inspectors suggests a willingness to go beyond democratic reforms that have improved relations with Washington and culminated in the first visit by a U.S. president.

However, doubts remain about how much Myanmar will divulge.

PENTAGON

Navy aircraft carriers will be down to 1 in Gulf

The Navy says it will temporarily shrink its aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf area from two to one this winter because of a mechanical problem with the USS Nimitz, a carrier based in Bremerton, Wash.

Navy officials said Wednesday that the Nimitz, which had been scheduled to deploy to the region in January to relieve the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, will put that off until summer in order to complete repairs to its propulsion system.

As a result, the Navy will bring the Eisenhower home in December and resurface its flight deck so it can go back to the Gulf area in February and remain for four months. That means that in December and January the USS John C. Stennis will be the only carrier in that area.

CALIFORNIA

Lawmakers narrowly OK ban on public nudity

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco shed a vestige of its free-spirited past as local lawmakers narrowly approved a citywide ban on public nudity.

Casting aside complaints that forcing people to cover up would undermine San Francisco's reputation as a city without inhibitions, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on Tuesday in favor of an ordinance that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit.

Exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city's annual gay pride event and the Bay-to-Breakers street run, which often draws participants in costumes or various states of undress.

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the ban in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose bare bodies are on display almost daily in the city's predominantly gay Castro District. He said at Tuesday's meeting that he resisted for almost two years but finally felt compelled to act.

"It's no longer an occasionally and quirky part of San Francisco. Rather, in the Castro, it's pretty much seven days a week," Mr. Wiener said. "It's very much a, 'Hey, look what I have' mentality."

Mr. Wiener's opponents on the board said a citywide ban was unnecessary and would draw police officers' attention away from bigger problems. Supervisor John Avalos expressed concerns about what the ordinance would do to San Francisco's image.

"We are a beacon of light to other parts of the country, and sometimes there is a little bit of weirdness about how we express ourselves," Mr. Avalos said.

Boos and calls for Mr. Wiener's recall filled the board's chambers after Tuesday's vote. Gypsy Taub, a nudist activist who organized naked protests and marches in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's meeting, disrobed in protest before sheriff's deputies escorted her from the room.

Under Mr. Wiener's proposal, a first offense would carry a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, but prosecutors would have authority to charge a third violation as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and a year in jail.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama pardons pair of turkeys in annual tradition

President Obama pardoned two turkeys in an annual Thanksgiving rite on Wednesday, saying he wanted to offer the birds a second chance.

"They say life is full of second chances, and this November I couldn't agree more with that sentiment," a smiling Mr. Obama said in one of several lighthearted references to his re-election to a second term.

Cobbler, the newly designated national turkey, and his alternate, Gobbler, received a reprieve.

"The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward," Mr. Obama said in a reference to his campaign slogan of "Forward."

Mr. Obama noted that Cobbler and Gobbler were selected by the American people, who cast their votes for the national Thanksgiving turkey on the White House Facebook page.

"Once again, Nate Silver completely nailed it," Mr. Obama said, referring to the blogger at The New York Times who correctly predicted the president's decisive victory in the Electoral College.

Accompanied by daughters Sasha and Malia, Obama waved his hand over Cobbler in a vaguely religious "dispensation," then laughed as the bird gobbled loudly. Mr. Obama and Sasha petted the turkey. Malia did not.

"Congratulations, Cobbler. You're going to have a great life," Mr. Obama said.

The 19-week-old, 40-pound turkeys are from Rockingham County, Va. They will live at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, along with last year's birds, Liberty and Peace.

Thanks to the American people, "the only cobbler anyone's eating this Thanksgiving will come with a side of ice cream," Mr. Obama said.

OREGON

Feds aim to double spotted owl habitat

GRANTS PASS — The last building block of the Obama administration's strategy unveiled Wednesday to keep the northern spotted owl from extinction nearly doubles the amount of Northwest national forest land dedicated to protecting the bird by the Bush administration four years ago.

Still, conservation groups that went to court to force the overhaul said key gaps remain, such as an exemption for private forest lands and most state forests.

The full critical habitat plan will not be published until next week, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that 9 million acres of federal forests in Oregon, Washington and Northern California will come under its provisions.

The amount is down from nearly 14 million acres proposed in February but still exceeds the 5.3 million acres proposed in 2008.

Following a directive in February from the White House, officials revised the plan to make room for thinning and logging inside critical habitat to reduce the danger of wildfire and improve the health of forests.

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity said it appeared that the critical habitat plan and the previously adopted owl recovery strategy were in line with the Northwest Forest Plan adopted in 1994 to protect owls and salmon.

"The owl has continued to decline since its protection under the Endangered Species Act," he said. "Part of the reason for that is the loss of habitat on private and state lands."

The federal government has been trying to balance logging and fish and wildlife habitat since the late 1980s.

The designation of the spotted owl as a threatened species in 1990 triggered a 90 percent cutback in logging on national forests in the Northwest, and similar reductions spread across the nation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports