You need to know this. On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iran's Foreign Minister, for the first substantive talks in a generation. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been strong since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and no secretary of state has met with an Iranian counterpart since 2007. And, for almost three decades, relations have been strained further by economic sanctions imposed on Iran over their nuclear program. Thursday's meeting followed recent statements by Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, who pledged to resolve his nation's nuclear standoff with the West. Those statements, and Thursday's meeting, point to a possible end to ongoing Western hostility towards Iran. Secretary Kerry said that the talks with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif were “very constructive,” but said more meetings would be needed to “find a way to answer the questions that people have about Iran's nuclear program.” Iranian President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif both stressed that Iran has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon, and only wants the right to develop nuclear energy for “peaceful, civilian uses.” However, the United States and Israel still question Iran's motives. After the meeting, Secretary Kerry told reporters, “Needless to say, one meeting and a change in tone, which was welcome, doesn't answer those questions yet, and there is a lot of work left to be done.” But, the meeting marks the first real progress towards peace with Iran in three decades. Once again, discussion, diplomacy, and economic sanctions are proving to be more effective than military threats. The people of Iran are suffering under those sanctions, and it would be monumental for them – and for the world – if we were finally able to resolve these long-standing international tensions.
In screwed news... Almost four out of every ten Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And, according to a recent poll by CareerBuilder.com, another 40 percent of people say that they sometimes do. While the figure is slightly lower than 2008 highs, it clearly shows that most people are only one emergency away from a financial disaster. A similar poll in June found that three quarters of Americans don't have enough savings to survive for six months, and nearly 30 percent have no savings at all. A medical emergency, a layoff, or a major home repair could leave many people unable to cover the basic costs of housing and food. Meanwhile, bank and corporate profits are at record highs, CEOs are being paid an average of 273 times the salary of their workers, and taxpayers are still subsidizing oil companies and low-wage employers. And, many in Congress want to slash social programs and give corporations more tax cuts. Slowly, but surely, many Americans are waking up to the economic injustice in our country, and they are standing up and speaking out against it.
In the best of the rest of the news...
House Republicans tried to extend the Monsanto Protection Act, but the Senate has stopped that provision in its tracks. Thanks to Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, Independent Bernie Sanders, and Republican Roy Blunt, the controversial measure was stripped from the Senate's continuing resolution. So, as of September 30th, the giant GMO manufacturer will no longer be protected from legal action if-and-when their genetically modified foods are proven to be harmful. Senator Merkley said, “This is a victory for all those who think [that] special interests shouldn't get special deals.” And added, “I applaud the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have worked hard to end this diabolical provision.” Colin O'Neal, the director of government affairs for the Center of Food Safety, applauded these lawmakers for removing the Monsanto Protection Act. Mr. O'Neal said, “The American people deserve better than dirty politics, yet the Republican leadership continues to side with the agri-chemical companies that the [Monsanto] rider seeks to protect.” Thankfully, there are a few senators who decided to side with the American people instead.
German researchers have broken another world record in solar efficiency. The German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems has developed a solar cell that converts 44.7 percent of the sun's energy into electricity. While their new record is not that much higher than the 44 percent record set in December of 2012, it is one huge step closer to the solar industry's goal of 50 percent. According to the Think Progress Blog, this development means that eventually we'll need far less surface area to generate the same amount of solar power. In comparison, today's typical solar panels only have a 15 to 16 percent efficiency rate. And, higher efficiency will lead to lower prices for consumers, and more customers for the solar power industry. This technology could help our nation gain real energy independence, help save our planet, and help create long-lasting, good-paying jobs in our nation. Once again, it's clear that good science can also be good business.
And finally… Recently, the Fisk family in Bristol, England, brought home a new pet parrot. Upon adopting Basil, an African Grey, they were warned that the bird's large vocabulary included “a couple of swear words.” However, within hours of bringing Basil home, they quickly learned he knew more than they bargained for. After setting the parrot up in his new home, Basil said a polite “hello” to his new family, followed by a tirade of expletives. To make matters worse, a few days later, Basil escaped through an open window and was turned in to a local vet. According to the staff, he was quiet the first day he was with them, but quickly surprised them with his colorful vocabulary. Thankfully for Basil, the Fisks found him at the animal hospital, and the staff said, “He also whistled the McDonalds tune and danced for us when we asked him to, so we forgave his bad manners.” Now all the Fisk family has to do is figure out how to tone-down their new friend's vocabulary.