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Iran-U.S.: Great Expectations

American diplomatic breakthroughs with Russia and Iran mark a turning point in the Middle East. By Christopher Dickey.

What was the venerable Brillo-haired boxing promoter Don King doing at a meeting between think-tankers and the president of Iran? We didn’t know until the end.

There’d been a surprise announcement: a major breakthrough in nuclear negotiations with Iran over at the United Nations. A journalistic scrum suddenly surrounded the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who’d delivered that news. But King, the man who once brought us the “Thrilla in Manila” and the “Rumble in the Jungle,” jostled past the reporters to tell Zarif, “I want to promote ‘A Fight for Peace in the Middle East!’”
This weird scene was not the most important moment, I suppose, in a day fraught with what seemed to be breakthroughs, but in its way it was the most emblematic. The United Nations General Assembly (or “Hell Week,” as some call it) suddenly has turned into a circus of diplomacy, a riot of expectations. A “fight for peace in the Middle East”? That’s what we’re watching right now.

Watch the history of U.S.-Iran relations, from the 1953 coup to the recent diplomatic breakthrough.

At 16, Kelvin Doe has a presidential medal, an MIT fellowship, and the admiration of world leaders—not bad for a self-taught inventor from Freetown.

Kelvin Doe was standing just a few feet away from President Clinton, Secretary Clinton and Chelsea—not to mention a ballroom full of business and political leaders—at the Clinton Global Initiative's closing plenary on Thursday, but—he assured The Daily Beast in an interview—he wasn't nervous.

Freetown Sierra Leone

A boy stands on a road at dawn in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on November 21, 2012. (Joe Penney/Reuters)

The 16-year-old inventor from Sierra Leone has the chops to back up his confidence: the boy genius is both the youngest person to be awarded his country's presidential medal, and the youngest person ever offered a fellowship at MIT, where he spent a week as a visiting practitioner training MIT and Harvard undergrads. He traveled 14 hours from Sierra Leone to attend the CGI conference this week. Clad in a pinstripe suit and adorned with his medal, he met up with The Daily Beast to talk about his accomplishments, fresh off of taking a photo with former President Bill Clinton.

Human Rights

Hillary Promises Beijing Review

At the Clinton Global Initiative, the former Secretary of State called for a "full and clear-eyed look" at how far women's rights have come since her landmark Beijing speech, as well as the work that remains to be done.

In 1995, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton declared that “it is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights."

In the 20 years since that watershed speech, women’s rights have become a cause célèbre embraced by the development community, the political class, popular culture and business leaders across the globe. From the White House to the World Bank to the board room of Coca-Cola, talk about the importance of the role of women has been easy to find.

But the question of whether women’s realities have evolved alongside their rhetorical prominence remains a pressing one. And now the former Secretary of State says she is gathering a group of actors to offer a progress report on whether the rhetoric matches the on-the-ground reality facing women in the world—and, if not, how best to band together to fill the gaps that remain.

Save the Elephants

Clinton's Crusade Against Poaching

Hillary Clinton has made the end of poaching her cause célèbre since leaving office. But her fight goes beyond just saving elephants. Nina Strochlic on the former Secretary of State’s new mission.

“We're now confronting the possibility of a world without elephants,” Chelsea Clinton said at the Clinton Global Initiative on Thursday in an introduction to a new commitment that has become Hillary Clinton's post-office cause célèbre: ending wildlife poaching. Last year alone, the practice took the lives of 35,000 elephants and more than one thousand rangers.

Hillary Clinton

Chelsea Clinton and Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) attend the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) September 26, 2013 in New York. (Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty)

On stage with presidents from six African nations—Uganda, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Malawi, Cote d'Ivoire, and Tanzania—the former secretary of state made a three-year, $80 million pledge to halt the brutal killing of African elephants, which she said is on track to make the African forest elephant extinct within 10 years.

Ben Affleck and The Roots kicked off a star-studded awards ceremony Wednesday night, which featured plenty of jokes about a possible 2016 Hillary Clinton run.

The recipients of the Clinton Global Initiative Global Citizen Awards are always top-tier, but this year brought an especially star-studded group to the stage, including five current and former leading politicians, one queen, and one Pakistani girl who survived a bullet. In a typical Clintonian mix of Hollywood and Washington, public and private leadership, the gala was packed with big names like Sean Penn and former Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Malala Yousafzai

Queen of Jordan, Rania Al Abdullah (left), awards The Leadership in Civil Society to Malala Yousafzai, at the Clinton Global Citizen Award ceremony on September 25, 2013 in New York City. (Ramin Talaie/Getty)

Ben Affleck kicked off the festivities, calling himself as Bruce Wayne and saying he was honored to share the room with his fellow billionaires, before introducing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who offered herself up for a role in Argo II.

Lost in Translation

Iran’s Moderate Holocaust Denier

Not so fast, CNN. Iran’s president did not denounce the Nazis. Michael Moynihan says a more accurate translation suggests he is just another Holocaust denier.

In a 1731 essay on Shakespeare’s “brilliant monstrosities,” Voltaire confessed to readers that he added his own stylistic flourishes to a self-translated passage from Hamlet: “Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning!” 

Mideast Iran Election

Hassan Rouhani waves to his supporters in a campaign rally in Tehran in May 2013. (Vahid Salemi/Getty Images)

It’s an admonition appreciated by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official translator, whose services were employed by CNN for an interview with the country’s vaunted “moderate” leader, Hassan Rouhani. Christiane Amanpour, an Iranian-Brit who apparently speaks Farsi, asked the inevitable question, the one that would uncover further evidence of moderation and counterbalance the sinister views of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who famously revealed himself to be an amateur scholar of the Second World War: Does the right honorable gentleman from Tehran believe the Holocaust actually happened? The translator, perhaps fearing that rendering every word would weaken the meaning, offered the following English rendering of Rouhani’s response:

Clinton Global Initiative

What Blankfein Learned from Occupy

At the Clinton Global Initiative on Wednesday, the Goldman Sachs CEO commented on the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and rebutted his predecessor’s criticisms of executive bonuses after the crash.

If anyone sees a dozen roses left unattended in Zuccotti Park, please deliver them to the protestors of Occupy Wall Street, courtesy of Lloyd Blankfein.

Lloyd Blankfein

Lloyd Blankfein takes part in a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative. (© Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

At least that it was the Goldman Sachs CEO joked to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria during a panel discussion that Clinton Global Initiative’s annual summit in midtown Manhattan.

Full court press

Piers Pesters Clintons On 2016

The CNN anchor hosted Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton in a trio of panels at CGI on Wednesday, asking the family, time and again, whether Hillary (or even Chelsea) was ready to announce a presidential run.

Here are a few things that were discussed over the course of Piers Morgan’s star-studded session on “Mobilizing Youth Around the World” for CNN at the Clinton Global Initiative: Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, Chelsea Clinton’s presidential run, Syria, and the U.S.-Russia relationship. Here’s what was barely touched upon: mobilizing youth.

Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan taped CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting on September 25, 2013 in New York City. (Ramin Talaie/Getty)

Chelsea Clinton launched off the first of three interviews with a confident statement about how young people are ready to effectively harness their individual and national futures. “Before we get too deep into the weeds,” Morgan interrupted, “Is your mom running for president?”

CEO Cred

Getting Beyond Boardroom Quotas

At CGI on Tuesday, Pat Mitchell led a panel on how companies can move beyond affirmative action while still guaranteeing that women can get to the corner office.

Quotas, bottoms lines, and boardrooms came into play in a panel about women's role in the global economy at the Clinton Global Initiative this morning, in a debate that former secretary of State Hillary Clinton later described as “fascinating and galvanizing.”

Clinton Global Initiative

From left, Pat Mitchell, the president and CEO of the Paley Center, leads a session on female decision makers in the global economy with Lubna al-Qasimi, Irwin Jacobs, Halla Tomasdottir, and Arne M. Sorenson. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

In a discussion lead by Pat Mitchell, the CEO of the Paley Center for Media, leaders in politics, hospitality, finance, and engineering took the stage to grapple with how to boost female participation in sectors where women continues to lag well behind the 50 percent mark.


Bill Gates’s Big Bet on Toilets

The tech mogul and philanthropist spoke at CGI on Tuesday about how private foundations can take big risks to have a wide impact, and on the unglamorous but necessary technologies that the developing world desperately needs.

No one is more qualified to sit on a panel titled Big Bets Philanthropy than Bill Gates, co-founder of the world's largest private philanthropic group, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates was joined on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday by Nigerian investor Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings Limited, and Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF's assistant secretary-general.


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates during the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on September 24, 2013, in New York. (Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty)

Health Salesmen

When Bubba Met (With) Obama

It was a strange day for health care, with Ted Cruz pseudo-filibustering and two Democratic presidents playing Obamacare salesmen. Eleanor Clift on how Obama talked up his plan—and what Clinton feared.

Could the dialogue about the new health-care law get any more surreal? On one television network, Texas Republican Ted Cruz drones on and on about the evils of Obamacare, and on another, Democratic Presidents Obama and Clinton do their best to sell a skeptical American public on the new health-care law, sounding a bit like the Home Shopping Network as they put in a plug for people to go online to and sign up for coverage.


Former president Bill Clinton listens to President Barack Obama during the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting on September 24, 2013, in New York City. (Ramin Talaie/Getty)

Seated in cream-colored easy chairs on the set of Clinton’s annual Global Initiative confab in New York, the two presidents engaged in some friendly banter about how they both married up. Then they got down to business, with Clinton posing the questions on people’s minds, from why the president took on health-care reform to why the law is so unpopular. Obama had a rare chance to explain the basis for Obamacare and to promote a spate of recent good news that suggests premiums for many people will be lower than expected.


Syria Deadlock a ‘Disgrace’

‘We cannot and shall not leave the Syrian people to their fate,’ says Abdullah Gül.

As world leaders take to the podium at the U.N. General Assembly, Syria is on the mind. Three of Syria’s neighbors hard-hit by the conflict—Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon—pushed for a more heavy-handed political strategy on Tuesday to end a war that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Syrians.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül, whose country has taken in nearly half a million Syrian refugees since the start of the war, called the U.N. Security Council deadlock over Syria a “disgrace.” Once an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey is now one of Assad’s biggest opponents. 

“In short, we cannot and shall not leave the Syrian people to their fate,” President Gül said. “The burden of ending Syria's plight now rests on the shoulders of the international community. Strong words of support must now be matched by real deeds.”

Clinton Global Initiative

Jackson: Saxophone-Playing Wouldn’t Help Obama

At the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday, Jesse Jackson said Bill Clinton had more leeway to appeal to black voters in the 1990s than President Obama, who would have been accused of pandering for similar behaviors.

Jesse Jackson pulled out an iconic moment from 1990s pop culture to explain the difference between the political world that Barack Obama faces and the one that his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, faced

“Bill Clinton gets on Arsenio and plays the saxophone, and everyone says he is reaching out,” the civil rights leader said. “If Obama were to get on Arsenio and play the saxophone, he would be dismissed.”

Clinton’s appearance blowing the sax complete with dark sunglasses on the late-night talk show in the heat of his first presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush was designed so that the then-Arkansas governor would show a young, hip, urban audience that if he was not one of them, he could at least relate to them. The appearance and the subsequent photo of Arsenio Hall, then the most culturally relevant late-night talk-show host, nodding approvingly at the young Arkansas governor were credited with helping boost Clinton’s rise. Obama, Jackson suggested, by dint of his race and the nature of the criticism he faces from the right, would be accused of pandering if he attempted something similar.

Clinton Global Initiative

Women and Mobile Technology

Getting more smartphones into people’s hands can not only boost economies, but create new opportunities for women.

Mobility took on new meaning at this year's Clinton Global Initiative, as a focus on getting technology into the hands of women surfaced on panels of all concentrations.

In a session headlined by Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation of Women, handheld technology was forefront. The wife of British former prime minister Tony Blair recalled being inspired to start investigating girls and mobile tech after a previous CGI, where she noticed women weren't getting a fair share of the attention. Blair shared the stage with Aldi Haryopratomo, the young Indonesian co-founder of Ruma, an organization that trains low-income workers to serve their communities with mobile devices.


A woman talks on a mobile phone in Allahabad, India. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)


Dilma Slams U.S. Spying


Spencer Platt/Getty

In an explosive speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Dilma Rousseff accused the United States of ‘espionage’—just before Obama took the stage.

With Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff leading the day’s speeches at the U.N. General Assembly, she used the opportunity at the podium to shame the United States for spying on her country, saying that cyberspace was turning into a battlefield.

“Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately,” she said in a fiery speech aimed at a room full of world leaders. “Corporate information—often of high economic and even strategic value—was at the center of espionage activity.”

Last week, the Brazilian leader canceled a state visit to Washington, furious over NSA’s reported spying on her country’s communications, including her own personal emails and text messages.

“Without the right to privacy,” she said, “there is no real freedom of speech and freedom of opinion.”

Following President Rousseff’s canceled meeting with Obama—seen as a huge snub to the White House—U.S. officials insisted NSA surveillance was intended to combat terrorism.

Rousseff insisted that her country could protect itself, adding that Brazil does not provide shelter to terrorist groups.

“The arguments that illegal interception of information and data are destined to protect nations against terrorism are unsustainable,” she stated.

Rousseff called for the establishment of a “multilateral mechanism” for the Internet, which she says would promote freedom of speech, privacy, and human rights.

In an awkward fluke of scheduling, President Obama took the stage immediately following the Brazilian leader’s impassioned speech labeling the U.S. as a violator of international laws. “We have begun to review the way that we gather intelligence,” he said near the beginning of his speech, “so as to properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.”

The two nations share the biggest economies in the Americas, but relations are fragile. Rousseff has demanded that President Obama publicly apologize. But today, it seems, she didn’t get her wish.

Inside the U.N. and C.G.I.