William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 8:37 P.M. ET:

DEAL? – Reuters is reporting that the nations negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program are prepared to offer a limited easing of sanctions if Iran takes steps to shut down its Fordow uranium-enrichment plant.  The offer extends one made last year, but not by much.  There is, however, not much optimism that Iran will bite.  Even the UN secretary-general said today that Iran could be using the new talks to buy time to advance its nuclear program.  We may have to make some very grim decisions about Iran later this year.

NEW NORTH KOREAN TEST? – Reuters is also reporting that North Korea has told its ally, China, that it is preparing one, possibly two, new nuclear tests this year, to try to force the U.S. to enter new negotiations.  My greater concern is that the knowledge from these tests will be passed on to Iran.  We must assume that.  Our policy toward North Korea has failed.  The administration just won't acknowledge that.  Regimes like those of North Korea and Iran will not yield because of sanctions.  They'd rather starve their own people.

PRAISE – We don't praise President Obama too often here, but we always give credit where it's due.  His speech in Chicago on gun control today did indeed include very direct comments about the impact of fatherlessness in the inner city and the absence of male role models.  He needs to extend that theme to include the mediocrity of local political leaders and the laxness of the Chicago court system, but the president did pretty well today.

ATTENTION WALMART SHOPPERS – Breitbart is reporting that an internal Walmart memo says that February sales are the worst in seven years.  The memo says that "sales are a total disaster."  One possible reason for the dip is the end of the temporary reduction in the Social Security tax.  The tax was restored to its previous level in January, meaning that shoppers, especially those on tight budgets, have less to spend.   Walmart is the nation's largest employer.

February 15, 2013