Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama, Nobel, Peace, War?

Anti-war forces bristle at Obama's Nobel speech

Washington Times — President Obama's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize won praise from conservatives, but some anti-war Democrats in Congress bristled at the commander-in-chief's ruminations about waging a "just war."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a leading critic on the left of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Friday that the president's musings about the inevitability of war and "war's instrumentality in pursuit of peace" threatened to lead the United States into more bloody conflicts.
click to read complete article
Barack Obama: War President?

Fox News — Col. Ollie North -When I was a young Marine, we were encouraged to read Sun Tzu's "Art of War" as a primer on conflict. Our mentors were officers and senior non-commissioned officers who had served in World War II, Korea and the early days of the conflict in Indochina. These were serious men for whom the profession of arms was no trivial matter. They taught us that the 6th Century B.C. tome was relevant to the fight we were headed for in Vietnam and would serve us well in the future.

According to Sun Tzu, "The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, the path to safety or ruin. Therefore, it is a subject that must be seriously studied." The most recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize appears to have ignored this sage advice.
click to read complete article
Left and right, pundits applaud Obama Nobel Peace Prize speech

Christian Science Monitor — If nothing else, the American punditocracy largely agreed on one aspect of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech: that it was eloquent.

In offering a tutorial on just war theory, laid out in clear prose and compellingly delivered, Mr. Obama and his speechwriters showed once again that they know how to knock one out of the park.
click to read complete article

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Herman Van Rompuy, new head of the EU

Herman Van Rompuy: quirky exterior conceals sharp operator

London Telegraph — During his candidacy, he was portrayed as the perfect conciliator with valuable experience as Belgium's Prime Minister of bridging the divide between the warring Flemish and Walloon communities and holding his country together.

The "ideal candidate", said Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, for bring "consensus and cohesion" to a fractious EU of 27 member states.

In reality, and behind his harmless, eccentric and literary persona, Mr Van Rompuy, 62, is a sharp political operator who is not above using dirty tricks to stymie his opponents.
click to read complete article
New EU president wins fans in Japan -- as a poet

Reuters — Herman Van Rompuy, the European Union's new president, may not be very well known around the world but he's already winning fans in Japan -- as a poet rather than a politician.

Belgium's low-key prime minister is fond of writing haiku -- three-line Japanese poems of just 17 syllables -- and is building a reputation with Japanese poets less than 24 hours after he got the newly-created job.
click to read complete article
New EU president raises fears in aspirant Turkey

Reiuters — Herman Van Rompuy's appointment as the first European Union president provoked fears in Turkey that he might hinder Ankara's hopes of joining the bloc, with some media declaring outright that he is anti-Turkish.

Turkish newspapers were quick to dig out past comments attributed to Van Rompuy that the EU's Christian values would lose vigor if Muslim Turkey were let in.
click to read complete article

Monday, November 9, 2009

Health Care - Pelosi - Abortion

Pro-choice advocates furious over abortion amendment in Health care bill

NY Daily News — Pro-choice advocates were furious Sunday after House Democratic leaders allowed a deal to ban insurance coverage for abortions to be part of their health care reform bill.

"It's time that women stopped believing that the Democratic Party is always on their side," said Marcia Pappas, president of New York State"s chapter of the National Organization for Women. "This is a horrific move."
click to read complete article
Pelosi Faces Competing Pressures on Health Care

NY Times — As House Democratic leaders were assembling their health care bill last month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Washington on a political fund-raising tour.

Accompanying her on the US Airways flight to her first stop, Cleveland on Oct. 2, was a prominent health care lobbyist, Frederick H. Graefe, who represents hospitals, medical equipment companies, a few drug companies and others in the industry.
click to read complete article
Pelosi Dances on Health Care's Grave

Fox News — What was Speaker Nancy Pelosi thinking as she reveled in the passage of the House’s health care bill? Does she really imagine that this monstrous legislation will improve the lives of most Americans? Does she expect that creating 111 new government bureaucracies and offices will make it easier for most of us to receive medical treatment? Does she think that sharply raising marginal tax rates for our highest-earning citizens and small businesses will spur productivity and hiring?

No, I imagine that she was thrilled by the taste of victory. Somewhere along the way, this push became all about personalities and contest; the original goal of reining in health care costs was abandoned, and the prize at the end became passage of a landmark bill. Nancy Pelosi envisions herself forever sculpted into liberalism’s Mt. Rushmore.
click to read complete article

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Abbas is not seeking a second term

Abbas step-down will help Palestinian cause

Press TV Iran — Hamas says Mahmoud Abbas' departure from his position, as acting Palestinian Authority Chief will help the Palestinian cause.

"There are many Palestinians who are ready to take on the responsibility of leading the Palestinians people," senior Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said in an inclusive interview with Press TV on Friday, adding, "Those replacing Abbas may even elevate the Palestinian cause to the next level."
click to read complete article
Supporters urge Abbas to run again

Aljazeera — Supporters of Fatah, the Palestinian faction led by Mahmoud Abbas, have taken to the streets in the West Bank city of Ramallah in an attempt to force the Palestinian president to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election.

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, said supporters who wanted Abbas to run again rallied on Friday following his announcement a day earlier that he would not stand in presidential elections scheduled for January.
click to read complete article
Mahmoud Abbas gives up his leadership in fresh blow to peace process

Times Online London — Mahmoud Abbas, the increasingly isolated Palestinian President, announced yesterday that he would not stand for re-election in polls due in January, dealing a further blow to the US-sponsored peace process.

The announcement, made as Mr Abbas’s political standing hit an all-time low, exposed Palestinian frustrations at the Obama Administration’s failure to halt Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Swine Flu - Vaccine late - Infections down - Profits Up.

Swine flu peaks out before vaccines even make it into widespread distribution

Natural News — Swine flu infections have peaked out in the USA, even before drug companies could get their vaccines injected into everyone. According to CDC findings announced recently in Atlanta, one in five U.S. children have already experienced the flu this month, and most of those were likely H1N1 swine flu cases, the CDC says.

This comes from a survey of over 10,000 U.S. households conducted by the CDC.
click to read complete article
Glaxo profits soar 23 per cent on swine flu fears

London Mail — Drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKilne saw profits rise 23 per cent during the third quarter of the year following a sharp increase in sales of its flu vaccine Relenza.

The firm issued its Q3 results today and reported that pre-tax profits hit £2.07billion - posting a small rise compared to the £1.88billion recorded in the same period last year. Sales rose three per cent to £6.76billion.
click to read complete article
The swine flu conspiracy conspiracy

National Post — "U.S. President Barack Obama has now declared a national emergency over swine flu infections. The reasoning behind such a declaration? According to the White House, it’s designed to “allow hospitals to better handle the surge in patients” by allowing them to bypass certain federal laws.

That’s the public explanation for this, but the real agenda behind this declaration may be far more sinister. Declaring a national emergency immediately gives federal authorities dangerous new powers that can now be enforced at gunpoint, including:"
click to read complete article

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cheney, Rove attack Obama over Afghanistan

Cheney vs. Obama White House: War of Words Heats Up

ABC News — As the war of words heats up between the White House and former Vice President Dick Cheney, pundits on both sides of the political aisle point fingers at the Obama and Bush administrations for doing too little in the war in Afghanistan.

"When it comes to Afghanistan, this is an issue where the Bush administration got it wrong," James Rubin, a former State Department official for the Clinton administration, said on "Good Morning America" today.
click to read complete article
ROVE: Obama Goes Wobbly on Afghanistan

Wall Street Journal — In an interview with CNN's John King on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said President Obama is now asking tough questions about Afghanistan "that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side and the strategic side." It was a not so subtle dig at Mr. Obama's predecessor and was meant to distract from the White House's mishandling of the war.

The Bush administration did in fact conduct a top-to-bottom strategic review of Afghanistan in 2008. That review was provoked by two developments.
click to read complete article
Pelosi Jumps Into Obama, Cheney Feud Over Afghan War

FOX News — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday joined the battle between former Vice President Dick Cheney and Obama administration officials over the strategy of the war in Afghanistan.

Pelosi chided Cheney for asserting Wednesday that President Obama is "afraid" to make a decision about whether to ramp up war at the request of his military advisers or scale back the effort and focus on going after Al Qaeda in Pakistan, as some of his political advisers are urging.
click to read complete article

Monday, October 19, 2009

U.N. War Crimes report judges against Israel

Tide is turning against Israel

Arab News — Now even the United Nations Human Rights Council is “anti-Semitic.” Well, that’s the view of Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is outraged that the body rubber-stamped the Goldstone Report on war crimes committed in Gaza. Some years ago, that accusation would have had enormous shock-value, whereas, nowadays, the label has been so propagandized the only thing it elicits is a yawn.

Anti-Semitism is a genuine scourge on humankind in the same that racism and bigotry are and should be eradicated, but Israel is in danger of devaluing the term by attaching it to anyone who doesn’t agree with its policies. Moreover, when used loosely as an insult, it doesn’t help Israel’s cause or standing in the world.
click to read complete article
Obama joins Netanyahu in shielding Israel from war crimes charges

Tehran Times — The United Nations Human Rights Council has endorsed a report into Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza in December and January, accusing Israel of war crimes.

Israel’s premier, Binyamin Netanyahu, predictably denounced the report as biased against Israel and unjust and insisted that he would not allow any Israeli officials to face trial for war crimes. The Obama administration echoed Israel, calling the report unbalanced, and said that its adoption would damage the possibility of resuming talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The talks are a necessary fig leaf for bringing the Arab regimes on side against Iran.
click to read complete article
Love for Israel Obligated War Crimes Probe

Fox News — The internationally renowned jurist who compiled a U.N. report accusing Israel of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip says he carried out the probe because of his deep attachment to the Jewish state.

South African jurist Richard Goldstone delivered his message Monday in an op-ed piece published in the Jerusalem Post, an English-language Israeli daily. It was the first time he has reached out to the Israeli public since his report was published last month.
click to read complete article

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Global hunger worsening

Promoting right to life requires fighting world hunger, pope says

Catholic News Service — Defending the right to life requires promoting and establishing food security, Pope Benedict XVI said. >br>
The current economic crisis has hit agriculture particularly hard, and governments and the world community must "make determined and effective choices" in investing in agriculture in the developing world, he said.
click to read complete article
Fight against hunger key to security: Clinton

Agence France Presse — Eradicating world hunger is a key step towards establishing global security, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday marking the UN's World Food Day.

"Food security is about economic, environmental, and national security for our individual homelands and the entire world," she said in statement.
click to read complete article
Get sustainable agriculture right this time, experts urge

Seattle Times — Food quantity or food quality? Can the world quell starvation now and still have a healthy ecosystem over the long term?

Tough questions for anyone concerned about agriculture and its relation to hunger and poverty.

In a keynote speech at the World Food Prize symposium today, Bill Gates said he supports sustainable agriculture, welcome words to experts in the field, who say there is no short term fix.
click to read complete article

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Czech Republic stalls EU reform treaty

Vaclav Klaus: How Czech president is fighting on to stop Europe in its tracks

Guardian UK — For a man standing alone between Europe and its future, Vaclav Klaus is playing hard to get. Last week a trip to Albania, this week Russia; the Czech president has performed a vanishing act just when he has the rest of Europe dancing to his tune.

He relishes being at the centre of a showdown. But it appears he is currently more interested in selling copies of his tract on global warming denial.
click to read complete article
The EU turns its hideous strength against Václav Klaus

UK Telegraph — Can this really be true? The French and German governments attempting to oust the head of state of a neighbouring democracy? Czech politicians being told to bring impeachment proceedings against their President – not on grounds of corruption or abuse of office, but because he is sticking to a position that he had very publicly adopted prior to becoming President?

Klaus himself has written of the intolerant, authoritarian nature of the doctrine he calls “Europeism”. Now he is all that stands in its way, and is sustaining its full force. I have written many times of what I call the EU’s “hideous strength“: the way in which, as well as being undemocratic in itself, it requires its member nations to sacrifice a measure of their internal democracy; the way in which it makes otherwise good people do bad things. I hope that Klaus’s stand will convince people – not just in Czech Republic or Britain, but across the EU – of the nature of what we are dealing with.
click to read complete article
Klaus taps into buried fear of German menace

Financial Times — Vaclav Klaus may be the bugbear of European politics for his steadfast refusal to sign the Lisbon treaty, but his reanimation of the German menace as a justification for not doing so has struck a chord with his fellow Czechs.

His previous efforts to throw up roadblocks to the treaty reforming the workings of the European Union had not garnered widespread local support. Complaints about Ireland re-running its referendum, the erosion of the Czech Republic’s voting power under the new Lisbon rules and the loss of sovereignty to Brussels are not nearly as emotive in a country where most people are happy with belonging to the EU.
click to read complete article

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hillary is in the news - everywhere.

Hillary Clinton meets Gordon Brown amid mounting tensions over Iran

London Times — Hillary Clinton hailed the historic special relationship between Britain and America yesterday as she flew into London on a whirlwind visit to consult on the crises in Afghanistan and Iran.

Mrs Clinton arrived on her first solo visit to London as Secretary of State amid mounting tensions over the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the future of Nato’s military campaign in Afghanistan, which is still to be decided after a doom-laden review by the United States’ most senior commander.
click to read complete article
Clinton to press Russia on Iran

BBC — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Moscow on the final leg of her European visit.

Mrs Clinton is due to hold talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday.

She is said to be hoping to win Russian support for the US government's stances on Iran's controversial nuclear programme and global arms control.
click to read complete article
Clinton says she won't run for president again

China News — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview broadcast Monday that she would not run for president again.

Clinton, who lost the Democratic presidential nomination to U.S. President Barack Obama in 2008, said "No" several times when asked by NBC's Ann Curry "Will you ever run for president again? Yes or No?"

"This is a great job. It is a 24-7 job. And I am looking forward to retirement at some point," she said.
click to read complete article

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Healthcare Bill, The Deficit and Stock prices.

Baucus healthcare bill would lower the deficit, analysts say

Los Angeles Times — Reporting from Washington - Senate Democrats pushing healthcare legislation received a boost Wednesday from congressional budget experts, who estimated that a bill being debated by the Senate Finance Committee would substantially expand coverage and lower the federal deficit.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculated that the legislation, written by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would cost $829 billion by 2019. But because that tab would be offset by spending cuts elsewhere and by new revenue, the bill actually would lower the deficit by $81 billion over the next decade -- and potentially even more in later years -- the budget office concluded.
click to read complete article
Managed-Care Stocks Off, Hospitals Up, On Health Bill

Wall Street Journal — Managed-care stocks tumbled and hospital shares climbed Thursday as an analysis of the Senate Finance Committee's health-reform bill increased chances that the measure, which one analyst called "onerous" for health insurers, will advance.

Contributing to the managed-care sell-off, apparently, were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments expressing interest in exploring a windfall-profit tax on insurers to fund an expansion of health coverage.
click to read complete article
Offshore tax bill sought as health bill add-on

Reuters — A prominent Democrat will offer a controversial bill to target tax evasion by U.S. citizens and corporations to the main healthcare reform legislation in the Senate, an aide said on Wednesday.

Democrat Senator Carl Levin will offer his Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act as an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare bill when it reaches the Senate floor, according to a Levin aide.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Nuclear Iran

Iran 'co-operation' draws praise

BBC — The US and the UN have given an upbeat assessment of the possibility of settling the nuclear dispute with Iran.

US National Security Adviser Jim Jones said Tehran was now "willing to come to the table", following talks this week between Iran and major powers.

The head of the UN's nuclear agency, who is in Tehran, said there had been a "gear shift" towards co-operation.
click to read complete article
Iran to buy nuclear fuel from any supplier, even from U.S.

Chinaview — Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran is ready to buy its needed nuclear fuel from any country even from the United States, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Talking to the reporters, Ahmadinejad said that "If the Americans have announced that they want to provide our needed (nuclear) fuel, there is no problem. We think it is a good point. We want to buy our fuel from any supplier in the world. It makes no difference, the United States can be one of the suppliers."
click to read complete article
Iran could make an atom bomb, according to UN report's 'secret annexe'

London Times — Iran has the know-how to produce a nuclear bomb and may already have tested a detonation system small enough to fit into the warhead of a medium-range missile, according to confidential papers.

The “secret annexe” to this year’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran summarises information submitted by intelligence agencies about the country’s work on warheads, detonators and nuclear fuel enrichment. It is based partly on evidence thought to have been smuggled out of Iran by the wife of a spy recruited by German intelligence.
click to read complete article

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chinese Prime Minister Visits North Korea

‘Dear Leader’ welcomes Chinese comrade to boost hopes of a nuclear agreement

London Times — The Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, arrived in North Korea for talks with its reclusive leader Kim Jong Il yesterday amid hopes of advancing nuclear disarmament by the pariah state after months of tension.

Mr Kim made the unusual gesture of greeting Mr Wen in person, embracing him as he arrived at Pyongyang airport. The visit appeared to end one of the worst periods in relations between East Asia’s two nuclear powers. The countries — once described by Mao Zedong as being “as close as lips and teeth” — have had frosty relations since April, when North Korea launched an intercontinental rocket, which was followed in May by an underground nuclear test. China ended support for its long-time ally and backed condemnation and sanctions by the UN Security Council.
click to read complete article
North vows not to give up its nuclear weapons

JoongAng Daily - South Korea — North Korea vowed Wednesday not to be bound by the latest United Nations resolution on non-proliferation and disarmament, saying it will never give up its nuclear weapons under any circumstance.

A spokesman for the North’s Foreign Ministry told the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that the prerequisite to global denuclearization is the United States and other heavy possessors of nuclear weapons carrying out their own disarmament.
click to read complete article
N. Korea says ready to discuss denuclearization of Korean Peninsula

RIA Novosti - Russia — Pyongyang is ready to discuss with foreign mediators the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula in bilateral and multilateral formats, the official N. Korean news agency KCNA said on Monday.

The announcement came during a meeting between the North Korean officials and a Chinese delegation, led by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, which arrived in Pyongyang early on Sunday.
click to read complete article

Friday, October 2, 2009

Russia or Georgia - who's at fault?

France accuses Russia of failing to meet EU-backed Georgia truce

RIA Novosti Russia — Russia is not meeting its obligations under the peace plan aimed at resolving the conflict between Georgia and Russia over breakaway regions of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia, the French foreign minister said Thursday.

The so-called Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire plan stipulates that EU observers should be able to monitor the situation on the border between Georgia and its former regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but so far only Georgia has allowed their deployment.
click to read complete article
Georgia 'started unjustified war'

BBC UK — The war in Georgia last year was started by a Georgian attack that was not justified by international law, an EU-sponsored report has concluded.

However, the attack followed months of provocation, and both sides violated international law, the report said.
click to read complete article
Georgia points to Russia 'invasion'

Aljazeera — It was all quiet at the Georgian checkpoint on the edge of South Ossetia as the European Union-sponsored commission published its investigation into last year's war.

Georgian policemen in camouflage fatigues chatted amiably with EU ceasefire monitors, who have stepped up their patrols around the publication of the report in case of renewed outbreaks of violence.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

People's Republic of China celebrates its 60th Anniversary

Chinese pay tribute to motherland's birthday

Chinaview Xinhua — As the People's Republic of China celebrates its 60th founding anniversary, patterns of the number "60", and the national flag -- the five-star red flag -- can be seen everywhere throughout the country, even on children's heads.

In a barbershop in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Huang Xianlong, 5, smiled at his new hair style comprising four Chinese characters "Guo Qing Kuai Le", which means "Happy National Day".
click to read complete article
Nixon library will be target of Mao protest

Orange County Register — A statue of deceased Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the Nixon Presidential Library &Museum is the subject of a protest planned for Thursday, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The statue has been in the Hall of World Leaders since the Nixon Presidential Library opened. Kai Chen – a Chinese-American organizing the protest – is the first person to launch a complaint about it, said Sandy Quinn, assistant director of the Nixon Library &Birthplace Foundation
click to read complete article
Mao's Grandson May Be Major General Next Year

New York Times — The grandson of Chairman Mao Zedong could be promoted to major general next year, the China Daily said on Tuesday, contradicting other reports saying the 39-year-old had already risen in rank.

Rumours of the promotion have been buzzing around websites in China, where Mao's descendants have not played a prominent role in politics.
click to read complete article

Monday, September 28, 2009

Iran's Nuclear Program

U.S. to Iran: Prove your nuclear program is peaceful

CNN — The United States wants Iran to provide international inspectors with full access to a newly disclosed underground uranium enrichment plant that Obama administration officials say is both illegal and probably intended for developing weapons.

However, an Iranian official called U.S. accusations about the planned facility -- which Iran disclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency last week -- a propaganda effort to discredit his country before crucial talks with the international community on its nuclear energy program.
click to read complete article
Iran defiant amid new nuclear row

BBC — Iran's newly-revealed nuclear facility is open for inspection by UN experts, the country's president has said.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that the plant, thought to be under construction near the holy city of Qom, was being built in line with UN regulations.
click to read complete article
Gates favors diplomacy not military action on Iran

Reuters — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said diplomacy and sanctions rather than military action are the way to persuade Iran to change its nuclear program as divisions emerge in the Iranian leadership.

Iran's nuclear dispute with the West intensified last week after Tehran disclosed that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant.
click to read complete article

Friday, September 25, 2009

Elections in Germany

The Enemy Within - Angela Merkel's Fight to Hold on to Power

Der Speigel — German Chancellor Angela Merkel may look set for another term in office, but her political future hinges on the election result. If her CDU party ends up having to form another grand coalition with the center-left SPD, it will spell the beginning of the end of her political career.

Angela Merkel is on a plane flying over the Black Sea. The German chancellor is on her way to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, but a curious mood pervades the flying conference room. The dimensions are somehow off. The seats are too small and people are perching uncomfortably on armrests. The temperature in the plane keeps changing -- it is always either too warm or too cold, but never quite comfortable. The aircraft is too crowded, so that journalists are forced to either sit on the floor or uncomfortably close to Merkel on a gray sofa.
click to read complete article
German Nuclear Plants’ Future at Stake in Merkel Election Fight

Bloomberg — Angela Seidler, a 41-year-old tour guide at E.ON AG’s Grafenrheinfeld nuclear-power plant in southern Germany, may have to find a new career before she retires.

“There are about six years of work” until the plant reaches a government-mandated production limit, Seidler said. After that, she said, “it’s over for Grafenrheinfeld” -- unless voters grant a reprieve in Sept. 27 elections.
click to read complete article
Gay leader drinks to future with Merkel at Oktoberfest

London Times — An openly gay politician who can survive the brutish ribaldry of the Munich Oktoberfest should have little trouble sitting down with the likes of Hamas, Muammar Gaddafi or other tough negotiating partners.

Perhaps that was what was buzzing through Guido Westerwelle’s mind yesterday as he sipped delicately from his litre of frothing beer, clearly wishing it was chilled prosecco.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obama's First Speech to the U.N.

Obama pledges radical cuts in nuclear arsenal

Guardian UK — Obama has just said some striking things about US nuclear weapons policy in his first speech as US president to the UN general assembly. On the section on the atomic age: He said:

We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that opens the door to deeper cuts, and reduces the role of nuclear weapons.

On Monday, The Guardian reported that Obama had rejected a first Pentagon draft of the Nuclear Posture Review, due to be completed by the end of the year, because the defence department had not been radical enough in envisaging the possible cuts in the arsenal, and in terms of nuclear doctrine. He wanted options that diminished the role of nuclear weapons in American security.
click to read complete article
Obama says U.S. leads in meeting climate change challenge?

Calgary Herald — U.S. President Barack Obama sounded the warning bell over many issues throughout this morning’s address to the United Nations – political, environmental and economic.

While some of the messages were predictable – the need to stabilize the global financial system and the need for peace in the Middle East – it was his position on the environment that might have raised a few eyebrows.
click to read complete article
The UN loves Barack Obama because he is weak

London Telegraph — Barack Obama’s Gallup approval rating of 52 percent may well be lower at this stage of his presidency than any US leader in recent times with the exception of Bill Clinton. But he is still worshipped with messiah-like adoration at the United Nations, and is considerably more popular with many of the 192 members of the UN than he is with the American people.

The latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey of international confidence in Obama’s leadership on foreign affairs shows strikingly high approval levels for the president in many parts of the world – 94 percent in Kenya, 93 percent in Germany, 88 percent in Canada and Nigeria, 77 percent in India, 76 percent in Brazil, 71 percent in Indonesia, and 62 percent in China for example. The Pew survey of 21 countries reveals an average level of 71 percent support for President Obama, compared to just 17 percent for George W. Bush in 2008.
click to read complete article

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

U.S. Missile-Defense Plan for Europe

A Colossal Sign Of U.S. Weakness

CBS News — President Obama's decision to cancel plans for U.S. missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic is a knife in the back for those countries. The implications for U.S. security and the transatlantic relationship are profound. Critics rightly note that the sudden announcement Thursday sends a dangerous message to allies, both in Europe and elsewhere, who rely on U.S. security guarantees.

Even those who agree with the administration's approach concede that the rollout was clumsy--middle of the night phone calls and little prior consultation. In July 2007, Senator Obama criticized his predecessor for this very thing. The Bush administration, he said, had "done a poor job of consulting its NATO allies about the deployment of a missile defense system that has major implications for all of them."
click to read complete article
Obama Makes Right Call on Europe Missile Defense

Korea Times — President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and administration associates deserve commendation for making the right call concerning deployment of anti-missile weapons in Europe.

The Bush administration plan to place radar and missile installations in the Czech Republic and Poland has been canceled. Instead, the U.S. will rely on a mobile sea-based system, with land-based mobile radars.
click to read complete article
Russia, US could deploy joint missile shield against Iran

Indian Express — Russia and the US could deploy a joint missile shield to protect Europe from Iranian long-range missiles in future, a former Russian general has said.

"Russia and the US could jointly turn to this topic again in the future if Iran gets such a weapon (long-range ballistic missile), but this won't happen until at least 2015," Col Gen (retd) Viktor Yesin said.
click to read complete article

Monday, September 21, 2009

Afghanistan questions

Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan pleads for more troops in classified report

China View Xinhua — Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan Stanley A. McChrystal said explicitly in a classified report that the Afghan war "will likely result in failure" without increasing U.S. troop levels in that country.

The report was submitted to the Obama administration on Aug. 30 and the Washington Post disclosed its content on Monday after obtaining a copy of the report.
click to read complete article
Will Obama 'Do a Rumsfeld' In Afghanistan?

FOXNEWS — When I was in Afghanistan earlier this year it was clear we didn't have enough troops to do anything more than tread water. Things have only gotten worse.

President Obama is offering up a muddled message about what he wants to accomplish there-- before he decides what the troop levels should be, he has to decide what his goal is. Is it to win hearts and minds? Defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Does he want to buy time so that the Afghan army can take charge?
click to read complete article
Obama Questions Plan to Add Forces in Afghanistan

Wall Street Journal — President Barack Obama on Sunday voiced skepticism that more troops would make a difference in Afghanistan, suggesting he might not rubber-stamp military officials' expected request to send more forces to that country.

"I don't want to put the resource question before the strategy question," Mr. Obama told CNN's "State of the Union." "There is a natural inclination to say, 'If I get more, then I can do more.' But right now, the question is—the first question is—are we doing the right thing? Are we pursuing the right strategy?"
click to read complete article

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Japan's new Prime Minister

Japan’s Victors Warily Prepare for Power

New York Times — As the newly elected Democratic Party works to assemble what will be only the second government in Japan’s postwar history not to be led by the Liberal Democratic Party, it is treading carefully to avoid infighting that could split the ideologically diverse party or drive a wedge between it and its coalition allies.

Since smashing the Liberal Democrats’ nearly uninterrupted half-century monopoly on power two weeks ago, the center-left Democrats and their leader, Yukio Hatoyama, 62, have hurried to fill top posts in the party and his incoming cabinet and to cobble together a coalition with other parties before their government’s formal accession to power on Sept. 16.
click to read complete article
Clinton Optimistic About Ties With New Japanese Government

Voice Of America News — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she is relaxed and optimistic about the future of U.S. relations with the new Japanese government despite potential problems over Afghanistan and the relocation of American forces based in Japan. The Obama administration has sent a senior envoy to meet officials of the new left-leaning government just installed in Tokyo.

Clinton says the new leaders in Japan may govern more pragmatically than some of their campaign rhetoric has indicated. And she is expressing confidence that the decades-old U.S.-Japanese alliance will remain solid despite expected policy changes by the government of new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
click to read complete article
Will Japan's global ties change?

BBC — Days before his landslide election win, Yukio Hatoyama ruffled feathers in Washington with an essay in the New York Times.

Hitting out at US-led globalisation, he said many Asian nations wanted to see America's "political and economic excesses" restrained.

US military might was key to regional stability, he said, but stronger ties with regional neighbours were also needed to safeguard Japan's interests.
click to read complete article

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carter Calls it Racism

Obama and WH Team Turn Deaf Ear to Carter’s Racism Allegations, Deny ‘National Conversation’ on Race ‘Going on Right Now’

Fox News — The presidency, as the cliché goes, is a fraternity. It's a bipartisan one, if most presidential historians are to be trusted, in which the sacred, unspoken code is that former presidents do not intentionally complicate politics or policy for current presidents.

Jimmy Carter broke a lot of political codes to win the White House (the first born-again Christian, the first to have granted an interview to Playboy, the first to have been born in a hospital, and first to turn a no-chance campaign into a juggernaut by sleeping in other people's bedrooms -- in Iowa). More on the code of conduct of former presidents in a minute.
click to read complete article
Jimmy Carter racism charge triggers next US race debate

Christian Science Monitor — Former President Jimmy Carter’s assertion that racism is behind much of the political opposition to President Obama marks a stunning moment in America’s centuries-old racial drama.

In essence, one of the nation’s political elder statesmen has joined a chorus of Democrats, liberal pundits, and mainstream media asserting that the “birther” movement, Tea Party protests, town hall raucousness, and Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst reflect a “Southern strain” of Americans who can’t support an “uppity” black as chief executive.
click to read complete article
Jimmy Carter, Anti-Semite, Sees Racism In Obama Foes

Post-Chronicle — ormer President Jimmy Carter has joined a legion of liberal colleagues and mainstream media types who have deliberately sought to muddy the waters with the 'R word' when it comes to defending the failed presidency of one Barack Obama.

In doing so, Carter risks further alienation of an increasingly skeptical American electorate.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Venezuela ramping up a War Machine?

Venezuela confirms deals on Russian tanks, missiles

Chinaview Xinhua — President Hugo Chavez has confirmed that Venezuela and Russia have agreed on deals to buy Russian tanks and anti-aircraft missiles with a 2.2-billion-U.S.-dollar Russian credit.

"The weapons purchase is possible to increase our defense capacity" and the soldiers' morale would also be raised, Chavez said in his TV/radio program "Hello, President" on Sunday.
click to read complete article
Venezuela pushes for nuclear power

Aljazeera - Venezuela's president has announced the creation of an atomic energy commission and plans to lead the South American nation into the nuclear era.

Following a visit to Moscow, Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday his government would catch up with the continent's only other nations who possess nuclear power stations - Brazil and Argentina.
click to read complete article
U.S. fears Venezuela could trigger regional arms race

CNN — The United States fears recent weapons purchases by Venezuela could fuel an arms race in South America, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday.

"They outpace all other countries in South America and certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region," Clinton said about Venezuela's arms deals, after a meeting with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez.
click to read complete article

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Medicare a good model for Health Care Reform?

Medicare Would Rather Buy $8000 Computer than $150 iPhone App

Gizmodo — Say that, all things equal, you could fix a problem for $8000 or fix the same problem for $150. Which would you choose? Clearly, you are not Medicare.

Proloquo2Go is a text-to-speech iPhone app that's meant to aid those with autism, cerebral palsy, ALS, Down Syndrome—pretty much anyone who has a disability that makes speaking a difficult venture. It costs $150.
click to read complete article
Questions Over How to Pay for Health Reform

Newsweek — How is the government going to pay the upfront 10-year costs of health-care reform (a.k.a. health-insurance reform)? Well, despite months of hearings, committee markups, and backstage negotiating, the White House and Hill Democrats are still making up the answer as they go along. That's my conclusion based on what I was told─and not told─during and after a White House background briefing before the president's address to Congress last week. As outlined, Barack Obama's preferred compromise plan would cost $900 billion over 10 years. At the briefing, I and a group of other reporters and columnists were told that $600 billion of that cost would be recouped through savings in the administration and the medical practices of Medicare, Medicaid, and other existing (and presumably very wasteful and poorly designed) programs. Another $200 billion, we were told, would come from proceeds of a new "fee" on high-end "Cadillac" health-care plans.
click to read complete article
Why Small-Government Proponents Champion Medicare

New York Times — If the tax system is wildly wasteful and public services are mediocre, then there will be little public enthusiasm for expanding the size of the state. Can this explain why some advocates of limited government have become the archdefenders of Medicare’s largess? After all, if health care stays enormously expensive, then this will surely limit Americans’ appetite for expanding the entitlement to health care.
click to read complete article

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sarkozy: Happiness Index

France: 'Measure well-being, not just growth'

Economic Times India — French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared on Monday that statisticians should find a way to measure the general well-being of the population rather than just raw economic growth.

Speaking at the launch of a report that he commissioned from Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Sarkozy said France would pioneer the new technique and urge other countries to follow suit.
click to read complete article
Sarkozy may quit G20 if limitation on bankers bonuses failed

China View Xinhua — French President Nicolas Sarkozy may quit the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, the United States, next week if leaders fail to make any progress on limiting the bonuses of bankers, French media reported on Monday.

"If there is no concrete decision, I will leave," Sarkozy was quoted by French daily Le Figaro as saying.
click to read complete article
Sarkozy attacks focus on economic growth

London Guardian — Nicolas Sarkozy called for a "great revolution" in the way national wealth is measured today, throwing his weight behind a report which criticises "GDP fetishism" and prioritises quality of life over financial growth.

Speaking days before the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, France's president urged the rest of the world to follow his example as he ordered a shake-up in research methods aimed at providing a more balanced reading of countries' performance.
click to read complete article

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wilson Shouts Protest at Obama Health Care Speech

Joe Wilson's "You Lie!" Spurs Support, Criticism

CBS News — Democratic leaders in the House are planning to vote next week on whether to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) if he does not apologize -- on the House floor -- for interrupting President Obama's Wednesday night speech to Congress, the Associated Press reports.

After President Obama on Wednesday said his proposed health care reforms would not apply to illegal immigrants, Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted out, "You lie!" The congressman quickly apologized for his behavior, and the president accepted his apology.
click to read complete article
Obama accepts Wilson's apology for outburst

USA Today — President Obama accepted Rep. Joe Wilson's apology Thursday, but the furor over the South Carolina Republican's outburst during the president's health care address to Congress persisted.

Democratic leaders will vote early next week on whether to admonish Republican Rep. Joe Wilson if he does not apologize on the House floor for yelling "You lie!" during Obama's health care address.
click to read complete article
Wilson raises more than $200,000 after outburst

CNN — Less than a day after Rep. Joe Wilson formally apologized to President Obama over his "you lie" outburst, a campaign aide confirms that the South Carolina Republican has raised "more than $200,000" after the now-infamous moment.

News of that cash haul comes after Wilson directly asked in a Web video for campaign cash to fend off attacks from political opponents and said he's standing by his opposition to Democratic efforts at health care reform.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Russia Economy

Medvedev lauds gov't's efforts to handle economic crisis

China View (Xinhua) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday praised the government's efforts to cope with the current economic crisis and said it was too early to curtail anti-crisis measures.

Medvedev, at a government meeting on economic issues, said the Economic Development Ministry had noticed signs of recovery.
click to read complete article
Russia not yet in sustainable recovery: Medvedev

Agence France Presse — President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday it was too early for Russia to scrap stimulus measures, even if signs of recovery from the country's worst economic crisis in a decade were beginning to appear.

"These so far are just general signs of improvement, we can't speak of sustainable positive dynamics, all the more so because these signs are not as significant in scale as we'd like them to be," Medvedev said.
click to read complete article
Russia state and state-aided banks drive lending

Reuters — Russia's state banks and those who received subordinated credits from the government were responsible for 50 percent of the corporate loans made in the country in the first half, data showed on Wednesday. The government has been counting on banks to help Russia out of recession, calling on them to step up lending and to pass on official interest rate cuts to end-borrowers.

Of the 9.2 trillion roubles ($295 billion) lent to Russian companies in the first six months of the year, 2.7 trillion roubles came from state-controlled banks and 1.9 trillion roubles was lent by privately-owned recipients of government funds through subordinated loans.
click to read complete article

Monday, September 7, 2009

West Bank Settlement Expansion

Israel gives go ahead for new construction in West Bank

RIA Novosti Russia — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak sanctioned on Monday the construction of 455 new homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the ministry's press service said.

This is the first new government-approved construction project in the West Bank since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhyahu took office in March and is in defiance of U.S. pressure to halt all building work.
click to read complete article
Israel defies US over settlements

Aljazeera — Israel has officially approved the construction of 455 new settlements in the occupied West Bank, defying demands by the US and others for a freeze on settlement building.

Israel's defence ministry announced the decision to continue with settlement building on Monday.
click to read complete article
Poll shows surge of support for Israel in US

Jerusalem Post — In stark contrast to the cable leaked last month by Israel's consul-general in Boston saying support for Israel in the US has declined, a recent poll for The Israel Project shows support has bounced back significantly after slipping in the aftermath of US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech.

The poll, conducted by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), asked some 800 likely US voters the following question: "Thinking about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East, please tell me whether, in general, you consider yourself to be an Israel supporter, Palestinian supporter, or neither/undecided."
click to read complete article

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obama Speech to Students

Many conservatives enraged over Obama school speech

CNN — The White House found itself on the defensive Friday over what would ordinarily be considered the most uncontroversial of events: a back-to-school speech to the nation's children.

The White House said the address, set for Tuesday, and accompanying suggested lesson plans are simply meant to encourage students to study hard and stay in school.
click to read complete article
Obama's back-to-school message is responsibility

Associated Press — Classrooms are filling up as kids head back to school, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's two children are among them.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Duncan said students should take more responsibility for doing well in school, and he called on their parents to step up, too.
click to read complete article
Florida schools to leave children behind on Obama speech

Los Angeles Examiner — In keeping with George W. Bush’s tradition of leaving every child behind, Florida school superintendents have now decided to teach their students a lesson in treason.

President Barack Obama, in his effort to connect with children in a 15-minute televised education speech next week, will, in the opinion of certain superintendents, be armed with too much liberal propaganda for students to bear.
click to read complete article

Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama's War in Afghanistan

Obama's War?

Fox News — Violence has been on the rise across much of Afghanistan since President Obama ordered 21,000 U.S. troops to the country, shifting the focus of the U.S.-led war on Islamic extremism from Iraq. Now some are calling Afghanistan "Obama's war." Do you agree?
click to read complete article
Afghanistan Is Not 'Obama's War'

Wall Street Journal — In his column for the Washington Post on Tuesday, the influential conservative George Will provided intellectual fodder for the campaign among some Republicans to hang the Afghanistan war around the Obama administration’s neck. Washington, he wrote, should “keep faith” with our fighting men and women by “rapidly reversing the trajectory of America’s involvement in Afghanistan.” “Obama’s war,” a locution one is now beginning to hear from other conservatives, is an expression of discontent that has been smoldering beneath the surface for several months.
click to read complete article
Gates Says Afghan War ‘Not Slipping,’ U.S. Has ‘Right Approach’

Bloomberg — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said an assessment of the military situation in Afghanistan has been forwarded to President Barack Obama and that any request for additional U.S. forces or money will be to “effectively implement” current strategy, not to “launch a new one.”
click to read complete article

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Afghan Elections

US wants fair Afghan vote, no problem with run-off

Reuters India — U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke said on Wednesday it did not matter to the United States if there was a run-off vote in the Afghan election but a fair ballot procedure was vital.

"The post-election phase, the phase of determining who won, is going to be critical in determining the future of Afghanistan," said Holbrooke, speaking before a meeting in Paris of international experts on Afghanistan.
click to read complete article
Afghan Meeting In Paris Overshadowed By Vote Fraud Claims

Radio Free Europe — U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, is meeting representatives from 26 nations in Paris to compare notes on the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.

Discussions are being overshadowed, however, by growing allegations of fraud in the country's recent presidential and regional elections.
click to read complete article
Karzai leads Afghan vote with nearly half ballots counted

RIA Novosti Russia — With 43.81% of ballots counted in last week's presidential elections Afghanistan's incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, is ahead with 1,317,121 votes, the country's Central Election Commission said on Monday.

Daud Najafi, chief electoral officer, said Karzai's nearest rival, former foreign minster Abdullah Abdullah, has 965,256 votes.
click to read complete article

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

40 Year Celebration of Gadaffi and Libya

Lockerbie bomber on show at Gaddafi’s 40th anniversary celebrations

Times UK — Libya is set to flaunt the Lockerbie bomber’s release at the climax of today’s celebrations marking Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's 40 years in power.

The Times gained access last night to the dress rehearsal of a spectacular two-hour show which extols Colonel Gaddafi for reviving his country and restoring Arab pride. As the finale approaches, the screen at the back of the giant stage in Tripoli’s Green Square shows Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi stepping off the plane which brought him home from his Scottish prison two weeks ago. His arms are raised aloft by Colonel Gaddafi’s son, Saif, as he acknowledges the joyful reception from the crowd below.
click to read complete article
Gaddafi's turbulent US relations

Aljazeera — A weedy, overgrown backyard in Englewood, New Jersey seemed likely for a time last week to become the scene of the latest flashpoint in Libyan-US relations.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is planning his first visit to the US since he seized power in a military coup 40 years ago. He is set to address the yearly UN General Assembly in September.
click to read complete article
Gadhafi Blames Israel for Africa's Problems

Voice of America — Libya is hosting a special session of the African Union Assembly in an effort to resolve conflicts on the continent. AU chairman and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told the heads of states gathered for the meeting one of the greatest dangers facing the war-torn region is the presence of Israel.

Colonel Gadhafi opened the session by saying conflicts such as that in Sudan's Darfur region are internal matters, and that much of the history of African countries involve infighting over power. The Libyan leader said the African Union could help parties negotiate a solution, but that the wars pose no real danger.
click to read complete article

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Iran Nuclear Enrichment

US Says Iran Still Not Addressing International Nuclear Concerns

Voice of America — The State Department said Friday the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran's nuclear program shows it is still not being responsive to concerns that it might be seeking nuclear weapons. Senior diplomats from major world powers meet next week in Germany to discuss nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

U.S. experts are still studying the lengthy IAEA document, but officials here say it is already clear from the report that Iran is still not being forthcoming with the U.N. agency on its nuclear intentions.
click to read complete article
West wants Russia, China to back tough Iran steps

Reuters India — The U.N. nuclear watchdog's new report on Iran sets the stage for a showdown between Western powers who want to hit Iran's energy sector with sanctions and Tehran's protectors -- Russia and China.

The report by the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said that Tehran had failed to heed U.N. Security Council demands that it stop enriching uranium and cooperate with the agency's investigation "to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
click to read complete article
Israel not to attack Iran 'in near term'

Iran Press TV — Amid Israeli concerted efforts to halt Iran's nuclear work, a US defense official says Tel Aviv is not going to launch an attack on Tehran in the near term.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl said in an interview with al-Hayat published on Friday that Israel was 'concerned' about Iran's nuclear program but was unlikely to unilaterally strike Tehran before the end of the year if negotiations don't start.
click to read complete article

Friday, August 28, 2009

Zuma Zimbabwe

Zuma: Zimbabwe’s Problems not ‘insurmountable’

Newstime Africa — South Africa’s Pres­i­dent, Jacob Zuma, is in Zim­babwe for talks with the country’s lead­ers. This is his first visit to the coun­try since he became Pres­i­dent of South Africa. Mr Zuma met with Pres­i­dent Mugabe and Prime Min­is­ter Tsvan­gi­rai and had talks with both lead­ers on end­ing the stale­mate in the Unity Gov­ern­ment. There are hopes the Mr Zuma will pres­sure Mugabe to rein in on hard-line ZANU-PF sup­port­ers who are bent on derail­ing the Unity admin­is­tra­tion.

As cur­rent chair­man of SADC, the region’s eco­nomic com­mu­nity, Mr Zuma will use his clout to ensure that the frag­ile unity gov­ern­ment does not col­lapse. He will admon­ish the two lead­ers that it is of Zimbabwe’s vital inter­est that they work together to remove the impasse that has pre­vented progress in the unity gov­ern­ment.
click to read complete article
Zimbabweans look to Zuma for help

Aljazeera — Jacob Zuma, the South African president, is likely to face one of the toughest political challenges of his career when he arrives in Zimbabwe on his first state visit.

Zimbabwe's inclusive government, now just over six-months old, is on shaky ground. Tensions between long-time rivals Robert Mugabe, the president, and Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, could cripple the new coalition government.
click to read complete article
Zuma says Zimbabwe's coalition government is working

UK Guardian — South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, has given an upbeat assessment of Zimbabwe's unity government, saying he believes the worst of the country's troubles are over.

Zuma held talks in Harare with President Robert Mugabe, who looked well despite speculation over his health, and the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, in a bid to end feuding between the coalition partners.
click to read complete article

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Japan Elections

Japan's long-ruling government braced for election defeat

U.K. Guardian — Shinjiro Koizumi could hardly have chosen a worse time to run in an election on a Liberal Democratic party (LDP) ticket.

After the votes in Sunday's general election have been counted, the 28-year-old will probably win his seat south of Tokyo, thanks largely to his name: the constituency's most recent MP was his father, Junichiro Koizumi, one of Japan's most popular postwar prime ministers.
click to read complete article
Japanese ex-premier fights uphill battle for reelection

L.A. Times — Veteran voters here have rarely witnessed a gloves-off election battle -- or political campaigning of any kind, for that matter.

In this regional transportation hub of 350,000 residents, confident incumbents with the nation's ruling Liberal Democratic Party had only to list their names on the ballot to virtually guarantee a landslide victory.
click to read complete article
Japan seen muddling toward middle ground with U.S.

Reuters India — Japan's populist opposition Democratic Party, forecast to win Sunday's election, will likely bring confusion rather than dramatic foreign policy changes to the United States' main Asian ally.

Polls show the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) could win by a landslide, ending more than 50 years of rule by conservatives who kept Japan in lock-step with Washington on security policy in return for the shelter of its "nuclear umbrella".
click to read complete article

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

U.S. Middle East Peace Talks

'Better For Israel To Be Respected Than Loved'

The Jewish Press — Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, completed a three-day tour of some of Israel's holiest and most contentious sites last week with leaders of Ateret Cohanim.

During his eleventh visit to Israel since 1973, Huckabee toured Jewish neighborhoods within East Jerusalem and Samaria and consistently affirmed his support for Jews living in any and all parts of the Jewish homeland.
click to read complete article
US and Israel spar over settlements

Aljazeera — Talks between Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, and George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, are continuing behind closed doors in London amid disagreement over West Bank settlements.

Netanyahu has said he wants an agreement that allows Israel to proceed with some settlement construction and to restart peace talks with Palestinians.
click to read complete article
Palestinians Seek State by 2011

Fox News — Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad released a government plan Tuesday calling for the establishment of a de facto Palestinian state by the end of 2011 regardless of the outcome of negotiations with Israel.

The plan faces significant practical hurdles and raised worries that Fayyad was advocating the sort of unilateral actions toward statehood long opposed by the U.S. and Israel. Implementing it would mean overcoming likely Israeli opposition to key elements and Fayyad's own weak domestic political standing, and would also require hefty financial-aid commitments from foreign donors, such as the U.S., European Union and Arab states.
click to read complete article

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bernanke Reappointed as Fed Chief

Bernanke's Fed Confirmation May Focus on Slow Crisis Response

Bloomberg — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, likely to win confirmation to a second term, will confront critics in Congress who fault his response to the financial crisis and ad hoc bailouts for the industry.

Bernanke, nominated today by President Barack Obama for a four-year term beginning Jan. 31, also will defend the central bank’s independence as the administration and lawmakers seek to strip its power to protect consumers.
click to read complete article
Was Bernanke the Wrong Choice for Fed Chair?

The Atlantic — President Obama has re-nominated Ben Bernanke to serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve and everybody expects the Senate to confirm him. Although Bernanke has been widely praised for driving the expansionary monetary many think saved the financial system, he has his detractors. After all, you can't preside over the largest financial collapse since the Great Depression, extend trillions of dollars to keep our bedeviled banking system afloat and manage to escape criticism entirely. So here's one surprising critic: Stephen Roach, the chair of Morgan Stanley Asia, who writes: "It is as if a doctor guilty of malpractice is being given credit for inventing a miracle cure." Ouch!
click to read complete article
Global stocks gain on Bernanke, data

Reuters — World stocks surged to 10-month highs on Tuesday after upbeat U.S. economic data and Ben Bernanke's renomination as Federal Reserve chief spurred optimism, but increased risk-taking weakened the U.S. dollar.

U.S. Treasury debt prices fell as the renewed gains on Wall Street and data on U.S. home prices and consumer confidence reduced a safety bid for bonds..
click to read complete article

Monday, August 24, 2009

Iran's Nuclear Rights

MP highlights Iran's inalienable nuclear rights

Tehran Times — An Iranian lawmaker on Saturday blasted the remarks by German chancellor on Iran, and underlined the country's inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

""If Iranians are asked about the country's nuclear program, they will call it (nuclear energy) their country's indispensible right,"" Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told FNA.
click to read complete article
Iran 'will co-operate with IAEA'

BBC — Iran will continue to co-operate with the United Nations nuclear agency, a foreign ministry spokesman has said.

Hassan Qashqavi appeared to confirm reports last week that UN inspectors were allowed access to Iran's nearly complete nuclear reactor at Arak.
click to read complete article
'Sanctions won't prevent Iran from legal rights'

Iran Press TV — Iran has taken a swipe at Germany over calling for sanctions on Iran's energy sector, saying that sanctions won't prevent Tehran from pursuing its legal rights.

“Experience has proved that sanctions are futile and won't prevent Iran from pursuing its legal rights,” Qashqavi said at his weekly press conference on Monday.
click to read complete article

Friday, August 21, 2009

U.S. Health Care

'Tea Party' Organizers Plan Anti-'Obamacare' Rallies Across the Country

Fox News — If Democratic lawmakers thought all the furor over President Obama's health care plan expressed this month at town hall meetings was dying down, they might be in for a surprise Saturday.

That's when citizens are planning anti-"Obamacare" rallies across the country Saturday in all 435 congressional districts.
click to read complete article
Obama Faults GOP in Health Debate

Wall Street Journal — President Barack Obama, seeking to rally his base, accused Republican leaders Thursday of trying to block a health-care overhaul from the start and again threw his weight behind a government-run insurance plan.

During a radio call-in show and at a town-hall meeting of supporters, Mr. Obama tacked to the left as Democratic allies inched toward trying to pass a health-care bill on their own.
click to read complete article
Poll: Hits on health care hurting faith in Obama

Boston Globe — In the Washington Post/ABC News survey, 49 percent of Americans say they believe Obama will be able to drive significant improvements in the health care system, down nearly 20 percentage points from before he took office.

As Republicans and other critics continue to hammer his health care proposals, confidence in Obama's overall leadership is also eroding, according to the poll: 49 percent of respondents express confidence that he will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark in his presidency.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U.S. Afghanistan War Poll

Afghan war poll triggers Obama political alarms

L.A. Times — As President Obama concludes weeks of intense -- and increasingly desperate -- salesmanship on his keystone and embattled healthcare reform plans, a discouraging alarm arrived today that he may soon have to devote his selling skills toward a less interesting but more dangerous area of concern for him:

The war in Afghanistan.

Secure parts of that country vote in a presidential election Thursday. And quietly coming through the bureaucratic defense pipeline is a request for even more U.S. troops, on top of the compromise 17,000 additional Obama approved last winter.
click to read complete article
We ignore Afghanistan at our strategic peril

The Australian — 2nd articleThose who seek to discredit the Afghan elections are not doing its people any favours

IN many ways, it is a tale of two armies. Perhaps the most important mistake the Bush administration made after the invasion of Iraq was to disband that nation's army.

A Lebanese friend of mine, a man steeped in all the ways of his region, told me recently: "It was necessary for the Americans to get rid of Saddam Hussein. But in Iraq, they only needed to change the decision maker, they shouldn't have destroyed the one institution that bound the country together."
click to read complete article
Obama defends Afghan war as 'necessity'

Belfast Telegraph — US President Barack Obama has defended the ongoing war in Afghanistan following a significant rise in US-British fatalities in the country in recent months.

In a speech to US military veterans yesterday, Mr Obama said the fight against insurgents would not be easy and the Taliban would not be defeated overnight.

However, he insisted that the conflict was a "necessity" and was a war worth fighting.
click to read complete article

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Japanese Elections

Japan's Twitter-Free Election Campaign

Time Magazine — Campaigning officially kicked off Tuesday in Japan as candidates for the Diet's upcoming elections took to the streets to canvas for votes. And while the Aug. 30 general election could be revolutionary — with Japan on the cusp of a regime change that could end nearly 54 years of virtually unbroken rule — candidates' official campaigning methods are far from it. With 12 days to go until national elections, candidates rode in vans, armed with banners, leaflets and loudspeakers for soapbox speeches at train stations and street corners across the nation. But as their names were blared out on the first day of political open season, their campaigns on Twitter and Facebook were silent. One thing that Japanese politicians aren't armed with is the Internet.
click to read complete article
Japan’s Opposition May Press BOJ to Buy More Government Bonds

Bloomberg — Japan’s opposition party may press the central bank to purchase more government bonds should it win this month’s general election, economists say.

Lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan, which is favored to gain power for the first time after the Aug. 30 election, have said they value the Bank of Japan’s autonomy. That respect would be tested if the party’s pledge to spend more on social programs forces the Finance Ministry to increase bond sales. Analysts say the DPJ would be tempted to urge the central bank to buy the debt to contain an increase in yields.
click to read complete article
Hatoyama's 'new politics' threaten to obliterate Aso

The Australian — IT may well produce a historic result but Japan's general election campaign was officially launched yesterday in familiar style, with Opposition Leader Yukio Hatoyama offering "new politics" and Prime Minister Taro Aso asking: where's the money coming from?

"The day to make history has finally come," said Mr Hatoyama at a street meeting in Osaka, the start of a six-city barnstorm finishing in Tokyo yesterday evening.
click to read complete article

Monday, August 17, 2009

U.S. Iraq Exit Strategy

One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward

Newsweek — For all appearances, the U.S. presence in Iraq is slowly winding down. A brigade of U.S. troops (about 3,500 of the 130,000 here) will leave this month and not be replaced; another will follow in the fall. Meanwhile, the Iraqi cabinet today proposed a referendum on the U.S. presence of during national elections in January, which could force an even quicker exit. But even as the United States wraps up here, America's top general in Iraq is contemplating a high-profile, high-risk new assignment for U.S. troops, putting them into the breach between Arab and Kurdish armies, attempting to quell (but possibly inflaming) ethnic tensions. It's a sort of Godfather moment for American forces: just when they think they're getting out, they get pulled back in.
click to read complete article
US Commander Wants More Troops in Northern Iraq

Voice Of America — The top U.S. commander in Iraq says he wants to station more American soldiers in disputed areas of northern Iraq where there has been a recent spike in violence.

General Ray Odierno said Monday U.S. soldiers would partner with both Iraqi government and Kurdish troops to secure the region marked with tension between Arabs and Kurds.
click to read complete article
US troops to return to Iraq despite Barack Obama’s withdrawal plan

London Times — The US military plans to send thousands of American soldiers back to the oil-rich north of Iraq to prevent a civil war between Arabs and Kurds.

The emergency move, which partially reverses a recent drawing- down, is the first major sign that President Obama’s withdrawal plan may not work. He wants all US combat troops out of Iraq within 12 months.
click to read complete article

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hillary Clinton's Africa Trip

Clinton's Africa trip highlights importance US attaches to the continent

Deutche Welle — Hillary Clinton kicked off the 11-day trip in Kenya and US officials were keen to emphasize that her trip to Africa was the earliest by a secretary of state to the continent of any administration.
Dominic Johnson, who writes on African affairs for the German TAZ newspaper, told Deutsche Welle that, "the purpose of the tour is for the US to establish contact with Africa and provide high visibility for US policy. Hillary Clinton will say what she thinks of African governing policies. It's not to establish trade ties as no contracts have been signed."
click to read complete article
Clinton’s agenda makes women’s issues a priority

The Boston Globe — She talked chickens with female farmers in Kenya. She listened to the excruciating stories of rape victims in war-torn eastern Congo. And in South Africa, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited a housing project built by poor women, where she danced with a choir that was singing her name.
Clinton’s seven-country trip to Africa, which ends today, has sent the clearest signal yet that she intends to make women’s rights one of her signature issues and a higher priority than ever before in American diplomacy.
click to read complete article
Secretary Clinton's Opportunity: Ending the World's Two Deadliest Wars

The Huffington Post — n the aftermath of Secretary of State Clinton's trip to Africa, the U.S. has a chance to help bring an end to two of the great unfolding tragedies of the 21st century. Together, Sudan and Congo represent two of Africa's largest countries, two of Africa's richest natural resource bases, two of Africa's longest wars, two of the world's deadliest conflicts in the past half century, two of the continent's most predatory governments, and two of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or a girl. That is a legacy that deserves and demands a rethink of the international response, which has allowed these wars to burn for years.
click to read complete article