Thursday, April 30, 2009

100 Days

100 days in, Obama is a man of many hats

Reuters UK — From reluctant CEO to chief U.S. medical adviser, President Barack Obama showed how many hats he wears at a news conference marking his 100th day in office on Wednesday.
Shrugging off critics who say he has taken on too many tasks in his young presidency, Obama said all the issues had landed in his lap at the same time and had to be dealt with simultaneously:
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FACT CHECK: Obama's job, deficit claims are iffy

Washington Post — President Barack Obama turned the page on 100 days in office with an iffy boast about job creation and claims of fiscal prudence that are hard to square with his spending.
Obama spoke with abundant confidence about his chances for achieving the big-ticket items on his agenda despite economic calamity:
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Obama injects message of hope into 100-day speech

LA Times — A somber President Obama warned a recession-weary nation Wednesday that its resilience would be tested even more in the second hundred days of his presidency, as he grapples with a series of crises including two wars, a teetering economy and an outbreak of swine flu.
On the 100th day of his administration, Obama used a prime-time news conference to appeal for patience from Americans who have given him high approval ratings, laying out in unsparing detail the full scope of what the country faces.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter Defects

How the White House Learned of Specter's Decision

Washington Post — President Obama was being briefed by his economic advisers Tuesday morning when his personal secretary, Katie Johnson, made a rare interruption.
Sen. Arlen Specter is on the phone and would like to speak to you, she told the president, according to a senior official present at the time. Obama waved her off, noting that he was in a meeting at the moment.
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Some Democrats skeptical of Specter's party switch

L.A. Times — Reporting from Washington -- Sen. Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican Party drew cheers Tuesday from President Obama and other top Democrats. But some key players in the party base viewed the move with suspicion -- demanding that if Specter wants to call himself a Democrat, he had better start acting like one.
As a moderate Republican, Specter maintained friendly relations with Pennsylvania's powerful labor unions, which were glad to have him on their side on many issues. Now, if Specter hopes to win next year's Democratic primary and retain his seat, that will not be enough.
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GOP Confronts Its Future Viability

Wall Street Journal — Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter's decision to become a Democrat underscores his former party's political downward spiral.
In losing control of the House and Senate over the past four years, congressional Republicans have also lost much of their ideological and geographic diversity -- raising questions about the GOP's viability as a national party. The party has suffered in particular in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, and among moderates.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

a crisis of faith?

Survey: Half of U.S. adults have switched religions

USA Today — About half of all Americans have switched religions at least once, according to the most in-depth survey on the topic, released Monday.
And that may still be "a conservative estimate," says Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
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Pew Study Finds High Retention Rate Among Catholics, Points Out Concern for Disaffected Youth

PR Newswire — A Pew Forum poll on Americans and their religious affiliation finds Catholics have one of the highest retention rates, 68 percent, among Christian churches when it comes to carrying the Catholic faith into adulthood.
It also found that a determining factor in whether or not one remains Catholic as an adult is whether or not the individual attended Mass as a child and teenager.
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Evangelical churches gain ground

The Journal Gazette — Evangelical Protestants - the largest group of religion-affiliated Hoosiers - are doing a better job of recruiting and retaining members than mainline Protestants or Catholics, according to a study released Monday.
The survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life also showed that about half of American adults switch religious affiliation at least once in their lives.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu

Scientists Fear People Spread New Swine Flu

Wall Street Jounal — Scientists are baffled and deeply worried by the latest outbreak of swine flu for two reasons: It appears to combine bird, swine and human viruses in a way that hasn't been seen before, and it is spreading from person to person.
Although swine flu has been known to sporadically infect people, it has usually occurred in rare cases in which the virus jumps from swine to humans who are directly exposed to the animals, such as pig farmers. The virus that has surfaced in Mexico -- and apparently California and Texas -- is known as A/H1N1, a strain that hasn't been previously detected in pigs or humans.
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Mexico flu outbreak could add to economic pain

Guardian UK — Significant worsening of an outbreak of a fatal new flu strain in Mexico could damage the retail and tourism sectors in an economy already stinted by the global economic crisis.
Mexican authorities closed schools on Friday and urged people to take extra precautions to avoid spreading illness, and the World Health Organization said it was monitoring the situation. "This could become a serious problem for the economy," said Gabriel Casillas, an economist at UBS, who noted a large outbreak could lead to a further slowdown in consumer spending if shoppers stay home out of fear of the illness.
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Venture capital firm set to reap rewards on swine flu

Reuters UK — The swine flu outbreak is likely to benefit one of the most prolific and successful venture capital firms in the United States: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Thomson Reuters Private Equity Week reported on Friday.
Shares of the two public companies in the firm's portfolio of eight Pandemic and Bio Defense companies -- BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX.O) and Novavax (NVAX.O) -- jumped Friday on news that the swine flu killed a reported 60 people in Mexico and has infected people in the United States
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Is Lending the Answer?

World Bank, IMF: Crisis becoming 'human calamity'

Agence France Presse — The IMF and World Bank have warned on Sunday the global economic crisis is turning into a "human calamity" and called on members to speed up pledged aid and give even more to help the most vulnerable.
At the end of spring meetings in Washington Sunday, the two Bretton Woods institutions told their 185 member countries that the worst global slump in generations had already driven more than 50 million people into extreme poverty.
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IMF says national deficits to remain sky-high

Financial Times — Budget deficits across the industrialised world will remain sky-high next year in spite of reduced spending on fiscal stimulus packages, the International Monetary Fund warned on Sunday.
It said the Group of 20 leading economies taken together would run a budget deficit of 6.5 per cent next year compared with 6.6 per cent in 2009.
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World Bank to Boost Lending in Response to Economic Crisis

Voice of America News — The major high income and developing countries that set policy for the 185 member-nation World Bank agreed in Washington on Sunday that the bank should boost its lending to help poor countries adversely affected by the global economic slowdown.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the bank will boost its lending by $100 billion during the next three years, noting that the economic crisis has forced as many as 90,000,000 more people into extreme poverty.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

U.S. Cuba relations

Cuba 'less sure' after Obama overture: WHouse

Agence France Presse — Cuban leaders seem "a little less sure of themselves" after US President Barack Obama's lifted travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday.
Gibbs was asked by reporters about Obama's reaction to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's remark in Cuban newspapers Wednesday that Obama had "misinterpreted" his brother Cuban President Raul Castro's words on possible changes for political prisoners and human rights in Cuba.
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Will Havana reduce repression?

Miami Herald — President Barack Obama just returned from Trinidad & Tobago where he met with hemispheric heads of state. The one missing, Cuba was on everybody's mind. The question most often asked was: ``When will the United States lift the failed trade embargo and normalize relations with Cuba?
The media thrive on conflict, and Latin American leaders get a free pass from their radical left when they criticize Washington and turn a blind eye to a 50-year-old military dictatorship in Cuba. Before the meeting, President Obama lifted of restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban Americans; which will help Cubans and deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to the regime that controls every economic activity on the island.
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Havana Spins Revamp of Fidel Castro Brand

ABC News — A few months ago the gardener at the home of a Canadian diplomat looked out toward the street as he trimmed the hedges in the afternoon. An old man was walking toward the residence in a track suit who bore a remarkable resemblance to Fidel Castro. The man stopped, came over, stuck his arm through the gate to shake hands and chat for a few minutes.
It had been two and a half years since Castro disappeared from public view after undergoing a number of major abdominal surgeries that forced him to resign as president. But there was no mistaking who the tall, thin guy with a grey beard, Roman nose and distinctive voice was, even out of uniform.
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Roxana Saberi Appeals Iranian Espionage Conviction

Iranian Nobel laureate to defend U.S. journalist

CNN — An Iranian human-rights activist and Nobel laureate has joined the legal team of an Iranian-American journalist convicted of spying and jailed in Iran.
Shirin Ebadi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, took up the case of Roxana Saberi at the request of Saberi's family, her father, Reza Saberi, told CNN Wednesday. Ebadi heads the Center for Defenders of Human Rights in Iran.
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Iran president won't intervene in journalist case

Reuters UK — Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday he would not intervene in the case of imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, ABC television reported.
Asked in an interview if he would release Saberi as goodwill gesture, Ahmadinejad said through a translator, "I am not a judge. And I do not pass judgment over judicial cases. And in Iran, the judiciary is independent.
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Iran Official Orders ‘Fair’ Appeal Review for Reporter

NY Times — The chief of Iran’s judiciary said Monday that he had ordered a “careful, quick and fair” consideration of an appeal of the conviction of and eight-year prison sentence imposed on an Iranian-American journalist, one day after the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, urged the chief prosecutor to re-examine the case.
The judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, issued a decree to the head of the Tehran court calling on the appeal to be “considered at the appeals stage in a careful, quick and fair way,” the ISNA news service reported.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

the Taliban in Pakistan

Opposition grows to Pakistan's Taliban pact

The Washington Post — Opposition is building among Pakistani politicians and media to a peace deal aimed at ending Taliban violence in a northwestern region after the Islamists challenged democratic rule and started taking over new areas.
Pakistan is struggling to come up with a coherent strategy to stop the spread of militant violence and influence, raising fears that the country could slowly slide into Taliban hands.
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Pakistani stocks rally, heartened by Taliban retrea

Forbes — Pakistani shares rose nearly 4 percent on Friday, as investors bought after three days of sharp declines and took heart at news that a Taliban commander had ordered his fighters to withdraw from a key valley in the northwest, dealers said.
The Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark's 100-share index was 285.15 points, or 3.89 percent higher, at 7,620.87 points on turnover of 189.3 million shares. Gainers led losers 225 to 75.
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Taliban begin leaving Buner, Pakistani Army prepares for action

Thai Indian News — Ending their standoff with the Pakistani government, the Taliban, which had occupied Buner in the country’s northwest just 100 km from this federal capital, have begun withdrawing from the area amid reports that the army is preparing to go into action against the militants.
The withdrawal followed talks between the government’s representative, Syed Mohammed Javed, and Sufi Mohammad, the Taliban-backed radical cleric who had brokered a controversial Feb 16 peace deal to impose Sharia laws in Swat, Buner and five other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), that is collectively known as the Malakand division, in return for the fundamentalist militants laying down their arms.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

South Africa Election

South African Party Leader Shrugs Off Suspicions

New York Times — Does Jacob Zuma, the man almost certain to be South Africa’s next president, live with a cloud of suspicion above his head? Is he stuck, as one of the nation’s leading newspapers contends, with a “perception widely held that he can be bought”? Has he been damned, as another editorial suggests, to “an enduring hell of suspicion and doubt”?Actually, Mr. Zuma mostly seems to be enduring joy, relief and perhaps the sweet taste of revenge.
There is no cloud, and there never has been, he has said repeatedly.
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Will Zuma bring tribalism to South Africa?

BBC — South Africa's first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, promoted a "Rainbow Nation"; his successor Thabo Mbeki an "African Renaissance"; so what will be the overarching vision of a Jacob Zuma presidency?
He has not yet outlined one, but he is likely to do so in his first state-of-the-nation address when the new parliament convenes.
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Markets Steady As ANC Heads To Fresh S African Election Win

Wall Street Journal — The South African rand and the country's credit-default swap spreads are holding steady as the market awaits confirmation that Jacob Zuma's African National Congress party has won its fourth consecutive election in South Africa.
Markets are soothed by the prospect that despite Zuma's controversial background, victory for the ANC would likely ensure that South Africa's respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel will remain in his post.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Obama Pushes for Mid-East Peace

Barack Obama invites Middle East leaders to Washington

Telegraph UK — Deepening his direct role in reviving stalled Middle East peace efforts, Mr Obama met King Abdullah on Tuesday and invited Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for separate talks by early June.
The US president reassured King Abdullah of his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite reluctance by Mr Netanyahu’s new right-leaning government to support the idea of eventual Palestinian statehood.
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Israel Puts Iran Issue Ahead of Palestinians

Washington Post — The new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran's rising influence in the region, according to top government officials familiar with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's developing policy on the issue.
"It's a crucial condition if we want to move forward," said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, a member of the Israeli parliament and former ambassador to the United States. "If we want to have a real political process with the Palestinians, then you can't have the Iranians undermining and sabotaging."
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Obama nudges Israel on Palestinian statehood

Reuters — U.S. President Barack Obama nudged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to accept the goal of a Palestinian state, as he pressed Israel and the Palestinians to "step back from the abyss."
Deepening his direct role in reviving stalled peace efforts, Obama met Jordan's King Abdullah and invited Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for separate talks by early June.
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Bush Admin. Officials to be Prosecuted for Torture?

European Nations May Investigate Bush Officials Over Prisoner Treatment

Washington Post — European prosecutors are likely to investigate CIA and Bush administration officials on suspicion of violating an international ban on torture if they are not held legally accountable at home, according to U.N. officials and human rights lawyers.
Many European officials and civil liberties groups said they were disappointed by President Obama's opposition to trials of CIA interrogators who subjected terrorism suspects to waterboarding and other harsh tactics. They said the release last week of secret U.S. Justice Department memos authorizing the techniques will make it easier for foreign prosecutors to open probes if U.S. officials do not.
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Obama's Growing Dilemma on Torture Prosecution

Time Magazine — Less than a day after President Barack Obama told CIA employees in person that he didn't support prosecuting them for harsh interrogations of terror suspects, he left open the possibility that those who drafted the legal opinions justifying such questionable techniques could end up facing charges. The surprising statement marked just the latest step in Obama's evolving view of the Bush Administration's handling of terrorism cases; and it underscored the fine line he is navigating in his stated commitments to uphold the rule of law and at the same time move beyond the divisive Bush years.
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Senate Democrats Praise Obama for Possible Prosecution of Bush Officials

Fox News — Senate Democrats praised President Obama for leaving the door open on Tuesday to prosecutions of former Bush administration officials who crafted or implemented harsh interrogation tactics, which some have called torture.
Many of those Democrats were angered when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday the administration had ruled out such prosecutions.
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Monday, April 20, 2009


The Memos Prove We Didn't Torture

Wall Street Journal — The four memos on CIA interrogation released by the White House last week reveal a cautious and conservative Justice Department advising a CIA that cared deeply about staying within the law. Far from "green lighting" torture -- or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees -- the memos detail the actual techniques used and the many measures taken to ensure that interrogations did not cause severe pain or degradation.
Interrogations were to be "continuously monitored" and "the interrogation team will stop the use of particular techniques or the interrogation altogether if the detainee's medical or psychological conditions indicates that the detainee might suffer significant physical or mental harm."
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Obama torture policies slammed by critics on both sides

Christian Science Monitor — A top United Nations official has charged that President Obama violated international law with his decision not to prosecute Central Intelligence Agency agents who tortured detainees.
Manfred Nowak, the UN rapporteur on torture, says that in accordance with the UN Convention Against Torture, the US must try those who used harsh interrogation tactics.
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CIA torture exemption 'illegal'

BBC — US President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA agents who used torture tactics is a violation of international law, a UN expert says.
The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, says the US is bound under the UN Convention against Torture to prosecute those who engage in it.
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South Africa Holding Elections

South African post-apartheid generation votes for the first time

Guardian UK — The South African national election on Wednesday will be the country's fourth democratic vote, and the first to involve the "post-apartheid generation", as the youngest South Africans eligible to vote were born after the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, after 27 years in prison.
More than 23 million people, including 16,000 of the South African diaspora in Britain and elsewhere, have registered to vote in what is being billed as the biggest election in the country's history. Campaigning has taken place in traditional rallies but also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
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Mandela Gives ANC's Zuma A Powerful Stamp of Approval

Washington Post — Pollsters and analysts predict a clean sweep for the ruling African National Congress when this nation goes to the polls on Wednesday. But just in case, the party pulled out an electoral trump card at a massive rally Sunday: Nelson Mandela.
Mandela, white-haired and feeble at 90, rolled onto the field of a rugby stadium here in a golf cart alongside ANC leader and presidential front-runner Jacob Zuma. They were greeted by the ground-shaking roars of an exuberant crowd of about 100,000.
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South Africa 'doomed under Zuma'

BBC — South African opposition leader Helen Zille has urged voters to stop the African National Congress from turning the country into a "failed state".
Speaking at the final Democratic Alliance (DA) rally before elections on Wednesday, Ms Zille accused the ruling ANC of cronyism.
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pakistan Free's Cleric from House Arrest

Cleric of Pakistan's Red Mosque freed

Xinhua — The private Geo News TV channel quoted Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Asadullah Faiz as saying that Maulana Abdul Aziz was nowa free citizen and he could go wherever he liked.
He said government would take care of the security of Maulana Abdul Aziz. A large crowd comprising Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, students and others reached Lal Masjid to welcome Maulana Abdul Aziz on the occasion of his release on bail from Adia Jail following the Supreme Court's order.
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Red Mosque cleric's militant message

BBC — Two years after it sparked a violent campaign of suicide bombings across north-western Pakistan, the Red Mosque in the country's capital, Islamabad, is again alive with chants of victory for Islam.
On Friday, thousands of worshippers filled the sprawling Red Mosque compound and spilled onto the street outside to listen to the sermon by the mosque's chief cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was released from jail the previous night.
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Pakistani Cleric Calls for Islamic Law Nationwide

Washington Post — A firebrand Islamist cleric, released on bail after almost two years under house arrest, returned triumphantly Friday to his former mosque in Pakistan's capital, where he called on a crowd of chanting followers to spread the crusade for Islamic law across the country.
Thousands of men and boys in turbans and tunics streamed toward the Red Mosque, the site of a bloody confrontation with Pakistani security forces in July 2007, to hear Maulana Abdul Aziz invoke the martyrdom of those who died in the military siege and urge others to sacrifice their lives for Islam.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Asylum Seekers Boat Explodes Near Australia

Afghan refugees die in explosion on boat escorted by Australian navy

Guardian UK — At least three people believed to have been seeking asylum in Australia were killed today in an explosion on a boat that was being escorted to a detention centre by a navy vessel.
Two more people were missing and a number of others suffered burns in the blast on the boat that was on its way to Christmas Island, the remote Indian Ocean territory where the Australian government processes refugee applications.
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Australia intercepts boat of suspected refugees

Jerusalem Post — Australia's navy has intercepted a boatload of suspected asylum seekers in the Indian Ocean and is transporting them to a detention center to conduct security checks and process any refugee claims.
It is the sixth boat to illegally enter Australian waters this year.
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Opposition: Australian gov't must pump more funds into border protection

Xinhua — Australian federal government must put more funding into border protection if it wants to curb the number of asylum seekers entering Australian waters, the opposition said on Thursday.
"The government can't afford to cut any more resources, there was more than 51 million Australian dollars (35.7 million U.S. dollars) cut from Customs in last year's budget and that's of concern," Opposition Customs spokeswoman Sussan Ley said in a statement.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama to tour Latin America

Obama: Latin America on equal footing with U.S.

CNN — A day before embarking on a trip to Latin America, President Obama described his planned talks with Latin American leaders as discussions among equals.
"Times have changed," Obama told CNN en Español Wednesday. Referring to his planned meeting later this week with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, he said, "My relationship with President Lula is one of two leaders who both have big countries, that we are trying to solve problems and create opportunities for our people and we should be partners.
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Barack Obama braced for an earbashing on first trip to other America

Times UK — President Obama embarks today on the next leg of his global tour, staging a show of solidarity with Mexico in its fight against drug cartels even as he braces himself for a Caribbean ear-bashing from Latin America’s leaders on the Left.
Scarcely a week after returning from a six-nation journey through Europe and the Middle East, Mr Obama flies to Mexico City today for talks with President Calderón, who is still smarting over a Pentagon report last year that said that his country was in danger of becoming a “failed state”.
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Latin America summit a proving ground for Obama

L.A. Times — Stepping back onto the world stage, President Obama this week will meet Western Hemisphere leaders at a summit where he hopes to salvage alliances strained by grievances that the U.S. under former President Bush ignored Latin America because of Washington's focus on Iraq and terrorism.
Obama is a popular figure in the region and can expect an enthusiastic welcome. But he also will confront deep resentments over some U.S. policies that he is reluctant to change.
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French Fishermen Strike

French fishermen continue to blockade Channel ports

Guardian UK — Up to 3,000 families stranded as fishermen blockade Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk over fishing quotas
Thousands of cross-Channel ferry passengers faced a second day of travel disruption today as French fishermen continued a blockade of ports in protest against EU quotas.
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France Offers New Subsidies to Fishermen

Wall Street Journal — The French government has offered to subsidize fishermen who agree to limit their catch, in an attempt to end a two-day protest at French ports over European Union annual quotas aimed at preserving fish stocks.
Fishermen have blocked France's main ports on the English Channel since Tuesday, disrupting ferry and freight traffic with the U.K. and leaving thousands of passengers and truck drivers stranded on both sides.
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French blockade hits travellers

BBC — Ferry services from Dover have resumed after French fisherman decided to call off their blockades in Calais and Dunkirk.
They started their campaign in protest over EU imposed fishing quotas on Tuesday.
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Obama plans high-speed rail

Working on the Railroad: Obama’s Green Pitch for High-Speed Trains

Wall Street Journal — Just before taking off for Latin America, President Obama reiterated his call for the construction of a big high-speed rail network in the U.S., pitching the plan as a cure-all for employment, transport bottlenecks, and even the environment.
There are plenty of reasons to support more high speed rail, but curbing greenhouse-gas emissions isn’t one of them.
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California competitive for speed train funding

San Francisco Chronicle — President Obama said this morning that he wants to help put the nation back on track by building a collection of high-speed rail systems like the 700-mile network being planned in California.
"Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination," he said, announcing his high-speed rail strategic plan. "Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America."
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Obama: Put Detroit on track for high-speed rail

Detroit Free Press — A high-speed rail corridor through the industrial Midwest – linking Toledo, Detroit, Chicago and more – is one of the potential recipients of billions of dollars in funding in federal grants announced Thursday morning by President Barack Obama
Speaking in Washington before departing on a trip to Mexico, Obama said the U.S. is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage by not embracing the potential of high speed rail to link parts of the nation, saying France, China and other countries are already ahead of us. He pledged $8 billion in funds from the stimulus bill passed by Congress this year and another $1 billion a year for five years.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Iran Embraces Nuclear Status

Iran says has new proposals to end nuclear standoff

Reuters UK — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Iran had ready proposals to end a standoff with six world powers as Washington insisted it would not drop a demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment work.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said major powers had not had a response yet from Tehran for talks over its nuclear program and she had not seen "any kind of proposal" from Iran to resolve the stalemate over its nuclear plans.
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US, Europe mull next steps on Iran

Associated Press — Top U.S. and European diplomats met Wednesday to plan a way ahead in dealing with Iran's suspected nuclear program, just hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated he was willing to build a new relationship with the United States.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana met for talks on Iran just hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was open to finding new ways to deal with the United States. Ahmadinejad said he is preparing new proposals aimed at breaking the impasse with the West over his country's nuclear program.
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'Iran nuclear success not a campaign tool'

Press TV Iran — Reformist Presidential hopeful Mir-Hossein Mousavi says Iran's recent nuclear achievements should not serve as an election campaign tool.
Mousavi, on Wednesday, warned against political efforts to use Iranian developments in nuclear research and technology as a means to gain pre-election campaign publicity.
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Obama: Economic message

Obama’s message on the economy: Trust me

Christian Science Monitor — Trust me, we’ve got a strategy. This whole thing fits together. Even the parts you don’t like.
In essence, that’s what President Obama appeared to be trying to convey to US voters in an unusually long and detailed address on the economic actions of his first 75 days in office, delivered at Georgetown University Tuesday.
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Economy moving from recession to recovery: Obama

The Hindu — President Barack Obama on Tuesday said efforts to take the economy from "recession to recovery" are "starting to work", although there was more work to be done to restore growth.
The steps taken to re-capitalise banks, strengthen the housing market and rescue the auto sector were "necessary pieces of the recovery puzzle", he said in an address at Georgetown University in Washington.
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Barack Obama's economic optimism falls on deaf ears

Telegraph UK — President Barack Obama spoke of seeing "glimmers of hope" in the economic outlook for the first time since the current downturn began, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said he was witnessing "tentative signs that the sharp decline in economic activity may be slowing".
But the pair's comments, coming on the same day as worse-than-expected retail sales and inflation figures, did little to revive investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average index traded down 137.63 points at 7920.18 on Wall Street.
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Nuclear Waste

NRC balks at calling depleted uranium higher-risk

Salt Lake Tribune — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says classifying large amounts of depleted uranium as a hotter type of low-level radioactive waste without further study would not provide additional protections to public health, safety or the environment.
The NRC's comments come in an April 9 letter to Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Edward Markey, D-Mass. The congressmen have questioned the NRC's March decision to regulate large quantities of depleted uranium as the least hazardous kind of low-level radioactive waste, known as Class A waste.
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Gordon: Congress, Obama must act to ban foreign waste in Tenn.

The Tennessean — Late last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicated it did not have the authority to prevent foreign-generated radioactive waste from being imported into Tennessee and disposed of on American soil.
“The NRC confirmed in writing what it has been telling Congress informally for more than a year: that without a change in the law, it has no authority to ban the importation of foreign-generated low-level radioactive waste,” said Congressman Bart Gordon, who is the author of legislation that would effectively give the NRC this authority. “If Congress and the President fail to act — and act soon — a pending application will be approved by the NRC, allowing for 20,000 tons of Italian waste to be shipped to Tennessee and disposed of in Utah.”
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NRC says it can't ban importation of nuclear waste

Associated Press — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it doesn't have the authority to prevent foreign radioactive waste from being imported into the United States.
The NRC wrote in an April 9 letter to Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., that the Atomic Energy Act doesn't distinguish between domestic and foreign waste. The NRC says that as long as the material can be imported safely and someone is willing to accept it, the commission can't keep the waste out.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Judges: Franken Winner of Minnesota Senate Seat

Court says Franken winner by 312 votes; Coleman vows appeal

USA Today — The Associated Press reports on the Franken press conference: "It's time that Minnesota like every other state have two" senators, a jovial Franken said outside his Minneapolis town home with his wife, Franni, at his side. "I would call on Senator Coleman to allow me to get to work for the people of Minnesota as soon as possible."
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State's high court may not be the last word in recount

Star Tribune — Facing almost certain defeat in the Senate election trial, Norm Coleman is preparing to take his fight to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
But would that court's ruling be the final judicial word?
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One justice gave to Coleman, another to Wellstone

Star Tribune — One of the state Supreme Court justices who could rule on Norm Coleman's appeal contributed $500 to his two Senate campaigns before the justice joined the bench, and another gave $1,000 to Coleman's 2002 Senate opponent when she was still working as a lawyer.
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Fishing Boat or Suicide Bomber?

Israeli artillery hits Palestinian fishing boat

Press TV Iran — Israeli forces have blown up a Palestinian fishing boat floating several hundred meters off the coast of Gaza City, Israeli media reported.
The boat was struck by Israeli artillery after it left the allowed area for fishing -- within 600 meters off the Gaza shore -- on Monday, Yediot Ahronot reported.
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Fishing boat explodes near Israeli vessel

JTA — A booby-trapped Palestinian fishing boat exploded near an Israeli naval vessel.
The navy spotted the unmanned boat on Monday morning off the northern coast of Gaza and followed it for about an hour, according to news reports. There were no reports of injuries
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Gaza boat explodes near Israel Navy vessel in attempted terror attack

Haaretz — A booby-trapped fishing boat yesterday exploded near an Israel Navy vessel off the northern Gaza coast, in a failed terror attack.
No one was wounded in the blast, which occurred about 300 meters from the Gaza coast, near the Israeli border.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Sri Lankan Offensive Spurs Protests

Sri Lanka forces suspend offensive

Aljazeera — Sri Lanka's security forces have begun a two-day suspension of military operations against the Tamil Tiger rebels, intended to allow tens of thousands of trapped civilians to flee to safety.
Beginning on Monday, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, ordered his forces to suspend offensive operations during Sri Lanka's New Year celebrations.
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Sri Lankan Tamils organise protest in many countries

The Hindu — Protesting Tamils in Canada have sought Sri Lanka's ouster from the Commonwealth and international trade and travel embargo against it for the "genocide" of innocent civilians in the conflict zone.
The Tamils, who have been protesting outside parliament for the past six days, have also launched a hunger strike to draw attention to the "use of chemical weapons by Sri Lanka to wipe out the community from the island nation."
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Norway condemns ransacking of Sri Lankan embassy

CNN — Norway has condemned the ransacking of the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo by Tamil demonstrators.
Video posted on Norway's TV 2 Web site showed demonstrators smashing through re-enforced glass at the embassy on Sunday. The aftermath showed embassy offices that had been trashed, with furniture, artwork and potted plants dumped on the floor. Countertops had been bashed and splintered.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Italian Earthquake Aftermath

Thousands Mourn Quake Victims at Funeral Mass

New York Times — Four long rows of flower-decked coffins lined a courtyard, docked like boats borne by a sea of grief, as friends and families gathered here on Friday to mourn 205 victims of Monday’s earthquake.
Sometimes the tiny coffins of children were placed atop those of a parent. Many showed color photos of the dead in the full bloom of life. One carried a simple note, written in pencil on a page torn from a diary: “I love you.”
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Italian rescue teams end search for possible quake survivor

CNN — Authorities on Saturday ended a rescue operation at a site thought to hold a survivor from this week's earthquake, the L'Aquila fire brigade told CNN.
No survivors or bodies were found.
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Investigation of building standards in quake zone

Associated Press — L'Aquila's chief prosecutor announced an investigation into allegations of shoddy construction as workers continued to scour the rubble for people still missing after a devastating earthquake five days ago.
Rescuers pulled one more body from a collapsed building on Saturday, raising the death toll to 291.
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Obama in Iraq

Obama makes surprise stop in Iraq

Washington Times — President Obama made a surprise visit to Baghdad Tuesday on his way home from a weeklong trip through Europe, thanking American troops for their service and delivering a message to Iraq's elected leaders that he expects them to peacefully resolve their remaining political differences and take full responsibility for their country.
"Now is not the time to lose focus. We have to be even more focused than we've been in order to achieve success," Mr. Obama said, addressing several hundred U.S. soldiers who received him exuberantly at Al Faw Palace inside Camp Victory, the massive military base surrounding the airport outside Baghdad.
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Obama, Maliki optimistic for Iraq's future

United Press International — U.S. President Barack Obama said he was convinced that U.S.-Iraqi resolve and commitment for the future will be greater than any obstacle encountered.
"Overall, violence continues to be down," Obama said in a joint appearance with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. "There's been movement on important political questions. But we have been reminded that there's more work to do."
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Barack Obama says: time for Iraqis to take back Iraq

Guardian UK — Barack Obama wrapped up a landmark eight-day swing through Europe with a surprise visit to Iraq today - his first as president - and told US troops that Iraqis now needed "to take responsibility for their own country".
Continuing the outreach to the Arab and Islamic worlds that dominated his last stop in Turkey, Obama said he was committed to his timetable for a troop withdrawal, but determined not to let Iraq slide back to war.
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N. Korea's Kim Jong Il "Reelected"

China congratulates NKorea's Kim on re-election

Agence France Presse — Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulated Kim Jong-Il on his re-election as leader of North Korea, state media said Saturday, amid widespread international condemnation of Pyongyang's rocket launch.
Hu said in a message that Kim's re-election on Thursday as chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission is an "expression of sincere support and profound trust", Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
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Images of Frail Kim Jong Il Renew Talk of Succession

Fox News — Perhaps the world's most reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il appeared older, grayer and thinner as he limped his way into his first public appearance before a large audience in more than six months.
His arrival onstage dispelled questions about whether Kim has recovered from the stroke he is believed to have suffered last August -- he appeared alert and enjoyed full use of both arms, unlike in some of the undated footage broadcast in recent days by North Korea's state-run television.
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Kim Jong Il Enhances Relative's Role

Voice of America — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has appointed his brother-in-law to an influential defense position. That has fueled discussion about what might happen to North Korea's government if the aging leader's health should fail.
Jang Song Taek saw his share price rise dramatically this week in North Korea's political market. He is North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's 63-year-old brother-in-law.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Banks Undergoing Stress Tests

Your Bank May Fail-But Let's Keep That A Secret

Nolan Chart — Banks are being ordered not to share the results of a "Stress Test" that is supposed to indicate how they would manage under a set of various scenarios. So the government will know, the banks will know. Only you, with your assets in their hands, will be kept in the dark.
According to a recent Bloomberg article titled "Fed Said to Order Banks to Stay Mum on Stress Test' Results"you will be the last person to find out that your bank does not have what it takes to survive a continued shrinking of the U.S. Economy.
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All 19 US banks pass Treasury's 'stress tests'

Telegraph UK — The mixed outcome of the tests – the results of which will be published at the end of the month – emerged as Wells Fargo surprised the market with an unexpected pre-close statement in which it revealed it made $3bn (£2bn) of profit in the first quarter.
The figure is 50pc higher than the profit earned in the same quarter last year, and beat even the most optimistic expectations.
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Insiders: Bank Stress Tests Not Credible

Money News — Insiders at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) are sniping that the so-called "stress" tests that Treasury Secretary Geithner wants to conduct on some of the nation's largest banks are a "pointless exercise" for public relations purposes.
The banking regulators, in interviews with the New York Post, claim that the Geithner plan is not a credible way to assess how much additional cash battered banks will need.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

U.S. to Loosen Cuba Restrictions

Analysis: United States-Cuba relations begin the long thaw

CNN — "It's time to talk to Cuba."
That frank assessment from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, has resonated loud and clear from the island of Cuba -- 90 miles from the southernmost point of Florida -- to the halls of Congress.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, relations between the two nations, which have a history steeped in tension, have seemed to ease a bit.
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Fidel Castro says Obama different from Bush

Xinhua — Cuban former leader Fidel Castro said U.S. President Barack Obama does not resemble his "odious" predecessor George W. Bush, local press said on Thursday.
Castro said in his column "Reflections" that Obama has an agile mind. Last week Castro said that Bush was a "liar, cynic," and "war-loving and odious."
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In Cuba, Change Means More of the Same, With Control at the Top

NY Times — When President Raúl Castro of Cuba began one of the biggest government shakeups in decades early last month, he explained the move simply as an attempt to streamline the government.
But the firing of a half-dozen top functionaries — including the surprising firing of two internationally prominent ministers — showed that under Mr. Castro, politics and decision-making are likely to remain as centralized and tightly controlled as they were under his brother, Fidel.
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Fijian Presidency Ruled Illegal by High Court

Fiji's Government Declared Illegal

Al Jazeera — A court in Fiji has declared the country's military government illegal and ordered fresh elections to be held immediately.
The high court move is a blow to Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power three years ago in a military coup and installed himself as prime minister.
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Ban Ki-moon urges calm in Fiji following court ruling

The Hindu — United Nations (PTI): UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed people of Fiji to remain calm following the ruling by the Court of Appeal that the December 2006 removal of the elected Government was unlawful and the appointment of the interim Government unconstitutional.
Ban "urges full respect for human rights, the rule of law and the judicial process," his spokesperson said in a statement.
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Fiji’s President Fires Judges, Assumes All Powers After Ruling

Bloomberg — Fiji’s President Josefa Iloilo fired the country’s judges and assumed all powers after a court ruled the military government is illegal, armed forces spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said.
Iloilo announced today in a nationally broadcast radio address he had abrogated the constitution and revoked all judicial appointments, Leweni said by telephone from the capital, Suva. Iloilo said Fiji will hold elections in 2014.
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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Climate Change

What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia

L.A. Times — Reporting from The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia -- Frank Eddy pulled off his dusty boots and slid into a chair, taking his place at the dining room table where most of the critical family issues are hashed out. Spreading hands as dry and cracked as the orchards he tends, the stout man his mates call Tank explained what damage a decade of drought has done .
"Suicide is high. Depression is huge. Families are breaking up. It's devastation," he said, shaking his head. "I've got a neighbor in terrible trouble. Found him in the paddock, sitting in his [truck], crying his eyes out. Grown men -- big, strong grown men. We're holding on by the skin of our teeth. It's desperate times."
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Bonn climate talks ends without concrete results

Xinhua — The first major UN climate meeting in 2009 ended in Bonn on Wednesday without concrete results, because of the big gap between developing countries and developed countries on climate.
The Bonn climate talks, which started on March 29, 2009, attracted more than 2,000 participants from 175 countries, including government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions.
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Greenhouse gases must be cut, Obama aide says

San Francisco Chronicle — In sharp contrast to the low priority the Bush administration gave to global warming, President Obama's new science adviser said Wednesday that the world's industrialized nations must immediately cut greenhouse gas emissions to ward off the most extreme effects of climate change.
"We are already experiencing increased heat waves, drought, wildfires, floods and pest infestations - all of that is at today's levels," said physicist John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
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Somali Piracy Exposes Weakness in UN Law of the Sea

Voice of America — The explosion of piracy off the coast of Somalia in recent years has exposed a weakness in the United Nations maritime law that makes high seas piracy illegal throughout the world.
In the waters off Somalia's nearly 4,000-kilometer-long coast, warships from more than a dozen countries have formed what U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently described as "one of the largest anti-piracy flotillas in modern history."
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US crew repel pirates off Somalia

Al Jazeera — Pirates who attempted to hijack a US-flagged, Danish-owned container ship off the coast of Somalia have been repelled by the vessel's 20-strong US crew.
But the pirates, who attempted the hijack about 450km off the coast of Somalia on Wednesday, managed to capture the captain and were holding him hostage.
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Piracy Causes Changes in Routes, Insurance

Wall Street Journal — Piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia -- particularly in the critical Gulf of Aden, connecting the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean -- soared last year. Amid the rash of attacks, some lines have stopped transiting the area altogether, and shipping-insurance rates have jumped.
That has boosted the cost of steaming through the Gulf of Aden, a body of water four times the size of Texas, and one of the world's busiest trade lanes, funneling Saudi oil, Chinese computers and Japanese cars from Asia and the Mideast to the European Union. Instead, ships are steering around the Cape of Good Hope. But that voyage adds an extra two to three weeks to the trip.
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Fujimori Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity

Peruvian gov't hails Fujimori sentence

Xinhua — Peru's Prime Minister Yehude Simon on Tuesday applauded the sentence of Former President Alberto Fujimori for human rights abuses.
"It shows that Peru's courts are completely autonomous and thatthey do not let themselves be swayed" by any outside forces, and "they have acted as they should," he said.
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At Trial, Peru’s Fujimori Says He’s Innocent

N Y Times — Former President Alberto K. Fujimori of Peru defiantly defended himself in court on Wednesday against accusations of human rights abuses, saying that he was innocent of murder and kidnapping charges related to his government’s counterinsurgency tactics during a bloody period of guerrilla attacks in the early 1990s.
Mr. Fujimori took the stand in his own defense at his trial in Lima, Peru, now in its 15th month. He was seeking to convince a three-judge panel that he should not be held responsible for a dirty war that prosecutors said led to the deaths of 25 people by two military death squads, as well as the kidnappings of a businessman and a journalist.
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Peru's Fujimori accuses government of hypocrisy

Reuters — Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on Friday wrapped up his defense in a 15-month trial by accusing the government of hypocrisy in prosecuting him and not other ex-leaders for alleged human rights crimes.
Speaking in a courtroom packed with photographers, his supporters and victims' relatives, Fujimori characterized the case against him as rumor and gossip, and said he was proud of his time as president in the 1990s.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pentagon Slashes Weapons Budget

Pentagon chief takes aim at big weapons programs

L. A. Times — Reporting from Washington -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday outlined the most sweeping changes in military spending priorities in decades, proposing the elimination of a long list of big-ticket programs to save billions of dollars and swing the Pentagon's emphasis from conventional conflicts to irregular warfare.
If Congress goes along, the cuts could spell the end for many of the military's best-known weapons programs, including much of the Army's Future Combat Systems, the Air Force's F-22 fighter, the next generation of Navy destroyers and the C-17 cargo plane, which is built in Long Beach. A new fleet of presidential helicopters also would be dropped under the plan.
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Defense Cuts Prompt Protests From Lawmakers Concerned About Job Losses

Fox News — With Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposing broad cuts in Pentagon spending, a new war over the president's budget has begun.
While critics already are warning that the plan could compromise U.S. security, the greater resistance appears to be coming from lawmakers worried that the cuts threaten thousands of jobs in their states.
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Gates defends reforms, sees growth in defense budget

Reuters UK — Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday defended his plan to overhaul Pentagon weapons programs, saying cuts to some weapons programs would be offset by gains in others, and the defense budget should grow by two percent in real terms in coming years.
Gates acknowledged that lawmakers were already taking aim at his ambitious reform plan, but said he hoped that the economic crisis and tough talk about acquisition reform in Congress would ultimately help him accomplish his goals.
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Israel Obama Relations Grating

'Israel does not take orders from Obama'

The Hindu — In an unusually harsh criticism, an Israeli Minister on Monday said the Jewish state "does not take orders from Barack Obama" after the US President renewed support for the Annapolis agreement and the stalled roadmap plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan of the Likud party also praised hardliner Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who last week said that Israel was not bound by the 2007 Annapolis talks.
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Palestinian official urges pressure on Netanyahu

Xinhua — Palestinian minister of foreign affairs in Salam Fayyad's caretaker government Monday called on the international community to exert pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Reyad el-Malki, also spokesman of Fayyad's government, told a news conference held in Ramallah following the weekly meeting of the cabinet that Netanyahu has to accept the two-state solution in order to achieve peace in the region.
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Obama: We are committed to Annapolis

Jerusalem Post — US President Barack Obama on Monday reiterated his country's commitment to previous understandings, including the process launched at Annapolis in 2007, in promoting a peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors.
Obama, who was addressing the Turkish parliament, also voiced unequivocal support for a two-state solution, days after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel was not bound by the Annapolis talks.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Iowa Upholds Gay Marriage

Iowa's same-sex marriage ruling stirs California debate

Mercury News — Same-sex marriage advocates in California crowed Friday as the Iowa Supreme Court overturned that state's law banning the practice.
But as those advocates argued the Iowa ruling's language shores up their California case, same-sex marriage opponents argued the cases are apples and oranges.
"It's obviously not relevant to the current California case," said Andy Pugno, general counsel for the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.
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A Gay Marriage Tipping Point?

CBS News — The decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn that state's gay marriage ban is prompting questions about whether or not the battle over gay marriage, long a central focus in the culture war, has reached a tipping point in American culture.
Iowa, as gay marriage backers like to point out, is not a liberal, coastal state like Massachusetts and Connecticut – the two states that already offer legal gay marriage – or California, where the narrow passage of a ballot initiative banning gay marriage last year galvanized the gay rights movement.
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Iowa in no hurry to embrace gay-friendly status

Victoria Advocate — Iowa tourism officials don't have immediate plans to market the state as a gay-friendly destination despite its new status as the Midwest's only state with legalized same-sex marriage.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled last Friday that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, and beginning April 24 same-sex couples can be wed in the state. Iowa has no residency requirement, so people from elsewhere can travel to the state to be married.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Italy Earthquake

Complex Geology Behind the Italian Earthquake

Live Science — The 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck central Italy in the wee hours of Monday morning has a complicated geological story behind it.
The epicenter of the quake, which struck at 3:32 a.m. local time (9:30 p.m., April 5 EDT), was near the medieval city of L'Aquila, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Rome.
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Italy Quake Kills More Than 70; Thousands Homeless

Bloomberg — Italy’s deadliest earthquake in almost three decades killed at least 150 in the region of Abruzzo today, left tens of thousands without shelter and leveled buildings that had stood for centuries.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, speaking in a televised interview late today, updated the death toll in the central province of L’Aquila and said 1,500 people were injured.
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L'Aquila earthquake damaged ancient baths in Rome

Telegraph UK — The third-century Baths of Caracalla in Rome were damaged by the earthquake that struck near L'Aquila, central Italy, on Monday, a city archaeological authority told reporters.
The baths "suffered some damage," Angelo Bottini said, adding that the results of an initial inspection had "not yet been precisely evaluated".
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North Korean Rocket

North Korea's rocket didn't reach orbit, but Kim's in another world

L.A. Times — Never mind that much of the world is calling North Korea's weekend space launch a dud -- that the regime's vaunted communications satellite probably now sits somewhere on the Pacific Ocean floor.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il still insists that his rocket scientists boldly launched a craft into orbit Sunday. And he likely is not inclined to be told otherwise.
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Asian Shares End Higher; N Korea Rocket Launch Brushed Aside

Wall Street Journal — Asian markets maintained their upward momentum Monday, brushing aside doubts about the U.S. economy and news of North Korea's rocket launch over the weekend.
Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.2% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 3.1%, adding to gains over the previous four weeks.
"I don't think the risks have really changed that much and unfortunately the markets have gone up a lot. The risks to the market are to the downside," said Tim Rocks, strategist at Macquarie Research. "We would expect that there would be some retracement of these gains based on bad news coming out of either the U.S. economy or U.S. earnings and U.S. banking health in a month or so."
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Chavez Sides With Russia On North Korea Rocket Launch

Fox News — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday suggested the international community "avoid the winds of war" after a rocket launch by North Korea.
Chavez made the remark in an interview with Venezuela's state radio from Tokyo as he began a visit aimed at deepening ties with Japan.
"Due to the lack of information, and contradictory information ... I prefer to have a great deal of prudence as the Russian government has said," Chavez said in the radio interview. "And to avoid the winds of war. That's important."
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

North Korea Launches Rocket

Defiant N Korea launches rocket

BBC — North Korea has defied international warnings and gone ahead with a controversial rocket launch.
State media said a satellite had been put into orbit and was transmitting data and revolutionary songs.
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Obama’s Statement on North Korea Rocket Launching

New York Times — Following is the text of President Obama’s statement Sunday on North Korea’s rocket launching, as released by the White House:
North Korea’s development and proliferation of ballistic missile technology pose a threat to the northeast Asian region and to international peace and security. The launch today of a Taepo-dong 2 missile was a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind. With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations.
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North Korea launch to bring glory, little pain

Reuters UK — North Korea's apparently successful launch of a long-range rocket on Sunday is a major boost for leader Kim Jong-il, who can probably expect little punishment from powers who saw the move as a missile test that violated U.N. resolutions.
North Korea now potentially has a weapon that can reach U.S. territory, allowing it to directly threaten its main adversary for the first time.
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NATO Selects New Chief

Obama Again Invokes Personal Diplomacy to Avert NATO Stalemate

Bloomberg — President Barack Obama waded into a diplomatic stalemate for the second time on his European trip and once again succeeded in bringing his more senior peers into harmony.
With a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit facing potential deadlock yesterday over Turkey’s opposition to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next head of NATO, Obama brought Rasmussen and Turkish President Abdullah Gul together for a talk.
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WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Europe wheels and deals, too

AP — Wheeling and dealing in politics is universal.
That's one of the lessons President Barack Obama says he took away from his first NATO summit.
He has said throughout his tour of European countries that he had come "to listen, to learn." So an Austrian television reporter took him up on it.
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New NATO chief a hard sell in Muslim world

Daily Times — Rasmussen was a staunch Bush ally, supported Iraq invasion and earned international Muslim condemnation for his support of blasphemous cartoons published by a Danish newspaper in 2005
ANDERS Fogh Rasmussen is a poster boy in Western capitals but it remains to be seen how the smooth-talking Dane’s nomination Saturday as NATO secretary general will go down in the Muslim world.
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Saturday, April 4, 2009

How Bad Is It?

Who’s Most Indebted? Banks, Not Consumers

New York Times — Fifty years after executives at Bank of America had a clever idea — issue credit cards to ordinary consumers — the leveraging of America may finally be over. The amount owed by consumers, in relation to the entire American economy, has started to fall.
But it is not consumers whose willingness to take on debt was most notable during the half-century. It is the financial sector itself, The New York Times’s Floyd Norris reports. The banks that made the loans proved to be much more willing to borrow than their customers, whether corporate or consumer.
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What If Keynes Is Wrong?

Philadelphia Bulletin — I had a hard time sleeping the other night. I am worried. The ghost of Keynes is hovering all over the ‘stimulus’ package. You know, that English economist who died in 1946 who wrote a book in 1936 about government deficit spending being good for the economy. These ideas are the cornerstone of the current ‘stimulus’ plan. For some, it is a policy direction; for others an excuse for implementing socialistic government programs; and for most citizens of this great nation of ours, a hope and a prayer that this path is the road to recovery. There are some thoughtful people, with me among them, who think Keynes may have been wrong. I read all the articles about this guy Keynes and his theory that government spending solves all downturns. I found it hard to believe that you can spend your way out of financial disaster. I know my neighbor Harry, who was a plumber, thinks so. That gave me an idea to check around the neighborhood for an answer to my worries. I remembered that one of my neighbors had been a professor of economics at some big university. Everybody said he was famous, but to me, he was just a regular guy who walked around the neighborhood like I do. On my daily walk recently, I looked for him and found him in the park kibitzing some guys playing checkers. He was leaning over a bench when I went up to him.
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U.S. debt: Don't worry, be happy (till 2017)

Globe and Mail Canada — When Standard & Poor's maintained its triple-A rating on the sovereign debt of the United States last September, it listed three principal characteristics that (according to S&P) make U.S. government bonds one of the safest investments in the world. “The U.S. has arguably the most flexible economy of any high-income nation,” the credit rating agency said, “with exceptionally adaptable labour markets and a long track record of openness to capital flows – as well as minimal government interference.”
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NATO Struggles to Name New Secretary General

Turkey blocks Denmark's Nato hopes

Aljazeera — Turkey has blocked Europe's candidate to head Nato, souring a summit marking the military alliance's 60th anniversary and opening a new rift between Ankara and its Western European allies.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, had been the frontrunner to head the alliance, but Turkey objected on Friday, criticising his handling of a row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
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Image fears complicate NATO quest for new chief

Reuters UK — NATO wants to name a new secretary-general at a summit starting on Friday, but concerns over its image in the Muslim world and elsewhere are hampering the quest for the right candidate.
Front-runner is Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, but Turkey is unhappy with his handling of a 2006 row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad and other allies privately wonder how his appointment would go down in the Muslim world.
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Turkey expected to lift veto on Danish PM becoming Nato chief

Times UK — Frantic behind-the-scenes efforts appeared to have saved Nato from the embarrassment of failing to find a new Secretary-General to take over just as the alliance turns 60.
The favoured candidate, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, had been blackballed by the Turks because of his handling of the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad more than three years ago.
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Mexican Drug Cartel Violence

Mexico says death toll from drug war is falling

Reuters UK — The death toll from Mexico's drug war has dropped by about 25 percent in the first three months of this year from the last quarter of 2008, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said on Thursday.
Medina Mora told reporters after meeting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder in the city of Cuernavaca that drug violence killed 1,600 people from January to March.
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As Mexico battles cartels, army becomes law

Arizona Central — President Felipe Calderon is rapidly escalating the Mexican army's role in the war against drug traffickers, deploying nearly 50 percent of its combat-ready troops along the U.S-Mexico border and throughout the country, while retired army officers take command of local police and the military supplies civilian authorities with automatic weapons and grenades.
U.S. and Mexican officials describe the drug cartels as a widening narco-insurgency. The four major drug states average a total of 12 murders a day, characterized by ambushes, gun battles, executions and decapitated bodies left by the side of the road. In the villages and cities where the traffickers hold sway, daily life now takes place against a martial backdrop of round-the-clock patrols, pre-dawn raids and roadblocks manned by masked young soldiers.
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Bodies Hang From Mexico Overpass As Warning to Rival Drug Traffickers

Fox News — Prosecutors say two bodies were hung from an overpass in a Mexican Pacific coast city as an apparent warning to rival drug traffickers, and that one corpse fell and was run over repeatedly. Fox News The Michoacan state attorney general's office says the bodies were hung from the bridge Thursday morning in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas.
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Karzai Playing Politics With Women's Rights?

Court Favors Karzai Term Until Election

New York Times — The Afghan Supreme Court said Sunday that President Hamid Karzai may lawfully remain in power until presidential elections in August, saying that it was in the national interest to maintain stability and continuity of government.
The opinion, which is not binding, was the latest step in a constitutional wrangle between Mr. Karzai and his political rivals over a three-month gap between the end of his presidential term on May 21 and the elections that have been delayed for security and logistical reasons until Aug. 20.
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Karzai govt. under fire over anti-women rights law

The Hindu — The U.N. joined several rights groups in slamming Afghanistan for adopting a new law which curtails women's rights, describing it as a "huge step in the wrong direction."
Several organisations saw in it an attempt by President Hamid Karzai to win votes in the upcoming elections.
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Afghan presidential hopeful sees post-poll vacuum

Reuters — Afghanistan will face a power vacuum after Aug. 20 polls despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing President Hamid Karzai to stay in office after his term officially ends on May 21, a rival candidate said on Thursday.
The presidential election will be the defining test of progress this year in Afghanistan, where violence is surging despite the presence of 70,000 foreign forces, expected to rise to some 90,000 by the time the polls are held.
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