Friday, July 31, 2009

Israel Palestine

Hamas leader: We will accept a Palestinian state within 1967 lines

Haaretz — Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshal says the Islamic militant group is ready to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Friday.
"We along with other Palestinian factions in consensus agreed upon accepting a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines," Meshal told the Wall Street Journal, adding "this is the national program. This is our program. This is a position we stand by and respect."
click to read complete article
Hamas Chief Outlines Terms for Talks on Arab-Israeli Peace

Wall Street Journal — The chief of Palestinian militant group Hamas said his organization is prepared to cooperate with the U.S. in promoting a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict if the White House can secure an Israeli settlement freeze and a lifting of the economic and military blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Khaled Meshaal, 53 years old, said in a 90-minute interview at Hamas's Syrian headquarters that his political party and military wing would commit to an immediate reciprocal cease-fire with Israel, as well as a prisoner swap that would return Hamas fighters for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
click to read complete article
As US wades in, Israel to let Gaza get some cement

Reuters — Israel will allow some cement into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction, officials said on Wednesday, signalling flexibility on a blockade as Washington intensified efforts to broker peacemaking with the Palestinians.
After Hamas Islamists seized Gaza in 2007, Israel curbed imports that it said could be used to make arms or bunkers. The lack of cement and steel has been especially felt since Israel's December-January offensive, which devastated the coastal strip.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nigeria Attacks

Army lays siege to Nigerian 'Taliban' in bid to crush rebels

Guardian UK — Government forces were closing in on the stronghold of a group dubbed the "Nigerian Taliban" last night after four days of violence that have left more than 200 dead and sent 4,000 fleeing their homes in the north of the country.
Around 100 women including mothers with newborn babies were freed by troops after being held hostage for almost a week by the Islamist sect Boko Haram, which is militating for sharia law and opposes modern education.
click to read complete article
Scores Die as Fighters Battle Nigerian Police

New York Times — Scores have been killed in clashes between the police and members of a fundamentalist Islamic sect in towns across northern Nigeria, a predominantly Muslim region that for years has had regular and often bloody outbreaks of sectarian unrest.
An obscure group opposed to Western education appears to be at the root of the current troubles. The Nigerian police accused it of attacks on police stations in at least two states on Sunday and Monday.
click to read complete article
Nigerian Islamists flee city as army overruns base: military

Agence France Presse — Members of a Nigerian Islamist fundamentalist sect fled the northern city of Maiduguri on Wednesday after the military overran their base, an army commander said.
The news came just hours after the army announced that another thousand soldiers had been sent to the region to reinforce troops battling sect members after four days of deadly clashes.
click to read complete article

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Palin quits

Sarah Palin leaving governor's post amid confusion, criticism

L.A. Times — Up here in Alaska, wildlife metaphors tend to be as abundant as their flesh-and-blood counterparts, and Gov. Sarah Palin has helped herself to them generously in explaining why she's stepping down today, barely halfway through her term.
She didn't want the state to be stuck with a "lame duck" chief executive, she said. She could hang around the Statehouse and go with the flow, she allowed, but "only dead fish go with the flow."
click to read complete article
Palin's Next Step Is Still a Mystery

Wall Street Journal — Sarah Palin will enter uncharted political waters when she leaves the Alaska stage Sunday.
Now the question is whether she will go on to become a viable presidential candidate in 2012, after having quit her governor's job with 18 months left in her term. Or will Ms. Palin instead choose to parlay her popularity among conservatives to become a power broker in the Republican Party, or quit politics altogether to cash in on her fame with books and TV contracts?
click to read complete article
Three reasons Palin’s move might be about money

Christian Science Monitor — Many Americans are still confused about the sudden resignation of Gov. Sarah Palin, who will leave her post at a picnic in Fairbanks today. But one clear message has emerged, say friends and foes of the former vice presidential candidate: It is, at least partly, about the money.
No. 1: Legal bills – the personal costs
It’s about a personal legal bill that the governor says has exceeded $500,000 to fight a barrage of more than 20 ethics charges.
click to read complete article

Saturday, July 25, 2009

School Reform

Obama's $4 Billion Education Prize: Incentive or Bribe?

The Atlantic — President Obama announced a new education initiative today that sets aside a pool of $4 billion to reward states for improving their school systems. The theme of his speech was twofold: We need better teachers, and we need better standards. We need to find better teachers by using data from student achievement to highlight effective teachers. And we need better standards to keep some states (ahem, Mississippi) from setting their education bar so low that they gut the word "standard" of all meaning.
One of the commonly lamented problems with No Child Left Behind is that the law tells states: Set a standard, any standard, and we'll reward you if your students pass it. The law encouraged states to set the a low bar. That's why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says he stands behind the national standard -- as hard as it might be to get all 50 states on board.
click to read complete article
Obama May Disqualify Some States From School Grants

Bloomberg — States barring the use of student- achievement data to help set teacher pay would be ineligible for $4.35 billion in education stimulus funds under guidelines proposed by President Barack Obama today.
The measure would disqualify states such as California, New York and Wisconsin from applying for the grants unless they change laws excluding student-performance data from evaluations of teachers and principals.
click to read complete article
Obama chides California for not using test scores to evaluate teachers

L.A. Times — President Obama singled out California on Friday for failing to use education data to distinguish poor teachers from good ones, a situation that his administration said must change for the state to receive competitive, federal school dollars.
Obama's comments echo recent criticisms by his Education secretary, Arne Duncan, who warned that states that bar the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, as California does, are risking those funds. In an announcement Friday at the Education Department in Washington, Obama and Duncan said the "Race to the Top" awards will be allocated to school districts that institute reforms using data-driven analysis, among other things.
click to read complete article

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Afghan war in interest of US, UK: Biden

Zee News India — The war in Afghanistan is in the interests of the US and the UK, US Vice President Joe Biden has said in an interview.
While talking to BBC's Jonathan Beale, Biden maintained that Afghan war is “worth the effort we are making and the sacrifice that is being felt".
click to read complete article
More troops will die in Afghanistan, says Joe Biden

Guardian UK — More British and American troops will die in Afghanistan, but the war against the Taliban is in the national interests of both countries, the US vice-president, Joe Biden, said today.
Speaking in the deadliest month for British troops since the US-led invasion in 2001, Biden insisted that the current offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province was worth the effort and was a "prerequisite" to get the country ready for presidential elections next month.
click to read complete article
The Afghanistan industry

Guardian UK — For ordinary Afghans, the west is part of the machinery of corruption that thrives on the conflict
When the Taliban arrived in a village in Farah in May, the village elders approached them and asked them to leave. They told the Taliban that if the fighters stayed, the foreigners would bomb their village. The Taliban said: "We are fighting and dying for Islam and so should you. Why should you be spared death? Is your blood redder than ours?"
click to read complete article

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Senate Gun Bill

Senate Rejects Republican Bid to Loosen Weapon Laws

Bloomberg — The U.S. Senate defeated a Republican bid to expand gun ownership rights by letting people carry concealed weapons across state lines.
The Senate voted 58-39 for the proposal by John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, two votes short of the 60 needed. It would have allowed truck drivers, salespeople and anyone else permitted to carry concealed weapons to take them into any of the 48 states that allow hidden firearms.
click to read complete article
Democrats Defeat Concealed Weapons Amendment

Washington Post — By the narrowest of margins, the Senate's liberal bloc of Democrats defeated an amendment that would have allowed gun owners to carry their weapons across state lines without regard for stricter laws in many jurisdictions, giving preference to states with looser standards.
In a 58-39 vote, supporters of the looser gun law -- including all but two Republicans and 20 Democrats -- fell two votes short of the 60 they needed under Senate rules to approve the measure. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), showed the bitter divisions among a Democratic caucus that now holds 60 seats, many of whom got to the Senate by winning in conservative states as they proudly supported gun rights. It also divided the party's leadership, as Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), campaigning for re-election in 2010, sided with gun rights supporters. His top lieutenants, Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), led the push against the measure.
click to read complete article
Senate vote on concealed weapons proves again there is no 2nd amendment right to own a gun

L.A. Examiner — The Senate by a 58-39 vote, defeated a bill that would have made concealed weapons permits in one state valid in other states. The bill needed 60 votes to pass.
But the fact that there was even a vote at all proves beyond a doubt that the 2nd amendment has nothing to do with an individual's right to own or carry a gun. A point I've been making for quite some time.
click to read complete article

Friday, July 17, 2009

U.S. Sanctions on North Korea

U.N. Slaps Sanctions on North Korean Firms, Individuals

NTI — The U.N. Security Council yesterday released its much-anticipated list of North Korean firms and individuals to be sanctioned for their role in aiding the nation's nuclear and missile activities, the Wall Street Journal reported (see GSN, July 16).
The new blacklist covers five people and five companies.
"We are pleased with the new international sanctions agreed upon today in response to North Korea's nuclear tests and recent missile activity," said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "These new designations ... will serve to constrain North Korea from engaging in transactions or activities that could fund its WMD or proliferation activities."
click to read complete article
US urges N. Korea to return to dialogue

Iran Press TV — The United State calls on North Korea to return to the six-party talks, saying it is still "not too late" to resume the frozen talks on nuclear disarmament.
"We think it's important to send a collective message to North Korea that it's not too late and that we still wish them to return to the six-party talks and to hold responsible negotiations," Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary of State, was quoted by Kyodo News as saying on Friday.
click to read complete article
New Sanctions Against North Korea: Too Little, Too Late?

Fox News — Is the United Nations doing anything to stop North Korea? Well, there is news tonight, the U.N. imposing new sanctions against five North Korean companies involved in the country's nuclear program. In addition, give North Korean individuals now face a travel ban and have had their assets frozen. And there is more. Two types of materials used in ballistic missile parts are now banned from being sold in North Korea. Do these sanctions matter to the North Koreans?
click to read complete article

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Slain Russian Rights Activist

Russian human rights activist kidnapped, killed

CNN — A leading human rights activist was abducted and killed in Russia Wednesday, the organization she worked for told CNN.
Natalya Estemirova, of the Russian human rights group Memorial, was kidnapped outside her home in Grozny, Chechnya, Oleg Orlov said, citing eyewitness reports.
click to read complete article
The murder of Natalia Estemirova is a dire warning

Telegraph UK — Our Russia research team say there used to be three key people when it came to uncovering human rights abuses in Chechnya - the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and the human rights researcher Natalia Estemirova.
In the space of less than three years, they’ve all now been murdered. These pivotal people supplied Amnesty with valuable information about Chechnya as well as neighbouring republics like Ingushetia, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkari.
click to read complete article
Lawyers, activists and reporters killed in Russia

Associated Press — Some recent high-profile slayings of activists, reporters and lawyers who have challenged Russian authorities in recent years. There have been no convictions in any of the following killings.
July 15, 2009: Natalya Estemirova — a human rights activist who was found shot dead in Ingushetia after being kidnapped in Chechnya earlier in the day. She was 50.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nobucco Pipeline

Pipeline deal is sweet music for Iran

Asia Times — How a trans-Caspian gas pipeline project came to be named after the 19th-century Italian Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi's famous opera Nabucco remains obscure. The opera is based on a Biblical story about the tragic plight of persecuted Jews exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Maybe, the opera's enchanting story of love and struggle or its tendency toward melodrama was considered an apt metaphor for the acute Caspian energy rivalry.
click to read complete article
Nobucco Pipeline Gets Turkish Assent

Business Week — The Nabucco project, designed to cut the dependence of energy-hungry Europe on Russian gas, will reach an important milestone later today (13 July) as EU governments and Turkey are set to sign a key transit pact.
"The signature will show that we are determined to make the Nabucco pipeline a reality as quickly as possible," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said ahead of the signing ceremony, which would effectively end six months of intense negotiations on the use of the pipeline.
click to read complete article
Russia May Score Final Coup in Energy Battle

Moscow Tmes — The European Union is touting its deal with Turkey on Monday to realize the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project as a major coup in the quest for alternative energy routes that bypass Russia. The project’s major transit country, Turkey, may have been brought on board, but Ankara’s other energy interests in the Caucasus may still stand in the way of securing producer countries, namely Azerbaijan, for the project.
click to read complete article

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Secret Counter-Terrorism" Program Uncovered

Dick Cheney kept Congress in dark over CIA counterterrorism action

Guardian UK — The former US vice president Dick Cheney directed the CIA not to inform Congress about a counterterrorism programme that the CIA director, Leon Panetta, ended last month, according to revelations by US intelligence officials.
The programme, the nature of which is not known, was set up eight years ago after the 9/11 attacks, reported the New York Times, citing a former intelligence official and another government official familiar with Panetta's briefing to the House and Senate intelligence committees on 24 June.
click to read complete article
Democrats Say C.I.A. Deceived Congress

New York Times — The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, has told the House Intelligence Committee in closed-door testimony that the C.I.A. concealed “significant actions” from Congress from 2001 until late last month, seven Democratic committee members said.
In a June 26 letter to Mr. Panetta discussing his testimony, Democrats said that the agency had “misled members” of Congress for eight years about the classified matters, which the letter did not disclose. “This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods,” said the letter, made public late Wednesday by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the signers.
click to read complete article
Cheney 'silenced CIA over spy plan'

Aljazeera — Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, deliberately withheld details of a secret CIA spy programme from the US congress for eight years, a newspaper has reported.
Cheney, who was vice-president to George Bush between 2001 and January this year, ordered the CIA not to tell congress of a new "counter-terrorism" programme, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
click to read complete article

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The British in Afghanistan

Gordon Brown insists Afghan war being won

Times Online UK — Gordon Brown today insisted the UK is winning the war in Afghanistan despite a surge in the deaths of British soldiers.
The Prime Minister claims troop morale remains high despite the deaths of eight soldiers in the space of 24 hours.
click to read complete article
Brown defends Afghan strategy as deaths mount

Agence France Presse — Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted on Saturday that Downing Street had the right strategy in Afghanistan after British military deaths surpassed the number of dead in the Iraq war.
Brown said the last few days had been "extraordinarily difficult" as British fatalities had risen to 184 after the announcement on Friday that eight men had been killed in a 24-hour period.
click to read complete article
Afghanistan proves deadlier for UK than Iraq

Iran Press TV — The British military's latest casualties have lifted the death toll in Afghanistan to above the number of troops killed in Iraq.
Over the past ten days, 15 soldiers have been killed in the troubled Helmand Province, bringing the death toll to 184 since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Nearly 179 British soldiers have been killed in Iraq.
click to read complete article

Thursday, July 9, 2009

G-8 Summit

World emerging economies agree on warming limit, fail on emission cut pledge

Xinhua — Leaders from the world emerging economies agreed on Thursday to limit the global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but they failed to hammer out more substantial targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
"We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees Celsius," the leaders said in a declaration after a meeting under the format of Major Economies Forum (MEF), which brought together 17 nations including the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries and five emerging economies including India, China, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.
click to read complete article
Developing Nations Challenge G-8 on Dollar, Climate, Power

Bloomberg — Leaders of developing nations challenged the hegemony of the U.S. dollar, balked at the industrial world’s strategy for fighting climate change and sought more clout in global markets and institutions.
Five countries with almost half the world’s population -- China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa -- demanded a greater stake in the management of the global economy, signaling the drift in power away from the financially wracked West.
click to read complete article
Spouses of G8 leaders tour L'Aquila earthquake rubble

Guardian UK — Michelle Obama shook her head in sorrow and disbelief. Sarah Brown picked her way through the rubble with her friend Margarita Zavala from Mexico, who had her own memories of the earthquake that devastated her country in 1985. For the spouses of the G8 leaders, it was an opportunity to see for themselves the physical damage and human cost of the earthquake centred on L'Aquila in April that left 303 people dead and 50,000 homeless.
The brief tour passed near the damaged cathedral and the 18th century Chiesa delle Anime Sante, whose cupola has all but collapsed.
click to read complete article

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

South Korea Missle Development

North Korean missile launch is provocative: US

The Hindu — Condemning the missile launch by North Korea on July 4, the US has said it is a provocative action.
"These launches are provocative, but they are nothing new," the State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, said at his daily press briefing at its Foggy Bottom headquarters.
click to read complete article
China hopes relevant sides of Korean nuke issue remain calm, restraint

Xinhua — China hopes that relevant parties of Korean nuclear issue stay calm and restraint, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said here Sunday.
When asked to comment on the reports that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had fired several ballistic missiles on Saturday, Qin said the Chinese side noticed such a matter, and hopes that related parties should stay calm and restraint and work together to maintain regional peace and stability.
click to read complete article
US set for talks on boosting SKorean missile range

Associated Press — The United States is open to talks on the possibility of South Korea developing ballistic missiles capable of striking all of North Korea, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said Tuesday.
A senior general at the U.S. command in Seoul told aides to South Korean lawmakers last week the allies can discuss the revision of a 2001 accord barring the South from developing missiles with a range of more than 186 miles (300 kilometers), the ministry official said.
click to read complete article

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Palin Steps Down

Palin A "Shooting Star Crashing To Earth"?

CNN — If Sarah Palin thinks quitting the Alaskan statehouse is going to help a 2012 presidential campaign which some pundits speculate she's mulling, she's mistaken, according to longtime Republican strategist Ed Rollins.
Palin dropped a bombshell on the political world Friday when she announced she's resigning as Alaska's governor in three weeks. She has a year-and-a-half to go in her term.
click to read complete article
Sarah Palin’s Resignation: Another Example of the G.O.P. Split

New York Times — Grant the Republicans this much at least: they’re no longer boring. Just when the novelty of the Argentine dalliance of Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina had begun to fade, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska enlivened a ho-hum Fourth of July with her announcement that she would abruptly terminate her first term and instead seek to “effect positive change outside government.”
Exactly what this might mean was not immediately clear. Some said her political career was done. Others speculated that Ms. Palin, eying the White House in 2012, plans to complete and then hawk her memoir (for which she reportedly had been seeking a seven-figure advance) and also increase her visibility along with her war chest by accepting lucrative speaking engagements — activities not so easily managed by a chief executive marooned in Anchorage.
click to read complete article
Sarah Palin Outsmarts the Left

Fox News — Sarah Palin's resignation as Governor of Alaska is a brilliant liberating move for her career, and a potential turning point for the national conservative movement.
The biggest problem with her responsibility as Governor of Alaska is that the state is so far away from the rest of America. No one hears of the good work she has been doing there, and the left is free to paint their own false caricature of her. And because of the long distance and her family, as well as governing, responsibilities, she can't get down to the lower-48 enough to build her national political presence.
click to read complete article

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gay Court Ruling in India

Indian gays celebrate after judge repeals anti-sex law

The Globe and Mail — The hush of the courtroom was broken by disbelieving gasps, a few hastily suppressed whoops of joy, and then the sound of weeping as rows of gay activists clutching hands listened to a judgment that few had believed would come in their lifetime. In a judgment invoking the Indian tradition of tolerance and inclusion, the New Delhi High Court yesterday repealed the portion of a sex law criminalizing consensual gay sex between adults.
The judgment will radically change life for millions of gay, lesbian and transgender Indians who have long been subject to harassment and abuse under the law, and represents a huge gain for gay rights in the developing world.
click to read complete article
Legalising gay sex will make 'old people miserable'

Indian Express — Legalising gay sex came in for sharp criticism in Rajya Sabha on Friday, with a Samajwadi Party member saying that this will destroy the Indian culture and established tradition and values.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Ram Gopal Yadav said the Delhi High Court ruling legalising gay sex should be challenged by the Centre in the Supreme Court.
click to read complete article
Cyber war over legalising gay sex

Indian Express — Bringing out the deep divisions in Indian society about homosexuality, netizens have given a mixed reaction to the court ruling legalising gay sex, with some terming it as a "great judgement" and some saying same-sex relations are "unnatural" and against Indian culture.
Comments poured in blogs and media websites after the Delhi High Court gave the path-breaking judgement legalising gay sex between consenting adults.
click to read complete article

Thursday, July 2, 2009

African Summit

AU summit tackles divisions over 'African government'

Agence France Presse — African leaders at a summit Thursday struggled to overcome divisions on a proposed "African government", as Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi pressed for a powerful new continental authority.
The leaders agreed earlier in February to create an AU Authority that would centralise the executive powers of the 53-member bloc, but Kadhafi is pushing to grant the new body sweeping powers over defence, trade and foreign relations.
click to read complete article
Lula promises to help Africa achieve a 'green revolution'

Agence France Presse — Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday promised to help Africa achieve a "green revolution" in agriculture, at the launch of a continental summit in Libya.
Lula, invited to address the opening of the summit officially devoted to helping African farmers, said "South-South" cooperation among developing countries was "like an attack force against the distortions and inequities that persist in the global order."
click to read complete article
Ahmadinejad calls off Libya visit

RTE Ireland — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called off a trip to Libya for an African Union summit.
A spokesman for Mr Ahmadinejad confirmed that the visit had been cancelled without giving a reason.
click to read complete article

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Iraq Oil Fields

The scramble for Iraq's 'sweet oil'

Aljazeera — With proven oil reserves of around 112 billion barrels and up to another 150 billion barrels of probable reserves, Iraq is the greatest untapped prize for international oil companies.
To put that in context, if Iraq does turn out to have around 300 billion barrels of oil, it will rival the world's biggest producer Saudi Arabia - which has around 160 billion barrels of proven reserves.
click to read complete article
Iraq: BP, Chinese win lucrative oil contract

CNN — Iraq awarded a lucrative oil contract to BP and China National Petroleum Corp., government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Wednesday, while rejecting other companies' offers for other oil fields.
The joint BP-CNPC bid was for the al-Rumeila oil field, one of the largest in the world. The energy companies are expected to increase production at the oil field by 50 percent, to 285,000 barrels a day, for a service charge of $2 for each additional barrel produced, al-Dabbagh said in a statement.
click to read complete article
Iraqi Oil Tender Ends Mostly In Stalemate

Wall Street Journal — The Iraqi government and numerous international oil companies failed Tuesday to agree financial terms for all but one of a series of new contracts to boost output at the country's existing oil and gas fields, resulting in the failure of seven out of eight of the tenders.
A consortium led by BP PLC (BP) and China National Petroleum Co. (0135.HK) won the first contract awarded, to boost output at Iraq's largest oil field, Rumaila, but consortia led by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Eni SpA (E), CNOOC Ltd. (CEO) and ConocoPhillips (COP) all rejected the Iraqi government's offers of payments for contracts on other fields, saying the prices were too low.
click to read complete article