Wednesday, September 30, 2009

People's Republic of China celebrates its 60th Anniversary

Chinese pay tribute to motherland's birthday

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

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

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

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

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

Rumours of the promotion have been buzzing around websites in China, where Mao's descendants have not played a prominent role in politics.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Iran's Nuclear Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran's nuclear dispute with the West intensified last week after Tehran disclosed that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Elections in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps that was what was buzzing through Guido Westerwelle’s mind yesterday as he sipped delicately from his litre of frothing beer, clearly wishing it was chilled prosecco.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obama's First Speech to the U.N.

Obama pledges radical cuts in nuclear arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

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

The latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey of international confidence in Obama’s leadership on foreign affairs shows strikingly high approval levels for the president in many parts of the world – 94 percent in Kenya, 93 percent in Germany, 88 percent in Canada and Nigeria, 77 percent in India, 76 percent in Brazil, 71 percent in Indonesia, and 62 percent in China for example. The Pew survey of 21 countries reveals an average level of 71 percent support for President Obama, compared to just 17 percent for George W. Bush in 2008.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

U.S. Missile-Defense Plan for Europe

A Colossal Sign Of U.S. Weakness

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

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

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

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

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

"Russia and the US could jointly turn to this topic again in the future if Iran gets such a weapon (long-range ballistic missile), but this won't happen until at least 2015," Col Gen (retd) Viktor Yesin said.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Afghanistan questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I don't want to put the resource question before the strategy question," Mr. Obama told CNN's "State of the Union." "There is a natural inclination to say, 'If I get more, then I can do more.' But right now, the question is—the first question is—are we doing the right thing? Are we pursuing the right strategy?"
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Japan's new Prime Minister

Japan’s Victors Warily Prepare for Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

US military might was key to regional stability, he said, but stronger ties with regional neighbours were also needed to safeguard Japan's interests.
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carter Calls it Racism

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

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

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

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

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

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

In doing so, Carter risks further alienation of an increasingly skeptical American electorate.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Venezuela ramping up a War Machine?

Venezuela confirms deals on Russian tanks, missiles

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

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

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

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

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

"They outpace all other countries in South America and certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region," Clinton said about Venezuela's arms deals, after a meeting with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Medicare a good model for Health Care Reform?

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

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

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

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

New York Times — If the tax system is wildly wasteful and public services are mediocre, then there will be little public enthusiasm for expanding the size of the state. Can this explain why some advocates of limited government have become the archdefenders of Medicare’s largess? After all, if health care stays enormously expensive, then this will surely limit Americans’ appetite for expanding the entitlement to health care.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Sarkozy: Happiness Index

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking days before the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, France's president urged the rest of the world to follow his example as he ordered a shake-up in research methods aimed at providing a more balanced reading of countries' performance.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Wilson Shouts Protest at Obama Health Care Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

News of that cash haul comes after Wilson directly asked in a Web video for campaign cash to fend off attacks from political opponents and said he's standing by his opposition to Democratic efforts at health care reform.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Russia Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of the 9.2 trillion roubles ($295 billion) lent to Russian companies in the first six months of the year, 2.7 trillion roubles came from state-controlled banks and 1.9 trillion roubles was lent by privately-owned recipients of government funds through subordinated loans.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

West Bank Settlement Expansion

Israel gives go ahead for new construction in West Bank

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

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

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

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

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

The poll, conducted by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), asked some 800 likely US voters the following question: "Thinking about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East, please tell me whether, in general, you consider yourself to be an Israel supporter, Palestinian supporter, or neither/undecided."
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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obama Speech to Students

Many conservatives enraged over Obama school speech

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

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

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

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

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

President Barack Obama, in his effort to connect with children in a 15-minute televised education speech next week, will, in the opinion of certain superintendents, be armed with too much liberal propaganda for students to bear.
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Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama's War in Afghanistan

Obama's War?

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

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

Bloomberg — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said an assessment of the military situation in Afghanistan has been forwarded to President Barack Obama and that any request for additional U.S. forces or money will be to “effectively implement” current strategy, not to “launch a new one.”
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Afghan Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daud Najafi, chief electoral officer, said Karzai's nearest rival, former foreign minster Abdullah Abdullah, has 965,256 votes.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

40 Year Celebration of Gadaffi and Libya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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