North Korea Throws A
Tantrum About Something
A Rising Dollar Lifts the U.S. but Adds to the Crisis Abroad
By PETER S. GOODMAN
Published: March 8, 2009
As the world is seized with anxiety in the face of a spreading financial crisis, the one place having a considerably easier time attracting money is, perversely enough, the same place that started much of the trouble: the United States.
American investors are ditching foreign ventures and bringing their dollars home, entrusting them to the supposed bedrock safety of United States government bonds. And China continues to buy staggering quantities of American debt.
These actions are lifting the value of the dollar and providing the Obama administration with a crucial infusion of financing as it directs trillions of dollars toward rescuing banks and stimulating the economy, enabling the government to pay for these efforts without lifting interest rates.
Carbon cuts ‘only give 50/50 chance of saving planet’
As states negotiate Kyoto’s successor, simulations show catastrophe just years away
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Monday, 9 March 2009
The world’s best efforts at combating climate change are likely to offer no more than a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature rises below the threshold of disaster, according to research from the UK Met Office.
The key aim of holding the expected increase to 2C, beyond which damage to the natural world and to human society is likely to be catastrophic, is far from assured, the research suggests, even if all countries engage forthwith in a radical and enormous crash programme to slash greenhouse gas emissions – something which itself is by no means guaranteed.
The chilling forecast from the supercomputer climate model of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research will provide a sobering wake-up call for governments around the world, who will begin formally negotiating three weeks today the new international treaty on tackling global warming, which is due to be signed in Copenhagen in December.
U.S. to pull 12,000 troops from Iraq as withdrawal begins
The initial phase in Obama’s plan to end combat operations will take place over the next 6 months, military officials say. Just before the announcement, a suicide bomber kills 33 police recruits in Baghdad.
By Greg Miller and Usama Redha
March 9, 2009
Reporting from Baghdad and Washington — The U.S. will reduce its military presence in Iraq by 12,000 troops over the next six months as part of the first major drawdown since President Obama announced his plan to end combat operations in the country next year, U.S. military officials in Baghdad said Sunday.
The announcement came just hours after a suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck a crowd of police recruits outside an Interior Ministry compound in Baghdad, killing at least 33 people and wounding 61.
Despite that grim reminder of the lingering danger, U.S. officials said the drawdown reflects growing confidence in the security gains in Iraq over the last two years. It also reflects a major shift in priorities for the U.S. military, which is increasingly focused on efforts to arrest the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
One man’s odyssey from campus to combat
Michael Batia was on the frontlines of a Pentagon experiment
FIRST OF TWO PARTS
MEDWAY, Mass. – On the overcast New England morning Michael Bhatia came home, nearly 400 of his colleagues, family and friends turned out to meet him.
Seven months had passed since Bhatia, a 31-year-old scholar in international relations from Brown University, hefted his pack across the tarmac at Fort Benning, ready to begin his sixth journey to Afghanistan.
Every trip had come with risks, but this one was the toughest to explain. No one questioned Bhatia’s commitment to Afghanistan, but many disagreed sharply with the way he’d chosen to pursue it.
Czech leader joins meeting of climate change deniers
• US convention aimed at escalating confrontation
• Klaus to attack ‘arrogant, unscrupulous ideology’
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 9 March 2009
It is billed as the largest ever gathering of climate change deniers, a convention that kicked off last night with a title suggesting global warming is a thing of the past, and a guest list that includes a hurricane forecaster, a retired astronaut and a sitting European president.
Entitled Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis? and featuring some of the most prominent naysayers in the climate change debate, this week’s conference in New York sets out to escalate its confrontation with the scientific establishment, the vast majority of whose members subscribe to the view that humans are the principal cause of climate change.
How the French finally acquired a taste for soap
With glamorous young actors and racy storylines, two new shows are taking viewers into unfamiliar territory
By John Lichfield
Monday, 9 March 2009
For decades, French television could not make a successful soap opera to save its life. From this week, it may have two of them. The four-year-old series, Plus Belle la Vie (Life is Sweet), an everyday story of urban, Provençal folk, is already watched by 13 million French viewers on the state channel, France 3, every week. Today, a rival channel, M6, will launch an ambitious daily serial, set in Paris. Is France about to relive the North v South “battle of the soaps” which has gripped Britain for 24 years? Coronation Street-en-Provence versus EastEnders-sur-Seine?
A North v South, capital-against-the-provinces battle there may well be, but comparisons with Coronation Street and Albert Square will be difficult to sustain. Plus Belle la Vie (or PBLV)- France’s first successful TV soap – is set in a tatty district of Marseilles, with a multi-racial cast of ordinary-seeming people who have anything but ordinary lives.
Africa’s first narco-state?
Guinea-Bissau hasn’t seen much political stability since independence, and drug barons are making things even worse
guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 March 2009 07.00 GMT
The political turmoil in Guinea-Bissau cannot be blamed directly or even indirectly on “the west” and its hunger for natural resources. Contrary to some of the comments posted on Norrie MacQueen’s recent Cif blog, Guinea-Bissau does not have oil, or anything else of great value to industrial nations. Its biggest export is cashew nuts. Sadly, what lies at the source of Guinea’s problems is shared by many countries on the African continent.
Guinea-Bissau has been independent for 34 years and during that time it has had minimal political stability. Civil war and numerous coups have left the economy of this small west African nation in ruin and the country is listed as the fifth poorest in the world by the UN.
It is an old story. Once in power, Guinea’s leaders – President João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira and the army chief, General Tagme Na Waie – jostled to shore up what they had and if possible, obtain more. In 1999, Na Waie was one of the soldiers who removed Vieira from office and forced him into exile.
Darfur rebels: we will topple President al-Bashir if the UN doesn’t
From The Times
March 9, 2009
Anthony Loyd in Northern Darfur
Death came from above and in unlikely form: a white Antonov cargo plane circling slowly at high altitude. Huddled beneath in the scattered shadows of desiccated trees in the desert, rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) abandoned their siesta and looked skywards.
“The usual life, night and day,” one remarked fatalistically as the first payload of bombs, jettisoned from the Antonov’s cargo ramp, detonated in a wadi several hundred metres away.
The plane was joined by a second aircraft in a series of bombing runs that lasted until dusk. The explosions were clumsy and indiscriminate, but it was enough for the rebels to know that their position had been spotted and they needed to move on. At nightfall they gathered their vehicles, mud-painted four-wheel-drive pick-ups, into a column and snaked away into the darkness.
N Korea warning over ‘satellite’
North Korea says it has put its military on full combat alert as a big military exercise by US and South Korean forces begins.
The official news agency called the manoeuvres a dangerous provocation.
North Korea has warned that any attempt to shoot down a satellite it says it plans to launch will result in war.
The South and the US believe Pyongyang could be preparing to test-fire a long-range missile under the guise of a satellite launch.
On Friday, the North said that the risk of conflict meant it could no longer guarantee the safety of commercial flights through airspace it controls off the east coast.
A number of airlines have already re-routed their flights as a precaution.
In a statement published by the official Korean Central News Agency on Monday, the Korean People’s Army warned that it was ready to use force against the South, the US and Japan.
China’s thirst for copper could hold key to Afghanistan’s future
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
JALREZ VALLEY, Afghanistan – In this Taliban stronghold in the mountains south of Kabul, the U.S. Army is providing the security that will enable China to exploit one of the world’s largest unexploited deposits of copper, earn tens of billions of dollars and feed its voracious appetite for raw materials.
U.S. troops set up bases last month along a dirt track that a Chinese firm is paving as part of a $3 billion project to gain access to the Aynak copper reserves. Some troops made camp outside a compound built for the Chinese road crews, who are about to return from winter break. American forces also have expanded their presence in neighboring Logar province, where the Aynak deposit is.
Seeking Justice, Chinese Land in Secret Jails
By ANDREW JACOBS
Published: March 8, 2009
BEIJING – They are often tucked away in the rough-and-tumble sections of the city’s south side, hidden beneath dingy hotels and guarded by men in dark coats. Known as “black houses,” they are unofficial jails for the pesky hordes of petitioners who flock to the capital seeking justice.This month, Wang Shixiang, a 48-year-old businessman from Heilongjong Province, came to Beijing to agitate for the prosecution of corrupt policemen. Instead, he was seized and confined to a dank room underneath the Juyuan Hotel with 40 other abducted petitioners.
During his two days in captivity, Mr. Wang said, he was beaten and deprived of food, and then bundled onto an overnight train. Guards who were paid with government money, he said, made sure he arrived at his front door.
As Olmert’s Time in Office Nears End, Captive Soldier’s Saga Gains Urgency
By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: March 8, 2009
JERUSALEM – For the family of the captive Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the waning days of the Olmert government represent a time of dwindling hope and growing despair.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has as little as two weeks left in office as his probable successor tries to form a new government. By then, Corporal Shalit, who turned 22 in captivity, will have been a hostage of Hamas for about 1,000 days.
The parents and friends of Corporal Shalit are pressing Mr. Olmert to clear his desk, and his conscience, by reaching an 11th-hour deal for the soldier’s return.
Cocaine production surge unleashes wave of violence in Latin America
Rory Carroll in Caracas
The Guardian, Monday 9 March 2009
Cocaine production has surged across Latin America and unleashed a wave of violence, population displacements and corruption, prompting urgent calls to rethink the drug war.
More than 750 tonnes of cocaine are shipped annually from the Andes in a multi-billion pound industry which has forced peasants off land, triggered gang wars and perverted state institutions.
A Guardian investigation based on dozens of interviews with law enforcement officials, coca farmers, refugees and policymakers has yielded a bleak picture of the “war” on the eve of a crucial United Nations drug summit.