Lies Damn Lies
The GOP’s New Mantra
Gates draws the line on North Korea’s nuclear program: No proliferation
The Defense chief says the Obama administration does not consider the nuclear program a direct threat, but he forcefully warns the regime against transferring nuclear material abroad.
By Julian E. Barnes
May 30, 2009
Reporting from Singapore — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates promised today to hold North Korea accountable for selling or transferring nuclear material outside its borders, providing the first clear expression of the Obama administration’s thinking on a vexing foreign policy challenge.
A succession of U.S. presidents have tried to persuade the reclusive government to give up its nuclear arms, and Gates made it clear that President Obama was open to using diplomacy to end the threat.But he also drew a distinction between the danger posed by a North Korea that possessed nuclear weapons and one that sold them to other countries or groups. Spreading its nuclear technology would invite the swiftest and most forceful U.S. response, he said.
North Korea’s nuclear test puts China in a tight spot
Decades after border town Dandong was rocked by the Korean war, Beijing is witnessing rising tensions with its troubled neighbour
guardian.co.uk, Friday 29 May 2009 22.09 BST
Grandfather Li sat by the Yalu river, feeding ice-cream to the little girl on his lap and gazing across to the desolate factories of Sinuiju, North Korea.
“The first day the planes came over we were so scared,” he recalled. He was 10 when the US bombed the nearby bridge to halt Chinese support for its neighbour in the Korean war; a few spans still stand as evidence of the raids.
“When the war ended [in 1953], we were very happy, a bit proud for helping them – and relieved.”
It has been decades since American bombs rocked Dandong, the main crossing on the 800-mile Chinese-North Korean border. But this week another explosion shook China and the new threat is from its old ally. North Korea’s nuclear test has raised tensions throughout the region – and increased pressure on China to rein in its neighbour.
Congress’s Afterthought, Wall Street’s Trillion Dollars
Fed’s Bailout Authority Sat Unused Since 1991
By Binyamin Appelbaum and Neil Irwin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 30, 2009
On the day before Thanksgiving in 1991, the U.S. Senate voted to vastly expand the emergency powers of the Federal Reserve.
Almost no one noticed.
The critical language was contained in a single, somewhat inscrutable sentence, and the only public explanation was offered during a final debate that began with a reminder that senators had airplanes to catch. Yet, in removing a long-standing prohibition on loans that supported financial speculation, the provision effectively allowed the Fed for the first time to lend money to Wall Street during a crisis.
That authority, which sat unused for more than 16 years, now provides the legal basis for the Fed’s unprecedented efforts to rescue the financial system.
Tentative Deal for G.M.’s Opel Is Latest Shift for Industry
By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ and CARTER DOUGHERTY
Published: May 29, 2009
The global reordering of the auto industry took a big step forward on Friday as an unlikely alliance led by Magna International, a Canadian auto parts maker, and Sberbank of Russia tentatively agreed to buy the European operations of General Motors.
The deal was brokered by the German government in Berlin, with negotiations stretching from Moscow to Washington, Detroit, Ontario and New York, where G.M.’s board gathered for a meeting ahead of an expected bankruptcy filing on Monday.
With sales plunging to levels not seen in decades, auto companies are seeking refuge in mergers or bankruptcy court. Other companies, like Magna and Fiat, are seeing opportunities in beaten-down automakers, hoping to buy them or form alliances on the cheap.
UN calls for inquiry on ‘unacceptably high’ civilian death toll in Sri Lanka
• Many thousands died in final days, says diplomat
• Army ‘used heavy weapons in no-fire zone’
Julian Borger and Gethin Chamberlain
guardian.co.uk, Friday 29 May 2009 19.39 BST
A senior UN official said the civilian death toll from the Sri Lankan government’s crushing of the Tamil Tiger insurgency was “unacceptably high” and should be the subject of an official inquiry.
Sir John Holmes, the head of the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), said many thousands of people had died in the final days of the government offensive, and accused the Sri Lankan army of using heavy weapons on a coastal strip that was supposed to have been a no-fire zone.
“When there are allegations of this kind, allegations on both sides, they need to be looked into, they need to be investigated,” Holmes said. “We had hoped that the [UN] Human Rights Council would look into this, but as you know they took a different path.”
Angry crowd turns on South Korean leader at funeral of predecessor Roh Moo Hyun
From The Times
May 30, 2009
Richard Lloyd Parry in Seoul
Millions of people across South Korea expressed anger and grief at the funeral of Roh Moo Hyun, the former president who committed suicide last weekend while being investigated for a multimillion-pound corruption scandal.
Mourners lined the streets, weeping openly at the passing of Mr Roh’s cortège as it transported his body 200 miles from his home in the south-east of the country to the Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul. Hundreds of thousands of people listened to speeches in the capital’s central plaza accusing the Government of the current president, Lee Myung Bak, of hounding Mr Roh to his death for political reasons.
“Today condolences, tomorrow anger,” read a slogan on many of the banners. Tearful mourners accused the conservative Mr Lee of the “political murder” of his predecessor and ideological opponent. South Korean internet users swapped conspiracy theories, so far completely unproven, that his death was an assassination.
Iran’s alternative election campaigns
Censored by the state-run media, Iran’s reformist candidates are turning to emails, SMS and satellite TV to get their messages out
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 30 May 2009 09.00 BST
Approaching the Iranian presidential election, Iran is in the midst of a censorship drive by the Ahmadinejad government, aimed at blocking his reformist rivals’ message. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is running against two reformist candidates, Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and one fundamentalist, Mohsen Rezai, in the election on 12 June.
Facebook and Twitter were among hundreds of websites and blogs filtered recently because they provide a platform for reformist candidates to reach out to Iranian youth. Moussavi, a Facebook member and pro-reform candidate who is now backed by former moderate president Mohammad Khatami, is becoming Ahmadinejad’s main rival in the election.
Facebook was restored after a week’s blocking when a CNN reporter asked Ahmadinejad publicly about its filtering in a press conference, but “access is denied” is rapidly becoming the most-viewed page for Iran’s online society.
Threat of the ‘thought police’ alarms Israel’s Arab minority
Freedom to oppose Israel’s right to exist among acts that right-wing politicians are attempting to outlaw
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Israeli Arab leaders have called an emergency meeting today to discuss their growing alarm over a series of “racist and fascist” bills being promoted by right-wing members of the country’s parliament. One of the bills has already brought fierce accusations from two prominent Jewish Knesset members that its backers are trying to create a “thought police” and “punish people for talking”.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee – the main umbrella body of Arab political and civic leaders in Israel – cited special concern over another bill which would outlaw the commemoration of the Nakba or catastrophe on Israel’s Independence Day.
Why ‘Red Rosa’s’ fans got the wrong grave
Pathologist says headless body in mortuary belongs to Luxemburg
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Saturday, 30 May 2009
She was nicknamed “Red Rosa” and millions of Germans still make the pilgrimage to an unremarkable suburb of east Berlin to pay their respects at her grave. But now it has emerged that the body of the assassinated revolutionary heroine, Rosa Luxemburg, may never have been buried at all.
Pathologists at Berlin’s main Charité hospital claimed yesterday that a headless, handless and footless “mystery corpse” that had been lying unidentified deep in its mortuary for decades was almost certainly that of the early 20th century leftist leader who was shot in the head in 1919. “The corpse reveals evidence which bears a striking similarity to the body of the real Rosa Luxemburg,” said Dr Michael Tsokos, head of the hospital’s pathology department. “I doubt that she was ever buried.”
Hamburg rebrands itself as Beatles City
From The Times
May 30, 2009
Roger Boyes in Hamburg
Hamburg, hit by declining tourism figures, is calling on the Beatles to ease it through the crisis. Or, as the Fab Four would have put it: Help!
“John Lennon used to say that he was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg,” says Ulf Krueger who has been pushing the port to brand itself as a Beatles city for more than 20 years.
The moment has come: a five-storey Beatles museum, complete with a life sized model of the Yellow Submarine and a mock-up of the Hamburg clubs where they played, was opened today to a Ringo Starr-like drum roll.
Around the corner, a square has been renamed Beatles Platz, shaped like a gramophone record, with John, Paul, George, Ringo in stainless steel – and a fifth Beatle, who could be either the sacked drummer Pete Best or the bassist, Stu Sutcliffe.
Climate change huge challenge for Africa-minister
* African ministers in common front ahead of December talks
* Ministers seek access to funds to combat climate change
By Wangui Kanina
NAIROBI, May 29 (Reuters) – The challenges facing Africa to fight climate change are enormous and costs are huge though hard to quantify, South Africa’s environment minister said on Friday.
Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said her peers from more than 30 African countries, meeting in Nairobi, had agreed a joint position on climate change, to be presented at negotiations in Copenhagen this December.
“Increased support to Africa should be based on priorities which include adaptation, capacity building, financing and technology development and transfer,” she told a news conference.
The world’s poorest continent is expected to be hardest hit by climate change, despite having the lowest emissions of greenhouse gases.
According to the United Nations, between 250 and 750 million people in Africa will face water shortages by 2020, while in some African countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent by 2020.
‘Aló Presidente,’ Are You Still Talking?
Venezuela’s Chávez Conducts 4-Day Show
By Juan Forero
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, May 30, 2009
CARACAS, Venezuela, May 29 — There’s probably no president in the world as loquacious as Hugo Chávez, the self-styled revolutionary leader who frequently commandeers the Venezuelan airwaves to deliver monologues that can last hours.
Now, he is threatening to break his own record with a special four-day episode of “Aló Presidente,” or “Hello President,” to commemorate the 10th anniversary of a program that is part talk show, part bully pulpit and all Chávez.
“We never tape; we never script,” Chávez said Friday afternoon. Shaking hands and hugging visitors, he said the program offers a lesson to all who tune in. “That is ‘Aló Presidente,’ a class — a permanent class,” he said, noting that this is the 331st episode.