U.S. rethinks strategy for an unthinkable attack
Administration’s problem: How to spread advice without causing alarm?
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.
The advice is based on recent scientific analyses indicating that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.
Arctic’s vanishing sea ice presents polar bear with a new danger – grizzlies
Fears for future of gene pool as interbreeding between vulnerable species driven together by global warming gathers pace
By Steve Connor, Science Editor Thursday, 16 December 2010
The rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic is encouraging the formation of hybrids between related species which could accelerate the decline of some of the region’s most vulnerable animals, a study has found.
Scientists believe that the diminishing area of the Arctic Ocean that is covered by floating sea ice is forcing the polar bear to come into closer contact with the related grizzly bear, resulting in hybrids that could threaten the distinctive gene pool of both species.
Other examples of hybrids in the Arctic region include a narwhal-beluga whale cross found in west Greenland and an apparent hybrid of a bowhead and right whale photographed in the Bering Sea in 2009. Porpoises and seals are also known to be involved in cross-breeding, the researchers said.
U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
Published: December 15, 2010
WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information.
Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.
Administration’s next big Afghan battle: How many troops to withdraw
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 16, 2010; 12:06 AM
President Obama’s national security team this week revisited the same vexing issues it worked through a year ago in devising the administration’s troop escalation in Afghanistan. This time, one key element was missing: impassioned dissent.
While the group concluded that Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy is showing signs of progress, divisions persist beneath the appearance of harmony. But skeptics in the administration have decided to hold their fire until late next spring, when Obama must decide how many troops he intends to withdraw starting in July to fulfill a pledge he made when he announced a troop increase last December.
EU strategy in defence of euro risky for markets
The Irish Times – Thursday, December 16, 2010
ARTHUR BEESLEY, European Correspondent
EU LEADERS have adopted the “high risk” strategy of holding in reserve any new measures to escalate their defence of the euro as they prepare to revise the Lisbon Treaty to create a permanent bailout scheme for distressed single currency countries.
With Spain under renewed pressure on the eve of a key summit after Moody’s rating agency warned it might downgrade its debt, well-placed diplomats said European leaders were unlikely to bolster their temporary bailout fund or expand its remit until such time as that could be justified to national parliaments.
Bulgarian row over diplomats with Soviet past
Bulgaria said on Wednesday it may recall many of its top diplomats in capitals across the world following embarrassing revelations that they were spies during the communist era.
Bulgaria started opening up the archives of its notorious Darzhavna Sigurnost secret police in 1997, already unearthing skeletons in the cupboards of thousands of people, including politicians such as the country’s current president Georgy Parvanov.
But the publication this week of the names of ambassadors and top diplomats in capitals ranging from Berlin, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Moscow and Rome to Beijing and Tokyo who all worked as agents or collaborators for the secret services has dealt a humiliating blow to Bulgaria’s foreign service.
Qatar Has High Hopes for 2022 World Cup
By Alexander Smoltczyk in Doha
Shortly before the delegation from football’s international governing body FIFA left Doha on Sept. 16, it was invited to a presentation in a pavilion. The cool, windowless room, furnished with cube-shaped leather armchairs and with lounge music playing on the sound system, could just as easily have been in Madrid or New York.
Atkon, a Berlin-based event planning firm, had spent months working on the 39-minute show that was now unfolding in front of the FIFA experts, complete with 3D technology and surround sound. Laughing children and wise sheikhs swirled across the screens, stadiums grew and the camera zoomed in to show images from the past and the future.
Middle East peace process: Dead but not buried
The US has given up trying to persuade Netanyahu to stop building on occupied land as a prerequisite to talks
The Guardian, Thursday 16 December 2010
The Middle East peace process died a quiet, undramatic death with the statement last week that the US had given up trying to persuade Binyamin Netanyahu to stop building on occupied land as a prerequisite to direct talks with the Palestinians. Few, however, are interested in burying the corpse.
The rightwing coalition under Mr Netanyahu is relaxed about the failure to restart the talks, because half the cabinet do not accept that they are occupying any land other than their own. And anyway, every day without a final status agreement is another day when the cement mixers can whirl and the cranes swivel. Palestinian leaders who recognise Israel are also reluctant to make good their pledges to resign, because they, too, would lose position, power and political meaning. Fatah has still legitimacy, but where would the Palestinian Authority be in Palestinian eyes other than as a surrogate for Israeli soldiers?
The tragedy that shames Australia
At least 28 asylum-seekers drowned in shipwreck off Christmas Island
By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent Thursday, 16 December 2010
Australia’s hardline refugee policies were blamed yesterday for the deaths of at least 28 asylum-seekers whose wooden boat smashed into jagged rocks off Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.
Residents of the rugged volcanic island, an offshore Australian territory, attempted to help, throwing life jackets and ropes into the boiling seas. But they were forced to watch, horrified, as the boat was dashed to pieces and its occupants were scooped up by massive waves and hurled against the limestone cliffs.
US double talk on Myanmar nukes
By Bertil Lintner
BANGKOK – Is Myanmarr truly trying to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and produce ballistic missiles with North Korean assistance, as alleged in a controversial June documentary made by the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and aired by al-Jazeera, or is it all poppycock, as claimed in a November 12 report by United States-based ProPublica, an award-winning US investigative journalism outfit?
The DVB report was based on testimonies from Myanmar army defectors who had been scrutinized by Robert Kelley, a highly regarded former US weapons scientist and former United Nations weapons inspector. ProPublica, on the other hand, quoted an anonymous senior “American official” as saying that the US Central Intelligence Agency had reviewed Kelley’s report “line by line and had rejected its findings”.
Call for calm as senior politicians accused of crimes against humanity
The Irish Times – Thursday, December 16, 2010
JODY CLARKE in Nairobi
THREE GOVERNMENT ministers, including the deputy prime minister, are among six Kenyans accused by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity for their roles in orchestrating the violence that followed the country’s disputed 2007 elections.
Deputy prime minister and finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, the most powerful politician in the Rift Valley, where most of the violence occurred, were the highest profile suspects named by the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, yesterday. Mr Kenyatta is the son of the country’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta.
Human rights council: ‘Scars of apartheid remain’
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
“Studies suggest that despite the support of a progressive constitution and various laudable attempts to heal the deep scars left by apartheid, low levels of trust amongst South Africans of all various races continue to be our reality,” said HRC spokesperson Vincent Moaga.
“This, to a large extent, is as a result of deepening levels of inequality and social injustices that continue to prevail.”
Moaga said in a statement that as the country commemorated Reconciliation Day on December 16 the nation should ask itself whether it had managed to create a country that reflected the wishes and aspirations of all people within it.
Chavez foes, US condemn plan for decree powers
By IAN JAMES, Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez i is using a friendly lame-duck congress to seek broad powers to rule by decree for the next year – a plan that drew strong criticism Wednesday from the U.S. government and opponents who called it a blow to democracy.
For almost five years, Chavez has enjoyed near total control of Venezuela’s National Assembly thanks to a strategic blunder by his foes, who boycotted 2005 elections. That untrammeled power comes to an end Jan. 5 when a new congress arrives, with enough opposition lawmakers to hinder some types of major legislation.
Critics accuse Chavez of trying to sidestep those limits and neutralize his opponents by getting the outgoing congress to give him decree powers for 12 months – allowing him to impose laws on his own. They see it as a power grab by a president they say is steering Venezuela toward Cuba-style socialism.