Monday, January 31, 2011

Middle East: US envoy to Egypt, EU reactions to crisis

Al Jazeera

US envoy in Cairo for talks
State department spokesman says ex-ambassador to Egypt is in capital to reinforce US message to Mubarak's government.

"A former US ambassador to Egypt is in Cairo and "has the ability" to talk to Egyptian leaders, PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, said on Monday.

"Crowley gave no details of who Frank G Wisner, the ambassador to Egypt from 1986 to 1991, would meet but said he would have the opportunity to reinforce the US message to Egypt.

"He also said the Washington believed Egypt should revoke emergency law brought in following mass protests against the government.

"Earlier, Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, dismissed Monday's move by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to appoint a new government, saying the situation in the country called for action, not appointments.

"The White House is calling for free and fair elections in Egypt, but refusing to say whether the Washington believes Mubarak should run in those contests."

read the rest of the article:

UK: Obama working behind the scenes in Egyptian crisis


printed in its entirety

Obama's behind-the-scenes efforts in Egypt
Posted by Mark Mardell

US President Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs continues to dodge the question “should Mubarak go?”

He says that is “not for me, not for our country or our government to determine”.

He also says “the way Egypt looks and operates must change”. He even has a shopping list of what “must happen".

Negotiations with the political opposition. Free and fair elections. More freedoms. More openness. Changes in the constitution. But he was not going to talk about the central demand of the demonstrators.

Nevertheless, the buzz in Washington is that the Obama administration is working behind the scenes to ensure Mr Mubarak goes and the army takes charge until there can be new elections. One source thinks it has got down to the detail of where Mr Mubarak goes, how much money he takes with him and whether he is immune from prosecution.

This may all be diplomatic gossip and wishful think tanking but it is a near unanimous view.

An insider tells me that the administration can’t pull the plug because of the alarm that would cause to all the other authoritarian allies in the region but “I don’t think anybody thinks he can stay: the conversations have changed and all the talk is about an ordered transition.”

He adds that the regime is listening but hasn’t got the message. “Mubarak seems to be out of touch, acting as if it is all a Muslim Brotherhood plot. He’s 82, Vice-President Omar Suleiman is 74, the chief of staff is 75, this really is the old guard in a country where the population is very young.”

The relationship between the United States and the Egyptian army is strong and could be critical. One well-placed source has told the BBC that lines are buzzing between Washington and Cairo, with talk of the new vice-president and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman organising the transition. "$1.7bn in aid buys you the capacity to have that conversation," says the source.

In fact all but a measly $400m of that aid goes to the Egyptian military. There are other ties that bind. Every year for the past 30 years, the Egyptian and US armies have held joint manoeuvres, Operation Bright Star , which have grown in importance and most recently also included Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Greece, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, France and Pakistan.

Just in the past month, one American company has won a $20m contract to provide Egypt with "ground surveillance hardware", another a $7m deal to provide the Egyptian engineering corps with vehicles. Omar Suleiman has long been the main contact for the CIA in the Middle East, its favourite anti-Jihadist guru. A few days ago, the Egyptian chief of staff was an honoured guest at the Pentagon. I would love to have been a fly on the wall.

Shortly after President Barack Obama called for the repression and violence to stop, the Egyptian army appeared on the streets. The police disappeared. The repression and violence stopped. Is this causality or coincidence ?

A former senior US state department Egypt expert, Graeme Bannerman, who has subsequently worked as a consultant for the Egyptian government and is now with the Middle East Institute, is not sure it works like that. He told me that the Egyptian army thinks the police are badly trained and brutal, and that the army has "sympathy for the protesters, they don't want chaos, but see themselves as protectors of the Egyptian people and will do whatever they believe is best for their country".

He thinks that American influence is more subtle than hasty conversations, and is more about 30 years of training the officers of a professional army that has a sense of responsibility and a distaste for the idea of firing on its own population. He agrees that Mr Mubarak's fate has been decided, but those who remain don't want it to seem they have been pushed around by the demonstrators so the "million man march" expected on Tuesday will be critical.

"For the last three days, things have been moving in the right direction, but tomorrow is scary. The progress can be upset if there is violence. If things get out of control the army may act differently because chaos is not acceptable," Mr Bannerman says.

But his sense is that a huge, calm, demonstration under the watchful eye of the army will be another turning point.

Looking at rhetoric after Tucson and now

After the tragic shooting in Tucson last month, the world watched as Sarah Palin was blamed unfairly for the actions of a lunatic. Writing for the BBC in the UK, Mark Mardell wrote on Monday, January 10th,

"That is difficult for Ms Palin and her ambitions. As a self-described pit-bull with lipstick, her appeal is in her ferocious attack. But it is hard to believe she will ever again talk of reloading or even targeting opponents. Her trademark bite and bark may ill fit a newly chastened public mood. It may make her less appealing to Republicans, who are already worried that she can't appeal to the centre. Or this moment of concern may pass quickly and it will be back to business as normal before the month is out. Still, I will be listening to her tone very carefully when she makes her next public speech." (read more at

While most agreed that Mrs. Palin was not at fault, it is important to note that most people also agreed that the violent imagery and vitriol in American politics had gotten out of control. President Obama's speech at the memorial service in Tucson that followed was haled a tremendous success in helping to heal a nation that was in a state of shock. Rhetoric was toned down, senators and congressman sat side by side for the first time during the President's State of the Union address and political pundits claimed innocence in having spurred on the violent actions of anyone.

Time has pass quickly and less than a month later some are practicing the same vitriol that put them in hot water in the first place. I hope that Mr. Mardell is watching as Mrs. Palin speaks again, this time at the Safari Club in Reno, Nevada where the Reno Gazzett Journal reported that Mrs. Palin has toned down her infamous "don't retreat, instead reload" changing it into "don't retreat, stand tall". Sadly, that credit was misplaced as Palin's own spokesperson corrected: "The governor actually did use the phrase 'Don't retreat, reload,'" Mansour told POLITICO ( in an email. "She also said, 'Don't retreat, stand tall.'"

read more:

UK: Palin says B.S. to tabloid claim

The Daily Mail

Todd cheat on me? That's B.S.: Sarah Palin hits back at rumours her husband had an affair

Sarah Palin has called reports her husband cheated on her with a massage therapist 'B.S.'.

"The former vice presidential candidate was speaking on an Alaskan morning radio show when she refuted the claims made in the National Enquirer earlier this month,

"Speaking on 'The Bob and Mark morning show', she called the claims 'a waste of time'.

read more:

Taiwan: US facing difficult challenge in Egypt

Taiwan News

Analysis: The US moral conundrum in Egypt

"As with Iran 30 years ago, American leaders again are wrestling with the moral conflict between Washington's demands for democracy among its friends and strategic coziness with dictatorial regimes seen as key to stability in an increasingly complex world, particularly the Middle East.

"The turmoil in Egypt _ and it's potential for grave consequences for U.S. policy throughout the region _ was inevitable. The recent WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic reports showed that Washington knew what problems it increasingly faced with the regime of President Hosni Mubarak and his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

"As importantly, the U.S. handling of Egyptian uprising, regardless of how it plays out, now has other close American friends in the Middle East _ particularly in Saudi Arabia and Jordan _ watching closely, looking for foreshadowings of what might be in store for them.

"For that reason, U.S. officials have taken great pains to walk a middle line between Mubarak, an old friend and bulwark ally in the Arab world, and the profound street protests that threaten to drive him from power."

read the rest of the article:

Middle East: Israel urges US to back Mubarak

Al Jazeera

'Anxious' Israel backs Egypt regime
As US and EU leaders urge Egypt to reform in face of popular uprising, Israel voices support for Mubarak's government

"Some in Israel have compared US president Barack Obama's response to the crisis to that of former US president Jimmy Carter to the Iranian revolution in 1979. Obama has called on Mubarak to show restraint and pass unspecified reforms in Egypt.

"Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as 'the president who lost Iran', which during his term went from being a major strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic republic," Aluf Benn, an analyst in Haaretz, wrote.

"Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who 'lost' Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America's alliances in the Middle East crumbled."

"Still, the Obama administration has stopped short of calling for the resignation of president Mubarak, and as of Sunday, the Pentagon continued to have high-level discussions with the Egytian military."

read the rest of the article:

Australia: US and Egyptian crisis

The Sydney Morning Herald

Pressure on US to abandon Mubarak

"Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei put pressure on the United States on Sunday to support calls for President Hosni Mubarak to step down, saying "life support to the dictator" must end.

"In a series of interviews with US television networks from Cairo, ElBaradei also said he had a mandate to negotiate a national unity government and would soon reach out to the army, at the heart of power in Egypt for more than a half century.

"ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace laureate for his work with the UN nuclear agency, said it was only a matter of time before Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for three decades, stepped down. He urged US President Barack Obama to take a stand."

read the rest of the article:

UK: US economy

The Independent

article printed in its entirety

Growth in the US economy improves
By Jamie Grierson, PA

US economic growth continued to pick up speed in the final three months of 2010 as Americans spent at the fastest rate in four years and exports rose.

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis said GDP grew at an annualised rate of 3.2% between October and December, which was up on the annual rate of 2.6% in the previous quarter. The US economy grew by 2.9% in the whole of 2010, which is the strongest year of growth since 2005.
Related articles

However, analysts said while growth in the US is too weak to ease its high unemployment rate, today's figures should boost hopes for a stronger 2011.

The figures come three days after shock data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that UK output went into reverse in the fourth quarter - declining 0.5% on a quarterly basis.

The US economy has consistently grown since a rough patch in spring last year. Growth in 2010 follows the US economy's worst decline in 60 years in 2009.

Increased consumer spending was a key reason the economy grew more strongly, as Americans boosted their spending at a 4.4% pace - the most since 2006. The data revealed they spent more on furnishings, appliances, cars and clothes.

Consumer spending accounts for roughly 70% of overall economic activity.

But the figures also revealed that imports shrank and exports grew, resulting in net trade contributing to 3.4% of GDP growth.

The dollar was strengthened by the data, up at 1.58 against the pound, although Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average fell.

The growth will be welcomed at the Bank of England as international growth will be essential if the UK's fragile recovery is to stay on track.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at financial information services company Markit, said: "The acceleration of US GDP in the fourth quarter, and the changing composition of growth, raises hope that the economic recovery will move into a more self-sustaining phase in 2011 and generate sufficient jobs to reduce unemployment."

But he added: "The main concern is that growth could remain too weak to stimulate a sufficiently high rate of job creation to reduce stubbornly-high unemployment, but today's GDP data at least take a step in the right direction of raising hopes that talk of a jobless recovery may prove misplaced in 2011."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Russia: One American's opinion about their President and the Country's wellbeing

PJ: The following piece, from Pravda, was written by an American. While many in the US and around the world tout the country's strength in its ability to meet the challenges of the future, such as when President Obama, in his State of the Union address spoke of "winning the future", some, like this author, do not necessarily agree


Barack Obama's five empty promises
By Michael Snyder

"So it would be really great if Barack Obama could do something about all of this debt, but based on his track record perhaps we should not be holding our breath.

"Not that Obama is to blame for all of this.

"The sad reality is that both parties have been involved in a massive debt orgy for decades and decades. Now the day of reckoning is almost here and it is going to be incredibly painful.

"We are in so much trouble that it is hard to even try to put it into words. None of our politicians are telling us the whole truth. We are headed for a complete and total disaster."

UK: Obama and Cairo

The Economist

Could it be any worse?

"Shortly after Mubarak spoke, so did Barack Obama. He called on the Egyptian president to "give meaning" to his promises to improve the lot of the Egyptian people. But all this makes it a cruel irony that Mr Obama chose Cairo as the venue for the big speech in 2009 that was designed to start to restore America's relations with the Muslim world. One of the main promises he held out there—American help for Palestinian statehood—has recently run into the sand as the result of what even his admirers admit was a sequence of cack-handed diplomatic fumbles, notably the mistake of picking a fight over Israeli settlements and then backing down. Now he will be judged, not only in Egypt but well beyond, by whose side he takes in the showdown between Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian people.

"So far, the administration has been trying hard to avoid making a choice: Mubarak is our ally but we deplore violence and are on the side of "reform", goes the line. Hillary Clinton has called for restraint on all sides and for the restoration of communications. She said America supported the universal rights of the Egyptians, and called for urgent political, economic and social reforms. This is a sensible enough line to take, but sitting on the fence becomes increasingly uncomfortable as events unfold."

read the rest of the article:

China: Obama on Egypt crisis

Obama warns Egypt against violence

"WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama called Friday on Egyptian authorities not to use violence against raging political protests, and drove home his message in a 30-minute phone call with President Hosni Mubarak.

"His warning came as the United States toughened its line on Mubarak's government, a key Middle Eastern ally, warning it would review billions of dollars in aid to Egypt based on the behavior of the security forces.

"Obama urged Mubarak to take "concrete" steps towards political reforms, saying he must turn "a moment of volatility" into "a moment of promise" after a day of rage in Egyptian cities on which the death toll from protests hit 27.

"I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters," Obama said, after aides said the White House was readying for any possible political scenarios in Egypt.

"The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association. The right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny."

read the rest of the story:

Middle East: US reconsiders Egyptian aid

Al Jazeera

article printed in its entirety

US to reconsider aid to Egypt
White House officials are evaluating the annual package given to the embattled Egyptian government.
By Laila Al-Arian

In the aftermath of Egypt’s crackdown on protesters on Friday, Washington has announced it is reviewing its aid package to the country.

Egypt has received $28bn in assistance since 1975, according to the US Agency for International Development. While USAID's website says the funds have gone to programs devoted to health, trade and education – among other things – most US aid goes to Egypt's military.

Egypt receives close to $2bn in economic and military aid every year, making it the second largest recipient of US foreign assistance after Israel. Of that, $1.3bn is devoted to military assistance, according to the Congressional Research Service, the public policy arm of the US congress.

One third of Egypt's military aid is used to upgrade its weapons systems - in essence to replace older Soviet weapons with US arms, according to a CRS report.

During the past four days of protests, it's been widely reported that tear gas canisters fired at protesters are stamped "Made in USA".

Among the weapons the US has provided Egypt: F-4 jet aircraft, F-16 jet fighters, armoured personnel carriers, Apache helicopters, antiaircraft missile batteries, and aerial surveillance aircraft, according to the US State Department.

In addition to modernising Egypt's military hardware, the US participates in joint military exercises with the Arab world's most populous nation, including Operation Bright Start, the largest event of its kind in the region.

The basis of US assistance to the country is the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979, which promised aid to Egypt in return for maintaining the agreement. The US largely views Egypt as a moderating force in the Arab world and a key mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Critics of Washington's policy towards Egypt argue that the financial assistance does not curry favor with the Egyptian people.

Writing for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 2009, Ahmad Al-Sayed El-Naggar said the money "does not aim to strengthen Egyptian military power against any external threat, as this would be contrary to the declared US objective of ensuring Israeli security and maintaining Israeli military supremacy over its Arab neighbors, including Egypt. Instead, this aid is devoted mainly to strengthening the regime's domestic security and its ability to confront popular movements".

Last December, a leaked US cable released by WikiLeaks revealed there is frustration on the part of Egyptian military officials who believe the $1.3bn a year in military aid is not enough.

According to the cable, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for the Middle East, Dr. Colin Kahl, told them it was unlikely that the US would increase its aid given the "difficult financial times".

He did, however, reassure the Egyptian officials that the US government would continue to advocate for current levels of military assistance, the cable states, "and push back on any attempts to condition those funds".

UK: Obama, getting it right in Egypt

The Telegraph

What next for Egypt, the USA and the Middle East?
As Washington struggles to come to terms with a rapidly changing Middle East, US President Barack Obama is acutely aware he must get Egypt right, for the wrong side of history eagerly beckons.

"Rather late in proceedings, Mr Obama himself produced a more calibrated response on Friday, edging away from Hosni Mubarak and effectively putting the Egyptian leader on notice. "This moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise," said the US president, who urged that "reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people".

"It was a similar choice of words to that used a day earlier by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, whose reactions have been less equivocal than the Americans' but equally cautious.

"It is important in this situation to respond positively to legitimate demands for reform... that would be my advice to Egyptian leaders and to many others around the Arab world," he said.

"Reform, of course, is very different from regime change, which is what those on the streets of Egypt's cities seem to be demanding, and Mr Obama is acutely aware he must get Egypt right, for the wrong side of history eagerly beckons.

"Some in his administration still feel stung by criticism that they did not stand up for Iran's Green Movement when it braved Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's thugs in the summer of 2009.

"Failure now to support Egyptian men and women braving police bullets and batons, and being too closely identified with an ageing agent of tyranny, could wipe out Washington's credibility with a generation of young Arabs. Cairo, the very city where the US president famously declared a "new beginning" in relations between the America and the Muslim world early in his presidency, could become the graveyard of that ambition."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Israel: Netanyahu offers no comment while Obama urges restraint

PM Netanyahu: Israel will monitor but not comment on Egypt protests

"A senior official in Jerusalem said, "Israel is in no way interested in involving itself in Egypt's affairs, and therefore we have received clear instructions to keep a low profile in the Egyptian matter."

"The American government has adopted a different strategy, with President Barak Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs all discussing Egypt's current chaotic predicament in televised addresses Friday.

"In his speech Friday evening, President Obama called on the government and protesters to resolve the current situation peacefully on both sides. He implored the Egyptian government to lift the ban it has placed on the internet and allow civilians to resume their use of social media outlets to promote their cause.

"President Obama pledged America's support, stating "Surely, there will be difficult days to come, but the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful.""

read the rest of the article:

Australia: Mubarak deliant as Obama wades in

The Sydney Morning Herald

Egypt in revolt as Mubarak stands fast
By Samer al-Atrush

"US President Barack Obama called on the Egyptian authorities not to use violence against the political protests, driving home his message in a 30-minute phone call with Mubarak.

"Obama urged Mubarak to take "concrete" steps towards political reforms, saying he must turn "a moment of volatility" into "a moment of promise."

"Washington has toughened its line on a key Middle Eastern ally, warning Egypt it would review billions of US dollars in aid based on the behaviour of its security forces.

"Egypt is one of the world's largest recipients of US aid, receiving $1.3 billion annually in military assistance alone."

read the rest of the article:

Canada: Obama's Egyptian challenge, remembering Iran

The National Post

Peter Goodspeed: Obama faces a Jimmy Carter moment in Egypt

"Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution is spreading with the same wildfire uncertainty as the tumult that deposed the Shah of Iran 32 years ago.

"Then, as now, the United States and the the West were caught almost totally by surprise as they witnessed a world they had confidently managed and manipulated suddenly transform itself before their eyes.

"The Arab world’s sudden, unprecedented, public demonstrations calling for authoritarian leaders to step down has the potential to produce fundamental change, as surely as the thronging thousands in Tehran changed the Middle East with their chants of “Death to America” and “Islam, Islam, Khomeini, We Will Follow You.”

"Today, as Egypt endures its third straight day of turmoil, it is easy to believe the crowds clashing with police believe they are eroding the foundations of Arab authoritarianism. Each demonstration, each round of tear gas, each fallen dissident and each Internet-fueled call for further rebellion is empowering and enlisting young people who demand change — even if they have no real idea where that may lead."

Read the rest of the article:

UK: Obama addresses Egyptian crisis

The Independent

Analysis: Obama tough _ not too tough _ with Egypt

"Obama aimed high: "The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights and the United States will stand up for them everywhere."

"But he tempered the bold idealism of a world of universal rights with a strong plea for peaceful protests. And he was clear that Mubarak's government still had some U.S. support. "We are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people," Obama said.

"The need for balance is obvious. Completely alienating Mubarak would be a disaster for the U.S. if his government weathers the storm, possibly harming cooperation in the Mideast peace process or on counterterrorism."

read the rest of the article:

Middle East: Experts on current unrest

Al Jazeera

Analysis: Upheaval in Egypt
Experts speak to Al Jazeera about the protests and what they mean.

View the video:

Middle East: Obama urges reform

Al Jazeera

Obama urges reform in Egypt
US president calls on his Egyptian counterpart to take concrete steps towards political reform

"The US president has called on his Egyptian counterpart to take concrete steps towards political
reform, and to refrain from using violence against thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets across Egypt.

"I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters," Barack Obama said in a statement shortly after speaking with Hosni Mubarak by telephone for 30 minutes on Saturday.

"The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association. The right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights.""

read the rest of the story:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Canada: Obama walks a difficult line in Egyptian crisis

The Vancouver Sun

U.S. remains watchful during Egyptian unrest

Obama walks a fine line between supporting democratic reform in Middle East and propping up longtime Arab ally. Unrest after the people's revolution in Tunisia is spreading like wildfire in the Arab world, with major protests in at least four countries. Today, opponents of the Egyptian government have called for mass demonstrations after Friday prayers.

By Stephen Collinson, Agence France-Presse

"Egypt's political unrest leaves Washington torn between freedom-seeking protesters and an authoritarian government that has been a vital ally -- a dilemma with deep implications for its troubled Middle East policy.

""Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been a fulcrum of U.S. regional strategy for decades, a guarantor of his nation's peace with U.S. ally Israel and a central player in successive and frustrated American peace initiatives.

But with his 30-year rule seemingly under threat, amid talk of a possible "Arab spring" of revolt against authoritarian rulers, U.S. policy-makers must pick their way through a political minefield."

Read the rest of the story:

UK: Michelle Bachmann replaces Sarah Palin as Tea Party star

The Telegraph

Michele Bachmann emerges as face of Tea Party as Sarah Palin's star wanes
By Toby Harnden

"With Mrs Palin's political star apparently on the wane after a much-criticised response to the Arizona shootings, Mrs Bachmann appears ready and willing to step into the breach.

"Although the official Republican response to Mr Obama's address to Congress was made by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Tea Party response by Mrs Bachmann was carried live on CNN.

"Mr Ryan, 40, a mild-mannered fiscal policy specialist, was scathing about Mr Obama's policies but maintained a measured tone, speaking with unadorned, straightforward language.

"At points, he even praised Mr Obama, stating that "some of his words were reassuring".

"In contrast, Mrs Bachmann, who worked as a tax lawyer before becoming a full-time mother, spoke emotively, even provocatively, providing what one Republican strategist described as "red meat for the Tea party crowd". "

read the rest of the article:

UK: Gingrich's legacy to be revisited?

The Economist

The ghost of Gingrich
Remember that thriller from 15 years ago? Prepare for a sequel, or two

"HISTORY never repeats itself exactly, whether as tragedy or farce, but when Barack Obama gave his state-of-the-union address to Congress this week there was no escaping the ethereal presence of a spirit from time past. Many of the greyer Republican heads, inevitably, were consulting their memories of 1995, and in particular of the antics at that time of one of America’s most pyrotechnical politicians, Newt Gingrich."

read the rest of the story:

New Zealand: Palin's scathing response

New Zealand Herald

article printed in its entirety

Palin issues scathing response to Obama speech

Sarah Palin has issued a scathing response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, attacking his economic policies and "recycled rhetoric," which she says no longer inspires hope.

In a lengthy missive on Facebook, Palin didn't mention the call for unity that Obama made in his speech Tuesday.

Rather, she focused her attention on his economic proposals, calling his ideas for investments in areas like high-speed rail "half-baked." She says they'd put the nation on a ``bullet train to bankruptcy." She also said Obama doesn't understand that debt is the biggest problem facing the nation.

She noted the speech was dubbed "Winning the Future," and suggested that the acronym of that title, "WTF," is an apt way to describe the speech.

Australia: Notible Quotes

The Sydney Morning Herald

Celebrity Quotes of the Week

"A country that comes up with someone like her gets what it deserves. She's the hero of morons" - Ruby Wax on Sarah Palin.

For more celebrity quotes:

Middle East: With current unrest, waiting for Obama to promote democracy?


President Obama, say the 'D-Word'

US appears to shy away from talk about democracy in Middle East, despite historic anti-government rallies in ally Egypt.

"It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and "non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that really matters: democracy.

"How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama spoke the word loudly and clearly - at least once.

"The fourth issue that I will address is democracy," he declared, before explaining that while the United States won't impose its own system, it was committed to governments that "reflect the will of the people... I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

"No matter where it takes hold," the president concluded, "government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power."

read the rest of the story:

China: US and Syria

People's Daily

Will U.S.' 'reconsideration' of Syria be enduring

"US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford expressed his pleasure to be back to Syria as he presented his credential to Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad on Thursday, January 27. He noted that his return indicated the US determination to resolve its longstanding problem with the Syrian government. Robert Ford resumed his post from a vacancy of nearly six years.

"This is aimed at helping the push to a Middle East peace accord. "His (Robert Ford's) appointment represents President Obama's commitment to use engagement to advance US interests by improving communication with the Syrian government and people," the White House said in a recent statement. And media in the Middle East generally deem that the move opened the front door to dialogues with Syria."

Read the rest of the story:

UK: WTF Sarah Palin


Sarah Palin's WTF reaction to the SOTU

"But is that really an appropriate pun for a mother and a serious politician to make?

"It’s the kind of quip anyone might make in a sports bar or sitting around watching the TV. To actually say it on TV, however, is a different thing. It underlines the growing feeling that Palin is a positioning herself as a pundit and provocateur, not a presidential candidate."

Read the rest of the article:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Canada: FOX News and its GOP candidate

The National Post

article printed in its entirety

Choosing the 2012 Fox Party presidential candidate
by Kelly McParland

FrumForum points out that Monday was the fourth anniversary of Barack Obama formally declaring his intention to run for the presidency, but as of yet none of the would-be 2012 Republican candidates has taken the same step.

There are different reasons for this, but one consideration is the fact that so many potential Republican candidates work for Fox TV, and would have to give up their jobs as high-profile pundits, losing the free publicity they get in the bargain.

According to MediaMatters, the value of the free air time they get comes to about $55 million a year. The biggest benefactor is Mike Huckabee, with Sarah Palin in second spot. The candidates/pundits also get paid for their time and would lose that income, though it seems unlikely any would be forced onto the streets as a result.

It’s an indication of how potent a role Fox plays in Republican circles. Imagine if five wanna-be Democrat candidates were all employed by CBS. Having Dan Rather on the payroll in itself inspired decades of snarls about the biased eastern media elite.

Read more:

Canada: Guilty of a Palinism?

The Star

Peter MacKay’s embarrassing flub with the ‘Governator’

"Sarah Palin can see Russia from her place in Alaska, but our own Peter MacKay thinks he can zip across the British Columbia border to Los Angeles.

"The defence minister came out with this in Winnipeg Tuesday evening: “California and British Columbia have a shared border, a strong relationship. And some would say that our countries are probably as close as any two nations on the planet.”

"MacKay was speaking with California’s “Governator,” former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Fairmont Hotel."

the story:

UK: Economic leaders warn that tensions between the US and China are biggest threat

The Economist

The world's biggest worry

"SO WHAT is the biggest security risk confronting the global economy? Given the turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt, some may say political upheaval in the Arab world. Others, eyeing the $100 a barrel oil price, may fear a petro-disruption. Cold warriors always worry about loose nukes, and the massive suicide bomb that exploded at Domodedovo airport in Moscow on Monday certainly raises worries about Russia.

"The Global Agenda Council on Geopolitical Risk, an expert advisory group to the World Economic Forum, told the WEF's gathering in Davos today that it thinks none of these is in fact the biggest economic worry. It is the rebalancing of global power from established economies to emerging giants. In particular, the group foreshadows "greater political and trade conflict between the United States and China". Whether it is China's quest for energy and resource security via investments in Africa or its increasingly muscular defence of its "near abroad", the potential for proxy wars or even direct conflict looks set to grow."

For links to other stories and audio on this subject go to:

France: Comparing Italy's popular politician to Obama

PJ writes: This is an interesting comparison between one of Italy's most popular politicians and President Obama. While not connecting their politics, the author draws some comparisons for both political leaders tenacity and vision. Has Obama's popularity and success become the new yardstick for international leaders?

Le Monde

Nichi Vendola, the Italian Obama

He’s one of the country’s most popular politicians, net and social-networking confident, adored by the young and might lead a leftish coalition in the next general election. And he tries to keep a belief in politics alive
by Chase Madar

Korea: Talking to North Korea

The Korea Times

Any point in talking with NK?
By Michael Breen

"Consider the alternatives. We could do nothing. We could pretend, and hand the talks job over to foreign ministry interns in the five capitals and get those experienced chaps onto more important diplomatic duties. But then we know these two options will prompt North Korea, like a celebrity without a show, to go downhill and do bad things. Like it did last year to South Korea.

"How’s about we just invade? On the night the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island, a government official who will remain nameless suggested to an informal group that we need to send a ``Rambo mission” to take out the Fat One and end this ongoing nightmare. Of course, he didn’t mean it. He wanted it ― wouldn’t we all like to see the video? ― but wasn’t really suggesting it.

"But consider these courses of action for a serious moment, assassination or invasion. Better still, both. But when you ponder the likely consequences, and then stretch the imagination to factor in possible unintended consequences, the reason for the six-party talks becomes apparent."

To read the full column click:

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You no longer have to copy and paste the links provided, just click on the link and you will automatically be connected to the original article.

Russia: How the US enables the drug cartels as it tries to fight them


If the U.S. put an end to drug use
by Emir Sader

"The Central American region is the poorest on the continent with a per capita GDP of $2,700, less than a third of Mexico. The amount of drugs and weapons seized in Guatemala in the first six months of 2010 amount to 5% of the national GDP - to get an idea of the weight and pull the resources from the trade in these countries represent. But Mexico receives 84% of the total allocation of resources to combat drug trafficking, according to the Measured Initiative Program of the U.S.

"As the Americans imagined a country without the Mexicans - in an attitude of even bigger incitement to discrimination - we imagine the world without the use of drugs by the U.S.A. A country like Mexico and throughout Central America, would be affected very positively by the weakening of the drug cartels and gangs that proliferate from them.

"But the U.S.A., the giant worldwide inducer of the production and trafficking of drugs, as always, diverts from the roots of the problem to other countries, seeking the extradition of traffickers and eradication by means of chemical poisons in large areas where the coca leaf is produced for the consumption of its population, the false solution for the problem.

"If the U.S. was systematically attacking the entry of drugs into their territory, if they would prevent the deployment of sophisticated weaponry to Mexican cartels, if they were striking the millionaire deep network that earns huge profits from trafficking, and arresting traffickers and disconnecting their networks - the world would live better. But the society that consumes the most drugs in the world, becoming its largest consumer market, is a society largely dependent on drugs to survive, leading the lifestyle that it takes and trying to spread the disease to other countries."

read the entire article:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

UK: Watching Bachmann's SOTU Response

The Guardian

Michele Bachmann's Tea Party overdrive mocked for Obama response

State of the union: self-styled Tea Party leader in Congress breaks with convention and is ridiculed for gaffes

"Erin McPike of the conservative website RealClearPolitics said the big difference between Ryan's official Republican response and Bachmann's statement was one of tone: while Ryan said the Republicans would work with the White House in reducing the national deficit, Bachmann "offered a litany of criticisms of Obama's economic measures".

"Bloggers swiftly pointed out exaggerations and half-truths in some of those criticisms. Bachmann, for instance, said the "bureaucracy now tells us which light bulbs to buy and may put 16,500 IRS [tax] agents in charge of policing President Obama's healthcare bill".

"That is an old canard from last year's mid-term elections which politics website Factcheck debunked as "partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation".

"Even more ridicule was heaped on Bachmann for comments at the end of her statement, where she sought to conclude on a rousing patriotic note. As the backdrop changed to the famous photograph of the American flag being raised over the Pacific island of Iwo Jima she talked about the "miracle" of America's creation, referring to the battle of Iwo Jima at the close of the second world war as "a battle against all odds".

"David Frum, a former speechwriter for George Bush, was one of many to highlight the historical inaccuracy of that statement. He tweeted: "Did Bachmann really say that Iwo Jima was a battle against the odds? For the Japanese I guess …""

read the rest of the article:

World Reactions to SOTU


The Independent

Obama speech calls for unity to build economy

"President Barack Obama urged America last night to move beyond political point-scoring and focus all its energies instead on rising to what he called the country's "Sputnik moment" to create a new world-beating economy built on innovation and new industries.

"Choosing to spend the large part of his State of the Union address last night on the economy rather than national security or foreign affairs, Mr Obama sketched a future detached from the experience of the last several years which have been ones of partisan head-butting and relentlessly high unemployment.

"It was an upbeat tone that critics will see as hollow. With the Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives in the wake of last November's midterm elections, Mr Obama has no choice but to seek bipartisan co-operation. New political tempests are on the way meanwhile as Republicans demand steep cuts in federal spending and liberals on the left accuse him of being too eager to comprises."


"The Republican leadership on Capitol Hill attempted to take the spotlight off the President, earlier in the day unveiling plans to slash domestic spending in the US by roughly 22 per cent. The cuts will be at the heart of budget proposals that will be tabled by the party in the middle of next month.

"The clashing rhetoric before and after the President's speech stood in jarring contrast to the atmosphere that Mr Obama sought to summon of political civility and bipartisanship, tapping into a national mood that has sprung in part from the attempted assassination two weeks ago of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Relatives of the six victims of the shooting were invited to the public gallery last night.

"In a break with tradition, the Obama address was to be followed last night not by one Republican response but two. The official riposte was to be delivered by the new budget committee chairman, Representative Paul Ryan, while Michele Bachmann, the conservative congresswoman and Tea Party standard bearer, was to deliver an alternative reply. Some saw in this a developing schism in Republican ranks.

"The Republican goal of returning spending to 2008 levels with a one-year saving of about $60bn is a personal rebuke to Mr Obama – that was the last year he was not in office."

read the full article:

The Economist

Live-blogging the state-of-the-union address

"IT SEEMS like only yesterday that Barack Obama was licking his wounds after a mid-term election in which his party was thoroughly "shellacked". But a successful lame-duck session and Mr Obama's deft handling of a tragedy in Tucson have restored some of the lustre to his presidency. Improbably, when the president addresses a joint session of Congress tonight, he will do so from a position of increasing strength. Polls show Americans are more optimistic than at any other time in his presidency, and his personal poll numbers have risen apace.

"But state-of-the-union speeches are rarely political game-changers, and this one is more likely to be remembered as the opening thrust in a battle with Republicans over the federal budget and economic policy. We already know that Mr Obama will propose a partial spending freeze, but Republicans want deeper cuts, and a government shut-down is not out of the question. Others may see Mr Obama's speech as the first of the presidential campaign season. There will certainly be no shortage of critiques from ambitious Republicans. For now, though, the critiques of your ambitious bloggers must suffice. So let's sit back and see what the president has to say."

Read the (very entertaining) comments during the live blog:


The Syndney Morning Herald

Obama outlines plans to rebuff China
January 27, 2011

article printed in its entirety

THE world witnessed an extraordinary moment yesterday when a US President felt compelled to remind his country that America's economy was still the world's biggest.

"Remember," Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address, "for all the hits we've taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world."

It is by far the largest. The US economy produced $US15.1 trillion worth of goods and services last year, about 230 per cent the size of China's $US6.4 trillion.
Advertisement: Story continues below

Yet the country did need reminding. A Pew poll this month found almost half of Americans - 47 per cent - named China as the world's leading economic power. Only 31 per cent named their own country.

The annual ranking of the world's most powerful people by the American business magazine Forbes listed China's President, Hu Jintao, as No. 1 last year. Obama was ranked second, the reverse of a year earlier.

To use market parlance, the US is trading at a big discount to its face value. A key reason is that it has built up the world's biggest debts while China has accumulated the biggest assets.

The address was essentially a plan for an American response to China's challenge.

He named China but also India as America's economic competitors: "Just recently, China became home to the world's largest private solar research facility, and the world's fastest computer."

And when he invoked the historical threat from the Soviet Union by declaring "this is our generation's Sputnik moment", he was, in effect, proposing something akin to a national, economic, Cold War effort.

Not a destructive war of trade sanctions and punitive measures but a positive response of American competitive revival.

He signalled a budget with big boosts to investment in "biomedical research, information technology and especially clean-energy technology".

The US, he said, had to "out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world".

Second, Obama planned to "make America the best place on earth to do business" by cutting the corporate tax rate - something that has not happened in a quarter of a century.

Third was to promise to cut federal spending: "The final step - a critical step - in winning the future is to make sure we aren't buried under a mountain of debt."

The President's rivals, the Republicans who now control the House of Representatives, will be interested in cutting spending and corporate taxes but will fight his investment plan.

Obama acknowledged that "it will be harder because we will argue about everything". But he welcomed the argument as a part of the democratic way.

The man who launched China's thrusting modernisation, the late Deng Xiaoping, thought this a handicap: "Our efficiency is higher; we carry things out as soon as we have made up our mind," he said in 1987.

But then again, Deng also said that "the Americans cannot compete with the Soviet Union".


The New Yorker
Letter from China

printed in its entirety

China’s View of the State of the Union
Posted by Evan Osnos

In the State of the Union address, President Obama staked out a new rationale for reviving America’s industrious creativity: where he once argued that renewed innovation would combat recession, he has now framed the endeavor as an existential necessity in the face of urgent competition from abroad. We can call it the Clash of Innovations.

Obama made four explicit references to China—the most of any S.O.T.U. that I can recall—but he also made several other, more subtle, nods to China that are no less important in understanding where the real challenge does and does not lie. First, the explicit references: They served a keep-up-with-the-Joneses function, reminding Americans that China is now “home to the world’s largest private solar research facility and the world’s fastest computer.” Picking up on a theme that has become the mantra of American visitors to Beijing and Shanghai, he went on: “China is building faster trains and newer airports.” All of those are true statements, and, for good measure, he might have added that China doubled its wind-power capacity in 2006 and then doubled it again the next year, and the year after. Or that China had effectively no solar industry in 2003, and, five years later, it was manufacturing more solar cells than any other country.

In declaring this “our generation’s Sputnik moment,” he embraced a phrase that has moved steadily through the food chain of American discourse, from the woolly corners of think-tank analyses to Thomas Friedman’s exhortations, and now to the main stage of policy rhetoric. To understand how China has been able to make up so much ground so fast, it’s useful to know that, as I wrote last year, China had its own Sputnik moment—but it wasn’t recent. As far as I can tell, it was twenty-one years ago: March, 1986, when top Chinese scientists realized that decades of relentless focus on defense spending had crippled the country’s civilian scientific establishment. As a result, the government began pumping billions of dollars into labs and universities and experimental enterprises, on projects ranging from cloning to underwater robots. (In 2001, Chinese officials abruptly expanded one program in particular—energy technology—which helps explain why clean energy has gotten a head start in China.)

While those comparisons are sobering, there is another side of the Chinese innovation picture that is less imposing. As news broke today in China of Obama’s comparisons, there were was a bit of crowing from Chinese nationalists, but the more widespread reaction was simply disbelief. “China is still by no means a rival of America’s,” wrote a commenter at “I don’t see areas that should make us proud,” wrote another. Even at the reliably nationalistic Huanqiu site, commenters took note of Obama’s acknowledgement of American weakness: “What a contrast with China. Although the U.S. is strong, it is still looking for shortcomings,” one person wrote. Some of this just reflects a self-image that lags behind the pace of change in China, but it also speaks to a deep and credible Chinese concern that its education system and intellectual environment do not promote the kind of radical thinking that is needed for breakthrough innovation. Obama did not name China when he said, “Our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like ‘What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ” Likewise, he didn’t need to single out Beijing when he cited “some countries” in which “if the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.”

The connection that he did not make explicit is that governments that define what appears in the newspaper, or declare which homes get bulldozed without due process, struggle to go from producing solar panels that were invented abroad to imagining what the next generation of solar panels will look like in the first place. Three-quarters of Chinese companies conduct no research and development at all. In his new book, “Advantage,” Adam Segal of the Council on Foreign Relations makes a compelling case for the American edge in the “software” of innovation—the “politics, social relations, and institutions that move ideas from the lab to the marketplace.” He has a point, and it is by no means a reason to dismiss the President’s call to intellectual arms. China has awoken to the challenge of reviving its capacity for deep innovation, but that is a harder skill to acquire than simply replicating other ideas efficiently. The challenge for America is not to become more like China, but to become more like itself when it was at its best.

Read more

Russia (sadly) focues on America's outdated (and dumb) laws in most read opinion piece


America, Land of the Free?

Ahhh, in what imaginary realm? Yes, this is an enduring myth, just like the one about Americans being freedom loving, even though America has been in the endless business of war, for almost 200 out of its 235 years of existence and almost everyone of them the US started.

This year alone, and it is a typical year, America's parliament passed a measly 30,000 new laws, that add to tens of hundreds of thousands of existing laws, in the land of the Free. This is the same nation that preaches to us, subhumans, about the needs of freedom and sets such examples to the world as 4 million in prison, more than China which has 5 times more population, and 6 million on parole. It is the same nation whose cops, in the form of SWAT teams, or military speznaz style commandos, murder their own civilians, by accident of course, on a daily basis.

Out of the American laws, there is such as thing as Blue Laws. This is a term that most Americans do not even know, but it is what happens to old or out dated laws, that is, they go out of regular usage and to pastor, to be brought out and used to destroy people's lives, on a at choice basis.

You see, dear Readers, in the land of the "Free", there are no bad laws to repeal, just to use by special choice. Lets review some of these insane laws... (by the way, they are some very funny and idiotic laws passed by the American elite. Yes the American public is guilty of them too, since they put these people into power and then did not bother to put someone else in to repeal this is a "democracy" after all.)

-- It is illegal to sell peanuts in Lee County after sundown on Wednesday.
-- Dominoes may not be played on Sunday.
-- It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.
-- Putting salt on a railroad track may be punishable by death.
-- Boogers may not be flicked into the wind.
-- You may not have an ice cream cone in your back pocket at any time.
-- Men who deflower virgins, regardless of age or marital status, may face up to five years in jail.
-- It is illegal to bike, roller-skate, skateboard, or inline skate in a commercially zoned area.

continue reading a state by state listing:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

UK--Loathing or Loving Sarah Palin


articles printed in their entirety

Sarah Palin 'boycott': Is Sarah Palin past it?
By Alex Spillius, Washington 8:00AM GMT 25 Jan 2011

Sarah Palin’s critics have, by now, learned the lesson of writing her off. Many did so when she quit as governor of Alaska in July 2009 with a rambling speech that created the impression (not entirely misleadingly) that she couldn’t cope with the stress of the forensic media focus on her.

Look at her now: with two multi-million selling books, a lucrative Fox News commentary contract and a reality show about her family and Alaska, she is sensationally rich.

The undisputed favourite of the tea party movement, in 2010 she was unmatched as a kingmaker and conservative leader.

But her problem remains the same as it ever was.

She is sensationally popular but with critically small number of people. Despite the slavish media attention devoted to her, her fan base has not changed since she became an instant household name when Senator John McCain chose her as his running mate in 2008.

Her appeal lies with hardcore conservatives - but by no means all of them - who are passionate but who still do not form a critical mass of the Republican constituency.

The fact that she has 2.6 million Facebook followers and 387,000 followers on Twitter is beside the point. Those numbers illustrate her celebrity pull, not her political popularity.

Polls show that among voters, her negative ratings remain sky high. In a recent Politico poll she was viewed “very negatively” by 39 percent of respondents, and “very positively” by 14 per cent. For President Obama, the equivalent figures were 33 and 22.

For someone who has not served in the White House and is not even running for it again, that 39 percent is a damaging figure. It also matches numbers about the time of the 2008 election.

There has been immense heat and light and around Palin for two and a half years, but one thing remains clear, opinions about her haven’t changed that much.

Liberals loath her, and (some) conservatives love her.

Sarah Palin 'boycott': highlights from a memorable career
By Alex Spillius, Washington 7:00AM GMT 25 Jan 2011

September 2008

Sarah Palin became a household name in America with her vice-presidential running mate speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Describing herself as a “hockey mom", she said: “I love those hockey moms. You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

July 2009

At a hastily-called press conference in her hometown of Wasilla, Mrs Palin stunned Alaska and the rest of the United States by announcing her resignation as governor. She went on to endorse candidates for elective office through her own Political Action Committee, accept speaking engagements, work as a commentator on Fox News, and star in her own reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

February 2010

Mrs Palin addressed the inaugural National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Q&A session after her speech, Mrs Palin glanced down at her hand during an answer and a photograph later revealed that she had the words “energy", “budget cuts", “tax” and “lift American spirits” written on her hand.

March 2010

Mrs Palin’s website listed 20 representatives that she wanted to see defeated under the heading “TARGETED!” over a map of the United States with a gun sight placed over each politician’s home district. It came back to haunt her when (inaccurate) accusations were made that the map had inspired the Tucson gunman Jared Loughner.

July 2010

Mrs Palin tweeted in a post, “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” The message was removed in minutes. But in November, “refudiate” was announced as the year’s best new word by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

January 2011

Mrs Palin accused her accusers of “blood libel” for linking her to the Tucson shootings. She went on Fox News to declare: “They can’t make us sit down and shut up.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Germany: Looking at the Tucson Tragedy

Der Spiegel

Inside the Minds of Paranoiacs
'Loughner Acted, from His Perspective, in a Moral Fashion'

"Most saw the Jan. 8 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Arizona as a product of insanity. But assassination researcher Manfred Schneider told SPIEGEL that the presumed gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, did not act irrationally. Rather, his crime resulted from "hyper-rationality." "

"SPIEGEL: Mr. Schneider, on Jan. 8 in Arizona, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head at close range and killed six people. While the world searches for explanations, you write, in your recent book "Das Attentat" ("The Assassination"), that an assassin like Loughner is not crazy but the product of hyper-rationality. What does this mean?

"Schneider: Every assassin is a perceptive observer and interpreter of signs and events. For him, nothing happens by accident. He scrutinizes the world in search of hostile intentions, and he imagines conspiracies everywhere. To us, the outcome seems insane. Yet logic and rationality are key components in the paranoid suppositions arrived at by the assassin. Paranoia is not irrationality but hyper-rationality. Loughner is a very typical example."

Read the rest of the interview:,1518,740665,00.html

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Korean look at US/China meeting

Korea Times

Parsing of Obama-Hu summit

"The Washington summit between President Barack Obama of the United States and President Hu Jintao of China on Jan. 19, regardless of U.S. intention, publicly marked the beginning of an era of shared influence, leadership and responsibility by the G2 superpowers over complex regional issues and challenges in Asia.

"Their cooperation on global affairs would also affect all the nations of the world, which were never interdependent on each other so much before in history. The symbolic frame of agreement coming out of the summit was mutual commitments by the United States and China to cooperate on ``a wide range of security, economic, social, energy, and environmental issues … to promote peace, stability, prosperity, and the wellbeing of people throughout the world.”"

Saturday, January 22, 2011

China: Positive Results from US State Visit

People's Daily

China-U.S. humanistic exchanges bear global significance


"As the only Confucius Institute targeting primary and middle school students in the United States, the Confucius Institute in Chicago (CIC), housed in Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, was a highlight of Hu's four-day visit, which, apart from its diplomatic and economic significance, reflected China's desire to boost humanistic interactions with Americans.

"At a welcome ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday, Hu reiterated the importance of extensively involving the two peoples in efforts to boost the China-U.S. partnership.

"When meeting with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama, Hu called on both sides to increase the awareness of the importance of China-U.S. ties, among their peoples, especially their youths; promote mutual understanding and friendship; give full play to their initiative to support the development of bilateral ties; and consolidate the basis of public opinions of the relations.

"Commenting on Hu's visit to the CIC, former CIC head Robert Davis said it showed the great importance the Chinese government attaches to the exchanges between the next generations of the two countries."

U.S. pleased with progress made during Hu's state visit: treasury official
note: this article is printed in its entirety

The United States is pleased with the progress achieved during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit, a U.S. Treasury Department official said on Friday.

"Generally speaking, we are pleased with the progress that was made," said Lael Brainard, undersecretary for international affairs.

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, Brainard lauded the agreements in areas of government procurement, intellectual property, the currency exchange rate and export deals as the four main achievements.

She said that concrete progress has been made in the intellectual property protection, particularly in the area of software.

As to the currency issue, which is the main concern of many economists and politicians in the United States, Brainard said, "That is very important to recognize that, there is progress ... If you look back to the last six months, the Chinese currency has appreciated against the U.S. dollar by 3.5 percent in nominal terms. If you take into account the much faster inflation rate in China relative to the U.S., this amounts to roughly 10 percent appreciation on an annual base."

Noting the U.S. would continue to engage with China on the currency issue, she said: "we can not focus only on one issue, we have a very broad set of interests with China."

"China's economic dynamism presents a challenge but also an opportunity," she said.

Calling China a very important export destination market for the United States, Brainard said U.S. exports to China are growing twice as fast as they are to the rest of the world in the past year, and are on track to exceed 100 billion dollars.

"Whether we can achieve our ambitious export goals would depend in a great measure on the Chinese market given its growth," she said.

Source: Xinhua

Friday, January 21, 2011

Canada: Looking at US Presidential Race


(This article is printed in its entirety)

Sarah Palin’s hold on the Republican party
by John Parisella on Thursday, January 20, 2011 1:18pm -

With President Obama’s approval ratings once again cracking the 50 per cent mark, it is interesting to see how a newly emboldened Republican party will deal with its next big quest, the presidency. Ousting the controversial Michael Steele as RNC president was the first step in that process. Establishing its authority in the new Congress will be next.

With the presidential candidate primaries just a year away, Obama is already putting together his campaign team. His inner circle has been revamped significantly with the arrival of a new chief of staff and a new national economic advisor. Obama clearly has his eye on 2012.

On the Republican side, the arrival of the Tea Party is unsettling the terrain. An improving economy and the voters’ desire for more bipartisanship politics is further complicating the political calculation for prospective candidates. The tragic shootings in Tucson less than two weeks ago may not ultimately result in major change, but it is affecting the political discourse and the nature of political debate.

The field of potential Republican candidates includes high-profile personalities who have published books and intervened regularly on everyday issues; there’s even a reality TV star. Yet, no one seems to be on the verge of declaring despite their relative notoriety. Palin, coming off a tough week—some would say a bad week—is in the public eye as much as ever. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has just launched a book tour. Governor Mitt Romney is on a foreign policy tour. Others like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee have played coy in recent weeks, while Governor Haley Barbour has not yet gotten his footing due to some controversial remarks, and both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels claim no interest in running in 2012.

The biggest factor for the GOP, though, is the silencing effect Palin is having on the Republican race. She is not a conventional politician. The current controversy about her remarks surrounding the Tucson tragedy shows her to be unpredictable, yet highly vocal and persistent in defending herself. She is clearly appealing to her base. There appears to be an emerging consensus among backroom establishment Republicans that a Palin nomination may not be their best hope for 2012, with Pawlenty, Gingrich, Huckabee, and Christie expressing mild criticisms of late. But so far, even Palin’s most vocal rivals seem at a loss in figuring out how to deal with her.

to read comments on this article:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

UK: US, China talks


"When so much divides you and it's so easy to view yourselves as rivals, how do you convince everyone watching that you're all in this together?

"That's the conjuring trick Barack Obama and Hu Jintao have set themselves for this, arguably the most important state visit to Washington in years."


"Earlier in the week, New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said it was essential to confront Chinese currency manipulation "to preserve the American dream".

"But Mr Obama was as diplomatic with trade as he was with human rights, acknowledging that the US needed to make its own structural reforms "to make ourselves more competitive in the world economy".

"But for all the many irritants which complicate this hugely important relationship, the two leaders were, in their own ways, making the same point: if we get this one wrong, then we are all in a great deal of trouble.

"Two countries which together account for a third of the global economy owe it to each other, and to the rest of the world, to show that they can collaborate even as they compete.

"Both leaders have stated their desire to make the relationship work. But that doesn't make it any less complicated."

Hu Jintao and Barack Obama's conjuring trick

Middle East: US, China progress


"The US and China discussed the contentious issue of human rights amid the pomp and ceremony of a state visit that Barack Obama, the US president, has said will lay the foundation for deeper prosperity between the two nations.

"Obama said he had raised various rights issues with Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart, during meetings on Wednesday and that the US and China had agreed to move ahead with a dialogue in that field."


"Hu in return said that since Obama took office "our co-operation in various fields has produced fruitful results and our relations have achieved new progress".

"He also said co-operation between the US and China should be based on mutual respect, and that the two countries should respect each others' interests and development paths.

"In a clear sign of where the mutual interests lie, the White House unveiled a series of commercial deals with China worth $45bn, including a $19bn deal for 200 Boeing air planes. Boeing said the aircraft will be delivered over the three-year period 2011-2013.

"The various deals will altogether support up to 235,000 jobs in 12 US states, according to US officials. In addition to the Boeing deal, China will also invest in US exports from agriculture, telecommunications and technology companies, including General Electric, Honeywell and Navistar.

"A separate deal was also signed to increase co-operation between the two countries on nuclear security. The deal, signed by officials from both countries, will see the establishment of a jointly financed nuclear security centre in China."

China's Hu admits rights failings

Canada on US China meetings

The National

U.S.-Chinese tensions visible as Obama, Hu meet

"U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday he believes China’s emergence as a major power was good for the United States economically, but revealed Washington’s doubts about the long-term political goals of the world’s most populous country, which remains under Communist party rule.

"“We welcome China’s rise,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Washington with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"“We just want to make sure that that rise is done in a way that reinforces international norms and international rules, and enhances security and peace — as opposed to it being a source of conflict within in the region around the world.”

"The comment reflected difficulties Washington has had in convincing China to be in sync with Washington on a series of international issues, not least with efforts to contain the threats posed by the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.

"Still, China’s influence has surged to the extent that its relationship with the United States is now widely recognized as an indispensable bilateral partnership for both countries.

"Based on the general nature of Mr. Hu’s statements at the news conference, there was little evidence he had given ground to gain any favour with Washington."

Read more:

China US relationship and peace in the Pacific

People's Daily

China, U.S. share extensive common interest in Asia-Pacific region

"Chinese President Hu Jintao affirmed China's relations with Asia-Pacific countries including the United States, in an effort to promote the regional development, enhance mutual trust and mutual benefit and their cooperation will also attain sustainable growth and mutual benefit and win-win outcome. This is an incisive summary of China's ties with all neighboring counties.

"President Hu made this affirmation in a written interview with the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post ahead of this visit to the United States. He is now on a state visit to the United States and this is second official trip to the U.S., and his last official visited was made in April of 2006 when George W. Bush was in office.

""The United States has a profound interest in peace and stability in Asia," former US President Bill Clinton had said in his lengthy China-policy speech at the Voice of America the eve of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit to the U.S. in October 1997. So it can be said that both nations have reached consensus on this point.

"In view of the tense crisis situation on the Korean Peninsular in late last year, how far did the People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) or the Republic of Korea (ROK) really go? And the Korea War (1950-53) told people that the issue on Korean Peninsula could only rely on the peaceful means of dialogue and negotiations instead of military means.

"Moreover, the United States' trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region over the 90's of the 20th century surpassed the US-EU trade and investment in Europe during the same period. Today, President Barack Obama has detailed efforts to double its exports over the next five years and to make Asia the main destination for US exports. So, the maintenance of the Asia-Pacific region's prosperity is essential for the sustained economic growth of both China and the U.S."

"Meanwhile, President Thu Jintao declared in the written interview that "We both stand to gain from a sound China-U.S. Relationship, and lose from confrontation. We should act in the fundamental interest of our two peoples and uphold the overall interests of world peace and development. We should rise up to challenges, remove disturbances, work for shared goals and promote continuous growth of our relations."

China Proposal

People's Daily

Hu meets with Obama, makes proposal to enhance China-U.S. ties

"Chinese President Hu Jintao met with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama at the White House Wednesday and made a five-point proposal for enhancing bilateral ties.

"Both leaders expressed their dedication to developing a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. They also mapped out major directions for bilateral ties as well as key areas to deepen cooperation."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Two Russian Views of American Military Might


Blackswift: USA's response to threats from China and Russia

"The United States decided to breathe new life into the previously frozen project of Blackswift hypersonic aircraft. The Pentagon has been dreaming lately about the appearance of non-nuclear weapons, which could quickly (within two hours) strike any object in any part of the globe."


"Konstantin Sivkov, the first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems:

"The reanimation of the hypersonic vehicle program is based on China's activities to test its own fifth-generation fighter jet. The Americans hope to get hold of a new trump card while the Chinese work on their new defense program. This project originally appeared as a response to the growing threat from China.

"The Western civilization, including the United States, demonstrates its inability to handle modern challenges. During the recent decades, the Western civilization has been demonstrating only visibility of its prosperity, which was based on establishing control over primary resources of the planet. This gave the West an opportunity to give high living standards to citizens of Europe and the USA.

"Nowadays, the situation has changed. Brazil, India and China increase their international role and influence. Just a few sources of raw materials have been discovered, while the competition to control those sources has become stronger. To put it in a nutshell, the Western civilization is no longer capable of giving high standards to the countries of the golden billion, and the situation there will continue to worsen gradually.

"The Americans believe that their new hypersonic weapons will minimize possible threats from both Russia and China. As recent experience shows, the projects are quite realistic. However, it will take them years to get the projects into shape. Russia and China may use this time to think about responsive measures. In Russia, it will be possible only if we have professionals at the head of the national armed forces. For the time being, we spend up to ten billion rubles to purchase elite cars for generals, hundreds of millions of euros to purchase Mistral vessels, which no one needs in the country, and we don't think of the future at all," the expert said."

American defense monster has grown too many heads

"Fifty years ago, on January 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his Farewell Address to the Nation, in which he warned the Americans about the danger of the further development of the national defense complex.

""Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. [...] We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. [...] We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes," Eisenhower said.

"Has the US defense industry turned into a monster indeed? Do US defense officials push the political leadership of the country towards unleashing aggression in the world? Military experts Pavel Zolotarev and Alexander Khramchikhin shared their views on the matter with Pravda.Ru."

Japan: China US Visit

The Japan Times

Hu's momentous U.S. visit

"The pomp and circumstance marking President Hu Jintao's arrival in Washington could define a dangerous moment in relations between the United States and China. Political hype and pressures could easily poison the atmosphere and prevent progress on the proliferation of business, economic and financial issues dividing the two countries, not to mention perilous questions like the nuclear threat from North Korea, nuclear proliferation generally and China's military buildup.

"Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's warned in an opinion article in both the New York Times and the Washington Post of the danger of a new "cold war" mentality. The fallout would be damage to both countries and to global security and economic well-being.

"The timing is not auspicious. President Barack Obama suffered a humiliating rebuff in the November congressional elections and Republican opponents are baying for his blood, seeking his ousting next year as their main agenda. It would be easy for Hu to perceive Obama as just as weak and vulnerable politically as the U.S. is economically sclerotic, and to block progress except for mealy-mouthed words of friendship in the communique."


"If Obama and Hu are to set the Sino-U.S. relationship on a new track, they need to make strong commitments to seek solutions for their bilateral disagreements that will promote greater global growth and harmony. And they have to do something about their body language to convince other leaders and themselves that they mean it. It will not be easy: Obama has a natural arrogance and Hu an aloofness that borders on a communist apparatchik's disdain for those who do not share his views."

UK: Watching Palin

The Telegraph

Sarah Palin refuses to 'shut up'

"Sarah Palin has attempted to redefine the phrase "blood libel" saying it means to wrongly accuse someone of having blood on their hands after being widely condemned for her use of the term following the shootings in Arizona."

France: WikiLeaks

Le Monde

Not quite the 
whole truth

"The world narrowly escaped nuclear war in October 1962. In the run-up to the mid-term elections, President Kennedy repeatedly asserted that Soviet offensive missiles would not be deployed in Cuba and would not be tolerated if they were. Moscow did not respond, not knowing whether these statements were merely intended to pander to voters or were a genuine warning. Secret exchanges subsequently made the parties’ intentions clear and they were able to defuse the crisis. The Americans let it be known that they might discreetly agree, later on, to one of Moscow’s demands and quietly withdraw the Nato missiles deployed in Turkey. On the Soviet side, Khrushchev privately informed Kennedy that a US pledge not to invade Cuba would enable him to order the removal of all missiles from the island without losing face (1).

"Will the WikiLeaks disclosures prompt diplomatic moves to avoid war, as in 1962, or prepare for it? Some leaks, it seems, are more troublesome than others. When Germany’s military authorities produced a fictitious Serbian plan, Operation Horseshoe, to justify the war in Kosovo, or when The New York Times passed on the Pentagon’s little white lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the White House did not call for sanctions."

Germany: US pressured Italy in 2007 trial


US Pressured Italy to Influence Judiciary

"In 2007, a court in Milan started trying several CIA agents in absentia for their roles in the 2003 kidnapping of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who had been living in the northern Italian city. When the indictments first came down, the US government tried to intervene -- first in Milan and then in Rome -- so as to influence the investigations of the public prosecutor's office.

"At first, the efforts were conducted via diplomatic channels. But, later, they also took place during top-level talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. American diplomats and even the US secretary of defense were assured that the Italian government "was working hard to resolve the situation." And they also got to hear Berlusconi vent his rage at his own country's judicial system.

"These anecdotes come from secret dispatches from the US Embassy in Rome, and they are particularly embarrassing for Berlusconi, who recently survived a confidence vote in parliament. The documents provide detailed descriptions of how both the American ambassador and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates exerted direct pressure on the Italian government in Rome. In particular, they wanted to make sure that Rome would use its influence to make sure that no international arrest warrants were issued for the CIA agents accused of being involved in Abu Omar's abduction.",1518,735268,00.html

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

China sees US companies increase investment

People's Daily

US companies continue to bet on China's growth

"As the United States struggles to shake off the shadow of the financial crisis, many US companies are increasing their investments in China -- betting that the country will continue to deliver high growth for years to come.

"US industry giants, such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Ford Motor, Caterpillar, Starbucks and The Carlyle Group, have announced their plans to increase their investments in China, adding up to the expanding US commercial and industrial presence in the mainland.

"According to statistics by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC), US companies had invested $65.22 billion in more than 59,000 projects in China by the end of 2010.

"Analysts said China's significance to US companies had grown over the past years, as profits foreign investors could reap from the country were great.

"A business survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham-China) last year showed 71 percent of AmCham-China members made profits in 2009 and 46 percent reported higher profit margins in China than their global average."