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Putin’s NYT Op-Ed Roils Washington

Thursday, 12 Sep 2013 12:21 PM

By Newsmax Staff

Reaction came swiftly Thursday to Vladimir Putin’s surprise appearance in the op-ed pages of The New York Times, where he challenged President Barack Obama over Syria.Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan called the Russian president’s article “outstanding,” while Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said it made him want to vomit.

Others from both left and right slammed Moscow’s strongman for lecturing the United States about human rights.

But all sides agreed it was a stunning propaganda coup for Putin with the Times itself saying that the 60-year-old former KGB chief is now clearly the most powerful leader in the world.

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“Suddenly Mr. Putin has eclipsed Mr. Obama as the world leader driving the agenda in the Syria crisis,” the Times wrote on Thursday, the same day that his op-ed appeared.

“He is offering a potential, if still highly uncertain, alternative to what he has vocally criticized as America’s militarism and reasserted Russian interests in a region where it had been marginalized since the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Among Putin’s victories, the Times noted, were: giving Syrian President Bashar Assad a lifeline just as he appeared close to losing power; preventing Obama acting without first getting backing from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia holds a veto; and making Russia “indispensible” in containing the Syrian conflict.

But it was the op-ed in the Times that was seen as Putin’s coup de grace.

Buchanan was full of praise for the article. “Candidly, it was an outstanding piece,” the two-time presidential candidate told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.

Buchanan said Putin made a better case against U.S. strikes in Syria than Obama made in favor of them in his Tuesday night address to the nation.

“Frankly, in the last week, Vladimir Putin looks like a statesman,” Buchanan said.

Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a far lower opinion of Putin’s writing. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit.”

“I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what’s in our national interest and what is not,” added the New Jersey Democrat, who described the editorial as “very much in-your-face,”

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, meanwhile, said it was no surprise that Putin had used the Times to get his point across.

“It is galling for this strong man to be wagging his finger at America about peace and international law,” she said Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”

On the same show, Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said Obama needed to read the article.

“Josef Stalin is smiling from the grave this morning,” said Johnson, who called the New York Times piece “a full-throated attack on our president and on our country.”

“Putin has the nerve to go to the New York Times this morning to try and break off the American left and embarrass the president in New York City in the liberal newspaper of record,” he added.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” commentator Andrea Mitchell called Putin’s article “brazen” action, but nonetheless “a PR stunt.”

“He is trying to appeal to the world,” she added.

Columnist John Podhoretz talked about the irony of Putin’s position. He expressed his incredulity in a tweet. “Man who launched military action in Georgia and Chechnya without UN say-so says wars without it are illegal?”

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also weighed in, claiming the op-ed was aimed at “weakening the resolve” of the United States over Syria.

“First and foremost, we have to understand that President Putin should be the last person to lecture the United States about our human values and our human rights and what we stand for,” said the former Pentagon chief.

“We know what we stand for. We know what we are fighting for in the world. And I think his effort to try to do this by a column in The New York Times is just not going to work. We know who the Russians are.”

The White House itself tried to play down the furor caused by the article, with CNN quoting one senior aide as pointing out that Putin was now “fully invested” in dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

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The same official said Putin’s dismissal of American exceptionalism was “irrelevant.”

“He put this proposal forward and he’s now invested in it,” the official said.

“That’s good. That’s the best possible reaction. He’s fully invested in Syria’s CW disarmament and that’s potentially better than a military strike – which would deter and degrade but wouldn’t get rid of all the chemical weapons. He now owns this. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver.”

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Charles Krauthammer:

If Obama Just Bombs A Few Buildings In Syria

It Will Be ‘Worse Than Useless’

v= e

Obama Will seek Syria vote in Congress

Mike Theiler/Reuters

Obama Speaks on Syria: President Barack Obama addressed the American public on Saturday,

saying that he wants a united nation that will act together as one.

By  and 

WASHINGTON — President Obama stunned the capital and paused his march to war on Saturday by asking Congress to give him authorization before he launches a limited military strike against the Syrian government in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack.

President Obama made a statement on Saturday about Syria as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. looked on in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington.

In a hastily organized appearance in the Rose Garden, Mr. Obama said he had decided that the United States should use force but would wait for a vote from lawmakers, who are not due to return to town for more than a week. Mr. Obama said he believed he has authority to act on his own but did not say whether he would if Congress rejects his plan.

Mr. Obama’s announcement followed several days of faltering support for military action in Congress as well as in foreign capitals.

On Thursday, Britain broke with its longtime American ally as its Parliament voted against a military attack on Syria. On Friday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Syria’s patron, argued that it was “simply utter nonsense” to believe Syria’s government would launch such an attack and challenged the United States to present any evidence to the United Nations.

“I am convinced that it is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to involve other countries in the Syrian conflict, who want to gain the support of powerful members in international affairs, primarily, of course the United States,” Mr. Putin said in his first public remarks since reports of the chemical attack emerged. “I have no doubts about it.”

At home, Mr. Obama had come under criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. Some lawmakers had maintained that the United States should stay out of a civil war that has already cost more than 100,000 lives, or at least should wait for Congressional or United Nations backing. Others complained that the limited strike envisioned by the president would be ineffectual, especially after days of virtually laying out the plan of attack in public.

The debate came as the region braced for an attack that Syrian officials told regional news media they were expecting “at any moment” and were ready to retaliate against. United Nations weapons inspectors left Syria for Lebanon early Saturday after four days of efforts to investigate the Aug. 21 attack. American officials had made clear they would hold off using force until the inspectors departed safely but had no intention of waiting until they had delivered a formal report.

The inspectors were heading to The Hague with blood and urine samples taken from victims of the attack, as well as soil samples from areas where the attacks took place. They were due to deliver the sample to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Saturday afternoon.

The samples will be divided so each can be sent to at least two separate European laboratories for testing, according to United Nations officials, but experts said the testing would not be completed for several days at the earliest.

Angela Kane, the United Nations disarmament chief, briefed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday. While the inspectors were assigned to determine whether a chemical strike took place, it was not their mandate to assign culpability. Martin Nesirky, a United Nations spokesman, said that Ms. Kane’s team would give Mr. Ban its conclusions “as soon as it has received the results of the laboratory analysis of its samples.”

Obama administration officials argued that the United Nations findings would be redundant, since American intelligence had already concluded, based on human sources and electronic eavesdropping, that Mr. Assad’s government was responsible for launching nerve agents in the eastern suburbs of Damascus.

An intelligence summary released by the White House on Friday said 1,429 people were killed, including at least 426 children. The summary concluded with “high confidence” that the Syrian government had carried out the attack.

In Damascus, residents described an atmosphere of quiet suspense as they waited and prepared for an American attack. They described new troop movements as the government placed more security forces in schools in central Damascus, the prominent al-Akram mosque in the well-off Mezze district, a women’s cultural center in the neighborhood of Abu Roumaneh and in residential buildings near a cluster of security buildings in the Kafr Souseh district.

There were signs elsewhere in Syria, too, that times were not normal. “I noticed a serious change,” said Maya, 29, who drove from the coastal city of Tartus to Damascus, a route that in recent months usually required passing at least 10 government checkpoints. “I saw only one checkpoint on the whole road.”

Col. Qassim Saadeddine, a spokesman for the rebel Supreme Military Council, said opposition groups in various parts of the country had been issued contingency plans for attacks — some to coincide with and others to follow any American strike — to take advantage if government forces were weakened or distracted.

But he said the council, the armed wing of the main exile opposition body, had been given no information from the United States or any other country that might participate in the strike.

In Washington, Mr. Obama struggled to rally the public and its elected representatives. Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Hagel and Ms. Rice scheduled back-to-back conference calls for Saturday afternoon with the Democratic and Republican conferences in the Senate. Joining them were General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

The participation of Mr. Hagel and Gen. Dempsey suggested that the conversation was moving beyond assessing blame for the chemical attack to the specific military options now at hand. Mr. Obama has described a “limited, narrow act” that would not involve ground troops or entangle the United States in the broader civil war in Syria.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said he asked for Saturday’s briefings to get a better sense of the administration’s plans and to offer suggestions. “Senator McConnell believes it’s important for the whole conference to have the opportunity to communicate directly with the administration on this important issue,” said Don Stewart, the senator’s spokesman.

The White House also agreed to provide a classified briefing on the Syria intelligence in person on Capitol Hill for any lawmakers in town at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

An NBC poll found the public deeply split about a possible strike. Fifty percent of Americans opposed military action, while 42 percent supported it. When respondents were told the action would involve only cruise missiles, support grew somewhat, with 50 percent then supporting it and 44 percent being against it. Unlike most issues in Washington today, there was relatively little disparity between Republicans and Democrats on the question.

That leaves Mr. Obama facing the prospect of taking military action with less public support than almost any president in almost any instance since Vietnam. Jimmy Carter’s decision to try to rescue hostages in Iran, Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada and airstrikes on Libya, George Bush’s invasion of Panama and liberation of Kuwait, Bill Clinton’s strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo and George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan all drew support of 60 percent and usually much more in the days after they began.

The exceptions were Mr. Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia in 1995, which the public opposed, and Mr. Obama’s airstrikes in Libya in 2011, which had slim majority support. Whether support would grow for a Syria strike in a rally-around-the-flag effect after Mr. Obama issued such an order is unclear at the moment

International weapons experts leave Syria,

Obama to make statement

A man stands next to locally made shells belonging to the Free Syrian Army beside the Canadian Hospital in Aleppo, August 31, 2013. REUTERS-Molhem Barakat
A man rides his bicycle on a damaged street in Deir al-Zor August 30, 2013. Picture taken August 30, 2013. REUTERS-Khalil Ashawi
Ake Sellstrom (C), the head of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team, stands outside Yousef al-Azma military hospital in Damascus August 30, 2013. REUTERS-Khaled al-Hariri

By Erika Solomon

BEIRUT | Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:57pm EDT

(Reuters) – U.N. experts arrived in the Netherlands with evidence gathered in their investigation of a poison gas attack in Syria, as the White House said President Barack Obama would make a statement to the public on Saturday on the Syria crisis that would not be an announcement of an imminent military strike.

Obama was to make the televised statement at 1:15 p.m. EDT after meetings with top national security aides. The security team was also to conduct a conference call with senators later Saturday. The White House is to present classified information to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Sunday.

On Friday, Obama said the United States, which has five cruise-missile equipped destroyers in the region, was looking at “limited, narrow” military action to punish President Bashar al-Assad for an attack that Washington said killed 1,429 people. France was expected to join the United States, but no broad international coalition has developed.

“We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale,” Obama said on Friday after Washington unveiled an intelligence assessment concluding Assad’s forces were to blame for the attack.

The August 21 attack – the deadliest single incident of the Syrian civil war and the world’s worst use of chemical arms since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in 1988 – has galvanized a reluctant Washington to use force after 2-1/2 years on the sidelines.

After laying out the case in a televised speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Friday to the foreign ministers of European and Gulf allies and the head of the Arab League. He and other top administration officials were due to hold a classified briefing for Democratic and Republican senators on Saturday, the White House said.

“The chemical massacre in Damascus cannot and must not go unpunished. Otherwise we’d run the risk of an escalation that would trivialize the use of these arms and put other countries at risk,” French President Francois Hollande said on Friday.

The team of U.N. experts arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday carrying evidence and samples relating to the suspected attack. They had flown from Beirut after crossing the border into Lebanon by road earlier in the day. No Western intervention had been expected as long as they were still on the ground in Syria.

The 20-member team had arrived in Damascus three days before the August 21 attack to investigate earlier accusations. After days holed up in a hotel, they visited the sites several times, taking blood and tissue samples from victims in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus and from soldiers at a government hospital.

Other U.N. agencies have also pulled staff from Syria, and countries have warned citizens away from neighboring Lebanon.

“Most of the mid-level and non-essential staff left on Thursday. The heads of the various agencies have stayed behind, together with a skeleton local staff,” a U.N. source said from Damascus on Saturday.

Washington says it need not wait for the inspectors to report, since it is already certain poison gas was used and convinced Assad’s forces were behind it. The inspectors mandate is to determine if chemicals were used, not who used them.

Polls show military intervention is unpopular in the United States, France and other Western countries. Obama acknowledged that Americans were “war weary” after 12 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in American history.


Such weariness cost Washington the support of its closest ally: Britain has also backed action but was forced to pull out of the coalition after Prime Minister David Cameron unexpectedly lost a vote over it in parliament on Thursday, straining London’s “special relationship” with Washington.

Kerry said Washington must act to protect itself and its allies, including Syria’s neighbors Turkey, Jordan and Israel, from future use of banned weapons.

“If we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity” it would embolden others, such as Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea, Kerry said.

Syria and its main ally Russia say rebels carried out the gas attack as a provocation. Moscow has repeatedly used its U.N. Security Council veto to block action against Syria and says any attack would be illegal and only inflame the civil war there.

“I am convinced that (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict,” President Vladimir Putin said.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry repeated its denial that the government had used chemical weapons against its own people. Kerry’s accusations were a “desperate attempt” to justify a military strike. “What he said was lies,” the ministry said.

Washington says the Syrian denials are not credible, and the rebels would not have been able to launch such an attack.

Syria neighbor Turkey backs the use of force. The Arab League, whose members mainly oppose Assad, has said Syria is to blame for the chemical attack but so far stopped short of explicitly endorsing Western military strikes. Arab League foreign ministers are due to meet in Cairo on Sunday.

Iran, Assad’s main ally in the region, has condemned plans for strikes and warned of wider war.


In Syria itself, Damascus residents readied for a strike.

A man named Youssef carried a small plastic bag bulging with personal documents. “Do I put them in my parents’ home? My in-laws? At work? I don’t know which area is safer, I don’t know where to hide them,” he told a friend.

Doctors in the outskirts of the capital said they were training up teams and trying to secure shipments sent in by aid groups of atropine and oxygen to treat poison gas victims.

“We worry about another chemical weapons attack should foreign powers carry out the strike, as some kind of revenge,” said Abu Akram, a doctor in the rebel-held suburb of Arbin.

In the province of Homs, a group of militia who support Assad said a limited strike would not hurt. “Those stupid opposition people think a limited strike is going to topple the regime,” said a fighter who went by the name Shadi.

Another fighter who declined to be identified added that Assad could be strengthened, saying, “Instead of people accusing Assad of being the criminal who kills his people, he’ll be the national hero facing the force of America and imperialism.”

Rebels said they were planning to take advantage of a strike to launch an offensive. Qassim Saadeddine, a former Syrian army colonel and spokesman for the rebels’ Supreme Military Council, said rebel groups had been sent a military plan of action.

“The hope is to take advantage when some areas are weakened by any strikes. We ordered some groups to prepare in each province, to ready their fighters for when the strike happens,” he said by Skype.

“They were sent a military plan that includes preparations to attack some of the targets we expect to be hit in foreign strikes, and some others we hope to attack at the same time.”

Syria’s civil war has killed more than 100,000 people and driven millions from their homes since 2011, when Assad’s forces cracked down on street protests and his enemies took up arms.

The war splits the Middle East on its main faultline between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims and has already spread to neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, threatening to reignite their own civil wars.

Despite demanding that Assad step down, the United States and its Western allies have not provided rebels with arms to unseat him, much less intervened along the lines of NATO air strikes that brought down Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

After rebel gains, Syrian government forces returned to the offensive this year with the aid of fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shi’ite militia. Limited strikes of the sort Obama envisions would do little to end the stalemate.

The rebels are mostly majority Sunnis, fighting rule by Assad’s Alawite minority sect, an off-shoot of Shi’ite Islam. They are armed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and train in Turkey and Jordan, all ruled by Sunnis. Assad is armed by Shi’ite Iran.

Some of the most successful rebel groups are fiercely anti-Western Sunni Islamists allied to al Qaeda, and the West is wary of arming the opposition for fear of weapons reaching them.

(Additional reporting by Denis Dyomkin in Vladivostok, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman and Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland Washington; Writing by Peter Graff and Jackie Frank; Editing by Jon Boyle and Vicki Allen)




Experts Fear U.S. Plan to Strike Syria Overlooks Risks

A Broader Look at the War Across Syria

Uncertainty about how an attack could affect Syria?s civil war has led to disagreement among Western countries about how to respond.
See photos, videos and maps »

Andrea Bruce for The New York Times
The wall of an apartment destroyed by a car bomb in downtown Damascus.
By  and 

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Obama says he is considering a “limited, narrow” military strike against Syria — an aim that many Middle East experts fear overlooks the potential to worsen the violence in Syria and intensify a fight for regional influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Supporters of the president’s proposal contend that a limited punitive strike can be carried out without inflaming an already volatile situation. But a number of diplomats and other experts say it fails to adequately plan for a range of unintended consequences, from a surge in anti-Americanism that could bolster Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to a wider regional conflict that could drag in other countries, including Israel and Turkey.

“Our biggest problem is ignorance; we’re pretty ignorant about Syria,” said Ryan C. Crocker, a former ambassador to Syria and Lebanon, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.

The American strike could hit President Assad’s military without fundamentally changing the dynamic in a stalemated civil war that has already left more than 100,000 people dead. At the same time, few expect that a barrage of cruise missiles would prompt either side to work in earnest for a political settlement. Given that, the skeptics say it may not be worth the risks.

“I don’t see any advantage,” said a Western official who closely observes Syria.

In outlining its tentative plans, the Obama administration has left many questions unanswered. Diplomats familiar with Mr. Assad say there is no way to know how he would respond, and they question what the United States would do if he chose to order a chemical strike or other major retaliation against civilians.

That would leave the United States to choose between a loss of credibility and a more expansive — and unpopular — conflict, they said. “So he continues on in defiance — maybe he even launches another chemical attack to put a stick in our eye — and then what?” Mr. Crocker said. “Because once you start down this road, it’s pretty hard to get off it and maintain political credibility.”

For the United States, the challenge is to deliver the intended message to Mr. Assad without opening the door to a takeover by rebels linked to Al Qaeda, the collapse of state institutions, or a major escalation by Syria’s allies. Skeptics doubt that the United States — or anyone else — has the information to calibrate the attack that precisely.

That is partly because the United States is preparing to inject itself into a conflict that is no longer just about Syria, but has become a volatile regional morass that pits Iran and Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group in Lebanon, against Qaeda affiliates backed by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf benefactors.

Iran’s and Syria’s defense ministers threatened on Friday to unleash attacks on Israel if Mr. Assad was in danger. While Hezbollah has said it would wait to see the scale and nature of the attacks before responding, in practice, analysts close to the organization said, it is probably prepared for any contingency.

There is also concern that Shiite-led Iraq could send thousands more militants to help Mr. Assad if it believed he was truly threatened, and that such a step would in turn further rally and embolden Sunni jihadists on both sides of its border with Syria.

Many diplomats and analysts consider retaliation unlikely, but the consequences could be grim. Israel has vowed that if Hezbollah attacks it again, it will respond forcefully, drawing Lebanon into war. And if Syria lobbed missiles into Israel and it responded with airstrikes through Lebanese airspace that threatened Mr. Assad further, Hezbollah would consider that further justification to attack Israel.

Even without such a direct entanglement, Lebanon could be very vulnerable. It has recently suffered its worst sectarian violence in years: a car bomb in Shiite Hezbollah territory in the Beirut suburbs, and two at Sunni mosques in the northern city of Tripoli. Lebanese authorities accused Syria on Friday of involvement in the Tripoli attacks, and intelligence officials fear such bombings could increase.

Within Syria, there is also the prospect of civilian casualties, either from errant American missiles or among people near the target sites. The Syrian government has put some military bases in populated areas, and thousands of political and other prisoners are held in security buildings. Although the strikes are said to be aimed at elite units involved in chemical weapons use, Reuters reported Friday that many Sunni conscripts have been effectively imprisoned on bases because they are not trusted, leaving them vulnerable, too.

Significant casualties among the very people American officials say they are protecting could be exploited by the government. “That will completely empty any justification for this” in the eyes of many, the Western official said.

Some likely targets are in areas that up to now have remained relatively secure, including the corridor from western suburbs of Damascus to the Lebanese border. And in Damascus itself, a bubble of relative security, residents have expressed fear that in the aftermath, clashes could erupt. That could create a new humanitarian crisis and new refugee flows to Syria’s already burdened neighbors. American officials say they do not expect a refugee crisis because of the strikes’ limited nature, but Human Rights Watch has called on them to plan for the unexpected.

“We haven’t received any indication that plans for beefed-up humanitarian response are under way,” said Lama Fakih, the group’s deputy director in Beirut.

Anger over American involvement could also undo one of the major benefits to American interests from the Arab uprisings by restoring the alliance against Israel that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah had with the Sunni Palestinian group Hamas. The conflict in Syria has sorely tested that alliance, with Hamas supporting the Sunni-led Syrian rebellion.

Verifying information in Syria is extraordinarily hard, and another risk, however remote it may seem to American officials, is that it turns out that the Assad government was not responsible for the chemical attack. In any case, in a region where many have their doubts after the faulty intelligence that led to war in Iraq, wide sectors of the public may remain convinced. That would allow Mr. Assad to paint himself as the victim of an unjust American intervention and draw more supporters back to his fold.

All that said, no one is suggesting that the United States or other countries should turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons or the suffering of civilians. The problem, Mr. Crocker said, is to figure out a response that leaves the Syrians, the region and the United States in a better position rather than entangled in another messy conflict with an uncertain outcome.


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Russia Grants Snowden a Year’s Asylum, Summit in Doubt

Thursday, 01 Aug 2013 02:54 PM

Russia granted American fugitive Edward Snowden a year’s asylum on Thursday, allowing the NSA secrets-leaker to slip quietly out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after more than five weeks in limbo, but angering the United States.The White House, which wants Snowden sent home to face trial for leaking details of government surveillance programs, signaled that President Barack Obama might boycott a summit with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in September, and one official said high-level talks next week were “up in the air.”"We see this as an unfortunate development and we are extremely disappointed by it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “We are evaluating the utility of the summit.”Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor? Vote in Urgent PollSnowden has avoided the hordes of reporters trying to find him since he landed in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23, and gave them the slip again as he left the transit area where he had been holed up. Almost unnoticed, he was driven away from the airport by car.”Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning,” Snowden, whose first leaks were published two months ago, was quoted as saying by the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group which has assisted him.

“I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations,” he said.

Grainy images on state television showed the 30-year-old’s document, which is similar to a Russian passport, and revealed that he had been granted asylum for one year from July 31.

A Russian lawyer assisting Snowden said he had gone to a safe location which would remain secret, and that he could now work and travel freely in the country of 142 million people.

State television also showed a picture of Snowden, wearing a backpack and a blue button-up shirt, at the airport getting into a gray car driven by a young man in a baseball cap.

“He is the most wanted man on planet Earth,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, who has links to the authorities, told Reuters. “He has to think about his personal security. I cannot tell you where he is going.”

“He can live wherever he wants in Russia. It’s his personal choice,” he said.

Snowden, who had his U.S. passport revoked by Washington, had stayed at a hotel at the airport, Kucherena said, but was “psychologically exhausted.”

“Imagine yourself daily [having to listen to] ‘Dear passengers, the flight to New York, the flight to Washington, the flight from Rome,’” the lawyer said.

Snowden, whose revelations have fueled a debate in the United States about civil liberties and national security needs, was accompanied by Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks legal researcher.

“We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle — now the war,” WikiLeaks said on Twitter.

WikiLeaks issued its statement as Army Private Bradley Manning, who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks, was acquitted Tuesday of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge against him — but found guilty of espionage, theft and a host of other charges. The sentencing phase of his trial began Wednesday.

Snowden hopes to avoid a similar fate. Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela have offered him refuge, but there are no direct commercial flights to Latin America from Moscow and he was concerned the United States would intercept any flight he took.

He was forced to bide his time in the transit area between the runway and passport control, which Russia considers neutral territory. Kucherena had given Snowden Russian books to help pass the time and says he has started learning Russian in preparation for his stay, which could be extended after a year.

“I am so thankful to the Russian nation and President Vladimir Putin,” the American’s father, Lonnie Snowden, told Russian state television. He is expected to visit Russia shortly to see his son.

It is not clear what Snowden plans to do in Russia, although he is said to want to travel around the country. VKontakte, Russia’s answer to social networking site Facebook, has already offered him a job.

He has also received a marriage proposal by Twitter from Anna Chapman, the glamorous former agent who was deported to Russia from the United States in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

Russia’s decision to harbor Snowden steps up the level of support he is receiving from Moscow, but Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov played down concerns about the impact on relations with the United States.

“Our president has … expressed hope many times that this will not affect the character of our relations” he said.

But talks next week between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and their Russian counterparts are now under threat, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It is not clear whether Obama might also consider a boycott of a G20 summit in Russia in September, immediately after the planned summit with Putin, or of the Winter Olympics which Russia will host in the city of Sochi next February.

Putin says he wants to improve relations with the United States that are strained by issues such as the Syrian conflict, his treatment of political opponents, and foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations. But he would have risked looking weak if he had handed Snowden over to the United States.

More than half of Russians have a positive opinion of Snowden and 43 percent wanted him to be granted asylum, a poll released by independent research group Levada said this week.

Putin has said Snowden must stop anti-U.S. activities, but it was not clear whether the American had agreed to do so. Snowden has said that he does not regard his activities as hostile to the United States.

There has already been diplomatic fallout from Snowden’s leaks, which included information that the U.S. National Security Agency bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, even though the EU is an ally.

China, Brazil, and France have voiced concern over the spying program and U.S. ties with Latin American states have been clouded.

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor? Vote in Urgent Poll 

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‘Bystander President’:

Leading From Behind, Legacy in Trouble?


(Reuters) – Since his first day in office, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has rested on outreach: resetting ties with Russia, building a partnership with China and offering a fresh start with antagonistic leaders from Iran to Venezuela.
But the global travels on Sunday of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden highlight the limits of that approach. Leaders Obama has wooed – and met recently – were willing to snub the American president.
The cocky defiance by so-called “non-state actors” – Snowden himself and the anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks, completes the picture of a world less willing than ever to bend to U.S. prescriptions of right and wrong.

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Snowden, the World, Making a Fool of Obama

Analysis: For Obama, a world of Snowden troubles


(Reuters) – Since his first day in office, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has rested on outreach: resetting ties with Russia, building a partnership with China and offering a fresh start with antagonistic leaders from Iran to Venezuela.
But the global travels on Sunday of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden highlight the limits of that approach. Leaders Obama has wooed – and met recently – were willing to snub the American president.
The cocky defiance by so-called “non-state actors” – Snowden himself and the anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks, completes the picture of a world less willing than ever to bend to U.S. prescriptions of right and wrong. READ MORE>>

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Snowden breaks silence as new asylum requests revealed,

says he is ‘free and able’ to continue leaking

NSA leaker Edward Snowden broke his weeklong silence on Monday, defending his “right to seek asylum” while separately claiming he remains “free and able” to publish sensitive information on U.S. surveillance.

The statements came as Wikileaks revealed that Snowden had made requests for asylum or asylum assistance to 19 additional countries around the world, following earlier requests made to the countries of Ecuador and Iceland.

In a statement issued on the WikiLeaks website, Snowden attacked the Obama administration, saying, “On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic ‘wheeling and dealing’ over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

“This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile.”

He continued, “Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”

Separately,  in a letter in Spanish sent by Snowden to Ecuador President Rafael Correa and obtained and translated by Britain’s Press Association, he declared, “I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest. No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world.”

It was the first known statement from Snowden since he flew out of Hong Kong into Moscow more than a week ago.

Late Monday, Wikileaks released the names of the 19 additional countries to which Snowden had made requests. Those countries are: Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Venezuela. The organization said the requests were delivered to a Russian consulate official at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport Sunday evening by Wikileaks’ legal adviser in the Snowden case, Sarah Harrison, and were due to be delivered by the consulate to the various national embassies in Moscow. READ MORE>>

Russia’s Putin tells Snowden to stop US secrets leak

Edward Snowden. File photo
Edward Snowden is believed to be staying at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told fugitive former CIA-analyst Edward Snowden to stop leaking US secrets if he wants to remain in the country.

He said Moscow had never extradited anyone before and “has no intention to do so”, adding Mr Snowden was free to go if granted asylum elsewhere.

Edward Snowden, 30, is believed to be holed up in a Moscow airport hotel.

The US wants to prosecute him over the leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents.

The leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.

At the weekend, Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper and Britain’s The Guardian newspaper publicised allegations that the US has been spying on its EU allies.

The revelations have angered many EU countries which are demanding a response from Washington.

French President Francois Hollande has warned that negotiations over a major EU-US trade deal planned for next week could be threatened unless Washington can guarantee the spying stops “immediately”. READ MORE

‘High level’ talks

Call for Calm After 3 New Arrests in British Soldier’s Death

Published: May 25, 2013

LONDON — The police made three new arrests on Saturday in thekilling of an off-duty soldier on a London street, while British politicians and religious leaders called for calm in response to a rise in threats and invective against Muslims across the country.

The two men who hacked the soldier to death with cleavers on Wednesday shouted Islamic invocations afterward.

One of the suspects, later identified as Michael Adebolajo, 28, justified the attack as revenge for British military deployments in Muslim countries, including the stationing of 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.

In initial comments on Wednesday’s killings, security officials said the attack appeared to have been a “lone wolf” episode, possibly planned and carried out by the two assailants at random.

But that theory was challenged by the arrests of three of Mr. Adebolajo’s relatives on Thursday, one of whom, a 29-year-old man, remained in custody on Saturday, as well as by three further arrests. Those arrests, all involving men in their 20s, were carried out by Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit on Saturday in an area of southeast London not far from the site of the attack.

A spokesman at Scotland Yard said that Taser stun guns had been fired by officers during two of the arrests, without any serious injury, and that search warrants had been issued for raids at four other addresses in southeast London.

In what may have been a copycat attack in the Paris area on Saturday evening, a French soldier in uniform was stabbed in the neck while patrolling with two other soldiers in the suburb of La Défense. The police said the soldier had lost a considerable amount of blood but would survive. The attacker remained at large.

Britain has been outraged over the brutality of the assault there of Lee Rigby, the off-duty soldier, which took place in Woolwich. The police and Muslim groups have said that there have been anti-Muslim episodes in many parts of the country, the most common involving derogatory messages on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

A number of arrests have been made, with criminal charges being leveled in some cases under laws against inciting racial or religious hatred, and Muslim community leaders have reported rising concern among the estimated 2.5 million Muslims in Britain.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, a group that seeks to promote harmony among religious groups, said in a BBC interview on Saturday that graffiti had been scrawled on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses and that women’s head scarves had been yanked off.

Many of Britain’s political and religious leaders have appealed for a renewed commitment to tolerance.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a European tour to return to London, said: “The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know: Something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger.”

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, who visited a community in Birmingham with Ibrahim Mogra, a leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, “This is very much a time for communities to come together.” Mr. Mogra, echoing other Muslim leaders, called the soldier’s killing “a betrayal of Islam” and “a truly barbarous act” with no basis in Islam.

Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Paris

US criticises anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and Asia

US criticises anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and Asia

The US criticised a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and Asia on Monday after the State Department released its annual report on religious freedom, which pointed to government restrictions and violence targeting Muslims.

By News Wires (text)

The United States on Monday denounced what it called a spike in anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe and Asia, pointing to restrictions and violence against Muslims including the faith’s minority sects.

Releasing a wide-ranging annual report on religious freedom, Secretary of State John Kerry also voiced alarm at what he called rising anti-Jewish sentiment, and filled a position of special envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

The State Department report, which covered 2012, said that “Anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions were clearly on the rise – particularly in Europe and Asia.”

“Government restrictions, which often coincided with societal animosity, resulted in anti-Muslim actions that affected everyday life for numerous believers,” it said.

In Myanmar, officials allegedly fanned deadly anti-Muslim violence in Rakhine state while in China, authorities showed less tolerance toward the mostly Muslim Uighur community and Tibetans, the report said.

It said that Muslims also faced new restrictions in 2012 in countries ranging from Belgium, which banned face-covering religious attire in classrooms, to India where schools in Mangalore restricted headscarves.

The report also voiced alarm at soaring violence against Islamic minorities including Shiites and Ahmadis in Pakistan as well as discrimination against non-Sunni Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Russia to send nuclear submarines to southern seas

A Russian submarine is anchored on the Neva River in central part of the city of St. Petersburg, July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

By Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW | Sat Jun 1, 2013 9:40am EDT

(Reuters) - Russia plans to resume nuclear submarine patrols in the southern seas after a hiatus of more than 20 years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Itar-Tass news agency reported on Saturday, in another example of efforts to revive Moscow’s military.

The plan to send Borei-class submarines, designed to carry 16 long-range nuclear missiles, to the southern hemisphere follows President Vladimir Putin’s decision in March to deploy a naval unit in the Mediterranean Sea on a permanent basis starting this year.

“The revival of nuclear submarine patrols will allow us to fulfill the tasks of strategic deterrence not only across the North Pole but also the South Pole,” state-run Itar-Tass cited an unnamed official in the military General Staff as saying.

The official said the patrols would be phased in over several years. The Yuri Dolgoruky, the first of eight Borei-class submarines that Russia hopes to launch by 2020, entered service this year.

Putin has stressed the importance of a strong and agile military since returning to the presidency last May. In 13 years in power, he has often cited external threats when talking of the need for a reliable armed forces and Russian political unity.

Fears of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the United States has eased in recent years, and the Cold War-era foes signed a landmark treaty in 2010 setting lower limits on the size of their long-range nuclear arsenals.

But the limited numbers of warheads and delivery vehicles such as submarines that they committed to under the New START treaty are still enough to devastate the world. Putin has made clear Russia will continue to upgrade its arsenal.

Russia’s land-launched Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) would fly over the northern part of the globe, as would those fired from submarines in the northern hemisphere.

Both the Borei-class submarines and the Bulava ballistic missiles they carry were designed in the 1990s, when the science and defense industries were severely underfunded.

Russia sees the Bulava as the backbone of its future nuclear deterrence, but the program has been set back by several botched launches over the past few years.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)


Related Topics

Worse than A’jad

Iran’s likely next prez

  • Last Updated: 11:26 PM, May 31, 2013
Amir Taheri

Iranians may soon regard Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s eight-year presidency as “the good old days” — for the man tipped to be imposed as the next president of the Islamic Republic has unveiled a program that could lead to harsher repression at home and more conflict abroad.

He is Saeed Jalili, who has led the Iranian team in nuclear negotiations with the European Union plus Russia, China and the United States.

A surprise last-minute candidate, Jalili is seen as a protégé of “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, who has prevented rival factions from fielding credible candidates in next month’s presidential election.

Even more committed to belligerent extremism: Saeed Jalili campaigning for president last week.

Getty Images
Even more committed to belligerent extremism: Saeed Jalili campaigning for president last week.

Jalili, 47, lost a leg fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. Born in Mashad, Iran’s chief “holy” city, he graduated from a religious university with a PhD in theology. His dissertation was on the Prophet Mohammad’s foreign policy — which, according to Jalili, consisted of preparing jihadists for “destroying the empires of the time” and “opening the path for mankind’s conversion to Islam.”

In his first major speech as presidential candidate, Jalili presented “a massive extension of the realm of Islam” as his top priority. “We are determined to uproot the Zionist regime [Israel] and destroy capitalist and communist systems,” he said. “Our aim is to propagate the Islamic system.”

He also claimed there was “no reason why the Islamic Republic should not lead the world’s Muslims in seeking global power.”

Yet the Islam of which Jalili talks is a special brand. Labeled “pure Mohammadan Islam,” it is based on Shiism plus the teachings of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and “Supreme Guide” Khamenei.

“We are in a position to challenge global powers,” Jalili said. “And if anyone says that we are after creating a great empire, we have no problem with that.”

His analysis is based on the belief that the United States is in “historic retreat” and that other Western democracies lack the will to defy Tehran. Iran’s alliance with Russia will help neutralize the United Nations and prevent it from taking action against Iranian ambitions.

Some in Jalili’s camp also believe that the United States and Western European democracies are heading for internal turmoil symbolized by “the revolt of the poor” and tensions caused by “grievances of Muslim and black minorities.”

This week, his supporters held a special ceremony to honor Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X. According to RAJA News, an agency run by Jalili’s camp, Shabazz had converted to Shiism and was “murdered by CIA agents” in Mexico on May 9 as he was preparing to travel to the Iranian holy city of Qom to train as a mullah.

While the foreign-policy section of Jalili’s program is devoted to his plan to destroy Israel and the United States, his domestic program could destroy the lives of many Iranians. He promises “no mercy” to those who dare question Khamenei’s leadership, and promises to create “a new economy based on self-sufficiency and resistance.”

“We should not become slaves of consumerism” he says. “If need be, we could seal the oil wells and live a simple life.”

His code word is “khod-kafa’i” (self-sufficiency) with demands that Iranians tighten their belts to cope with UN, US and EU sanctions.

Ruh-Allah Husseinian, a Jalili adviser, goes further by asserting that Iran should devote its energies to “spreading the rule of Islam” rather than “building an economy.” As he said at a rally last week, “The shah could have turned Iran into a second Japan . . . But what would have been the good of that? We made revolution to protect Islam and go to war against the infidel powers . . .

“We cannot devote our attention to economic issues and forget Palestine,” Husseinian said. “The elimination of Israel has been and remains an aim of our revolution as fixed by Imam Khomeini.”

Jalili and his group could best be described as “the North Koreans of Islam.” Their aim is to build a wall around Iran while waging low-intensity terrorist war against real or imagined foes abroad. The result could be greater misery for the Iranian people.

However, Iranians could still fight back to prevent Khamenei from imposing his protégé. A discredited electoral process shouldn’t be allowed to produce a suicidal administration that could make even Ahmadinejad look sane.

North Korean War Rhetoric Approaches Breaking Point

Seoul residents describe ‘tensest time’ in recent memory

April 2, 2013 RSS Feed Print

South Korea conducts military exercises in Paju, a border city north of Seoul, on April 2, 2013.South Korea conducts military exercises in Paju, a border city north of Seoul, on April 2, 2013.

Statements of aggression from North Korea’s young leader may be reaching a breaking point, following claims from the U.N. that he has “gone too far” and increased tension on city streets in Seoul, South Korea.

North Korea announced Tuesday it would reopen a production plant for nuclear material, following a string of moves that aggravated its neighbors and Western nations, including calls for shuttering the only remaining facility the two countries share.

[READ: U.S. Deploys More Stealth Planes Over Korean Peninsula]

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, said Tuesday morning he is “deeply troubled” by the ongoing crisis on his home peninsula.

“As Secretary-General, it is my duty to prevent war and to pursue peace. It is also my responsibility to state that the current crisis has already gone too far,” Ban said during a news conference in Andorra, according to a U.N. release. “Nuclear threats are not a game. Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability.”

The only way to resolve the crisis is through increased dialogue, he said, made difficult by Kim Jong Un’s insistence that the reclusive communist country would cut all lines of communications with its neighbor to the south.

Ban also voiced his concern for the potential of a military escalation should either side take direct action.

“There is no need for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to be on a collision course with the international community.


Regional media play down dangers of Korean war

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea in Pyongyang

Media commentators in South Korea, China and Russia

are apprehensive about tension on the Korean peninsula, but in general do not think it will lead to war.

Opinion is divided as to whether the best policy is to stand firm against North Korean threats or to seek to engage with the government.

Some writers hold the United States partly responsible for the tension, saying its joint military exercises with South Korea had provoked the harsh Northern response.


North Korea sparks crisis over workers from South

By Jethro Mullen and Kyung Lah, CNN
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013


Paju, South Korea (CNN) – North Korea on Wednesday stirred up fresh unease in Northeast Asia, blocking hundreds of South Koreans from entering a joint industrial complex that serves as an important symbol of cooperation between the two countries.

The move comes a day after Pyongyang announced plans to restart a nuclear reactor it shut down five years ago and follows weeks of bombastic threats against the United States and South Korea from the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, and his government.

The fiery North Korean rhetoric, fueled by recent U.N. sanctions over its latest nuclear test, has created a tense atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula just as the United States and South Korea are engaged in joint military exercises in South Korean territory.

U.S. will not accept North Korea as a ‘nuclear state,’ Kerry says

Pyongyang’s threat last month of a possible pre-emptive nuclear strike on the United States and South Korea caused particular alarm, despite heavy skepticism from analysts and U.S. officials that the North Korean military is anywhere near capable of carrying out such an attack. READ MORE>>

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Korean nightmare:

Experts ponder potential conflict

By Andrew Salmon, for CNN
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Wed March 27, 2013

Seoul (CNN) –

It’s Asia’s nightmare scenario: War breaking out on the Korean peninsula.

With Korea lying at the heart of Northeast Asia, the world’s third largest zone of economic activity after Western Europe and North America, experts say global capital markets would suffer devastating collateral damage, but the catastrophic loss of human life — and potential nuclear fallout — would be far, far worse. READ MORE>>

U.N. investigators get another year

to probe Syria abuses

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA | Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:52am EDT

(Reuters) – The United Nations gave its investigators another year to gather evidence of war crimes inSyria on Friday, saying they had already found horrifying first-hand accounts of murder, torture and rape.

The U.N. Human Rights Council condemned “gross violations” by Syrian government forces and allied militia, including shelling of populated areas and massacres during the two-year-old conflict.

Rebels were also carrying out atrocities, but not on the same scale, the 47-member Geneva forum added in a resolution brought by Arab and Western states.

“While the Syrian authorities have failed to prosecute alleged perpetrators, the international community must ensure that impunity will not prevail,” said Ireland’s ambassador Gerard Corr, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU).

Only Venezuela voted against the resolution and five other countries abstained. Neither China nor Syria’s ally Russia are members this year, so cannot vote.

Syria’s ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui angrily rejected the text as “an aberration”.

“There were no condemnations of the dangerous role of Turkey and Qatar to fuel this crisis through arming, financing and sending combatants of al Qaeda and terrorists,” he said.


The Council renewed the mandate of its commission of inquiry, led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro, that has been documenting crimes committed during the conflict in which at least 70,000 people have been killed.

Pinheiro told the Council this month the Syrian government has stepped up indiscriminate heavy bombardments of cities while rebels were executing prisoners condemned in their own makeshift courts without due process.

“The commission of inquiry’s latest report details horrifying first-hand accounts of murders, deliberate and systematic torture, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, targeted destruction of protected civilian property, including schools and mosques, and the use of children in fighting forces,” U.S. ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said on Friday.

“Those responsible for crimes against the Syrian people must be held accountable,” she said, adding that President Bashar al-Assad had “lost all legitimacy and must step aside”.

The resolution was the subject of heavy negotiations during much of the four-week annual session that ends later on Friday


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Alleged chemical attack kills 25 in northern Syria


(Reuters) – Syria’s government and rebels accused each other of launching a deadly chemical attack near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday in what would, if confirmed, be the first use of such weapons in the two-year conflict.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who has resisted overt military intervention in Syria, has warned President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons would be a “red line”. There has, however, been no suggestion of rebels possessing such arms.

Syria’s state television said rebels fired a rocket carrying chemical agents that killed 25 people and wounded dozens. The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said 16 soldiers were among the dead.

The most notorious use of chemical weapons in the Middle East in recent history was in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja where an estimated 5,000 people died in a poison gas attack ordered by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein 25 years ago.

No Western governments or international organizations confirmed a chemical attack in Syria, but Russia, an ally of Damascus, accused rebels of carrying out such a strike.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Meqdad, said his government would send a letter to the U.N. Security Council “calling on it to handle its responsibilities and clarify a limit to these crimes of terrorism and those that support it inside Syrian Arab Republic”.

He warned that the violence that had engulfed Syria was a regional threat. “This is rather a starting point from which (the danger) will spread to the entire region, if not the entire world,” he said.

The United States said it had no evidence to substantiate charges that the rebels had used chemical weapons.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said it was not in a position to confirm the reports, adding that if either side used such weapons it would be a “grave violation of international law”.

Britain said its calculations would change if a chemical attack had taken place. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it would “demand a serious response from the international community and force us to revisit our approach so far”.


A Reuters photographer said victims he had visited in Aleppo hospitals were suffering breathing problems and that people had said they could smell chlorine after the attack.

“I saw mostly women and children,” said the photographer, who cannot be named for his own safety.


G20 leaders to question austerity in Moscow

Published: 15 February, 2013, 15:56
Edited: 15 February, 2013, 21:

= e

The need and the scope of belt – tightening in crisis stricken countries is due to be one of the central topics during the G20 summit in Moscow, as economic growth around the world is getting increasingly stifled by austerity measures.

It is becoming increasingly evident that austerity brings almost no fruit. A two – day G20 meeting in the Russian capital is going to examine the problem.

“We’ll propose to change the Toronto agreements, possibly by changing its parameters. They are not met at the moment, and they should be changed,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quotes Anton Siluanov, Russia’s Finance Minister.

In 2012 G20 leaders agreed in Toronto to cut their budget deficits 50% by 2013, as well as at least stabilize their government debts by 2016.

Economists calculated then that a €1 cut in the budget would cost about 50 European cents in lost growth, the real figure looks more like €1.50 for each €1 cut, according to the IMF and the G20′s economic advisers.

The most recent economic data shows recovery has so far been anaemic, with Thursday’s figures showing the steepest year on year contraction in the eurozone since 1Q 2009. Even the area’s economic powerhouses – Germany and France – slid into the red in the last quarter of 2012, compared to the previous 3-month period. The latest report on the US economy was also an icy shower, as the country’s GDP showed a 0.1% contraction in 4Q 2012, while everybody expected it to grow 1.1% during the quarter.

“A third of the G20 is in recession. We need to do more to get people back to work and Toronto 2.0 is not the right answer,” U.S. Treasury Under-Secretary Lael Brainard told a briefing earlier this week. “We must avoid jeopardizing the recovery with a premature shift to restraint.”

Economic activity is stabilizing though at low levels, President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi said.

“We see volatility going down. All the interest rates are going down. The crisis started with lack of funding.  Large corporates are now able to fund, they are issuing significantly, 55% of issuance comes from non-core countries. Deposits of the banking system have stabilized. Banks also fund themselves. A range of factors show the situation is normalizing.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed hopes the leaders of the G20 countries will be able to agree a new formula for calculating quotas at the International Monetary Fund.

“We think that at the upcoming Russian summit the G20 will be able to agree proposals for a new formula for calculating quotas that will take full account of the modern distribution of forces in the global economy,” Putin said during a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank managers in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin also said that the modern world financial architecture is in need of realignment, including at the IMF.

“In this connection, the G20 decision at the Seoul summit on reforming the distribution of quotas and votes at the IMF absolutely must be fulfilled,” Putin said.

Currency wars talk ‘overblown’

Though not on the official agenda, the need to avoid currency manipulations, or so-called currency wars, will be one of the central topics at a Moscow G20 meeting. Member states are under pressure from host Russia to use “stronger and more specific language” on the issue, reports the WSJ refering to a senior G20 official.

However, the International Monetary Fund chief, Christine Lagarde, thinks talk about currency wars is unfounded and “overblown.” The euro has indeed strengthened and the yen has weakened recently, due to the right political measures that have been taken in Europe, and monetary easing in Japan, Lagarde said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“On balance we’ve made good progress with respect to improving national policies. There is still a long way to go and now is certainly not the time to relax, to ease and start pointing fingers at each other,” Lagarde said.

Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also believes there are no currency wars in existence.

“We are further away from a currency war than we were two or three years ago when this phrase was coined. What we have today is a number of countries exploring the ways in which they can improve growth prospects, “ Mr Gurria said in his interview with RT Business.

This week the G7 reaffirmed that they won’t target exchange rates warmed up talks around the issue.

Among other issues to be discussed in the framework of G20 is stress testing for Russia’s financial institutions, as well as the ways to regulate rating agencies operations.

Russian meteor christens G-20 meeting

February 15, 2013, 5:15 AM

Russian meteor caught on video


It’s not just the usual protesters that global leaders have to worry about when they gather in Moscow for the Group of 20 nations meeting on Friday. Nope, fireworks for this meeting go far beyond anything from the world as we know it. We are, in fact, talking about stuff from outer space.

Just as some of the world’s most powerful men and women prepared to meet to discuss currency wars, global growth and what not, brightly burning rocks flashed through the sky and crashed into the Ural region in Russia on Friday morning, leaving at least 950 people injured according to media reports.


So what are the odds that an extraterrestrial object will hit Earth only some 1,060 miles east of the city where 20 of the biggest world leaders are gathering on exactly the same morning as they kick off their discussions? Well, it’ll probably take a while to go through those calculations, but it should be fair to say that coincidences like this may only happen once in a lifetime.

The meteor, or meteors – international media find it hard to agree on the actual number of objects – caused panic in the thinly populated area of Chelyabinsk region as it smashed into a zinc factory, with residents reporting shaking ground, car alarms going off and blasted windows because of shock waves. At least 100 people have been taken to the hospital, many hurt by broken glass.

Is this an omen of what’s gonna happen if the G-20 leaders don’t come up with credible solutions to save the world economy? Leading up to the meeting, talks of currency wars have spooked investors as the Japanese yen have falling dramatically amid aggressive easing from the hands of the Bank of Japan. On Thursday, a draft statement from the meeting reportedly showed that finance ministers and central bankers will repeat vows to refrain from competitive devaluation and to monitor possible “monetary-policy spillover”.

And maybe it’s a good thing they went ahead and calmed the outer-space powers. A giant asteroid is said to be approaching Earth on Friday, but looks poised to miss our planet by 17,200 miles (which is not a whole lot when you think about in space distances). That will mark the closest approach by a killer space rock in more than a century, NBC News reported.

- Sara Sjolin

Tensions Mount as China Snatches Farms for Homes


CHENGDU, China—Fu Liang pulls his battered car alongside Golden Lakeshore, a collection of luxury villas whose salesroom, outfitted with chandeliers and velvet furniture, evokes a nouveau riche fantasy of Tuscany.

“This is where my farm was,” he says.

The villas are out of Mr. Fu’s price range. In December 2010, when he says a campaign of harassment drove him off the small plot where he ran a fish farm, the local government paid Mr. Fu just nine yuan ($1.45) a square meter for it.

The plot was quickly resold for 640 yuan per square meter to a developer, a national database of land transactions shows. The developer has built villas that sell for 6,900 yuan a square meter.

Mr. Fu now is unemployed, one among tens of thousands of former farmers who inhabit the impoverished fringes of Chengdu, a city in southwestern China. He has no heart to start another business. “What’s the point if the government can just destroy it?” he says.

His case illustrates the biggest fault line in China’s society and the most serious threat to incoming president Xi Jinping as he attempts to shore up fragile social stability and shift the economy onto a sustainable path: ownership of land.

The root of the problem is an economic system that allows local government and developers to make vast profits from one-sided land deals with farmers who have little legal ability to resist.


A woman farmed the remaining land she has in front of the Greenland Century City housing complex.

That situation, in turn, accounts in part for a gaping chasm in income distribution in China, contributing to unbalanced economic growth. The issue pits urban elites, who have been swept along by one of the greatest economic booms in history, against a 650 million-strong rural underclass that is falling further behind.

Rapid urbanization has underpinned a decade of supercharged growth. From 2001 to 2012, China’s gross domestic product notched average gains close to 10% a year. But with little constraint on urban expansion, and land artificially cheap, total investment in factories, real estate and infrastructure has surged out of control, rising to more than 48% of gross domestic product in 2011 from 36.5% in 2001.

For China’s farmers, precarious land rights mean little incentive to invest in improving agricultural output, and no asset that can be sold to fund a move to the city. Low compensation for the millions ousted from their land—coupled with ineligibility for social benefits because they aren’t registered as urban residents—means for many a life of poverty on the edges of the cities.

A recent survey by an academic at Chengdu’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics showed China to be among the most unequal societies in the world in income distribution. One result is to undermine the government’s objective of bringing consumption into play as a driver of growth.

Wen Jiabao, China’s soon-to-exit premier, has staked his reformist reputation on a last effort to push rural land rights. At the end of November, China’s State Council backed a change in the law that would make it more difficult for local governments to grab land and would raise compensation for farmers when they do.

The downward spiral in Mr. Fu’s life started in October 2009 with an instruction from local officials in the Wenjiang district on the edge of Chengdu: Leave the home he had built for his family and the thriving fish farm he had established almost 20 years earlier.

He resisted, but by the end of 2010, the fight was over. A combination of harassment and vandalism orchestrated by the local government, Mr. Fu and others said, had chased him from his plot.

Tim Franco for The Wall Street Journal

Construction in Chengdu includes a rail station.

The pond where he raised fish has been filled in. Construction of the luxury-villa complex on his and others’ former farmland is approaching completion, netting tens of millions of yuan in revenue for the local government as well as for the developer.

Huang Qi, a rights activist who broadcasts information about land takeovers on China’s social media, said Mr. Fu’s case is far from unusual. Mr. Huang said he receives information on thousands of such cases a year. Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Social Science estimate there are now 40 million to 50 million landless former farmers.

The local police station dealing with Mr. Fu’s case referred questions to the city police station. It didn’t respond to a request for comment. Chinese law gives local governments broad rights to take over land in the public interest.

Mr. Fu, a stocky 44-year-old with a wry smile, said that before the government cut off the water, killing his fish, he could earn a comfortable income from his small fish farm.

Now his income has been sharply reduced. Other former farmers eke out a living as construction laborers, security guards and factory workers.

China’s decadelong real-estate boom was near its peak at the time Mr. Fu lost his land, as a surge in bank lending jet-fueled the already frenetic construction. In Sichuan, the province where Mr. Fu lives, some 225 million square meters—about 2.4 billion square feet—of residential property were under construction in 2012.

The effect of continuing breakneck investment is evident in the dust-laden air, constant hammer of construction and forests of half-finished tower blocks that ring Chengdu, a city of 11 million.

“Push forward scientific development and advance social harmony,” proclaims a banner draped across one construction site, parroting a catch phrase of Chinese President Hu Jintao. Mr. Fu, surveying a noodle bowl of highway overpasses, said, “A few years ago, this was all farmland.”

His property is far from the only one to fall beneath the bulldozers’ blades. Yan Tafeng earned a decent income renting out rooms in her house on the outskirts of Chengdu, supplementing the family income with crops grown on an adjacent one-third-acre plot. But in 2006, she says, the local government dispatched police and thugs to clear her family out, before leveling the property. Her 72-year-old father was beaten so severely he ended in a hospital and later died, she says.

Wang Xiaoyang, an official in Ms. Yan’s neighborhood, disputed Ms. Yan’s version of events, saying that no violence was used in the land taking and that Ms. Yan has unreasonable demands for compensation. “She’s talking nonsense,” he said, “I think she has a mental problem, or is trying to blackmail the government.”

In Yangma Town, a 90-minute drive into the hinterland, He Xiaoping could earn the equivalent of around $1,600 a year from selling crops at the local market. That was before, she says, the local government walled off part of her village’s land and piled tons of rubble on her plot of less than half an acre, making it unusable. “The land here was very good. Now it’s hard to grow anything,” said Ms. He.

Her husband, sister and brother-in-law, along with two neighbors, have been in jail for several months, following a confrontation with hundreds of police on the farmers’ land in August. “Protest if you like,” Ms. He says one official told her—”the first bird to show its head gets the bullet.”

With their parents in jail, her niece and nephew, ages 6 and 12, are left in the care of their 70-year-old grandmother. “They miss their mum,” said Ms. He, who continues to farm a sliver of land left unspoiled by the government.

The local police chief declined to answer questions about Ms. He’s case.

The problem for farmers like Mr. Fu, Ms. Yan and Ms. He lies in massive financial incentives for local government and real-estate developers alike to take over land.

For a local government, the huge disparity between the compensation paid to farmers and the selling price to developers juices revenue.

“Compensation for farmers is based on the agricultural value of the land, but the market value for nonagricultural use that the local government can sell it for is much higher,” said Li Ping, an expert on China’s land law at Landesa Rural Development Institute, a Seattle-based nonprofit with a Beijing branch.

A 2011 survey of 17 Chinese provinces by Landesa found that, on average, compensation governments paid to farmers was just 2% of the land’s market value.

Nationwide, sales of land acquired cheaply from farmers generated 26% of local governments’ revenue in 2011, according to Ministry of Finance data. Some went to repay loans taken out by local governments in the course of China’s 2009 economic stimulus.

In the showroom of Golden Lakeshore, the villa complex being built partly on Mr. Fu’s land, a glossy brochure promises a return to the “civilized city.”

A sales representative for the developer, the Chengdu Jin Zun Real Estate Development Co. unit of conglomerate Zhejiang Topchance Group, said 50% of the villas have buyers already. When all 88 are sold, revenue to the developer should be about 200 million yuan, or about $32 million.

Repeated attempts to contact Chengdu Jin Zun management for comment were unsuccessful. Developers typically aren’t directly involved in clearing farmers from land, which occurs before the sale.

Development boosts local tax revenue and output—both measures by which government officials are judged for promotion. Real-estate investment, which equaled 5.7% of China’s GDP in 2001, came in at 13.8% in 2012.

Some economists say local officials often appear to gain indirect benefits as well, in what is known in China as “gray income.” Despite earning no more than modest official salaries, “they all smoke Chunghwa,” said Liu Mengjia, a neighbor of Ms. He’s, referring to one of China’s most expensive brands of cigarettes.


Tim Franco for The Wall Street Journal

He Xiaoping with a photo of her husband, jailed for a land-grab protest.

A 2008 study by Wang Xiaolu at the China Reform Foundation, a Beijing think tank, found that for China’s richest urban residents, income was more than three times as high as reported, with kickbacks and corruption adding to salaries in some cases.

The deputy party secretary of Sichuan recently was caught up in a corruption crackdown. The pace of land clearance for construction under the official, Li Chuncheng, was so rapid he was known as Li Chaicheng, a play on words translating as “Li Destroys the City.” On Dec. 2, Mr. Li was detained by the powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, according to a report in the official press. Senior officials under investigation cannot normally be reached for comment. There is no evidence of corruption by the specific officials involved in the Fu, He and Yan cases.

If the economics are stacked against the farmers, the legal system is equally so. Local governments have few constraints on their ability to requisition land.

Mr. Fu, who is trying to sue the local government for compensation, has spent the past two years in a paper chase. His requests for information on the legal basis for the land takeover are ignored or met with misinformation, he says, and calls to the local government go unanswered. When his case is heard it will be in the local court, where the government may be able to influence outcomes.

Ms. Yan, frustrated by inaction at a local level, has taken her case to Beijing, following an ancient Chinese tradition of seeking redress at a national level for grievances against local governments. But multiple trips over the past two years to the capital, a 24-hour train ride, yielded no results.

A typical trip, she says, ends with Ms. Yan bundled into a van in Beijing by thugs dispatched by the Chengdu government to prevent her from embarrassing local leaders. “They don’t let us eat or use the toilet on the trip back,” Ms. Yan said, “but at least we don’t have to buy a return train ticket.” Mr. Wang, the official in Ms. Yan’s neighborhood, disputed her account, including her reference to thugs.

Pushed to the edge of endurance, some take more-extreme measures. Mr. Huang, the rights activist, posted details on Twitter of the latest protest against land grabs. It is a picture of Wu Xiuhua, a farmer in nearby Chongqing who set fire to himself in a desperate attempt to draw attention to his case. He survived.

In Mr. Wen’s final months as premier, he is making an attempt to shift the balance on rural land in favor of the farmers. At the end of November, a meeting of China’s State Council backed a change to the law on rural land. The government’s No. 1 policy document, issued at the end of January to signal priorities for the year, also focused on protecting farmers’ land rights.

Li Ping, the land-law expert, said the change could be significant if adopted. “China has abusive land takings every day. Protests in the countryside are common, some of them putting lives at risk. The revision will strengthen farmers’ land tenure and help improve the situation,” he said.

In Chengdu, Mr. Huang remains skeptical. “Mr. Wen has been in power for 10 years and millions of farmers have lost their land,” he said. “When it comes to the central government, we don’t listen to what they say, we watch what they do.”

—Lilian Lin and Yang Jie contributed to this article.


Chemical weapons in Syria:

Are those Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Secretary Panetta addresses chemical weapons in Syria Thursday
Secretary Panetta addresses chemical weapons in Syria Thursday
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Many people have wondered where Bashar al-Assad of Syria got those chemical weapons that Defense Secretary Panetta discussed in a press conference today, December 6, 2012. According to Secretary Panetta stressed:

The president of the United States has made very clear that there will be consequences, there will be consequences if the Assad regime makes a terrible mistake by using these chemical weapons on their own people.”

The question has popped up several times the past few weeks, “Are those the missingWMD‘s from the Iraq War?” The question actually has been discussed for several years, and some impressive voices have made the case that Saddam Hussein sent large shipments of weapons to Syria before the war.

According to an article in the Atlantic Wire July 27, 2012, President Obama’s Director of National Security, James Clapper, has been outspoken about the transfer of materials from Iraq.

“As director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Clapper said in 2003 that satellite images showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq to Syria “unquestionably” show that illicit weapons were moved out of Iraq.”

According to the Washington Times, Both the United States and Israel have photographs of materials leaving Iraq during this window of time being disputed, around 2004.

John A. Shaw, a senior Pentagon technology security official during the Bush administration, however, said he believed that some Iraqi weapons and materials were covertly shipped out of Iraqi factories with the help of the Russians. Satellite images released in 2004 by the Pentagon also showed Russian vehicles loading goods at Iraqi factories, but the nature of their cargo has not been determined.

The Atlantic Wire and other publications have referred to George Sada’s testimony regarding Saddam Hussein’s efforts to remove the WMD’s from Iraq. George Sada was one of Saddam’s top men in the air force, and he recalls how airplanes were stripped down to carry weapons to Syria.

Many others refuse to accept these credible arguments, and it could be because it would vindicate the Bush Administration for their actions in the Iraq War. It would be ironic if a Democratic administration discovered the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction.


European Crisis Explained



Obama makes time for Letterman,

but not Israeli PM Netanyahu

President Barack Obama
Just a week after enduring a controversy over the recognition of the capital of Jerusalem,President Barack Obama has once again snubbed Israel by refusing to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to a report by, the White House announced today that President Obama has declined meeting with Israeli PM Netanyahu during a UN meeting in New York later this month, because he will likely be on the campaign trail at that time. However, on the same day, the White House also announced that the President will go to New York to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman.

With concerns Israel may attack Iran over their nuclear weapons program, keeping strong ties with America’s only ally in the region are crucial.

The snub of Netanyahu is only the latest in a number of anti-Israel moves by the Obama Administration. Last week, Democratic delegates at their national convention in Charlotte loudly booed a move to reinstate wording in the party platform recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel READ MORE>>


Chastised Israel seeks way forward with U.S. over Iran

Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jets take part in a ceremony for newly graduated air force pilots at Hatzerim Air Base, June 28, 2010. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

By Crispian Balmer

JERUSALEM | Tue Sep 4, 2012 11:56am EDT

(Reuters) – Stunned by a rebuke from the United States’ top general, Israel is preparing a climbdown strategy in its war of words over Iran’s nuclear program, aware that its room for maneuver is shrinking rapidly.

Anxious to prevent any flare-up in the Middle East ahead of November elections, there is also a good chance that U.S. President Barack Obama will provide Israel with enough cover to avoid a loss of face, analysts say.

A burst of bellicose rhetoric over the last month led Western allies to fear that Israel was poised to launch a unilateral strike against Iran in an effort to hobble the Islamic Republic’s contested nuclear facilities.

Convinced Iran is seeking the atomic bomb, Israeli leaders have warned of a possible Holocaust if Tehran is not stopped; but the saber-rattling clearly riled Washington, while failing to rally domestic public opinion behind a perilous war.

In a move that dismayed Israeli ministers, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, told reporters in Britain last week that the United States did not want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran.

He also warned that go-it-alone military action risked unraveling an international coalition that has applied progressively stiff sanctions on Iran, which insists that its ambitious nuclear project is purely peaceful.

Dempsey’s stark comments made clear to the world that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was isolated and that if he opted for war, he would jeopardize all-important ties with the Jewish state’s closest ally.

“Israeli leaders cannot do anything in the face of a very explicit ‘no’ from the U.S. president. So they are exploring what space they have left to operate,” said Giora Eiland, who served as national security adviser from 2003 to 2006.

“Dempsey’s announcement changed something. Before, Netanyahu said the United States might not like (an attack), but they will accept it the day after. However, such a public, bold statement meant the situation had to be reassessed.” READ MORE>>

Netanyahu Urges International ‘Red Lines’ to Stop Iran

Sunday, 02 Sep 2012 08:38 AM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers on Sunday to set a “clear red line” for Tehran’s atomic activities and said they had failed to convince it of their resolve to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.

Netanyahu’s remarks suggested a growing Israeli impatience with its main ally, the United States, and other countries that have been pressing him to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to work and hold off on any go-it-alone Israeli strike on Iran.

“I believe the truth must be stated: The international community is not placing a clear red line for Iran and Iran does not see international resolve to stop its nuclear program,” Netanyahu told his cabinet.

Urgent Poll: Romney Vs. Obama – VOTE NOW!

“Unless Iran sees this clear red line and this clear resolve it will not stop moving forward with its nuclear program, and Iran must not have nuclear weapons,” he said in broadcast remarks.

Although Netanyahu did not single out the United States or U.S. President Barack Obama in his criticism, Israeli officials have said they hope for stronger language from the president about possible U.S. military action.

Obama, who has had a frosty relationship with Netanyahu, has insisted he will not allow Iran to build atomic weapons and that all options are on the table.

On Saturday Tzachi Hanegbi, an influential former Israeli legislator and a Netanyahu confidant, said “the rhetoric of the U.S. president is too vague, very amorphous” and Iran was not taking Obama’s words seriously.

In a U.S. election year, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has also sharply criticized Obama’s handling of Iran as not being tough enough. READ MORE>>

Read more on Netanyahu Urges International ‘Red Lines’ to Stop Iran
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama’s Re-Election? Vote Here Now!

  • ed September 18, 2012, 7:47 p.m. ET

Leaders’ Struggles in

Beijing, Tokyo Escalate Island Dispute


The dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea continues. WSJ Japan Bureau Chief Jacob M. Schlesinger, WSJ reporter Brian Spegele in Beijing, and City University of Hong Kong Prof. Joseph Cheng discuss with Deborah Kan how the dispute began and what can be done to end it.

The flare-up between China and Japan over a small group of islands has exposed vulnerabilities in the governments of both nations that make diplomatic compromises difficult despite their deep economic ties.

For China, violent anti-Japanese protests in recent days have laid bare growing public dissatisfaction with China’s current generation of leaders, who some protesters describe as weak and incapable of defending territorial claims against Japan.


Associated Press

Protesters shout anti-Japan slogans in Shanghai on Tuesday,

the anniversary of a 1931 incident that led to Japan’s invasion of China’s Manchuria.

The protests also threaten to raise the stakes for China’s next generation of leaders, including Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed outgoing President Hu Jintao. In addition to pleasing their own political power bases, leaders like Mr. Xi increasingly have to consider how to handle raucous and increasingly vocal nationalist constituencies.

Protests Erupt in China Over Islands

In Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda—the sixth person to hold that title in six years—faces potential defeat by the end of the year in a general election campaign shaped by an increasingly assertive nationalist movement. Public opinion surveys show Mr. Noda’s ruling party is all but certain to get squeezed, possibly coming in third behind two rival parties led by politicians advocating a much tougher stance with China.

The situations of both governments leave them less room to give ground over the issue of control of the East China Sea islands at the risk of appearing weak. While get-tough attitudes could play well with the public at home, they also threaten to damage relations between nations that form a key trade relationship for the global economy. READ MORE>>


Protesters Surround U.S. Ambassador’s Car


BEIJING—The U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, was surrounded in his official car by a group of about 50 Chinese protesters outside the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday and had to be protected by Chinese security guards, a State Department representative said.

The protesters caused minor damage to the vehicle, but Mr. Locke was unharmed, the representative said in a statement.

“Embassy officials have registered their concern regarding today’s incident with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and urged the Chinese Government to do everything possible to protect American facilities and personnel,” the statement said.

At a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China observes the usual conventions on diplomatic relations. “Relevant departments are seriously investigating the case and will handle in accordance with the law,” Mr. Hong said.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing is close to the Japanese Embassy, where thousands of protesters have been massing over the past several days in a show of anger over the Japanese government’s decision to purchase disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Security near the U.S. Embassy was heightened this week, as riot police and others attempted to keep order among protesters. Main roads near the embassy had been closed to vehicle traffic, though they were reopened early Wednesday amid a heavy police presence.

The incident comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in Beijing this week meeting with senior Chinese military and civilian leaders.

The statement gave no details about the demonstrators who blocked Mr. Locke’s car, and what motivated their action.

Protests in some cities have turned violent, with Japanese cars smashed and Japanese-owned shops and factories forced to close. Nonetheless, protests in Beijing haven’t appeared directly targeted at the U.S., or its alliance with Tokyo.

“Chinese security personnel standing in front of the embassy responded and removed the demonstrators from the scene, allowing the Ambassador’s vehicle to enter the Embassy compound through another gate,” the statement said.

Mr. Locke, the first ethnic Chinese to hold the job of ambassador to China, has become a media celebrity since he arrived in 2011. Many Chinese admire his informal style, and how he and his family mix with ordinary Chinese, in contrast to the aloof behavior of their own leaders.

Mr. Locke was famously photographed by a Chinese traveler carrying a backpack and buying his own cup of coffee at Starbucks at Seattle airport as he flew off to start his assignment in Beijing. The picture went viral on the Chinese Internet, where critics noted a Chinese official would likely be surrounded by personal assistants.

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 5.42.10 PM

Swiss economy shrinks under euro crisis pressure

By Catherine Bosley

ZURICH | Tue Sep 4, 2012 7:55am EDT

(Reuters) – The Swiss economy unexpectedly shrank in the second quarter as the euro zone crisis caught up with a country that had seemed relatively immune to its neighbors’ woes, providing further justification for the central bank’s cap on the strong franc.

The surprise 0.1 percent contraction mirrors emerging evidence in Sweden, another euro outsider whose currency is attracting unwelcome strength, that the euro bloc’s problems are beginning to hurt previously resilient neighbors.

Up to now the Swiss National Bank appeared to have succeeded in warding off the risks of recession and deflation by capping the value of the franc last September at 1.20 per euro, helping to keep the country’s high-value export industries competitive.

“The Swiss economy successfully bucked the difficult trend in the euro zone for a long time,” said Bernd Hartmann, VP Bank head of investment research. “But the slight contraction in the second quarter shows that the Swiss economy cannot completely decouple itself. The linkages within Europe are too great.”

Until now, the Swiss economy’s relatively solid performance had prompted questions about the continued need for the SNB’s cap on the franc, which it has had to defend by selling hundreds of billions of francs for euros, pushing its foreign exchange reserves to nearly 70 percent of annual output in July. READ MORE>>

Brazil tax cuts,

credits throw lifeline to industry

(Reuters) – Brazil’s government unveiled a new package of tax cuts, low-cost credits and other relief for ailing industries on Tuesday, seeking to resurrect a once-booming economy struggling to regain momentum. In a speech to business leaders in the capital, Brasilia, President Dilma Rousseff said the measures are necessary to revive Latin America’s biggest economy and help Brazil defend itself against what she called “predatory competition” from low-cost rivals in the global marketplace. The measures were announced the same day that fresh data showed signs of life in Brazilian industry after a prolonged slump. Analysts, though,READ MORE>>

                                                                                                     TAX CUTS TO HELP ECONOMY…HELLO!!!   




Russia’s Putin:

I had no role in oil trading empire

MOSCOW | Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:02pm EDT

(Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly addressed one of the most serious corruption allegations against him for the first time on Wednesday, saying he did not help businessman Gennady Timchenko create the Gunvor oil trading empire. Timchenko, who has repeatedly denied media speculation that his close friendship with Putin was behind his business success , is ranked Russia’s 17th richest man by Russia’s Finans magazine. Putin, who plans to return to the Kremlin as president next year after a four-year stint as prime minister, acknowledged that he knows Timchenko, praising him as a hard-working businessmen who started his company from scratch. “I have known the citizen Timchenko for a very long time, since my work in St Petersburg,” Putin told a group of Russian writers during an informal conversation. Putin worked in the office of the St Petersburg mayor in the early 1990s while Timchenko and his friends, Putin said, span off an oil trading unit of the Kirishi oil refinery and privatized it. READ MORE>>

Asia & Pacific – WORLD

Putin Wants to Create Eurasian Union

With Former USSR Countries

Published October 04, 2011 | Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for the creation of a Eurasian economic union in an article published Tuesday, as he prepares to return to the Kremlin after the March presidential elections. The country aims to build the “Eurasian Union” on the base of the existing Customs Union, a trade group that includes Kazakhstan and Belarus, Putin wrote in an article in the Russian newspaper Izvestia. The statement represented another step in the country’s drive to rebuild economic ties between former Soviet republics. Putin said the talk of creation the Eurasian Union is not about “the recreation of the USSR” but of building a connection between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Putin said that the union, which is open for new members, will aim to closer coordinate the economic and currency policies of its member states. READ MORE>>

Russian finance chief ousted in power struggle

Reuters) – Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin was ousted on Monday in a bitter and public conflict with President Dmitry Medvedev that has exposed deep cracks in unity over Vladimir Putin’s plan to return to the Kremlin. Western investors regarded Kudrin as a guarantor of financial stability and said his departure would be a heavy blow to Russia’s economy, setting back prospects for reforms. “I have resigned. My resignation was accepted,” Kudrin told Reuters after the sudden end to his more than 11-year tenure as finance minister, a departure from Putin’s script when he announced on Saturday he would run for president in March. Kudrin, a close Putin ally who appeared to be frustrated at not being offered the premiership under the succession plan, was left with little option but to resign. READ MORE>>


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