2009年6月1日 星期一

Quote of the week

Facing a national uproar over lawmakers claiming lavish expenses, Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, promised Sunday to pursue constitutional reforms — including a proposal to remove legislators' power to decide their own pay. He said the government was considering reforms that would mean lawmakers no longer set the rules about their salaries and expenses.
“There will be no more of the gentleman's club,” Mr. Brown said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. Self-regulation, closed society — that was a 19th-century idea.”
He said he wanted to overhaul the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber, and set up external supervision of Parliament, adding that he wanted an independent panel to scrutinize all lawmakers' expense claims for the past four years.

U.S. officials headed to Asia for 'intensive' talks on North Korea

By Elise Labott CNN State Department Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A high-level U.S. delegation is going to Asia for "intensive consultations" on what North Korea's increasingly alarming behavior means for U.S. security alliances in the region, senior administration officials tell CNN.

The trip will spin off Defense Secretary Robert Gates' previously announced trip to a regional security conference in Singapore and consultations in Tokyo, Japan, the senior officials said.
After those stops, a delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is expected to travel to Beijing, Seoul and Moscow to discuss how the U.S. partners in the six-party talks should deal with North Korea, the senior officials said.

The State Department announced Thursday that Steinberg will accompany Gates to Singapore for the security conference, and then to Tokyo "for consultations with senior Japanese officials on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues." Defense ministers from Japan and South Korea are expected to be at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

The senior officials said that Steinberg then will lead a delegation to the other three stops. He is expected to be accompanied by Undersecretary of Defense Michelle Flournoy, Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth, and Jeffrey Bader, senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council, the officials said.

While North Korea is unpredictable, Pyongyang has said publicly it would conduct a nuclear test and missile tests and has proved true to its word.

Washington still refuses to accept North Korea as a full-fledged nuclear power. But officials said the Obama administration is having serious discussions about whether the nation's actions this week have constituted a "tipping point," offering the world final proof about its intentions to develop what it calls a "nuclear deterrent."

"People are rightfully asking whether this is a game changer," one senior official said about North Korea's recent antics. "Are they saying, as they have been signaling, 'We are going to be a nuclear power come hell or high water and you will have to deal with us from that position'? Is this for real and how do we deal with this? These are disturbing circumstances which will require a different posture."

Officials say the discussions will go beyond the resolution being crafted at the U.N. Security Council and will address the determination and capability of nations to get tough on North Korea. The goal, they say, is to persuade Pyongyang that going back to the negotiating table is the only option. They say all scenarios will be put on the table, including strengthening resolve to interdict ships bound for and coming from North Korea, as well as tougher economic and trade sanctions to curb Pyongyang's access to income.

"If we accept that this is what they are doing, will China's position be the same?" the senior official asked. "Russia will also be key. Are these countries ready to really put the screws to North Korea?"

South Korea and Japan will also be asked to think beyond their rhetoric and country-specific issues, such as the Japanese abductee issue, to think about the larger issues of security in the region.

"This all makes us ask what this means for our alliance relationship," the senior official said. "We have to discuss how we meet the threat without creating a panic with what we are doing."

Seriously complicating matters is the health of ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Officials say no one knows who is running North Korea, one of the most opaque and mysterious countries in the world. There is also no clear line of succession in place once Kim dies.

Officials say the country's internal dynamics are a large, if not the critical, component driving North Korea's actions, which is particularly concerning because the future of the regime is an aspect in which no nation, including the China, can do anything to alter the equation. That means that even the most strenuous international diplomacy might influence North Korean behavior only on the margins and will have little effect on how this situation ultimately plays out.

Comment on Korean Peninsula

Recent days, the Korea Peninsula becomes more unstable. The former president of South Korea Roh Moo-Hyun suicide and North Korea keeps launching the missiles to provoke the international society. As soon as South Korea declared that they join the PSI, North Korea also declared that they will no longer observe the armistice of Korean War.

The international society condemns North Korea whenever they launch the missile, especially South Korea and Japan. In 2006, North Korea tested the first nuclear weapon and it made the U.S. very nervous. The U.S. even raised the alarm level to the second. This time, North Korea launched the missiles and tested the nuclear and ignored the denunciation of the international society has made it to be regarded as one of the most dangerous country in the world.

China and Russia, as the best allies of North Korea, also agree with the UN Security Council that North Korea should receive the punishment. But in order to the economic independence and other interests, China may not join the U.S. and other countries to impose sanction against North Korea. Therefore, China plays the most important role in this game.

South Korea and Japan strongly insist that North Korea should give up nuclear and missile, and come back to the table for negotiation. South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak has warned North Korea that they will never allow those provocative actions to happen again, they may try every way to keep peace in the region. UN Security Council hasn't decided the sanction against North Korea yet.

The U.S. and the other countries urge North Korea to come back to the table and negotiate for giving up nuclear and missile. They want to hold the six-party talks as soon as possible, the outside think that they must talk about building a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula and keeping the region peace. However, North Korea holds a strong position, and declares that they are a sovereignty country; it's legal to have nuclear weapon. The international power is now against North Korea power, and they can't reach a balance. As an unpredictable bomb, what's North Korea's next step? The whole world is on the alert.

2009年5月12日 星期二

Quote of the week

The amount of money that Western adoption agencies spend in poor countries is helping to defraud, coerce or kidnap children away from families that wanted to raise them to adulthood.

-----E.J. Graff
(the associate director and senior researcher at Brandeis University's Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism)

Westerners have been sold the idea that “millions” of healthy infants and toddlers in underdeveloped and war-torn countries are waiting to be rescued from poverty, abandonment and abuse. It's not so. In fact, the neediest children (especially outside China) are sick, disabled, traumatized or older than 5 — not the cute, healthy babies like Mercy James who, quite understandably, Westerners generally hope to adopt. There are simply not enough healthy, adoptable infants to meet Western demand — and there's too much Western money being spent in search of those healthy babies.

In places like Malawi, what stressed families and communities need more than adoption are basics like clean water, vaccinations, school funding and other social services that would help keep many families together. Some children do need homes. But Madonna is showing exactly what shouldn't be done: airlifting one or two pretty children into the comparative wealth of the West, leaving behind bereft families who want — but can't afford — to bring that child home.

Nepal parties try to form govt after Maoists quit

Tue May 5, 2009 6:08am EDT
By Krittivas MukherjeeKATHMANDU, May 5

(Reuters) - Nepal's political parties met on Tuesday in a bid to form a new coalition after Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda resigned and his party threatened street protests over a crisis sparked by the army chief's sacking.

Any effort to forge a new government could require bringing together about two dozen parliamentary groups, highlighting the difficulties of alliance-building in a democracy slowly emerging from a decade-old civil war.

The Maoists, the biggest group in parliament with 40 percent of seats, vowed to take to the streets and disrupt parliament to protest against what they say is their ousting by the opposition. It was unclear if they would attend Tuesday's meeting.

Police detained dozens of protesters who tried to march to the high-security presidential palace in the capital on Tuesday, demanding civilian supremacy over the army.

Former guerrilla leader Prachanda resigned after his decision to sack army chief Rookmangud Katawal was not backed by other government allies and the president, triggering a political deadlock.

"We will not let normal proceedings of parliament go ahead until the president corrects his highly unconstitutional and objectionable step of keeping Katawal in office," Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said.

The Maoists accuse the army, on opposite sides of a civil war that ended three years ago, of undermining the authority of the civilian government.

The former rebels suspect that Katawal was loyal to the monarchy that was abolished last year and that he was backed by neighbouring India, the main regional power that critics say tries to meddle in Nepal's affairs

The Maoists have said they could consider backing a new government if Katawal is removed. Their numbers are crucial in a highly fractured Nepali parliament.

The main opposition, the Nepali Congress, is not bidding to lead a new coalition and has said it would back the moderate communist UML party if it staked a claim to form government.

The political uncertainty may delay the drafting of a new constitution, a key part of a 2006 peace deal that led to the Maoists laying down their arms before they won a 2008 election.

While the Maoists have warned of street protests, analysts said Prachanda's standing within the party had gone up since his resignation. But he could lose political ground if voters saw him as disruptive.

"They won't go back to the jungle but they're more than ready to take to the streets and paralyse any new administration," Rhoderick Chalmers, Nepal head of the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group, wrote in India's Mail Today.

"They clearly command significant public support ... Prachanda's strongly worded but dignified resignation address was a claim to the moral high ground ... that may resonate with ordinary citizens," he said.

The crisis has also become a regional concern. India, already worried by troubles in neighbouring Pakistan and Sri Lanka and in the middle of its own general election, fears more political instability in another nearby state like Nepal.

India is Nepal's biggest trade partner and has great influence in the country, but it has also been accused of backing the army general against Prachanda. Some analysts say India was fearful that Prachanda was diplomatically edging towards China.

For ordinary Nepalis, the crisis was a blow to the optimism sparked by the Maoist election victory last year.

Nepalis found themselves struggling with daily power outages, high prices, massive fuel shortages and worsening public security and there were signs of disillusionment in the new democracy.

"The Maoists haven't delivered and they (the voters) see them as just like any other party," said Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly Nepali Times. "But the people will not take it kindly if the Maoists are seen as obstructing."

Nepal has just abolished the monarchy which had last for 239 year-long last year. The democratic and constitutional regime is not mature enough, they will still face a lot of problems. The Great British has controlled Nepal for couple centuries until the end of WWII. As a landlocked country, north side by China and the other sides by India, the relations between these three countries are very close. The Maoist communism palys an important role of polity changing, it led the decade-long civil war and even got the power of the government. The sacking of the army chief lead to this demonstration. The Prime Minister Prachanda sack the army chief Katawal because of their different point of view, but Katawal got support from the other cabinet and the president. Prachanda resigned and criticized the president that is "unconstitution." This unstability of Nepali politics cause the nervous to India. Maoist in Nepal is led by Prachanda, his communist background make him be considered a pro-China. He even broke the tradition that the new Prime Minister would visit India as the first trip. This demonstration may occur the decade-long civil war comes up again, the internal unrest will keep going if the parliament can't elect a suitable new Prime Minister.

2009年5月5日 星期二

Quote of the week

"Today, most Pakistanis believe the United States will cut and run when it serves our purpose, a belief which undermines our long-term efforts to defeat extremists, foster democratic change, and support transparent and accountable institutions that promote security and stability in Pakistan."
As Pakistani forces continue to battle an advancing Taliban, the leading senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation Monday tripling aid to the country.
The $1.5 billion per year would triple U.S. non-military aid levels, currently at $500 million per year. The legislation also would separate military from non-military aid, promising that economic aid "is no longer the poor cousin to military aid."

Sri Lanka Rejects "Lectures" From Western Countries

Published: April 30, 2009

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — One of the highest-level European delegations to visit this war-torn country in years has failed to persuade the Sri Lankan government to declare a temporary truce with ethnic Tamil rebels.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka emphatically rejected the appeal Thursday and told Western governments to stop lecturing him, news agencies reported.

“The government is not ready to enter into any kind of cease-fire with the terrorists. It is my duty to protect the people of this country. I don’t need lectures from Western representatives,” he said in a speech distributed by his office and quoted by the news agencies.

“They’re not willing,” David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in an interview after talks Wednesday with Mr. Rajapaksa and other officials. “The furthest the government has gone is to commit to no heavy weaponry and to minimize what they call collateral damage, mainly the damage to civilians.”

The Western delegation, which also included Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France, paid a one-day visit as intense fighting raged near tens of thousands of civilians who were being held as human shields by Tamil rebels.

Also on Thursday, The Associated Press reported that Balasingam Nadesan, a top Tamil Tiger leader, had ruled out a surrender. “Surrendering and laying down our arms are out of the question,” Mr. Nadesan was quoted as saying in an e-mail to The Associated Press from the combat zone.

Tamil groups say the government has broken its promise, made Monday, not to use heavy weaponry.

Mr. Kouchner, who has spent four decades in conflict zones and is a co-founder of Doctors Without Borders, said in an interview before his departure that he did not entirely trust the Sri Lankan government’s assurances.

“Do I believe them? No, not completely,” he said. But he said he discounted claims by the rebels even more.

Both foreign ministers will report their findings to the European Union and the United Nations Security Council.

Tensions have risen between Sri Lanka and foreign governments over the plight of the estimated 50,000 civilians captive in the combat zone.

As a reflection of those strains, the European delegation was without a third official, Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, who was denied permission to enter the country. Sweden recalled its top diplomat in the country over the episode. Sri Lanka now says Mr. Bildt is welcome to visit in May.

Reuters reported late Wednesday that the United States had decided to delay a $1.9 billion International Monetary Fund bailout for Sri Lanka's central bank to pressure the government to do more to help trapped civilians.

Mr. Kouchner said he recognized the difficulty faced by the government, which believes it is close to winning its 25-year war against the Tamil Tigers. The government and its supporters say they fear that any lull in the fighting would allow the Tigers to regroup, as they have in the past.

"They told us: ''This is not Iraq, this is not Afghanistan. This is our internal fight,''" Mr. Kouchner said.

As he and Mr. Miliband toured refugee camps on Wednesday, Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry reported “hours of intense close-quarter fighting” between rebels and government troops.

The Sri Lankan Navy, meanwhile, said it had thwarted a sea-borne rebel attack, destroying what it described as four suicide boats. Rebel-controlled territory, which once covered nearly one-third of the country, has been reduced to three square miles, the military said Wednesday.

As a measure of the civilian casualties in the conflict, a field hospital that Mr. Kouchner visited received 60 patients on Wednesday alone.

Around 6,500 civilians have died since late January and twice that number have been wounded, according to the United Nations.

The European delegation is the latest of several high-profile visits in recent days centered on the plight of the civilians. Senior Indian officials and the United Nations humanitarian coordinator both failed to persuade the government to stop the fighting.

The United Nations and foreign governments have also tried but failed to persuade the Tamil Tigers to let the civilians go. It is unclear whether they would change their minds if the government agreed to a cease-fire.

Humanitarian conditions in the rebel-held zone and in the camps across northern Sri Lanka are dire, according to doctors, aid agencies and the United Nations.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees described “overcrowding, malnourishment, dehydration and limited medical facilities” at the refugee camps.