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Daily Archives: 07/17/2010

Britain Is ‘Junior Partner’ to U.S., Cameron Says

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July 16 (KATAKAMI / BusinessWeek.Com / Bloomberg) — David Cameron, preparing for his first visit to the U.S. as U.K. prime minister, said he sees Britain as America’s “junior partner.”

“President Obama and I have a very good relationship, we get on well,” Cameron told Time magazine in an interview published today before next week’s trip to Washington. “I believe in the special relationship. Britain is, of course, the junior partner. I hope we bring things to that relationship.”

Cameron has faced criticism at home for the way he handled President Barack Obama’s criticism of BP Plc over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. In June, one newspaper told him to “Stand up for your country” after he said he understood the president’s “frustration.”

“This all fits in with what Cameron has been saying since 2006, that he wants to have a more measured, balanced and less emotional approach,” said Robin Niblett, director of London- based foreign affairs institute Chatham House. “We as Brits need to understand that we’re no longer just sitting in the same sandpit looking out on the world from a Cold War perspective.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday it will call BP executives to testify to address their concerns that the company’s business interests and last year’s release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi were linked. Britain’s ambassador to the U.S., Nigel Sheinwald, wrote to the panel’s chairman, John Kerry, saying he wanted to reject “inaccuracies” that were “harmful” to the U.K.

‘Troubled’

“I am troubled by the claims made in the press that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal involving BP, and that the medical evidence supporting his release was paid for by the Libyan government,” Sheinwald wrote.

It was Winston Churchill who enshrined the term “special relationship” in the aftermath of World War II to describe the closeness of Britain’s ties with the U.S., which won independence from its colonial master in 1783.

Churchill stepped out of the bath in front of Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare he had “nothing to hide,” according to the premier’s wartime secretary Patrick Kinna.

Harold Macmillan, the Conservative prime minister from 1957 to 1963 whose portrait hung on Cameron’s wall in opposition, said he hoped to “play Greece to their Rome,” offering culture and sophistication to America’s might.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were close personally as well as politically. More recently, Tony Blair found himself derided at home as a “poodle” to George W. Bush, after he declared there was a “blood price” to the U.S.-U.K. alliance.

‘Full and Frank’

Blair’s successor Gordon Brown distanced himself from Bush, wearing a suit to their Camp David meeting, and describing the discussions as “full and frank.”

Cameron’s spokesman Steve Field told reporters today that the prime minister was attempting to be realistic about the nature of the relationship.

“Clearly the U.S. is a larger country,” Field said. “Its economy is five times the size of the U.K.’s as is its population. It has a larger army. We need to understand the dynamics of the relationship, and to understand our role. That’s the best way to bring our influence to bear.”

In addition to “of course” discussing BP, Europe’s second-biggest energy company by market value, when he meets Obama at the White House, the prime minister said he expected to talk to the president about Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East and Turkey’s entry to the European Union.

Americans may take offense at the prime minister’s characterization of the U.S. role in D-Day, on June 6, 1944, when Allied forces landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

“I think of my grandfather going ashore at D-Day, with the Americans in support of the British,” Cameron said. The U.S. landed 73,000 troops on the day, to 83,000 British and Canadian forces. The estimated American casualty number for the day, around 6,600, was more than twice the British figure.

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Octopus predicts next Russian president

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (C) delivers a speech, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Russia’s First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva (L) in the background, during a state reception to mark the Day of Russia at Ivanovskaya Square in Moscow’s Kremlin on June 12, 2010.

 

July 17. 2010

 

(KATAKAMI / TVNZ.CO.NZ)   One of Russia’s most popular newspapers said it had managed to get Paul, the oracle German octopus which accurately predicted the World Cup results to forecast who will be Russia’s next president.

But shhhhhh…Komsomolskaya Pravda said the results of Paul’s prediction for the 2012 presidential election have been sealed until election year.

The paper said one of its reporters approached Paul, who lives at the Sea Life attraction in the German city of Oberhausen and put two sheets of paper with the names of Russiam Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev in front of the soothsaying invertebrate, which pointed to one of the names with a tentacle.

Since Medvedev replaced Putin as president in 2008, with the latter taking over the cabinet, it has been unclear who is the number one decision-maker in a country with a tradition of strong, individual rulers.

A recent poll conducted by Russia’s Levada-Center shows that 76% of respondents believe Putin is the country’s most influential person, while 67% see Medvedev as top leader.

Both politicians at some point said they were considering running for president in 2012. In April Medvedev said they would decide together who is going to run. Putin said in June they would talk about it closer to the election date.

 

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Paul the octopus became famous for accurately predicting the outcome of Germany’s World Cup campaign and the World Cup final between Spain and The Netherlands.

His Russian presidential pick has been conducted in a fashion rather different to his World Cup prognostications, where he predicted football matches by picking food from two different transparent containers lowered into his tank, each adorned with the flag of one of the matches’ competitors.

The paper also features a short “interview” with Paul.  (*)

Zapatero shuns meeting with Rwandan president

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July 17, 2010

 

(KATAKAMI / AFP) – Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero shunned Friday a UN-backed meeting with Rwandan leader Paul Kagame after protests that his regime was linked to the 1994 genocide as the UN chief called for a probe into recent deaths in the central African nation.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Zapatero had received a request from several other Spanish political parties that he not meet Kagame because of Spanish legal proceedings against 40 Rwandan officers linked to the genocide.

He was “sensitive to that and responded” by deciding not to attend the meeting which was attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, she told public television TVE.

Spain was represented instead by Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos at the first meeting of the MDG Advocacy Group set up last month by the United Nations to advance the Millennium Development Goals, which include halving extreme poverty by 2015.

Kagame and Zapatero are the co-chairs of the group.

The meeting had also been moved from government headquarters to a Madrid hotel while Zapatero met separately with Ban.

“It is not a big deal for us. It is Spain’s internal politics,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told reporters on the sidelines of the gathering.

“We would like the Spanish people to get to know Rwanda’s President Kagame better. He is not what we see him portrayed as.”

In 2008 Spain’s High Court announced its intention to prosecute 40 Rwandan army officers for genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism related to events that took place between 1994 and 2000, including under Kagame’s rule.

Kagame’s then rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front in July 1994 ended the 100-day slaughter of at least 800,000 people, mostly from his Tutsi minority, by Hutu extremist militias and government troops.

But the Spanish judiciary accuses Kagame of fomenting the ethnic clashes in a bid to seize power.

The Rwandan officers are accused, among other things, of murdering nine Spanish missionaries and expatriates allegedly witnesses to massacres.

But Kagame is immune from prosecution because of his status as head of state. His government has vehemently rejected the accusations.

During an interview with Spanish news radio Cadena Ser, Ban refused comment on the Spanish legal proceedings against Rwandan officials.

He stressed that Rwanda was one of the “rare” African nations that have made “significant” progress in the fight against infant mortality.

The meeting in Madrid comes ahead of a high-level MDG Advocacy Group summit that will take place at the UN’s headquarters in New York in September which Ban said Friday would be attended by 150 heads of state.

“This is an unprecedented number,” he said, adding the Millennium Development Goals “can not be changed” despite the global economic downturn.

During talks with Rwandan leader Paul Kagame in Madrid, Ban “expressed his concerns” that the recent murder of opposition official Andre Kagwa Rwisereka and journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage has “caused political tensions” in Rwanda ahead of August 9 presidential elections, his spokeswoman said.

“He encouraged the Rwandan authorities to carry out a full investigation into these incidents,” Ban’s his spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told AFP.

Rwisereka was the deputy president of the Rwandan Democratic Green Party. His nearly decapitated body was found dumped by a river on Wednesday.

Rugambage, who was critical of Kagame’s government, was shot dead near his home on June 24.

The Rwandan Democratic Green Party is unregistered and has no candidate for next month’s presidential elections. It has accused Kagame of blocking it from taking part in the polls.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Friday urged the Rwandan authorities to “clarify the exact circumstances” of Rwisereka’s “horrific killing and bring the perpetrators rapidly to justice.”

Fidel Castro appears again, warns of war

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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro sits at a meeting with foreign ambassadors in Havana July 16, 2010.

 

July 17, 2010

 

HAVANA (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro took his warning of impending nuclear war to Cuba’s Foreign Ministry on Friday, where he explained the reasons for his dire prediction in his fifth public appearance in 10 days.

Castro’s sudden re-emergence after four years in seclusion has raised questions about what it all means. But his message has been consistent — a devastating war is at hand if the United States, in alliance with Israel, tries to enforce international sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities.

He also has predicted the United States will attack North Korea.

His latest outing was reported on state-run website http://www.cubadebate.cu, which said he met with Cuban ambassadors at the ministry in Havana and that a videotape of the session would be shown on Friday evening on national television.

It said Castro, 83, talked with the ambassadors for 1-1/2 hours, during which he showed them news reports and political analyses that were the basis of his prediction. He also fielded questions, the report said.

Foreign Ministry employees and people from the surrounding neighborhood gave him a spontaneous send-off with a “prolonged ovation and emotional (shouts of) ‘Viva'” as he left, it said.

Castro disappeared from public view following emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 and ceded power to his younger brother, now President Raul Castro.

He resurfaced on July 7 at a scientific research center in Havana and has since made several appearances in person and in a videotaped television interview.

Theories abound about why the man who ruled Cuba for 49 years after taking power in a 1959 revolution has returned to public view. The only things known are that he keeps pushing his warning of war and that it all coincides with Cuba’s biggest release of political prisoners since 1998, in a deal cut with the Catholic Church.

The Church announced on July 7 that 52 political prisoners, or about a third of the island’s jailed dissidents, would be freed over the next few months.

Castro’s videotaped interview was aired on Monday and drew international attention away from the start of the prisoner releases that same day.

Other speculation is that Castro is sending a message of stability at a time of uncertainty about Cuba’s future, that he felt his warning of war was being ignored, or that he simply wanted to return to the limelight.

Some have theorized that Raul Castro has health problems and Fidel Castro is preparing for a return to power.

The theories are simply speculation for now, because the Cuban government has said nothing except for the reports of his visits in state-run media.

Germany rejects ‘transfer bid’ for octopus oracle Paul

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July 17, 2010

 

 

(KATAKAMI / BBC)  A German zoo has turned down a “transfer request” from Spain for its star performer during the football World Cup – Paul the “psychic” octopus.

The cephalopod correctly predicted the outcome of all of Germany’s seven matches in the tournament, and also plumped for Spain to lift the trophy.

This made him an instant hero in Spain, and now Madrid’s Zoo says it wants to put Paul on display in its aquarium.

But Oberhausen’s Sea Life centre said there was no chance of Paul being sold.

“We’re very glad that Paul will stay here,” Sea Life spokeswoman Tunja Munzig said, adding that any other possible bids from abroad would be rejected.

Earlier, Madrid Zoo official Javier Diaz said the management was in talks with Oberhausen to see if the Germans wanted to exchange the 2.5-year-old octopus for “one of the species we have here”.

“What they might need is coral or small sharks. But if they don’t want any of that we might offer some money,” Mr Diaz said.

Honorary citizen

Ever since Paul predicted Spain’s triumph in the month-long tournament in South Africa, he has become a celebrity in Spain.

Fans watching last Sunday’s final in Madrid sported mini-Pauls on their T-shirts and squidgy replicas on top of their hats.

The octopus is already an honorary citizen of one Spanish town, and a summer festival in Paul’s name is being planned in the country.

Even Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero stepped in to offer protection, after bitter German fans threatened to eat Paul for predicting Germany’s defeat in the semi-final against Spain.

One Spanish fan said that Paul should replace the bull, which is often seen on Spanish flags.

“The octopus has done more [good] things that the bull,” the fan said.

But sadly for many Spaniards, Paul is staying home in Oberhausen.

Australian PM Julia Gillard sets general election date

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July 17, 2010

 

(KATAKAMI / BBC)  Australia will hold a general election on 21 August, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced.

Ms Gillard – the country’s first female prime minister – said the snap poll would be “tough and close”.

The governing Labor Party elected her as leader three weeks ago after ousting her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.

The race between Labor and the conservative opposition Liberal Party is expected to focus on the economy, health, climate change and immigration.

“This election is about the choice as to whether we move Australia forward or go back,” Ms Gillard said in a televised speech in Canberra.

“Moving forward means moving forward with budget surpluses and a stronger economy.”

She said that it also “means moving forward with stronger protection of our borders and strong plan, a real plan, that takes away from people-smugglers and the products they sell”.

Opposition Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott has dismissed the recent change of the Labor leadership, saying Ms Gillard was committed to the “same dud policies” of her predecessor.

It will be the toughest fight in Ms Gillard’s political life, the BBC’s Phil Mercer in Sydney says.

Recent opinion polls give Labor a lead over the Liberals and Ms Gillard will be hoping to secure another three-year term, our correspondent adds.

Labor wrangles

Ms Gillard became Australia’s prime minister last month after a surprise leadership vote saw Mr Rudd deposed.

Mr Rudd chose not to take part in the ballot, knowing he would suffer an embarrassing defeat to his deputy.

Labor has suffered a sharp drop in support in opinion polls this year.

A U-turn on a carbon trading scheme and a wrangle over a controversial mining tax led to a sharp slide in approval ratings for Mr Rudd’s government.

Ms Gillard was born in Barry in south Wales, moving to Australia with her family at the age of four.