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Daily Archives: 07/24/2010

Barack Obama should learn from David Cameron

July 24, 2010

(KATAKAMI / TELEGRAPH.CO.UK)  The Conservatives and coalition government have every right to be pleased with David Cameron’s Washington debut last week, writes Alex Spillius.

It is hard for foreign politicians to make their mark in the capital of the world’s only superpower. There is a revolving door of overseas dignitaries at the White House, and it is rare that anyone in this demanding town stops to take notice of who is passing through.

Which is why the Conservatives and coalition government have every right to be pleased with David Camerons debut last week.In a joint press conference with Barack Obama, the Prime Minister dealt with the potentially awkward issue of BP’s role in the freeing of the Lockerbie bomber in a convincing fashion. He enthused about “special relationship” between the two countries without appearing enslaved to its service. On Afghanistan and Iran, he was the solid ally.

Like his host, Cameron wore a dark blue suit and royal blue tie, but it was only he who gained any laughs from a White House press corps assembled for a look at the new PM.

At one point the President even followed his lead on what turned into an extended joke about the tidiness of the Obama girls’ bedrooms, which the Prime Minister had seen during a tour of the residence. If there was a poodle on the stage, it wasn’t the man from Oxfordshire.

The reviews were glowing. “David Cameron was quite the charmer. He owned that East Room,” was the view of Chuck Todd on MSNBC, a cable news station.

“He had a lot of verve, that’s for sure,” chirped his co-host Savannah Guthrie. Many Republican commentators looked on and yearned for someone of Cameron’s sharpness and broad appeal to lead them into battle in 2012.

Before their meeting the similarities between Cameron and Obama had been plain: both were young and gifted and saw themselves as agents of change.

Both could change the course of a political campaign with well delivered and chosen words, but both were of limited experience.

But long before the Prime Minister flew into Washington on a commercial British Airways flight, a crucial difference had become clear: the British leader is intent on tackling his country’s deficit and the American is not.

Mr Obama faced a spiky question about this during the press conference. In his opening remarks he had praised Cameron for taking “courageous decisions” on deficit reduction, yet after 18 months in office he had made only pledges towards cutting the US deficit in half. So what was he actually going to do?

Was it time for a stiff British-style remedy?

Because he doesn’t have a plan yet, the President could only repeat his pledges – and some modest measures enacted so far.

But unless he and his advisers are utterly tone deaf to the popular mood, they need to present some serious proposals about balancing America’s books, and soon.

Polls show that the deficit, which, it was announced on Friday, will hit a record $1.47 trillion this year, is the second most troubling subject to voters behind jobs. Fears that the administration’s $787 billion stimulus and $1 trillion health care reform will be nationally ruinous have been the primary motivators of the Tea Party movement, whose protest vote threatens the Democratic Party’s majority in Congress.

As the Conservative leader pointed out, the US is in a far stronger position than Britain because the dollar is a reserve currency and the old country is proportionately much deeper in the red. The world’s largest economy, he was in effect saying, can better afford to spend its way out of recession.

That is true only up to a point. As Mr Obama keeps warning his compatriots, they are on a not-so-slow slide to bankruptcy unless something is done about the cost of Medicare – the heavily subsidised health care scheme for the retired – and Social Security, the equivalent of National Insurance.

George W Bush tried and failed to introduce a privatised version of Social Security. Obama made major savings in Medicare in his health bill, but used them to pay for expanding insurance coverage.

Part of the President’s problem is that the American public hasn’t quite faced up to the reality that something has to give, that some creative reforms to their beloved entitlements will have to be shouldered.

But it is his job to help them swallow the bitter medicine of austerity, just as Cameron has, at least so far, been able to do at home. Before long, the President may well need to follow the example of his junior partner from across the Atlantic. That would indeed make for a special relationship. (*)

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Lockerbie bomber’s release was wrong, says William Hague

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi sits in his wheelchair in a Tripoli hospital
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi sits in his wheelchair in a Tripoli hospital. It is almost a year since he was released on medical and compassionate grounds from a Scottish prison for his role in the Lockerbie bombing Photograph: Str/REUTERS

 

July 24, 2010

(KATAKAMI / GUARDIAN.CO.UK)  The release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was “wrong and misguided”, the foreign secretary, William Hague, has told US senators. 

In a letter to John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee which is holding an inquiry into the bomber’s release, Hague said that nevertheless it was “legally and constitutionally proper” that the decision was one for the Scottish government.

Hague said the then foreign secretary Jack Straw held several discussions with the oil giant BP about Megrahi before his transfer to Libya was agreed in 2007 but denied that this had any impact on his bomber’s release.

Megrahi is the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing in which270 people died and his release on compassionate grounds last August provoked outrage in the US.

Medical evidence indicated Megrahi had three months to live but next month will mark a year since he was freed.

The issue overshadowed David Cameron’s first official visit as prime minister to the US, amid concern that BP had lobbied the UK government over the prisoner transfer deal with Libya.

Hague said both he and Cameron had criticised the decision to release Megrahi.

“We think that the decision taken by the Scottish executive to release him on compassionate grounds was wrong and misguided,” the foreign secretary writes.

“Notwithstanding that, however, we must also recognise that it was legally and constitutionally proper that the decision over his release was one for the Scottish executive alone to take.”

The Scottish government had wanted anyone convicted of the Lockerbie bombing excluded from a controversial prisoner transfer deal agreed with Libya in 2007. But this condition was opposed by the Libyans, and the UK government eventually agreed to deal without exclusions.

Hague’s letter acknowledges that several conversations took place between the UK government and BP about the exclusion.

BP made the government aware of a warning from the Libyans that failure to agree the prisoner transfer scheme could damage an oil exploration deal that the company had signed with the country, Hague writes, adding that this was “perfectly normal and legitimate practice” for a British firm.

Hague adds: “There is no evidence that corroborates in any way the allegation of BP’s involvement in the Scottish executive’s entirely separate decision to release him on compassionate grounds in 2009, nor any suggestion that the Scottish executive decided to release him on compassionate grounds in order to facilitate oil deals for BP.”

A US senator today asked the Scottish government to reconsider its decision not to send officials to a hearing into the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

In a letter, Frank Lautenberg said he was “pleading” with first minister Alex Salmond to help shed light on claims that BP had influenced the release.

Salmond has declined an invitation to send his justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who took the decision to release Megrahi, and a medical expert to the senate hearings in Washington.

The New Jersey senator expresses frustration at what he portrays as the UK and Scottish governments blaming each other for the row.

He writes: “I am pleading for direct representation from the Scottish government at our hearing next week to help us seek answers.

“Your co-operation in sending a knowledgeable person will help establish a credible record of what transpired.”  (*)

Ghana can host 2026 World Cup

July 23, 2010

(KATAKAMI / AFRICANEWS.COM)  Ghana can be the second African country to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026 after South Africa, according to the Chief Executive Officer of Anator Holding Company Limited Alfred Woyome. He said hosting the event is a huge opportunity for any nation who wins the bid to put up development projects.

The global showpiece returns to Africa in the next 16 years and Ghana can be the second African nation to host it.

He further explained that they create the chances for countries to build their infrastructures to a standard of developed nations and help raise the standard of living of their citizens.

Woyome told Asempa FM: “Ghana is in a good position to host the World Cup but it is just that we have not realized it and we all think it is impossible but I believe it is something when we plan very well we can execute.

“We have to believe in what we want to do and implement a good development plan for the next sixteen years where we can spend about 22 million dollars to host the world cup.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal retires in military ceremony

 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal reviews troops for the last time as he is honored at a retirement ceremony at Fort McNair in Washington, Friday, July 23, 2010. (Getty Images)

July 23, 2010

WASHINGTON  (KATAKAMI / MSNBC / AP)  — Gen. Stanley McChrystal was to end his 34-year Army career Friday in a retirement ceremony at his military headquarters here, marking the last chapter of his swift and stunning fall from grace.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who inspired intense loyalty among many of those who served under him, was fired last month after Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled “The Runaway General” that quoted scathing remarks he and his aides made about their civilian bosses.

McChrystal complained that President Barack Obama had handed him “an unsellable position” on the war. Meanwhile the general’s closest advisers mocked other government officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, as fools ignorant of the complexities of war. “Biden? Did you say, ‘Bite me?'” one aide is quoted saying.

Photo : Gen. Stanley McChrystal reviews troops for the last time as he is honored at a retirement ceremony at Fort McNair in Washington, Friday, July 23, 2010. (Getty Images)

Shortly after the article was published, McChrystal was sent to pack his bags.

A close aide to the general, Col. Charles Flynn, says McChrystal plans to live in the northern Virginia area after moving out of his home in Washington’s Fort McNair.

“Presently, the general is concentrating on his transition, the move, his family and remains undecided about future employment options,” Flynn wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Senior military and defense officials said they agreed with Obama’s decision but were crestfallen by the loss of a gifted colleague.

During his rise to one of the nation’s top military jobs, McChrystal made many allies — including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen — who saw him as an honest broker with extraordinary self-discipline.

Mullen was among those who said he was crushed by the episode.

Photo : Gen. Stanley McChrystal reviews troops for the last time as he is honored at a retirement ceremony at Fort McNair in Washington, Friday, July 23, 2010. (Getty Images)

“He is a friend,” Mullen said of McChrystal shortly after McChrystal was fired. “He’s an extraordinary officer. He made a severe mistake.”

Last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave McChrystal the job of turning around a stalemated war against Afghanistan’s stubborn insurgency.

McChrystal was a seasoned special operations commander who made his reputation hunting down members of al-Qaida in Iraq, and helping turn around the course of that war. He was named to replace Gen. David McKiernan, who was removed from his post by an Obama administration anxious to chart a new course in the war.

The White House is allowing McChrystal to keep his four stars in retirement, even though Army rules would have required him to serve another two years at that rank.  (*)

Photostream : Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) review an honour guard in Milan on July 23, 2010. Medvedev urged joint nuclear and space projects with Italy as part of his mission to recruit top talent for a Russian Silicon Valley outside Moscow. Italy is one of Russia’s key allies in western Europe, and the two countries cooperate on the South Stream gas pipeline, which will carry Russian gas to the region via the Black Sea once it is completed, scheduled in 2015. (Getty Images)
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) attend a joint press conference in Milan on July 23, 2010. Medvedev arrived for talks with Berlusconi that may be followed by a weekend ski break at an Alpine resor. (Getty Images)
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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) shakes hands with Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev as they arrive for a meeting at the Prefecture Palace in Milan July 23, 2010. (Getty Images)
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Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) poses with Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting in Milan July 23, 2010. (Getty Images)
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi look on prior to a meeting, in Milan on July 23, 2010. Medvedev urged joint nuclear and space projects with Italy as part of his mission to recruit top talent for a Russian Silicon Valley outside Moscow. Italy is one of Russia’s key allies in western Europe, and the two countries cooperate on the South Stream gas pipeline, which will carry Russian gas to the region via the Black Sea once it is completed, scheduled in 2015. (Getty Images)
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Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meet in Milan, Italy, Friday, July 23, 2010.  (Getty Images)