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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Japan Retreats With Release of Chinese Boat Captain -

Japan Retreats With Release of Chinese Boat Captain -
TOKYO — A diplomatic showdown between Japan and China that began two weeks ago with the arrest of the captain of a Chinese trawler near disputed islands ended Friday when Tokyo accepted Beijing’s demands for his immediate release, a concession that appeared to mark a humiliating retreat in a Pacific test of wills.
Japan freed the captain, Zhan Qixiong, 41, who left Saturday on a chartered flight sent by the Chinese government to take him home. Mr. Zhan had been held by the Japanese authorities since his boat collided with Japanese patrol vessels on Sept. 7 near uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, and Japan had insisted that he would be prosecuted.
His release handed a significant victory to Chinese leaders, who have ratcheted up the pressure on Japan with verbal threats and economic sanctions.
“It certainly appears that Japan gave in,” said Hiroshi Nakanishi, a professor of international relations at Kyoto University. “This is going to raise questions about why Japan pushed the issue in the first place, if it couldn’t follow through with meeting China’s challenges.”
The climb down was the latest indicator of the shifting balance of power in Asia. China this year surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy and had already become Japan’s biggest export market. Japan, mired in extended political uncertainty and economic malaise, has had a succession of weak prime ministers who have struggled to assert its interests in a region focused mainly on a resurgent China.
China on Saturday restated its claims to the disputed islands and in a statement demanded an apology and compensation. “Such an act seriously infringed upon China’s territorial sovereignty and violated the human rights of Chinese citizens,” the statement said.
At the outset, Japan had made an uncharacteristic display of political backbone by detaining the captain, when in the past it had simply chased away Chinese vessels that approached too close to the islands, which are claimed by both countries but administered by Japan. Apparently angered by a rising number of incursions by Chinese fishing boats in recent years, Tokyo initially appeared determined to demonstrate to Beijing its control of the islands, analysts and diplomats said.
Instead, the move unleashed a furious diplomatic assault from China. Beijing cut off ministerial-level talks on issues like joint energy development, and curtailed visits to Japan by Chinese tourists. The fact that the detention took place on Sept. 8, the anniversary of Japan’s 1931 invasion of northeast China, spurred scattered street protests and calls by nationalistic Chinese bloggers to take a firm stand against Tokyo.
In recent days, China stepped up its intimidation. Chinese customs officials appeared to block crucial exports to Japan of rare earths, which are metals vital to Japan’s auto and electronics industries. Then on Thursday, four Japanese construction company employees were detained in the Chinese province of Hebei.
In the end, diplomats and analysts said Japan was forced to recognize that taking the next step of charging the captain and putting him on trial would result in a serious deterioration of ties with China, Japan’s biggest trading partner.

Friday, September 24, 2010

After Voting No, Republicans Tout Funds -

After Voting No, Republicans Tout Funds -
WASHINGTON -- Republicans railed against the Democrats' massive economic-stimulus and spending bills as fiscally irresponsible, but some GOP lawmakers are taking credit for projects in their own districts funded by the measures.
"Washington needs to stop spending money that it doesn't have," Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra said in attacking the $410 billion omnibus-spending bill, which funds the government through September. But once it passed, he touted its benefits for his district, which stretches along Lake Michigan.
"Safe and navigable harbors are economic engines that drive the communities that surround them," Mr. Hoekstra declared, announcing $3 million for harbor improvements.
Stimulus Spending by State
How some major areas of the stimulus will be shared among the states.
Facing difficult economic times and looking ahead to 2010 elections, lawmakers are under pressure to show they are helping constituents. That is leading some Republicans, and even a handful of Democrats, to highlight funds in bills they voted against.
"There is a political game going on here," said Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group. "On the national stage, you want to look like a good-government guy or gal. But at home, you want to get patted on the back and get a photo op."
A number of lawmakers disputed this, saying it isn't surprising that a bad bill would contain some good elements. Even if a spending bill is wasteful, they said, that doesn't mean items for their district can't be worthwhile.
"Not to be rude, but it's one of the dumbest things," Mr. Hoekstra said of the notion that there is a contradiction. "The only people who are supposed to get money in an omnibus bill are the ones that vote for it?...I don't see any inconsistency at all."
Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza of California, who brands himself a "fiscally responsible legislator who delivers results for the Central Valley," opposed the spending bill. But when President Barack Obama signed it, Mr. Cardoza said he was "pleased to have been able to secure" nearly $25 million worth of projects.
A staffer for Mr. Cardoza said the lawmaker voted against the bill not because of the spending, but because it gave the administration authority to overturn a rule that relaxed the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
GOP leaders took great pride in the fact that every House Republican voted against the $787 billion economic-stimulus bill and that all but 16 opposed the spending bill. They battered Mr. Obama and other Democrats, saying the spending bill increased outlays by 8% over the 2008 fiscal year. They also criticized its numerous earmarks, the special items inserted by lawmakers for their districts.
Now many of the Republicans who opposed the bills are highlighting earmarks they inserted or other benefits the bills bring to their states.
Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R., Calif.), who denounced the stimulus bill as wasteful, soon announced that it provided a $4.2 million grant for her district to prevent families from becoming homeless. "This funding will provide much-needed assistance," she said.
Spokeswoman Jennifer May said the congresswoman considered the bill "misguided" and "bloated," but that Ms. Bono Mack's district was especially hard-hit by the housing crisis and the funding was crucial to keep families in their homes.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.) voted against the spending bill. When it passed, he announced that he had "secured" $1.7 million in the legislation for a citrus-research project and a mental-health program.
Questioned about this, Mr. Stearns issued a statement saying he opposed the bill because of its cost but would be shortchanging his constituents if he didn't seek money for them. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) also opposed the omnibus bill. After it passed, he announced that it included $570,000 for hybrid-fuel trolleys in Miami Lakes. "I am proud to have secured these federal funds to ensure that all residents of Miami Lakes can have easy access to parks, schools, shops and businesses," Mr. Diaz-Balart said.
In an interview, Mr. Diaz-Balart said, "The omnibus was too much money, too much spending, too much borrowing, too much debt, and no accountability. Now, I have stuff in that bill, but I still voted against it. But what I have in there, I am very proud of."
Rep. Howard Coble (R., N.C.) issued a news release on March 11 boasting that "six Coble earmarks" were in the omnibus bill, including $855,000 to extend an airport runway.
Mr. Coble acknowledged he had opposed the spending bill. "I would be in favor of earmark reform," he said in the statement. "But as long as earmarks remain part of the legislative funding process, I would be doing a disservice to the people of the 6th District by not seeking funding for worthwhile projects."

Widespread Fraud Seen in Latest Afghan Elections -

Widespread Fraud Seen in Latest Afghan Elections -
KABUL, Afghanistan — Evidence is mounting that fraud in last weekend’s parliamentary election was so widespread that it could affect the results in a third of provinces, calling into question the credibility of a vote that was an important test of the American and Afghan effort to build a stable and legitimate government.
The complaints to provincial election commissions have so far included video clips showing ballot stuffing; the strong-arming of election officials by candidates’ agents; and even the handcuffing and detention of election workers.
In some places, election officials themselves are alleged to have carried out the fraud; in others, government employees did, witnesses said. One video showed election officials and a candidate’s representatives haggling over the price of votes.
Many of the complaints have come from candidates and election officials, but were supported by Afghan and international election observers and diplomats. The fraud appeared to cut both for and against the government of President Hamid Karzai, much of it benefiting sometimes unsavory local power brokers.
But in the important southern province of Kandahar, where election officials threw out 76 percent of the ballots in last year’s badly tainted presidential election, candidates accused the president’s influential half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, of drawing up a list of winners even before the Sept. 18 election for Parliament was carried out.
“From an overall democracy-building perspective it does not look rosy,” said one diplomat who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
The widespread tampering and bare-knuckle tactics of some candidates raised serious questions about the effort to build a credible government that can draw the support of Afghans and the Obama administration and its NATO partners as they re-evaluate their commitment to the war.

The John H. Armwood Weekly News Podcast, September 24, 2010

This podcast is for the week ending Friday September 24, 2010.  The Archive of my previous News Podcasts is found here

In Ad, Cuomo Levels First Attack on Paladino -

In Ad, Cuomo Levels First Attack on Paladino -
Andrew M. Cuomo, leaving little doubt that he is concerned about his Republican opponent, Carl P. Paladino, unleashed his first direct attack on Mr. Paladino on Thursday with a television advertisement that criticized him for his donations to Albany politicians and for his failure to create jobs after winning tax breaks intended to promote economic development.
The advertisement was released one day after signs emerged that Mr. Paladino, a novice candidate with Tea Party support who had an upset victory in the Republican primary for governor, was showing unexpected strength, including a poll that found him to be surprisingly close to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat and the state’s attorney general.
The poll, by Quinnipiac University, startled the Democratic establishment, which had viewed a victory by Mr. Cuomo as inevitable, and prompted public calls for the attorney general to start returning his opponent’s volleys. Mr. Paladino, a wealthy and pugnacious businessman, has leveled a series of colorful attacks that have made him a wild card against the much more popular — and much more cautious — Mr. Cuomo.
Although a new poll released on Thursday by Siena College showed a wider gap, Mr. Cuomo, who had previously seemed determined to keep Mr. Paladino at arm’s length, appeared to be springing into action. But the Cuomo campaign said that the new advertisement was unrelated to any poll and that the decision to run it had been made days ago.
Mr. Cuomo’s campaign would not say where or on which stations the advertisement would run, or how much was being spent to broadcast it, making it difficult to assess how aggressively Mr. Cuomo had decided to counterattack. While Mr. Paladino is well known in western New York, where overwhelming support from voters powered his defeat of Rick A. Lazio in the primary, he is not as widely known in New York City and its suburbs.
Mr. Cuomo’s advertisement describes Mr. Paladino as “a landlord and developer” and a “welfare king,” suggesting that his campaign contributions to elected officials had earned him real estate deals. The advertisement also says that one of Mr. Paladino’s companies was granted $1.4 million worth of state tax breaks for a development that created only one job.
Mr. Paladino’s campaign did not dispute details of the advertisement, but a spokesman, Michael Caputo, suggested that it illustrated Mr. Cuomo’s misunderstanding of the business world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

White House Memo - U.S., Caught Off Guard by New Tensions With China, Cultivates Back-Channel Ties -

WASHINGTON — Few foreign policy problems took the Obama administration more by surprise this year than the rapid escalation of tensions with China: The countries’ common approach to North Korea disintegrated, Beijing has balked at energy sanctions against Iran, the always-wary conversation between the American and Chinese militaries was cut off.
Nor has there been any real progress on America’s demand that China allow its currency to appreciate. Congress is considering huge, and politically appealing, tariffs on Chinese goods before the November elections, with cautious encouragement from the White House, which thinks it can manage the process to avoid a trade war.
So somewhat belatedly, President Obama decided he needed what every American president since Nixon had had: A direct back channel of communications to the Chinese leadership, a way to head off trouble or create an opening without going through the formal diplomatic exchanges.
“Think Kissinger, Scowcroft, Brzezinski, Berger,” one of Mr. Obama’s senior national security aides said the other day, ticking off the names of national security advisers who cultivated off-line access to the Chinese leadership. “We had not done this, and it was overdue,” the administration official said, although Mr. Obama and Hu Jintao, China’s president, have met a half dozen times since early last year.
Early this month Mr. Obama quietly sent to Beijing Thomas E. Donilon, his deputy national security adviser and by many accounts the White House official with the greatest influence on the day-to-day workings of national security policy, and Lawrence H. Summers, who announced Tuesday that he would leave by the end of the year as the director of the National Economic Council.
The choice of the lead emissary was noted by the Chinese: Mr. Donilon is considered a strong candidate as the future national security adviser, or perhaps White House chief of staff, if rumors are true and both jobs are soon to be vacated.
The concrete results of the meeting were slim: Exchanges between the American and Chinese militaries are about to resume, after Beijing cut them off in a fit of pique about arms sales to Taiwan and Mr. Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.
But officials familiar with the meetings said they were intended to try to get the two countries focused on some common long-term goals. The Chinese sounded more cooperative themes than in the spring, when two other administration officials were told, as one senior official put it, that “it was the Obama administration that caused this mess, and it’s the Obama administration that has to clean it up.”

Gates still richest in U.S.; Zuckerberg tops Jobs | Business Tech - CNET News

Gates still richest in U.S.; Zuckerberg tops Jobs | Business Tech - CNET News
No surprise here: Bill Gates is the richest man in the United States. However, some may be surprised that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has overtaken Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Forbes list of the 400 richest people in America.
Gates, the co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, topped the list--again--with an estimated wealth valuation of $54 billion. Second on the list was Berkshire Hathaway CEO and Gates pal Warren Buffett with $45 billion. Rounding out the top three was Oracle CEO Larry Ellison with $27 billion.
Tied at No. 11 on the list were Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin with net worths of $15 billion. They were followed by Dell CEO Michael Dell (No. 15; $14 billion), Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (No. 16; $13.1 billion), Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (No. 17; $ 12.7 billion), and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (No. 18; $12.6 billion).
The intrigue comes much lower on the list, where Zuckerberg, who didn't even qualify as a billionaire last year, ranked higher than Jobs, who founded Apple some eight years before Zuckerberg was even born. Ranked at No. 35, Zuckerberg ($6.9 billion) got a boost last year from a $200 million infusion of cash in his social-networking titan. Despite Apple recently passing Microsoft in valuation, the majority of Jobs' (No. 42; $6.1 billion) net worth comes from his shares in Disney, which bought his Pixar animation studio in 2006 for $7.4 billion.
Following in tech's tradition of philanthropy, Zuckerberg is expected to announce a $100 million donation to the Newark, N.J., school district during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Obama Talks Mideast Peace At The UN; China And Japan; The French Go On Strike, Again : The Two-Way : NPR

Obama Talks Mideast Peace At The UN; China And Japan; The French Go On Strike, Again : The Two-Way : NPR
President Obama Addresses UN General Assembly.
The President is scheduled to speak in New York this morning to the world body. The White House released some excerpts from his planned remarks which focus on reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
One excerpt from his planned remakrs:
“Peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well. Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine – one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means – including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.”
Mark has more below.
China Bans Exports of Rare Earths to Japan, or Did They?
Some conflicting reports on a brewing conflict between Japan and China. The New York Times reports that China has stopped all shipments of so-called rare earths to Japan, while the Washington Post quotes a Chinese official as saying they don't have an embargo, and then throws in this note to confuse us all.
"The Chinese government has requested exporters to demonstrate support for the Chinese situation and suspend exports of rare earths to Japan until the end of the month when the situation will be reviewed," said Industrial Minerals owner and former mining executive Dudley Kingsnorth. "It's very regrettable if we have the effective suspension of commercial contracts for political reasons."
China is demanding Japan release the captain of a fishing ship who Japanese officials say was fishing in Japanese waters. The Chinese have long disputed Japan's claim to that area.
The rare earth imbroglio could have pretty quick repercussions in this country. The minerals (not actually all that rare) are crucial in all sorts of high tech gadgets, from hybrid cars to cell phones to smart bombs. And China mines 93 percent of the world's rare earths. There's a hearing in congress this morning on whether to re-start American rare earth mining.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In Dispute, China Blocks Rare Earth Exports to Japan -

In Dispute, China Blocks Rare Earth Exports to Japan -
HONG KONG — Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain, the Chinese government has placed a trade embargo on all exports to Japan of a crucial category of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.
Chinese customs officials are halting all shipments to Japan of so-called rare earth elements, industry experts said on Thursday morning.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao personally called for Japan’s release of the captain, who was detained after his vessel collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels about 40 minutes apart as he tried to fish in waters controlled by Japan but long claimed by China. Mr. Wen threatened unspecified further actions if Japan did not comply.
A Chinese commerce ministry official declined on Thursday to discuss the country’s trade policy on rare earths, saying only that Mr. Wen’s comments remained the Chinese government’s position.
China mines 93 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, and more than 99 percent of the world’s supply of some the most prized rare earths, which sell for several hundred dollars a pound.
Dudley Kingsnorth, the executive director of the Industrial Minerals Company of Australia, a rare earth consulting company, said that several rare earths industry executives had already expressed worries to him about the export ban. The executives have been told that the initial ban lasts through the end of the month, and that the Chinese government will reassess then whether to extend the ban if the fishing captain still has not been released, Mr. Kingsnorth said.
“By stopping the shipments, they’re disrupting commercial contracts, which is regrettable and will only emphasize the need for geographic diversity of supply,” he said. He added that in addition to telling companies to halt exports, the Chinese government had also instructed customs officials to stop any exports of rare earth minerals to Japan.

China prime minister demands captain's release | World news | The Guardian

Wen Jiabao (温家宝), Chinese PremierImage via WikipediaChina prime minister demands captain's release | World news | The Guardian
Wen Jiabao criticises Japan investigation after Chinese trawler collided with Japanese patrol ship near disputed islets
Anti-Japan protesters hold banners reading "Protect Diaoyu Islands" during a demonstration in Hong Kong. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP
China's premier Wen Jiabao has threatened further retaliation against Japan unless it releases a fishing boat captain, as the maritime dispute between the two countries escalates.
Wen is the most senior Chinese leader to comment on the row, which began earlier this month when a Chinese trawler collided with a Japanese patrol ship near disputed islets – known as the Diaoyu islands in China and Senkaku islands in Japan.
Tokyo, meanwhile, called for high-level bilateral talks, but said it would continue its investigation into the captain despite Beijing's demands for his immediate release.
Speaking to overseas Chinese and Chinese Americans on the sidelines of a United Nations summit in New York last night, Wen warned: "The Japanese side has paid no heed to China's numerous serious representations, and so China cannot but take necessary countermeasures.
"If Japan acts willfully despite advice to the contrary, China will take further actions, and Japan must accept full responsibility for all the severe consequences."
The incident had "stirred up anger for the entire Chinese people at home and abroad", Wen added, in comments carried on the website of China's foreign ministry.
The ministry had already said Wen would not meet Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan in New York because the atmosphere was not suitable. Beijing suspended ministerial and provincial level contacts after a Japanese court extended the captain's detention on Sunday.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, said: "It would be good to have high-level talks as soon as possible, on issues including broad, strategic matters."
Foreign minister Seiji Maehara said he would be willing to meet Chinese officials in New York to explain Japan's response to the collision. "China is an important neighbouring country," he told reporters.
"We will have to build a strategic reciprocal relationship."
While he did not offer details, Sengoku conceded that Japan might have to take a "broader view" over Zhan Qixiong's detention to avoid inflicting further damage to ties with China. Some analysts expect Japan to release the captain without charge before his term of detention ends on 28 September, a move that would allow both sides to save face.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vatican Bank Facing Money Laundering Probe

Vatican Bank Facing Money Laundering Probe
VATICAN CITY — Italian authorities seized euro23 million ($30 million) from a Vatican bank account Tuesday and said they have begun investigating top officials of the Vatican bank in connection with a money-laundering probe.
The Vatican said it was "perplexed and surprised" by the investigation.
Italian financial police seized the money as a precaution and prosecutors placed the Vatican bank's chairman and director general under investigation for alleged mistakes linked to violations of Italy's anti-laundering laws, news reports said.
The investigation is not the first trouble for the bank – formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion. In the 1980s, it was involved in a major scandal that resulted in a banker, dubbed "God's Banker" because of his close ties to the Vatican, being found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.

Michael Ware, Former CNN War Correspondent, Speaks Out On Alleged War Crime CNN Refused To Air [UPDATED]

Michael Ware, Former CNN War Correspondent, Speaks Out On Alleged War Crime CNN Refused To Air

War correspondent Michael Ware worked for CNN from 2006 until April of this year, during which time he became known for covering the hellscape of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with brutal honesty and a keen analytical sense that often cut against the standard talking points. He's since been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and today the Brisbane Times is reporting on an event that might have contributed to that -- an alleged 2007 war crime that CNN refused to air.

Kate Dennehy, who reports that Ware is "set to reveal" the details, describes the incident:

Mr Ware tells of the alleged incident he says he witnessed and filmed in 2007 when working for US news giant CNN, but claims the network decided the footage was too graphic to go to air.

He alleges that a teenager in a remote Iraqi village run by the militant Islamist group, al-Qaeda was carrying a weapon to protect himself.

"(The boy) approached the house we were in and the (US) soldiers who were watching our backs, one of them put a bullet right in the back of his head. Unfortunately it didn't kill him," he tells Australian Story.

"We all spent the next 20 minutes listening to his tortured breath as he died."

Ware goes on to describe his mental state during that time, in which he realized that he was "more concerned with the composition" of his photo than he was with intervening in some way. "I indeed had been indifferent as the soldiers around me whose indifference I was attempting to capture," Ware says.

In 2008, Ware gave an interview with Men's Journal's Greg Veis, that hinted at his mental anguish.

"I am not the same fucking person," he tells me. "I am not the same person. I don't know how to come home."

It's October, six months after our first meeting, and Michael Ware, 39, is at his girlfriend's apartment in New York, trying to tell me why after six years he absolutely must start spending less time in Iraq. He's crying on the other end of the telephone.

"Will I get any better?" he continues. "I honestly don't know. I can't see the -- right now, I know no other way to live."

Ware also attested to his desire to expose more people to the horrors of war:

He dreams of renting out a theater and subjecting an audience to it in full surround sound; that way people would know what it's really like over there. "It's my firm belief that we need to constantly jar the sensitivities of the people back home," he says. "War is a jarring experience. Your kids are living it out, and you've inflicted it upon 20-odd million Iraqis. And when your brothers and sons and mates from the football team come home, and they ain't quite the same, you have an obligation to sit for three and a half minutes and share something of what it's like to be there."
Back in 2006, CNN caught hell from Iraq war proponents after it ran Ware's video report on insurgent snipers targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. Criticism followed hard from viewers and from lawmakers, most notably Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who accused CNN of serving "as the publicist for an enemy propaganda film featuring the killing of an American soldier."

"Does CNN want America to win this thing?" Hunter asked, "You can't be on both sides of the war." An incensed Hunter then asked then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "to remove CNN from the military embedding program."

Whether or not that incident contributed to CNN's decision to not air the footage Ware is now describing, it is at the very least, context worth remembering. CNN is said to own Ware's footage of the incident he describes today in the Brisbane Times.

We have reached out to CNN for comment and will update as soon as they reply.

UPDATE: A CNN spokesperson tells the Huffington Post, "CNN often has to make calls about which disturbing images are necessary to tell a story, and which are too graphic. These are always challenging, and the subject of reasoned editorial debate. On this occasion we decided to not show an Iraqi insurgent dying with fatal wounds."

O'Donnell: 'No truth' to ethics charge -

O'Donnell: 'No truth' to ethics charge -
Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell declared Monday night that there is "no truth" to accusations that she misused campaign funds.
"We have not, I personally have not misused the campaign funds," O'Donnell told reporters. "We have our FEC lawyer, a great attorney, answering those charges if it ever goes anywhere."
The campaign watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a pair of complaints with the Federal Election Commission Monday accusing O'Donnell of using more than $20,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.
"Christine O'Donnell is clearly a criminal, and like any crook she should be prosecuted," Melanie Sloan, the executive director of the group best known by the acronym CREW, said in a statement.
"Ms. O'Donnell has spent years embezzling money from her campaign to cover her personal expenses," Sloan said. "Republicans and Democrats don't agree on much these days, but both sides should agree on one point: Thieves belong in jail not the United States Senate."

NYT: Haitians plead: 'Please — do something!' - World news - The New York Times -

NYT: Haitians plead: 'Please — do something!' - World news - The New York Times -

CORAIL-CESSELESSE, Haiti — It was after midnight in a remote annex of this isolated tent camp on a windswept gravel plain. Marjorie Saint Hilaire’s three boys were fast asleep, but her mind was racing.

The camp leader had proposed writing letters to the nongovernment authorities, and she had so much to say. She lighted a candle and summoned a gracious sentiment with which to begin.

“To all the members of concerned organizations, I thank you first for feeling our pain,” she wrote slowly in pencil on what became an eraser-smudged page. “I note that you have taken on almost all our problems and some of our greatest needs.”

Ms. Saint Hilaire, 33, then succinctly explained that she had lost her husband and her livelihood to the Jan. 12 earthquake and now found herself hungry, stressed and stranded in a camp annex without a school, a health clinic, a marketplace or any activity at all.

“Please — do something!” she wrote from Tent J2, Block 7, Sector 3, her new address. “We don’t want to die of hunger and also we want to send our children to school. I give glory to God that I am still alive — but I would like to stay that way!”

In the last couple of weeks, thousands of displaced Haitians have similarly vented their concerns, depositing impassioned pleas for help in new suggestion boxes at a hundred camps throughout the disaster zone.

Taken together, the letters form a collective cri de coeur from a population that has felt increasingly impotent and ignored.

With 1.3 million displaced people in 1,300 camps, homelessness is the new normal here. Two recent protest marches have sought to make the homeless a central issue in the coming presidential campaign. But the tent camp residents, miserable, weary and in many cases fighting eviction, do not seem to have the energy to become a vocal force.

Obama At Town Hall Meeting

Rare North Korea meeting on Sept 28, eye on succession | Reuters

Rare North Korea meeting on Sept 28, eye on succession | Reuters

(Reuters) - North Korea's ruling party will hold its biggest meeting in decades on September 28 to pick a new leadership, state media reported on Tuesday, and likely anoint an heir to the dynasty as Kim Jong-il's health deteriorates.
Kim, who is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, has reportedly accelerated succession plans, and analysts say his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is likely to be given an official title at the Workers' Party conference.
The North's KCNA news agency said the conference would be held in Pyongyang "for electing its supreme leadership body," but provided no further details of the agenda.
The meeting had been slated to start in early September. The report made no mention of the delay.
South Korea said it appeared the meeting was held up by "internal problems," probably related to flooding. Media reports have also speculated Kim's health or disagreements over a reshuffle of the power structure could be responsible for the delay.
Party meetings have been held around the country to elect delegates to the conference, KCNA reported.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Powell says illegal immigrants do his home repairs - Yahoo! News

Powell says illegal immigrants do his home repairs - Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says illegal immigrants do essential work in the U.S. and he has firsthand knowledge of that — because they fix his house.
Powell, a moderate Republican, urged his party Sunday to support immigration generally because it is "what's keeping this country's lifeblood moving forward."
In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," he said a path to legal status should be offered to illegal immigrants because they "are doing things we need done in this country."
He added: "They're all over my house, doing things whenever I call for repairs, and I'm sure you've seen them at your house. We've got to find a way to bring these people out of the darkness and give them some kind of status."
Powell did not say whether he's hired illegal immigrants directly or they showed up with contractors.
Powell was President George W. Bush's first-term secretary of state and the nation's top military officer in the presidency of Bush's father and in the early months of the Clinton administration. Despite his Republican standing — he was once considered a formidable prospect for the GOP presidential or vice presidential nominations but stayed out of contention — he endorsed Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

In Letter, Carl Paladino Challenges Andrew Cuomo -

In Letter, Carl Paladino Challenges Andrew Cuomo -
Showing no sign of tempering the combative style that helped earn him the Republican nomination for governor, Carl P. Paladino plans to release a taunting and belligerent letter on Monday that questions the manhood of his Democratic opponent, Andrew M. Cuomo, and derides him as a “king-designate” dependent on “daddy’s coattails.”
Asserting that Mr. Cuomo had refused to heed his calls for a face-to-face exchange, Mr. Paladino wrote: “Come out and debate like a man.”
“It’s difficult to understand why you, a polished veteran campaigner, scion of a political dynasty and king-designate, would fear a simple businessman from Buffalo, who candidly has never been in a debate in his life — except maybe in a bar,” Mr. Paladino wrote.
The chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs, said in a statement on Sunday night that Mr. Cuomo had already said he was open to a debate and assailed the tone of the letter. He added, “It seems Carl is melting down again.”
Debates aside, the letter itself seemed to quell any notion that Mr. Paladino, a real estate developer and a political novice, might morph into a more traditional candidate for the general election. If anything, its aggressive personal attack on Mr. Cuomo, the state’s attorney general, suggested that he had been emboldened by his primary triumph.
“What I find most offensive,” Mr. Paladino wrote, referring to his call for a debate, “other than the arrogance toward the public by your lack of a public answer, is the idea that this is somehow your decision. You have some sense of entitlement based on being the son of Mario Cuomo, a governor who left our state economy in a wreck.”
The letter, which lacks the decorum traditionally found in such political correspondence, evokes the scrappy, street-fighting tone of Mr. Paladino’s primary campaign, which galvanized conservative crowds and Tea Party affiliates but remains untested among moderate voters.
“Andrew, for the first time in your life be a man,” Mr. Paladino wrote. “Don’t hide behind daddy’s coattails even though he pulled strings to advance your career every step of your way.”
The letter offered a preview of Mr. Paladino’s possible points of attack against Mr. Cuomo, who retains a healthy lead in polls. He accused his opponent of being too close to Charles B. Rangel, the embattled Harlem congressman, and questioned his handling of a state pension scandal.
Mr. Paladino already has a reputation for controversy. He has been criticized for sending e-mail containing pornographic imagery and racist humor and defended an ally who compared the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, to “an Antichrist or Hitler.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

With Revelations of Debt, Georgia Governor’s Race Evens Up -

With Revelations of Debt, Georgia Governor’s Race Evens Up -
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — At a paper-plate luncheon for lawyers and judges on Friday, Nathan Deal, the Republican nominee for governor of Georgia, searched for a metaphor that would resonate. He wanted to describe how it feels to run a major campaign, especially amid revelations last week that he is facing more than $5 million of debt and may need to sell his house to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure.
“What’s it like?” he asked rhetorically, standing in a century-old courtroom in this Atlanta suburb. “It’s like being in a trial that is contentious, doesn’t have weekends off and lasts for over a year and a half.”
In his analogy, the jurors determining his fate would be Georgia voters, who must decide in November whether to stand by Mr. Deal, a former nine-term congressman, despite revelations about his worsening financial situation.
On Wednesday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Mr. Deal, 68, owed $2.3 million to a bank, after having invested in his daughter’s sporting goods store, which went out of business last year. On Thursday, The Associated Press added to the campaign’s troubles, reporting that Mr. Deal also owed $2.85 million on loans for an automobile salvage business he co-owns.
None of the debts were included in filings that the Deal campaign released before the Republican primary runoff in August, which Mr. Deal won by less than 1 percent of the vote.
The back-to-back disclosures have upended an election that had been considered reasonably easy for Republicans. Georgia is so reliably conservative — with a Republican governor, two Republican senators and Republican control of the state legislature — that Mr. Deal’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Roy E. Barnes, declined even to meet President Obama when he visited the state last month.

Gulf well permanently plugged, U.S. says -

Gulf well permanently plugged, U.S. says -
(CNN) -- U.S. officials formally declared an end to the worst oil spill in U.S. history Sunday, a milestone that followed nearly five months of dashed hopes and blistering criticism of nearly everyone involved.
After a weekend of pouring cement into the base of the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico, pressure tests conducted early Sunday confirmed the seal was holding, former Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said announced. The Interior Department agency that regulates offshore drilling pronounced the well dead at 5:54 a.m. (6:54 a.m. ET), Allen said in a written statement.
"With this development, which has been confirmed by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, we can finally announce that the Macondo 252 well is effectively dead," said Allen, the federal government's point man on the disaster.

China and Japan Escalate Standoff Over Fishing Captain -

China and Japan Escalate Standoff Over Fishing Captain -
TOKYO — What started nearly two weeks ago with the Japanese Coast Guard’s arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters has snowballed into a heated diplomatic standoff between China and Japan, highlighting anxieties in Asia about China’s rising power and assertiveness.
The standoff over the arrest, which took place in waters near uninhabited islands claimed by both countries, escalated Sunday as China announced that it had suspended high-level exchanges with Japan, and threatened additional “strong countermeasures,” after Tokyo said it would extend its detention of the captain.
The captain, Zhan Qixiong, 41, was arrested on Sept. 8 after his fishing boat collided with two Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the islands.
The arrest, for obstructing officers on duty, quickly grew from a seemingly minor incident into a highly emotional issue in both countries, where it has become a top news item and has begun to spill over into other aspects of the two nations’ extensive economic and political ties.
Since the arrest, there have been mass cancellations of trips to Japan by Chinese tourists and protests in front of Japanese diplomatic missions and schools in China, as well as tensions over the possibility of drilling for natural gas in contested waters in the East China Sea.
In a statement on Sunday, China’s Foreign Ministry said Japan had “seriously damaged Sino-Japan bilateral relations.” Beijing suspended all relations between provincial and central government officials and their Japanese counterparts, including talks aimed at expanding aviation routes and cooperation on coal.
“We demand the Japanese side immediately release the Chinese captain unconditionally,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu. “If the Japanese side clings obstinately to its course, making mistake upon mistake, then China will take strong countermeasures and Japan will bear all the consequences.”
The situation has also become a test of wills between Japan, the region’s established power and now-fading economic giant, and China, a rising force that feels its time has come to take what it regards as its rightful place in Asia.

Video: Both parties sizing up Tea Party challenge

Obama again slams GOP for holding up campaign finance bill

Obama again slams GOP for holding up campaign finance bill
For the second time in a month, President Obama on Saturday used his weekly address to call on Senate Republicans to stop blocking legislation that would require companies, unions and other interest groups to explicitly identify themselves in any campaign advertising they fund.
As the November election nears, Obama has increasingly used his radio and Internet address to make a political statement, and his remarks Saturday echoed a theme he used in a campaign fundraising speech earlier in the week.
He has repeatedly cast a January Supreme Court ruling that, for the first time, allows corporations, unions and other organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates as a grave threat to fair elections during a critical midterm campaign season. The address drew an angry response from Republicans, who accused Obama of caring only about his party's hold on Congress.
"What's at stake is not just an election," Obama said in the address. "It's our democracy itself."
Obama said that, since he took office, Democrats have "fought back against the entrenched special interests, weakening their hold on the levers of power in Washington."
"Now, the special interests want to take Congress back, and return to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws," Obama said. "And a partisan minority in Congress is hoping their defense of these special interests and the status quo will be rewarded with a flood of negative ads against their opponents. It's a power grab, pure and simple."
Congressional Democrats have proposed legislation to tighten some of the disclosure requirements that the Supreme Court's ruling loosened.
But Senate Democrats failed in July to muster enough votes to bring the legislation, known as the Disclose Act, to a vote, with Republicans opposing the measure as a bloc.
"This is common sense," Obama said. "In fact, this is the kind of proposal that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on for decades."