December 6, 2010  No. 987 -  Vol. 8

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

Walt Disney

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  • Top News

Impact of Wikileaks' US cable publications

The US cables released in stages by Wikileaks and several newspapers have caused a stir around the world. Anatol Lieven, professor in the War Studies Department of King's College, London, examines the impact. Wikileaks are like peanuts - absolutely addictive, but in the end curiously unsatisfying. In truth, not much has emerged that had not already been leaked to the media in one form or another by US diplomats, to serve either US agendas or battles over policy in Washington.

There is the wider question as to whether such leaks are a good or bad thing. After careful thought and with certain reservations, I'd have to say that on balance they are good. On the security threat, which has so often been cited as an objection, it seems that Wikileaks have taken care to exclude anything that can endanger specific US agents or actions. Another objection is that for the need for confidentiality in diplomacy - so that diplomats can express candid views to their home governments without fearing that they will be spread all over the media. This is a much stronger argument, but in the end it is outweighed - in the West, not obviously in Russia - by the fact that we are after all supposed to be democracies, and our electorates have the democratic right to know more than they have done in recent years about the conduct of their government's foreign policy. Far too much misinformation and outright lying has surrounded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Overall, we in the West now live in an atmosphere of security hysteria and obsessive secrecy that would have filled our ancestors with horror.

If the threat of more Wikileaks releases makes this less likely in future, so much the better. As to the effects on the tender sensibilities of Silvio Berlusconi, Vladimir Putin and Hamid Karzai of private US official opinions of them - well, how very tragic. The more these people know of how the outside world regards them the better for their countries. From this point of view, Wikileaks might almost be seen as rather a good way for a US administration to pass on candid messages that it could not possibly deliver officially.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China leadership 'orchestrated Google hacking'

Senior Chinese figures were behind the hacking of Google earlier this year which forced the search engine to quit the country, leaked US cables suggest. One cable, released by whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, cites a "well-placed" contact as saying the action against Google was "100% political". A politburo member is said to have been angered after Googling his name and finding critical comments online.


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  • Brief News

Confident Iran set for nuclear talks in Geneva

Iran is set to meet six world powers in the Swiss city of Geneva to discuss its nuclear program. They are the first talks in over a year, but analysts say any breakthrough is unlikely. On Sunday Iran announced that it had delivered its first domestically produced raw uranium to a plant that can make it ready for enrichment. The US criticized the announcement but Tehran said as a result it would go to the talks with "strength and power". On state television, nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the talks were for the benefit of the other countries, not Iran. "We want to crez us," he said, according to Reuters news agency.

Malaysia urged to stop caning 'epidemic'

Caning as a form of judicial punishment in Malaysia has reached "epidemic" proportions and should be banned, according to a human rights group. Blows administered to the body with a long cane are a legal punishment for more than 60 offences in the country. Amnesty International claims at least 10,000 prisoners and 6,000 refugees are caned there each year. The government says caning is a legal and effective deterrent from criminal activity.

Brazil army to take up 'peacekeeping' in Rio slums

The army in Brazil is to take on peacekeeping duties in the poor areas of Rio de Janeiro, which saw a week-long stand-off between security forces and drug dealers last month. Soldiers will patrol the Alemao and Penha districts to ensure hundreds of drug traffickers who had made the areas their stronghold would not return. It will be the army's first peacekeeping mission within Brazil.

WTO calls for end to EU duties on Chinese screws

The European Union (EU) has been told to stop levying import duties on Chinese screws, nuts and bolts. The ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) marks the first time the trade body has ruled against the EU in favor of China. The panel of WTO experts said the EU's import duties broke trade rules and said they must be revised. According to the organization's rules, both sides now have 60 days to appeal against the ruling.

Living without work: the long-term unemployed

 With emergency jobless benefits on hold, millions are enduring the stresses of long-term unemployment. And the toll isn't just economic: An economics professor chronicles the physical and psychological toll of joblessness. And another economist asks: Is it time now to rethink the federal unemployment insurance program altogether?

Why no one's happy with the FCC's Net Neutrality

After years of debate, the Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with controversial rules intended to preserve the open Internet. The FCC chairman outlined the proposals this week and criticism came quickly, from all parts of the ideological spectrum. He has been promising new rules of the road for the phone and cable companies that provide broadband access, as well as the companies and consumers who depend on it. "It is the Internet's openness and freedom — the ability to speak, innovate and engage in commerce without having to ask anyone's permission — that has enabled the Internet's unparalleled success," he said. In a brief appearance Wednesday, Genachowski sketched out the rules that he said would ensure that broadband providers treat all of the data on their networks equally — an idea known as net neutrality. But some public interest groups have seen a few more details than Genachowski announced. They say the proposed rules are net neutrality in name only. The full commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed rules on Dec. 21. If they pass, then the real tests — both legal and political — will begin.

Farmers concerned about impact of proposed food-safety law

The Food Safety Modernization Act (Senate Bill 510) would be one of the most comprehensive reforms of food-safety laws since 1938 Senate Bill 510 raises some significant issues, some of them are very complex. The Centers for Disease Control says 78-million Americans get sick each year from food-related illness; 5,000 of them die.  The Act was drafted in response to the large number of food-recalls in recent months. Proponents say SB 510 would make the food supply safer by giving the FDA more power to issue food recalls.  Currently it's up to individual producers/manufacturers to issue recalls. The law would also implement tougher record keeping procedures for farmers, and require them to draft 'food-safety plans' to be used in cases of emergencies. The cost could be prohibitive, especially for smaller farms. Farmers who make less $500,000 a year and sell directly to local consumers could get an exemption. Supporters of the bill are pushing to reconcile the bills and get the final agreed-upon legislation to Obama for his signature by the end of this month.   However, a date for the House vote has not been set.

WikiLeaks may break German law,

A former head of Germany's supreme court, Winfried Hassemer, says disclosures on WikiLeaks could conceivably be in breach of German law. German officials have generally reacted with dismay to the whistle-blower website's gradual disclosure on the internet of 250,000 US diplomatic cables starting over the past week. 'Secrecy law is formulated restrictively in the criminal code in our country, and is seldom employed, but in certain cases it may be breached,' Hassemer said.

Madoff suit cites HSBC as a helper

A suit seeks $9 billion from several defendants headed by HSBC, the London-based financial giant.

US tobacco companies appeal $270 million settlement to Supreme Court

US tobacco companies including Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, along with an industry trade group, filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn a $271.5 million class action settlement. The settlement was awarded by the Louisiana Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in order to establish a fund meant to help Louisianans quit smoking. The ruling came after the court found the tobacco companies had "distort[ed] the entire body of public knowledge about the addictive effects of nicotine." The Louisiana Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. The tobacco companies argue that the Louisiana court procedure for filing and examining claims in the class-action suit was "unorthodox." Specifically, the parties argue that the court did not require any class member to prove the individual elements of their claims and that the only class members to testify at trial had already quit smoking.

Nigeria filing bribery charges against Cheney in connection with Halliburton contract

Nigerian prosecutors announced Thursday that they are instituting bribery charges against former US vice president Dick Cheney in connection in with a contract that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) obtained to build a natural gas project in the Niger Delta area. Bribes amounting to USD $180 million were allegedly given to Nigerian government officials so that KBR could obtain the $6 billion construction contract. Cheney served as Halliburton's chief executive officer from 1995 through August 2000, while the bribery is alleged to have occurred from 1995 to 2005. Last year, Halliburton and KBR agreed to paid a $579 million fine to resolve US criminal and regulatory violations stemming from the Bonny Island contract and bribery.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Do you want to know a secret? The War on Secrecy. Rogue activist Julian Assange wants to curb government secrecy, but his massive leak of classified U.S. diplomatic cables is undermining the Obama Administration's efforts to do just that

Not Dead Yet. A United States with geopolitical muscle like no one else.

Business Week
Bernanke and Geithner Fight Back. How the Federal Reserve chairman and Treasury Secretary are battling to defend the Fed's latest moves—and preserve its independence.

The Economist
The dangers of a rising China. China and America are bound to be rivals, but they do not have to be antagonists.

Der Spiegel
Das letzte Gefecht - Wie Europa seine Währung ruiniert

  • Daily Press Review

McDowell denies Woods in playoff, Online news portal, Cork, Ireland

Facebook cartoon character campaign 'nothing to do with the NSPCC', charity says
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

BT plans 1 Gbps fibre broadband technical trial in 2011
DMeurope, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

IVORY COAST: Mbeki holds crisis talks over Ivorian election dispute
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Egypt: German tourist killed in fourth Sharm el-Sheikh shark attack in a week
The Telegraph, Conservative daily, London, England

Tharoor backs Thomas, flays media trial on CVC
India Express, News portal, Mumbai, India

Trusting the pension system
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

WikiLeaks is underground
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Pakistan judicial panel may be allowed to visit India
The Hindu, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Clinton cable shows frustration with Saudis
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Dominican leader says WikiLeaks take U.S. secrets to global spotlight
Dominican Today, Independent daily, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

List of facilities 'vital to US security' leaked, Independent online news aggregator

Hunted WikiLeaks owner has poison pill of secrets
Independent Online, News portal, Cape Town, South Africa


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