World News Sunday

Barak says West Bank settlement deal has '50-50' chance
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has told the BBC there is a "50-50" chance of reaching a deal with Palestinians about Israel's settlement moratorium as a 10-month partial ban winds down.
The BBC 26 September 2010
Palestinians have said they could leave recently resumed peace talks if the construction freeze is not extended.

West Bank settlers are preparing to resume building if no deal is reached.

Mr Barak is returning home from the UN in New York, where he has been leading Israel's negotiating team.

Israel says the settlements are no bar to talks, but US negotiators have been working intensively to secure a deal.

'My happy days at school with North Korea's future leader'
Kim Jong-un, who may soon be anointed as North Korea's new leader, was educated under a false name at a Swiss school. Colin Freeman and Philip Sherwell report on his ex-classmates' memories of the man who may one day rule the Stalinist state.
Published: 8:00AM BST 26 Sep 2010
To his fellow pupils, he was a pleasant, if unremarkable classmate: a quiet teenager, dedicated to the typical adolescent passions of computer games, designer trainers and action movies. Pak Un, who enrolled at a state school in Liebefeld, Switzerland, back in 1997, seemed like just another shy new boy - the son, his class was told, of an Asian ambassador posted to the nearby Swiss capital, Bern.
Yet this Tuesday, some 13 years from the warm September day when he first walked into their class, his former schoolmates may find themselves with the ultimate "Friends Reunited" story to tell. For at a grandiose ceremony some 5,000 miles away, Pak Un, real name Kim Jong-un, is expected to be anointed as the leader-in-waiting of North Korea, the world's last Stalinist state.


Walking away with less

By Dina ElBoghdady and Dan Keating
Saturday, September 25, 2010; 11:32 PM

A new wave of distressed home sales is rippling, more quietly this time, through American cities and suburbs.
Its unsettling effects are playing out here in Manassas, along Brewer Creek Place, a modest, horseshoe-shaped street lined with 98 brick townhouses. Several years after the U.S. foreclosure crisis erupted, the U-Hauls are back.

The last time, banks seized nearly every fourth house on the street through foreclosure. This time, homeowners are going another route: a short sale.

Washington state wrestles with tax-the-rich ballot measure
America's wealthiest man backs it, but others say it would hurt more than help by deterring new business.
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Seattle — Imagine if the slash-and-burn budget cuts that have become a new way of life for recession-stricken state governments could be ended by simply soaking the rich.

Here in Washington, they're taking that literally. A TV spot for a proposed new income tax on the state's wealthiest citizens shows Microsoft founder Bill Gates' 84-year-old father, William Gates Sr., plunged by giggling kids into a dunk tank and left to drip in his wet khakis and Oxford shirt.


Gypsy circus is next on France's expulsion list
After deporting many illegal Roma immigrants, Nicolas Sarkozy's government may force Europe's only Gypsy circus to close down
Lizzy Davies
The Observer, Sunday 26 September 2010

With its mesmerising songs and startling acrobatics, the Cirque Romanès is one of the most unusual cultural highlights of Paris: the only Gypsy circus in Europe and the only show in the French capital whose artists retreat to their caravans after the curtain falls. For 18 years it has been attracting audiences to its exotic blend of poetry and performance. In June it was deemed good enough to represent France at the World Expo in Shanghai.

But after a summer which has seen France crack down on its foreign Roma population and draw the ire of Brussels for the policy, the future of the circus and its loyal band of artists hangs in the balance

Russia hails Prince Michael, the Royal Family member with Tsarist blood in his veins
Prince Michael of Kent is admired throughout Russia - and not just for the Tsarist blood in his veins. On a visit last week he was building bridges to Britain, says Andrew Alderson.
By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter Saratov
Published: 7:30AM BST 26 Sep 2010

It was Prince Michael of Kent's short aside, delivered before he began his official speech at the Saratov Opera and Ballet Theatre, that was the crowd-pleaser for his predominantly Russian audience.
At the end of a lavish three-course dinner that acted as the extended interval for the night's entertainment, the Queen's cousin said a single sentence in English before delivering an address in word-perfect Russian.
"Every time I hear Russian music, I feel very emotional and fired up because I have Russian blood in my veins," he said to loud applause.

Middle East

Official doubts scale of Yemen's campaign against al Qaeda

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
Yemeni security forces have driven out al Qaeda elements who infiltrated the town of Hawta in southern Shabwa province, the state-run news agency reported.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Maqdashi, the security director of Shabwa, told the Saba News Agency on Friday that Yemeni troops were now chasing down al Qaeda fighters who fled to the mountains surrounding Hawta.
This week's military offensive was touted by Yemen as part of an intensified hunt for terrorists, especially those linked to the offshoot al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises
Published: September 25, 2010

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Back in 2007, when the government here announced its plan for “the world’s first zero-carbon city” on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, many Westerners dismissed it as a gimmick — a faddish follow-up to neighboring Dubai’s half-mile-high tower in the desert and archipelago of man-made islands in the shape of palm trees.
Designed by Foster & Partners, a firm known for feats of technological wizardry, the city, called Masdar, would be a perfect square, nearly a mile on each side, raised on a 23-foot-high base to capture desert breezes. Beneath its labyrinth of pedestrian streets, a fleet of driverless electric cars would navigate silently through dimly lit tunnels. The project conjured both a walled medieval fortress and an upgraded version of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.


North Korean elite secretly jostle for the reins of power
Kim Jong-il has chosen his son to succeed him, but other figures may set the state's course
Peter Beaumont and Michael Rank in Rason, North Korea
The Observer, Sunday 26 September 2010

The poster for the first conference of the (North) Korean Workers' party to be held since 1966 depicts four striving, heroic figures. A rifle-bearing soldier leads the way, but only by the tiniest of margins, followed by an engineer in a hard hat. Behind them stride a technocrat clutching a rolled-up blueprint and a female farmer with a sheaf of wheat.

Taken together they represent a vision of proletarian certainty and confidence. But the reality in the world's most notoriously unpredictable state is wholly different. This week, hidden from the world, its future will be mapped out behind closed doors, with international implications. The country's leadership cadres will meet at a historic gathering in the vast 25 April Culture Hall in Pyongyang.

India sprints to save Games reputation
But there are still sodden lawns, mosquito-infested water, stained walls and the threat of a cattle jam
By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi Sunday, 26 September 2010
India yesterday officially unveiled to the world its athletes' village for the Commonwealth Games. Some of it was first class, some of it was adequate, and some of it was downright shoddy.

After enduring days of criticism from competing nations about the unacceptable standard of "filthy accommodation", Indian organisers yesterday invited official national delegates and the media to inspect the facilities, taste the food, try out a treadmill in the gym, and even test the comfort of the mattresses in the athletes' quarters. A number of those participating in the inspection were at best only partly satisfied.


Egypt and Thirsty Neighbors Are at Odds Over Nile

Published: September 25, 2010

BATAMDA, Egypt — One place to begin to understand why this parched country has nearly ruptured relations with its upstream neighbors on the Nile is ankle-deep in mud in the cotton and maize fields of Mohammed Abdallah Sharkawi. The price he pays for the precious resource flooding his farm? Nothing.
“Thanks be to God,” Mr. Sharkawi said of the Nile River water. He raised his hands to the sky, then gestured toward a state functionary visiting his farm. “Everything is from God, andfrom the ministry.”

Latin America

The former guerrilla set to be the world's most powerful woman
Brazil looks likely to elect an extraordinary leader next weekend
By Hugh O'Shaughnessy Sunday, 26 September 2010
The world's most powerful woman will start coming into her own next weekend. Stocky and forceful at 63, this former leader of the resistance to a Western-backed military dictatorship (which tortured her) is preparing to take her place as President of Brazil.

As head of state, president Dilma Rousseff would outrank Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State: her enormous country of 200 million people is revelling in its new oil wealth. Brazil's growth rate, rivalling China's, is one that Europe and Washington
can only envy.

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and that the sense of outraged amazement comes from "Ignoring Asia A Blog."

"Obama wants Burmese rulers to face UN war crimes investigation

The Irony Of This Is Just Beyond Belief"

...Should the government of Burma be held accountable for its appalling Human Rights record of course. However one might think President Obama might want to look at the Human Rights violations and other crimes committed by the George W. Bush administration.

Maybe once we achieve a full restoration of the rule of law, here, in these United States, we could expect other parts of the world to follow in heeding the laws of their own social contracts. Maybe.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson