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Letters: Manufacturing war as civilian jobs vanish December 12, 2011

Terry Jones makes the link between the arms industry’s need for wars and its influence over the politicians who regularly provide them (War drums are beating for Iran. But who’s playing them?), 7 December. This relationship is all the more exposed as venal when the same politicians shrug as civilian manufacturing jobs disappear. Our ferries, trains and buses are built abroad so we have to make and sell more warships, fighters and guns. You published Jones’s piece on the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This too had its origin in the arms trade. Less than 40 years earlier Japan’s British-built warships had annihilated Russia’s far eastern fleets. The newly empowered Japan went on to enslave Korea and devastate much of China, and those ships were then used against those who built them. When Galtieri used his British-, US- and French-sourced weapons to attack the Falklands, he did so to distract his population from economic and social woes. It is time our politicians learned the obvious lessons of history that selling arms makes war, and war makes more war. It is time to work as hard for peace as we so energetically work and expensively prepare for war.
Robert Straughton
Preparing for Peace Project, Swarthmore Quakers

• Seumas Milne’s chilling warning of the escalating US/Israeli stealth war is timely (War on Iran has begun. Act before it threatens all of us, 8 December). In view of Tony Blair’s Iraq debacle, even-handed initiatives are urgently needed if disaster is to be avoided. The “dodgy dossier” on Iran‘s weapons programme is even flimsier this time, so the obvious starting point should be a UN inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities and a comparison with Israel‘s arsenal of warheads. A proposal to inspect both programmes simultaneously might mollify Ahmadinejad.
Gerry Abbott

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Bill Gates Teams With China on New Nuclear Reactor December 9, 2011

Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has teamed with China to jointly develop a new type of nuclear reactor, which would be better for the environment and reduce the need for uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

Gates says the traveling wave reactor technology is low-cost, very safe and will generate little waste. He spoke at a news conference Wednesday in Beijing following talks with officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Gates says about $1 billion will be put into the project over the next five years.

The reactor is being developed through TerraPower, a company co-founded by Gates, and the state-owned China National Nuclear Cooperation.

The company says that once produced, the Generation Four reactor will offer a “zero-emission, proliferation-resistant energy.”  It says it would run on depleted uranium, currently a waste byproduct of the enrichment process.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Obama: Russia, China United With US on Iran Nuclear Issue November 15, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking in Hawaii at the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific leaders summit, says the United States, China and Russia are united on the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

President Obama says his talks with the Chinese and Russian presidents in Hawaii produced agreement on one major objective.

“All three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power and that we don’t trigger a nuclear arms race in region,” he said.

Obama said the recent International Atomic Energy Agency report confirmed that while Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon, it has engaged in practices contrary to its international obligations.

He says the U.S., China and Russia will consult closely on available options to pressure Iran, to see if the issue can be solved diplomatically.

Obama repeated that the U.S. takes no options off the table regarding Iran and believes Iran’s government knows how determined the world is to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and an arms race in the region.

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Economics, Iran; Issues in Obama APEC Talks November 13, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama, in Hawaii hosting the APEC summit, has met with leaders from China, Russia and Japan.

Mr. Obama’s talks with Presidents Hu Jintao and Dmitry Medvedev covered economic issues, non-proliferation efforts, and Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Obama and President Hu last met in Cannes, France on the sidelines of the G20 summit amid the turmoil surrounding the debt crisis in Europe.

Sitting with the Chinese leader in Honolulu, Mr. Obama called cooperation with China vital, adding that despite differences, they would discuss how to re-balance growth and ensure there is a “win-win” trading relationship.

U.S. officials said President Obama was “very direct” in communicating one particular thing to the Chinese leader – increasing frustration and impatience among Americans and U.S. businesses about the pace of change in China on key issues in the economic relationship.

Mike Froman, the deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs, said, “There has been more and more concern and frustration on the part of parts of the American business community about their treatment in China and their desire for China to take further action.”

President Hu called for more communication and cooperation, adding both countries need to respect each others major concerns, and “appropriately manage” sensitive issues.

During a session with business executives Saturday, President Obama listed the issues, ranging from intellectual property protections to the need for further steps to allow China’s currency to appreciate.

President Obama said, “The bottom line is that the United States can’t be expected to stand by if there is not the kind of reciprocity in our trade relations and our economic relationships that we need.”

China has been critical of the U.S. effort, with eight other APEC member economies, to create a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), suggesting it is a form of trade protectionism, a word President Hu used in remarks earlier Saturday.  

TPP nations agreed to move that process forward and complete the new group by next year. And Japan has announced it intends to enter into consultations with the TPP group with an eye toward eventual membership.

The recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that found what it called credible evidence Iran had been working to develop a nuclear weapon figured in Mr. Obama’s talks with President Hu and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. and Russia would work to shape a “common response” to press Iran to abide by its international obligations.

White House officials were asked precisely what that meant.  Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes insisted that the U.S., China and Russia remain united on the need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, while Press Secretary Jay Carney also addressed the question.

Rhodes said, “They do not want to see the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran or frankly to any new state and therefore they remain committed to diplomatic efforts to compel Iran to live up to its obligations.”

Press Secretary Carney said, “The focus was on working together cooperatively, moving forward on next steps.”

Mr. Obama and President Medvedev also discussed steps Russia has taken to satisfy requirements for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the situation in Syria, and the U.S.-Russia disagreement over a European missile defense system.

President Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda discussed the U.S. – Japan alliance.  Mr. Obama said he understood resistance within Japan to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but said TPP will not be delayed and he predicted other nations will join.

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News Corp suffers investor rebuke October 25, 2011

James Murdoch was sharply rebuked by News Corp shareholders

A third of News Corporation investors voted against James and Lachlan Murdoch being re-elected to the board on Friday, newly released figures show.

Almost 35% voted against James Murdoch, who is the company’s deputy chief operating officer, while 34% voted against his brother.

The vote is seen as a rebuke over News Corp’s handling of the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World.

News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch received 14% of “no” votes.

The phone hacking scandal in the UK led to the News of the World being shut down.

The newspaper had been illicitly hacking into the voicemail messages of prominent people including murder victims and celebrities as they looked for stories.

Critics of the Murdoch family, which has control of News Corp and its global newspaper and media assets, say that not enough was done to stop the phone hacking when the accusations arose.

Investors ‘want change’

Many shareholders have called for changes at the top of the company.

Anne Simpson is a senior portfolio manager at the California Public Employees Retirement System (Calpers), which voted against James Murdoch.

“I think this really tells the board that investors are looking for change, they’re looking for robust independence,” she told the BBC World Service.

“They are quite properly expecting due process for all concerned, but the real concern is that this is a board in need of rejuvenation and it’s really in need of some robust independent oversight.”

The Murdoch family controls about 40% of votes, while another 7% are controlled by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

Stripping out those votes, a majority of shareholders voted against the Murdoch brothers at Friday’s meeting, the figures show.

The BBC’s business editor Robert Peston says the results are an embarrassment for James Murdoch, who wants to be seen as a talented business person in his own right rather than as an heir to his father’s media empire.

However, despite the level of shareholder dissatisfaction, all 15 nominees to the board were re-elected.

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