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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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America’s child abuse epidemic | Seema Jilani October 24, 2011

When I arrived to provide medical care, the four-year-old girl was unconscious. She had multiple bruises, skull fractures, a brain contusion, vaginal and anal tears, venereal disease, and was hemorrhaging from places a little girl should not. The perpetrator? Her stepfather.

I actually sighed with relief when I learned she later died of her abusive injuries in the hospital; at least she was spared the anguish of surviving such brutality. Pediatricians across America have witnessed countless similar tragedies. A new BBC documentary has investigated why the US, one of the most prosperous nations on earth, has the worst child abuse record in the industrialised world. America’s child maltreatment death rate is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Over the past decade, more than 20,000 American children have been killed their own family members – that is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What differentiates us from other countries? The single best predictor of child abuse is poverty. Children raised in families with annual incomes of less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be abused. Since the economic downturn, there has been a 30% increase in child maltreatment. The recession is, quite literally, a slap in the face of American children. The vast social programs available to low-income families in other countries are gapingly absent in the US. Social programs are also suffering funding cuts at the hands of Republicans, who persistently paint citizens in need of social programs as manipulative pariahs on the populace.

Since entering the bid for the 2012 presidential election, Gov. Rick Perry has boasted Texas‘ pseudo-success, bedazzling voters with misleading statistics. His swagger is rooted in the fact that Texas is a low-tax, low-social service state. He neglects to mention that children from Texas are four times more likely to be incarcerated, four times more likely to be uninsured, twice as likely to drop out of high school, and nearly twice as likely to die from abuse and neglect. In order to perpetuate the façade of “traditional family values”, Child Protective Services in states with strong Republican leanings prefer to keep the faux family together, even in cases of flagrant abuse, instead of taking custody and removing children from their cruel environment. Nearly half of all Texan children killed by abuse belonged to families investigated by CPS, but the service’s myopic political masters would rather leave a child in the hands of a sadistic, torturous family than have a child raised by a gay couple in a safe and nurturing home.

Thus Texas has the lowest rate of removal for abused children from their homes. Not surprisingly, it also has the highest number of child abuse fatalities in the country.

Amid these dire circumstances, House Republicans passed an atrocious bill this month that would deeply impact pregnant women of lower socioeconomic status. Currently, hospitals receiving federal funds must provide emergency healthcare, including abortions, which can sometimes be life saving for the mother. The deceptively named Protect Life Act – which does anything but – would permit hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to perform an emergency abortion, even if a woman’s life was at stake. A vicious attack on the most basic right to life, HR 358 ambushes poor pregnant women into a bleak decision: either deliver an unwanted baby and raise the child in an unstable home, or have an unsafe abortion that could jeopardise your life. Will the GOP, our bastion of God-sanctioned moral righteousness, also be providing discounts on rusty coat hangers to further hasten the death of pregnant women?

In contrast, a new UN report released this week demonstrates that restrictions on abortions do not impede abortions; they only impede safe abortions and endanger women’s lives. The report also shows that that access to sex education and contraception are proven to reduce the need for abortions.

The GOP’s shrill moral indignation will force low-income mothers to have children who are born into poverty, rendering them at risk for abuse. Once the babies are born, however, Republicans abandon them in their most vulnerable moment by vehemently opposing social programs that would ameliorate their deplorable conditions. Love those fetuses unconditionally … until they take they take their first breath, when they magically transform into wretched, handout-seeking leeches on society. Abortion? A sinful abomination! Allowing a toddler to die because of lack of access to social programs? Man up, kid; God helps those who help themselves.

Inevitably, adoption is always the suggested panacea, but many children are just filtered through foster programs,which are themselves horrifically abusive. Seventy-seven per cent of foster caregivers need substance abuse services, but less than a third get them. This is no place for a child.

Republicans can cry “scary socialism” all they want. If that is what it takes to prevent blindness in a shaken baby, or anal tears in a seven-year-old resulting from knife sodomy, bring it on. Jonathan was an seven-year-old I treated whose relatives used to starve him, hang him from his shirt on the coatrack all night, dip his feet in boiling oil, and threaten to cut off his penis while holding a hot knife to his genitals. His caretakers had suffered similar abuse in their youth. Abused children are 74 times more likely to commit crimes against others and six times more likely to abuse their own children. This is why it is of paramount importance to offer therapy and rehabilitation to those from broken homes.

Ultimately, the blame of abuse always lies with the perpetrators who commit these heinous acts. But while those to the right of the aisle use melodramatic rhetoric to demonise social programs, studies have shown that preventive measures and therapeutic rehabilitation can, indeed, diminish the cycle of violence. Furthermore, women who are unable to provide a safe environment for children should be allowed to terminate their pregnancies safely, rather than risking their own lives and subjecting their children to a wretched existence full of misery and pain.

The narrative of healthcare reform and social programs must stop reflecting the agenda of morally bankrupt politicians whose eyes only fix on the next election. Propagandised myths need to be replaced with an empathic truth that reflects the needs of catastrophically shattered children who are struggling to survive and begging for our compassion.

• Details of patients, including names, have been changed to protect their identities

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Gaddafi’s death closes a very unfortunate chapter in Libya’s history’ October 21, 2011

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, speaks about the death of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who died fleeing his hometown of Sirte on Thursday. She also discusses the need to deny militants safe havens on both sides of the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan

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