International news and events

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    China's Corruption Conundrum

    "We must be vigilant," proclaimed Xi Jinping, China's new paramount leader. In his inaugural speech to the 25-person Politburo, he warned that rampant graft and corruption would "doom the party and the state" if it continued unchecked.

    He has a point. From petty graft in far-flung villages to the regime-shaking Bo Xilai scandal, rampant corruption has fueled the social unrest that the long-toothed oligarchs fear so much. Payoffs have bumped China's vaunted high-speed trains off their shoddy tracks. Graft has nibbled away the roots of its famously fertile economy.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Reality Is the Enemy: Romney's Foreign Policy

    So tonight Mitt Romney is going to try to outflank President Obama on foreign policy. Romney doesn't know much about foreign policy, but both Romney and Obama represent long-standing traditions of American thought on international security. The President represents the practical tradition designed to guide policy by the party in office, whichever party that is. Romney speaks for the strand that is designed only for opposition figures.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Good Assassinations and Bad Assassinations

    Iran's government condemned the suicide bombing that killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria yesterday.

    "The Islamic republic, the biggest victim of terrorism, believes terrorism endangers the lives of innocents," stated Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast.

    But Israel's leaders blame Iran for the attack. They say that the bomber was a Hezbollah agent acting at Iran's behest.

    "The attack yesterday in Bulgaria was carried out by Hezbollah, the long arm of Iran," charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Donal's picture

    Good Grief

    PBS is running a BBC show centered around an English town called Kibworth. History of England's host narrator Michael Woods flits between an archeological dig, nearby fields and local archives to illustrate stories about British history. It's informative, but also funny to watch, because when an archivist or archaeologist pulls out some old parchment or bit of bone, Woods' enthusiastic gushing sounds much like the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow. "That's a really nice tibia, dear." It is also clear that Brit reenactors have a lot more history, and costumes, to work with than Americans.

    In Episode Four, Woods talked about Henry V putting down an insurrection of Lollards — heretic peasants led by Henry's old friend Sir John Oldcastle (a probable model for Falstaff). Henry's forces were alerted, dispersed and executed the insurgents forthwith, and years later Oldcastle was slowly burned at stake, but Woods blithely reassures the audience that the government eventually granted the religious freedoms they and their predecessors who followed Wat Tyler had wanted. So it was all good.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Thanks, Lafayette! And Happy Fourth of July!

    I've come back from a month overseas in time for the Glorious Fourth. I'm happy to have spent it back in my native land, in my own back yard, grilling a holiday meal. It would have felt a bit odd to extend my European adventure past Independence Day, or to celebrate it outside America. There's only one day a year when cooking a burger feels like an act of national solidarity, and only one day when listening to John Philip Sousa feels like a pleasure. I like spending that day in the States. And spending it anywhere else feels slightly unpatriotic.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Balotelli e Io, Balotelli and Me

    I've spent the last month or so in Rome; our last night in the city happily coincides with the 2012 Euro Cup final, with the hometown Italia Azzuri taking on defending champion Spain. (And that's a happy coincidence, too: a rematch of each team's first game of the tournament.) Naturally, we're going out to watch the match. And just as naturally, I bought a game jersey (from a pile at my neighborhood supermarket).

    Donal's picture

    The Future and Past of the American Empire

    I've written before about energy depletion guru John Michael Greer, one of the presenters I saw at ASPO's conference in DC last year. I ran across his dystopian blog novel, Star's Reach, well over a year ago, and have thought about reading it from time to time, but never quite got around to it. But I read the first chapter this morning:

    One wet day as we walked north toward Sisnaddi, old Plummer told me that all stories are scraps of one story, one great and nameless tale that winds from world’s beginning to world’s end and catches up everything worth telling on the way. Everybody touches that tale one way or another, or so he said, if only by watching smoke from a distant battle or lending an ear to some rumor in the night. Other folk stray into the one story and then right back out of it again, after carrying a message or a load of firewood on which the fate of kings and dreams will presently depend. Now and then, though, someone no different from these others stumbles into the deep places of the story, and gets swept up and spun around like a leaf in a flood until finally the waters drown him or toss him up gasping and alive on the bank.

    He said all this between one mouthful of cheap whiskey and the next, as we waited out a fall rainstorm under the crumbling gray overhang of an old ruin, and I rolled my eyes and thought he was drunk. Now, though, I am less sure. Yesterday, after I arrived at the one place on Earth I least expected ever to come, and nearly died in the process, the thought has occurred to me more than once that this journey of mine is part of something a good deal bigger than the travels of one stray ruinman from Shanuga, bigger than Shanuga or Meriga itself. That something bigger might be Plummer’s one story, for all I know, and if that is the way of it, I know to the day when it caught me up and set me on the road to Star’s Reach.
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Barack Obama, Warlord of the 21st Century

    You know who I really, really wouldn't run against on a national-security platform? A Nobel Peace Prize winner who killed Osama bin Laden.

    But that's just me. Last week Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, in an extended and generally thoughtful interview with President Obama, asked the following question:

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Panetta: Iran to Enter "Immunity Zone"; Israeli Attack Imminent

    When will the Israelis attack? That's what the world has wondered ever since 1984, when an anonymous source predicted that Iran would develop a nuclear bomb within two years.

    Twenty-eight years later, Israeli may have finally set a date for its long-awaited assault according to United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

    Panetta reportedly told David Ignatius of the Washington Post that Israel is likely to strike Iran sometime in April, May, or June of this year.

    According to Panetta, the Israelis believe that Iran will soon enter what they call the "zone of immunity," which sounds like either a science fiction episode or a game of tag. Soon after the Post reported Panetta's remarks, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that the Israelis were very concerned about Iran's imminent arrival in the Immunity Zone.

    But the report raises an intriguing question:

    Why did Leon Panetta announce the schedule for Israeli's surprise attack?

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Chevron’s Brazil Oil Spill: What it looks like when no one defends oil company lies

    There is something odd happening here in Brazil. There is an oil spill – courtesy of Chevron – off the coast here. That’s not the odd part. In fact, it increasingly seems like a normal occurrence. Chevron has thus far lied about the oil spill and has shown a lack of preparation in dealing with it. But there’s nothing strange about that, either.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Libya: That Was Quick

    The Libyan revolution is coming to a rapid end, although there is fighting left to do. Twenty-seven weeks ago, Muammar Qadhafi's armed forces fired on peaceful protestors across Libya. Today, he's in hiding, and a rebel army that didn't exist six months ago, combined with NATO's air power, has managed to take control of most of the country.

    Let me point out a basic truth: that was really fast.

    Donal's picture

    Double-Dip or Great Contraction?


    While I was away from the internet last week, some suit on CBS said that once an entity was downgraded, they stayed downgraded. I bought a Washington Post to read more about the crappy debt ceiling agreement. I read the whole damn thing, then put some recycled wood trim on top of it for scraping, cleaning and restaining. Our old trim is hard, or heart, pine, and is much harder than the soft pine they sell now. You can dent soft pine with a fingernail.

    Donal's picture

    Lifeline to a drowning state

    I found the TED video above on McClatchy's Mexico unmasked blog: 

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Brazilians boiling, blaming Big Pharma for new FDA office in Brazil

    MINAS GERAIS — Brazilian officials are in Washington, D.C., today to speak with the Food and Drug and Administration to attempt to get them to change their minds about building an FDA office in Brasilia.

    In what Brazilian magazine Epoca is calling the first speed bump in President Dilma Rousseff’s dealings with the United States, the U.S. announced on April 26 it’s plans to build an FDA office in Brasilia – a move Brazilian officials are saying was never discussed with them.

    Donal's picture

    Third Strategic Oil Release, Theory Update

    We are in US summer driving season, but Tom Whipple observes that both oil and gasoline stocks are unusually low :

    Donal's picture


    I found this rather long vimeo, Redefining Progress (25:10), on Adbusters.

    Donal's picture

    Stall Alarm

    As Air France pilots fought for control, the doomed A330 dropped 38,000 feet, rolling left to right, its engines flat out but its wings unable to grab enough air to keep flying.

    Aviation industry sources told Reuters that this action went against the normal procedures which call for the nose to be lowered in response to an alert that the plane was about to lose lift or, in technical parlance, 'stall'.

    "A stall is the moment at which a plane stops flying and starts falling," ... "why did the pilot flying (the aircraft) appear to continue to pull the nose up[?]"

    It isn't too hard to see that the world economy is stalling. Belarus has devalued their currency, Greece is near default, Spain has massive unemployment, Pakistan can barely keep the lights on, third world countries can't even afford food and water. In the US jobs aren't really coming back, housing isn't really coming backcar sales aren't really coming back, and the Wall Street Journal lets an oped writer call it stagflation instead of whatever new sort of -flation it is. But we continue to try to pull the nose up. We continue tax cuts to the rich, the financial sector creates more commodity bubbles, even with food, the Fed issues ever more debt, we're mired in expensive resource wars but the media assures us that business will continue as usual if we keep believing.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    What Pakistan Knows

    Since Pakistan's recent double embarrassment in the Osama bin Laden affair, in which they proved unable to detect either bin Ladin living half a mile from their chief military academy or an American helicopter raid deep in the Pakistani interior (i.e. half a mile from their military academy), angry American legislators have been asking What Pakistan Knew about OBL's presence in their country.

    Let me try to reframe that question with another one:

    Does the President of Pakistan know who had his wife killed?

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Brazil Supreme Court Give Same-Sex Civil Unions Same Rights As Marriage

    Update: Currently, the STF is requesting that the Brazilian Congress pass a bill to make this the Law of the land as rights to Gay & Lesbian couples can be denied without legal ramifications. With this decision, however, Gay & Lesbian couples can sue to receive any rights denied, and would win as precedent has been set.


    Michael Wolraich's picture

    In Israel, the Roadmap to Peace is Not Paved with Goldstone

    Israel supporters rejoiced on Friday after international jurist Richard Goldstone recanted some conclusions from his investigation into Israel's military actions during the Gaza war two years ago.

    "If I had known then what I know now," Goldstone wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, "The Goldstone Report would have been a different document."


    The Israeli government and its supporters have long denounced the Goldstone Report as deeply flawed and complain that it has tarnished Israel's reputation. On Sunday, in fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans "to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the state of Israel."

    But while Israel's supporters and detractors alike often take the importance of the Goldstone Report for granted, it's worth considering the extent of the "great damage" done to the state of Israel since the report was released and questioning what such investigations, accusations and condemnations actually accomplish.

    Read the full article at


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