Daily Archives: October 1, 2009

China Marches To Mark 60 Years Of Communism

beijing women commie militia

Women militias march by Tiananmen Square

Sky News | Oct 1, 2009

Peter Sharp, Asia correspondent

China has celebrated 60 years of Communist leadership by staging the biggest military parade ever seen in Beijing.

Some 5,000 troops, 500 military vehicles and a fly-past by 150 fighter jets and bombers sent a reminder to the world of the hardware at the disposal of this new economic superpower.

Much of central Beijing was shut down and unprecedented levels of security were deployed, with paramilitary police among 10,000 personnel on the capital’s streets.

The parade passed down the Avenue of Eternal Peace towards the Communist leadership in Tiananmen Square.

Ordinary people were banned from the square – they were told to stay at home and watch the ceremonies on TV.

President Hu Jintao abandoned his usual suit and appeared dressed in a dark Mao tunic.

Speaking from atop Tiananmen Gate, from where Mao proclaimed the birth of modern China in 1949, Mr Hu said it was a day to cherish.

“We have triumphed over all sorts of difficulties and setbacks and risks to gain the great achievements evident to the world,” he said.

“Today, a socialist China geared toward modernisation; the world and the future towers majestically in the East.”

Later, riding in an open-topped black limousine, he reviewed the troops and tanks.

The parade was a source of pride to some Beijing residents.

“I think all 1.3 billion people are happy about this because of our standard of living,” said 53-year-old Xu Deqing, walking in an alley a few blocks off the parade route.

“When you compare with 30 years ago… back then people’s stomachs were empty. Now we have really made it to a higher level.”

One elderly woman, Mrs Gao, said she was in the square 40 years ago.

“Chairman Mao arrived in the back of a truck. There was no colour, everything was grey. Today it’s is unbelievable,” she said.

“We can show the world how powerful we are.”

The celebrations focussed on social harmony and integration among China’s ethnic minorities.

However, there was no reference to the bloody unrest in Tibet in 2008 or in the muslim Uigher province of Xinjiang last summer, in which hundreds died.

Away from the meticulously-planned processions, protests broke out over corruption, social injustice and poverty.

China weather “magic” conjures blue sky for parade

Reuters | Oct 1, 2009

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s air force deployed a “magic-like” range of chemicals and technology to clear Beijing’s smoggy air for a grand parade marking the 60th anniversary of Communist China, state media said on Thursday.

Chemists and officials worked for weeks on the country’s most ambitious ever attempt at weather modification, with air force technicians fanning out across the region to help teams operate complex equipment, the official Xinhua agency said.

The evening before the parade chemicals were fired into the hazy skies, and a light rain washed the city clean.

Surrounding provinces had already been loading clouds with silver iodide and dry ice, to try and force rain to fall before it reached Beijing, the report added.

“Only a handful of countries in the world could organise such large-scale, magic-like weather modification,” said Cui Lianqing, a senior air force meteorologist who said the parade operation was the largest in China’s history.

Contingency plans allowed for the teams to use one kind of chemicals to bring down rain in the parade area, and another to hold it off, he told Xinhua.

China has been researching cloud seeding and other weather manipulation techniques since the 1950s, but in the past has met with mixed success.

The opening to last year’s flagship Olympic Games fell on a day when skies looked hazy despite a raft of anti-pollution and weather manipulation measures.

And a deluge in 2005 forced a hasty last-minute venue change for an outdoor ceremony featuring top Chinese leaders, even after organisers had been promised China could guarantee dry weather.

Cui said this year’s plans dwarfed those for the Olympics, but despite their success he said there was still room for further improvements.

“The technology we have mastered so far could only allow us to modify the weather to a limited extent,” he told Xinhua.

“There are many uncertainties up in the sky.”

Manga version of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ a hit in Japan


Pages from Japan’s manga style “Mein Kampf”

Sales of a comic version of Adolf Hitler’s notorious political tract Mein Kampf have become a hit in Japan.

Telegraph | Sep 30, 2009

By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo

The manga book describes both Hitler’s autobiography and his infamous Nazi manifesto in the unlikely form of easy-to-read comic pictures and captions.

Since it was published in Japan last November, its popularity has soared, with sales of more than 45,000.

The book, which forms part of a series on world classics turned into manga, covers a range of aspects of Hitler’s life, from his childhood to the formation of his political party.

Its success in Japan has reportedly ignited a debate in Germany about whether the ban on the work imposed since 1945 should be overturned.

The current copyright of the book within Germany lies in the hands of the finance ministry of the state of Bavaria which will not reproduce it out of respect to the relatives of those who suffered during Hitler’s regime.

Japanese publishers East Press are no strangers to tapping into the trend of bringing political tracts into the 21st century: the current series also includes a popular manga version of Karl Marx’s seminal anti-capitalist tome Das Kapital.

Manga enjoys a soaring popularity in Japan, with its most high-profile fans including the former prime minister Taro Aso.

Along with Nazism and anti-capitalism, there are few topics that are regarded as sacred from being transformed into manga. Previous issues tackled range from delicate Japanese-Chinese relations to the spread of bird flu.

Thai army to enforce royal censorship laws

bhumibol sirikit

In Thailand it is a criminal offence to criticise the monarchy  Photo: Bloomberg News

Thailand’s armed forces have been urged to listen out for insults to the monarchy and report any ‘disinformation’ to authorities.

Telegraph | Sep 28, 2009

By Nick Collins

This would involve the country’s lèse majesté – or “injured majesty” – laws, which punish anyone who speaks out against the king, queen or heir.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose 63 years on the throne make him the world’s longest serving monarch, is revered as a demi-god by some of his countrymen, especially in rural areas where he has initiated more than 4,000 development projects.

The move to tighten the laws comes as the 81-year-old king recovers in hospital from a bout of fever.

Colonel Thanathip Sawangseang, a defence ministry spokesman, told AFP: “We asked all personnel and their families to be vigilant for websites or any other media that insult the monarchy.

“We want them to be our eyes and ears. It’s not the ministry’s direct task, but it’s a national security issue.”

The army, navy and air force were told to inform police, the information and communications technology ministry (ICT) or the defence ministry if they come across any anti-monarchy material.

The ICT’s “war room”, which is dedicated to protecting the royals, has closed or blocked 19,000 internet pages since it was set up earlier this year.

Those who fall foul of the lèse majesté laws, which were passed by parliament and cannot be revoked by the king, can be jailed for up to fifteen years.

The king himself has spoken out against the laws, saying that criticism of him should be allowed, and he frequently pardons foreigners who fall foul of them.

Dr Lee Jones, an expert in south-east Asian politics from Queen Mary, University of London, said: “The rush of prosecutions has got nothing to do with the king and everything to do with the present government and its supporters who want their broader political and economic interests to be advanced.

“Certain people would like him to be treated as a deity and others have a different view. The cult around the monarchy only dates back to the 1930s when the military spun a mystique around them and banned any critical discussion of them.

“In 2006 there was a coup [in which] the army overthrew the government in the name of maintaining Thailand’s political stability. The king gave the coup his seal of approval, and that gives them a semblance of legitimacy.

“My suspicion is that, because he is now old and ill and his son is very unpopular, they are afraid that this symbol they have been using for many years to enhance their political stability is under threat.”

Last month Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, a leader of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being found guilty of multiple charges of insulting the monarchy during political rallies.

Thailand was the subject of global attention in 2007 when it blocked the file-sharing website YouTube after clips mocking King Bhumibol were uploaded.

Closet royalist Paul McCartney

mccartney queen

Sir Paul McCartney was made Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 1997 for helping to revolutionize pop music. (AP Photos/PA, File)

He writes that “no rioting nor killing will take place because present day royalty rules with affection rather than force”.

Royal Watch News | Sep 28, 2009

Sir Paul McCartney wrote an essay in support of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth aged 10.

The Beatles star wrote the document to commemorate the queen’s 1953 coronation, and impressed Liverpool’s Lord Mayor so much Paul was awarded a book token.


Call to scrap British knighthoods

British royal family to be exempt from any cuts in public spending

Cherie Blair: The Queen is the Head of State and Prince Phillip is the First Lady

The Beatles were made MBE's in 1965

The Beatles were made MBE's in 1965

In the essay, Paul pays tribute to “our lovely young Queen”.
He wrote the 300-word piece while studying at Joseph Williams Junior School in Belle Vale, Liverpool.

It is believed to be earliest piece of his work in existence, and was given to the local library.

Kevin Roache, who found the work in library archives and is writing about the McCartney family, said: “I’m not surprised that it was pro-royalist, bearing in mind attitudes of the time and because his father, James, was a royalist.”

In the essay, Paul compares Queen Elizabeth’s coronation with that of William the Conqueror, who became king in 1066.

Paul McCartney is knighted individually by Queen Elizabeth in 1997

Paul McCartney is knighted individually by Queen Elizabeth in 1997

He writes that “no rioting nor killing will take place because present day royalty rules with affection rather than force”.

Calling the event a “marvellous spectacle”, Paul, now 66, explains London children were awarded free seats to watch.

He discusses a special cup with Queen Elizabeth I and II on it, adding: “After all this bother, many people will agree with me that it was well worth it.”
He also spells “souvenirs” incorrectly, with his teacher also pointing out he should not have started two of his sentences with “but”.

Under UN pressure, Nepal to probe “disappearances”

AP | Sep 30, 2009


UNITED NATIONS — Nepal’s Maoist-dominated government promised Saturday to establish a “disappearance commission” to investigate political killings that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says were perpetrated by communist insurgents fighting to overthrow the monarchy.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal spoke to the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, telling other nations: “We have come a long way in terms of our transition from conflict.”

“Like in every post-conflict situation, there are ups and downs and obstacles in the way. Managing the legacy of the violent past with justice and reconciliation and mainstreaming all the forces into a democratic order are major challenges before us,” he said.

The prime minister promised that his government “is determined to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a disappearance commission as a part of ensuring transitional justice and restoring social harmony and peace.”

The pledge came a day after the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Richard Bennett, released a letter demanding that the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) allow police to get to the bottom of several assassinations and a bus bombing.

The U.N. envoy’s letter wanted answers to the killings of businessman Ram Hari Shrestha, journalist Birendra Shah and another victim, Arjun Lama, as well as a deadly bus bombing in June 2005 in Madi at killed some 50 people.

Bennett’s letter said the three killings “are among those for which there is substantial evidence of Maoists’ responsibility,” naming Maoist Third Division Commander Kali Bahadur Kham as being allegedly involved in Shrestha’s killing.

In the case of the bus bombing, Bennett said, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has claimed responsibility and identified the perpetrators, but no one has been punished and the Nepalese police seem unable to act without cooperation from the Maoist party.

“The practice of protecting and promoting alleged human rights violators, whether they are Nepal Army officers or members of UCPN-M, must end,” Bennett wrote.

Nepal’s government is preparing a report that says 16,274 people were killed in the country during the 10-year conflict between Maoist rebels and government troops that climaxed in 2006, officials recently said.

The Maoist rebels began their armed revolt in 1996 seeking an end to the monarchy and to establish a communist state. The rebels gave up their insurgency in 2006 and joined a peace process under U.N. supervision and ultimately became part of the political mainstream.

A communist-dominated Constituent Assembly voted in May 2008 to abolish the centuries-old monarchy and declared Nepal a republic and a secular state.

The UCPN-M contested elections last year and emerged as the largest political party in Nepal. They led a coalition government between September 2008 and May 2009.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned as prime minister over the president’s refusal to dismiss the army chief, and a new coalition government took over in May.

U.S., NATO Poised For Most Massive War In Afghanistan’s History


Global Research | Sep 24, 2009

by Rick Rozoff

Over the past week U.S. newspapers and television networks have been abuzz with reports that Washington and its NATO allies are planning an unprecedented increase of troops for the war in Afghanistan, even in addition to the 17,000 new American and several thousand NATO forces that have been committed to the war so far this year.

The number, based on as yet unsubstantiated reports of what U.S. and NATO commander Stanley McChrystal and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen have demanded of the White House, range from 10,000 to 45,000.

Fox News has cited figures as high as 45,000 more American soldiers and ABC News as many as 40,000. On September 15 the Christian Science Monitor wrote of “perhaps as many as 45,000.”

The similarity of the estimates indicate that a number has been agreed upon and America’s obedient media is preparing domestic audiences for the possibility of the largest escalation of foreign armed forces in Afghanistan’s history. Only seven years ago the United States had 5,000 troops in the country, but was scheduled to have 68,000 by December even before the reports of new deployments surfaced.

An additional 45,000 troops would bring the U.S. total to 113,000. There are also 35,000 troops from some 50 other nations serving under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in the nation, which would raise combined troop strength under McChrystal’s command to 148,000 if the larger number of rumored increases materializes.

As the former Soviet Union withdrew its soldiers from Afghanistan twenty years ago the New York Times reported “At the height of the Soviet commitment, according to Western intelligence estimates, there were 115,000 troops deployed.” [1]

Nearly 150,000 U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan would represent the largest foreign military presence ever in the land.

Rather than addressing this historic watershed, the American media is full of innuendos and “privileged” speculation on who has leaked the information and why, as to commercial news operations the tawdry world of Byzantine intrigues among and between American politicians, generals and the Fourth Estate is of more importance that the lengthiest and largest war in the world.

One that has been estimated by the chief of the British armed forces and other leading Western officials to last decades and that has already been extended into Pakistan, a nation with a population almost six times that of Afghanistan and in possession of nuclear weapons.

Two weeks ago the Dutch media reported that during a visit to the Netherlands “General Stanley McChrystal [said] he is considering the possibility of merging…Operation Enduring Freedom with NATO’s ISAF force.” [2] That is, not only would he continue to command all U.S. and NATO troops, but the two commands would be melded into one.

The call for up to 45,000 more American troops was first adumbrated in mid-September by U.S. armed forces chief Michael Mullen, with the Associated Press stating “The top U.S. military officer says that winning in Afghanistan will probably mean sending more troops.” [3]

Four days later, September 19, Reuters reported that “The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has drawn up a long-awaited and detailed request for additional troops but has not yet sent it to Washington, a spokesman said on Saturday.

“He said General Stanley McChrystal completed the document this week, setting out exactly how many U.S. and NATO troops, Afghan security force members and civilians he thinks he needs.” [4]

The Pentagon spokesman mentioned above, Lieutenant-Colonel Tadd Sholtis, said, “We’re working with Washington as well as the other NATO participants about how it’s best to submit this,” refusing to divulge any details. [5]

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Gore Vidal: ‘We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US’

Gore Vidal

The grand old man of letters Gore Vidal claims America is ‘rotting away’ — and don’t expect Barack Obama to save it

The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

London Times | Sep 30, 2009

A conversation with Gore Vidal unfolds at his pace. He answers questions imperiously, occasionally playfully, with a piercing, lethal dryness. He is 83 and in a wheelchair (a result of hypothermia suffered in the war, his left knee is made of titanium). But he can walk (“Of course I can”) and after a recent performance of Mother Courage at London’s National Theatre he stood to deliver an anti-war speech to the audience.

How was his friend Fiona Shaw in the title role? “Very good.” Where did they meet? Silence. The US? “Well, it wasn’t Russia.” What’s he writing at the moment? “It’s a little boring to talk about. Most writers seem to do little else but talk about themselves and their work, in majestic terms.” He means self-glorifying? “You’ve stumbled on the phrase,” he says, regally enough. “Continue to use it.”

Vidal is sitting in the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, where he has been coming to stay for 60 years. He is wearing a brown suit jacket, brown jumper, tracksuit bottoms; his white hair twirled into a Tintin-esque quiff and with his hooded eyes, delicate yet craggy features and arch expression, he looks like Quentin Crisp, but accessorised with a low, lugubrious growl rather than camp lisp.

He points to an apartment opposite the hotel where Churchill stayed during the Second World War, as Downing Street was “getting hammered by the Nazis. The crowds would cheer him from the street, he knew great PR.” In a flash, this memory reminds you of the swathe of history Vidal has experienced with great intimacy: he was friends with JFK, fought in the war, his father Gene, an Olympic decathlete and aeronautics teacher, founded TWA among other airlines and had a relationship with Amelia Earhart. (Vidal first flew and landed a plane when he was 10.) He was a screenwriter for MGM in the dying days of the studio system, toyed with being a politician, he has written 24 novels and is hailed as one of the world’s greatest essayists.

He has crossed every boundary, I say. “Crashed many barriers,” he corrects me.

Last year he famously switched allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during the Democratic nomination process for president. Now, he reveals, he regrets his change of heart. How’s Obama doing? “Dreadfully. I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.” America should leave Afghanistan, he says. “We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it.” The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It has wrecked the airline business, which my father founded in the 1930s. He’d be cutting his wrists. Now when you fly you’re both scared to death and bored to death, a most disagreeable combination.”

His voice strengthens. “One thing I have hated all my life are LIARS [he says that with bristling anger] and I live in a nation of them. It was not always the case. I don’t demand honour, that can be lies too. I don’t say there was a golden age, but there was an age of general intelligence. We had a watchdog, the media.” The media is too supine? “Would that it was. They’re busy preparing us for an Iranian war.” He retains some optimism about Obama “because he doesn’t lie. We know the fool from Arizona [as he calls John McCain] is a liar. We never got the real story of how McCain crashed his plane [in 1967 near Hanoi, North Vietnam] and was held captive.”

Vidal originally became pro-Obama because he grew up in “a black city” (meaning Washington), as well as being impressed by Obama’s intelligence. “But he believes the generals. Even Bush knew the way to win a general was to give him another star. Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”

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Aboriginals ‘horrified’ to receive body bags in H1N1 kit

AFP | Sep 16, 2009

OTTAWA — Aboriginal leaders said they were “horrified” Wednesday after receiving body bags from health officials as part of Canada’s swine flu preparedness kits.

Aboriginal communities in Canada’s Manitoba province were hard-hit by the deadly A(H1N1) outbreak some months ago, and since then had asked Ottawa for medical supplies to prepare for a second wave likely to strike soon.

Leaders of more than 30 First Nations communities said in a statement Wednesday they “are horrified after receiving dozens of body bags from Health Canada as part of Canada’s preparedness plan on H1N1.”

The body bags arrived in kits containing hand sanitizers and face masks.

“We had asked for funding so we can get organized and to ensure medicines, hand sanitizers and other preventative kits were in place, but instead we are shocked to receive body bags,” said Jerry Knott, chief of the Wasagamack First Nation.

“This is an ominous sign that the government is predicting a grim outcome,” added Chief David McDougall of the Saint Theresa Point band.

Canada’s Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she has asked officials for an explanation.

Big pharma jumps back into flu business

Reuters | Sep 30, 2009

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A dearth of new products, new technologies and fresh commitments by governments scrambling to protect their populations from pandemic threats have lured U.S. drugmakers back into the flu vaccine business.

Three big U.S. pharmaceutical companies announced vaccine deals this week.

Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest healthcare company by market value, spent $444 million to buy a stake in Dutch biotech company Crucell as part of a new push into influenza vaccine and drug development.

Abbott Laboratories Inc spent $6.6 billion to buy the drugs unit of Belgium’s Solvay, including Solvay’s Dutch cell-based flu vaccine production facility, which can make both seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccines.

And Merck & Co, already a vaccines powerhouse with its shingles and cervical cancer vaccines, got back into the U.S. flu market with a deal to distribute seasonal flu vaccine made by Australia’s CSL Ltd.

Although analysts say the deals are more strategic than game-changing, collectively they have infectious diseases experts heaving a sigh of relief.

“I am very pleased. For a while, a lot of vaccine manufactures simply disappeared,” said Dr. Hildegund Ertl, who directs the vaccine centers at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.

“There was this attitude 20 years ago, ‘Let’s not worry about microbes. We’ve conquered them. Let’s focus on cancer.’ Then HIV came along. Then SARS came along. Then H5N1 (avian influenza) came along,” she said.

Ertl said beginning with an outbreak of bird flu in Hong Kong in 1998, the United States and other governments started to offer grants to companies to develop new ways of making influenza vaccines.

That has continued with the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic that started in June. The U.S. government has committed $1.8 billion to companies to make a swine flu vaccine.


“I think it’s finally sinking into politicians’ minds that maybe viruses and pathogens are out to get us and that our infrastructure has really gone to hell,” Ertl said in a telephone interview.

“We have very few vaccine manufacturers in this country,” she said, noting that companies like Wyeth , which is being acquired by Pfizer, dropped out of the flu vaccine market in the United States in 2002 because of high manufacturing costs and commodity pricing.

Five companies make swine flu vaccine for the U.S. market, all ultimately owned outside the United States — AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit, CSL, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Sanofi-Aventis SA.

“The government is now pitching in to try to get interest back, to have more manufacturers make vaccines,” Ertl said.

Both Wyeth and Merck once made influenza vaccines in the United States using conventional egg-based technology.

“They decided it wasn’t worth it,” said Dr. Robert Belshe, director of Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development. “But with new technologies and the rise in importance influenza vaccine, I think companies are revisiting that now.”

For example, instead of chicken eggs, Solvay makes flu vaccine in cell culture, and Crucell is developing “flu-mAb,” an antibody treatment meant to provide protection from all influenza A strains as well as to treat patients who are already infected.

Belshe said the United States is on the verge of recommending that all U.S. citizens get a flu shot. “We’re at 270 million people who should get vaccinated. It’s a big market. I think manufacturers are just now catching up.”

John Sullivan, director of research and healthcare strategist at Leerink Swann, said all three deals reflect the fact that the pharmaceutical industry has too few products, but “lots of cash and lots of cash flow.”

But he said the deals do suggest a change in direction.

“These deals indicate that infectious disease is perhaps moving up the list of what the managements of some big therapeutics companies care about,” Sullivan said in a telephone interview.

He said the swine flu pandemic has made clear that governments are more willing to pay for products that protect their populations than before.

“If you look at some emerging countries — Brazil, India, China — governments are perceiving healthcare as a good that they can provide to their people, and they increasingly have enough money to do it.”