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“Paper of record” still too keen to report US/Israeli view over Iran


Posted: 27 Mar 2012


Editor of the New York Times Jill Abramson claims her paper’s coverage on Israel and Iran is impartial and there’s no chance the “flawed” 2003 reporting over Iraq could happen again (via Politico):

Q: What are the concerns and considerations you take into account when covering the tensions between Israel and Iran, especially in light of some to the Times’s failures in the build-up to Iraq?

ABRAMSON: The key issue for us is, there’s murky intelligence on the current state of Iran’s nuclear program. There’s no dispute that they have one, the dispute is Iran saying that it’s for civilian use, and other intelligence saying that it could be for military use.

The debate, at least in Washington, is a little more limited than in 2003, because we’re talking about something that — either on the Israeli end or more broadly — would be a targeted military strike. It’s not the kind of debate we had in 2003 about a full-blown boots on the ground invasion.

In 2003, the Times had flawed coverage on the intelligence concerning WMD. I think a big factual difference is that at least the administration as it shapes its policy is not  actively promoting a policy to strike Iran. That’s a huge, fundamental difference.

But certainly I’m well aware that there are all kinds of parties, analysts, members of congress, people inside the administration — We just had a piece on some of the more hawkish voices back in 2003, and some of them are trying to have more influential voices, some of the same people.

It’s a highly politically charged issue. And it involves intelligence that is somewhat murky.

Q: How do you respond to critics on the right who say that, because of what happened in 2003, the Times is being overly cautious?

ABRAMSON: I think we are criticized by both of the most highly charged voices on this. There are also critics saying, there they go again.

 The reality, however, is rather different as Fair and Accuracy in Reporting regularly show.

Iran’s horrific death penalty poison


Posted: 27 Mar 2012


Amnesty International releases its 2012 report on executions globally and Guardian Films features one story from Iran about a lawyer who saves juveniles from the hangman:


One loaded British Tory who just happened to love Libyan rebels


Posted: 27 Mar 2012


This is how power works, a rare window into modern politics. If you thought the war in Libya was truly about liberating the Libyan people, 99% of players behind it had other ideas. Here’s the UK Telegraph:

A major Tory donor whose oil firm was given government help to set up a supply deal in Libya was a dinner guest at Downing Street, it has been disclosed.

David Cameron invited Ian Taylor, the boss of the oil company Vitol, weeks after it emerged that a secret “Libyan oil cell” run from the Foreign Office had brokered a lucrative deal for Vitol to supply oil to rebel forces in the north African country.

When the controversy blew up last September, No 10 had to fend off accusations that Vitol, which has close links to the international development minister, Alan Duncan, was given preferential treatment.

Weeks later, on Nov 2, Mr Taylor, who has donated £466,100 to the Conservative Party since Mr Cameron became leader, was one of six guests at an intimate dinner party with the prime minister in Downing Street.

Last night Opposition MPs demanded to know whether Vitol’s deal with the National Transitional Council in Libya was discussed at the dinner, which was also attended by Mr Taylor’s wife, Christine. Labour said the dinner added to “the perception that policy is purchased by donors”. Downing Street said Mr Taylor, 55, was invited to “the social dinner for strong and long-term supporters of the party”.

Mr Cameron went ahead with the dinner despite a series of questions about possible preferential treatment for Vitol, the world’s largest oil trader.

The Government had admitted that a secret committee, said to have been set up at the suggestion of Mr Duncan, arranged meetings between Vitol and the Libyan rebels fighting Col Muammar Gaddafi. Mr Duncan is a close friend of Mr Taylor, having worked for Vitol in the 1990s, and as a consultant for Arawak, a company part-owned by Vitol.

Mr Duncan said the work of the oil cell was above board and other companies were not prepared to take the risk of opening a supply route to the Libyan rebels. But oil industry insiders suggested that Vitol benefited from “good contacts”. Last night Michael Dugher, shadow minister without portfolio, said: “Questions have to be asked about the Prime Minister’s relationship with Ian Taylor.”

The private dinner in November was one of four disclosed by Downing Street yesterday that were attended by people who have donated more than £50,000.

How Australia enjoys being a client state part 975432


Posted: 27 Mar 2012


The Washington Post explains how Canberra is desperate to help America maintain hegemony:

The United States and Australia are planning a major expansion of military ties, including possible drone flights from a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean and increased U.S. naval access to Australian ports, as the Pentagon looks to shift its forces closer to Southeast Asia, officials from both countries said.

The moves, which are under discussion but have drawn strong interest from both sides, would come on top of an agreement announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November to deploy up to 2,500 U.S. Marines to Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast.

The talks are the latest indicator of how the Obama administration is rapidly turning its strategic attention to Asia as it winds down a costly decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. government is finalizing a deal to station four warships in Singapore and has opened negotiations with the Philippines about boosting its military presence there. To a lesser degree, the Pentagon is also seeking to upgrade military relations with Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Although U.S. officials say the regional pivot is not aimed at any single country, analysts said it is a clear response to a rising China, whose growing military strength and assertive territorial claimshave pushed other Asian nations to reach out to Washington.

The Pentagon is reviewing the size and distribution of its forces in northeast Asia, where they are concentrated on Cold War-era bases in Japan and South Korea. The intent is to gradually reduce the U.S. military presence in those countries while enhancing it in Southeast Asia, home to the world’s busiest shipping lanes and to growing international competition to tap into vast undersea oil and gas fields.

“In terms of your overall influence in the Asia-Pacific zone, the strategic weight is shifting south,” said a senior Australian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the military talks. “Australia didn’t look all that important during the Cold War. But Australia looks much more important if your fascination is really with the Southeast Asian archipelago.”

Hello America, my name is Australia and we’d love to help you isolate Wikileaks


Posted: 26 Mar 2012


Is there anything Canberra won’t do to please its Washington masters (hint: no)?

New Matilda reveals just the latest episode:

As Julian Assange tilts at the Senate, new laws have been passed that will make it harder for organisations like Wikileaks to operate legally – and there are more to come, writes Matthew da Silva

The Labor Government is tightening up Australian law in areas that will have a direct impact on organisations such as WikiLeaks. Only the Greens are challenging the new bills in parliament, and they are receiving scant media attention.

There’s a new extradition law that will make it easier for foreign governments to request extradition of Australians and a new spying law that broadens ASIO’s reach, which has been dubbed the WikiLeaks Amendment.

And finally there’s a bill that will make it easier to retain digital data for Australians, and easier also to pass that information to overseas law enforcement agencies. Senator Scott Ludlam, the Greens’ spokesperson for communications, told New Matilda that the Attorney-General wants all digital records for all people for all time to be trapped and recorded so that intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, and welfare agencies can mine the data.

The new extradition law contains elements that make it easier for foreign governments to request that people be extradited from Australia. The new federal law also enables people to be prosecuted in Australia for alleged crimes overseas.

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