Japan defence review warns of China’s military might
Japan has unveiled sweeping changes to its national defence polices, boosting its southern forces in response to neighbouring China’s military rise.
The BBC 17 December 2010
Japan, which shares a maritime border with China, said Beijing’s military build-up was of global concern.
Japan will also strengthen its missile defences against the threat from a nuclear-armed North Korea.
The policy document has been approved by the cabinet and will shape Japan’s defence policy for the next 10 years.
Japan is changing its defence policy in response to the shifting balance of power in Asia, analysts say.
Is Twitter really worth $3.7bn?
The microblogging site may have soared since it started four years ago, but it still doesn’t make any money
By Nick Clark Friday, 17 December 2010
On paper – and despite its ubiquity – Twitter is a tiny bird in a corporate world of soaring giants. The microblogging site, which started four years ago, has a staff of just 350 at its hip San Francisco HQ (its only office). Crucially, for a brand that has sprung from nowhere to dominate new media as well as the public consciousness, it doesn’t make any money.
And yet this week we learned that Twitter now boasts 175 million accounts, helping it to attract a new round of funding worth $200m ($128m). The vast injection from a group of venture capitalists hoping they’re on to a good thing has boosted the value of Twitter to $3.7bn (£2.4bn)
Congress passes extension of Bush-era tax cuts
By Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 17, 2010; 12:40 AM
Congress approved the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade late Thursday, overcoming liberal resistance to continue for two more years tax breaks enacted under president George W. Bush and to provide a fresh boost of federal support to the tepid economic recovery.
The package, brokered by President Obama and Republican leaders in the wake of the November elections, angered many Democrats, who have long argued that the Bush tax cuts were skewed to benefit the wealthy. But their last-minute campaign to scale back the bill’s benefits for taxpayers at the highest income levels failed, and the House passed the measure 277 to 148, with 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans voting “no.”
Wealth gap becomes chasm at Christmas
Luxury retailers see strong demand as lower-income shoppers hunker down
By John W. Schoen
With just a few days left in the holiday shopping season, reports from retailers suggesting strong sales are prompting analysts and investors to declare that “the American consumer is back.”
Make that “some consumers.” With unemployment stuck near 10 percent, home prices falling and foreclosures still rising, holiday shopping this year has brought into sharper focus the divide between upper- and lower-income American households.
“It’s very much a tale of two worlds,” said Bernstein Research retail analyst Colin McGranahan. “There’s a big dichotomy between the well-educated, upper-income consumers – what the employment trends looks like, what the wage trends looks like – and the lower-income, less well-educated consumer. It’s a very different picture.”
Tuberculosis thriving in ‘Victorian’ London, says expert
TB, known as the ‘white plague’, is on the rise in London’s poorest areas
Sarah Boseley, health editor The Guardian, Friday 17 December 2010
Tuberculosis, the “white plague”, is returning to London, which risks the sort of serious outbreaks that occurred in New York and California in the 1990s, an article in the Lancet medical journal warns today.
Nowhere else in Europe have TB rates continued to rise, says Dr Alimuddin Zumla of the department of infection of University College London medical school. “The incidence in the UK has gradually increased over the past 15 years,” he writes. Last year more than 9,000 cases were reported in the UK, with nearly 40% in London. “This pattern is striking when compared with the general decline in other European countries,” he says.
Ireland’s abortion law ‘violated woman’s rights’
European court upholds complaint and reopens divisive debate
By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
Friday, 17 December 2010
A European court yesterday found that Ireland had violated the rights of a pregnant woman who complained that the country’s restrictions on abortion had risked damaging her health and possibly her life.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that in failing to implement the right to a lawful abortion, Ireland had breached the woman’s right to respect for her private life.
The ruling by the court in Strasbourg seems destined to reignite an issue that for decades has remained on the political agenda of the Irish Republic, but remains stubbornly unresolved.
Tehran downplays Arab Wiki-dness
By Amin Mehrpour
TEHRAN – WikiLeaks documents indicating that Arab leaders urged the United States to launch a pre-emptive military strike on Iran have drawn a distinctly muted reaction from Tehran.
Mindful of the importance of relations with their Arab neighbors, officials including President Mahmud Ahmadinejad have avoided public recriminations. Instead, they have deflected attention away from the awkward subjects raised in the WikiLeaks documents by suggesting their release was a deliberate attempt to sow misinformation.
WikiLeaks cables: India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir
Beatings and electric shocks inflicted on hundreds of civilians detained in Kashmir, US diplomats in Delhi told by ICRC
Jason Burke in Delhi guardian.co.uk
US officials had evidence of widespread torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir, according to leaked diplomatic cables released tonight.
The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees.
Australian asylum debate intensifies as Gillard feels pressure
The Irish Times – Friday, December 17, 2010
THE DEATH of at least 28 asylum seekers, who drowned when their boat was smashed on rocks on Christmas Island, has renewed pressure on Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to soften the country’s asylum policy and may strain her one-seat minority government.
Ms Gillard yesterday conceded that one of Australia’s most divisive political issues, which has determined past elections, was once again on the agenda.
But she sought to take the sting out of the renewed debate on asylum seekers, which in the past has been tinged with xenophobia, and appease her government’s key supporters.
Let there be justice, says Kenyan press
The country’s main dailies chided those politicians who reacted angrily at the world court’s announcement and urged all parties to allow the judicial process to take its course and deliver justice.
“Ocampo has spoken, let the process begin,” said the Daily Nation, Kenya’s leading newspaper, referring to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo who on Wednesday named six suspects who face charges of crimes against humanity over the post-electoral violence that left about 1 500 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Among the six are Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the country’s founding president and a deputy prime minister and William Ruto, a political heavyweight and presidential hopeful as well as President Mwai Kibaki’s right-hand man.
Troops kill Ouattara loyalists
March through city turns violent
Gunfire and bursts of heavy arms rang out across the city on the day allies of Ouattara, who is backed by the UN, said they would try to seize the state TV building from forces loyal to Gbagbo, who says he won the November 28 poll.
The US, African states and France recognise Ouattara as the winner of the election, but Gbagbo, backed by the nation’s top legal body, has held onto the presidency, alleging mass vote-rigging.
Sustained machine gun and rifle fire was heard in the city earlier yesterday, and tear gas filled districts where pro-Ouattara supporters were gathering for the march on the building of the state broadcaster RTI.
Haiti cholera death toll starts to rise again
December 17, 2010
Haiti’s cholera death toll has jumped by about 210, with more than 2400 now dead, health officials in the capital say. The deaths shook hopes that the outbreak had begun to taper off.
However, there are signs of potential progress in the earthquake-ravaged country. A study by the International Office of Migration shows the number of homeless people living in tent cities has dropped to 1 million, from a peak of 1.5 million in July.
The study found that 130,000 families still live in tents in Port-au-Prince and Delmas – the congested urban centre – underscoring the challenge of finding suitable land to relocate people and their homes.