China’s Communists mull the party’s future
The 90th anniversary celebration has some bemoaning the changes time has wrought. Oh, for the days when a man could hang a portrait of Mao above his couch.
By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times
Want to know what happens these days within a Chinese Communist Party cell?
Party members at the Jinxin Garden apartments get together once a month to discuss their volunteer projects, like raising money for earthquake victims and preventing neighborhood robberies. Or they plan excursions, such as a trip last week from their southern Beijing suburb to the Olympic stadium for a concert honoring the party’s 90th anniversary.
If it sounds as exotic as the Rotary Club, that’s precisely the problem. The 90-year milestone, celebrated Friday, prompts the question of how an ideology born out of the class struggles of 19th century Europe can remain relevant in the 21st century. By surviving to the age of 90, is the party a testament to endurance or is it merely old and in the way?
Syria defies Assad with largest protests so far
Regime looks increasingly embattled as security forces open fire on crowds of hundreds of thousands. Khalid Ali reports
Saturday, 2 July 2011
The Syrian regime was looking increasingly isolated yesterday as hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in some of the largest rallies of the uprising, despite an unprecedented attempt by President Bashar al-Assad to reach out to his political opponents.
Marchers massed in city squares up and down the country, facing the bullets of Mr Assad’s security forces, with at least nine people reported killed. A video posted on YouTube showed residents from a town in north-west Syria – a region which has been subject to a relentless army operation using tanks, troops and helicopter gunships – chanting “Bashar is a vampire” and holding anti-government placards.
Palestinians trapped in a limbo between an unsustainable present and an uncertain future
The Irish Times – Saturday, July 2, 2011
MICHAEL JANSEN in Ramallah
RAMALLAH HAS grown a forest of white stone-faced high-rises over the past year. The small West Bank town has turned into a bustling but uneasy city. A city waiting for something, anything to happen.
Traffic in the city centre was gridlocked at a sandy junction under construction because a taxi driver decided to leave his car in the middle of the street while he popped into a shop. No policeman was in sight. Like the hooting cars, the peace process is stuck in a jam, and the cars’ Palestinian passengers, longing for an end to the 44-year-old Israeli occupation, are in limbo, confused and frustrated.
End of an era as Germany’s compulsory military conscription finishes
July 2, 2011
BERLIN: Germany formally discontinued the draft at midnight on Thursday to make way for a smaller army that will draw people such as Johannes Beckert and Steven Stadler, both volunteers signing up for duty at a suburban recruitment centre that once housed the East German military’s overseas espionage agency.
The two men are part of a military evolution spanning more than half a century, from rearmament in the divided Germany of the 1950s through to the Cold War, which placed hundreds of thousands of young German soldiers on either side of the Iron Curtain and on to a reunification that was not just geographic and political but also created a single army bonded by conscription.
Editor, journalist freed on bail in Zimbabwe
Nevanji Madanhire, editor of the Standard independent weekly, and reporter Patience Nyangove were arrested on Wednesday after they published a story about a minister being detained. They are accused of defaming police after an article in the paper quoted people fearing for the safety of a government minister in police custody.
Nyangove was released on Wednesday and Madanhire was freed late on Thursday, but they were ordered to appear in court early Friday for their official bail release hearing, said defence attorney Linda Cook.
Greece puts halt to Gaza flotilla in a win for Israel
The Greek coastguard escorted a US boat seeking to join the Gaza flotilla back to port and said it will stop all other attempted departures. It looks like a big diplomatic victory for Benjamin Netanyahu.
By Dan Murphy, Staff writer
A boat carrying a contingent of US activists seeking to join a flotilla of protesters against Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip were turned back by armed Greek commandos about 30 miles out of Athens today, in a major blow to the group and an apparent diplomatic victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The US boat was carrying about 50 Americans, among them Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. As of the late evening in Greece, the boat was being detained at a Greek coastguard port.
Last year, a larger effort challenging the Gaza blockade ended in tragedy, when Israeli soldiers killed eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American when they boarded the Mavi Marmara in international waters near Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent its Islamist rulers, Hamas, from getting weapons that could be used against Israel.