January 24th, 2011
By Amie Ferris-Rotman
(Reuters) - At least 31 people were killed and more than 100 injured on Monday in a suicide bombing at Russia's biggest airport, Russian news agencies reported.
Russia's ruble-dominated stock market MICEX fell by nearly two percent following the blast, which ripped through the baggage claim area at Moscow's Domodedovo airport at 1332 GMT.
Smoke wafted out of the baggage claim area and people were seen running out of the emergency exits at the airport, local media reported.
Initial casualty figures were contradictory with ITAR-TASS saying about 20 people had been killed. A spokeswoman for prosecutors put the number of casualties at about 20.
Moscow suffered its worst attack in six years in March 2010 when two female suicide bombers from Russia's volatile Dagestan region set off explosives in the metro, killing 40 people.
The Kremlin is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, and rebels have repeatedly vowed they will take their battle to the Russian heartland.
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(Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Steve Gutterman and Mark Heinrich)
January 23rd, 2011
January 23rd, 2011
We all learned at school how the status quo powers mismanaged the spectacular rise of Germany before World War I, a strategic revolution so like the rise of China today.
And we all learned how the Kaiser overplayed his hand. That much was obvious.
Yet it is difficult to pin-point exactly when the normal pattern of great power jostling began to metamorphose into something more dangerous, leading to two rival, entrenched, and heavily armed alliance structures unable or unwilling to avert the drift towards conflict. The Long Peace died by a thousand cuts, a snub here, a Dreadnought there, the race for oil.
The German historian Fritz Fischer has in a sense muddied the waters with his seminal work, Griff nach der Weltmacht (Bid for World Power). He draws on imperial archives in Potsdam to claim that Germany’s general staff was angling for a pre-emptive war to smash France and dismember the Russian Empire before it emerged as an industrial colossus. Sarajevo provided the “propitious moment”.
Kaiser Wilhelm’s court allegedly made up its mind after the Social Democrats (then Marxists) won a Reichstag majority in 1912, seeing war as a way to contain radical dissent. This assessment was tragically correct. War split the Social Democrats irrevocably, allowing the Nazis to exploit a divided Left under Weimar.
The Fischer version of events is a little too reassuring, and not just because the Entente allies had already fed Germany’s self-fulfilling fears of encirclement and emboldened Tsarist Russia to push its luck in the Balkans. A deeper cause was at work.
"The only condition which could lead to improvement of German-English relations would be if we bridled our economic development, and this is not possible," said Deutsche Bank chief Karl Helfferich as early as 1897. German steel output jumped tenfold from 1880 to 1900, leaping past British production. Sound familiar?
Is China now where Germany was in 1900? Possibly. There are certainly hints of menace from some quarters in Beijing. Defence minister Liang Guanglie said over New Year that China’s armed forces are “pushing forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction”.
Professor Huang Jing from Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew School and a former adviser to China’s Army, said Beijing is losing its grip on the colonels.
“The young officers are taking control of strategy and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. This is very dangerous. They are on a collision course with a US-dominated system,” he said.
Yet nothing is foreordained. Which is why it was so unsettling to learn that most of the leadership of the US Congress declined to attend the state banquet at the White House for Chinese President Hu Jintao, including the Speaker of House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Mr Hu a “dictator”. Is this a remotely apposite term for a self-effacing man of Confucian leanings, whose father was a victim of the Cultural Revolution, who fights a daily struggle against his own hotheads at home, and who will hand over power in an orderly transition next year?
Or for premier Wen Jiabao, who visited students in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, narrowly surviving the “insubordination purge” that followed? These leaders may be wrong in their assessment of how much democracy China can handle without flying out of control, but despots they are not.
President Barack Obama has bent over backwards to draw China into the international system through the G20, the World Bank and the IMF, in practical terms recognizing Beijing as co-equal in global condominium.
You could say Mr Obaba has won little in return for reaching out, but as Napoleon put it, “a leader is a dealer in hope”. What, pray, would a policy of crude containment do to China’s psyche?
Heaven protect us from unreconstructed Neo-cons such as ex-UN ambassador John Bolton, who wants to send aircraft carrier battle groups into the Straits of Taiwan, as if we were still living in that lost world of American pre-eminence in 1996, when China was still too weak to respond, and did not have operational missiles able to sink US carriers far at sea. Yet variants of the Bolton view are gaining ground on Capitol Hill.
Yes, China’s leaders should be careful not to succumb to the Wilhelmine illusion that economic and strategic momentum is the same as actual power.
There is a new edge to Chinese naval policy in the South China Sea, causing Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines to cleave closer to the US alliance. Has Beijing studied how German naval ambitions upset the careful diplomatic legacy of Bismarck and pushed an ambivalent Britain towards the Entente, even to the point of accepting alliance with Tsarist autocracy?
Factions in Beijing appear to think that China will win a trade war if Washington ever imposes sanctions to counter Chinese mercantilism. That is a fatal misjudgement. The lesson of Smoot-Hawley and the 1930s is that surplus states suffer crippling depressions when the guillotine comes down on free trade; while deficit states can muddle through, reviving their industries behind barriers. Demand is the most precious commodity of all in a world of excess supply.
The political reality is that China’s export of manufacturing over-capacity is hollowing out the US industrial core, and a plethora of tricks to stop Western firms competing in the Chinese market rubs salt in the wound. It is preventing full recovery in the US, where half the population is falling out of the bottom of the Affluent Society. Some 43.2m people are now on food stamps. The US labour force participation rate has fallen to 64.3pc, worse than a year ago. Only the richer half is recovering.
The roots of this imbalance lie in the structure of globalisation and East-West capital flows – and no doubt the deficiencies of US school education – but China plays a central role, and this will not tolerated for much longer if Beijing is also perceived to be a strategic enemy. China’s economic and military goals are in conflict. One defeats the other.
The undervalued yuan is merely the visible tip of the mercantilist iceberg, and is a diminishing factor in any case as leaked dollar stimulus from the Fed’s QE drives up Chinese wage inflation. What matters is that China’s entire credit, tax, and regulatory system is geared towards subsidised capital for exporters.
Professor Michael Pettis from Beijing University argues that a key reason why Chinese consumption has collapsed from 48pc to 36pc of GDP over 12 years – and therefore why China cannot eliminate the trade surplus with the US – is that the banking system has been bailed out with an interest rate subsidy extracted from depositors, shifting income from the people to corporate debtors. Unfortunately, this is about to happen again.
A cocky China needs to watch its step, as does a rancorous America, before resentments feed on each other in a Wilhelmine spiral.
The Chinese have no recent history of sweeping territorial expansion (except Tibet). The one-child policy has left a dearth of young men, and implies a chronic aging crisis within a decade. This is not the demographic profile of a fundamentally bellicose nation.
The correct statecraft for the West is to treat Beijing politely but firmly as a member of global club, gambling that the Confucian ethic will over time incline China to a quest for global as well as national concord. Until we face irrefutable evidence that this Confucian bet has failed, 'Boltonism’ must be crushed.
Appeasement, your hour has come.
January 23rd, 2011
Fox has rejected a controversial Super Bowl ad from conservative comedy site JesusHatesObama.com, according to the site's creator.
"Do I really believe that Jesus hates Obama? Absolutely not," Belfry, a comedian based in L.A. who sells Jesus Hates Obama apparel on his site, told the Daily News.
The company admits on its site that it doesn't really hate Obama. Belfry insisted he was merely trying poke fun of the Obama Administration and to also sell his merchandise.
The site received an e-mail from Ruth Levenson, Fox's vice president for broadcast standards and practices earlier this month that said the commercial was "not acceptable to air on FOX."
The group then tried to appeal the decision, and that too was rejected.
A spokesman for Fox told CNN that the network wouldn't confirm nor deny whether the commercial had been rejected, saying it was the company's policy to not "provide information about the materials that may or may not have been submitted."
The commercial, set to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," shows the Obama bobblehead falling into a fish bowl, at which time Jesus appears in the frame donned in the company's t-shirts with a smile on his face.
Belfry said the commercial, which would have aired before kickoff, sold for $2.3 million. He said the money would have come from $3 million he previously received from private investors.
The Super Bowl is no stranger to controversial commercials. Last year, an anti-abortion commercial by conservative Christian group Focus on the Family caused an uproar.
Belfry said he's sold more than 70,000 Jesus Hates Obama T-shirts out of the back of his car and through word of mouth since the company launched in 2009.
He said he was shocked by Fox's decision.
"They don't realize it's a joke," he said.
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January 23rd, 2011
By Heather Buchman, Meteorologist
For people who are sick of the cold and snow and hoping for a quick end to winter, AccuWeather.com Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi may have bad news.
More persistent cold is expected to hold strong through at least the middle of February across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country. Bastardi also expects wintry events to last into April in some areas, which would be longer than last year.
Based on what is predicted for the rest of the season, Bastardi also says that this winter could end up being the coldest for the nation as a whole since the 1980s.
Persistent Cold, Storminess to Continue from Plains to East
While cold weather is of course a part of winter, the persistent nature of colder-than-normal conditions and a lack of brief warm spells people can typically look forward to during midwinter have been unusual this season. Temperatures since Dec. 1, 2010 have averaged below normal from Boston and New York City to Chicago, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Atlanta and even Miami.
Temperatures are expected to continue averaging below normal in many of these places, from the northern and central Plains into the East, through at least the middle of February.
The biggest snowstorms in February will target areas mainly north of a line running from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Ohio River and I-40 across the Plains, according to Bastardi.
Just to the south of this line (from Amarillo, Texas to about Atlantic City, N.J.) is where Bastardi expects storms to vary between producing snow, ice and rain for the bulk of the rest of the winter.
It will not be until late February into March that opportunities arise for the colder-than-normal weather pattern to break. However, Bastardi warns that there could be a return of cold and storms across the northern part of the nation, including the Great Lakes and Northeast, from mid- or late March into April.
He says this will be quite a change for the Great Lakes and Northeast as compared to last year, when the regions experienced their warmest back-to-back March and April on record.
He adds that late-season winter storms in the Plains and East are common during La Niñas, when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal. Bastardi says the current La Niña could continue into next year.
Bastardi says La Niñas also tend to "conjure up a more intense severe weather season," which typically ramps up in April into May from the southern Plains to the Great Lakes, mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
Warmth for the Southwest, Texas
Above-normal warmth recently established in the interior Southwest is expected to generally persist through February and, in some areas, through March and April.
Bastardi says this warmth should also spread into Texas.
That is not to say that there will not be periods of chillier weather for the Southwest and Texas, however. In fact, temperatures are expected to average out near if not below normal much of next week.
While cold air stays focused over the eastern two-thirds of the country through at least the middle of February, temperatures across much of the interior West are expected to be above normal.
This will be due to the position of the jet stream over the western coast of North America being well north over British Columbia during this time.
Changes may start taking place for the region late in February, with a transition to below-normal temperatures in the Northwest and northern Rockies following throughout much of March.
Precipitation has been above normal across much of the Northwest this season so far. Overall, Bastardi expects the region to remain above average in terms of precipitation throughout the rest of the winter with more snow and ice across the interior and mostly rain west of the Cascades.
For Southern California, which was hit with epic rain and flooding in December, drier-than-normal conditions have set in since the start of the year. Bastardi says that precipitation should average out below normal there for the remainder of the winter.