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Archive for June 2011

NATO submarine rescue exercise to include Russian vessel ;

June 30, 2011 - AT SEA

The NATO submarine rescue maneuvers called Exercise Bold Monarch II begin on May 30 off the coast of Spain. This year, for the first time, Russia will participate in maneuvers described as the world’s largest submarine rescue exercise. Russia holds a non-wartime record: 118 Russian submariners perished after the nuclear Kursk sank in the Arctic in Aug 2000. Held every three years, Bold Monarch involves submarines, ships, aircraft and 2,000 personnel from NATO and non-NATO countries.

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African Union leaders meet for 17th Ordinary Summit

June 29, 2011 - EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Anxiety could be high at the June summit of the 54-nation African Union: revolution is in the air, and risk is high for the host country, among other AU members. The 54-nation bloc has to choose responses carefully: praise for pro-democracy uprisings could encourage them, while a blind eye to leaders who won’t step down could be construed as tacit support for tyranny – or AU powerlessness. Libya, a founding member of the organization modeled on the European Union, is a case in point. Other main AU issues are the strife in Cote D’Ivoire and security in southern Sudan. The full AU summit takes place in a city built especially for the occasion near the capital, Malabo. It will be preceded by six days of meetings.

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Kazakhstan hosts Organization of Islamic Conference foreign ministers

June 28, 2011 - ASTANA

An over-full agenda awaits the 38th Session of the Organization of Islamic Conference Foreign Ministers. A big challenge is finding a unified stance on the uprisings spreading across many OIC member countries. The ministers also need to decide on a new date for the 57th OIC Summit. Set for Egypt, it was postponed because of the January uprising. Libya, Pakistan and Somalia remain top OIC concerns, and the organization’s efforts to bring the Taliban in Afghanistan to the table continue. The establishment of an OIC human rights commission is high on the agenda.

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Christie’s auctions Thatcher handbag for celebrity charity ;

June 27, 2011 - LONDON

Christie’s auctions the handbag famously wielded by Margaret Thatcher as a symbol of her authority, as a portfolio for state papers and to silence dissent during her 11 years as British prime minister. It is expected to fetch some UK £100,000 (US $167,000) because of its historic significance during the Cold War. The auction represents an intended or unintended promotion for a movie about the so-called Iron Lady, which is due for release in late 2011.The term “handbagging” entered the political lexicon as a reference to her manner of disciplining errant Tory backbenchers and ministers during her years in Downing Street, according to the Guardian newspaper. She carried the black Asprey bag on many state trips, and it was with her during the Cold War negotiations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and United States president Ronald Reagan.

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Britain plans big show for Armed Forces Day

June 27, 2011 - SCOTLAND

Edinburgh hosts the main celebration for Armed Forces Day in 2011. The drastic cuts planned for Britain’s defense budget could cast a pall over the military parade and fly-pasts, planned as the most spectacular since the special day was introduced. British Prime Minister David Cameron, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, senior members of the Royal family and army VIPs are expected at the Edinburgh events, and the day will be celebrated throughout Britain. IndyMedia flagged the 2010 Armed Forces Day parade for demonstrations against militarism, and can be expected to flag the 2011 parade for demonstrations.

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Paraguay hosts Mercosur summit

June 24, 2011 - ASUNCION

When government heads of Mercosur countries — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — meet in the Paraguayan capital in June, expansion will be on the menu. Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela are in the wings. Mercosur is working on preferential trade agreements (PTAs) with India and, controversially, the European Union. Meanwhile, China’s anticipated deals with several South American countries could undermine Mercosur’s economic clout.Britain’s When government heads of Mercosur countries — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — meet in the Paraguayan capital in June, expansion will be on the menu. Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela are in the wings. Mercosur is working on preferential trade agreements (PTAs) with India and, controversially, the European Union. Meanwhile, China’s anticipated deals with several South American countries could undermine Mercosur’s economic clout.Britain’s Farmers Guardian newspaper reports that farming leaders have left Members of the European Parliament in no doubt about the “catastrophic impact” on the agriculture of European Union countries of trade liberalization with Mercosur countries. A deal on meat, sugar, fruit juice and maize sectors is under negotiation, and potential losses to the EU agriculture sector could amount to €13 billion (US $18.6 billion), according to the publication. Employment would also be affected as the EU agriculture sector provides for 28 million jobs in EU rural areas. reports that farming leaders have left Members of the European Parliament in no doubt about the “catastrophic impact” on the agriculture of European Union countries of trade liberalization with Mercosur countries. A deal on meat, sugar, fruit juice and maize sectors is under negotiation, and potential losses to the EU agriculture sector could amount to €13 billion (US $18.6 billion), according to the publication. Employment would also be affected as the EU agriculture sector provides for 28 million jobs in EU rural areas.

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EU leaders meet to tackle postponed economic goals

June 24, 2011 - BRUSSELS

Decisions on economic reforms in the eurozone and on boosting the bloc’s bailout facility await European Union leaders at the last summit of the Hungarian presidency. A Mar 2011 EU economic summit was billed as the deadline for the decisions, but they were postponed to June. The leaders must also tackle the implications of the turmoil in North Africa. Waves of migrants have swamped Italy and Malta. Rome accuses EU partners of abandoning it in its battle against clandestine immigration. The goals include boosting guarantees for the European Financial Stability Facility, a temporary bailout fund, and finalizing details of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a permanent fund. According to Euractiv, recent political developments in Portugal, Finland and Germany put the goals in jeopardy. Germany has announced it would not be able to provide the first of three tranches to the ESM in 2013, the year in which the partners are supposed to fund the ESM.

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United Nations anti-corruption body convenes

June 23, 2011 - VIENNA

Some 148 government representatives meet in Austria at the conference of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, hoping to identify gaps in national anti-corruption laws, plug financial malpractice and protect public funds from embezzlement. The conference comes as financial watch-dogs, such as Transparency International, warn that graft, and public acceptance levels of it, are at an all-time high.

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United Nations anti-corruption body convenes

June 23, 2011 - VIENNA

Some 148 government representatives meet in Austria at the conference of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, hoping to identify gaps in national anti-corruption laws, plug financial malpractice and protect public funds from embezzlement. The conference comes as financial watch-dogs, such as Transparency International, warn that graft, and public acceptance levels of it, are at an all-time high.

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Druids celebrate summer solstice for first time asmainstream faith

June 21, 2011 - ENGLAND

When robed Druids gather at Stonehenge for the summer solstice in 2011, they will be worshipping at the prehistoric stone-circle monument for the first time as members of an established religion under British charity law. The classification means members of the ancient pagan tradition, which some see as a curiosity of Britain’s ancient past, have mainstream status equal to the Church of England. The change of status, which is controversial, gives them tax advantages. Opponents of the change of status regard it as a mistake made for the sake of political correctness by a government agency, the Charity Commission. The see it as the first step to recognition of Scientology, sorcery, witchcraft or even the Jedi as religions eligible for tax-exempt status. The 2001 census recorded the country as having some 390,127 Jedi, the fictional Star Wars religion, in England and Wales.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators hold new round of talks ;

June 20, 2011 - VIETNAM

Negotiators at the seventh round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks in Ho Chi Minh City in June hope to wrap up outstanding issues so negotiations can be concluded by the TPP summit in Hawaii in November. The negotiators reported good progress at the sixth round, advancing negotiations on trade issues that include tax competitiveness and supply chain integration. Work still needs to be done on intellectual property rights, e-commerce and environmental issues.The TPP’s multi-lateral free trade agreement is aimed at introducing trade standardizations that will integrate the different economic priorities of the nine members — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. It is expected to facilitate more efficient business infrastructure across all participating member countries, and lead in time to an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTAAP).

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Nuclear watchdog sets ministerial-level meeting to address safety

June 20, 2011 - VIENNA

The International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano has called a ministerial meeting of the 151 IAEA members to assess what went wrong at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plants after it was hit by an earthquake-triggered tsunami on Mar 11. The director wants the international community to come up with a coordinated plan to respond to such disasters and to discuss ways to prevent them. At the plant, technicians are struggling to avert a meltdown.A Reuters report on the IAEA announcement suggests the agency could use the Japanese disaster to lobby for the power to enforce nuclear safety standards, something it does not have.

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