19 February: Tibet’s spiritual leader lent usual US support in Obama-Lama meeting
Also today: Hogwarts-style intrigue plagues J.K.Rowling; Pakistani, US intelligence services cooperate on new level; Ill-wind blows as climate change chief resigns; Obama presses ahead with bipartisan dream, as middle ground falls away; Tiger stalks a return to golf; Big turnaround as IAEA claims Iranians may be trying for nuke weapons.
Tibet’s spiritual leader lent usual US support in Obama-Lama meeting
President Barack Obama says he strongly supports the Dalai Lama over the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity, and the protection of human rights for Tibetans, after meeting him in Washington. He’s also encouraged talks between the exiled Tibetan leader and China. That means nothing’s changed in the 60-year standoff between the Dalia Lama and Chinese authorities, who won’t speak to the exiled religious and spiritual leader. In his response to Obama’s well-meaning and symbolic statement, the Tibetan leader said he was very glad to have the president’s support. But Beijing thinks the Buddhist monk is a separatist, and being too forthright about China’s brutal suppression of Tibetan culture would leave Obama with a nasty migraine on top of headaches over rows concerning US arms sales to Taiwan, the strength of the Chinese currency, and a battle over Google, censorship and hacking.
Hogwarts-style intrigue plagues J.K.Rowling
It’s the kind of intrigue and nastiness one would expect to take place at Hogwarts. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is now facing another round of plagiarism charges, this time from the estate of English children's author Adrian Jacobs, which claims she stole concepts around wizardry from one of his books. She’s been made a defendant in a lawsuit against her publishers Bloomsbury Publishing. But, of course, there’s a twist in the tale. Her agent, Christopher Little, was also Jacobs's agent. In calling the lawsuit "a billion-dollar case" (which is what Rowling is said to be worth), the Jacobs estate claim sounds like it comes from a greedy bunch of relatives who want to take her to the cleaners.
Pakistani, US intelligence services cooperate on new level
Pakistani security forces say they’ve caught many more militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, shortly after capturing the Afghan Taliban's second-in-command in a joint operation with the CIA. Something’s changed among Pakistan’s security services since the country’s army fought off a militant offensive that saw killings and bombings in Pakistan’s heartland for months last year. Pakistan’s intelligence services are known to play a dual- and covert-role in neighbouring Afghanistan, with some elements supporting the Islamists. The open cooperation with the Americans over apprehending militants comes as Nato and Afghani forces are attacking the opium-producing Taliban stronghold of Marjah, in the biggest offensive of the eight-year war.
Ill-wind blows as climate change chief resigns
The pall of climate change has darkened further after Yvo de Boer, who led the global talks in Copenhagen in December, resigned. He’s leaving office in early July, but says it’s not directly linked to the failure in Denmark to produce anything remotely enforceable. But what his resignation does say is that the current decades-long UN effort to tackle global warming may have been stillborn. The next UN climate talks will be held in Mexico in December, but observers intimate that De Boer would likely stick around it he thought there was any chance of a legally binding treaty at the end of this year. How sad for De Boer, and for an ever more polluted world.
Obama presses ahead with bipartisan dream, as middle ground falls away
At the same time beltway analysts are saying the middle ground of US politics is falling away, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that unilaterally creates a bipartisan commission to rein in a record $1.4 trillion budget deficit. Congress earlier rejected a similar panel with considerably more power, but Obama says that unless lawmakers stop politicking, the deficit could grow even larger. The Democrats are hurting badly after Republican Scott Brown took former Senator Edward Kennedy’s seat of 46-years in Massachusetts, and resurgent conservatives in the GOP are hammering Obama’s desire for more political bi-partisanship across the board. He’s chosen senior Democrats and Republicans to be on the panel, to report back on how Congress and the administration can get the deficit down to 3% of gross domestic product from an unsustainable 9.9% of GDP, the highest since the Second World War. Obama can only hope the middle ground will hold.
Tiger stalks a return to golf
Tiger Woods may be heading back to 18th green, after his PR fundis released photos of him jogging, and stated he’ll make his first public appearance since crashing his car outside his Florida home, which led to sordid revelations about his sex life. Woods has said nothing for nearly three months, but now he’ll appear today with friends, colleagues and close associates in a golf clubhouse made available by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. A British bookie set odds at 4-to-7 that Woods’ wife Elin will be at his side. His agent, Mark Steinberg, indicated that Woods wants to make amends via a satellite broadcast carried by networks ABC, CBS and NBC. Should be interesting.
Big turnaround as IAEA claims Iranians may be trying for nuke weapons
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said for the first time that Iran may be working to turn enriched uranium into a nuclear warhead. Its previous position, as guardian of global non-proliferation, was that Iran gave up this endeavour years ago. But now that it’s got a new boss, Japan’s Yukiya Amano, who became IAEA head in December, the agency’s statement seems to contradict an assessment by the US that Tehran suspended these activities in 2003. But such is the confusion over the matter, that the US and its allies -- Britain France and Germany -- also say Iran may never have stopped such projects, and have long been demanding tough sanctions against the country. But it’s not easy to get the UN Security Council to agree, as Russia and China have been holding out. Perhaps even more surprising, the global nuclear watchdog also said that Iran has managed to make a tiny amount of uranium enriched to near-20% levels, weeks after threatening to do so. It’s never clear what information the nuclear agency uses, as opposed to that compiled by government intelligence services, but the IAEA now says intelligence supplied by the US, Israel and other member states, offers compelling evidence that Iran is engaged in a weapons programme.