News From Abroad

World Cup

South Africa on Thursday urged World Cup visitors to exercise caution against crime, after two groups of journalists were robbed ahead of the opening match. “We appeal to citizens and visitors to also exercise care of their personal safety and those around them,” government spokesman Themba Maseko said in a statement. “Of the country’s 190,000 police officers, only 40,000 have been allocated to World Cup operations. These officers will be supported by their counterparts from the 32 participating teams,” he said. Participating nations have sent their own policed elegations, ranging from the small to the large, like that of the United States.

Forget getting past England. The U.S. soccer team had to get past the elephants first. The U.S. team was delayed twice Friday when elephants blocked the road, the second back-up coming as the squad was traveling to its training session at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. The elephant was munching on a tree as the Americans left the Bakubung Bush Lodge, and it moved to the side of the road after about 4 minutes.

Fears over how South Africa will deal with 350,000 visiting supporters to the World Cup were highlighted after a terrifying stampede at a pre-tournament friendly. Ten people were taken to hospital – with one police officer suffering serious injuries – after 1,000 spectators rushed to get into the friendly match yesterday between Nigeria and North Korea at the Makhulong Stadium in Johannesburg. The images will unnerve the game’s governing body FIFA which has resisted claims that South Africa does not have the infrastructure and organisation to stage the tournament.
Fans had tried to break down the gates at the ground after police had closed them after the 4pm kick-off as earlier spectators tried to get into the ground.

A Portuguese photographer was held up at gunpoint early Wednesday and two other journalists also were robbed at the same World Cup hotel. Antonio Simoes said he woke up around 4 a.m. and found two men entering his room at the Nutbush Boma Lodge outside of Magaliesburg, 75 miles northwest of Johannesburg. “One of the guys pointed a hand gun at my head, and then they took all my gear — cameras, lenses, laptop,” said Simoes, who works for the Portuguese daily O Jogo. “Then they told me to lie on the bed and they covered me with a blanket, pressed the gun against my head and told me to sleep.

Up the Nile

The scarlet-lettered flag flaps atop a lush green hill in an apparent declaration of ownership. Here, a rebel movement turned political party collects taxes, appoints local officials and even polices a border post. These former rebels are accused of populating the land they have grabbed with thousands of people from neighboring Rwanda to form a mini-Tutsi state. The state-within-a-state is emerging in the shadow of Rwanda’s genocide two decades ago, and is raising the specter of new violence in war-ravaged east Congo. U.N. officials, legislators and traditional chiefs are already forming “pacification committees” to try and resolve the land conflicts. “The situation is explosive,” Jean Baumbiliya Kisoloni, vice president of the provincial assembly based in Goma, said of Masisi, one of the districts under the new flag. “I am not really optimistic that this can be resolved without conflict.”

South of the Border

Pointing their rifles, Mexican security forces chased away U.S. authorities investigating the shooting of a 15-year-old Mexican by a U.S. Border Patrol agent on the banks of the Rio Grande, the FBI and witnesses told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The killing of the Mexican by U.S. authorities — the second in less than two weeks — has exposed the distrust between the two countries that lies just below the surface, and has enraged Mexicans who see the death of the boy on Mexican soil as an act of murder. Shortly after the boy was shot, Mexican soldiers arrived at the scene and pointed their guns at the Border Patrol agents across the riverbank while bystanders screamed insults and hurled rocks and firecrackers, FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons said. She said the agents were forced to withdraw.

The Mexican government is opening a satellite consular office on Catalina Island — a small resort off the California coast with a history of drug smuggling and human trafficking — to provide the island’s illegal Mexican immigrants with identification cards

The Great Game

In the worst of several attacks, five US soldiers died in an improvised bomb blast in east Afghanistan, the US said. Five other Nato troops were killed in a spate of attacks across the country’s restive south and east, where Isaf is battling the Taliban. The militants have been waging a battle to overthrow the US-backed government.

British Prime Minister David Cameron Thursday made his first official visit to Afghanistan, ruling out the prospect of sending extra forces and calling for quicker progress to bring troops home. His comments came as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan confirmed that a flagship campaign against the Taliban would take longer than expected in Kandahar, where violence has increased and Afghan security forces are short. Cameron, whose visit was not pre-announced for security reasons, held talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and declared Afghanistan “the most important national security issue for my country”. But he added: “the issue of more troops is not remotely on the UK agenda”.

Continental Affairs

Spanish public sector trade unions are holding strikes around the country in protest against government austerity measures. Hundreds of civil servants rallied outside the finance ministry building in Madrid, the capital, on Tuesday, blowing horns and chanting protest slogans. Tens of thousands of workers have also stayed away from work following government plans last month to cut public sector workers’ wages by five per cent to reduce the country’s large state deficit.

The frontrunner in Belgium’s elections this weekend is running on perhaps the ultimate in divisive proposals: the breakup of the nation. Despite its status as the home of the European Union, Belgium itself has long struggled with divisions between its 6 million Dutch-speakers and 4.5 million Francophones but until recently talk of a breakup has been limited to extremists. Now, Bart De Wever of the centrist New Flemish Alliance is pressing for exactly that. What once seemed a preposterous fantasy of the political fringes has, in the mouth of a man seen as a possible prime minister, suddenly takes on an air of plausibility. “We are in each other’s face,” De Wever told 800 party faithful packed into a sweaty theater here ahead of Sunday’s elections. “And together we are going downhill fast. Flanders and Wallonia must be masters of their own fate.”

The European Commission has come forward with a list of amendments to revise EU rules on credit rating agencies, aiming to boost transparency and centralise supervision at the European level. Under the proposals, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) – a new body whose legislation is currently being negotiated by member states and the European Parliament – will take over the supervision of rating agencies in Europe from national authorities.

Two utterly contradictory images of the Netherlands circulate in the international press. One is the idea of a wild, unruly place where policemen smoke marijuana, gay men dance in the streets, and euthanasia can be arranged in an instant, a multiculti society that is so tolerant that even violent Islamic extremists are subsidized by the state. This caricature is especially popular in the United States. But after the sudden emergence of populist demagogues, such as Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, who rant and rave about the “Islamization” of Europe, a very different image has dominated the press: a country of reactionaries and racists, leading the rest of Europe in a march towards a new dawn of fascism.,1518,699377,00.html

With 88 per cent of the votes counted, published partial results showed the Liberals with 31 and Labour on 30. But the real victory went to Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), which demands an end to immigration from Muslim countries and a ban on new mosques. The PVV took its number of seats from nine in the last parliament to 24, and could hope to enter a coalition government. The far-right leader with his distinctive shock of fair hair called the result “magnificent”. “The impossible has happened,” he told a televised party gathering. “We are the biggest winner today. The Netherlands chose more security, less crime, less immigration and less Islam.”

Hungary’s economy is in a “very grave situation,” a government official said, adding to concern about Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, weakening the euro and pushing the forint to a 12-month low. “It’s clear that the economy is in a very grave situation,” Peter Szijjarto, spokesman for Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said today in Budapest. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration at all” to talk about a default. The comments sparked concern that Europe’s debt crisis would spread to eastern Europe. European governments crafted a 750 billion-euro ($904 billion) financial backstop for the euro area last month after Greece’s widening budget deficit threatened to shatter confidence in the single currency.

Europe’s leaders are like a gambler who responds to every loss by doubling his stake, hoping that somehow it will all come good in the end. For them, the answer to Europe’s failures is always more integration. And so far, it’s not come crashing down. But one of the pitfalls of integration by stealth seems to be ever diminishing public support. We can’t go on like this, and I suspect we won’t.

The Far East

In China, cracks are appearing – in the neighbourhood of the massive Three Gorges Dam, the country’s great prestige project, and also in the Great Internet Firewall of China, enabling the ominous news to leak out. Three years ago stories were already emerging in the Chinese media about landslides, ecological deterioration and accumulation of algae further down the river. And less and less effort seems to be made to plug the leaks.

Japan’s new prime minister, Naoto Kan, told President Obama on Sunday that he would work to fulfill an agreement to relocate an American air base, moving to get beyond a contentious issue that had confounded his predecessor. Making his diplomatic debut with a phone call to the White House, Mr. Kan also reaffirmed that his nation’s security alliance with the United States remained the “cornerstone” of Japanese foreign policy, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said. The ministry released few details of the 15-minute call, which it said Mr. Obama had requested.

Wednesday Seoul approved two shipments of baby food to be sent to the North. North Korea suffers from severe food shortages and relies on foreign help to feed its people. Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said the aid, with a total value of $320,000 (£221,000), would be sent to day-care centres in the North East and near Pyongyang.

Three weeks after a violent conclusion to a two-month political protest in downtown Bangkok, the Thai government says it wants to implement a five-point reconciliation plan, which Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva believes will address some of the grievances anti-government redshirts say motivated their mass rally in the capital. The plan was first proposed on 3 May, and while leaders initially welcomed it as “quite constructive,” they turned it down in the end. The deal pledges constitutional amendments, an independent investigation into the recent political violence, increased social spending and the establishment of a media monitoring body.

Down Under

The Rudd government is fighting damage-control battles on many fronts but one potentially fatal front is all its double speak about human rights. By way of confirming its double-speak, the government has introduced a stealth version of a charter of human rights. If the government was to be honest about what it was doing, the wider electorate would likely be highly unimpressed, and we saw a clue to the electorate’s thinking on Monday. Despite the best efforts of the human rights industry, backed by an obsessional and systemic bias on the subject of asylum seekers by ABC news and current affairs, Australians have shown, by a two-to-one majority, that they want a punitive and effective deterrent to those who seek to enter Australia as refugees, yet want to bypass the off-shore refugee program.

An angry advertising campaign over a proposed super-tax is pushing usually placid Australian voters toward one of the closest, most divisive elections in memory. Annoyed that the world’s biggest mining companies are attacking his plans to extract a 40 percent tax on the profits of mineral exports, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has opened a costly, new-style campaign to regain public support that has been badly dented by a series of humiliations.

  1. Week in review « Craig W. Wright

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