A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter


The rise of a new and clever super-power, China

Posted: 02 Aug 2011


S. Pandiyarajan was fiddling around with his shortwave radio set one hot summer evening at Villupuram, Tamil Nadu, when he stumbled upon a strange station.
At first listen, it was a language he couldn’t identify. It sounded like Tamil, but spoken in an accent he could not recognise. He listened on, straining his ears. To his surprise, he discovered that the voices were coming from faraway China.
“I could hear two Chinese people speaking in perfect Tamil!” he said. “And this was Sentamizh [classical Tamil], which you never hear anywhere, anymore, even in Tamil Nadu.”
That evening, Mr. Pandiyarajan became the latest member of China Radio International’s fast-growing overseas fan base. The station, run by the Chinese government, has, for more than six decades, been tasked with carrying news from China — from politics to arts and culture — to boost the country’s image overseas.
With humble beginnings in the civil war-torn China in the 1940s, CRI today is at the centre of a massive multi-billion dollar effort to boost rising China’s “soft power” overseas, sending out daily broadcasts in 63 languages, 24 hours a day, from its expansive multi-storey headquarters in west Beijing.
Remarkably, CRI’s Tamil station enjoys the widest reach of all its channels. Its popularity underscores the quiet success China’s “soft power” push is having in unlikely locations. The Tamil station, which broadcasts every day from a modest 12th floor office, has more than 25,000 registered listeners — besides thousands of others who tune in casually every day — in Tamil Nadu and the rest of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Germany, the United States and Japan.

This is called making peace with Murdoch because you need him

Posted: 02 Aug 2011

Desperate political times result in an Australian Prime Minister asking for fair coverage of her policies; this is also known as bowing to what the Murdoch empire wants and should not receive; elevation of its perceived power. Stop indulging the unethical grubs:

After months of festering tensions between the government and News Ltd, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, met the company’s editors and senior executives last night.
The Prime Minister, who feels her government is the victim of bias, especially by News Ltd’s flagship publications, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, accepted an invitation from the News Ltd chief executive officer, John Hartigan, to air her grievances in Sydney.
As well as the claims of bias, Ms Gillard angered News Ltd further when she said the company had some ”hard questions” to answer in the wake of the News of the World phone hacking scandal that enveloped News Ltd’s parent company, News Corp.
There has never been any suggestion of evidence that News Ltd has engaged in such behaviour. Neither side would comment on last night’s discussions.
Asked earlier what her message would be, Ms Gillard said her ”vision for the future” and her government’s reform agenda.
”Such meetings have been addressed by prime ministers and opposition leaders in the past so, when I was invited by Mr Hartigan, I accepted the invitation,” Ms Gillard said.
Ms Gillard and her senior ministers believe News Ltd is on a mission of regime change.

Who would trust firms to protect the public space?

Posted: 02 Aug 2011

Apparently the future in keeping us safe is to outsource intelligence to unaccountable corporations:

In an age where cyberwarfare is more common than the physical battlefield, it may be necessary for the private sector to stop playing defense and go on offense, Gen. Michael Hayden said Friday.
Hayden, who led the National Security Administration and Central Intelligence Agency under president George W. Bush, said during a panel discussion at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colo. that the federal government may not be the sole defender of private sector companies — and that there’s precedent for such action.
“We may come to a point where defense is more actively and aggressively defined even for the private sector and what is permitted there is something that we would never let the private sector do in physical space,” he said.
“Let me really throw out a bumper sticker for you: how about a digital Blackwater?” he asked. “I mean, we have privatized certain defense activities, even in physical space, and now you’ve got a new domain in which we don’t have any paths trampled down in the forest in terms of what it is we expect the government — or will allow the government — to do.”
Hayden emphasized that he’s “not quite an advocate for that,” but that it’s a reality both private and public sectors must face.”

Here’s why this must be resisted.

When mad privatisation came to Greece

Posted: 02 Aug 2011

The country may be economically screwed but this plan will benefit only a few corporations and rich people:

The starting gun for one of the biggest fire-sales in western history was fired as Greek officials began appointing advisers for the country’s ambitious privatisation drive.
“Our target is clear, and it is to generate €1.7bn from privatisations by the end of September and €5bn by the end of the year,” said the finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos.
After securing a second aid package to prop up an economy now dependent on international handouts to pay public wages and pensions, Athens has moved with record speed to divest itself of state assets ranging from prime real estate to loss-making companies.
By any measure it is a gargantuan task. At stake is Greece‘s €350bn debt, which before the EU and IMF agreed to bailout the country again was predicted to peak at 172% of GDP next year.
The socialist government says it aims to raise €50bn through the campaign by 2015. Enough, it is hoped, to not only make a dent in the debt but send a convincing message to the markets that have pummelled Athens since the onset of the crisis 18 months ago.
The prime minister, George Papandreou, has cancelled his summer holidays to accelerate the dismantling of a sector that his father Andreas – Greece’s fiery socialist premier in the 1980s – did much to foster.
International lenders have warned that if there no progress with privatisations they will withhold the next tranche of aid in September.
“In more ways than one Papandreou is paying for the sins of his father,” said Nikos Dimou, author of the bestselling book The Misfortune of Being Greek. “It was Andreas, after all, who did more than anyone else to run Greece into debt.”
The appearance of For Sale and For Rent signs on everything from former Olympic venues to island locales, casinos, marinas and airports, has been met with unexpected acceptance by Greeks long weaned on state largesse. A growing majority appears to agree it is the only way of arresting soaring unemployment by attracting foreign investment. Experts estimate Athens could own around €300bn worth of state property, almost as much as the total Greek debt.
“There has definitely been a shift in mood,” said Stefanos Manos, a former national economy minister in a centre-right government. “But that could easily change. It is very clear that the government is only doing this under great duress from [our] international creditors,” he said.
“With timetables being so pressing, I worry that the whole process is very ill-prepared. If it there is not enough transparency we may end up like Russia, where only a cast of oligarchs end up benefiting.”

Oh wait, says Sri Lanka, maybe we did murder civilians

Posted: 01 Aug 2011

Telling the truth isn’t really popular in the halls of power in Colombo:

Sri Lanka’s government on Monday acknowledged for the first time civilian casualties occurred in the final phase of its 26—year civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels but calls those deaths unavoidable.
A Defence Ministry report said “it was impossible” to avoid civilian deaths despite the military’s best efforts, given the magnitude of the fighting and ruthlessness of the opponent. The government had so far maintained that non—combatants were not among the war dead because it adhered to a “zero civilian casualty policy.”
The report analyzes the events of the war and denies allegations of human rights violations and prisoner executions by Sri Lankan troops during the hostilities.
The war ended in May 2009 after a final offensive in which tens of thousands of people were killed in just a few months, according to estimates by a United Nations experts panel.
“The government of Sri Lanka made every effort to protect civilians in the conflict zone through the creation of safe corridors and no—fire zones by adhering to a zero civilian casualty policy that had been conveyed to all troops through repeated training and operational orders,” the report said.
“Despite the clear intent of the government of Sri Lanka and the numerous precautions taken, it was impossible in the battle of this magnitude, against a ruthless opponent actively endangering civilians, for civilian casualties to be avoided.”
The report did not say how many civilians may have been killed.
It comes against the backdrop of a U.N. panel reporting earlier this year that it has found credible allegations of serious human rights violations involving both the government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels, some of which could amount to war crimes. It called for an independent international investigation.
Also, Britain’s Channel 4 television has aired video clips allegedly taken by soldiers on the front that purports to show blindfolded prisoners, some stripped naked, being shot at close range and bodies of naked women being loaded into a tractor trailer.
Tamil Tigers were accused of holding civilians as human shields, killing those trying to escape their grip and conscripting child soldiers.

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