April 01, 2016

April 1, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

Nuclear Future – a Mixed Bag


The more than 50 world leaders who met in Washington on Thursday for President Barack Obama’s fourth and final two-day Nuclear Security Summit faced a mixed bag of hope and despair.

They could celebrate the international community’s agreement with Iran to end that rogue nation’s nuclear program. They could toast the amendment to a treaty they added strengthening security at nuclear facilities (remember, Belgium only recently posted armed guards at its nuclear power plants). Looking back over Obama’s tenure, they could hi-five the 2010 New START treaty between the US and Russia that limited nuclear weapons in the former Cold War foes.

That was the hope.

Then there’s the other side.

Critics don’t believe Iran will abide by its deal. Even the agreement’s defenders, like Wendy Sherman, a former deputy secretary of state under Obama, warned in USA Today that everyone needed to remain vigilant to make sure Tehran keeps its word.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t attend the summit. That's a problem — Moscow has more nuclear warheads than anyone else. “Russia's absence means nuclear summit likely to end in anticlimax for Obama,” intoned the Guardian’s headline.

The British newspaper noted that India, Pakistan and Japan might be increasing their nuclear stockpiles. India and Pakistan are pointing nukes at each other. Japan is ready to build and deploy a nuke in case China or, more possibly, the hermit kingdom of North Korea decides to push the button (the country tested more short-range missiles Friday).

Meanwhile, the New York Times noted that Beijing’s bellicose stance in the South China Sea was hanging over the summit like a dark cloud. The US insists on challenging China’s claims to islands hundreds of miles away from its coast smack in the middle of international trade routes. Washington must uphold the Law of the Sea. But China is growing more powerful. And it considers the South China Sea its backyard. Are the two nuclear powers on a collision course?

Then there is Islamic State’s obvious interest in obtaining a nuclear weapon and feckless Europe’s attempts to root out the extremist networks that have been permitted — astonishingly — to metastasize on the continent.

“We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

When then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice uttered those words in the run-up to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, she was exaggerating Saddam Hussein’s threat to the United States.

Today, though, as nuclear anxieties rise from Brussels to the Pacific, her words ring truer than ever.

WANT TO KNOW

Court to Zuma: You Must Pay


A visitor center, a helipad, a swimming pool, even a chicken coop—these were all upgrades South African President Jacob Zuma made to his homestead in Nkandla at the taxpayers' expense.

And yet he seemed surprise that he alone should pay for them.

Zuma has rebuffed calls for years from opposition lawmakers to pay back the millions he spent in public funds, claiming these renovations were essential to ensuring his safety.

On Thursday, however, South Africa's Constitutional Court disagreed. Instead, it ordered the ANC leader to reimburse the state – more than $16 million. It also said the president violated South Africa's constitution and “flouted laws.”'

Members of the opposition say this embarrassment is grounds for the ANC to distance itself from its leader and impeach Zuma. The Democratic Alliance, the country's main opposition party, started impeachment proceedings Thursday.

Other free-spending world leaders are hopefully paying close attention to the South African court's ruling: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is accused of spending millions on luxury goods and buying off political figures, the Wall Street Journal reported. Razak is under intense pressure now to explain the source of these funds.

It seems no one is buying his story that the money was a gift from the Saudi royal family.

Serbia: Free to Hate


Prosecutors in The Hague charged Serbian ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj with murder, torture, sexual assault and other violence designed to kick Croats, Muslims and others off their property to make way for an expanded Serbia in the early 1990s.

But those prosecutors failed to persuade a United Nations war crimes tribunal whose judges acquitted Seselj on Thursday, the Washington Post reported: The evidence didn’t link the man to the allegations, two out of three judges ruled. (In her dissent, the third judge claimed that Seselj intimidated witnesses.)

It was a big surprise. Earlier this month, the tribunal found former Bosnian Serb commander Radovan Karadzic guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Now Seselj can go back to what he does best: hating. As the boss of the Serbian Radical Party, he’s likely to return to parliament and advocate closer ties to Moscow, less cooperation with the European Union and antagonistic policies toward Serbia’s neighbor, Croatia.

Justice doesn’t always feel like victory.
 

A New Calcutta Tragedy


As the sun rose in Calcutta on Friday morning, crews were still working frantically to pull dozens of victims from the wreckage of a 330-foot chunk of a 1.2-mile-long highway flyover that collapsed suddenly, killing at least 21.

The poor in a city known for its poor suffered the most in the collapse. The flyover was in one of the most densely packed districts in a densely packed city. Folks were living under it in makeshift homes.

The cause of the collapse is still unknown, but the BBC noted that poor inspections, substandard materials and other problems have long plagued construction in India. The road had been under construction since 2009. Its opening has been delayed many times. Politicians interfered.

Scroll, a local publication was scathing in its assessment, calling the flyover's collapse “a sad reminder of all that is wrong with our cities.

An executive of the construction company that was building the flyover said the collapse was “an act of God.”

An Indian court will now decide if that is the case.

DISCOVERIES

China Bans April Fools' Day


Free Speech. An independent media. And now April Fools' Day?

No joke – the day for pulling off practical jokes and hoaxes has become the latest victim of China's crackdown on outside (read: Western) traditions and influences.

“'April Fools' Day' is not consistent with our cultural traditions, or socialist core values,” said state news agency Xinhua Friday according to the Washington Post.

“Hope nobody believes in rumors, makes rumors or spreads rumors,” the agency added, suggesting that any April Fools' pranks would have consequences given the Communist Party's 2013 campaign to criminalize the spread of rumors.

Some on social media were scathing.

“Every day is April Fools' Day,” wrote one user. Others wished for the opposite, a “truth-telling day.”

Another user noted, “This is Xinhua's joke, don't you see?”

Now that would be a prank for the record books.

 

The DailyChatter staff wishes you a wonderful day. Write to us with tips, feedback and suggestions at [email protected].

— Compiled and written by Jabeen Bhatti

jbhatti
Fri, 04/01/2016 – 05:38