Current Events

What and Why the G-8 Summit?

Der Spiegel Online described on June 6 the role and reason for the G-8 summit:

“The Group of Eight (G- 8) includes many of the world’s most powerful industrial democracies: the Unites States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia. The European Union also participates, represented by the president of the European Commission and the President of the EU, but is not an official member…

“The G- 8 is an [annual] ‘informal forum of heads of state’ without an administrative structure or offices. The summit agenda is administered by the year’s president and host. As this year’s host country, Germany has announced an agenda which focuses on climate change prevention and the need for a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol, set to expire in 2012. Stabilizing the world economy with sustainable energy policy, development and HIV prevention aid in Africa, anti- product piracy strategy, and security policy are also among topics Germany plans to address…

“This year Germany is hosting the 33rd summit at Heiligendamm, the country’s oldest beach resort, which is in the state of Mecklenberg Vorpommern on the Baltic Sea. The entire resort has been blocked off by a 12- kilometer long, razor wire fence to prevent demonstrators from getting [too] close to the venue…

“The G- 8 originated in 1973, when the oil crisis and subsequent economic recession prompted the US to host informal meetings for world leaders to discuss relevant issues. In 1975, France invited the US, the UK, West Germany, Italy and Japan to a summit, called the Group of Six, where the countries agreed on an annual meeting and rotating presidency. Canada joined the next year, forming the G- 7. In 1997, Russia joined the group — a decision which is still contested by some — forming what is currently known as the G- 8.

“Together, the eight countries produce more than half of the world’s economic production, and represent a powerhouse of political influence. Summit topics have evolved from purely economic concerns to include political agendas such as poverty, terrorism, and climate change.”

Europe Angry With Bush

The Financial Times wrote on June 1:

“Germany and the European Commission reacted angrily to President George W. Bush’s apparent change of heart on climate change on Friday, setting the stage for a stormy G8 summit of rich industrialised countries next week.

“A spokesman for Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor and current G8 president, said Germany’s stance that climate talks should take place within the United Nations was ‘non-negotiable’. Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, dismissed the proposals for climate talks as vague and ‘the classic US line’…

“Attitudes within Europe hardened on Friday as some politicians and activists accused Mr Bush of trying to wreck next week’s summit, and UN negotiations on climate change, set to take place this December… Sigmar Gabriel, the German environment minister, said Mr Bush’s speech could mark a ‘change in the US position or a manoeuvre aimed at causing confusion.’ A comment by Mr Bush to German media that Ms Merkel ‘will be pleased’ with his proposals, which run counter to her own, was seen as provocative.

“There were signs on Friday night that Mr Bush’s proposals would split the G8, which some sceptics argue is his intention. Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister, welcomed the plans, as did Tony Blair, Britain’s outgoing prime minister, and Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister.”

A commentary in Germany’s daily, Die Zeit, stated on June 1:

“Is the US President changing from Saul to Paul? Only Tony Blair seems to believe that… Nothing indicates that Bush had a change of heart… The G-8 countries and the entire world would be well advised not to even consider the tactical games of the Bush Administration… If one was to accept Bush’s proposal, then one would open the door to American delay strategies.”

Britain Isolated?

The Telegraph wrote on June 2:

“The Prime Minister [Tony Blair] will be told by Angela Merkel tomorrow that he faces isolation and a bruising battle over British opposition to new powers for the European Union. At a pre-G8 meeting in Berlin, the German chancellor will warn Mr Blair that he will be under siege if he tries to defend Britain’s sovereignty at a meeting on June 21 in Brussels – where details of a treaty will be thrashed out to replace the constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters two years ago.

“Support for the Prime Minister is melting away as key allies such as French president Nicolas Sarkozy rally behind proposals to beef up EU powers ahead of the summit, which is Mr Blair’s last top-level engagement before he hands over power to Gordon Brown on June 27… The German leader will use the summit to fix a basic outline for a new EU treaty and is hoping to commit Mr Blair to firm promises on which Mr Brown will find it difficult to backtrack later.”

Ahead of the G-8 Summit

On Saturday, June 2, The German and international press reported about staggering violent demonstrations in the East German city of Rostock, days ahead of the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm. Deutsche Welle reported:

“As tens of thousands of peaceful anti-globalization demonstrators marched in protest against the upcoming G8 summit in the German town of Rostock Saturday, some clashed violently with police…  The stone-throwing demonstrators were from a far-left anti-globalization group and wore black masks and hoods… Saturday’s clashes bear out fears expressed by the German police that left-wing militants would seek to cause unrest during protests against the summit…. As is now customary for G8 summits, the luxury beachfront hotel on the Baltic coast where US President George W. Bush and his counterparts will hold talks is surrounded by a heavily guarded fence topped with barbed wire. An underwater barrier has been erected to prevent ships approaching the hotel.”

The German press reported on Tuesday that one demonstrator, who had been arrested and charged with throwing stones at police officers, was sentenced to ten months in prison without the possibility of parole. The accelerated procedure and the decision against the 33-year old German citizen, who had not been previously convicted, was meant to have a deterrent effect on future demonstrators. During the clash on Saturday, over 433 police officers were injured, as well as more than 1,000 civilians.

Over the weekend, former German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt (88), stated in an interview with the German tabloid, Bild, that the G-8 Summit has become nothing more than a spectacle for the media. He pointed out that the original concept was invented by former French President Giscard d’Estaing and himself, to get world leaders together to talk to each other [However, note the excerpt from Der Spiegel Online in this Update, describing the purpose of the G-8 meetings, which portrays a slightly different historical picture as to their origins.] He added that at first, the British and the Americans were opposed to the concept. He continued that in order to be productive, leaders from China and India [in addition to Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the USA] would have to be added now, and that all leaders should appear with a very small entourage–and not with “1,000 people,” as the Americans are doing.

… And During the Summit

Reuters reported on June 6:

“Around 10,000 anti-capitalist protesters clashed with police on Wednesday, injuring eight, as they tried to blockade routes to a summit of major powers in northern Germany. Police used water cannons to push back demonstrators. Delegates from several G8 countries said the protests were limiting their ability to move around at the summit venue, a seaside resort on Germany’s Baltic coast. Eight officers were injured during the clashes with protesters near the town of Bad Doberan, police spokesman Luedger Behrens said. Police ‘used water cannons twice after demonstrators bombarded police with stones,’ he said. Police said 15 protesters had been detained. Protesters were trying to block access to a luxury hotel on the coast in Heiligendamm…”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 7:

“The peaceful blockades by anti G-8 demonstrators at the summit in Heiligendamm have allayed fears of mass violence stoked by last Saturday’s riot in Rostock, and have won praise in the German media.”

Der Stern published a report on June 7 alleging that police officers in civilian clothes had mingled themselves among the demonstrators in Rostock, provoking violence by persuading them to throw stones at police officers.

How Merkel Wants to Lead

Der Spiegel Online reported on June 5:

“US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are competing for control of the climate change agenda at the G-8 summit. The minutes of a secret meeting to plan the German government’s strategy… reveal the hard line Merkel plans to take… From the beginning, Merkel and the group had no illusions about the US president’s intentions. The chancellor’s senior economic advisor, Jens Weidmann, had done his own research, and he presented his conclusions to the group. The minutes read: ‘Dr. Weidmann reported that the US president’s advisor on climate issues is currently traveling through a number of emerging nations, the goal being to intervene against Germany’s ambitious G-8 agenda on the subject of climate protection.’… Cooperation with the Russians — against Bush — is another option, the document quotes Merkel as saying…”

“Bush made it clear that the United States would expect to assume the leadership in this process, a role the Chancellery had in fact already claimed for Merkel.

“Anxious as the powerful are to avoid giving this impression, a showdown seems inevitable in Heiligendamm. The smiling photo ops in beautiful, natural surroundings will likely stand in sharp contrast to what happens behind the scenes: America against Germany, a climate change deadbeat against a courageous contender for a better world — he against she… Merkel has no intention to be robbed of the opportunity to shine before the local and global public in Heiligendamm as an energetic champion of a better world…

“There is a lot at stake for the chancellor: her reputation as G-8 chair as well as Germany’s image in the world, but also Merkel’s image as a politician who gets things done. Merkel has promised that the summit will not be about empty words, but will instead examine solutions for the world’s biggest challenges… Merkel’s way of thinking is different from Bush’s, and is very German. She wants the summit to succeed in weakening two preconceptions: her supposed thralldom to the United States is a thorn in her side, as is the supposed lack of environmental commitment on the part of Germany’s conservatives.

“It’s with excitement and a certain amount of schadenfreude [malicious joy] that the Social Democratic members of Merkel’s cabinet watch as the chancellor suddenly finds herself in a new skirmish: Merkel has to defend herself against the Americans’ initiative… Publicly, the looming conflict with the Americans is in no way to be ratcheted up — softening is the order [of] the day… But internally, Merkel’s advisors have told her that reaching a concrete CO2 reduction goal is the decisive yardstick.”

First “Major Success” at G-8 Summit? — Not Really!

Der Spiegel Online reported on June 7:

“G-8 leaders meeting in Heiligendamm have agreed to ‘seriously consider’ a 50 percent cut in global CO2 emissions by 2050, said Chancellor Angela Merkel, hailing the deal as a major success. The summit had also agreed to negotiate a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which sets cuts in greenhouse gases running to 2012, within the framework of the United Nations, she said…”

Bild Online reported that the German Green Party (former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is a member of the Green party) strongly criticized the “compromise,” calling it a “laughable fraud” and a “noncommittal triumph.” According to the criticism, rather than agreeing to a clear obligatory commitment, all they came up with was a “hotchpotch.”

Bild Online also quoted Greenpeace as saying that no success was achieved, but just a further delay of dealing with the problems.

Putin Threatens USA and NATO

The Globe and Mail wrote on June 4:

“In a threat not uttered since the Cold War, Vladimir Putin said that Russia intends to aim its missile systems – potentially nuclear weapons – at targets in Europe in retaliation for the U.S. decision to establish antimissile bases there.

“During a lengthy dinner, Russia’s President defended his semi-authoritarian style and insisted he is the world’s only true democrat. In an interview with The Globe and Mail and a small circle of other journalists, he stressed that his country is not moving away from a market economy, refused to consider extraditing a former KGB agent charged with poisoning a dissident in London, and lashed out repeatedly at the United States and NATO for operating in countries previously within Russia’s sphere of influence. Mr. Putin’s remarks, translated from Russian, virtually guarantee much of the G8 summit, due to begin in northern Germany on Wednesday, will be dominated by the growing confrontation between the West and Russia…

“‘It is obvious that if part of the strategic nuclear potential of the United States is located in Europe, and according to our military experts will be threatening us, we will have to respond,’ he said. ‘What kind of steps are we going to take in response? Of course, we are going to get new targets in Europe.’ He suggested that this could include powerful nuclear-capable weapons.”

In response, during a speech in the Czech Republic, President Bush “tried to defuse a worsening dispute with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the G-8 summit,” according to Der Spiegel Online, dated June 5. The magazine quoted Mr. Bush as saying: “Russia is not the enemy… The Cold War is over. It ended… My message will be: ‘Vladimir’ — I call him Vladimir — you shouldn’t fear a missile defense system. As a matter of fact, why don’t you cooperate with us on a missile defense system?”

It will have to be seen whether “Vladimir” will be impressed by these words.

Another “Success” at the G-8 Summit?

The Associated Press reported on June 7:

“Bush and Putin met privately after days of Cold War-style sparring over U.S. plans to base a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, essentially in Russia’s back yard. Putin, bitterly opposed to placing such a system in Europe, told Bush that Russia would drop its objections and not seek to retrain its missiles on Europe if the shield were installed in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet satellite in central Asia. Bush’s national security adviser, Steve Hadley, called it an ‘interesting proposal.'”

The Collapse of the US as a Superpower

The ABC Online Network in Australia reported on June 1:

“A US military analyst who’s served in the armed forces and has written on international affairs for more than two decades, is issuing a warning today about the collapse of the United States as a superpower. In his latest book, ‘The Mess They Made: the Middle East After Iraq,’ Gwynne Dyer says there’s no doubt that the US will withdraw its troops from Iraq once President George W. Bush leaves office. But he predicts that already that war has set in motion events that will radically transform not only the Middle East but the role of the United States in the world.”

In an interview with Australia’s “World Today,” Dyer stated the following:

“The regimes of the Arab world, with zero exceptions, except for Iraq, where the Americans overthrew Saddam, have all been in power for at least forty years. They’re all dictatorships or absolute monarchies, most of them are corrupt beyond imagining. So this is a very unstable status quo, maintained by American subsidies, American troops, American guarantees, and when those are withdrawn, I think that there will be very large changes in the Middle East… Congress will be reluctant to vote new funds, Congress will be very suspicious about new commitments to support Arab regimes, and meanwhile the momentum in the streets in the Arab world will be moving very rapidly in the favour of the revolutionaries…

“A senior Japanese diplomat said to me, last year… ‘You know the United States is a twelve year old with a shotgun’. And what he meant was that as the United States begins to suspect that it’s past the apogee of its trajectory, [it is] on the way down, as a great power no longer on the way up or at the top securely, that it is becoming extremely erratic, that is lashing out in all sorts of ways to try and slow or stop what it perceives as insipient decline. So there is concern that we’re getting into rather deep water here, that we may be going into an era where the Americans become highly unpredictable and quite dangerous.”

Republicans Bash President Bush in New Hampshire

The Associated Press reported on June 5, 2007:

“President Bush drew sporadic, startling criticism Tuesday night from Republican White House hopefuls unhappy with his handling of the Iraq war, his diplomatic style and his approach to immigration.

“‘I would certainly not send him to the United Nations to represent the United States’, said Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and one-time member of Bush’s Cabinet… Arizona Sen. John McCain… criticized the administration for its handling of the Iraq War, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said, ‘I think we were underprepared and underplanned for what came after we knocked down Saddam Hussein.’

“Rep. Duncan Hunter… of California said the current administration ‘has the slows’ when it comes to building a security fence along the border with Mexico. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado recalled that White House aide Karl Rove had once told him ‘never darken the door of the White House.’ The congressman said he’d tell George W. Bush the same thing.

“The criticism of Bush was more in keeping of the type of rhetoric that could be expected when Democratic presidential contenders debate. Its prominence at the GOP event — while Bush was traveling overseas — was a reflection of his poor poll ratings and the need of even members of his own party to campaign on platforms of change…

“Much of the debate focused on Iraq… McCain drew loud applause from the partisan debate audience when he turned a question about the war in Iraq into criticism of the leading Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

“‘When Senator Clinton says this is… President Bush’s war, she is wrong,’ he said. ‘When President Clinton was in power, I didn’t say Bosnia was President Clinton’s war… Presidents don’t lose wars. Political parties don’t lose wars. Nations lose wars’… Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee added his voice to those criticizing the war effort. He added that the Bush administration ‘lost credibility’ with its response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005…

“Bush’s support for the pending immigration legislation… figured prominently in the debate. McCain… supports the measure, and he sought to fend off criticism from some of his rivals.  ‘We cannot have 12 million people washing around America illegally, my friends,’ he said. But [Rudy] Giuliani [former New York Mayor] said the legislation was flawed, ‘a typical Washington mess.'”

California Is Preparing for a HOT Summer

Reuters reported the following on June 6:

“Los Angeles residents were urged on Wednesday to take shorter showers, reduce lawn sprinklers and stop throwing trash in toilets in a bid to cut water usage by 10 percent in the driest year on record. With downtown Los Angeles seeing a record low of 4 inches of rain since July 2006 — less than a quarter of normal — and with a hot, dry summer ahead, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the city needed ‘to change course and conserve water to steer clear of this perfect storm.’

On June 6, 2007, CNN filed this report:

“… climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory… got a rare glimpse into the future by studying the past. He found that in the last 100 years the average daily temperature in this state [of California]  jumped 5 degrees; average nightly temperature jumped 7 degrees; and the annual number of extreme heat days, those over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, multiplied by 12. Even heat waves are up, he said. They are three-to-five times more likely with each passing summer… ‘We’re no longer living in a normal world. We’re living in a warmer world,’ he said.

“So what does all that mean for Californians? It could mean a steamy, smoggy, hot, fiery summer is around the corner, with myriad consequences… with the ground so hot, brush fires no longer occur just a few months a year, but all year long.

“A heightened demand for electricity could tax power companies and their ability to deliver a consistent flow of energy. Last year, when temperatures soared well over 100 degrees, more than one million Californians lost power for more than a week… Before it got so hot in California, one megawatt could power 750 homes. Now it only powers 650 homes. And people are building bigger and bigger homes, megahomes if you will, in inland areas like San Bernardino Valley, which are hotter… It’s getting so bad that California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued San Bernardino County, one of the fastest growing inland areas in the United States, for failing to account for greenhouse gases when updating its 25-year blueprint for growth.

“Infectious disease experts… suggest extreme heat this summer may even bring tropical diseases to southern California. The flu, which circulates year round in the tropics, could do the same here. And the mosquitoes — look out! They bite more often at night, so the warmer nights are sure to keep them busy.”

40th Anniversary of Israeli-Arab War

AFP reported on June 5:

“The Middle East marks the 40th anniversary on Tuesday of the war which saw Israel defeat three Arab armies in six days but began four decades of occupation — the key obstacle to peace to this day… The 1967 war planted the seeds of the many deep-rooted obstacles that generations of diplomats have found impossible to untangle in their search for peace — from the Jewish settler movement to sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“After weeks of belligerency and brinkmanship from regional and international players, on June 5, 1967 Israel launched what it called a preemptive strike, smashed the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and secured its status as a regional superpower. Its soldiers captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai peninsula from Egypt — an area three and a half times larger than the state of Israel.

“For Israelis, the conquest of east Jerusalem — and with it Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall which Jews had been prohibited from visiting since the creation of the state in 1948 — was a messianic victory. For Palestinians, the war brought new depths of despair after the initial ‘catastrophe’ of the creation of the Jewish state: they came under Israeli occupation and their dream of a state of their own seemed to slip out of reach.

“But it also galvanised their often bloody resistance movement and paved the way for most Israelis to accept a two-state solution and for the two sides to sign the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords. Israel eventually signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, under which it returned the Sinai, and a second with Jordan in 1994. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, but it retains control of its borders, air space and territorial waters and continues to mount incursions into the territory in response to militant attacks. All efforts to resolve the conflict have so far failed, with peace talks moribund since the failure of Camp David negotiations in 2000 and little progress discernible on the horizon from a recently revived Arab peace plan.”

Turkey Invades Iraq–Or Does It?

The Associated Press reported on June 6:

“Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who attack Turkey from bases there, two Turkish security officials said… speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, [they] characterized the action as a ‘hot pursuit’ raid that was limited in scope. They told The Associated Press it did not constitute the kind of large incursion that Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks as Turkish troops built up their force along the border.”

Deutsche Welle reported on June 7:

“Turkey has denied reports that its troops have launched a major incursion into northern Iraq, targeting Kurdish militants. This has also been confirmed by the White House and Baghdad officials. But news agencies quoting unnamed Turkish security officials say that there has been a ‘limited cross-border’ military operation. An estimated 4,000 rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, are said to be hiding in Iraq. Turkey’s foreign minister Abdullah Gul called reports of a 50,000-strong invasion force ‘disinformation.'”

Assyrian Region in Iraq? reported on June 6:

“Politicized groups are pushing for the creation of an ‘Assyrian region’ in the country’s north, on the border with Kurdistan. To this end, they are exploiting the anti-Christian persecution to confirm the urgency of carrying out their plan. A project being called for by those who know little of the situation in Iraq, it may be on the agenda for meetings between Bush and the Vatican.”

The article continued:

“Closing the Christian community into a ghetto/buffer-zone between Arabs and Kurds in the north seems, for some, the only solution for salvation.  According to local AsiaNews sources, the utmost is being done to make this convincing: religious leaders are being duped, the press is being manipulated; even suffering and sorrow are being exploited.  The latest example is the murder of Fr Ragheed Ganni, Chaldean priest, whose death, along with that of three friends, is at the centre of a media circus in Iraq that even Iraqis themselves are saying is ‘excessive.’  An AsiaNews source says, ‘Ragheed, who lived and died in Mosul, sacrificed himself for the exact opposite: for peaceful coexistence, for the future of the Church in Iraq, not abroad, not caged within political or territorial borders.’

“Ever since the anti-Christian campaign has become violent enough to be in the spotlight of international media, more and more articles and television coverage speak of what would be the unavoidable necessity, at this point, of creating a safe haven for this minority. Yesterday, an article of the Eastern Star News Agency (a Sweden-based Assyrian agency) compared the situation of the ‘Assyrian people’ (a term that is meant to include Chaldeans and Syrians) to that of the Kurds under Saddam: they need protection.  And they go on to say that: ‘Assyrians are calling more and more for an autonomous Christian region in Iraq.’…

“The project for an ‘Assyrian ghetto’ is strongly supported by the Christian diaspora in the United States, which holds a lot of sway over the Baghdad Patriarchate, by Evangelicals and by Kurdistan’s Finance Minister, Sarkis Aghajan, who over the last year has donated large sums of money for the reconstruction of numerous villages and churches in the north.

“In October 2006, American Catholic bishops wrote to Condoleezza Rice to urge Washington to consider the possibility of creating a new ‘administrative region’ around Nineveh, connected directly to the central government in Baghdad, which ‘could provide Christians and other minorities with greater safety and offer more opportunity to control their own affairs.’  And given that numerous Christians are seeking refuge in the country’s north, the document also suggests collaboration between the U.S. government and Kurdish authorities to ensure the security of Christians in these areas.

“It is expected that the Vatican will express its position on this matter on the occasion of the forthcoming meeting – set for June 8 – between President George W. Bush and the Pope…

“Various prominent figures of the Church, as well as ordinary members of the faithful, have, for some time, been pointing out the risks of a ‘Nineveh Project’.   In comments to AsiaNews a few months ago, Monsignor Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, acknowledged the need for an ‘end to the violence’ but was nevertheless puzzled about the idea.  ‘The Plains of Nineveh,’ he explained, ‘are surrounded for the most part by Arabs: Christians would be a handy and vulnerable buffer between Arabs and Kurds.  In my opinion, it would be much better to work at the level of the constitution and the single states to guarantee religious freedom and equal rights to the members of all faiths over the entire territory, for Christians too who live throughout Iraq.’…”

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