Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Nuclear Great Game - 52min. documentary and Welcome to North Korea by Peter Tetteroo and Raymond Feddema / Documentary Educational Video

When Pyongyang declared it had an advanced nuclear programme, the shock waves reverberated worldwide. But how was a state teetering on the verge of bankruptcy able to develop such a sophisticated programme? How did North Korea obtain the necessary nuclear components to threaten world peace? This week's astonishing documentary exposes how it was China who conspired to assist Pakistan and North Korea in becoming nuclear states. Without this crucial aid, neither would have been able to develop nuclear warheads on their own. Why did America turn a blind eye to this covert nuclear trade?

Has North Korea finally gone too far?

Consensus is rising in the international community: Enough cajoling, it's time to get tough.

Washington - North Korea may have gone too far with this week's nuclear blast and missile launch, potentially provoking the kind of harsh international action that it has more often than not avoided in the past.

But it may also be that Pyongyang is operating with a different set of objectives: focused on solidifying its place in the world's nuclear club, come what may.

The United Nations Security Council is preparing a new resolution condemning North Korea's recent steps. The aim is to halt what it considers to be Pyongyang's threatening and destabilizing actions.

Several council members are calling for tough new sanctions. China and Russia, traditionally less eager to punish North Korea, are employing harsher rhetoric and reaffirming the need to walk the North back from nuclear status.

At the same time, officials, proliferation experts, and Asia analysts are increasingly calling for a new international approach to North Korea. They suggest that the country should no longer be treated like a child to be cajoled, but instead as a violator of international law that must face the consequences of its actions.

France, for example, wants the new resolution that Security Council members began discussing Tuesday afternoon to "include new sanctions ... because this behavior must have a cost and a price to pay," said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, France's deputy UN ambassador.

One scenario would place a priority on restarting the intermittent six-party talks, although critics say that process resulted in North Korea exploding two nuclear weapons, honing its missile technology, and joining the nuclear club.

A second would involve comprehensive international measures to "manage" proliferation and other threats posed by Pyongyang. This would help the regime there to sort out internal issues – including succession to ailing dictator Kim Jong Il. Some specialists in Korean issues say these internal issues are driving recent actions.

"North Korea's objectives have changed. It now seems hell-bent on establishing its nuclear status, having run through a string of provocations since January that really allowed no time for the kind of diplomatic response it aimed for in the past," says Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "They left no chance for the diplomatic goodies, which suggests their interest in them is not what it used to be."

On Wednesday, the regime said it would no longer abide by the five-decade-old truce between the Koreas, after South Korea announced it was joining a US-led security initiative that searches ships for nuclear weapons.

Tactical shift needed?

Monday's underground explosion of a nuclear weapon at a site near the Chinese border and Tuesday's test-firing of two short-range missiles followed April's launch of a Taepodong-2 long-range missile. Based on those actions, Mr. Klingner predicts North Korea will continue developing its nuclear and missile capabilities, perhaps as a reflection of its announced goal of becoming a "powerful nation" by 2012.

In response, the US and other international powers should abandon their "naïve" diplomatic efforts, Klingner says. Instead, they should focus on addressing the North's apparent decision to turn away from negotiation. The objective of such an international shift would be to get North Korea back to the negotiating table eventually – when serious pressures force it to discuss dismantling its nuclear program.

The US should also push for a tough new UN resolution, Klingner says. It should add North Korean companies and foreign partners involved in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs to the UN sanctions list, he adds.

In addition, the US should lead a reinvigorated international effort to stop any illicit proliferation activities, as well as other alleged "illegal activity," such as money laundering and drug trafficking.

Others go farther, saying the US should reverse actions taken by the Bush administration to lure Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.

"Obama could put these fellows back on the terrorist list in 10 minutes," says Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) in Washington. "He could call [the Treasury Department] to get back on the sanctions of financial institutions that were laundering money in 15 minutes."

Mr. Sokolski is doubtful that President Obama will go that far, though an unnamed Treasury official told Reuters that officials were reviewing such an option.

As for listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Bush administration took North Korea off the State Department's list. It was part of a deal intended to open the North's nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Pyongyang never honored its part of the deal, yet it is too late to reverse the terrorism delisting, Klingner says. "That horse has left the barn, and any attempt at getting it back in would be difficult and distracting," he says.

It would require substantiating North Korea's involvement in terrorist activity.

A call for more patience

Another view of the appropriate international response to North Korea's action calls for greater patience. The primary advantage of this tactic is to allow time to figure out why Pyongyang is acting the way it is.

The Security Council has "no choice" but to incrementally ratchet up the pressure it put on North Korea in April after a missile launch, says James Walsh, a specialist in Korean security studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Yet if North Korea is being driven by internal factors, that could only make things worse, he adds: "Pressure on countries under transition tends to unsettle them even more."

The better response, Mr. Walsh adds, is "patient, persistent, and quiet" diplomacy. Such diplomacy would reassure countries like Japan and South Korea about their security, while waiting to see if Pyongyang will return to the negotiating table "in one, or two, or six months."

North Korea a model for other nuclear wannabes?

It is unlikely that other nations – such as Iran – would see North Korea's belligerence as a model, Walsh says: "Who wants to be North Korea? Where is there any evidence of that?"

Instead, he says that Iran has "bent over backwards to distinguish itself from North Korea" – by staying in the Nonproliferation Treaty, and by basing its nuclear program on a right to civilian nuclear energy.

Others say the "model" argument cannot be dismissed. Iran and North Korea have corroborated on missile development, notes NPEC's Sokolski.

The linchpin of the international response to North Korea's actions could be the position the Obama administration takes. This is the first direct test of Mr. Obama's preference for engaging instead of antagonizing adversaries.

The words of the president and his diplomats have been tough, regional analysts say, but they will need to be translated into deeds.

"To date, the Obama administration's rhetoric towards North Korea has been commendably firm," says Klingner of Heritage. "The question is, will the action match the rhetoric? For that, we have to wait and see."

Manchester United fan stabbed, 2 arrested in Rome

A Manchester United fan was hospitalized after suffering a stab wound and two were arrested for drunkenness, police said Wednesday, as up to 50,000 United and Barcelona supporters converged on Rome for the Champions League final.

Huge numbers of police patrolled the city, as some 30,000 fans from England and 20,000 from Spain arrived on dozens of charter flights at Rome's airports.

Rome police said that the Manchester United fan was taken to the Santo Spirito hospital after he was stabbed in his thigh in the early hours of Wednesday morning. They did not identify the victim.

The fan reported he had been attacked by four people near his hotel in the Vatican area.

Separately, two United fans were arrested for assaulting bystanders in Campo de Fiori, an historical piazza and popular tourist hangout. Police said the men were drunk despite a ban on alcohol sales imposed by authorities in areas including the city center and near the stadium.

Authorities have been monitoring fans of Rome's local teams amid concerns that they might seek to ambush visiting supporters. AS Roma fans especially were being kept under scrutiny as they clashed with United supporters in Rome in 2007, stabbing a number of them.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said that officials had warned leaders of the "ultras," the more hardcore fans, not to create trouble.

With hours to go before the match, fans flooded the city center, snapping pictures at the Colosseum and sporting the colors of their teams.

Hundreds attended Pope Benedict XVI's public audience at the Vatican, waving their flags before the pontiff.

"We need his blessing," said Cristina Bargues, a 15-year-old student from Barcelona, wearing the blue-maroon scarf of the Spanish club.

Among the VIPs expected at the Olympic Stadium for club soccer's most prestigious event were the Spanish royals and Prince William, who was invited by the English Football Association.

Thousands of law enforcement officials were deployed around the stadium and in the city center, at airports and subway stops. Others were guarding Rome's monuments and other artistic treasures. About 1,000 stewards will be deployed inside the stadium, and 30 police officers from England and Spain, some mingling with the fans in plainclothes, will also be on hand to help the Italians.

Security officials say they expect some 5,000 ticketless fans, largely from England, to show up at the stadium, despite the authorities' warning that ticketing arrangements would be strict.

Some 'longitude' for Speller No. 1 at national bee

With a touch of geography, the oral rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee are under way.

Thirteen-year-old Lindsey Zimmer of Notasulga, Ala., stepped to the microphone early Wednesday morning as speller No. 1. The eighth-grader who likes to play the flute correctly spelled the word "longitude."

A record 293 spellers — including one from China — are taking part in the 82nd annual bee, which culminates with a nationally televised finish Thursday night. The winner gets more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

The competition began Tuesday, when all the spellers took a written test. The scores from that test will be combined with the results from the oral rounds Wednesday morning to determine who advances.

Judge OKs request for secret Burris tapes

A federal judge on Tuesday approved sending to the US Senate Ethics Committee recordings of secretly taped conversations between Sen. Roland Burris and former Illinois Gov.

Taliban blamed for Lahore attack

Pakistan's government has blamed Taliban fighters for a bomb attack in Lahore which killed 23 people and left hundreds more injured.

A group of men shot at police officers before detonating a powerful car bomb, damaging buildings belonging to the police and intelligence agency the ISI.

Rescuers are searching the rubble and warn that the death toll could rise.

Officials said the Taliban carried out the attack in revenge for a military offensive against them in Swat valley.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters: "Enemies of Pakistan who want to destabilise the country are coming here after their defeat in Swat.

"There is a war, and this is a war for our survival."

I ran out of the building and saw a surreal huge ring of white smoke rise into air

Matthias Gattermeier
Eyewitness in Lahore

'Everything shattered'
At least one ISI agent, 12 police officers and one child were reported killed in the attack, at about 1030 local time (0530 GMT).

Local officials have speculated that the military intelligence agency could have been the target.

The ISI's offices were damaged by the bombing, and a police emergency-response building was flattened.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones, in Lahore, says it is not clear which organisation the perpetrators were attacking - but it is clear that they were attacking the Pakistani state.

A least two arrests were made.

Sustained violence
Lahore, in Punjab province near the Indian border, is known as Pakistan's cultural capital and is far from the Swat valley.


3 March Gunmen kill six police guards in an ambush on the Sri Lanka cricket team
30 March Gunmen attack a police academy, killing eight people
27 May A car bomb attack on police buildings kills at least 23

Hunt for Lahore cricket attackers
Siege at Pakistan police academy
But in March militants laid siege to a police compound in the city, killing eight people, and weeks earlier the Sri Lanka cricket team was attacked there.

The BBC's Shoaib Hasan, in Pakistan, says Lahore is facing a sustained campaign of violence unlike any it has seen before.

He says security officials believe the city is under attack because it is seen as a stable home for Pakistan's Punjab-dominated army.

The army is claiming sweeping victories against Taliban insurgents in the Swat valley, near the Afghan border - saying more than 1,000 militants have been killed in the past month.

Militants had threatened revenge attacks in Pakistan's cities after the military stepped up its operations in the Swat valley.

Global condemnation

After the latest attack, television footage showed rescue workers sifting through the debris, pulling half-conscious police officers from the rubble.

Bulldozers and other heavy lifting equipment have been brought in as many people are feared trapped under the debris.

Officials told reporters a car pulled up near the police headquarters and a group of gunmen got out and opened fire.

When police returned fire, the gunmen's car exploded.

BBC News website readers in the city described hearing a huge explosion.

Zubair Bukhari, who was in his office about 500m away from the blast, said it rocked the entire building.

"Glass windows shattered to pieces and the ceiling came down on the floor," he said.

Another reader, Matthias Gattermeier, said: "I ran out of the building and saw a surreal huge ring of white smoke rise into air."

Politicians from around the world have condemned the attack and offered condolences to Pakistan.

US ambassador Anne Patterson said the attacks "show the lengths extremist elements are willing to go to as they attempt to force their agenda on to a people who only wish to go about their daily lives in peace".

Stocks mostly slip as GM gets closer to bankruptcy

Wall Street's rally is going back on hold as General Motors took another step toward bankruptcy court.

Stocks mostly slipped Wednesday after a big advance Tuesday. General Motors Corp. said not enough bondholders agreed to swap their debt for company stock.

That means the automaker is almost definitely headed for bankruptcy protection. GM has until Monday to finish restructuring or file for Chapter 11. The announcement dampened the mood of investors who had grown more optimistic about the economy after Tuesday's positive reading on consumer confidence.

"While consumer confidence looking forward is improving, the reality is the economy is still very weak," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Capital Management.

Investors didn't find relief in a bigger-than-expected increase in home sales because a rise in inventories fanned worries that homes languishing on the market would continue to crimp the economy by hurting consumers and banks that hold mortgages.

The National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose from March to April as buyers hunted for bargains. Sales rose 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 4.68 million last month. But the trade group also said the number of unsold homes on the market at the end of April rose almost 9 percent to nearly 4 million. That's a 10-month supply at the current sales pace.

In midmorning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 19.43, or 0.2 percent, to 8,454.06. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.88, or 0.1 percent, to 909.45, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 7.77, or 0.4 percent, to 1,758.20.

On Tuesday, after an initial dip on worries about North Korea's nuclear testing in Asia, stocks soared on the Conference Board's surprisingly high reading of consumer confidence. The May index was the highest since September. Consumer sentiment does not always correspond to consumer spending, but the data nevertheless fueled investors' hopes for an economic rebound later this year.

The Dow is 29.4 percent above the 12-year low it reached in early March, but still 40.2 percent below the record high it hit in October 2007.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.77, or 0.2 percent, to 499.54.

Advancing stocks narrowly outpaced those that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 256.8 million shares compared with 294.3 million shares about the same time Tuesday.

Government bonds showed modest moves ahead of an auction of $35 billion in five-year notes that is part of the $101 billion in debt the government is issuing this week. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell, pushing its yield up to 3.57 percent from 3.55 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar rose against other major currencies. Gold prices fell.

Light, sweet crude rose 5 cents to $62.50 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rebounded 1.4 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 0.5 percent.

New Jersey's Flat Tax Debate

Christie's cheap shots can hurt everyone.

If ever a state were ripe for bold economic reform, it would be New Jersey, which is shedding jobs and is in perennial budget crisis despite one of the highest tax burdens in the land. So why is Chris Christie, the GOP front-runner in the state's 2009 gubernatorial race, taking cheap shots at the flat tax?

Mr. Christie is a former U.S. attorney who did yeoman work putting away the state's many political thieves. But he seems to be running scared in next month's Republican primary, when he faces former Mayor of Bogota Steve Lonegan, who is proposing to scrap Jersey's job-killing graduated income tax that has rates running from 1.4% to 8.97%. Mr. Lonegan wants to replace it with a 2.9% flat tax on the first dollar of income earned.

That's a good idea that would give the Garden State the lowest tax rate in the Northeast after New Hampshire. Mr. Lonegan says this will ensure that when New Jersey incomes "move-up," the residents "don't move out." Over the past decade, New Jersey has suffered the fourth highest rate of out-migration of all the states, with nearly half a million residents fleeing to the likes of Delaware, Florida and even New York.

Mr. Christie is assailing Mr. Lonegan's proposal on TV, radio and the Internet as a tax hike on the poor. His TV ad claims the flat tax isn't fair because it would raise taxes on "almost 70% of working families." That sounds like he's reading from President Obama's teleprompter. Mr. Lonegan counters that only 40% would pay more -- by an average of less than $300 for a family earning $20,000 -- and their tax liability would still be lower than in New York and Pennsylvania. The average New Jersey family's tax bill would fall by $1,000 a year.

Whether a flat tax that modestly raises the tax payments of some Americans will fly politically is hard to know. The state and federal tax code are so laced with tax credits and exemptions that any base-broadening, rate-cutting reform is bound to raise taxes on someone. Our friend Steve Forbes, a New Jersey resident, believes that a flat tax that "cuts taxes for everyone" is the way to go. Mr. Lonegan counters that every working New Jersey resident should pay something -- on the principle that everyone should bear at least some of the cost of government.

The larger point is that either reform would be far better than the current tax code for New Jersey's poor, who suffer the most from the state's high rates that drive jobs and capital elsewhere. A flat tax would help all income groups by attracting those resources back to the state. Surely Mr. Christie realizes that.

Both GOP candidates agree that the 103 tax increases, including income and sales tax rate hikes, under current Governor Jon Corzine and his predecessor, the disgraced Jim McGreevey, have done great harm to their state. From 2001 to 2008, New Jersey lost a net 25,000 private-sector jobs even as public employment grew by 65,000 workers. The state's finances are such a mess that in late 2007 Governor Corzine proposed the political "Hail Mary" of mortgaging New Jersey's toll roads in return for a guaranteed revenue stream. He lost, thanks to opposition led by Mr. Lonegan.

If he wins the primary, Mr. Christie will need his own tax reform agenda, both to defeat Mr. Corzine and win a mandate for changing the corrupt mess that is Trenton. Mr. Christie should understand that a flatter tax is an economic and anticorruption strategy because it limits the opportunity for political mediation on behalf of special interests. Republicans can't credibly be the candidates of growth if they echo liberal class-envy rhetoric to attack tax reform.

Paid for by Lonegan for Governor, Inc.

Can Politics Learn A Lesson from Academia?

By Richard A. Lee

At this time of the year, as we attend graduation ceremonies for family and friends and reflect upon the messages offered by commencement speakers, we may want to think about the world of politics for a moment. There may be a lesson or two we can learn from the manner in which our colleges and universities operate.

A graduation is a happy event that marks the successful conclusion of an academic experience. Students celebrate their accomplishments and accept congratulations as they bid farewell to school.

Contrast graduations with how our elected officials leave the world of politics. Sometimes the end comes at the conclusion of a bitter election campaign. For others, it is an arrest, an indictment or an embarrassing personal revelation that brings a career to a sudden close. Although there are some elected officials who leave the public spotlight on their own terms, they are few and far between. And many of those who “retire” and choose not to seek re-election are pushed to their decisions – by the threat of a primary challenge, sinking poll numbers, or a phone call from a powerful county chairman.

More often than not, the end of a political career is not something we celebrate with same enthusiasm as the end of an academic career. Let’s explore why.

For starters, education is something that generally takes place over a set period of time, with a defined starting point, a goal and a scheduled end point: four years to earn a diploma and a degree, and then move on. Political careers have less structure. They have starting points, but the goals are not always clear, and they may differ substantially, depending on an elected official’s political party. For those in legislative bodies like ours in New Jersey, there is no planned end point -- nor is there a specific goal akin to graduating -- since there are no term limits. For those in places with term limits, there are aspirations to higher offices that blur or erase the end points.

Taking things a little further, there is a progression that takes place from year to year in education. Students enter as freshman and learn the ropes before they are accorded the privileges of upper classmen. In state legislatures and Congress, freshman lawmakers have the same duties and responsibilities as colleagues who have been in office for a decade or more. Their votes carry the same weight, even though they have far less experience and institutional knowledge.

Schools also have standards for admission. They consider test scores, transcripts and other factors to ensure they have the best and brightest in their institutions. But there are no educational standards required to get one’s name on the ballot. An ample number of signatures on a petition is about all that is needed to do the trick. Lawmakers make critical decisions on issues that directly impact the quality of our lives, such as fiscal policy, education and healthcare. Yet there is no requirement that the men and women making these decisions have demonstrated the intellect to address them.

Lastly, academic institutions are very good at weeding out students who fail to cut the mustard. In fact, students can flunk out after just one semester. But once lawmakers take office -- barring an extraordinary event – they are there for the full term, regardless of how they perform.

So should places such as New Jersey incorporate elements of academia into their governments? Should lawmakers’ official duties and responsibilities vary with experience? Should we set educational standards for holding office? Or establish term limits so lawmakers have clearly defined end points and goals?

No, we are not ready for such drastic changes, and the truth is we may never be. Politics and education are different fields that serve different functions in society. But there is a value in examining successful models from other disciplines to learn how others approach challenges and build foundations for success.

A few years ago, political scientist Larry Sabato wrote a book titled A More Perfect Constitution in which he laid out 23 proposals to re-invent federal government. The suggestions were bold and radical. They called for changing the structure of the House and Senate, establishing a new, six-year, one-time presidential term, and overhauling the primary system that political parties use to select their candidates for president.

Odds are Sabato’s proposals are too extreme and too controversial to gain widespread support, but they do provide a starting place for the constructive dialogue and conversation we need to change things for the better. Likewise, we are not about to re-model government after colleges and universities, but if the concept sparks debate and discussion, perhaps it can lead to something good.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.