How I met Julian Assange and secured the American embassy cables
December 11, 2010
GETTING to WikiLeaks’s secret headquarters took quite some time and was not without complications.
This year a careful reading of statements by the WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange, led me to conclude his small organisation had landed what could be the biggest leak of classified information – a vast trove of US documents that, among other things, would provide deep insight into the realities of Australia’s relationship with our most important ally, the US.
Doctors shocked by spread of swine flu – and its severity
H1N1 virus returns, already claiming lives of 10 British adults with early signs that illness has spread to other European countries
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor Saturday, 11 December 2010
The swine flu that swept the world last year causing a global health emergency has returned to claim the lives of 10 adults in the UK in the past six weeks.
The 10 deaths were in younger adults under 65 and associated with H1N1 swine flu. Most had underlying conditions but “a small proportion” were healthy before being struck down by the virus, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Seasonal flu normally causes severe illness and death in the elderly. The H1N1 swine flu virus targets pregnant women, younger adults, and those with chronic conditions, making it a cause of particular alarm.
Bill Clinton takes the White House stage, again
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
If not a transfer of power, the whole show seemed at least a temporary handoff. An embattled president, fresh off an electoral shellacking and struggling to sell a controversial tax deal to members of his own party, turned to a former president who, exactly 16 years ago, was struggling to right his own presidency after a defeat of almost similar magnitude.
President Obama had invited former president Bill Clinton to the White House for a private talk, the details of which neither man chose to describe. But their public appearance will be long remembered.
U.S. still warning employees: Don’t read or discuss the WikiLeaks documents
‘So, my grandmother would be allowed to access the cables, but not me’
By Michael Isikoff
National investigative correspondent
WASHINGTON – In the past few weeks, more than 1,200 internal State Department cables have been made public by WikiLeaks and received worldwide attention, including regular front-page coverage in The New York Times and countless other news organizations, including MSNBC.
But the Obama administration’s attempt to stop people from reading them continues unabated, creating mounting confusion and head-shaking among bewildered federal employees.
In one example, the Department of Homeland Security sent out a strongly worded memo to all employees and contractors telling them that not only may they not “download or attempt to download” any of the classified WikiLeaks memos onto their computers, they also may not “discuss the content” of such “potentially classified” documents “with persons who would not otherwise be authorized access,” according to a copy of a Dec. 3 memo from the department’s Office of Chief Information Officer.
Winter chill promises a snow business bonanza for Continental Europe
By Simon Calder, Senior Travel Editor Saturday, 11 December 2010
As Britain thaws after the early cold snap, winter-sports resorts across Continental Europe are reporting exceptional snow conditions – presaging an excellent winter for skiers and snowboarders. In addition, slow sales signal the prospect of bargains for anyone able to travel in the next few weeks.
More than 50 ski resorts across the eastern Alps yesterday received a substantial fall of snow, with the Austrian resorts of Saalbach and Schladming reporting 20cm (8in) each. Obertauern became the first European resort this season to achieve one metre of snow cover on its lower slopes, almost double the level on the same day a year ago.
Sex, spies and ‘swallows’
Russia believes that the old-fashioned honeypot can still beat electronic and cyber sources as means of extracting information, says Jon Stock.
By Jon Stock 7:00AM GMT 11 Dec 2010
Moscow Centre has a special word for Katia Zatuliveter, the 25-year-old Russian accused of spying in the House of Commons: a “swallow”. Intelligent and good-looking, with a penchant for short skirts, she quickly caught the eye of the Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, who employed her as an assistant. But if MI5 is to be believed, their first meeting was anything but a chance encounter. It was orchestrated by the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, and is the latest proof that the Cold War is far from over. And that sex is still good for a sting.
“Zatuliveter was extremely attractive and she was selling that, wearing short skirts all the time,” according to Nevena Marjanovic, a 26-year-old former colleague in Hancock’s office.
Hopes dashed for release of woman who faced stoning
Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Ian Black
December 11, 2010
CONFUSION surrounds the fate of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman whose sentence of death by stoning for adultery in Iran triggered an international outcry.
Campaigners initially claimed victory after photographs from state-run Press TV showed Ms Mohammadi Ashtiani meeting her son Saijad Ghaderzadeh at her home in Osku, in north-west Iran, boosting hopes that she had been suddenly released.
But in the absence of official confirmation their mood soon darkened.
US ‘regrets’ Middle East impasse
Days after dropping settlement freeze bid with Israel, Hillary Clinton says US is “frustrated” by the lack of progress.
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2010 06:24 GMT
Hillary Clinton has said the United States alone cannot bring peace to the Middle East, and that it was up to the parties themselves to forge a deal on the settlements issue.
In a speech in Washington, the US secretary of state said Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will have to first make some major compromises on the core issues.
Clinton expressed frustration with the impasse and made it clear that the parties themselves are ultimately responsible for settling their long-standing conflict, but insisted that the US administration will “not lose hope”.
She said the US will keep pressing for a solution, and called on Israelis and Palestinians to set aside their differences.
PM’s dictate drives Kazakhs iPad crazy
A statement from Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister has sent ambitious ministerial apparatchiks scrambling to get their hands on Apple’s iPad computer, causing shops to sell out, and a local entrepreneur to announce plans to launch his own rival tablet.
By Richard Orange, Almaty 12:47AM GMT 11 Dec 2010
The craze began when Prime Minister Karim Massimov, himself an avid iPad user, expressed impatience with government employees who didn’t reply promptly to emails.
“Please carry tablet computers at all times,” he said at a government meeting in October. “I can send you a message any time, and, as some of you know, I aim to reply within ten minutes. Some of you have not replied to me for three days.”
Ever since, owning an iPad has become a symbol of loyalty for officials in the oil-rich former Soviet republic.
Floodwaters still washing away lives in Pakistan
The Irish Times – Saturday, December 11, 2010
MARY FITZGERALD Foreign Correspondent in Dadu, southern Pakistan
The world has moved on from the disaster, but in villages and camps the horror is still unfolding
THE IRONY of being surrounded by water but not having enough to drink is not lost on Longkhan Solangi, the wiry septuagenarian patriarch of an extended family that includes 30 grandchildren. Sitting on a rope bed in the open air of what was once his thriving village, Longkhan gestures at the murky pools of stagnant floodwater around him, lined with green slime. Then he points to the horizon, his bony finger tracing what looks like a vast inland lake shimmering in the afternoon sun. “Look at all that water, more water than I have ever seen in my life, and yet we are looking for water every day to drink,” he says bitterly.
Isolated Gbagbo courts defiant Côte d’Ivoire rivals
THOMAS MORFIN | ABIDJAN, C&OCIRC;TE D’IVOIRE – Dec 11 2010
With world institutions freezing him out as he clings defiantly to power, newspaper reports indicated Gbagbo had made the first sign of a move to tackle the potentially violent stand-off.
“Let’s sit down and talk,” Gbagbo was quoted as saying by papers, including state daily Fraternite Matin, in a nod to Alassane Ouattara, who has declared himself president based on a UN-endorsed vote-count.
Ouattara’s camp showed no sign of compromise, however.
“By next week I will be moved into my offices” as the country’s prime minister, said Guillaume Soro, the former rebel whom Ouattara has named to head his government, at a news conference on Friday at his base in an Abidjan hotel.
Gbagbo hints at Cote d’Ivoire talks
President dismisses fears of civil war resumption following a poll he is widely thought to have lost to his rival.
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2010 05:41 GMT
The president of Cote d’Ivoire has hinted that he is open to negotiations with his political rivals to end the crisis which followed last month’s disputed presidential poll.
Laurent Gbagbo made the comments in the state-run Fraternite Matin newspaper on Friday, dismissing fears of a possible resumption of war in the West African nation.
“We hear people say there will be war, that there will be an explosion. There will not be a war here. Things will end up with us sitting down [together],” he was quoted as saying.
“Let’s sit down and talk. If there is a problem, we will sit down and talk.”
Bolivia lowers retirement age
Bucking a global trend which pushes workers to work longer and older, Bolivians can now retire at age 58, down from 65.
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2010 04:31 GMT
Bolivia has lowered its retirement age to 58, breaking with the global trend of pushing people to stay in the workforce longer.
The law, which also nationalises the national pension system and extends coverage considerably to the poor, was passed on Friday.
Bolivia’s current retirement age is 65 for men and 60 for women.
“We are fulfilling a promise with the Bolivian people. We are creating a pension system that includes everyone,” President Evo Morales said at the signing ceremony, surrounded by members of the powerful Bolivian workers’ federation, which helped to draft the law.