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Olympic torch protests begin in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) — Thousands of demonstrators were in San Francisco on Wednesday for the Olympic Torch run, some waving Tibetan flags to protest the Beijing Olympics and the others brandishing Chinese flags in support.

The city has been gearing up for the protests, trying to head off the kind of chaos that greeted the Olympic torch relay in Paris and London.

Police officers’ vacations have been canceled. Mayor Gavin Newsom has said that the route along the waterfront — already cut from eight to six miles — could be changed up to and even during the run itself.

Things are still subject to change based on the information that we receive, San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens said. The goal is to have a safe event for everyone — spectators and participants.

Activists are in town from both camps: people who believe the Games should not be held in China and those who support the event.

In the early hours Wednesday, busloads of Beijing Olympics supporters, dressed in red and waving Chinese flags, arrived and assembled near the city’s McCovey Cove, six hours before the torch run was scheduled to start there.

Footage from CNN affiliate KGO showed demonstrators in white Team Tibet T-shirts gathered across the narrow street shouting slogans. Their counterparts shouted back, but the situation remained peaceful as police stood between the groups.

Red-clad demonstrators waving Chinese flags behind barricades stood along a street as pro-Tibet protesters marched by. Several Team Tibet marchers restrained a man who carried a Tibetan flag trying to charge the group behind the barriers.

Business owners in San Francisco asked for calm at a news conference Tuesday. We are begging for five hours of peace, said Sam Ng, president of the Chinese Six Companies, a prominent benevolent association in the city, according to CNN affiliate KTVU.

A spokesman for the group Students for a Free Tibet said he has heard of many people planning to be in San Francisco.

We want it to be peaceful. But it will be large, said spokesman Tenzin Dasang. I heard from Tibetans that now live all over the U.S. and even abroad who are coming here. Watch protests as Olympic torch arrives

San Francisco is the only U.S. stop for the torch relay, where it wraps up the first week of a 23-city international tour.

When the flame arrived in the city Tuesday, thousands of people — chanting slogans and waving banners — demonstrated against China’s human rights record, including its treatment of Tibet.

A day earlier, seven protesters were arrested after three of them scaled suspension cables on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and unfurled a large banner that read One World. One Dream. Free Tibet.

Those demonstrators were released before dawn Wednesday, KTVU reported.

Later Wednesday morning, thousands of protesters — some also carrying placards reading Free Burma — marched across the bridge. Police were alert to stop any would-be climbers.

The San Francisco protests followed demonstrations in London and Paris in which protesters tried to snuff out the torch’s flame and dozens were arrested.

The whole world seems to spontaneously react to the situation and know that it’s a fraud what the Chinese are doing, said actor Richard Gere, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist who has been a consistent advocate of human rights in Tibet.

Gere belongs to the International Campaign for Tibet, one of several organizations that took part in Tuesday’s protests.

What the Chinese are doing, this is not an athletic game to them, he said. This is putting a stamp of approval on repression and human rights abuses.

Fears of protests prompted one of the San Francisco torchbearers to drop out of Wednesday’s relay. KTVU said that was a 14-year-old girl.

But two-time Olympian Marilyn King plans to run, despite some apprehensions.

King knows firsthand the worst-case scenario of the Olympic stage. She was at the 1972 Munich games when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed by terrorists.

King also lost her chance to compete in the pentathlon in 1980 because of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow games.

There are always people who are willing to step outside those boundaries, she said. So I have some anxiety about that. Watch activist reveal why she’s carrying torch

Dean Karnazes, another torch bearer, told KTVU he isn’t worried.

Mayor Newsom assured us of our safety first and foremost, Karnazes said. I think it would have been bad to cancel the relay. The torch as always represented hope, peace and unity. To extinguish the flame of hope is the wrong thing to do. The torch has brought light to an issue that needs to be addressed.

The flame is on a 130-day journey that will take it through 23 cities on five continents and then throughout China, culminating at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Beijing on August 8.

Beijing organizers have said the monthlong international relay will go on despite the protests, but some International Olympic Committee members have suggested an early end should be considered.

The International Olympic Committee’s executive board will take up the topic of the torch relay in general on Thursday or Friday, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. But there is no proposal to end the global tour early, she added.

The president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, is expected to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The meeting will focus on the preparations for the Olympics, the IOC said.

On the torch’s visit to France on Monday, protesters forced an abrupt halt to the flame’s passage through Paris after just 10 miles of the 17-mile (28 km) route.

On Sunday, at least 36 people in London were arrested along the torch’s route, according to London Metropolitan Police.

Liu Jingmin, vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said the Olympic torch has been warmly welcomed by the local people in each city.

He said the organizers are confident that the Beijing Olympics torch relay in overseas cities will be carried out successfully.

China’s Foreign Ministry reacted more forcefully.

We express our strong condemnation to the deliberate disruption of the Olympic torch relay by Tibetan separatist forces regardless of the Olympic spirit and the law of Britain and France, China spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Tuesday. Their despicable activities tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit and challenge all the people loving the Olympic Games around the world.
Olympic torch protests begin in San Francisco – found here.

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April 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bill, Hillary Clinton disagree about Colombia trade pact

(CNN) — Sen. Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to a controversial free trade pact, her campaign says.

Hillary Clinton staunchly opposes a free trade agreement with Colombia, but her husband, the former president, supports it.

Clinton’s campaign spokesman, Jay Carson, told The Associated Press that her opposition to the deal is clear and firm.

Like other married couples who disagree on issues from time to time, she disagrees with her husband on this issue. President Clinton has been public about his support for Colombia’s request for U.S. trade preferences since 2000, he told AP.

According to AP, Bill Clinton raked in $800,000 from Gold Service International, a development group based in Bogota, Colombia, that supports the Colombia free trade deal. The payment was for appearances in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil in 2005.

Earlier this week, Clinton’s chief strategist Mark Penn resigned amid controversy about a meeting he had with Colombian officials to promote the pact. Penn said he met the officials not as a Clinton representative but rather in his capacity as chief of his public relations company, Burson-Marsteller.

Penn called the meeting an error in judgment that will not be repeated, and apologized. That prompted Colombia’s government to fire the company Saturday, calling the remarks a lack of respect to Colombians.

Though he resigned as chief strategist, the Clinton campaign said Penn will still advise the campaign.

Hillary Clinton maintains her stance is clear and she has said she doesn’t think the fallout over Penn will hurt her campaign. In an interview Tuesday, she suggested she dealt with the matter more definitively than Obama did when he faced a similar situation.

Contrast that to Sen. Obama’s campaign where, as far as I know, nothing was ever done when one of his top economic advisers representing the campaign — unlike Mr. Penn who was not representing the campaign — but Mr. Obama’s representative told the Canadian government basically not to pay any attention to what Sen. Obama was saying about [the North American Free Trade Agreement], she told CNN on Tuesday.

Clinton and top aides were sharply critical of Obama after reports his top economic adviser suggested to a Canadian official that Obama was not as supportive of changes to NAFTA as the Illinois senator claimed to be on the campaign trail.

Clinton went on to win Ohio by double-digits.

Campaigning on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton reiterated her push to defeat the Colombia Free Trade Agreement now before Congress.

Free trade agreements don’t sit well with everyone in Pennsylvania, home to more than 800,000 union voters. Watch how the Penn controversy could play out in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is the next battleground for Clinton and rival Barack Obama. The state holds its primary on April 22, and 158 delegates are at stake.

We’ve got to have new trade policies before we have new trade deals. And that includes no trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continues in that country, she said while campaigning last week.

The Colombia trade pact isn’t the first issue that has caused the Clintons to butt heads.

Clinton grabbed headlines earlier this week when she called on President Bush to skip the opening ceremonies of this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing — a move that revived memories of what her team considers one of her finest foreign policy moments, her speech in that city as first lady challenging the Chinese government on its women’s rights record. In fact, the senator’s get-tough policy on China on a host of issues has been one of the hallmarks of her presidential run since it began.

Bill Clinton took aim at the Chinese government over human rights during his first White House run — but removed human rights standards from China’s Most Favored Nation requirements and became the first U.S. president to visit the country since the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Both moves drew sharp criticism from those within the party who believed, as Clinton herself does, that greater public pressure was needed to bring about reform in China.

And the senator has repeatedly insisted that she has always been a fierce opponent of NAFTA — an economic treaty that was one of the signal achievements of her husband’s presidency. The issue has continued to dog her on the trail, where NAFTA is deeply unpopular with many Democratic primary voters.
Bill, Hillary Clinton disagree about Colombia trade pact – found here.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Candidates harsh but hopeful on China

(CNN) — The presidential candidates are calling on China to improve its human rights record as protests over the crackdown in Tibet follow the Olympic flame on its international journey.

All of the presidential candidates have condemned China for the way it has handled demonstrators calling for democratic freedoms and self-rule in Tibet and neighboring Chinese provinces.

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain both advocate a tougher approach toward the Chinese government, but Sen. Hillary Clinton is the first of the candidates to suggest President Bush skip the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing.

The New York senator on Monday called on the president to boycott the ceremonies, citing recent protests in Tibet and the Chinese government’s failure to pressure the government of Sudan to end the violence in Darfur.

I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government, she said in a statement.

Last month, Clinton declined to call for a U.S. boycott of the Olympic Games, but called for greater pressure leading up to the summer event in Beijing.

Clinton has not asked the athletes to skip the events.

Fifteen U.S. House members earlier this month asked Bush not to attend the Olympic Games at all, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi separately called for Bush to consider a boycott of the opening ceremony.

Bush has said he intends to meet with China’s president during a trip to see the Beijing Olympics, which begin August 8.

Obama, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, has said he is torn in his views on the issue.

I’m of two minds about this, the Illinois senator said in a CBS interview last week.

On the one hand, I think that what’s happened in Tibet; [and] China’s support of the Sudanese government in Darfur, is a real problem. But, he added: I’m hesitant to make the Olympics a site of political protest because I think it’s partly about bringing the world together.

In a statement Monday, the Illinois senator said is deeply disturbed by the recent events in Tibet.

As I have said repeatedly, the Chinese government must take immediate steps to respect the dignity, security, human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people, to provide foreign press and diplomats with access to the region, and to finally work with the Dalai Lama toward meaningful autonomy for Tibet. If they do not, there should be consequences, he said.

McCain last month said dealing with a rising China will be a central challenge for the next president, but said the United States and China are not destined to be adversaries.

China could bolster its claim that it is peacefully rising by being more transparent about its significant military buildup, by working with the world to isolate pariah states such as Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe, and by ceasing its efforts to establish regional forums and economic arrangements designed to exclude America from Asia, he said in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

Until China moves toward political liberalization, our relationship will be based on periodically shared interests rather than the bedrock of shared values, said McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

U.S. and other Western leaders have called on China to provide civil rights and freedoms to those in Tibet and to enter peaceful discussions aimed at resolving the crisis. Chinese authorities have accused the Dalai Lama of instigating violence in Tibet — an allegation he rejects.

The International Olympic Committee has spoken strongly against any call for a boycott of the Games, though its position on world leaders skipping the opening ceremony is less clear.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said last month that a boycott of the Olympics doesn’t solve anything.

The Olympic flame, traveling across five continents, has been met with widespread demonstrations from people protesting China’s human rights record.

The Olympic flame arrived in San Francisco, California, early Tuesday. California is the only U.S. stop for the flame, wrapping up the first week of a 23-city international tour. The flame will then return to China in May for a relay through the host nation.
Candidates harsh but hopeful on China – found here.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Violence flares ahead of Nepal election

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) — A candidate in Nepal’s upcoming elections was shot and killed little more than a day before voters go to the polls, authorities said Wednesday. Six other leftist activists were killed elsewhere in the country, police said.

Rishi Prasad Sharma, a communist candidate for the assembly that will rewrite Nepal’s constitution, died at a hospital after being shot in Surkhet, about 250 miles (400 km) west of Kathmandu, district officer Alil Kumar Pandey told CNN.

Sharma was shot at about 8 p.m. local time Tuesday, roughly 36 hours before the elections are set to begin.

About two hours later, government officials say, police shot and killed six members of a Maoist political party in the city of Dang — about 125 miles (200 km) southwest of Kathmandu.

The circumstances of those shootings were not immediately clear, though government officials said the police shot after the party members were involved in some kind of disturbance.

The deaths bring to at least 20 the number of people killed in election-related violence in Nepal.

The election will decide the makeup of Nepal’s 497-member constituent assembly. The assembly will decide the fate of the country’s monarchy and prepare a new constitution.

The 239-year-old monarchy has been virtually suspended since King Gyanendra was forced to give up powers in April 2006 after a popular uprising across the country against his direct rule.

The government imposed a curfew in Surkhet after the violence.
Violence flares ahead of Nepal election – found here.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Violence flares ahead of Nepal election

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) — A candidate in Nepal’s upcoming elections was shot and killed little more than a day before voters go to the polls, authorities said Wednesday. Six other leftist activists were killed elsewhere in the country, police said.

Rishi Prasad Sharma, a communist candidate for the assembly that will rewrite Nepal’s constitution, died at a hospital after being shot in Surkhet, about 250 miles (400 km) west of Kathmandu, district officer Alil Kumar Pandey told CNN.

Sharma was shot at about 8 p.m. local time Tuesday, roughly 36 hours before the elections are set to begin.

About two hours later, government officials say, police shot and killed six members of a Maoist political party in the city of Dang — about 125 miles (200 km) southwest of Kathmandu.

The circumstances of those shootings were not immediately clear, though government officials said the police shot after the party members were involved in some kind of disturbance.

The deaths bring to at least 20 the number of people killed in election-related violence in Nepal.

The election will decide the makeup of Nepal’s 497-member constituent assembly. The assembly will decide the fate of the country’s monarchy and prepare a new constitution.

The 239-year-old monarchy has been virtually suspended since King Gyanendra was forced to give up powers in April 2006 after a popular uprising across the country against his direct rule.

The government imposed a curfew in Surkhet after the violence.
Violence flares ahead of Nepal election – found here.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BOJ acting chief approved as head

TOKYO, Japan (AP) — Japan’s lower house of parliament and the opposition-controlled upper house of Parliament endorsed the Bank of Japan’s acting chief as its governor Wednesday, ending a power vacuum at the central bank’s helm by approving the government’s third candidate for the job.

A stalemate over who should head the Bank of Japan had festered for weeks as the opposition turned the decision into a political issue. The five-year term of former Bank of Japan chief Toshihiko Fukui expired March 19.

The opposition, led by the Democrats, said former bureaucrats at the powerful Finance Minister ministry were too politically connected and could endanger the independence of the central bank of the world’s second largest economy. They voted down two previous candidates for the top job for that reason.

In the latest balloting, shown live on the Internet, the upper house approved Masaaki Shirakawa, now interim governor of the Bank of Japan, to permanently take that seat 231-7. But it voted down the nomination of Hiroshi Watanabe 121-115 as one of two deputy governors.

The nomination for the posts need approval from both houses of parliament, and votes on both were set there for later in the day, although Watanabe already is out of the running because of his rejection in the upper house.

The ruling coalition controls the lower house,and so Shirakawa, nominated by the prime minister, will have no problems clearing that house.
BOJ acting chief approved as head – found here.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BOJ acting chief approved as head

TOKYO, Japan (AP) — Japan’s lower house of parliament and the opposition-controlled upper house of Parliament endorsed the Bank of Japan’s acting chief as its governor Wednesday, ending a power vacuum at the central bank’s helm by approving the government’s third candidate for the job.

A stalemate over who should head the Bank of Japan had festered for weeks as the opposition turned the decision into a political issue. The five-year term of former Bank of Japan chief Toshihiko Fukui expired March 19.

The opposition, led by the Democrats, said former bureaucrats at the powerful Finance Minister ministry were too politically connected and could endanger the independence of the central bank of the world’s second largest economy. They voted down two previous candidates for the top job for that reason.

In the latest balloting, shown live on the Internet, the upper house approved Masaaki Shirakawa, now interim governor of the Bank of Japan, to permanently take that seat 231-7. But it voted down the nomination of Hiroshi Watanabe 121-115 as one of two deputy governors.

The nomination for the posts need approval from both houses of parliament, and votes on both were set there for later in the day, although Watanabe already is out of the running because of his rejection in the upper house.

The ruling coalition controls the lower house,and so Shirakawa, nominated by the prime minister, will have no problems clearing that house.
BOJ acting chief approved as head – found here.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment