Articles of Interest, April 15th, 2008

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Obama denounces big corporate pay packages

By Caren Bohan

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama denounced huge pay packages for U.S. corporate chiefs on Friday in a drive to convert middle-class anger about the U.S. economy into votes.

“Some CEOs make more in one day than their workers make in one year,” Obama said, jockeying for position against rival Democrat Hillary Clinton in Indiana, which votes on May 6.

The first-term Illinois senator has introduced “say-on-pay” legislation that would give investors more of a voice in setting executive compensation packages.

He said the legislation needs to be approved immediately. He later acknowledged to reporters that getting the bill moving quickly in the Senate could be tough, although his spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said he would make it a priority if he is elected president in November.

China demands CNN apology for “goons” comment

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Tuesday demanded that television news channel CNN apologize after one of its commentators said the Chinese were “goons” and that their products were “junk”.

Jack Cafferty made the comments earlier this month on CNN’s political program, The Situation Room.

“We are shocked at and strongly condemn the evil attack by the CNN anchor on the Chinese people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news conference.

“Cafferty used the microphone in his hand to slander China and the Chinese people, and seriously violated reporting ethics.”

Cafferty said the United States imported Chinese-made “junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food”, adding: “They’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years,” according to a copy of his comments carried on YouTube.

China came under international scrutiny following a series of food and product health scares last year. It says the vast majority of its products are safe and has accused Western media of over-hyping the problem.

Iran threatens to eliminate Israel

Iran will destroy Israel if Israel attacks Teheran, Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Mohammad Reza Ashtiani warned Tuesday in response to a threat issued last week by National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

“We are not worried by the recent Israeli maneuvers, but if Israel wants to take any action against the Islamic republic, we will eliminate Israel from the universe,” the Iranian Mehr agency quoted Ashtiani as saying.

Ben-Eliezer had warned that “Iran will be wiped off the face of the earth if it dares to fire any missile at us.”

Later in the week, Ben-Eliezer would not retract his statement: “I do not regret the threats I directed at Iran and its leaders. I am sick of receiving threats to Israel’s existence on a daily basis.”

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Carter, defying Israel, meets Hamas ex-minister

By Mohammed Assadi

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter met an ex-minister in Hamas’s government on Tuesday, defying Israeli leaders who shunned the Nobel Peace Prize laureate over his contacts with the Islamist movement.

Carter said he had sought to visit the Gaza Strip, which Hamas seized in June after routing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah faction. He said the request was turned down, but he did not point the finger at Israel.

A member of Carter’s delegation in the West Bank city of Ramallah said Israel rejected the request.

All of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza are controlled by the Jewish state. Egyptian forces are stationed at Gaza’s southern border, which is largely closed.

“I haven’t been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don’t know yet,” Carter said.

US and Iran holding ‘secret’ talks on nuclear program

Iran and the United States have been engaged in secret “back channel” discussions for the past five years on Iran’s nuclear programme and the broader relationship between the two sworn enemies, The Independent can reveal.

One of the participants, former senior US diplomat Thomas Pickering, explained that a group of former American diplomats and experts had been meeting with Iranian academics and policy advisers “in a lot of different places, although not in the US or Iran”.

What Clinton wishes she could say

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Obama is on the brink of Democratic nomination without confronting head-on questions about his general-election hurdles.
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Why, ask many Democrats and media commentators, won’t Hillary Rodham Clinton see the long odds against her, put her own ambitions aside, and gracefully embrace Barack Obama as the inevitable Democratic nominee? Here is why: She and Bill Clinton both devoutly believe that Obama’s likely victory is a disaster-in-waiting. Naive Democrats just don’t see it. And a timid, pro-Obama press corps, in their view, won’t tell the story. But Hillary Clinton won’t tell it, either. A lot of coverage of the Clinton campaign supposes them to be in kitchen-sink mode — hurling every pot and pan, no matter the damage this might do to Obama as the likely Democratic nominee in the fall. In fact, the Democratic race has not been especially rough by historical standards. What’s more, our conversations with Democrats who speak to the Clintons make plain that their public comments are only the palest version of what they really believe: that if Obama is the nominee, a likely Democratic victory would turn to a near-certain defeat.

‘Now we have the technology that can make a cloned child’

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Monday, 14 April 2008

A new form of cloning has been developed that is easier to carry out than the technique used to create Dolly the sheep, raising fears that it may one day be used on human embryos to produce “designer” babies.

Scientists who used the procedure to create baby mice from the skin cells of adult animals have found it to be far more efficient than the Dolly technique, with fewer side effects, which makes it more acceptable for human use.

The mice were made by inserting skin cells of an adult animal into early embryos produced by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Some of the resulting offspring were partial clones but some were full clones – just like Dolly.

Unlike the Dolly technique, however, the procedure is so simple and efficient that it has raised fears that it will be seized on by IVF doctors to help infertile couples who are eager to have their own biological children.

One scientist said this weekend that a maverick attempt to perform the technique on humans is now too real to ignore. “It’s unethical and unsafe, but someone may be doing it today,” said Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of American biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology.

“Cloning isn’t here now, but with this new technique we have the technology that can actually produce a child. If this was applied to humans it would be enormously important and troublesome,” said Dr Lanza, whose company has pioneered developments in stem cells and cell reprogramming.

EXCLUSIVE: Powell Praises Obama, Fears Afghanistan Growing ‘More Difficult’ Than Iraq

“Rev. Wright is also somebody who has made enormous contributions in his community and has turned a lot of lives around,” Powell said, “And so, I have to put that in context with these very offensive comments that he made, which I reject out of hand.”

Powell added that he does not know Wright, and praised Obama’s response.

“I think that Sen. Obama handled the issue well . . . he didn’t look the other way. He didn’t wait for the, for the, you know, for the storm to go over. He went on television, and I thought, gave a very, very thoughtful, direct speech. And he didn’t abandon the minister who brought him closer to his faith,” Powell told Sawyer.

Powell, who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate in almost every election since he retired from military service and public life, expressed admiration for Obama.

“It was a good (speech),” Powell said. “I admired him for giving it. And I agreed with much of what he said.”

‘Allah’ vs. ‘God’

All living languages are promiscuous. We promiscuous speakers shamelessly shoplift words, plucking bons mots and phrases from any tempting language. We wear these words when we wish to be more formal, more elegant, more mysterious, worldly, precise, vague. They flash on our fingers like gaudy rings, adorn our hair, warm our necks like rich foreign scarves. They become our favorite trousers, the shoes we cannot live without, our way of describing illness to our doctors, declaring love to our lovers, formulating policies, doing business. We believe we own them and are frequently astonished to discover their original roots in another language.

English, a mongrel from the start, greedily helps itself to foreign words more than any other. The Oxford English Dictionary lists more than 500,000 of them, whereas German has about 185,000 and French fewer than 100,000, according to “The Story of English” by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. Give us your tired, your poor, your fabulous words yearning to be free. We’ll take them.

English has always had a special fondness for other European languages, a neighborly soft spot — perhaps because Britain has been invaded by speakers of those languages from the onset of its recorded history.

But not so much fondness for the languages of non-neighbors. Despite huge increases in immigration from Africa and Asia in the last 50 years, English has resisted adopting words from these continents, except for the names of certain foods. Think of Mandarin words that have come into the language. How about from Tagalog? (“Kowtow,” “shanghai” and “typhoon” from Mandarin; “boondocks” and “yo-yo” from Tagalog.)

So whenever I come across an Arabic word mired in English text, I am momentarily shocked out of the narrative. Of course, English has pilfered numerous bits of Arabic — “artichoke,” “zero,” “genie,” “henna,” “saffron,” “harem,” “tariff” — but the appropriation was so long ago that few English speakers know the words’ origin. These dictionary entries were probably introduced by the Moors into Spanish first, and then by the Spaniards into English.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addresses the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Monday, April 14, 2008, during a campaign stop  in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Penn race unchanged by Obama remark

Barack Obama’s “bitter” comment may have had little immediate impact in the Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania, according to a poll out this morning.

The Quinnipiac University poll found that Hillary Clinton leads Obama 50 to 44 percent, a margin unchanged since the organization’s last statewide poll at the beginning of the month.

The unchanged margin does not come as a great surprise. Obama’s remark was made public Friday afternoon, leaving only two days to permeate the public.

The poll, conducted Wednesday through Sunday night, revealed no noticeable shift in support for polling done on Saturday or Sunday. It is the first indication that Obama’s controversial remark may not dramatically change the head-to-head match-up in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary next Tuesday.

Clinton has long enjoyed a significantly larger portion of white working class and rural support, the same Democratic voters most likely to take issue with his comments at a San Francisco fundraiser April 6 that small town Americans economic struggle leads them to feel “bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment.”

Clinton wins those Pennsylvania Democrats who once supported Ronald Reagan, 55 to 40 percent, according to the poll.

Only Democrats can vote in Pennsylvania’s primary. Polling has already indicated that Obama’s statement is unpopular within the larger public but it has primarily offended moderates and conservatives.

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