Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gone With the North Korean Wind (Link Round-Up 10/27/12)

Third-party candidates could tilt election outcome
The Romney and Obama campaigns scoff at the possibility of a third-party spoiler. But Goode’s popularity among some Virginians worried Republican leaders enough that they tried to strike the Constitution Party nominee from the ballot in the battleground state. Republican voters have urged Goode to withdraw, and Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, has even gone on air warning that a vote for Goode would only help keep Obama in the White House.

“In an incredibly tight election, any number of votes going to a third party could be significant,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP strategist. “You can never dismiss any concern. Just ask Ralph Nader and Al Gore.”

Gore’s narrow loss to Republican George W. Bush in 2000 was widely attributed to Nader, the Green Party nominee who took votes from Gore in the swing states of New Hampshire and Florida. Bush won New Hampshire — and its four electoral votes — by a 7,000-vote margin over Gore, with Nader winning more than 22,000 votes.
Imran Khan detained and 'interrogated over drone views' by US immigration
Some Canadian commentators have speculated that Khan's questioning was because of groups who have been protesting his visit to the US, including a group called the American Islamic Leadership Coalition which reportedly wrote to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton asking her to revoke the US visa granted to Khan.

"The US embassy made a significant error in granting this Islamist leader a visa," the group said in a statement.

"Granting individuals like Khan access to the US to fundraise is against the interest of the people of Pakistan and the national security interests of the US."
Family of China's prime minister made obscene amounts of hidden money 
Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives — some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making — have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s fast-growing economy.

Unlike most new businesses in China, the family’s ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China Mobile, one of the country’s biggest phone operators, the documents show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s richest tycoons. The Times found that Mr. Wen’s relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.
Al-Qaeda calls for kidnapping Westerners
In a video released on jihadist forums and translated by the US monitoring service, Zawahiri also lashed out at President Barack Obama, calling him a liar and demanding he admit defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa.

Criticizing the new Egyptian government -- led by a president drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood -- as corrupt, he said a battle is being waged in Egypt between a secular minority and Muslims seeking implementation of Shariah law.

The Egyptian doctor, the former deputy to slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, said these Egyptians want to see their government liberated from US influence and Palestinian victory over Israel, SITE reported.
Saudi Arabia expands historial mosque, ignores or destroys others
With cheap air travel and booming middle classes in populous Muslim countries within the developing world, both Mecca and Medina are struggling to cope with the 12 million pilgrims who visit each year – a number expected to grow to 17 million by 2025. The Saudi monarchy views itself as the sole authority to decide what should happen to the cradle of Islam. Although it has earmarked billions for an enormous expansion of both Mecca and Medina, it also sees the holy cities as lucrative for a country almost entirely reliant on its finite oil wealth.

Heritage campaigners and many locals have looked on aghast as the historic sections of Mecca and Medina have been bulldozed to make way for gleaming shopping malls, luxury hotels and enormous skyscrapers. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of the 1,000-year-old buildings in the two cities have been destroyed in the past 20 years.


The disregard for Islam’s early history is partly explained by the regime’s adoption of Wahabism, an austere and uncompromising interpretation of Islam that is vehemently opposed to anything which might encourage Muslims towards idol worship.

In most of the Muslim world, shrines have been built. Visits to graves are also commonplace. But Wahabism views such practices with disdain. The religious police go to enormous lengths to discourage people from praying at or visiting places closely connected to the time of the Prophet while powerful clerics work behind the scenes to promote the destruction of historic sites.
Unclaimed benefits in U.S. more common than unemployment benefit fraud
But most of the overpaid benefits didn’t result from acts of fraud, which must be committed deliberately. Sometimes the wrong formula is simply used when crunching the numbers, resulting in someone getting paid too much in benefits. Cases of fraud made up about a quarter of the total overpayments between 2007 and 2011, according to the article.

And overpayments made to unemployed people who didn’t meet the requirements for seeking a new job–by filing a minimum number of job applications each week, for example–now represent less than 5% of fraud. (During this period, the average overpayment was 11% and in cases of fraud was most commonly sent to someone who had returned to work.)

Looking at a longer period, from 1989 to 2011, overpayments made up less than one-tenth of all the jobless benefits paid, and those linked to fraud comprised less than 3% of all benefits. By contrast, unclaimed benefits amounted to nearly seven times the overpayments, according to the research.
Tens of thousands protest against austerity in Rome
Unemployment in Italy has risen to 10.7 percent, its highest since monthly records began in 2004, and unions are locked in disputes with companies over plant closures and layoffs. The nation's public debt is running at 126 percent of output, according to the International Monetary Fund.

"It's been years that there have been no investments, instead it's all outsourced and privatised, we are here to say enough and we hope this voice will grow," said another demonstrator, Caterina Fida.

Organisers said more than 100,000 people participated in the demonstration.
"Gone With The Wind" is a hit in North Korea
While Washington and Pyongyang are still technically at war, and hatred for the United States government is a constant in North Korean propaganda, American culture has always been quietly popular here. There are North Korean fans of everything from Mark Twain's short stories to bootleg Schwarzenegger movies.

Some believe the decision to publish "Gone With the Wind" was meant as a symbolic peace offering from North Korea to the United States — the two nations have sparred for years over Pyongyang's nuclear program. Others see it as an attempt by the government to teach its people about American culture, or at least Mitchell's version of that culture.

Or perhaps it was an insult. "Gone With the Wind" is, in many ways, a celebration of how North Korea sees its own history: as a small, honorable nation that stood up to Washington.

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