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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Monday, September 24, 2007

In just under two hours, Gordon will address his first Labour Party Conference as Prime Minister.. and one difference between Gordon and Tony has become immediately apparent..
Whereas Tony would spend the hours before his keynote speech writing, editing, re-writing his notes.. Gordon appears to have it all prepared. So much so, in fact, that he's spent the morning giving interviews, conferring with his colleagues, relaxing in effect..
Now while the substance, as announced, of this speech will center on the state of the NHS, social issues, "responding to the issues important to the British peoples..", crime and the Courts.. there is still almost a fever-pitch of speculation as to whether he'll announce a snap election..
Gordon himself has downplayed this possibility, but significantly, has not ruled it out, which, if nothing else, has kept the media frantically analysing the possibilities, probabilities, advantages and disadvantages of calling the country to the polls..
An interesting approach from Gordon.. one which demonstrates more political nous than many would have thought the former Chancellor to possess..
More, of course, after Gordon's left the podium..

Iranian President Ahmadenejad is in New York today.. having arrived yesterday with little fanfare, but some demonstrations against his country's stance on nuclear proliferation..
Of course, said Ahmadenejad, Iran is not heading for armed conflict with the United States.
In an interview with US TV network CBS, he said Iran was not on a path of war with the US and that Iran had no need of nuclear weapons..
The aforementioned protests have been held outside Columbia University in New York, where Ahmadinejad is due to speak later this afternoon.
The US is leading moves to impose further sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear development programme.. and many Americans think Ahmadinejad should not have been invited to speak at Columbia.. but tickets to the event were snatched up within an hour of becoming available.
He is due to address the UN General Assembly in New York tomorrow.. his third address to the assembly in as many years..
He had wanted to lay a wreath at Ground Zero during his visit, but the New York authorities refused that request on security grounds.. and perhaps in the interests of simple good taste.
We'll be exceedingly interested to absorb the content of his speech to the UN tomorrow..

Meanwhile, while it's not a surety that either Saudi Arabia or Syria will attend, an invitation has been extended to Damascus to participate in meetings planned between the West and the Arab League, this November..
Condaleesa confirmed the invitation had been sent.. but with the agenda centering on a resolution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, there is a better than good chance those States who have expressed their desire to eradicate the Jewish State entirely, will take a pass..
Condaleezza described the Arab nations as "natural invitees" but said they would have to renounce violence... a condition unlikely to be met..
She was speaking after the four backers of the peace process.. the US, EU, Russia and the UN.. met in New York and gave support to the proposed summit last night.
This same quartet issued a roadmap in 2003 for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
But the roadmap has been sidelined and no apparent progress has been made towards achieving the declared aim of the process, a two-state solution.
Tony will, of course, be in attendance as well..
The last major peace summit to try to create a Palestinian state was held by President Clinton at Camp David in July 2000. Its collapse was followed by the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in September of that year..
Condaleesa admitted that some were skeptical about whether Washington's high-level meeting.. had any realistic chance at pushing the Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace.
"The international meeting has the potential to galvanize people on a political front and frankly gives the parties something to shoot for, something to look forward to, and frankly that is all we can hope for," she said. "If this conflict were easy to solve, it would have been solved by now."

For literally years, jaded diplomats and academics have rebuffed Burma's democracy activists with one question.. 'Why don't the people of Burma rise up?'
And for the past month, they have been doing exactly that, against unimaginable odds and with unquestionable courage.
So now a different question arises..
Is the world..its leaders, diplomats, academics and others..going to stand on the sidelines, or offer some help?
Since Friday.. more than 1,000 Buddhist monks and nuns have marched peacefully along the rain-soaked streets of Burma's largest city Rangoon, with thousands of spectators encouraging their protest. At the head of the procession a monk carried an alms bowl turned upside down, symbolically refusing to accept any more support from the military regime.. well recognised as one of the world's most repressive.
In an overwhelmingly Buddhist Southeast Asian nation of 50 million people, this was a withering rebuke. The echoes of the last great uprising, in 1988, must be alarming the country's corrupt ruling generals..the roots in economic discontent and the slow stirrings from students to monks to the general population and from the capital to smaller cities across the nation.
The frightened of its own people that it had already transplanted its capital in the dead of night to a desolate inland spot on the advice of an astrologer no less.. has responded in some ways more desperately than it did in 1988. Though the monks have for the most part not been blocked, virtually every student leader is in prison, many reportedly being tortured.
Cousins, siblings and even children of demonstrators have been swept up as well. Anyone with a camera is suspect, as the regime seeks to block news of the protests from traveling. Yet Burmese with cellphones continue to relay photographs, and unarmed civilians continue to interpose themselves between protesters and regime vigilantes.
Global response to this has been, to say the very least.. lackadaisical.
The U.N. Security Council held a briefing Thursday, but the American representative emerged with no message of particular urgency.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy has yet to announce a date to visit Burma. There's been some desultory talk about the need for more studies of the humanitarian situation inside if the humanitarian disaster and even more, its cause in political misrule, were not already well known.
But..what needs to be done would appear clear.
The current regime could begin by releasing all political prisoners, starting with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.. in the hopes that negotiations toward democracy can begin.
George.. who has spoken eloquently of Burma's struggle for freedom.. needs to engage in strenuous diplomacy, above all with China .. to make clear that this is an American.. in fact.. a worldwide priority.
And China, which has more influence in Burma than any other country..needs to decide whether it wants to host the 2008 Olympics as the enabler of one of the world's most repressive regimes, or as a peacemaker..
To date, the only reaction from the Burmese government has been a warning, that if the protests continue, violence will almost certainly ensue. And that's just the picture China would like to avoid.. that of unarmed Buddhist monks, nuns, and their supporters, being shot down in the streets..

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