International journalists at Olympics find net access censored

Web access for international journalists already in Beijing to cover the Olympic Games is being censored, according to media reports.

In addition to sites relating to the Falungong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, some international news websites, as well as websites of human rights organisations, are blocked.

And, guess what? The IOC is backing China on this. IOC press commission chairman Kevan Gosper contradicts his own statement in the same interview when speaking to the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong: “There will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics… but […] some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked.”

“Full, open and free internet access” that sees “some sensitive sites blocked”?

The BBC quotes a Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee spokesman, Sun Weide, as saying that China will provide “sufficient and convenient” net access for scribes. Why is the IOC allowing this to happen? What happened to all those empty promises?

The IOC is complicit with the Beijing government in this. Why does the IOC continue to claim otherwise?


Amnesty’s report about China

An Amnesty report about China says that human rights have gotten worse thanks to the upcoming Olympics, including increased use of “re-education through labour”.

A day later, China rejected the report, accusing Amnesty of viewing it with “tinted glasses”. Liu Jianchao at the foreign ministry in Beijing said Amnesty should “see China in a fair and objective way, and do something more constructive.”

And yet, a day after that Chinese retort, new news out of Sichuan province, which was hard hit by an earthquake earlier this year: a Chinese teacher who took photos of collapsed school buildings and put them up on the Internet has been detained, and, you guessed it, sent for “re-education through labour”.

I don’t think we can ever expect an improvement in the country unless something drastic happens.

Zhongguo Taibei? So much for not politicising the Olympics, China.

Well, so much for not politicising the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Apparently, Chinese officials want to refer to Taiwan’s Olympic delegation as “中国台北” (“Taipei China”, not dissimilar to “Hong Kong, China”), instead of the current IOC standard “中华台北” (Chinese Taipei) that has been in use since 1989.

The former — Zhongguo Taibei — implies that the island belongs to the People’s Republic, which is the line the PRC takes, while the latter — Zhonghua Taibei — refers to an ambiguous Chinese state. The Republic of China, as Taiwan calls itself, has participated in the Olympics as Chinese Taipei since 1984. Since 1989, both sides have agreed to call the island’s sportsmen and women representatives of Zhonghua Taibei.

Two weeks ago, a Chinese official sparked outrage in Taiwan — where lawmakers have threatened to boycott the Games — by saying that the use of both terms had equal validity; effectively that “Chinese Taipei” and “Taipei, China” were interchangeable. Earlier this week, a spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office said that the PRC took the 1989 accord to mean that while Chinese Taipei was to be used in all official areas, “Taipei, China” could be used otherwise.

And only today has the issue begun to cool slightly after an official PRC news outlet, the China News Services, began referring (link in simplified Chinese)1 to the island’s delegation as being from “Zhonghua Taibei” — Chinese Taipei — after earlier (link in simplified Chinese)2 referring to it as “Zhongguo Taibei”.

Really now. The Games are supposedly meant to be non-political…so why go against the agreement?

1 The headline reads: “中华台北队高雄训练中心探营:有多位大陆教练”, with an approximate translation being “Scouting of Chinese Taipei team’s training centre in Kaohsiung reveals many mainland coaches”.
2 This headline, from eight days prior, reads: “马英九30日将为中国台北奥运代表团授旗壮行”, which roughly means “Ma Ying-jeou (President of Taiwan) to present Olympic flag to Zhongguo Taibei delegation”.

Radovan Karadžić arrested

Just a short one.

Top news today is that former Bosnian Serb war leader Radovan Karadžić — wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague on charges of war crimes — has been arrested in Belgrade after 13 years on the run.

What use does this do? On the surface it’s a boost for Boris Tadić’s government in Serbia and a step closer to possible EU membership. Tadić can also use this to show proof that his government is actively working to arrest these men.

Well, if that’s the case, why did it take 13 years? And more importantly, where’s the war general Radko Mladić? Until General Mladić is arrested, I’d venture that nothing has changed.

Ex-W.H. press secretary Tony Snow dies

Ex-White House press secretary Tony Snow has died aged 53 after a second bout with cancer. He worked in the Bush administration for 17 months, replacing Scott McClellan in 2006.

Reactions have come in from around Washington. CNN reports the following quotes:

Snow’s successor, Dana Perino, issuing a statement for the White House:

“The White House is so deeply saddened by this loss. He was a great friend and colleague and a fantastic press secretary. And his dear family is in our thoughts and prayers.”

President George W. Bush and the first lady said they were “deeply saddened” and issued a statement:

“The Snow family has lost a beloved husband and father. And America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character. It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day.”

Representative John Boehner (R-OH/Cincinnati):

“Churchill said, ‘I like a man who grins when he fights,’ and that was Tony Snow. For 35 years, as a writer, broadcaster, and spokesman, he fought fiercely for what he believed in, and he did it with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. His loss is a loss for our country.”

Presidential candidate and Senator John McCain (R-AZ):

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Tony Snow. He was a loving father, husband, friend, and truly one of America’s most gifted commentators. Whether he sat behind a radio mic or stood behind a White House podium, Tony Snow always sought to give the American people new insights into our government, political process and leaders. … His fight [with cancer] served as an inspiration to all Americans. In the coming days, we will celebrate the life of a truly great and generous man.”

Awaiting response, if any, from Senator Barack Obama.

Israel and Iran: posturing or something more sinister?

So, Israeli shows off its fighter jets. Iran responds by test-firing missiles twice. Israel unveils new spy plane.

Is this just posturing between old enemies, or is this a very strong warning from both sides that we could be on the brink of a new war, one that involves two states? Does Israel, or does Iran, have anything to gain from war?

The answer, to my mind, is no. A definite: Iran will not strike first. If they do so, I think they immediately lose any support they could hope for from Moscow or Beijing. As for Israel, an attack would make life very difficult for Washington, which is opposed to military force as the first solution in dealing with Iran — and it would give John McCain, and perhaps moreso Barack Obama, headaches.

It would probably scupper plans of Senator Obama’s to talk directly, without preconditions, to President Ahmadinejad of Iran — he would lose Jewish support (or whatever is left of it, since he’s still stressing he will speak with Iran) in a hurry. The U.S. would support Israel at the UN, probably reluctantly, but they can’t afford to be seen as leaving their allies in the lurch.

As for the current standoff, this has already triggered new conflict between Washington and Moscow, over Washington’s planned missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Washington says Iran’s test proves the need for them to protect their interests in Europe; Moscow says Iran’s test proves that their missiles do not have the range to threaten Europe and the U.S. shield is an aggressive act against Russia.

In the world of tense relations between two great superpowers — and between two Middle Eastern states each of the superpowers back to an extent — I think the answer is, you’ll never know what is going to happen until it happens.

CNN’s McCain wish

CNN The Situation Room screencapture of John McCain, with a caption reading \"(D) Presidential Candidate\"

Simple mistake, or something deeper showing through? CNN obviously wishes Senator McCain was a Democrat…