Archive for November, 2013

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 1, 2013 — Let us walk in the light of the Lord!

November 30, 2013


First Sunday of Advent Lectionary: 1

Reading 1 Is 2:1-5


This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9


R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the LORD.” And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. According to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. In it are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Because of my brothers and friends I will say, “Peace be within you!” Because of the house of the LORD, our God, I will pray for your good. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.


Reading 2 Rom 13:11-14


Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.


Gospel Mt 24:37-44


Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Homily from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Stay awake!  And I am not talking about the homily.  We are speaking about the Lord Jesus, who wants us to be alert and to be aware that salvation is in our midst, now and always.  Stay awake!  It is so easy to miss the beauty of the Lord in every moment of our lives.  Stay awake because the Lord promises to be with us now and always.  We are beginning this wonderful preparation for Christmas.  We begin Advent, the waiting and the longing for the coming of the Lord.

Isaiah, in our first reading today, has incredible images.  We have to think of Jerusalem and then think of the mountain of the Lord.  Mount Zion–it is really just a hill in Jerusalem–is the center of the earth because it is where God dwells.  God is calling all men and women, all nations and peoples, to come and follow His way of life:  living in the divine love and rejoicing in the gifts of God.  The greatest gift of all is the gift of Jesus as our Savior.  This Advent is the time to prepare once more to celebration Jesus in the flesh.

In order to understand this enormous mystery, we have to understand a bit of its history, starting with creation and the formation of the Jewish people, the chosen people, who are the delight of God.  We can take some time in Advent to think about the incredible history of salvation, all pointing to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The images of Isaiah all invite us to walk in the light of the Lord.

That light is to be found in the Scriptures, in creation itself, in the Church (even with all of its sinfulness) and in one another.  Only if we have eyes of faith will we begin to see the light of the Lord.

The Letter to the Romans also speaks about living in the light and throwing off all that leaves us in darkness.  Easier said than done, but it is the work of our whole life. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.  As we walk through this Advent, striving to live in light, we can keep our hearts and our minds fixed on the love that God has for us.  This is the only way to make no provision for the desires of the flesh.  Dwell in His love.  Be aware of His love.  Delight in His love.

The Gospel tells us to be ready.  God can come to us at any time.  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  This is not meant to frighten us in any bad way, but to help us remain alert and waiting for the Lord at every moment.  What a different life we have when we are looking for the Lord in everything that happens to us and in all that we do!  Let us walk in the light of the Lord!  What joy we can have and what rejoicing with one another in the Lord.

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

Today, the Church begins a new liturgical year of Advent.  Advent means the coming of the Lord.  The Church is waiting for the parousia, that is the return of the Lord as King in His glory at the end of time, which was anticipated last Sunday.  With His coming, there will be the resurrection of the flesh, a new creation and a new earth.  Humanity and the whole cosmos will be transfigured and glorified.  There will be peace and eternal life where there will be no more tears and sorrows.  This is what Christian Hope is all about.

This precisely is the vision of Isaiah in the first reading.  He envisaged the day when all wars will come to an end and there will be peace.  Indeed, even now the world wants peace and happiness for all.  This peace and harmony and justice must first begin at our work place.

Yet, in spite of advancements made in science and technology and although our material life has improved, the hearts of humanity remain the same or have grown worse.  Man has become proud and arrogant.  More than ever, we possess weapons of mass destruction.  Wars are still being fought between nations, whether of a military or economic nature.  At home and at work, there are divisions because individuals no longer share a common vision of life and values that can hold society and the nation together.  Because of materialism and relativism, individualism and pragmatism, society remains fragile and risks a potential conflict.  The desire for immediate gratification has caused people to be pragmatic and think only of oneself and not the future of the next generation.  We are living at a time of amorality and indifference to what is objectively good and evil.  Today, society rewards those who can bring in the economic fruits, regardless of the means used.  It seems the end justifies the means.

What is the cause of all this?  It began with secularization, which in itself is right and proper as we live in a multi-religious world.  It is right that the world must have its proper autonomy but when secularization becomes secularism, it is a different matter.  What is happening today is that when the world takes God out of public life altogether, it also denies the reality of God and moral absolutes.  When humanity no longer acknowledges God, there is no longer any basis for a common understanding of the identity and nature of man, his uniqueness and any common ground for values to hold us together.  One cannot even speak of human rights, and if we do, we cannot even agree on what exactly are these rights!  If God, who is the absolute, is denied, then what we are left with is agnosticism and relativism, where truth cannot be found.  When relativism becomes the only absolute truth, we will never be able to come to any common consensus on unity.  The unity of the world at best is superficial and fragile, lacking true foundation.

The only solution, as the first reading tells us, is to recover the foundation of truth and unity, which is that everyone comes to know and acknowledge that God is their Lord.  Truly, only when man acknowledges God, can he know his place in creation.  The foolishness of man is his pride, thinking that because he has made great strides in science and technology, he can control the destiny of the world.  It is this pride that will lead to his downfall and the destruction of humanity, as in the days at the Tower of Babel.  Without faith in God, man has no reference point because he cannot be the reference point, since he is relative, dispensable and replaceable.   Only God who is the absolute can be the reference point of man.  

Until that day arrives, as Christians, we have much work to do.  We are called to renew the face of the earth.  We are to prepare for Christ’s second coming by keeping ourselves busy with our work and responsibilities and not just wait passively for the kingdom to come.  As Jesus said in the gospel, the kingdom will come when people are busy with their ordinary and mundane activities of eating, drinking, marrying and working in the fields or at home.   This is precisely what we are called to do.  The primary arena of the mission of the laity is at their workplace.  It is there that the gospel and the values of Christ are sowed and inculturated.  This is where we are summoned to be apostles of Christ.  We are called to be witnesses to Christ in the market place.

In such a world, the gospel must therefore be brought to the market place.  This is what the new evangelization is asking of us.  The gospel is for all humanity and not just for Catholics.  We are called particularly to focus on the six areas that call for inculturation of the gospel, namely culture, social, communication, science and technology, politics, civil life and economy, as instructed in Porta Fidei.   In a culture that lacks lasting values, we must offer to the world the universal moral values of truth, honesty, fidelity, generosity and humble service.  In the area of social changes, we need to consider how to handle the worldwide phenomenon of migration and globalization.  In mass communication, we need to consider the benefits and risks of mass media and speak up when the media promotes unhealthy values in our society.  In government and civil life, as Church and as individuals, we must influence the way policies are decided for the country. Finally, in science, technology and economics, we must ensure that science and technology must never be used to destroy the sacredness of the individual and human life, or undermine the rights and dignity of the weak in society.

Such a call requires us to be apostles by being people of contradiction, especially in our work place and in business.  If we want to prepare the world for the second coming of the Lord, we need to be His messengers of His first coming.  In other words, we need to be the presence of Christ in our workplace and be ethical in conducting business.  We must seek to awaken the world so that they will cultivate values that are rooted in truth and love; and not superficial love.  This is what St Paul urges us all to do: “You know ‘the time’ has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted. The night is almost over, it will be daylight soon – let us give up all the things we prefer to do under the cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime: no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy.”

We need to be prophets by our words and deeds. As Christians we need to promote a loving, caring, just and honest culture in our workplace. We need to recognize our responsibilities to help our fellow colleagues to excel in their career.  As superiors, we need to empower our subordinates and help them to realize their full potential.  As bosses, we must ensure that justice is done for the workers, especially in terms of remuneration and welfare.  At the same time, as workers, we have to recognize our responsibilities to the company we work for and to our clients whom we serve.  God gave us authority and power for the service of humanity, not just to enrich ourselves.

Creating a conducive Christian environment based on justice, compassion, encouragement and respect is what will make Christ truly present in our workplace.  Indeed, if we do not change the culture then the culture will change us.  Either we permeate the worldly culture with Christian values or we allow the worldly culture to prevail.  Can we transmit the gospel values into a business and secular language without using the Christian terminology?  If we are able to do so, then we will indeed be successful because we would have changed the world’s values without people feeling threatened or defensive.

But we cannot be an evangelizing Church unless we ourselves are evangelized.  St Paul urges us to “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The work of the new evangelization, which is to bring Christ in new ways to the world, must begin with our own renewal in the Lord.  Indeed, only those who recognize the sovereignty of God will be humble enough to learn from Him.  This is what the prophet says,  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem.”   We need to come to the Lord to learn the truth about life and love.  We must be people of prayer, more so if we are holding important positions in the company because our decisions will not only affect the lives of our workers but their families as well, and also impact on the larger society.

The real crux of the problem is that many of our Catholics, especially those in top positions, whether in government, civil or corporate world, do not know their faith sufficiently or are imbued with the gospel message so as to be able to impart to others or implant in their organizations in a subtle manner.  Until this happens, we cannot speak of changing lives in our office.  Hence, the work of the new evangelization, the Holy Father says, must begin with every Catholic having a personal encounter with the Lord as their savior and Lord; and then a renewal of their faith through reappropriation by intensifying, reinvigorating and rediscovering the faith of our early Christians through the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Vatican II documents, and the celebration of the liturgy and the sacraments.

If we depend and rely on the grace and wisdom of God, as the responsorial psalm says, we will find peace. This peace will be realized when the rule of God reigns in our lives and in our hearts.  It is when the kingdom of God is established and when Christ’s love and truth rule in the world.  May we continue tirelessly to make Christ known and loved through our involvement in civil, political, social and economic life!



Lectio Divina from the Carmelites


Matthew 24, 37-39: Jesus compares the coming of the Son of Man to the days of the deluge “As it was in Noah’s day, so it will be when the Son of Man comes”. Here, in order to clarify his call to vigilance, Jesus refers to two episodes of the Old Testament: Noah and the Son of Man. The “days of Noah” refer to the description of the deluge (Gen 6,5 to 8,14). The image of the “Son of Man” comes from a vision of the prophet Daniel (Dan 7, 13). In the days of Noah the majority of persons lived without any concern, without being aware that in the events the hour of God was getting near. Life continued “and they were not aware of anything until the deluge came and drowned them all”. And Jesus concludes: “Thus it will be when the Son of Man comes”. In the vision of Daniel, the Son of Man will come on the clouds unexpectedly and his coming will decree the end of the oppressing empires, which will have no future.


Matthew 24, 40-41: Jesus applies the comparison to those who listen to him. “Two men will be in the fields: one is taken, one left”. These phrases should not be taken literally. It is a way to indicate the diverse destiny that persons will receive according to the justice of the works they did. Some will be taken, that is, will receive salvation, and others will not receive it. This is what happened in the deluge: “You alone of your contemporaries do I see before me as an upright man” (Gen 7, 1). And Noah and his family were saved.


Matthew 24, 42: Jesus draws the conclusion: “So stay awake”, be vigilant. God is the one who determines the hour of the coming of the Son. But God’s time is not measured by our clock or calendar. For God one day can be equal to a thousand years, and a thousand years equal to one day (Ps 90; 2 Pt 3, 8). God’s time (kairos) is independent from our time (cronos). We cannot interfere in God’s time, but we should be prepared for the moment in which God’s hour becomes present in our time. It can be today, it can be from now in one thousand years.


Matthew 24, 43-44: comparison: the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. God comes when we less expect him. It can also happen that He comes and people are not aware of the hour of his arrival. Jesus asks for two things: an always attentive vigilance and at the same time, a peaceful dedication of the one who is in peace. This attitude is a sign of much maturity, in which are mixed the vigilant concern and the serene tranquility. The maturity which succeeds to combine the seriousness of the moment with the awareness that everything is relative.


Broadening the information in order to better understand the text:


How should we be vigilant to prepare ourselves? – Our text is preceded by the parable of the fig tree (Mt 24, 32-33). The fig tree was a symbol of the people of Israel (Os 9, 10; Mt 21, 18). In asking to look at the fig tree, Jesus asks to look and to analyze the facts that are taking place. It is as if Jesus would say to us: “You should learn from the fig tree to read the signs of the times, and in this way you would discover where and when God breaks into our history!”

The certainty communicated to us by Jesus


Jesus leaves us a twofold certainty to orientate our journey in life: (1) surely the end will come; (2) certainly, nobody knows anything about the day or hour of the end of the world. “But as for that day and hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in Heaven nor the Son, no one but the Father alone!” (Mt 24, 36). In spite of all the estimates or calculations that men can do on the date of the end of the world, nobody can calculate with certainty. What gives security is not the knowledge of the hour of the end, but the Word of Jesus present in life. the world will pass but his Word will never pass. (cfr. Is 40, 7-8).


When will the end of the world come?
When the bible speaks about the “end of the World”, it refers not to the end of the world, but to the end of a world. It refers to the end of this world, where injustice and the power of evil reign; these which embitter life. This world of injustice will come to an end and in its place there will be “a new heavens and a new earth”, announced by Isaiah (Is 65, 15–17) and foreseen in the Apocalypse (Ap 21, 1). Nobody knows when nor how the end of this world will be (Mt 24, 36), because nobody can imagine what God has prepared for those who love him (I Co 2, 9). The new world of life without death exceeds everything, just like the tree exceeds the seed (I Co 15, 35-38). The first Christians were anxious to be present in this end (2 Th 2,2). They continued to look up at heaven, waiting for the coming of Christ (Acts 1, 11). Some no longer worked (2 Th 3, 11). But “It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority” (Acts 1, 7). The only way to contribute to the coming of the end “in order that the Lord may send the time of comfort” (Acts 3, 20), and give witness of the Gospel everywhere, to the earth’s remotest end (Acts 1, 8).

Prayer: Psalm 46 (45)


“God is our refuge! We shall not be afraid!”


God is both refuge and strength for us, a help always ready in trouble; so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil, though mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, and its waters roar and seethe, and the mountains totter as it heaves.
There is a river whose streams bring joy to God’s city, it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High. God is in the city, it cannot fall; at break of day God comes to its rescue. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are tumbling, when he raises his voice the earth crumbles away. Yahweh Sabaoth is with us, our citadel, the God of Jacob.
Come, consider the wonders of Yahweh,
the astounding deeds he has done on the earth; he puts an end to wars over the whole wide world, he breaks the bow, he snaps the spear,
shields he burns in the fire. ‘Be still and acknowledge that I am God,
supreme over nations, supreme over the world.’


Yahweh Sabaoth is with us, our citadel, the God of Jacob.


Final Prayer


Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.




Thailand deploys troops to boost security after one killed

November 30, 2013

Bangkok (AFP) – Thailand will deploy nearly 3,000 troops to reinforce security in Bangkok, a senior police official said Saturday, with tensions rising as opposition protesters vow a final push in their bid to topple the government.

“From tonight there will be soldiers out to take care of security,” national police spokesman Piya Utayo said in a televised address, adding that some 2,730 military personnel from the army, navy and airforce would take part.

The move comes after violence broke out at protests in the Thai capital, with two people suffering gunshot wounds, according to emergency officials.

Defiant demonstrators seeking to unseat the embattled administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have besieged major state buildings in Bangkok in the biggest street protests since mass rallies in 2010 left dozens dead in a military crackdown.

The protesters — a mix of royalists, southerners and the urban middle class sometimes numbering in their tens of thousands — are united by their loathing of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s older brother.

One student was shot in the thigh and another man was shot in the back, according to an official at the Panya General Hospital where they were taken for treatment.

The circumstances were unclear but the shootings came after a mob of opposition protesters attacked government supporters travelling to a rival rally at a Bangkok sports stadium in a show of support for Yingluck.

At Least One Dead in Thailand’s Anti-Government Protests

November 30, 2013

One person was confirmed killed as gunshots rang out Saturday night near Rajamangala Stadium where clashes between anti-government protesters and red-shirt supporters intensified on the eve of major protest marches.

Anti-government protesters earlier attacked a bus and a taxi carrying red-shirt supporters in separate incidents near the stadium on Saturday as fears of a confrontation grew.

The violence comes as weeks of opposition protests led by former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban near a climax with the planned seizures of Government House and more ministries on Sunday.

A Bangkok Post reporter heard gunshots and what sounded like an explosion near the university about 8pm.

Police later confirmed that one person had been killed and five people injured. A 29-year-old Cambodian worker and two university students were among those taken to hospital with gunshot wounds. The worker  apparently was a bystander and was shot in the back by a stray bullet.

It was not clear who fired the shots.

With protests expected to intensify further, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said police would do their utmost to protect state property and that force would be a last resort.

Read the rest:


Anti-government protests in the Thai capital turned violent on Saturday and at   least one man was killed and five wounded by gunshots

Man shot dead as Thai protests escalate

An injured man is rescued after being attacked by anti-government protesters near the stadium where pro-government red shirts are gathered in Bangkok Photo: REUTERS

It was not immediately known who fired the shots or what side the victims were   on. National Police Deputy Spokesman Anucha Romyanant said the dead man was   a 21-year-old male with two bullet wounds.

The shooting occurred after scattered violence during the day involving   government opponents waylaying and beating several people they believed were   going to a rally at a stadium of “Red Shirt” government supporters.

The anti-government demonstrators are seeking to topple Prime Minister   Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, which they believe serves the interests of   her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted by a   2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Scattered violence had occurred during the day involving government opponents   waylaying and beating several people they believed were going to a rally at   a stadium of “Red Shirt” government supporters.

The protesters have for the past week occupied or besieged government offices   in what they describe as a civil disobedience campaign. They have vowed to   seize the prime minister’s offices on Sunday.

During the day, a mob of anti-government protesters had attacked at least two   people they suspected of supporting the current Thai government, smashed the   windows of a moving Bangkok bus and the windshield of a taxi carrying people   wearing red shirts, a sign of government support.

The mob, drawn from more than 1,000 protesters led by university students who   oppose the government, tried to block people from entering a stadium where   Yingluck’s supporters were holding a rally.

The national police gave televised reaction immediately, highlighting the   fears of an escalation.

“The situation has almost returned to normal. About 100 police officers are   taking care of the situation,” police spokesman Maj. Gen. Piya Uthayo said   before the nighttime clashes.

The week of dramatic protests against Yingluck’s government has included   seizing the Finance Ministry, turning off power at police headquarters and   camping at a sprawling government office complex.

Protesters vowed to turn up the pressure Sunday by seizing more government   ministries and key offices, including the Government House, which is the   prime minister’s office compound.

Saturday’s violence was isolated to the area around the stadium, but it was   bound to increase tension and raise concerns of new political turmoil and   instability in Thailand.

The crowd first attacked two men, one of whom was pulled off the back of a   motorcycle and punched and kicked. Both men were seen being pulled away by   security and treated for head injuries.

The taxi that was attacked managed to move away. Police then moved in, and the   students began to retreat to their nearby university but then spotted a bus   carrying some passengers wearing red shirts and chased after it.

The students threw stones at the bus and then began hitting it on all sides   with sticks, shattering or breaking the buses windows as terrified   passengers inside dropped to the floor. It was not immediately clear if   anyone on the bus was injured before it moved away.

Protest leaders backed by the opposition say they want to uproot the political   machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, who   was ousted by a military coup in 2006 for alleged corruption and abuse of   power.

The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet of her billionaire brother.

Thaksin, who lives in Dubai to avoid a two-year jail term for a corruption   conviction he says was politically motivated, is a highly polarizing figure   in Thailand. An ill-advised bid by Yingluck’s ruling Pheu Thai party to push   an amnesty law through Parliament that would have allowed his return sparked   the latest wave of protests.

China’s East China Sea Adventure Seems a Dangerous Overreach That Has Only Heightened Awareness In Japan, South Korea

November 30, 2013

The islands in dispute between China and Japan; called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyus in China.

The Communist Party summit that recast Xi Jinping as a reformer extraordinaire has produced its first foreign-policy initiative: poking Japan in the eye.

By William Pesek
Bloomberg news

That seems to be the point of China’s declaration of a vast “air defense identification zone,” in which Beijing has essentially claimed the airspace around disputed islands administered by Japan. The provocation came just two weeks after the party called for a new national security council to coordinate military, domestic and intelligence operations in China. Political analysts who worried that the body might herald a deepening Asian Cold War weren’t being entirely paranoid.

There’s nothing particularly shocking about establishing such a council, state-run media says. The U.S. and Russia both have one, after all, and even Japan is talking about creating its own. Besides, as the Xinhua News Agency was kind enough to inform readers in a Nov. 22 explainer piece, “China is a stabilizer for world peace and security, and the new commission is like a performance guarantee for the stabilizer and will in turn bring benefits to the whole world.”

Tell that to Itsunori Onodera, Japan’s minister of defense, who’s working frantically to decode what China means when it warns that its military may take “defensive emergency measures” if planes don’t identify themselves in the new air defense zone. Or Onodera’s South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan Jin: Some of China’s zone overlaps with waters off Jeju Island. Or Chuck Hagel, the U.S. defense chief, who got dragged into the controversy and responded, boldly, by flying two unarmed B-52 bombers into the area as a warning to Beijing to back off. When he visits Japan, China and Korea next week, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden can expect some pretty testy exchanges.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and defense minister Itsunori Onodera at a military parade on October 27, 2013. Photo By Toru Yamanaka for AFP

Playing Provocateur

China’s move belies all the talk of its peaceful, magnanimous rise as a world power. A tiny accident or miscalculation in the skies above the disputed islands — called the Senkakus by Japan and Diaoyu by China and Taiwan, which separately claim them — could easily spiral out of control, dragging Washington into a clash that would shake the global economy. Instead of being a stabilizer, China is proving to be a provocateur.

It’s hard not to wonder if political testosterone has gone to Xi’s head. He emerged from China’s recent four-day plenum as the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping. Xi may be especially willing to risk a confrontation with Japan right now in order to distract opponents of his proposed reforms, as well as ordinary Chinese who are growing restless over pollution, income inequality and official corruption. Nothing brings China’s 1.3 billion people together so easily as hating the Japanese.

China doesn’t deserve all the blame for the precarious state of northeast Asian affairs, of course. That dubious honor must be shared, and owned, by the region’s other two newish leaders: Shinzo Abe of Japan and Park Geun Hye of South Korea. It was Tokyo’s imprudent decision in September 2012 to buy the disputed islands from a private owner that truly incensed Beijing. The purchase may turn out to be the most expensive $26 million investment a government has ever made.

Abe is an unapologetic revisionist who remains intent on whitewashing Japan’s World War II aggression, including the government’s role in keeping military sex slaves; flexing Japan’s muscles in Asia; and perhaps revising its pacifist constitution. Park rarely misses a chance to hammer Japan about the sins of the past, though the points she scores at home come at the expense of a critical bilateral relationship.

Military Blows

Yet it is China’s actions that most risk sparking conflict. They also contradict the spirit of reform and “opening up” repeatedly hailed at the Communist Party’s recent plenum. In addition to Japan and Korea, China’s air zone is sure to worry officials in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan, all of which are embroiled in territorial disputes with Beijing. A group of Chinese scholars want Beijing to claim Okinawa, too.

However powerful Xi has become, he’s not adding to China’s store of “soft power” with such behavior. The country took a big hit abroad for its chintzy $100,000 aid offering to the typhoon-devastated Philippines (international press coverage shamed Beijing into upping the donation to $1.6 million). Its inflammatory new policy will only further alienate neighbors in a region it’s seeking to woo away from the U.S.

Biden should take advantage of this dust-up to advance a U.S. “pivot” to Asia that until now has lacked both carrots and sticks. In Tokyo, he should prod Abe to lead his people toward more enlightened engagement with Asia rather than follow his base nationalist instincts. In Seoul, Biden should encourage Park to work with Abe, even if just on trade, the environment, North Korea and the challenges of governing a fast-aging population. The U.S. also should push the case for regular three-way summits between the leaders of Japan, China and Korea no matter what’s afoot. Face-to-face meetings can create momentum toward deeper ties.

But Biden’s sternest conversation should be with Communist leaders in Beijing. China says its global ambitions are peaceful and war isn’t in the national DNA. Great. It says it believes in mutual respect for other countries’ domestic affairs. Fine. It says it wants to “make Chinese culture go global.” All sounds good. Beijing’s recent actions, however, inspire little confidence in its words.

(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist.)

The PLANAF operates a formidable fleet of land based anti-shipping strike aircraft. Depicted a PLANAF Su-30MK2 in flight (Chinese Internet).

KJ-200 AEW&C system in flight. The PLANAF is known to operate this type from land bases, in different camouflage, tentative labeled the Y-8WH (image © 2009, Zhenguan Studio).

China continues a territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea over the islands called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China

The two countries have argued for decades over the islands, which Japan controls. They are also claimed by Taiwan. Pictured: A Japanese fighter jet.

This chart shows the Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ declared by China on Saturday, November 23, 2013.

CNN Poll: More Americans Pessimistic About State of Nation

November 30, 2013
Image: CNN Poll: More Americans Pessimistic About State of Nation

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Americans are becoming even more pessimistic about the state  of the nation, according to a new CNN/ORC  International poll released Friday, with more than half saying conditions are going badly.
The survey, conducted on Nov. 18-20 of 843 adults, showed that 41 percent  believe conditions are going well, marking the lowest that number has been in a  CNN poll since February 2012.

Meanwhile, 59 percent say things are going badly, a number up nine points since  the last poll in April. The opinions were along a partisan divide, as well as a  difference of opinion between younger and older people.

“There’s a slight generational divide, with 46 percent of those under age  50 saying things are going well. That number drops to 36 percent for those 50  and older,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Americans are also pessimistic about the economy, the poll showed.  Thirty-nine percent believe the economy is still declining, and just 24 percent  believed a recovery is occurring. Meanwhile, 36 percent said they do not believe  there is a recovery going on, but still think conditions are becoming  stable.
The numbers were similar to those from a CNN/ORC  International survey in October, when 59 percent predicted poor economic  conditions a year from now, while 40 percent said the economy would be in good  shape next year, marking the lowest level of optimism from the public in two  years.
Partisan and geographic divides also came into play when it came to the  economy. Forty-five percent of people who are 50 or older say the economy  remains in a downturn, but 34 percent of people younger than 50 said the economy  is declining.

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Washington (CNN) – Americans views on the state of the nation are turning increasingly sour, according to a new national poll.


And a CNN/ORC International survey released Friday also indicates that less than a quarter of the public says that economic conditions are improving, while nearly four in ten say the nation’s economy is getting worse.


Forty-one percent of those questioned in the poll say things are going well in the country today, down nine percentage points from April, and the lowest that number has been in CNN polling since February 2012. Fifty-nine percent say things are going badly, up nine points from April.

Besides an obvious partisan divide, which contributes to a urban-rural gap, the survey also indicates a difference of opinion between younger and older Americans.

“There’s a slight generational divide, with 46% of those under age 50 saying things are going well. That number drops to 36% for those 50 and older,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Looking specifically at the economy, 39% feel that the economy is still in a downturn, up six points from April. Only 24% believe that an economic recovery is under way. Thirty-six percent are in the middle – they don’t think we’re in a recovery but they believe conditions have stabilized.

Again, the survey indicates partisan and geographic divides, as well as a generational gap, with 45% of those age 50 and older, but only 34% of those under age 50 saying the economy’s still in a downturn.

The poll was conducted November 18-20 for CNN by ORC International, with 843 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

China Urges Bloggers, Internet Users To “Guard the national interest and uphold social order” (and keep Communists in power despite economic slow down)

November 30, 2013

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese government has declared victory in cleaning up what it considers rumors, negativity and unruliness from online discourse, while critics say the moves have suppressed criticism of the government and ruling Communist Party.

Beijing launched the campaign this summer, arresting dozens of people for spreading rumors, creating new penalties for people who post libelous information and calling in the country’s top bloggers for talks urging them to guard the national interest and uphold social order. At the same time, government agencies at all levels have boosted their online presence to control the message in cyberspace.

“If we should describe the online environment in the past as good mingling with the bad, the sky of the cyberspace has cleared up now because we have cracked down on online rumors,” Ren Xianliang, vice minister of the State Internet Information Office, said during a rare meeting this week with foreign journalists.

A study by an Internet opinion monitoring service under the party-owned People’s Daily newspaper showed the number of posts by a sample of 100 opinion leaders declined by nearly 25 percent and were overtaken by posts from government microblog accounts.

“The positive force on the Internet has preliminarily taken back the microphone, and the positive energy has overwhelmed the negative energy to uphold the online justice,” said Zhu Huaxin, the monitoring service’s general secretary, according to a transcript posted by state media.

Observers say the crackdown has noticeably curtailed speech by suppressing voices and triggering self-censorship, with more liberal online voices being more ginger in their criticism and posting significantly less.

Even Zhu suggested the campaign might have gone too far. In one example, Web users refrained from reposting information and commenting on the government response to a severe flood in the eastern city of Yuyao in early October. A year ago, they were garrulous in questioning Beijing’s drainage system when a rainstorm ravaged the city. “It is a reminder that we must strike a balance between crushing online rumors and ensuring information flow,” Zhu said.

Some critics say the moves may backfire by eliminating an effective conduit for the public to let off steam.

Men browse their tablet computers and smartphone at …

Men browse their tablet computers and smartphone at the Beijing Capital Airport in Beijing, China.

“If there’s no channel for the public to express themselves, they may take to the street,” said historian and political analyst Zhang Lifan, whose online accounts were recently removed without warning — possibly because he had shared historic facts that the party did not find flattering.

“The governments also can take pulse of the public opinion, but if no one speaks up, they will be in darkness,” Zhang said. “It is so odd they are covering up their eyes and blocking their ears.”

The rise of the Internet in China has always been followed by Beijing’s efforts to rein it in, and the latest challenge has been the explosive growth in social media, particularly microblogging, which has allowed users to share firsthand accounts and opinions with great speed. Advocates of free speech have applauded the technology as a strong boost to their cause.

As of June this year, China’s microblogging services had more than 330 million users, and WeChat, a mobile phone-based instant messaging service that allows users to share information with circles of friends or subscribers, had more than 300 million users, Ren said.

“The unexpected growth has caught people by surprise,” Ren said.

Chen Ziming, a Beijing-based political analyst, said Beijing’s apparent success in grabbing control of social media is a big setback for free speech.

“They have always been able to control newspapers, radios and TV stations, but there have been some holes in the Internet, and the microblogging was the last hole,” Chen said. “They have achieved their goal. When 10 percent of the accounts are banned, additional 20 to 30 percent of the users will not speak.”

Authorities in recent months have been arresting microbloggers on the charge of spreading rumors or disrupting the public order, including a teenager boy who raised some questions over a murder case online. Many intellectuals, writers, and journalists have seen their blogging and microblogging accounts removed altogether. A Chinese-American businessman with a strong online following was arrested for soliciting prostitutes and paraded on state television in a campaign to discredit him.

Chinese propaganda officials have always seen the media — new or old — as a crucial tool to support state rule and are wary of cacophony.

“The ecosystem for public opinion online has noticeably improved, and that has created a good environment conducive to the overall work of the party of the government,” Ren said, in touting the benefits of well-managed public discourse.

But the historian Zhang said Beijing has failed to play by rules when it shut down critical but law-abiding microblogging accounts. “They see critics as opponents,” Zhang said. “That’s a stupid thing to do.”

Despite claiming preliminary success in taking control of the Internet, Beijing is likely to roll out more regulations. In a guiding document for the next five or even 10 years, China’s senior leaders have mandated that the state must set the perimeters and the tone for online opinion with “positive guidance” and “management” and that the state should “standardize” how online communication unfolds.

Political analysts say they predict the heavy-handed control will continue. “They are still pretty nervous about preserving stability,” said Steve Tsang, a political scientist at the University of Nottingham. “Given the political environment, I don’t see any relaxation.”

But known for their ingenuity to circumvent censorship, members of the Chinese public may again push for more room in speech, said Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“I think the cat and the mouse game will go on. People might be afraid now, but after a while, the old pattern will resume.”


China’s Coming Economic Slowdown

History shows that every economic miracle eventually loses its magic. How much longer can China sustain such astounding growth?

By  Josef Joffe
The big question of the 20th century has not disappeared in the 21st: Who is on the right side of history? Is it liberal democracy, with power growing from the bottom up, hedged in by free markets, the rule of law, accountability and the separation of powers? Or is it despotic centralism in the way of Stalin and Hitler, the most recent, though far less cruel, variant being the Chinese one: state capitalism plus one-party rule?The demise of communism did not dispatch the big question; it only laid it to rest for a couple of decades. Now the spectacular rise of China and the crises of the democratic economies—bubbles and busts, overspending and astronomical debt—have disinterred what seemed safely buried in a graveyard called “The End of History,” when liberal democracy would triumph everywhere. Now the dead have risen from their graves, strutting and crowing. And many in the West are asking: Isn’t top-down capitalism, as practiced in the past by the Asian “dragons” (South Korea, Taiwan, Japan) and currently by China, the better road to riches and global muscle than the muddled, self-stultifying ways of liberal democracy?The rise-of-the-rest school assumes that tomorrow will be a remake of yesterday—that it is up, up, and away for China. Yet history bids us to be wary. Rapid growth characterized every “economic miracle” in the past. It started with Britain, the U.S. and Germany in the 19th century, and it continued with Japan, Taiwan, Korea and West Germany after World War II. But none of them managed to sustain the wondrous pace of the early decades, and all of them eventually slowed down. They all declined to a “normal” rate as youthful exuberance gave way to maturity. What is “normal”? For the U.S., the average of the three decades before the crash of 2008 was well above 3%. Germany came down from 3% to less than 2%. Japan declined from 4.5% to 1.2%.What rises comes down and levels out as countries progress from agriculture and crafts to manufacturing and thence to a service and knowledge economy. In the process, the countryside empties out and no longer provides a seemingly limitless reservoir of cheap labor. As fixed investment rises, its marginal return declines, and each new unit of capital generates less output than the preceding one. This is one of the oldest laws of economics: the law of diminishing returns.The leveling-out effect also applies to industrialized economies that emerged from a catch-up phase in the aftermath of war and destruction, as did Japan and West Germany after World War II. In either case, the pattern is the same. Think of a sharply rising plane that overshoots as it climbs skyward, then descends and straightens out into the horizontal of a normal flight pattern. The trend line, it should be stressed, is never smooth. In the shorter run, it is twisted by the ups and downs of the business cycle or by shocks from beyond the economy, such as civil strife or war.

Only hindsight reveals what has endured. In the middle of the “Surging Seventies,” Japanese growth flip-flopped from 8% to below zero in the space of two years. South Korea, another wunderkind of the 1970s, gyrated between 12% and -1.5%. As the Cultural Revolution burned through China in the same decade, growth plunged from a historical onetime high of 19% to below zero. Recent Chinese history perfectly illustrates the role of “exogenous” shocks, whose ravages are far worse than those wrought by a cyclical downturn. Next to war, domestic turmoil is the most brutal brake on growth. In the first two years of the Cultural Revolution, growth shrank by eight, then by seven, percentage points. After the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, double-digit growth dropped to a measly 2.5% for two years in a row.

The Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen hint at a curse that may return to haunt China down the line: the stronger the state’s grip, the more vulnerable the economy to political shocks. That is why the Chinese authorities obsessively look at every civic disturbance through the prism of Tiananmen, though that revolt occurred a generation ago. “Chinese leaders are haunted by the fear that their days in power are numbered,” writes the China scholar Susan Shirk. “They watched with foreboding as communist governments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed almost overnight beginning in 1989, the same year in which massive pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and more than 100 other cities nearly toppled communist rule in China.”

Today, the world is mesmerized by awesome growth in China. But why should China defy the verdict of economic history from here to eternity? No other country has escaped from this history since the Industrial Revolution unleashed the West’s spectacular expansion in the middle of the 19th century.

What explains the infatuation with China? Western intellectuals of all shades have had a soft spot for strongmen. Just think of Jean-Paul Sartre’s  adulation of Stalin or the German professoriate’s early defection to Hitler. The French Nobelist André Gide saw the “promise of salvation for mankind” embodied in Stalin’s Russia.

And no wonder: These tyrants promised not only earthly redemption but also economic rebirth; they were the hands-on engineers, while thinkers dream and debate, craving power but too timorous to go for it. Too bad that the price was untold human suffering, but as Bertolt Brecht,  the poet laureate of German communism, famously lectured, “First the grub, then the morals.”

Harry Campbell

Today’s declinists succumb to a similar temptation. They survey the crises of Western capitalism and look at China’s 30-year miracle. Then they conclude once more that state supremacy, especially when flanked by markets and profits, can do better than liberal democracy. Power does breed growth initially, but in the longer run, it falters, as the pockmarked history of the 20th century reveals. The supreme leader does well in whipping his people into frenzied industrialization, achieving in years what took the democracies decades or centuries.

Under Hitler, the Flying Hamburger train covered the distance between Berlin and Hamburg in 138 minutes; in postwar democratic Germany, it took the railroad 66 years to match that record. The reasons are simple. The Nazis didn’t have to worry about local resistance and environmental-impact statements. A German-designed maglev train now whizzes back and forth between Shanghai and the city’s Pudong International Airport; at home, it was derailed by a cantankerous democracy rallying against the noise and the subsidies.

Top-down economics succeeds at first but fails later, as the Soviet model shows. Or it doesn’t even reach the takeoff point, as a long list of imitators, from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt to Fidel Castro’s Cuba, demonstrates. Nor are 21st-century populist caudillos doing better, as Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela illustrate.

Authoritarian or “guided” modernization plants the seeds of its own demise. The system moves mountains in its youth but eventually hardens into a mountain range itself—stony, impenetrable and immovable. It empowers vested interests that, like privileged players throughout history, first ignore and then resist change because it poses a mortal threat to their status and income.

This sort of “rent seeking” is visible in every such society. As the social scientist   Francis Fukuyama  explains, reflecting on the French ancien régime: “In such a society, the elites spend all of their time trying to capture public office in order to secure a rent for themselves”—that is, more riches than a free market would grant. In the French case, the “rent” was a “legal claim to a specific revenue stream that could be appropriated for private use.” In other words, the game of the mighty is to convert public power into personal profit—damn markets and competition.


The French example easily extends to 20th-century East Asia, where the game was played by both state and society, be it openly or by underhanded give-and-take. Raising the banner of national advantage, the state favors industries and organized interests; in turn, these seek more power in order to gain monopolies, subsidies, tax breaks and protection so as to increase their “rents”—wealth and status above and beyond what a competitive system would deliver.

The larger the state, the richer the rents. If the state rather than the market determines economic outcomes, politics beats profitability as an allocator of resources. Licenses, building permits, capital, import barriers and anticompetitive regulations go to the state’s own or to favored players, breeding corruption and inefficiency. Nor is such a system easily repaired. The state depends on its clients, just as its clients depend on their mighty benefactor. This widening web of collusion breeds either stagnation or revolt.

What can the little dragons tell us about the big one, China? The model followed by all of them is virtually the same. But some differences are glaring. One is sheer size. China will remain a heavyweight in the world economy no matter what. Another is demography. The little dragons have completed the classic course. Along that route, toilers of the land, just as in the West, thronged the cities in search of a better life. This “industrial reserve army” held down wages, driving up the profit rate and the capital stock.

And so South Korea, Taiwan and Japan turned into mighty “factories of the world,” whose textiles, tools, cars and electronics threatened to overwhelm Western industry, as China’s export juggernaut does today. Once it empties out, the countryside can no longer feed the industrial machine with cheap labor.

China still has many millions of people poised to leave rural poverty behind, so don’t confuse it with Japan, whose shrinking and aging population won’t be replenished soon by immigration or procreation. Japan ranks at the bottom of the world fertility table, one notch above Taiwan and one below South Korea. Call it East Asia’s “death wish.” China’s “reserve army” still has a long way to go. Nor has this very poor country exhausted the classical advantages of state capitalism, such as forced capital accumulation, suppressed consumption and a cavalier disregard for the environment.

But beware the curse of 2015. Despite its rural masses yearning to go urban, China’s workforce will start to decline while its legion of graying dependents keeps ballooning—the result of an abysmally low fertility rate, better health and rising life expectancy. As China gets older, America will become younger thanks to its high rates of birth and immigration. An aging society implies not only a smaller workforce but also a changing cultural balance between those who seek safety and stability and those who want to risk and acquire—traits that are the invisible drivers of economic growth.

At any rate, China’s cost advantage is plummeting. Since 2000, average wages have quadrupled, and the country’s once spectacular annual rate of growth no longer registers in the double digits.

Discontent there, as measured by the frequency of “public disturbances,” is rising, but it is about local corruption and elite rent seeking, not about cracking the political monopoly of the Communist Party. One Tiananmen demonstration does not a revolution make. There is no shortcut to the mass-based protests that dispatched the tyrants of Taipei and Seoul.

Nor is there an imminent ballot-box revolution in China’s future. It took Japan’s voters a half century to dismantle the informal one-party state run by the Liberal Democratic Party, and this in a land of free elections. The Chinese Communist Party need not fear such a calamity; it is the one and only party in a land of make-believe elections.

And yet.

History does not bode well for authoritarian modernization, whether in the form of “controlled,” “guided” or plain state capitalism. Either the system freezes up and then turns upon itself, devouring the seeds of spectacular growth and finally producing stagnation. (This is the Japanese “model” that began to falter 20 years before the de facto monopoly of the LDP was broken.) Or the country follows the Western route, whereby growth first spawned wealth, then a middle class, then democratization cum welfare state and slowing growth. This is the road traveled by Taiwan and South Korea—the oriental version of Westernization.

The irony is that both despotism and democracy, though for very different reasons, are incompatible with dazzling growth over the long haul. So far, China has been able to steer past either shoal. It has had rising riches without slowdown or revolt—a political miracle without precedent. The strategy is to unleash markets and to fetter politics: “make money, not trouble.”

Can China continue on this path? History’s verdict is not encouraging.

This essay is adapted from Mr. Joffe’s “The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics and A Half Century of False Prophecies,” which will be published by Liveright on Nov. 4. He is the editor of Die Zeit, Germany’s most widely read weekly newspaper, and a fellow of the Hoover Institution and the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.

Bangkok Turns More Violent as Anti-Government Protesters Seek End of Elected Government

November 30, 2013

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Martin Petty

BANGKOK          November 30, 2013

A terrified woman pleads from inside a bus as it is attacked by anti-government protesters near the stadium where pro-government red shirts are gathering in Bangkok November 30, 2013. REUTERS-Damir Sagolj

A terrified woman pleads from inside a bus as it is attacked by anti-government protesters near the stadium where pro-government red shirts are gathering in Bangkok November 30, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

BANGKOK (Reuters) – An anti-government mob in Thailand attacked people and vehicles near a stadium rally by supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday as tensions boiled over and protesters tore down barricades to prepare to occupy her offices.

Demonstrators have started to up the ante and briefly occupied the headquarters of the army on Friday, urging it to join them in a complex power struggle centered on the enduring political influence of Yingluck’s billionaire brother, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Reuters witnesses saw two people on a motorcycle badly beaten, with one left unconscious, and a angry mob using poles and sticks to attack a taxi and a packed bus, accusing the occupants of being pro-government “red shirts”.

The attack took place in the city’s densely populated Ramkamhaeng area, home to the Rajamangala stadium, where red shirts fearing a military coup is possible are rallying in support of Yingluck. The U.S. embassy in Bangkok expressed concern about the rising political tension.

The tension heightens a nearly decade-long conflict that broadly pits Thailand’s traditional establishment of top generals, royalists and the urban middle class against the mostly rural, northern supporters of Thaksin.

A crowd of about 2,000 people massed outside state-owned telecoms companies TOT and CAT. Some Internet services were interrupted briefly when protesters shut the power at CAT.

A man is attacked by anti-government protesters near the stadium where pro-government red shirts are gathering in Bangkok November 30, 2013. REUTERS-Damir Sagolj

A man is attacked by anti-government protesters near the stadium where pro-government red shirts are gathering in Bangkok November 30, 2013. Credit: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has told supporters to surround the headquarters of the national and city police, along with Government House and even a zoo on Sunday.

“We need to break the law a little bit to achieve our goals,” said Suthep, a deputy prime minister in the previous government routed by Yingluck in a 2011 election.

Thaksin remains intensely polarizing. He was removed in a 2006 military coup and convicted two years later of graft — charges he calls politically motivated. He is closely entwined with the government from self-imposed exile, sometimes meeting with Yingluck’s cabinet by webcam.

In a televised news conference, Yingluck said security would be increased to protect government buildings.


Yingluck’s son was harassed by parents of other children at his school on Friday, according to Thai media. In an emotional plea, she also urged them to leave her son alone.

“I beg, if you have children you’ll understand the heart of a mother,” she said. “If you’re angry, please make it all about me.”

Suthep has urged his followers to move on the ministries of labor, foreign affairs, education and interior.

But it remains unclear whether he can besiege multiple government offices. Police say protester numbers peaked at more than 100,000 on Sunday and were just 7,000 on Friday.

“We will not allow protesters to seize Government House, parliament or the national police headquarters,” National Security Chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr told Reuters. “We have roadblocks and other blockades in place to stop them.”

But they tried anyway and police did not stop them. Some 2,000 demonstrators near Government House pulled down barbed wire fences, then left. Some said they were preparing to occupy it on Sunday.

Suthep has called for a “people’s council”, which would select “good people” to lead the country, effectively suspending Thailand’s democratic system. Yingluck has rejected that step as unconstitutional and has repeatedly ruled out a snap election.

The protesters have accused the government of acting unlawfully after senior members of the ruling Puea Thai Party refused to accept a November 20 Constitutional Court ruling that rejected their proposal for a fully elected Senate, which would have boosted the party’s electoral clout. Puea Thai says the judiciary has no right to intervene in the legislative branch.


The ruling casts a spotlight on Thailand’s politicized courts, which annulled an election won by Thaksin in 2006 on a technicality and later dissolved his Thai Rak Thai Party for fraud, which resulted in a five year ban for its executives.

Thaksin’s remaining allies regrouped under the People’s Power Party (PPP), which won a 2007 election. A year later, a court banned then prime minister Samak Sundaravej for appearing in cooking shows and after months of at times violent anti-government protests, a court dissolved PPP for electoral fraud.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister, said Yingluck had “acted above the law” by rejecting the Constitutional Court ruling.

Chaturon Chaisang, education minister and a close ally of Thaksin, said those accusations lacked rationale.

“The government, the prime minister and the cabinet have said nothing about accepting or not accepting the Constitutional Court decision,” Chaturon told Reuters.

Any cases lodged with the courts to try to topple the government were unlikely to succeed this time, he said.

“The party won’t be dissolved. Besides, the prime minister is not a party executive. We haven’t heard of any legal cases against the prime minister … they can’t remove her.”

The protests are the biggest since red-shirted Thaksin supporters paralyzed Bangkok in April-May 2010 in a period of unrest that ended with a military crackdown in which 91 people, mostly Thaksin supporters, were killed.

Friday’s brief and peaceful invasion of the army headquarters illustrates how the protesters see the military as a potential ally because of its attempts to intervene against governments led or backed by Thaksin over the last decade.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, however, told protesters not to drag the military into politics.

(Additional reporting by Damir Sagolj, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Dylan Martinez; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

A man is attacked by anti-government protesters near the stadium where pro-government red shirts are gathering in Bangkok November 30, 2013. REUTERS-Damir Sagolj

A man is attacked by anti-government protesters near the stadium where pro-government red shirts are gathering in Bangkok November 30, 2013. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Britain’s PM David Cameron Ready To Go To China, Dalai Lama Visit Shelved for British Business

November 30, 2013

Britain’s PM David Cameron: David Cameron has agreed not to meet the Dalai Lama in the foreseeable future,   as he sets off on a major trade visit to China.

David Cameron's rift with China could cost UK billions

David Cameron and the Dalai Lama pictured at the Houses of Parliament in 2008 Photo: PA
Christopher Hope

By , Senior Political Correspondent

The Prime Minister is taking a plane load of small business leaders to China   in a bid to win deals for British business on the trip next week. It is his   second visit to China since becoming Prime Minister in May 2010.

Number 10 sources said that Mr Cameron had decided to “turn the page” on a row   which was caused when he met with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in   London last year.

The news came as a poll commissioned by the Free Tibet campaign shows that the   majority of British adults believe it would be right for Mr Cameron to raise   human rights in Tibet on his visit to China next week.

The ICM survey showed that 69 per cent of people believed believe that   protecting human rights in Tibet was more important or as important a   maintaining good trade relations with China.

Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, a director of the Free Tibet campaign, said that   Britons expected “Mr Cameron to act like a statesman, not a salesman”   in his dealings with China.

She said: “The Chinese government thinks that a combination of money and   threats can ensure the silence of UK politicians. Mr Cameron needs to   respect the views of the British people and prove that wrong.

“The results of this poll are his mandate to show China, the world and   the people of Britain that his government is willing to stand up for justice   and human rights in Tibet.”

All ministerial contact was suspended by China after Mr Cameron and Nick   Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, met the Dalai Lama in London in May 2012,   in defiance of a request from Beijing.

However a truce was declared in a phone call in June this year between William   Hague, the Foreign secretary and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

News of the agreement fuelled suggestions at the time that the price of any   deal has been that Mr Cameron has agreed not to meet with the Tibetan   spiritual leader again.

Downing Street sources said Mr Cameron now wanted to “turn the page” on the   row and had no plans to meet with the Dalai Lama. The source said: “This   visit is about forward looking – we have turned a page on that issue. We   have turned a page on the Dalai Lama issue.”

The Number 10 source added: “The PM has said he has got no plans to meet the Dalai   Lama. He met him in Opposition, he met him before and there are no plans at   the moment to meet him again.”

Downing Street made clear that Mr Cameron would not shirk from raising human   rights issues with the Beijing leadership President Xi Jinping and Premier   Li Keqiang next week.

The source added: “We have a broad-ranging relationship with China where we   discuss a lot of issues and nothing is off the table and if you look at the   PM’s visit to China or his bilaterals here, human rights is an issue we have   discussed.”

In the months after the meeting the Chinese pressured Britain to apologise and   to offer undertakings that there would be no further meetings in the future.   However, Mr Cameron has said that China could not dictate who he was able to   meet with.

Every British prime minister since John Major has met with the exiled Tibetan   spiritual leader. Since the meeting two attempts by Downing Street to visit   China have been cancelled and a number of ministers have been rebuffed.

Mr Cameron had been reported to be planning a visit in September, however   Downing Street stressed that next week’s visit had not been delayed.

The re-establishment of a high-level relationship with China follows Mr   Cameron’s success at also rebuilding links with the Kremlin.

Britain’s David Cameron: Human Rights Stand May Not Be As Important as Economy, Trade

November 30, 2013

David Cameron will address European leaders at a summit tonight

David Cameron  [PA]

As David Cameron prepares to fly to China for his second visit as Prime Minister, aides are billing the trip as a chance to show he has “turned a page” in relations with Beijing, which went into deep freeze after he met the Dalai Lama.

The Prime Minister is flying out to China tomorrow at the head of a trade delegation of more than 100 business people, determined to ensure that the visit is a “forward-looking” event promoting opportunities for co-operation, rather than raking over the history of differences on Tibet.

When he came to office in 2010, Mr Cameron set a target of doubling British trade with China to £62 billion by 2015, as part of a drive to boost exports to the emerging Brics economies.

But the process was undermined by Beijing’s frosty response to his May 2012 meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader in London, which China’s foreign ministry said “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”.

Downing Street has played down suggestions that Beijing retaliated with an unofficial ban on visits by the PM.

But it was only after Mr Cameron told the House of Commons in May that Britain does not support Tibetan independence and made clear he has “no plans” to meet the Dalai Lama that a much-desired visit began to seem possible.

At the G8 summit in Russia in September, new President Xi Jinping – who took office last November – issued a formal invitation for the PM to visit.

Following that breakthrough, high-profile trips were made by Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson last month, during which plans were announced for Chinese investment in Manchester Airport and a new generation of British nuclear power stations.

The Prime Minister has made clear that he wants to use this week’s visit to seek out export opportunities for British firms and to encourage Chinese investment in UK infrastructure, including the £43 billion HS2 rail link between London and the north of England.

Downing Street has not yet released a list of members of the business delegation but media reports suggest they include Ralf Speth, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, McLaren sports car boss Ron Dennis, Royal Dutch Shell chairman Jorma Ollila, London Stock Exchange chief executive Xavier Rolet, TalkTalk’s Dido Harding, Standard Chartered’s Peter Sands and GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Sir Andrew Witty.

Speaking to Chinese media earlier this week, Mr Cameron said he sees his visit as “the start of a bigger and stronger and deeper relationship between Britain and China” and a “real opportunity” to take bilateral relations “up a gear”.

There should be “no limit” to UK-Chinese co-operation on areas ranging from business and infrastructure investment to cultural links and tourism, he said.

Mr Cameron said he wants to send a message to young Chinese people that there is “no limit on the number of students who can come and study in Britain”, adding that he would welcome an increase in the 100,000 currently at UK universities and colleges.

He would also welcome Chinese involvement in the HS2 rail project, saying: “There seems to be an absolute high-speed revolution taking place and I am looking forward to travelling on a high-speed train when I’m in China. In terms of HS2, we very much welcome Chinese investment into British infrastructure.”

In a message directed at China’s burgeoning business community, Mr Cameron said: “Britain is probably one of the most open countries in the world in terms of welcoming Chinese investment and I want to make sure that investment is two-way. We want a win-win situation and that is part of what my visit is about.”

When he arrives in Beijing on Monday morning, Mr Cameron will become the first foreign leader to visit China since the crucial third plenum of the ruling Communist Party earlier this month, at which key decisions were made over the direction which the country will take over the coming decade under President Xi.

“We want to see the continuing opening of the Chinese economy which is very much foreseen in the Communist party’s third plenum report,” said Mr Cameron.

“It talks about opening up. It talks about the importance of intellectual property reform and the importance of using markets to distribute goods and services. I think it is a a very important document which we are studying very closely.”

Mr Cameron last visited China in 2010 when he led the largest-ever UK trade delegation to the Far Eastern economic giant.


The Prime Minister launched an angry attack today on the unelected EU commissioner who said proposals for European immigration risked Britain becoming a “nasty country”.

David Cameron said he expected “better behaviour in future” from Hungarian employment commissioner Laszlo Andor.

“Britain is one of the most open generous and tolerant countries in the world — to suggest otherwise is quite wrong,” the PM said in Vilnius, Lithuania. “Commissioner Andor, I expect better behaviour in future.”

Mr Cameron also protested directly to José Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, in private. Sources said he argued that it was inappropriate for an unelected official to dismiss the policies of democratically elected leaders.


DAVID Cameron Standing up to European leaders over mass migration?

The Prime Minister will tell 25 leaders, including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, that measures must be introduced to curb the free movement of people across the EU..
Mr Cameron is under increasing pressure to defy Brussels and maintain the labour restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants which are due to expire on December 31.

German leader Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande have also raised concerns on the impact of mass migration on the economies and communities of their respective countries.

Yesterday, the Daily Express delivered a petition to Downing Street signed by 150,000 people backing the call.

Mr Cameron plans to impose new restrictions on benefits for EU nationals heading to Britain but wants wider reforms such as a limit on labour movement from new member states until they hit a certain level of GDP per head.

“We need to face the fact that free movement has become a trigger for vast population movements caused by huge disparities in income,” he said.

“It is time for a new settlement which recognises that free movement is a central principle of the EU, but it cannot be a completely unqualified one.”



German Chancellor Angela Merkel [PA]


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Vietnam: Enemy of the Internet and an Enemy of Human Rights

November 30, 2013

The Southeast Asian nation is serving up harsh penalties, including fines and prison time, to people who post “propaganda against the state” on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites.

Dara Kerr

November 29, 2013


The Vietnamese government is increasingly censoring its citizens online. The country’s capital, Hanoi, is shown in the above photograph. (Credit: Declan McCullagh/CNET)


Vietnam is joining the ranks of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, as being known as a country that censors its citizens on social media. The government introduced a new law this week that fines people $4,740 for posting comments critical of the government on social-networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, according to Reuters.
Some people could also face extensive prison terms. While the law is unclear about what kind of speech sparks government censorship, it does say that “propaganda against the state” and “reactionary ideology” would elicit fines. Vietnam’s communist government has increasingly censored its citizens’ free speech over the past few years. According to Reuters, arrests and convictions for criticizing the government online have skyrocketed the last four years.
Human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the Vietnamese government for its crackdown on free speech. In a report published earlier this month, the group lists 75 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam who were jailed for alleged “propaganda” against the government. Some of these prisoners face harsh conditions, like solitary confinement and torture.
“Vietnam is fast turning into one of South East Asia’s largest prisons for human rights defenders and other activists,” Amnesty International Vietnam researcher Rupert Abbot said in a statement.
“The government’s alarming clampdown on free speech has to end.” Advocacy group Reporters Without Borders also named Vietnam an “enemy of the Internet” for the last several years in a row. In its most recent report published in March, the group said the Vietnamese government is one of the most repressive in terms of Internet censorship and extensive government surveillance. Vietnam isn’t the only country that censors its residents on social media sites.
Several countries in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Bahrain, either censor or forbid social networking. China is also known for extreme censorship when it comes to social media and blogging.
In a recent Global Transparency Report, Google said that it has seen an alarming incidence in government requests to gather information on their citizens. Some of the top offending countries in Google’s report include the US, India, and Germany.