31 May

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective



  • Statement from White House says family ‘saddened beyond words’
  • Biden, 46, was former Delaware attorney general and national guardsman
In 2009 Joe Biden talks with his son Beau at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq.

In 2009 Joe Biden talks with his son Beau at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq. Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

Vice-president Joe Biden announced on Saturday that his son Beau had died of brain cancer.

“The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau’s spirit will live on in all of us, especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter,” said a statement from Joe Biden that was released by the White House.

“It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life,” the vice president said in a statement late Saturday.

The family was at Beau Biden’s side when he died, the vice-president said.

Beau Biden, 46, was a former Delaware attorney general. He was found to have brain cancer in August 2013. He underwent surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston to remove a lesion. That was followed by radiation treatment and chemotherapy, and Beau Biden’s doctor gave him a clean bill of health three months later, in November, officials said.

He announced last year that he would not seek a third term as attorney general and instead planned to run for governor in 2016. He suffered a recurrence of illness this spring and was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in May, officials said………………….



In 2012 border patrol agent Lonnie Swartz shot and killed José Antonio Elena Rodríguez but nearly three years later, a mother’s grief has turned to anger and the case revolves around what is the potential impunity for US agents

José Antonio procession 2013 first-year anniversary

A procession in 2013 marks the first anniversary of José Antonio death in 2012. Last year, with a federal investigation dragging on, his mother sued in federal court. Photograph: Rex

Anger, pain and disbelief rang in the voice of Araceli Rodríguez as she talked about her son’s killing by an American agent, whose 10 rounds shot through a border fence have raised questions over policing and whether the US constitution can apply to a Mexican teenager on foreign soil.

“He’s still a part of me,” Rodríguez said of her son, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was 16 when border patrol agent Lonnie Swartz shot him dead in October 2012. “Even though he’s not here he’s still my son in spirit, in soul, in thoughts, in words. My son, my son, my son.”

She remembered him in terms any mother would find familiar, through his hopes and everyday joys.

“He liked cloudy days, chocolate cookies, spending time with his sisters,” she said. “He was a 16-year-old boy who would today be 19, full of passion for life [and] love. He wanted to be a soldier, to serve his country, to know what life is.

“He was a wonderful son, and they snatched that away from in a moment. It’s unforgivable.”

Rodríguez’s grief has turned to anger and bafflement over the delays and twists of the American justice system.

“I don’t see the case to have a trial, or why there are so many questions when it’s clear that he was murdered,” she said. “I’m not just saying that – it’s a reality. They threw away his life.”……………………



  • Two victims sent to hospital but the severity of injuries is unknown
  • Police search for suspect as ‘shelter-in-place’ order is lifted

Police tape The stabbing occurred at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house on Professors Row, a street that runs through the Boston-area campus. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Two people were stabbed at a Tufts University fraternity house early on Sunday, leading the school to briefly issue a shelter-in-place order as police searched the campus for a suspect or suspects.

The victims, who were not affiliated with the university, were sent to the hospital, where the severity of their injuries was unknown.

The stabbing occurred at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house on Professors Row, a street that runs through the Boston-area campus, Tufts spokeswoman Kim Thurler said.

School officials had asked students through social media and email alerts to seek shelter and to lock their doors at about 5am, while police responded to reports of a “serious crime”. The shelter-in-place advisory was lifted at about 8am.

Somerville police spokesman Lieutenant Joseph McCain said there were no suspects in custody and investigators were still interviewing witnesses…………………



Findings by US inspector general, seen in advance by Associated Press, say 130 linked to wartime atrocities were able to receive social security payments

A survivor touches the Wall of Death in the former Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp.

A survivor touches the Wall of Death in the former Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. Photograph: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

More than 130 suspected Nazi war criminals, SS guards and others who may have participated in atrocities during the second world war collected US$20.2m in retirement benefits, according to the US inspector general of social security.

In a report scheduled for public release next week and obtained by the Associated Press, the inspector general said nearly a quarter of the total, $5.7m, went to individuals who were found to have played a role in the Nazi persecution and had been deported. More than $14m was paid to people who were not deported but were alleged or found to have assisted the Nazis during a period in which millions of Jews perished in the Holocaust.

The report comes seven months after an AP investigation revealed benefits were paid to former Nazis after they were forced out of the United States. The Associated Press found that the justice department used a legal loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the US in exchange for social security benefits. If they agreed to go voluntarily, or simply fled the country before being deported, they could keep their benefits.

Congress reacted swiftly by passing legislation to close the loophole and bar Nazi suspects from receiving benefits. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law late in 2014…………………..



Buildings swayed in Tokyo and its vicinity on Saturday night as 7.8-magnitude quake struck in the Pacific Ocean

Japanese soccer fans

Japanese soccer fans react to the earthquake as they watch a J-League match between the Shonan Bellmare and the Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Hiratsuka, south-west of Tokyo on Saturday. Photograph: Munehide Someya/AP

Seismologists have warned Japan to stay vigilant for the next “Big One” after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the country, injuring a dozen people.

Buildings swayed for about a minute in Tokyo on Saturday night as the quake struck at a remote spot in the Pacific Ocean 542 miles (874km) south of the capital, the US Geological Survey said.

Despite its power, there was no risk of a tsunami as the epicentre was 676km below the Earth’s surface, the USGS and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Twelve people were injured, including a 56-year-old man who broke his ribs, but no one was killed, according to a Tokyo fire department official and local media.

Four hundred people were trapped on the observation decks of Tokyo Tower as its elevators stopped for more than an hour. Runways at Haneda airport in the capital were closed for about 30 minutes, with trains also temporarily halted, while a football match in the city was briefly suspended. There were no reported problems at any of the region’s mothballed nuclear power plants.

A separate 6.2-magnitude quake struck on Sunday morning off the Izu Islands south of Tokyo, the USGS said, but there were no reports of damage or injuries…………………



In Iran, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are among many sites blocked by the authorities, spurring a generation of young entrepreneurs to invent their own versions. Now, with the prospect of sanctions easing and the world lining up to invest in the tech sector, is all that about to change?

iranian techies

Startup success stories, left to right: Mohammad Noresi, founder of Hamijoo, Nazanin Daneshvar, founder of Takhfifan and Tabassom Latifi, founder of Mamanpaz, photographed in Tehran. Photograph: Arash Ashourinia/Observer

Tehran may be thousands of miles away from Silicon Valley, home to the world’s largest hi-tech corporations and most innovative startups, but technologically, Iran’s online entrepreneurs are getting closer – despite mutual political hostility and international sanctions. This Thursday in Germany hundreds of Iranian startups will catch up with investors from around the globe in the biggest gathering of its kind, in a bid to bridge the gap.

The iBridges conference in Berlin, which aims to explore the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship in Iran, will be closely watched, especially at a time when diplomatic efforts to resolve Tehran’s nuclear dispute are increasing hopes for an ease in the sanctions that would enable foreigners to invest in the tech sector.

Participants from Iran include Digikala, an online e-commerce platform, which has become the biggest in the Middle East with around 750,000 unique visitors per day and is estimated to be worth $150m. Also participating is Aparat, an Iranian version of YouTube, Takhfifan (a Groupon-type website) and smaller startups such as Mamanpaz, which offers real home cooking to its online customers.

Prominent Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure, who is the founder of 500 Startups and a former investment director of the Facebook’s fbFund, will be attending. He is impressed by the list of startups that iBridges has put together. “Like many emerging economies, Iran has a large population, one which is substantially educated and has a large entrepreneurship potential,” he says. “If the country opens up and relations are restored with the US and other parts of the world, I think there is going to be a lot of economic growth. Definitely there are many interesting possibilities for tech startups, too.”

The problem, says McClure, is that current regulations do not allow investment in the Iranian tech sector. “Based on how US investment laws are structured right now it’s not possible for investors like me to invest directly in startups in Iran but we are optimistic that may change in the near future if relations are normalised.”………………………



David Simonds on world football’s governing body

David Simonds 31/05/2015.




US-Russian tensions over Ukraine can be resolved if the US softens its stance


The unexpected May 12 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at Sochi, Russia, suggested the beginning of a new direction for the Ukraine crisis. Suddenly, it seemed possible that the U.S. would join last winter’s Minsk 2 agreement drawn up to resolve Ukraine’s civil war.

It is therefore disappointing to see that developments since the parley have been uniformly negative. But a surprising source, the U.S. Army War College, sees a possibly promising outcome. It recently issued a report exploring different scenarios of how U.S.-Russian tensions may play out over Ukraine and suggesting that Washington and its NATO allies adopt a more conciliatory and accommodationist approach to Moscow. Let us hope it receives the attention it deserves.

Saber rattling

The Kremlin continues to show its displeasure with even the minimal current U.S. support of the Kiev regime. On May 18, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree that abruptly cut the air bridge over Russian territory used by the U.S. for resupplying its combat units in Afghanistan.

Washington, for its part, has continued its hostility toward Moscow since the Sochi meeting. On May 17, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European affairs, Victoria Nuland, traveled to Moscow to meet with her peer in Russia’s Foreign Ministry to discuss U.S. involvement in Minsk 2. Immediately afterward, she accused the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region of violating the cease-fire “on a daily basis.”

Kiev has stepped up its provocative decisions since the Sochi meeting. On May 21, the Ukrainian parliament voted to end several military agreements with Russia, including its permission for Russian troops to transit through Ukraine to the breakaway Moldova region of Transnistria.

NATO chimed in. On May 19, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “to withdraw all its troops and support for the separatists.”

The U.S. and Russia should move away from a competition of arms and toward a competition of ideas for influence in Europe……………………

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