News Picks: Ireland’s political crisis, Phone hacking, China, Palestine Papers

Ireland

The worst Taoiseach in the State’s history – Events in Irish politics have taken an almighty turn since my last post and have, frankly, descended into utter chaos and farce.

After seemingly his finest hour Taoiseach Brian Cowen reversed all his good work with a politically suicidal attempt to parachute six new people into his cabinet after resignations across the board by Ministers who would be retiring at the election.

He then resigned as leader of Fianna Fail but retained his role as leader of the country prompting the junior coalition partner, the Green Party to withdraw from government. Ireland’s cabinet now consists of just seven people, some with three portfolios and the longest job titles in the world.

There will be final effort to push through a finance bill this week but the desire for change has grown even stronger than it already has been over the weekend and a general election is just weeks away.

Phone hacking/BSkyB takeover

Cameron and Murdoch’s son attended private dinner – Aside from the implications of Andy Coulsen’s resignation last week on David Cameron’s judgement there is also the issue of News Corporation’s attempts to takeover BSkyB, a move feared by many in the UK media, not least because of the phone hacking allegations surrounding the Murdoch owned News of the World, which are unlikely to go away.

The Independent today reports that that Cameron met with James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and chairman of News Corp. in Europe and Asia, late last year. However the PM’s spokesman today said any discussion about News Corp’s proposed takeover of BSkyB would have no bearing on the decision of the Culture Secretary on whether or not to allow the move.

The PM’s spokesman would also not comment on whether the Cameron has any plans to meet with Rupert Murdoch when he comes to London this week in what many see as his attempts to get a hold a crisis that is engulfing his media empire.

China

China grooming Hu’s successor – Much was made of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the White House last week where he was given a full state banquet by President Obama. But it’s unlikely Hu will return to the US with his successor already being groomed to takeover, probably next year.

Profiled in the New York Times, Xi Jinping, the current vice president, is unlikely to alter China’s direction in the world although he could be more popular amongst Communist Party members. How much influence he will wield in an increasingly peripheral position as president of the world’s second-largest economy and fastest-modernising military power is unclear.

Palestine Papers

Leaks show there is no peace process – The leaking of documents relating to discussions about the Middle East peace process show just how much of a gulf there is between what is said in public by political leaders and what is offered and argued in private. This could be said of any political discourse in any country in any part of the world, but it’s all the more crucial here because of the volatility of the region.

As Channel 4 News’ Lindsay Hilsum points out, there is much concentration on the perceived weakness of the Palestinian negotiators, but she asks why did the US not push Israel into more concessions?Why did Middle East envoy Tony Blair not offer more praise for what the Palestinians were prepared to offer?

Truth is, in my view, that this merely confirms the status quo of US-Israeli relations that have been this way for decades. Whilst some may point to an increasing appreciation of the plight of Palestinians in recent years, namely George W. Bush becoming the first US president  to call for a two state solution, the reality is that the US nor Israel really don’t want this to happen.

The up shot of this latest leak (which has nothing to do with Wikileaks by the way), is the certain death of the two state solution and, worse still, possibly further violence and war in the region.

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News Picks: Arizona Shootings, King Kenny, Band of Brothers, Murdoch

Arizona shootings

Congress members will carry arms – Some US congress members have confirmed they will carry their firearms while back in their home states in light of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at the weekend. So far one Democrat and one Republican say they will carry their guns as is their right. Another Republican congressman wants to install plexiglas in the gallery of congress.

Loughner’s parents set to speak – The estranged parents of the alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner are set to make their first comments since the shooting on Saturday. Both are said to be “devastated” by what’s happened.

Politico lead the way in shooting coverage – The Poynter Institute has a good summary of how journalists at Politico, the US political news website, led the way with their coverage in the aftermath of the shooting, posting dozens of stories within hours of the news filtering through from Arizona.

Liverpool FC

How will Dalglish’s Liverpool play? – An interesting overview on The Guardian sports blog that speculates on just how King Kenny will set up his Liverpool team which considers his previous tactics both successful at Liverpool and Blackburn and unsuccessful at Newcastle and Celtic.

War Hero

Central figure in ‘Band of Brothers’ dies at 92 – Major Richard “Dick” Winters, a decorated World War II hero celebrated in the stunning ‘Band of Brothers’ TV series, died recently and was buried this past weekend at a private funeral. Tom Hanks summed it up best in describing the man: “When our days run their course and a man like Dick Winters leaves us, time and providence remind us that human beings can do giant things.”

Tech

Murdoch and Jobs to launch iPad only paperMedia tycoon Rupert Murdoch and Apple CEO Steve Jobs will appear on stage together later this month (January 19) to launch the new ‘newspaper’ The Daily which Murdoch is pumping a shedload of money into and will be available only on the iPad. Will it be a hit?