Oceania & the Pacific

150 extra, pro-O’Neill Police flown into Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, from around the country to seize control of government assets

December 15, 2011

“There are signs the political deadlock in Papua New Guinea may have entered a dangerous new phase, with extra police being flown into the capital to take control of government assets. The opposing camps of Sir Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill are not backing down on their claims to the country’s prime ministership.

Now Mr O’Neill says up to 150 extra police have been flown into Port Moresby from around the country to take control of government assets.
He says they have already taken control of the government printing office and will also target the finance department, the prime minister’s department and government house.”

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Guardian: Global Agreement the best way to reach a consensus on tackling climate change

November 27, 2011

“As world leaders and scientists assemble next week for COP 17 in Durban, the main the focus of discussion will be the Kyoto protocol and the need for a binding international agreement on climate change. This is a redundant exercise. The real driver for change in climate negotiations is the call for voluntary national commitments that was issued in 2009 at COP 15 in Copenhagen.”

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Indonesia warns of ‘distrust’ over a possible U.S. military buildup in Australia

November 17, 2011

“Indonesia echoed Chinese concerns about a US military build-up innorthern Australia Thursday, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa warning it could create tension and mistrust.

The plan to post up to 2,500 Marines in the Northern Territory from mid-2012 was unveiled Wednesday during a lightning visit to Canberra by US President Barack Obama, who said it was a “commitment to the entire Asia Pacific region.”

But it drew criticism from China, widely seen as the target of the move, with the foreign ministry questioning whether it was appropriate or “in the interest of countries in this region.”

Natalegawa also expressed concern about the plan, which will see expanded access for US military aircraft as well as the troop boost in northern Australia, an area right on Indonesia’s doorstep.”

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President Obama’s proposition to expand military ties with Australia angers China

November 17, 2011

“President Obama announced Wednesday that the United States planned to deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia to shore up alliances in Asia, but the move prompted a sharp response from Beijing, which accused Mr. Obama of escalating military tensions in the region.

The agreement with Australia amounts to the first long-term expansion of the American military’s presence in the Pacific since the end of the Vietnam War. It comes despite budget cuts facing the Pentagon and an increasingly worried reaction from Chinese leaders, who have argued that the United States is seeking to encircle China militarily and economically.

“It may not be quite appropriate to intensify and expand military alliances and may not be in the interest of countries within this region,” Liu Weimin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in response to the announcement.”

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President Obama visits Australia

November 16, 2011

“Barack Obama has arrived in Australia on a visit that will be dominated by the announcement of a greater US military presence in the country as a counterbalance to China.

Obama arrived in Canberra, the Australian capital, on Wednesday afternoon on board Air Force One.

The US president will stay for a day and a half, meeting with the country’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, and addressing the Australian parliament.

Obama has twice cancelled visits to Australia: once to stay in Washington to lobby for passage of his healthcare bill, and then to deal with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

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Obama’s trip to Asia is an act of frustration and defiance against Congress

November 11, 2011

“Obama has embraced his single status over the past two months by mocking Congress for blocking most of his jobs agenda and issuing executive orders to work around it. Now, he’s resisting any temptation to engage in presidential hand-holding on the deficit fight and he’s heading out of town.

The government will run out of money Nov. 18, a day before Obama returns, setting up a potential government shutdown. But Congress is working on a bill keep the government open, possibly requiring the president to sign it by autopen, a mechanical signature, for only the second time in history.”

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Japan’s Prime Minister delays decision on the U.S.-backed Asia-Pacific free trade agreement

November 11, 2011

“With Japan’s ruling party still divided over a controversial regional free trade deal, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Thursday delayed for at least a day his decision on whether Japan should commit to the pact.

Joining the U.S.-backed Asia-Pacific free trade agreement could transform the world’s third-largest economy, slashing tariffs, allowing for cheaper imports and giving new opportunities for struggling exporters. But new foreign competition could also cripple the agriculture industry, whose many advocates — including those in Noda’s party — say the deal will threaten rural areas.

Noda promised to make a decision before taking off for this weekend’s Asia-Pacific summit in Hawaii, where he will meet with U.S. President Obama.”

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Obama working against “a global perception that a rising China is eclipsing a declining U.S.” by looking to expand U.S. economic ties in Asia and the Pacific

November 10, 2011

“President Barack Obama will be working to counter a global perception that a rising China is eclipsing a declining U.S. on a nine-day trek of trans-Pacific summitry that begins tomorrow.

“We are losing our place in the world,” said Carla Hills, a former chief U.S. trade negotiator, at a Nov. 4 conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Others are overtaking us.”

To regain some of that lost ground, Obama will discuss expanded U.S. ties to the region, including a planned regional partnership on trade and new U.S. military basing arrangements in Australia, according to Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and other officials. The president will host the annual 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu Nov. 12-13 before visiting Australia and attending an East Asia Summit Nov. 18-19 in Bali, Indonesia.”

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Obama directs the Federal Government to “do some belt-tightening” and cut back on expenses

November 9, 2011

“President Obama wants the federal government to do some belt-tightening during tough economic times. On Tuesday he signed an executive order directing agencies to cut back on everything from travel to cellphones, printing, and even promotional or commemorative items such as T-shirts, plaques and mugs.

Each executive-branch agency has a month and a half to identify areas to slash expenditures by 20 percent below fiscal 2010 levels, which will produce what the White House estimates will be $4 billion in annual cost savings.

“At a time when families have had to cut back, have had to make some tough decisions about getting rid of things that they don’t need in order to make the investments that they do, we thought that it was entirely appropriate for our governments and our agencies to try to root out waste, large and small, in a systematic way,” he said

But don’t expect the Oval Office to start cutting back on the official White House M&Ms on Air Force One or curtailing pricey presidential travel.

Mr. Obama is traveling to Hawaii on Friday to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which aims to advance trade and other U.S. economic ties to the region, and then will move on to Australia to promote the two countries’ longstanding alliance. He will end his travel in Bali at another summit, this one aimed at boosting security and anti-terrorism initiatives with Pacific Rim nations.”

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Australian Peace Activists trying to break the Gaza blockade accuse Israeli commandos of beating, tasering them

November 8, 2011

“An Australian on a peace flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade says activists have been beaten up and tasered by the Israelis.
Michael Coleman was among 27 people detained when the Israeli navy intercepted two international vessels carrying pro-Palestinian activists.

Israeli commandos boarded the Irish-flagged Saoirse (Freedom) and the Canadian ship Tahrir (Arabic for Liberation) in international waters off Gaza on Saturday (AEDT) before the navy escorted them to the port of Ashdod, the military said.”

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Australian Senate passes controversial carbon tax endorsed by the Prime Minister

November 8, 2011

“A $23 a tonne carbon tax will now be paid by about 500 high-emitting companies from next July, with about half the revenue to be returned to households in the form of tax cuts and increases in pensions and family payments, to compensate them as electricity generators pass through the cost of the new tax.

Another $9.2 billion over the first four years of the carbon pricing scheme will be paid to high-emitting industries with overseas competitors not subject to a tax. They will receive up to 94.5 per cent of their emission permits for free.

The carbon price is designed to meet the emissions reduction target endorsed by both major parties of at least 5 per cent by 2020, compared with 2000 levels. Labor is now promising to cut Australia’s emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.”

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As Obama begins his nine-day trip to visit Asia-Pacific leaders, Washington prepares for a battle over budgets, taxes, spending, and debt

November 7, 2011

“President Barack Obama’s efforts next week to persuade Asia-Pacific leaders of his commitment to the region may be undercut by distractions in Washington, where budget fights may come to a head while he is away.
Obama embarks on a nine-day trip to Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia on Friday that he will use to highlight U.S.-Asian economic ties and the long-standing U.S. role in the region’s security.
His absence from Washington will coincide with a deadline for Congress to avoid a government shutdown and a pivotal stretch of deficit-cutting negotiations that investors and credit rating agencies will be watching closely.
White House officials said Obama has diplomatic goals he hopes to advance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that he will host in Honolulu on November 12-13 and during his visits to Canberra, Darwin and Bali.
But there is speculation he could face pressure to cut the trip short to rush back to Washington for the budget crunch-time and to avoid criticism that he failed to step up if the negotiations start to go off track.
“There is pressure here not to do the trip,” said Ernest Bower of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who said Obama was facing the political reality that “it’s always better to be in Indiana than Indonesia.”

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6.6-Magnitude Earthquake strikes off the coast of Papua New Guinea

June 16, 2011

Source

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