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April 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu

Apr 1  Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu returns to power as prime minister and announces that if Palestinians want peace they can have it. Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, complains that Netanyahu has not endorsed the idea of an independent Palestinian state and does not want to stop Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank.

Apr 2  Described as the most important summit meeting since World War II, in London leaders of nations with big economies agree to new regulatory rules in world finance, sanctions against secretive tax havens, a trillion dollars to stimulate the global economy, and more aid to the poorest of countries. Another summit is scheduled for September to evaluate progress.

Apr 3  Sweden's center-right government extends its bank rescue plan, begun in late October, to help banks provide loans at reasonable conditions to households and businesses. Sweden projects a 4.2 percent drop in economic growth for 2009 and a 0.2 percent growth rate for 2010.

Apr 4  A web resource for physicians and other health professionals, Medscape, questions the benefit of drugs commonly used to lower cholesterol levels. These are drugs that use statins. Medscape writes of "evidence-based concerns" regarding the "adverse effects of statins," the possibility of "billions of wasted healthcare dollars" and concern regarding the "FDA based system regulating drug approval and advertising" in the United States. Medscape writes of advertising by the drug company Pfizer (USA) not disclosing that its drug atrovaSTATIN has been "associated with increased risk to women."

Apr 4  Baitullah Mehsud, a tribal leader in South Waziristan, takes credit for a suicide bombing in Islamabad that injures a number of Pakistani police. Baitullah took credit for a March 23 attack on Pakistani police, which killed one policeman and left another injured. And he takes credit for the killing of thirteen yesterday in Binghamton, New York, reported by US investigators to be a false claim.

Apr 5  In Islamabad, another suicide bombing, at night, in an upper class neighborhood. It kills eight security officers guarding foreign diplomats and wealthy residents. Twelve hours later, in the town of Chakwal, a male teenager blows himself up at the entrance to a crowded Shiite mosque, killing at least 26 people. A deputy to Baitullah Mehsud describes the attacks as retaliation for an attack by an American pilotless aircraft.

Apr 5  Conservative George Will on a panel on ABC's This Week proclaims absolutely: "There is no community of nations." He complains that there is an "old liberal axiom that harmony is natural." The liberal Arianna Huffington responds that community of nations is an aspiration and that to abandon diplomacy leaves us with force.

Apr 8  In the Republic of Moldova, a Communist political party won 49 percent of the votes in elections on the 5th, giving the Communists 60 seats and a majority in parliament. On the 7th, thousands of anti-Communists protested in the streets and ransacked the parliament building. Today, from Russia comes accusation that Romania is encouraging the protests.

Apr 9  Saudi Arabia has been arresting al-Qaeda operatives believed to have ties with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Yemen. The average age of the captured terrorist suspect is 36, higher than in the past. The Saudi interior ministry describes al-Qaeda's ability to recruit young members in the Kingdom as "diminishing" and al-Qaeda as "losing ground.”

Apr 10  Again, French commandos rescue French citizens taken hostage by Somali pirates – as commandos did in April and again in September, 2008. The US merchant sea captain, Richard Phillips, held hostage aboard a lifeboat, jumps overboard in an attempt to swim to a nearby US Navy ship. The pirates haul the captain back aboard the lifeboat.

Apr 11  In the Gulf of Aden, Somali pirates seize a US-owned tug boat with sixteen people aboard, while in the Indian Ocean a standoff continues between pirates holding Captain Richard Phillips and the US Navy. The BBC reports that the pirates have been using ransom payoffs to upgrade their boats and weapons and that the "the pirates themselves say, piracy will only end in Somalia once the country gets an effective and stable government." There are those who believe it would end sooner if some others were as tough as the French. Meanwhile, US ships are around Phillips and his abductors, with aircraft overhead. The US military is trying to get Phillips back alive.

Apr 12  US Navy Seals rescue Captain Phillips. Three pirates are dead. One is being held by the US Navy. (This observer, having seen the Seals in action while in the Marine Corps ages ago, was wondering yesterday how soon an efficient operation by the Seals would unfold.)

Apr 12  In the US, opinion is divided on the stock market. Some speak pessimistically about what they call a "bear market rally." Some others speak of the recent rally as signaling the beginning of economic recovery. On ABC's This Week, Paul Krugman says that the stock market has "predicted six of the last one [sic] recoveries." Conclusion: perhaps the Dow will fall from today's level of 8,083 maybe into the 7000s, but not to a new bottom below 6,547.

Apr 13  In Thailand, protests by the United Front for Democracy against dictatorship have been taking place since March. They support the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatraa, ousted by a military coup in 2006. Rather than follow Martin Luther King tactics, the protestors have allowed their demonstrations to become violent assaults against security forces, including crashing busses into the security force's line. The center of Bangkok has been shut down. Two have died and 113 have been wounded, including 23 "security officers." Citizens are growing tired of the violence, and support for the government is increasing.

Apr 16  The French captured a pirate vessel and eleven Somali pirates yesterday. French officials announce that the European Union and Kenya have agreed to put them on trial in Kenya.

Apr 16  An Israeli, Daniel Barenboim, conducts the Cairo Symphony Orchestra at the Cairo Opera House and receives a "rapturous" ovation. Barenboim has been described as a critic of Israeli policy regarding Palestinians.

Timothy Geithner

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

Bill O'Reilly

Vociferously, Bill O'Reilly
expresses his opinion about torture.

Apr 19  In the US, Republican minority leader in Congress, John Boehner, questions humanity's contribution to global warming. He suggests that it is a matter of the carbon dioxide that we exhale and that cows emit and says this is not a danger.

Apr 21  At the Latin American summit conference in Trinidad, in front of the TV cameras while President Obama is at the podium speaking, a friendly President Chavez of Venezuela gives Obama a book published in 1997, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Sensation being a strong force in book sales, the book catapults to second in sales at Amazon.

Apr 22  Someone in the US expresses a populist view of Timothy Geithner, accusing him of coddling "banksters" and "taking care of his pals on Wall Street because he IS one." Yesterday, answering questions from congressmen, Timothy Geithner says of the Obama administration, "When we act, we DON'T do it for the benefit of those banks." Geithner claims that the system as a whole is his focus. "The critical thing we care about," he adds, "is whether the system as a whole has the capacity to support the credit the economy requires.”

Apr 23  The morning-after contraceptive pill has been cleared for use for seventeen-year-olds by the US Food and Drug Administration. The previous minimum age was eighteen.

Apr 24  The Obama administration is working on the illegality of torture employed by US citizens during the Bush administration. International law opposes torture, which is defined by the UN as severe pain and suffering intentionally inflicted. Studies indicate that torture is no more useful in intelligence gathering than other methods. The question whether torture applied by US personnel on terrorists saved lives remains forefront. Meanwhile, polling by the Pew Research Center indicates that in the United States 49 percent believe that torture is often or sometimes necessary, and only 25 percent are absolutely opposed to its use. Of those polled, 49 percent who identified themselves as Republicans sided with torture as sometimes justified. For Democrats this was 24 percent. The Pew study aside, among pundits accused of siding with torture is Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, while Rush Limbaugh accuses the Obama administration of watering down the definition of torture.

Apr 26  China celebrates the claim that GDP growth in the first quarter of 2009 was 6.1 percent and that the growth rate in industrial production has rebounded. At a conference between mainland and Taiwan officials happiness abounds with an agreement on investment from the mainland. The conference announces a "new era of peaceful development."

Apr 26  A small security force on an Italian cruise ship returns fire from Somali pirates and forces the pirates to withdraw. Elsewhere, in waters near Somalia,pirates seize a Yemeni freighter.

Apr 27  The tide is turning against the Somali pirates. A Yemeni forces storms the tanker seized yesterday, kills three of the pirates and takes the others prisoner.

Apr 27  Prince Charles warns of global warming, saying that humanity has "less than 100 months" to save the planet.

Apr 28  The tide for Somali pirates continues to go out. The Russians report that they have seized a pirate boat with 29 people on board.

Apr 29  The University of California has developed a camera that takes six million images per second. It is to be used in medical science.

Apr 29  China agrees to Taiwan becoming a member of the World Health Organization. In 1971, Taiwan lost its seat in the United Nations to China.

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