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Russia to approve nuclear treaty with US

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 5:57 am

 Russia was due Friday to give initial approval to a historic nuclear arms pact with the United States that opens the way for the former Cold War foes’ cooperation on everything from Afghanistan to Iran.


The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that was passed after a months-long political battle by the US Senate on Wednesday has been the centerpiece of Washington’s efforts to “reset” lagging relations with Moscow.


The agreement slashes the two sides’ nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads per side and leaves each country with no more than 800 launchers and bombers.


But besides also restoring vital inspections the treaty also goes a long way toward easing Russia’s worries that it will soon begin losing nuclear parity with the United States — a point of national pride since the Soviet era.

US President Barack Obama leaves the White House.

The State Duma lower house of parliament was scheduled to hold the first of three required votes on the treaty in its final session of the year Friday.


But a top ruling party member said that no emergency sessions would be held next week and that final passage was not expected until lawmakers returned from their New Year’s vacations on January 11.


“Further work on the ratification bill will continue once the Duma resumes its work in January,” news agencies quoted the Duma’s foreign affairs committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev as saying.


Yet the timing glitch seemed of secondary importance as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev phoned US President Barack Obama in the wake of the Senate vote, according to a statement from Obama’s office Thursday.


“President Medvedev congratulated President Obama on the Senate’s approval of the new START Treaty, and the two leaders agreed that this was an historic event for both countries and for US-Russia relations,” said the White House statement.


Pro-Kremlin deputies also took turns hailing the agreement as an important signal that relations between the two one-time rivals were finally getting back on track.


“There are times when our interests do not contradict each other. This is precisely one of those times,” said the upper chamber’s foreign affairs committee chairman Mikhail Margelov.


“We are standing side by side on this one without stepping on each other’s toes.”


Obama and Medvedev had signed the agreement in April as part of a renewed US commitment to win both Russia’s trust and cooperation in the handling of pressing international disputes.


The treaty works in Moscow’s favour because it slashes the United States’ nuclear arsenal to a size that Russia can keep up with despite its financial difficulties and its need to take old nuclear warheads out of commission.


But it also suits the United States because it removes a major roadblock in the two sides’ relations and paves the way for Russia joining international efforts to halt the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.


Russia’s assistance is also important in transporting support equipment for the NATO-led campaign in Afghanistan and deputies said that all types of cooperation were possible now that the Senate had passed the pact.


“Ratification will have a positive effect on all areas of our bilateral cooperation — especially Afghanistan and Iran,” ruling United Russia party deputy Ruslan Kondratov said in comments posted on the party’s website.


Yet some lawmakers are uneasy about the non-binding amendments that US senators attached to the so-called “resolution of ratification” that was aimed at soothe sceptical Republicans’ worries about the pact.

Duma deputies were expected to add their own non-binding resolutions to the text that did not change the essence of the treaty but underscored Russia’s displeasure with US plans to deploy a new missile defence system in Europe.

The disputed US amendments are already a part of the treaty and several lawmakers said they understood that the additions were primarily meant for US audiences.

“This is all a part of a grand chess game … that Obama is playing home,” Margelov said.

Source: SGGP

Japan to approve record budget: reports

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 5:56 am

 The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is on Friday expected to approve a record budget of 92.40 trillion yen (1.11 trillion dollars) for fiscal 2011, according to local media reports.

The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (pictured) is on Friday expected to approve a record budget of 92.40 trillion yen (1.11 trillion US dollars) for fiscal 2011, according to local media reports

The budget is expected to be slightly larger than the initial budget for 2010, which stood at 92.30 trillion yen, Jiji Press and Kyodo News said.


The budget will include more than 44 trillion yen from issuing new government bonds, a second straight year that bonds have exceeded tax revenue as a source of income, the reports said.


The draft budget, which covers the financial year starting in April, was expected to be approved at a special cabinet meeting later on Friday.


Kan took office in June promising to slash spending and work towards cutting Japan’s massive public debt, which accounts for nearly 200 percent of gross domestic product, but the state of the economy has complicated his task.

Source: SGGP

US regulators approve ‘net neutrality’ rules

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:34 am

WASHINGTON, Dec 21, 2010 (AFP) – US telecom regulators, in a vote split on party lines, approved rules Tuesday that supporters said are needed to ensure an open Internet but opponents decried as unnecessary government intervention.


The five-member Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed to the rules aimed at safeguarding “network neutrality,” the principle that lawful Web traffic should be treated equally, by a 3-2 vote at an open meeting here.


The three Democrats on the panel voted in favor of the rules, which are likely to face legal challenges and Republican opposition in Congress, while the two Republicans voted against them.


“Our action will advance our goal of having America’s broadband networks be the freest and fastest in the world,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.


The FCC’s first-ever “net neutrality” rules met with a mixed reaction, with public interest groups and some Democrats saying they did not go far enough and Republicans condemning them as government meddling in the private sector.


President Barack Obama said the FCC move “will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech.”


Representative John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio who is slated to become speaker when the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January, said “the new House majority will work to reverse this unnecessary and harmful federal government power grab.”


The rules are a balancing act by the FCC between support for consumers and the cable and telephone companies that are the US Internet Service Providers.


One controversial rule saw the FCC endorse taking a different approach to fixed broadband and mobile broadband, giving wireless providers greater freedom to manage their networks because of spectrum issues.


Under the new rules, both fixed and mobile broadband providers are allowed to conduct “reasonable network management.”


The rules would prevent fixed broadband providers from blocking lawful content, applications or services, providing their own video content at a faster speed, for example, than that of a rival.


Wireless providers may not block access to lawful websites or applications that compete directly with their own voice or video telephony services but they could block other applications or services.


Fixed broadband providers can also charge consumers according to usage, a metered pricing practice already used by some wireless carriers.


Craig Aaron, managing director of public interest group Free Press, said the rules “don’t do enough to stop the phone and cable companies from dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes, and they fail to protect wireless users from discrimination.


“No longer can you get to the same Internet via your mobile device as you can via your laptop,” Aaron said.


Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, said “net neutrality” is the “most important free speech issue of our time” and the rules fall “far short.”


“Mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless would be able to shut off your access to content or applications for any reason,” he said. “For instance, Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn’t nearly as good.”


Verizon said it was “deeply concerned” by the split FCC vote.


“The FCC appears to assert broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband wireline and wireless networks and the Internet itself,” it said. “This assertion of authority without solid statutory underpinnings will yield continued uncertainty for industry, innovators, and investors.”


Michael Copps, one of the Democrats on the FCC, expressed regret that the rules — while discouraging — did not explicitly ban “paid prioritization,” the practice of a company paying for the faster delivery of its own content.


Robert McDowell, one of the Republican commissioners, described the vote as one of the darkest days in recent FCC history” and said it would open the door to “a global Internet regulatory pandemic.”


“The courts will easily sink it,” McDowell predicted.


“Nothing is broken in the Internet access market that needs fixing. Existing law and Internet structures provide ample protection to consumers,” he said.


The FCC drafted the rules after suffering a legal setback in April when a court ruled that it had not been granted the authority by Congress to regulate the network management practices of Internet service providers.

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Source: SGGP