Archive for March, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nuclear Energy, and the Issue of Transparency

If I find the time later this week, I will try to write more about the (Chinese-language) Taiwanese debate about nuclear energy – if there is such a debate. The (English-language) Taipei Times‘ coverage would suggest that there is one, involving academia, and politics. (A disclaimer: the linked post by Taiwan-based blogger Michael Fagan contains an allegation that Germany were being taken over by “lunacy”. A majority of people is indeed concerned about nuclear energy, and many of them expressed this by their vote on Sunday, which – I believe – should count as fairly normal behavior in a democracy.)

No small share of the debate within the Taipei Times appears to be contributed by foreigners, and, as seems fit in Taiwanese public life, in quite a zealous one, certainly on the part of Fagan and a critic of nuclear energy, Bruno Walther (click further  links from here to read more).

I became aware of Fagan’s blog in one of Echo Taiwan‘s commenting thread, where he raised questions about Tsai Ing-wen’s position on Taiwan’s nuclear plants.

It seems to me that not too many Japanese have asked their politicians or CEOs tough questions about the safety of nuclear power stations so far – if that is going to happen once the country’s life will have returned to a more normal mode remains to be seen. My impression is that Tepco so far hasn’t been used to account either to the public in general, or to the government in particular. One can’t easily claim that Fukushima had been under control during the past weeks. Nor would I suggest that Tepco’s CEOs had all the information they should have, about current events on the Fukushima-1 site.

As far as Germany is concerned, most people I know have always been uneasy with nuclear fuel. But the industry itself, and particularly the energy providers, have themselves done a lot to discredit this source of energy. The issue of fuel-rod disposal is mostly unresolved. And after each incident here, we’ve seen salami tactics when questions about the impacts were asked. Given that the externalities can be grave, and that – to my knowledge – no insurance company or syndicate would cover them, opponents of nuclear energy in this country are hardly to blame for distrusting the technology. I wouldn’t put their judgment into question – rather, I’d expect the industry to be prepared for an honest, transparent discussion.

If we can’t have that, we can’t afford nuclear energy.

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Related
Fangchenggang Nuclear Plant: Full Consideration, March 23, 2011
My take on Germany’s nuclear policy, comment on FOARP’s blog, March 16, 2011
Reactions to the Fukushima I Disaster, March 15, 2011
Tsai Ingwen: Democracy over Idolizaton, March 11, 2011

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Obituary: Andrew Hao Jinli, 1916 – 2011

Bishop Andrew Hao Jinli (郝進禮) of Xiwanzi (西湾子), northern Hebei province, died at Gonghui village church at the age of 95, on March 9, 2011, UCAN (Union of Catholic Asian News) reported one day later. Bishop Hao was faithful to the Pope, Vatican Radio noted in its obituary, which means that he was an “underground” bishop, not recognized by the CCP, which established the  Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (中国天主教爱国会) in 1957, under the Religious Affairs Bureau’s supervision.

The UCAN article’s last four paragraphs give a short account of Bishop Hao’s life.

Hao was born on November 30, 1916. Radio Veritas‘ Taiwan edition wrote last Tuesday that he didn’t live in Xiwanzi, but used to celebrate mass with some 2,000 faithful in Zhangbei County‘s Gonghui town (公会镇, referred to as “village” by the UCAN article quoted above) parish church. Gonghui was reportedly the place where he was sent for “reform through labor”, and where he worked as a parish priest after his release in 1981.

His funeral was held on March 17, Radio Veritas reported. The radio station also cited some statistics, according to which there are currently 35,500 Roman Catholics in the diocese of  Xiwanzi / Chongli County (崇礼县), with 20 priests, and 28 nuns.

Little appears to be known about Bishop Hao’s death and funeral, except that there was a priest at his bedside when he died. According to unnamed sources qoted by Radio Veritas, Hao had been refused hospital treatment, and access to Gonghui Town had been barred for people who wanted to pay a visit.

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Related
How Secular is the Chinese State, February 25, 2011
Science in Action: China’s Golden Vase of National Unity, December 26, 2010
We-Can-Stop-the-Music, October 20, 2008

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scientific: Smoking, Feelings, Desires, and Tibetan Culture

mask off

"When we put off our last mask, we will lose our face" (Wenn wir die letzte Maske ablegen, verlieren wir unser Gesicht), attributed to Hans Kudszus

China will reportedly put a ban on smoking in most public places (but spare workplaces).

Quoting a BBC report which says that a corresponding regulation shall come into effect on May 1, FOARP expresses doubts that it will really matter in daily life.

I agree. And if it did matter, the Chinese authorities wouldn’t have done themselves a favor. Let’s learn from this  anti-tobacco website:

Stressful situations can bring you back to being a slave to Nicotine. The real test was Joe’s first stressful situation. His mother had two heart attacks and three strokes within one year. Unable to cope with all the new added stress, Joe began to write Nic-the Habit,while along the bedside of his mother, who could no longer speak.

Smoking a cigarette was the last thing in his mind. The Tibetan culture taught Joe to be strong and to find the strength within to combat feelings or or desires that were destructive, such as smoking and over-eating.

I’m not familiar with the Tibetans’ smoking habits, but I do know the Han-Chinese habits, and the keywords in the above quote should be “feelings” and “desires”. I’ve heard a more blunt line in the past: “Smoking kills Feelings”. For sure, it adds to dampen them.

You see, so long as you inhale, you can’t speak. You’ll start coughing if you try. All the nasty things you might say otherwise, stuff like Let’s gather at Wangfujing for some happy window shopping today, will go unsaid.

And for that very reason, the Chinese authorities would be very ill-advised if they implemented the new regulation thoroughly*).

Cigarettes are handy tools of social management, and – all things taken together – they come with tax revenues, rather than costs for the state. They will continue to do their share in protecting the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. To this end, they will make Chinese netizens more tolerant of the complexities on the internet, for example – if you let them be.

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Note

*) Before you accuse this blogger of advocating the extinction of the Chinese nation by force-feeding them opium nicotine and tar, please be informed that this blogger smokes, too.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Huanqiu: Chinese Netizens should tolerate Censorship

The internet has become the main battlefield of public opinion management*), and it is here that the complicated nature of China within itself and in its external relations are concentrating, where historical and current complaints and demands are forced into one another, and from which to draw clear conclusions is not easy.

[Main link: http://opinion.huanqiu.com/roll/2011-03/1587315.html - this post is a translation of a Huanqiu Shibao editorial of March 25. Original title: "The Internet concentrates so much Complexity - 互联网浓缩了太多复杂性". Links added during translation - JR]

The cause for this is that the internet’s growth and design corresponds directly with the West’s political system and social ground, it amounts to the Western cultural shape being pasted into China, and it necessarily leads to friction with China’s social realities. This is a process of mutual influence and compromise, and occasional confrontation is inevitable.

Recently, the West has incessantly criticized the administration of the Chinese internet as “severe”, expecting that the internet would keep the “natural shape” of a Western environment. The West made that criticism against many non-Western countries, and some small countries abandoned their efforts of “localizing” the internet (一些小国放弃了互联网“本国化”的努力) which actually means that they accepted their own countries’ “natural transformation process” by Western politics and culture.

China is the most likely country to connect to the international internet, but to rival, at the same time, the “Western authority”  hidden in the internet. China’s strength and opening puts both China and the international internet into  a position where they need each other, and complete confrontation and the domination of one side over the other are unthinkable. A fusion, even if with frictions and confrontations, is the path to follow.

The internet brought China an abundance of advantages, and that it grew so rapidly in China demonstrates that Chinese and Western societies have much in common, much more than people believed in the past. But the internet demand that China should, in the twinkling of an eye, change the things which makes its society different from Western societies aren’t feasible. Some rules of the international internet are bound to be changed. This is just natural, it is the innate requirement for the safety of China’s society, but this has been politicized within the international public opinion (这是再自然不过的事情,是中国社会安全的本能要求,但它在国际舆论中被政治化了)**).  In fact, the internet’s own rules aren’t fully implemented in Western countries either. All countries will pursue certain “revisionist policies” in accordance with their countries’ particular situations, and carry out certain supervisions and administration.

China’s biggest problem is that because of channels of social expression which weren’t uninhibited in the past, the internet suddenly aggregated a bulk of opinions and grievances, fractured the social composure of the past, and compelled society to take steps concerning the issue of democracy hastily. Also, the internet, and especially Weibo, provided a convenient channel to disseminate rumors and to assemble illegal street politics***) (街头政治) which constitute immediate disturbances to China’s social stability.

Over the past few years, Chinese society has shown a strong ability to adapt,  and it showed resilience. Some resolute regulatory measures on the internet took place at certain times in areas where turbulences occured. These temporary measures aren’t deemed “ideal” by anyone, but are the price of China connecting to the internet, and to find methods which can replace these crude measures belong to the most important  and also most urgent tasks of Chinese social administration (中国社会治理最重要、也最急迫的几个课题之一).

China needs the internet; it also needs social stability, and the two [needs] have much more in common, than frictions. We must expand the two [needs'] common ground, but on the other hand, we can’t expect to reconcile these  two if the West dominates the internet technology.

China’s internet users should understand the country’s difficult position, faced because of cultural weaknesses (文化弱势), and from a height [perspective] of integral national interest (从民族整体利益的高度), they should tolerate supervision and administration. China’s cultural elites should do more communication and explanatory work between supervisional and administrative levels, and at least, their words and deeds shouldn’t aggravate society’s misunderstandings of the internet’s control and supervision.

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Two of the latest comments

“The article explains it very clearly – in the past, there were complaints, but no channels. Now that there is a channel, you see all the nationwide complaints at once (文章解释的很清楚,以前即使有诉求,但没渠道,现在有渠道了,一看原来全国人民都有诉求).” [2011-03-26 09:49]

“If you believe you are weak, what’s the first step? It’s to learn, to take a leaf out of someone elses’s book, and to discover other peoples’ strengths. But that is something you can’t do without an open attitude. (如果认为自己是弱势,那么第一步是什么?是去学习,去模仿,去发现别人的强。这是没要有开放的心态就做不到的。)” [2011-03-26 12:47]

More Huanqiu Comments / Updates

The internet is a double-edged sword which praises you at times, but also curses you; protects you at times, but also unmasks you; which helps accomplishments at times, but also ruins you! (互联网是把双刃剑,歌颂了你,也诅咒了你,保护了你,也揭露了你,成全了你,也毁灭了你!) [2011-03-27 09:30]

The internet is a product of human technological development and application, and that’s a natural thing. We, however, are so anxious, discuss things in such a complicated way, and are struck with horror. That is a big problem in itself (我们却有这么多担心,谈得这么复杂,惊心动魄,这本身就是一个很大的问题。).  [2011-03-27 11:46]

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Notes

H/t to the China Digital Times which brought its readers’ attention to the article’s conclusion, i. e. its last paragraph.

*) Besides Chinese opinion management (中国舆论管), there is also social management, a concept which needed to be improved, according to party and state chairman Hu Jintao on February 19, the improved implementation of which was the topic of a speech by Zhou Yongkang to local cadres assembled in Beijing on February 20, and to which Wu Bangguo, chairman and party secretary of the National People’s Congress’ standing committee, returned on March 10.

**) Mark Anthony Jones died more than two years ago. I sometimes feel tempted to translate 舆论 (yúlùn, translated here as public opinion) as “discourse”, a term he went with through thick and thin, even if its usefulness was occasionally challenged.

***) The Dictall dictionary, apparently run by sina.com, provides  translations, sample sentences, and context, such as these:
街头政治 — 1. Since the 1990s,the “color revolution” broke out successively in Georgia,Ukraine,and Kyrgyzstan under the influence of the United States to expand its hegemony to Asia-Europe strategic space in terms of ‘promoting democracy’ and ‘street politics’ and consequently,they established ‘pro-US governments’.
20世纪90年代以来,美国为了扩大自己的霸权,以 `推进民主’ 为战略口号,利用 `街头政治’ 的形式,使格鲁吉亚、乌克兰、吉尔吉斯斯坦等相继爆发了`颜色革命’,成功的建立了`亲美’ 政权’。

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Related
How Chinese Media become Themselves again, March 25, 2011

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Friday, March 25, 2011

How Chinese Media become Themselves again

Schizophrenic no more: the Little Dragon's Exhilarating Self-Help Emancipation.

Schizophrenic no more: the Little Dragon's Exhilarating Self-Help Emancipation.

The “Global Times” (GT) had  originally set out to be more worldly-wise than Chinese publications for a domestic readership – after all, propaganda that is meant to convince foreigners has to be more subtle than, say, the Chinese-language edition of People’s Daily. That, anyway, would correspond with the CCP’s logic, which tries to make people in- and outside China believe that Chinese  citizens are too innocent to look at the world without strong, protective ideological sunglasses.

In their beginnings, they even mentioned June 4, 1989 at the GT. It seemed to be a reasonably safe thing to do, as long as this was only published in English.

Back then, JR read in that paper that the Global Times English edition  wanted to show

how China is closely connected to global affairs, and at the same time presenting the complexity and fascination of China to the world.

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1. A GT Editorial about the Internet’s “Western Cultural Pattern”

(March 25, 2011)

But under the propaganda department’s newly adjusted and still correct political guidance, the GT is now exploring the limits of China’s connections to global affairs:

The Internet has brought so many benefits for China. Its rapid growth here proves that Chinese and Western societies share much more in common than previously imagined.

However, the Internet often calls for instant change in China, to narrow the gap between Chinese and Western societies. This is impractical, and the revision of some Internet rules inevitably take place. This is a natural and nearly instinctive need based on China’s social reality. However, this need has often become politicized.

I’m not sure if the “politicization” of “this need” is blamed on foreigners, if it is meant in a neutral way (just a surprising natural phenomenon), or if politicization refers to the CCP – the party which, after all, sees everything in a political light. The article’s following paragraphs seem to provide no clues either.

Nor does the second paragraph make much sense:

Stemming from Western society, the Internet has a Western cultural pattern that China has copied thoroughly. Friction and maladjustment inevitably take place as China syncs up with the Internet. This is bound to be a process of mutual change and compromise.

Without some scientific explanations, this introduction is useless. After all, the internet is just the internet. It isn’t particularly Western or Chinese. An automobile isn’t particularly Western or Chinese, either. Only its brand makes a car somewhat more sortable. But the internet has no brand. Politicized, eh?

JR isn’t going to conduct a scientific survey of the GT’s past nine-hundred or so editorials – what strikes him is that GT articles now seem to care much more about expressing the CCP’s political volition, than about selling the consequences of such volition to foreigners.

In JR’s view, this actually makes the GT a much more informative read than what it had previously been. Its new approach could help foreigners to understand China better, just as Radio Beijing, before the 1990s, resembled domestic media coverage and propaganda more closely than it did in more recent years, under the name China Radio International (CRI). Radio Beijing (or Radio Peking, even earlier) gave foreigners a more accurate picture of how Chinese domestic media address their audience.

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2. A GT Editorial about “Keeping High Public Satisfaction”

(March 24, 2011)

The editorial of Thursday, i. e. one day earlier than the one referred to above, could be translated into Chinese and then be republished by domestic papers. Chinese readers would hardly notice that it had originally been written for foreign readers.

Compare the article with “Reality you can Believe in” – a translation from the GT’s Chinese edition (Huanqiu Shibao) -, for example. It could be the same author, addressing exactly the same readership.

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3. A GT Editorial about “Odyssey Dawn”

(March 23, 2011)

Libya, pain, chaos, evident realities, and Western attempts to deceive China. Who needs to teach foreign readers about Western ulterior motives? Isn’t this carrying coals to Newcastle? After all, we, the foreign readers ourselves, are exactly those wretched people who want to deceive the gullible Chinese netizens and shortwave listeners, aren’t we? So why should we want to read a GT rehash of our own schemes?

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Don’t get JR wrong. The “Global Times” is doing something it should have done from the beginning, to be really useful to its foreign readers. It’s beginning to work as a bridge between the Chinese “public” (as it functions in the country’s domestic media), and the outside world. It could almost become a competitor to JR’s Beautiful (Bridge) Blog, with Chinese articles translated – or transposed – into English. The GT won’t even have to hire foreigners anymore.

GT could make itself useful, if it continues on this path, if it continues to give us foreigners a more authentic idea of how the Chinese mass media view the world. But then again, maybe JR’s taste is so weird that many other GT readers will feel differently.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Libya: the Reporter in the Rye

Qiu Yongzheng (邱永峥), senior war correspondent (资深记者) in Libya for Huanqiu Shibao (the reporter in the rye, pictured at the top left of his Huanqiu blog mainpage, observing the war from a botanic harbor), has found that many media and websites were using his articles and photos without asking his permission. He therefore re-iterates that articles and photos used in his blog are his own original works, and that without his permission, none of those may be reproduced or published.

[Update, Oct 27, 2011: the blog with the photo apparently doesn't exist anymore. Now defunct link: http://blog.huanqiu.com/?uid-121921-action-viewspace-itemid-2005244. Please find a screenshot below]

Reporter in the Rye

Reporter in the Rye

In a blog entry of Thursday he wrote:

US military explained an American F-15E jet’s crash with “mechanical failure” (机械故障), but the reporter [i. e. Qiu] believes that the armed forces of Libya’s government are probably capable of shooting down American warplanes (记者认为利比亚政府军应该具有击落美国战机的可能性). Earlier, the reporter saw a group of destroyed tanks while on the road, but without loss of their radar equipment. Since they were equipped with air defense radar, the Libyan government’s more advanced troops (更精锐的部队) were certainly using air defense weapons.

To protect their tank units, Libya’s government troops equipped many of them with former Soviet-made air-defense missiles. These can be taken away and quite possibly be launched against US warplanes from hidden places. But this conclusion is only a guess, and has not been confirmed.

Commenter Sweet Song (甜歌) expressed his respect for Qiu’s war reporting spirits today (我对你战地报道精神表示敬意!希望能看到更精彩的前方报到,同时祝你平安!), and wished him peace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fangchenggang Nuclear Plant: Full Consideration

 

Fangchenggang Location, Wikimedia Commons - click picture for source

Fangchenggang Location, Wikimedia Commons - click picture for source

[Main Link: chinanews.com via Enorth, Tianjin]

The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is a project of Guangxi Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Group (广西防城港核电有限公司), a joint venture between China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. (CGNPC, 广东核电集团有限公司) and Guangxi Investment Group (广西投资集团有限公司), and co-funded by a syndicate of Chinese banks and financial institutions, according to world nuclear news (wnn, London). CGNPC’s stake is reportedly 61 percent, and Guangxi Investment Group’s at 39 percent respectively. The National Development and Reform Commission (国家发展和改革委员会) approved construction in summer 2010, according to wnn’s report, which also reported that the project’s total investment was  expected somewhere near 70 billion yuan by August last year. The current first phase of construction appears to require much less investment:

The cost of constructing Phase I is 25 billion yuan ($3.7 billion). Some 87% of the equipment to be used in the Phase I units is expected to be sourced from Chinese suppliers. The first unit is scheduled to begin operating in 2015, while the second will start up in 2016.

Guangxi Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Group told a Xinhua [update, June 9, 2011: or a China News / 中新网 - JR] reporter on Wednesday that the power plant’s construction won’t be affected by the current Fukushima nuclear power plant accident (福岛核电站事故), and that there would be no delays in the project. The plant is scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2015, according to the article. Addressing possible concerns, the article continues:

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region’s Development and Reform Commission officials revealed that after the Fukushima accident, the state council had conducted [correction: rather than conducted, it reads  "put forward" or "advanced", (提出) - JR, 2011-03-24] a comprehensive investigation of the [Fangchenggang] nuclear facilities, strengthened safety management of the facilities, reviewed the site, strictly examined and approved the requirements on new projects. The Fangchenggang nuclear power project was fully in accordance with these requirements, and by own initiative, another inspection had been carried out after the Fukushima matter, to guarantee that there was no danger of anything going wrong (万无一失, wàn wú yī shī).

Project staff is quoted with more technical remarks, such as that the Fangchenggang plant is based on more advanced technology than Fukushima I [Fukushima I had first been commissioned in 1971, according to Wikipedia - JR].

Fangchenggang nuclear power plant had said that various factors were being taken into account to guarantee safety.

Full consideration of earthquakes and other natural disasters’ influence had been given to the choice of location, in the fold of Qinzhou, which was an area with the earth’s crust being comparatively stable; also considered had been  plane crashes, external explosions, tornados (龙卷风), etc.. Large-scale tsunamis also weren’t to be expected, but for safety reasons, tsunamis (海啸, hǎi xiào) and other waves due to storms had still been factored into the design. The last factor mentioned is the securing of electricity supplies to the plant’s safetey facilities in emergency situations.

According to the company, contingency and emergency plans had also been devised, with exclusion zones of five, ten, and more kilometers, equipment for such cases would be  ready to hand, and emergency drills would be conducted regularly to ensure that the public would be evacuated in time, in case of an accident.

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Related
Fangchenggang article by Wikipedia
Reactions to the Fukushima I Disaster, March 15, 2011
Alstom press release, March 2, 2011
Mitsubishi  press release, Nov 17, 2010
To start by 2014, China Daily, Dec 24, 2009

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Germany’s Abstention on Libya: Well, I Never!

“I can understand foreign minister Guido Westerwelle’s position”

Sigmar Gabriel,  Social Democratic Party (SPD) chairman, as quoted by German weekly Die Zeit on Friday.

“[This looks] as if  Germany was kowtowing to that oil-goodfella.”

Sigmar Gabriel, in an interview on Sunday, quoted by Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany)

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Survey quoted by Süddeutsche Zeitung last Wednesday -nearly 90 percent of German public supportive of federal government’s position.

EMNID survey for BILD-Zeitung:
“62 percent support action against Gaddafi.”
“65 percent oppose German military involvement.”

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Spiegel Online: Mr. Cohn-Bendit, do you understand your party’s position on Libya?

Cohn-Bendit: No, I don’t. But I don’t understand the other political parties in the Bundestag [German federal parliament] either.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the European-Greens-European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, in an interview published today.

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“Despite the risks associated with a no-fly zone, Germany should have voted on the side of its European partners like France and Great Britain.” [...] I am pleased by the (Security Council) decision and I sincerely hope that it hasn’t come too late.”

Cem Özdemir, co-leader of the German Greens, in an interview with Spiegel Online on Friday.

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“It’s a shame that the federal government abstained.”

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, former minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (Social Democrat)

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“Understandable and comprehensible.” “Doubts that the airstrikes will help the Libyan people are justifiable.”

Former foreign minister and social democratic floor leader (federal parliament) Frank Walter Steinmeier (also Westerwelle’s predecessor as foreign minister)

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“Germany can forget about a permanent UN security council seat. But what is worse is that pseudo-political signal from the federal government.”

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in the same Spiegel-Online interview as quoted from in para 3. “Pseudo-political” is meant to criticize the federl government’s alleged domestic policy considerations.

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