February 26, 2010

The plot against Lady Ashton After Jose Manuel Baroso and Herman Van Rompuy, Catherine Ashton is now the European figure that everyone loves to hate. Only a few months into her much criticised mandate as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, can she hang on? The press laments a rudderless Europe. Just three months into her mandate as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and the questions begs as to whether Catherine Ashton is heading for the exit. “Simmering discontent” at her performance has “turned into outright criticism,” announces The Times. According to the London daily, this “sniping” has been initiated by France, which “wanted a strong minister of foreign affairs,” but is now spreading across the continent. European Union heads are incensed, it seems, that she failed to attend the European defence ministers’ meeting with the Nato Secretary General in Majorca on 25 February (she was at the inauguration of President Yanukovych in Ukraine instead). French Defence Minister Hervé Morin set the tone - “Isn’t it rich that this morning, to display the ties between Nato and the EU, we have the Nato Secretary General [Anders Fogh Rasmussen) here but not the High Representative for the first meeting since the Lisbon Treaty came into effect.” However, he was joined Dutch counterpart, Jack de Vries, who quipped on Twitter that “Madame Ashton was notable by her absence”, and also Spain’s Carme Chacón, who “regretted Ashton’s absence.”
Devastating Earthquake Strikes Chile A deadly, 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday, collapsing buildings, shattering major bridges and highways across a long swath of the country, and sending tsunami warnings along the entire Pacific basin. Chile’s TVN cable news channel reported 122 deaths less than 12 hours after the quake struck. The death toll was expected to rise, particularly around Concepción, Chile’s second-largest metropolitan area, which is roughly 70 miles from the quake’s center. There, cars were overturned, rubble fell into the cracked streets and a 15-story building collapsed, wire services and Chilean news media reported. In the capital of Santiago, about five hours to the north and about 200 miles from the epicenter, frightened residents felt the city shake for nearly 90 seconds. As more than two dozen significant aftershocks struck the region, President Michelle Bachelet declared a “state of catastrophe.” Major airports and seaports were reported out of operation across the central region, Chilean officials said. The Associated Press quoted Mrs. Bachelet as saying that a huge wave had swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Island, 410 miles off the Chilean coast, but there were no immediate reports of major damage there. Those reports bore out early fears that a major tsunami was on its way across the Pacific, and the first hemisphere-wide tsunami warning since 1964 was issued all along the basin, according to monitors in Hawaii.


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