Landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi sets Burmese nerves on edge

In a speech to euphoric supporters outside her National League for Democracy party headquaters in Rangoon, she warned supporters “must not upset the feelings of those on the other side” and should “act in a controlled way.”

Observers said there were real concern that her victory had been so devastating that President Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development Party is now “staring into the abyss” for the next elections in 2015. “It’s problematic,” said one official.

According to Aung San Suu Kyi‘s aides, the National League for Democracy won 43 of the 44 constituencies it contested and appears set to win the remaining one too.

The victory is now expected to accelerate moves to lift sanctions against Burma – the European Union will decide later this month – but concerns are growing that it may also leave President Thein Sein’s reform vulnerable to challenge from hardliners within the country’s military establishment.

Since he met Aung San Suu Kyi last August he has unveiled a series of unexpected reforms in rapid succession. He suspected work on an unpopular Chinese hydro-election dam project on the Irrawaddy, increased trade union rights, lifted censorship of the media, released key political prisoners and signed peace deals with several ethnic insurgency leaders.

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Shopping, Irish Style

Everyone seems to be in such a hurry to scream ‘racism’ these days. 

A customer asked, “In what aisle could I find the Irish sausage?” 

The clerk asks, “Are you Irish?” 

The guy, clearly offended, says, “Yes I am.. But let me ask you something. 

“If I had asked for Italian sausage, would you ask me if I was Italian? 

Or if I had asked for German Bratwurst, would you ask me if I was German? 

Or if I asked for a kosher hot dog would you ask me if I was Jewish? 

Or if I had asked for a Taco, would you ask if I was Mexican? 

Or if I asked for Polish sausage, would you ask if I was Polish?” 

The clerk says, “No, I probably wouldn’t.” 

The guy says, “Well then, because I asked for Irish sausage, why did you ask me if I’m Irish?” 

The clerk replied, “Because you’re in Halfords.”

We still don’t understand David Cameron, our serene but radical Prime Minister

It might seem blasphemous to compare Easter to the interval between rounds in a boxing match, but 10 Downing St is certainly grateful for the break. The last round went badly for David Cameron.

Although it is hardly unprecedented for a Government to be on poor terms with the opinion polls at this stage of a Parliament, it would be unwise for No 10 to regard its recent travails as a mere glitch. As it is unlikely that there will be a full-throated economic recovery between now and 2015, the Tories’ next general election campaign will have to emphasise economic competence and leadership. So it is not a good idea for the Government to fumble and stumble.

But there is a more basic difficulty. Most voters – and many of his own colleagues – still do not understand Mr Cameron. That might seem strange. He is not a complicated fellow; what you see is what you get. Yet few politicians’ characters have ever been so misread. His detractors insist that he is an insubstantial figure who uses his public relations training to conceal the extent to which he is trapped in his background. That is a travesty. The real Cameron is that most unusual phenomenon: a serene radical.

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David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband – focus groups won’t win you our love

So nobody likes anybody. Across the entire range of parties and political leaders, there is scarcely a scintilla of approval from the electorate. The liveliest competition of the moment seems to be the race to the bottom: who can actually manage to out-do all of his rivals to achieve the nadir of voter approbation? Will Dave on his poll approval rating of minus 30-something eventually overtake Ed, currently on minus 40-something, to arrive at the ultimate wooden spoon destination of having no supporters at all?

Even given the circumstances – economic crisis requiring unpleasant decisions, coalition government paralysed by stalemate, etc – this degree of unpopularity is startling. I can’t recall a time when the entire political class was in such uniform, unrelieved disrepute that even a possible change of government seemed to offer, so far as most people appear to believe, no expectation of relief.

This is odd, when you think of it. Never before in political history has more attention apparently been paid to the systematic study of public preferences. The observation, analysis and deconstruction of voters’ opinions are now pseudo-science with a body of theoretical texts and methodology. The operation of focus groups and the design of opinion polling, as w

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France election 2012: Islam takes centre stage in battle for France

Mounia Bassnaoui is living on the edge. Since the 23-year-old decided a year ago to wear an Islamic veil, cloaking her body and head but leaving her face visible, she has been spat at, chased down the road and endured shouts of “al Qaeda!” from gangs of youths in her Paris neighbourhood.

She lost her job as a junior accountant with the government, owing to French regulations banning religious clothing in state buildings. And, despite being born in France to Moroccan parents, she feels she may have to leave the country for Holland or the UK.

“It’s frightening at the moment,” she said. “France is the worst place in Europe to be a Muslim, because the government is so against us. And if Nicolas Sarkozy is re-elected, it can only get worse.”

But the sense of fear is, for many French voters, mutual. Last week French police launched the latest of a series of raids on suspected Islamic militants, detaining 10 people across the country in predawn arrests. Five Islamic fundamentalists were also kicked out of France or told not to return, and concerns over Islamic fundamentalism have made security one of the key talking points with two weeks to go in the presidential election campaign.

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North Korea threatens ‘merciless punishment’ as it readies rocket launch

Japan and South Korea have put their armed forces on standby in response to North Korea’s plans, prepared to shoot down the missile if it passes over their territory.

North Korea was this weekend believed to be at the first stage of launching the rocket, expected between April 12 and 16, claiming that it is part of the centenary celebrations for the birth of the state’s founder Kim Il Sung.

However, the United States, Japan and South Korea believe that in reality it will be a ballistic missile test in violation of UN resolutions.

It is against such a backdrop of rising regional tensions surrounding the Korean peninsula that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, will arrive in Japan on a two-day visit this week.

His arrival may, by good fortune, coincide with the blooming of the capital’s cherry blossoms, but flower appreciation will take a back seat to regional security issues.

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