WikiLeaks shrugged off the jailing of its editor-in-chief by publishing a new tranche of secret diplomatic cables yesterday, heaping more embarrassment on the US and some of its closest allies.
After Julian Assange spent his first night behind bars as a remand prisoner in London, his Web site revealed Washington had branded Australia’s ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd as a “mistake-prone control freak” and that the British government was relieved when its Scottish counterparts freed the Lockerbie bomber.
The pressure on WikiLeaks has been steadily mounting, with key sources of funding choked off and Assange having been refused bail.
However, after vowing that it would not be silenced, the site showed its ability to ruffle feathers was unimpaired with its latest revelations.
Rudd, now Australia’s foreign minister, tried to laugh off the confidential assessment by the US embassy in Canberra that he made foreign policy blunders.
Rudd frustrated colleagues by being a “control freak” who was “obsessed with managing the media cycle rather than engaging in collaborative decision making,” extracts of cables published by the Sydney Morning Herald said.
While he was prime minister, he also “deeply offended” Australia’s closest ally in 2008 by aggressively pushing for a meeting with then-president George W. Bush in Washington, only to cancel two days later, the papers showed.
Rudd said the US, not Assange, was to blame for the leak of cables, saying it had a problem with its diplomatic security.
“When you’ve got a quarter of a million cables pecking around out there, and on top of that you have people who have had access in the US system to these sorts of cables in excess of 2 million people, that’s where the core of the problem lies,” Rudd told commercial radio.
There were also potential red faces in Britain whose then Labour government publicly distanced itself from the decision by the devolved Scottish government to free the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi last year.
However, dispatches from the US embassy in Tripoli showed that Britain faced threats from Libya of “dire consequences” if al-Megrahi — who is suffering from cancer — died in a Scottish prison.
Among the threats were the cessation of all British commercial activity in Libya and demonstrations against British facilities.
The dispatches also showed the British ambassador in Tripoli “expressed relief” about al-Megrahi’s imminent release.
“They could have cut us off at the knees,” Vincent Fean, the British ambassador, is cited as saying.
And there were also revelations in connection with US ally Saudi Arabia, as cables painted a picture of a buzzing party scene inside princes’ mansions in Jeddah replete with alcohol, drugs and sex.
While Swedish authorities insist the rape case against Assange has nothing to do with WikiLeaks’ revelations, his detention in London added further pressure on the site as its sources of funding are being throttled.
Visa suspended all payments to WikiLeaks on Tuesday, the day after its rival MasterCard Worldwide took a similar step. The banking arm of the Swiss post office has also closed a WikiLeaks account set up by Assange.
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
Japan’s ruling party yesterday proposed the nation’s biggest-ever stimulus package of ￥60 trillion (US$554 billion) as the COVID-19 pandemic locks the economy in a recession. The sum includes ￥20 trillion in fiscal measures with private initiatives and other elements likely making up the rest, the proposal by the Liberal Democratic Party showed. More than ￥10 trillion, or the equivalent of a 5 percentage point cut in the sales tax rate, would be handed out to the public in a combination of cash, subsidies and coupons, the plan showed. The proposal puts an initial figure on a stimulus package that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Malaysian authorities have advised women to wear makeup, not to nag their husbands and speak with a cartoon character’s soothing voice during the virus lockdown, sparking a flood of mockery online. Like many countries, Malaysia has ordered all citizens to stay at home to stem the spread of COVID-19, which, as of yesterday, had killed at least 39,070 people globally. In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, the Malaysian Ministry of Women and Family Development issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18. One of the campaign posters depicted