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Thirty things you didn't know about Angela Merkel

PM Angela MerkelBerlin, Aug. 12.─ Few citizens get to ask their leading politician a deeply personal question, but celebrities seem to stand a better chance. The magazine of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Munich-based daily, got some household names to pop one to the German chancellor Angela Merkel. And Mrs Merkel, while holidaying in Sulden in South Tyrol, seems to have found the time (after reading our memo on how to break up the euro), and the ready wit, to reply.

For those burning with curiosity about the rather reclusive but currently most influential woman in Europe, this could be essential reading. Here are a few tasters:


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Lack of true democracy leads to instability

Bangladesh: PM speaks at Int'l seminar on People's Empoweerment and Development

PM Sheikh HasinaDhaka, Bangladesh. Aug.6.─ Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday attributed the mass upsurges in different parts of the world to lack of participatory democracy and justice.

She observed that without true democracy, social stability and peace cannot be durable.

The premier was addressing the inaugural ceremony of an international seminar on People's Empowerment and Development at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the capital.


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China opens secret leadership conclave

Chinese President Hu JintaoBeijing, Aug. 5.─ The Chinese Communist party's top officials have convened a secretive conclave in the seaside town of Beidaihe to finalise plans to hand power to a new generation of leaders after the most serious crisis to hit the party in years.

President Hu Jintao and other top leaders arrived in the resort on Friday, according to three people familiar with the meeting. At the 18th party congress later this year, the party will unveil the slate of leaders who will run China for the next decade.

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The rule of law fundamental in advancing democracy

"Democracy certainly needs the rule of law but also that the rule of law finds legitimacy through democracy. The rule of law needs enforcement, but enforcement alone cannot uphold the rule of law. There needs also to be massive voluntary compliance, which is a by-product of citizens' democratic participation. While the link between democracy and development needs further investigation, one aspect is clear - that it is only through democracy that quality development can be achieved".─ Roland Rich, Executive Head, UN Democracy FundUN High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law

July 24.─ What is the relevance of democracy and sustainable development in connection with the rule of law? What are the linkages?

In view of the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the rule of law at the national and international levels that will take place on 24 September 2012, these questions were discussed in an informal discussion on "Linkages between the rule of law, democracy and sustainable development" held in April 2012 (photo).

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Chinese maritime big-stick diplomacy

Modern Chinese Navy DestroyerThe spectre of big-power rivalry spoils an ASEAN gathering

Phnom Penh, July 21.─ When the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sat down to a foreign ministers' meeting in the Cambodian capital last week, it hoped to chalk up progress towards a European Union-style economic block by 2015. By the time the meeting ended on July 13th, it looked almost as dysfunctional as the euro zone itself.

For the first time since ASEAN was founded 45 years ago, one of its meetings ended without a communiqué. No great loss there: such statements tend to be instantly forgettable. But the absence reflected a falling-out between Cambodia, chairing the proceedings, and members such as the Philippines and Vietnam. This, in turn, reflected what analysts say is a growing rift between ASEAN countries loyal to China, and those contesting territory with it in the South China Sea, a group that increasingly looks for support to America.

The acrimony was almost unprecedented in a group which, according to the Straits Times, a Singaporean newspaper, likes to resolve disputes "quietly amid the rustle of batik silks". Read more ...