News from Abroad

The Far East

  • Military tension on the Korean peninsula rose Thursday after North Korea threatened to attack any South Korean ships entering its waters and Seoul held anti-submarine drills in response to the March sinking of a navy vessel blamed on Pyongyang. Separately, the chief U.S. military commander in South Korea criticized the North over the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in which 46 sailors died, telling the communist country to stop its aggressive actions. North Korean reaction was swift. The military declared it would scrap accords with the South designed to prevent armed clashes at their maritime border, including the cutting of a military hot line, and warned of “prompt physical strikes” if any South Korean ships enter what the North says are its waters in a disputed area off the west coast of the peninsula. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100527/D9FVAHJO0.html
  • Graphic pictures from Bangkok last week told the grim story of bloodshed, death and destruction, of democracy challenged and mortally wounded. But they cannot convey the smell of burning, the terror of chaos in the center of a supposedly civilized modern capital city, or the human, moral and political decay that have brought prospering, smiling Thailand to the brink of anarchy. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20100526a1.html
  • Barring any unforeseen events or extra-legal surprises over the coming days and weeks, Sen. Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Cojuangco Aquino III of the Liberal Party will likely be proclaimed the next president of the Republic of the Philippines. Noynoy topped the exit polls and unofficial canvassing of the May 10 elections and, based on tallied results, he received more than 12 million votes, with the next candidate trailing him by about 5 million votes. Noynoy’s apparent victory is historic for two reasons—he’s the first Philippine president to win an automated election and the first bachelor president. But it could also be a historic presidency for another reason—it could be the country’s last. http://the-diplomat.com/2010/05/26/the-last-philippine-president/
  • Guam is resisting a US military buildup, Guam is the southern-most island in the Northern Mariana chain that also includes Rota, Tinian and Saipan. It is the homeland of indigenous Chamorro people whose ancestors first came to the islands nearly 4,000 years ago. Formed from two volcanoes, Guam’s rocky core now constitutes an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for the United States military in the words of Brigadier General Douglas H Owens, a former commanding officer of Guam’s Andersen air force base. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/LE14Dh01.html
  • Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced on Monday that he would renege on his campaign promise to renegotiate the move of a controversial US airbase off the island of Okinawa. Hatoyama’s announcement was greeted with outrage on Okinawa, as residents met his arrival on the island on Sunday with angry protests and signs denouncing the decision to go through with the rebasing plan, which he had promised to renegotiate. Prior to taking office in September 2009, Hatoyama’s election platform included a call for re-examining Japan’s ties with the US, with a particular focus on the 50,000 US military personnel based in Japan. http://atimes.com/atimes/Japan/LE26Dh01.html

Continental Affairs

  • This is the country where European enthusiasm has been easiest to find and where, since the war, European interests have taken precedence over nationalist ones. But, according to Schreiber, Germans feel increasingly torn over Europe. “We always knew in our heart of hearts that the euro would never be as solid as our deutschmark, but we gave up our beloved currency, which was actually central to our identity, because we believed in the European project so fervently,” she says. Now there is talk, albeit based on blog gossip and a tabloid desire to whip up a good tale, of a return of the mark. Some even claim that secret supplies of the defunct currency – the strength of which was seen as a legacy of the sweat and tears that Germans spent to build up their ruined economy after the war – are being printed in secret underground locations. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/23/euro-crisis-dispatch-berlin-mark
  • Several dozen skinheads attacked gay rights supporters Saturday, wounding at least two people and forcing the cancellation of parade through the centre of the Slovak capital, media reported. Around 1,000 people had gathered in the centre of Bratislava for the Rainbow Pride parade when some 80 skinheads began to hurl stones and smokebombs at the participants, despite a large police presence. http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.7cbf07723ab331f34b71f534e9cc35a3.d21&show_article=1
  • Dozens of American soldiers and a battery of Patriot missiles have arrived in Poland, where they will spend the next two years teaching the Polish military to operate the advanced guided missile system at a base just a few miles (kilometers) from the Russian border. The mission amounts to the most significant deployment ever of U.S. forces to Poland, which once was behind the Iron Curtain but is now an enthusiastic member of NATO. Though Russia had expressed its strong opposition to having a U.S. military installation close to its border, there was no initial reaction from Moscow to the arrival of the missiles — perhaps an indication that it wants to play down the matter after failing to stop the deployment. http://www.realclearworld.com/news/ap/international/2010/May/24/us_deploys_missiles_to_poland_to_train_nato_ally.html
  • A schoolboy threw a plastic bottle at France’s President on Tuesday during a visit to discuss violence in French schools, but failed to hit his target. A bodyguard came between Sarkozy and the water bottle http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100525/wl_afp/francepoliticseducation_20100525120945
  • MARINE LE PEN tried her best to flee her father and politics, she says, oppressed by the infamy of her inheritance, which followed her everywhere. But now she is widely expected to succeed Jean-Marie Le Pen as leader of the National Front, the persistent far-right party preaching French purity and exceptionalism, opposing immigration and the European Union, and which she wants to bring into the media age. More and more, she is the face of the party in television debates and national campaigning. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/22/world/europe/22lepen.html?adxnnl=1&ref=global-home&adxnnlx=1274536821-GnHti/IRD2ZWmiq/WA8lmA
  • A second, much larger volcano in Iceland is showing signs that it may be about to erupt, scientists have warned. Since the start of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which caused cancellations of thousands of flights in Europe because of a giant ash cloud, there has been much speculation about neighboring Katla. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37371442/ns/world_news-europe
  • Silvio Berlusconi’s cabinet is due to meet tonight to approve an ambitious package of deficit-cutting measures which, his closest aide said, was designed to save Italy going the same way as Greece. The government’s spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti, said a draft bill contained measures to cut spending and boost revenue totalling €24bn (£20.5bn) over the next two years. But the cabinet will not finalise the bill until meetings have been conducted between government representatives and delegations from local government, trade unions and employers’ associations. Using some of the most apocalyptic language heard from a European government representative since the crisis began, Berlusconi’s right-hand man, Gianni Letta, said the package included “very heavy, very tough sacrifices” to “save our country from the Greece risk”. He noted that other countries had implemented similar cuts “in the desperate, but I hope successful, attempt to dispel an epoch-making crisis and save the euro”.http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/may/25/italy-slash-deficit-avoid-greece-crisis
  • CiU leader Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida told parliament Zapatero should call early elections next year. “The problem is you and your government,” he told Zapatero. If Thursday’s bill had been be defeated, the government’s plans to get its budget deficit under control would have been thrown into disarray, potentially dismaying credit markets by raising concerns the euro zone’s fourth largest economy was fiscally unsustainable.The conservative opposition Popular Party (PP) is well ahead in opinion polls.”This law is improvised, insufficient and unjust,” PP leader Mariano Rajoy told parliament. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64Q2AW20100527

It’s not Bob Marley’s Funky Kingston anymore

  • A state of emergency was declared in certain areas of Kingston, Jamaica on Sunday, as violence broke out over the extradition of accused drug lord and local hero Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Coke is the alleged head of the “Shower Posse,” a gang that has committed scores of drug-related murders in both Jamaica and the United States since the 1980s. Washington is seeking the extradition of Coke based on charges lodged in the U.S. for trafficking in drugs and weapons. The original request for extradition was made more than nine months ago, but until very recently Prime Minister Bruce Golding and his party, the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), had dragged their feet when it came to handing Coke over to U.S. authorities. When Golding, pressured by Washington, reluctantly changed his mind and agreed to Coke’s extradition; residents of the JLP-controlled Kingston neighborhood Tivoli Gardens, Coke’s power base, exploded in protest. http://www.coha.org/jamaica-different-drug-war-different-strategy/
  • MONDAY was the Labour Day public holiday in Jamaica, but nobody had much fun. Five days after the government announced it would extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke, an alleged gang leader, to America on drugs and arms trafficking charges, the long-awaited clash between his supporters and the state began. Gunmen attacked police stations across Kingston and St. Andrew, the capital and its suburbs, and set one ablaze. Stores have seen waves of panic buying, and a wholesale warehouse was looted. In response, the government of Bruce Golding, who represents Mr Coke’s Tivoli Gardens section of western Kingston in Parliament, declared a state of emergency and sent 1,000 police and soldiers to search for him house by house. So far, three of them have been killed. Fighting has spread to other Kingston slums. http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2010/05/organised_crime_jamaica
  • Jamaica’s security forces clashed with masked gunmen allied with a drug kingpin for a second day Monday as an intensifying multi-front battle against gangs spread to volatile slums outside the capital. Police and soldiers came under heavy fire in the West Kingston stronghold of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who is trying to avoid extradition to the U.S. on drug charges Military helicopters with mounted guns buzzed above the impoverished area between plumes of black smoke. West Kingston, which includes the Trenchtown slum where reggae superstar Bob Marley was raised, is the epicenter of the violence. But on Monday, security forces were also under attack in areas outside that patchwork of gritty slums in the capital on Jamaica’s southeastern coast, far from the virtually crime-free tourist resorts on the north shore. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100524/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/cb_jamaica_slum_standoff_12

South of the Border

  • Mexican federal police have arrested the mayor of the resort city of Cancun on drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime charges, the latest blow to 2010 state and local elections already marred by violence and allegations of drug cartel involvement. Gregorio Sanchez, who took a leave of absence from the Cancun mayoral post to run for governor of the Caribbean coastal state of Quintana Roo, was taken into custody Tuesday at Cancun’s international airport after arriving on a flight from Mexico City. http://www.realclearworld.com/news/ap/international/2010/May/26/mexico_arrest_cancun_mayor_on_drug_charges.html
  • Hugo Chavez has been keeping a relatively low profile of late — there have been no grand world tours, no fiery speeches at the United Nations. The Obama administration, which once promised to “engage” the Venezuelan caudillo, is instead quietly shunning him. There’s a simple reason for this: the implosion of Chavez’s self-styled “Bolivarian socialism” is accelerating. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/05/hugo_chavezs_implosion_continu.html
  • Mexican President Felipe Calderon implored a joint session of Congress on Thursday to ban assault weapons that are showing up in his country in great numbers, and he also denounced Arizona’s strict new immigration law. Winding up a two-day visit to Washington, Calderon said that his security forces were seizing tens of thousands of powerful guns that they have traced to the United States. Calderon said the U.S. needed to “regulate the sale of these weapons in the right way.” http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-mexico-summit-20100521,0,5946667.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_m

The Great Game

  • Insurgents firing rockets, mortars and automatic weapons launched a ground assault Saturday against NATO’s biggest base in southern Afghanistan, wounding several coalition troops and civilian employees in the second such attack on a major military installation this week, officials said.  A Canadian Press news agency report from the Kandahar Air Field said artillery and machine gun fire reverberated through the base, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Kabul, several hours after the attack began. Militants unleashed rockets and mortars about 8 p.m. (15:30 GMT) and then tried unsuccessfully to storm the northern perimeter, officials said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the assault – the third major attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan in six days – but the Kandahar area is a Taliban stronghold.  On Tuesday, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy in the capital, killing 18 people including six NATO service members including five Americans and a Canadian. The next day, dozens of Taliban militants attacked the main U.S. military base – Bagram Air Field – killing an American contractor in fighting that lasted more than eight hours. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100522/D9FS4F8G0.html
  • If Russia does not leave the North Caucasus, one of three scenarios will occur:
    • A third war in the North Caucasus will break out.
    • Russia will pour an endless stream of money into the North Caucasus, while extremists extort as much as half of the funds.
    • Moscow will have to create regimes along the lines of that of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Although Kadyrov has been successful in crushing the Wahhabis, the Kremlin, by financing Kadyrov, has created a host of other problems at home and abroad. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/time-to-let-the-north-caucasus-go/406806.html

Up the Nile

  • In his ruling party’s win in weekend parliamentary polls, Ethiopia’s prime minister Meles Zenawi saw an enthusiastic popular endorsement of polices that are gradually leading the country out of poverty and backwardness. But western observers and human rights groups saw something quite different: the alarming advance, mirrored in other African states, of what might be termed one-party democracy. Meles’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, in power since 1991, and its allies won about 97% of parliamentary seats, assuring it another five-year term. Opposition groups were decimated. With most results in, the eight-party Medrek (Forum) coalition, the All Ethiopia Unity Organisation, and the Ethiopian Democratic party took only two seats between them, despite fielding candidates in most constituencies. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/26/ethiopia-one-party-democracy-africa
  • Pirates still plague the waters off the Somali coast and are now equally active far into the Indian Ocean. And despite international naval patrols, “the attacks continue, indeed they are increasing,” according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Addressing the General Assembly, Ban cited statistics showing that in 2009 there were 406 attacks on merchant ships, an increase of 100 over the previous year. The Somali pirate scourge, which has grabbed headlines and resulted in merchant vessel hijackings that lead to captivity and the payment of ransom for so many ships and crews, continues. http://www.chinapost.com.tw/commentary/the-china-post/john-metzler/2010/05/22/257572/Piracy-is.htm
  • The only thing more bizarre than reality is what the mind perceives as real. That certainly seems to be the case in the penis-shrinking scare that hit West Africa recently. Last January, a dozen people in Ghana were beaten to death by mobs who accused them of making their penises shrink or vanish through witchcraft. The victims claimed their penises had shrunk or vanished after being touched by, or shaking hands with, a sorcerer.  http://www.astralgia.com/webportfolio/omnimoment/antimatter/new/penis.html
  • The red-and-white Coca-Cola billboards outside the airports of Africa’s largest cities trumpet the launch of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in just three weeks, inviting arriving travelers from around the world to “Join the Celebration!” But Africans and African businesses haven’t felt welcome at the 2010 World Cup. Much of the immediate profits from what will be Africa’s largest-ever sporting event will go to the world’s largest multinational companies and the international soccer association, FIFA, rather than to the world’s poorest continent. FIFA alone is due to take in more than $3 billion, up from the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Sponsors, almost all of them Western corporations, expect billions of dollars more. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-05-24/why-world-cup-cash-will-bypass-africa

Near East

  • As Turkey-European Union relations stagger on, many in the EU’s institutions are increasingly frustrated by a process that is becoming ever more politicized, lacking direction and bogged down with problemsOf course, there are small success stories, but overall there is a general sense that the process is heading toward breakdown, and sooner rather than later. http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/columnists-210893-turkey-eu-relations-heading-into-the-sand.html
  • For the last three years Turkey has been gripped by an extraordinary series of legal proceedings revolving around an alleged conspiracy to destabilize and eventually topple the country’s conservative-Islamist government. Prosecutors, supported by leading members of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), have accused a large number of military officers and their supposed civilian accomplices with membership in a secret network, dubbed the “Ergenekon terror organization” after an ancient Turkish myth, and charged them with crimes ranging from murder and bombings to intimidation of religious minorities and coup plots. The cases have ensnared hundreds of current and retired military officers, journalists, academics, and lawyers—as well as a chief prosecutor and even a former mayor of Istanbul. Many are being kept in jail for months pending trial. While some of the trials have started, none has been concluded and there has yet to be a single conviction. http://www.tnr.com/article/world/75123/turkey%E2%80%99s-other-dirty-war
  • Thousands of frogs are still slowing traffic on a busy Greek highway, a day after a horde of them forced officials to close the road altogether. Police said Thursday they were directing traffic around frogs on the Egnatia Highway about 20 kilometers outside Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki. The frogs, leaving a nearby lake to look for food, were expected to disrupt traffic through the weekend. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/05/27/ap/strange/main6524421.shtml
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  1. Week in review « Craig W. Wright

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