Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
This is such a coincidence that some might suspect it wasn't one. France's Muslim and Jewish minorities, both the largest of their kind in Europe, elected new leaders on Sunday. In both cases, they opted for younger leaders who promised to play a more active role in their communities. We may see and hear more from these two groups than in the past.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) chose Mohammed Moussaoui, 44, of the Moroccan-backed Rally of French Muslims group as its new president. Its outgoing president, Dalil Boubakeur, 67, boycotted the election. This is a secular post, so Moussaoui is the top Muslim representative in France, not a theological authority. Although he is an imam, his "day job" is mathematics lecturer at the University of Avignon. After five years of paralysis at the CFCM, it was a breath of fresh air to see him publish an action programme in advance and pledge to reform the council. We covered his election here and the first round of the voting on June 8 here. There are about five million Muslims in France, around 8 percent of the population, and Islam is the second-largest religion here after Roman Catholicism. Moussaoui was born in Morocco and came to France for university studies.
Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, 56, won election as the new grand rabbi of France, replacing Joseph Sitruk, 63, who had held the post for 21 years and sought reelection. Bernheim is an orthodox rabbi who has frequently spoken out in public on a wide range of issues. A former university chaplain, he is rabbi of the largest Paris synagogue, the Synagogue de la Victoire, and has been active in dialogue with Christians. He recently published "Le rabbin et le cardinal" (The Rabbi and The Cardinal), a long conversation with Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. This commitment to dialogue earned him some criticism during the election campaign from more traditionalist voices in an unusually lively campaign (see this pre-poll article in The Forward). In French, check out reports in Le Monde and RTL radio (audio and text). There are about 600,000 Jews in France.
from Africa News blog:
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's decision to abandon a controversial run-off ballot against Zimbabwe's strongman President Robert Mugabe would surprise few. Western governments and aid agencies have for weeks voiced the same accusations of violence and intimidation against the Mugabe camp which Tsvangirai cited in concluding that a run-off election stood no chance of being free or fair.
Hours before Tsvangirai's decision, his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reported that its rally in the capital Harare had been broken up by pro-Mugabe youth militia, something Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party denied.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Defence analysts in South Asia have been saying for so long that India and Pakistan might solve their problems over Kashmir only to end up at war over water that I had almost become inured to the issue. That was until I read the following comment on an earlier blog about Gulf investors buying up farmland in Pakistan to offset food shortages at home:
"Tough challenges await the investors in this sector due to serious water and energy shortages that the country suffers from at the moment," it reads. "For effective investment in the agriculture sector, the government must clear these impediments first."
With violence spreading and African countries joining the ranks of those who say Zimbabwe’s election run-off cannot be fair, the opposition leader is considering whether to withdraw – which would leave President Robert Mugabe to continue his 28 year rule unchallenged.
Talk is still doing the rounds that South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has been trying to get the sides to call off the election and form a national unity government, but progress seems limited at best. South Africa’s Star newspaper said Mugabe rejected the proposal.
China’s surprise decision late on Thursday to slash subsidies on fuel prices has been welcomed as a sign that Beijing is intent on reducing the pace of oil demand growth in the world’s second biggest energy consumer.
That, in theory, should help contain the upward spiral in world oil prices that took crude to a high of nearly $140 a barrel last week. Nine out of 10 analysts polled by Reuters immediately after the news took that line. But there is a contrarian view.
from Africa News blog:
Eton-educated British mercenary Simon Mann has gone on trial in Equatorial Guinea for his role in a 2004 coup plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
The state prosecutor is seeking a jail term of nearly 32 years for Mann, who has admitted in a British TV interview this year that he plotted to topple Obiang.
Mann's defence lawyer has argued that his client was a "mere instrument" in the plot, but not one of the main organisers. The prosecution has named Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as one of the businessmen conspirators who invested in the coup plot. Mark Thatcher denies knowing about the coup and is not on trial in Malabo.
So, with Mann's trial and the death of notorious French mercenary Bob Denard last year, is the era of the "dogs of war" over in Africa? Or will Equatorial Guinea's huge oil riches soon tempt others to hire foreign guns for a violent takeover of power?
Is justice being done in the case of Mann, or should others be with him there in the dock?
The rule of President Obiang, who overthrew his dictatorial uncle Francisco Macias Nguema in a 1979 coup, has been sharply criticised by international human rights groups who accuse him of abuses and restricting political freedoms. Some might argue that a "regime change" such as the one plotted by Mann might have been good for Equatorial Guinea. What do you think?
The Gaza Strip and the Israeli towns and farms surrounding the Palestinian enclave spent a quiet morning on Thursday after a ceasefire deal came into force after dawn between the Jewish state and the Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza’s 1.5 million people. The absence of mortars and improvised rockets falling on the Israeli side of the border and of Israeli air strikes and ground incursions on the other were welcomed by ordinary people. For Palestinians in Gaza, the biggest hope is an increase in supplies which Israel has kept under tight blockade since Hamas seized control a year ago.
Both sides, as well as Egypt which mediated the deal over several months and the international powers, have plenty of reasons to see the truce work . The UN even told Reuters it could help pave the way for UN peacekeepers in Gaza. But equally there are plenty on all sides who are already saying it is as doomed as previous “calms” between Israel and Hamas, which has been shunned by Western powers for its refusal to give up violent tactics such as suicide bombings and Gaza rocket salvos. Not least among the apparent pessimists has been Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has warned the peace may be short-lived. Olmert has plenty of critics who would happily use that adjective of his own career – the prime minister has promised to resign if he is indicted in a corruption investigation that has already seen an American businessman testify to handing Olmert large sums of cash stuffed in envelopes. The premier has survived a series of such scandals in his two and a half years in power and he again denies all wrongdoing. However, his enemies, including within his own coalition government, are circling and could vote next week to dissolve parliament and start the process of triggering an early election .
So how is Olmert fighting back? By making himself seem indispensable to Israelis as a peacemaker on all fronts, some say. As well as U.S.-sponsored talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, begun last November, he has lately revealed Turkish-mediated talks with Syria, a desire to open negotiations with Lebanon and progress in talks with Hezbollah on exchanging prisoners. Not to mention today’s truce with Hamas. So can Olmert stave off the public prosecutor and keep the peace?
When Kenya played Zimbabwe in last Saturday’s World Cup qualifying game, the chant of “Mugabe must go” echoed around the stadium from some 36,000 Kenyan fans as Zimbabwe’s football team came onto the pitch.
Africa’s leaders have tended to take a much less vocal approach to Zimbabwe’s crisis.
from Africa News blog:
Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua moved quickly after taking office a year ago to try to address the causes of unrest in the Niger Delta, where a violent campaign of sabotage against the oil industry has cut production and contributed to an unprecedented rise in world oil prices.
Yar'Adua announced plans for formal talks and freed two jailed militant leaders when he took office, but the peace process has made little real progress since then, with the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) continuing to blow up oil pipelines and kidnap foreign workers.
The government has called a summit for July meant to involve all stakeholders, but MEND and another group -- the Ijaw Youth Council -- have said they will not take part. Yar'Adua has said the summit aims to address the frustrations of the Niger Delta communities, who have seen their land and water polluted by oil production, but he has also said his government will not tolerate the presence of armed militants in the region.