Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Berlusconi’s Italy: miracle or illusion?


Berlusconi holds up broom in NaplesResidents of Naples, who had promised to demand that Silvio Berlusconi be declared a “saint straightaway” (Santo subito!”) if he managed to clear their streets of rotting garbage, will probably agree with Newsweek’s headline “Miracle in 100 Days” about the Italian prime minister’s first three months in office. Resolving the city’s garbage crisis was supposed to be his top priority and he has managed it, for the moment at least, while his other prime target — crime, especially involving illegal immigrants — has been tackled in a very visual way by deploying thousands of soldiers to the streets to help the police (see earlier blog “Italy sends in troops, but why?“).

But Newsweek’s latest article is a rare example of positive press abroad for the centre-right Italian leader, more accustomed to scathing editorials from the likes of The Economist questioning his fitness to lead and focusing on the conflict of interests of Italy’s richest man being premier.

Berlusconi’s government has seized on the article as proof that the 71-year-old media baron has “done what he promised”, according to his spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti, who was enjoying what he called the “funny embarrassed silence” of the centre-left opposition regarding the Newsweek piece. Politicians from the ruling People of Freedom party also pointed out that, in the Italian news media which often gives very high play to critical foreign coverage of the country, the U.S. weekly’s more positive angle merited only small articles deep inside the pages of the biggest-selling dailies like Corriere della Sera (which put it on page 11) or the more openly anti-Berlusconi La Repubblica (article also on page 11).

“What would have happened if Newsweek had opened fire on the government?” asked Daniele Capezzone of Berlusconi’s own Forza Italia party, answering his own question by saying the mainstream press, often accused by the right of being biased, would have gleefully churned out “front-page pieces, reconstructions and recollections of the perennially ‘unfit’ Italy”. Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by Berlusconi’s brother, gave the Newsweek article more prominent coverage on its front page and in-depth coverage inside.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Kashmir: is this a re-run of 1989?

Protesters shout pro-freedom slogans in Srinagar/Fayaz KabliAfter months of relative peace which turned Kashmir into a near-forgotten conflict, the region has exploded  again with some of the biggest protests since a separatist revolt erupted in 1989.  What started as a dispute over land allocated to Hindu pilgrims visiting a shrine in Kashmir has snowballed into a full-scale anti-India protest, uniting Kashmiri separatists and reviving calls for independence.

The dispute has also pitted Muslims in Kashmir against Hindus in Jammu -- the two regions which along with Ladakh make up the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir -- in what is the biggest communal crisis faced by the central government in Delhi since it took office in 2004.

Iraqi politics riven by suspicion and intrigue


k22.jpg   “Kirkuk will never be part of Kurdistan, even if the blood
comes up to our knees!” a lawmaker hissed as he passed a group
of reporters outside parliament.

    Welcome to Iraqi politics, where even the most basic issues
are debated in a climate of hot-headed suspicion and intrigue,
and threats of violence are never far from the surface.

Can the Caucasus flames be controlled?


ossetia.jpgThe Caucasus tinderbox is alight again. How far will the flames spread this time and what can the outside world – the United States, the European Union, NATO – do to extinguish them?

The strategic significance of this mountainous region stretches back through history.

Cold War reheated as U.S. and Russia duke it out over Georgia


Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin

The temperature at the United Nations Security Council hasn’t been this high in years — and it’s not because the U.N. management raised the thermostat slightly to cut electricity costs. It’s due to the heated exchange of insults and accusations between Russia and the United States, which has reached a fever pitch reminiscent of the Cold War years.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad accused Russia on Sunday of using the Georgian incursion into Georgia’s breakaway enclave of South Ossetia as an excuse for a massive military assault against its tiny pro-Western neighbor whose ultimate goal is “regime change” in Tbilisi. He also assailed Moscow for waging a “campaign of terror” against the civilian population of Georgia, a former Soviet republic.

from Changing China:

Watching human rites

Hu Jintao and George BushIn the end they came of course. Remember all that talk about leaders boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games over China's ties with the government of Sudan or its crackdown on Tibetan rioters?

Well, when the lavish ceremony got underway in the Bird's Nest stadium on Friday night, some 80 leaders and royals were watching, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy who had threatened not to turn up.

from Changing China:

The Games have begun, but what was that ceremony about?

Opening ceremony pictures

I've been deafened by the drums, astounded by the aerial acrobatics and blinded by the cornea-carving light show. The torch is lit in its giant cauldron hanging from the lip of the Bird's Nest stadium and the 2008 Olympic Games have begun.

But what is it I've sat through for hours on a steamy Beijing evening? Was it mass-participation theatre, a pseudo-religious sanctification of sport, a kitsch ‘son et lumiere' mangling of traditional Chinese art forms? A pyrotechnics-fuelled rock ballet? A modernised courtly pageant or a magnified pantomime of over-produced gimcrackery? The best of Cirque du Soleil-style wizardry or high camp showbiz?

Was South Ossetia’s fate sealed in Kosovo?


south-ossetia.jpgIs Kosovo to blame for the fighting in South Ossetia?

When the Serbian province seceded from Belgrade in February, South Ossetia was quick to reassert its own claim to international recognition.

As a spokeswoman for separatist leader Eduard Kokoity told Reuters at the time: “The Kosovo precedent has driven us to more actively seek our rights.”

Iran and women: Can appearances deceive?


iranian-women-walk-on-the-beach.jpg Iran is a land that cannot be easily pigeon-holed.

 America’s sworn enemy which brands the United States the “Great Satan” is the only country in the Middle East where citizens went onto the streets with a candlelit vigil in a spontaneous show of sympathy immediately after 9/11.

The Islamic Republic, the embodiment of radical Islam in the eyes of many a Western politician, is also the place where the most popular public holidays hark back to Iran’s Zoroastrian past that pre-dates Islam.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Impeaching Musharraf will not end the problems

Pakistan's fractious coalition has agreed to begin impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf but can it really pull it off ?  Do they have the numbers -- the two-thirds majority required from the National Assembly and  Senate combined? Impeachement is like a trial, so what charges will they bring against him?


And then there is the army, still arguably the most powerful institution in a country of 160 million people battling Islamist extremism, tension on its borders with India and Afghanistan where U.S. led coalition forces are hunkered down, and facing an economic meltdown.