Global News Journal

Bibi’s back as flak

December 30, 2008

Saying he was answering a request from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to help out with Israel’s “PR”, or public relations, during its current Gaza offensive against Hamas, right-wing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave a series of interviews to foreign media on Tuesday, including Reuters in
Jerusalem.

A Braveheart Christmas in the Holy Land

December 29, 2008

In the big battle scene in the movie Braveheart, terrified whispers ran up and down the ragged ranks of sword-waving Scots that the English were ranged before them with “500 heavy horse” – armoured cavalry of devastating power in those days.

China’s elusive land reform

December 29, 2008

It is ironic that 30 years after they gave birth to the reforms that transformed China into an economic powerhouse, the country’s vast hinterlands are still dogged by poverty.

Gaza breakfast turns to horror

December 27, 2008

Saturday is my day off from being Reuters correspondent in Gaza and I usually sleep until noon.  This Saturday things didn’t go to plan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

One year on, same questions swirl around Bhutto’s murder

December 27, 2008

The anniversary of Benazir Bhutto's assassination has reminded everyone just how much we still don't know about her killing in a suicide gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007.
 
The same questions that transfixed the shocked country in the days after her death, such as why was the crime scene hosed down so quickly, was she killed when the blast smashed her head into the lever on her vehicle's escape hatch or by a bullet, why was no autopsy performed, are again being raised.
 
Investigations by the previous government and the U.S. CIA accused an al Qaeda-linked militant, Baitullah Mehsud, of killing Bhutto, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy.
 
That would seem logical enough but, as we've seen with the Mumbai attacks, any militant attack on or linked to Pakistan seems to raise questions about possible links to old allies in the powerful intelligence services.
 

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India – aiming for diplomatic encirclement of Pakistan?

December 26, 2008

India is piling on the diplomatic pressure to convince the international community to lean on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist militants blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks.

Cheers for Africa’s new military ruler. For now.

December 26, 2008

Fifteen years ago this month, Guinea’s late ruler Lansana Conte made clear what form democracy would take under his rule.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

War clouds over South Asia

December 24, 2008

There is a strange dichotomy in Delhi at the moment. If you read the headlines or watch the news on television, India and Pakistan appear headed for confrontation - what form, what shape is obviously hard to tell but the rhetoric is getting more and more menacing each day.

from Tales from the Trail:

To salute or not to salute, that’s Obama’s question

December 24, 2008

Barack Obama went to a gym at a military base in Hawaii the other day and did something positively Reaganesque -- he returned a Marine's salute.
 
In so doing, he wandered directly into the middle of a thorny debate: Should U.S. presidents return military salutes or not?
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Longstanding tradition requires members of the military to salute the president. The practice of presidents returning that salute is more recent -- Ronald Reagan started it in 1981.
 
Reagan's decision raised eyebrows at the time. Dwight Eisenhower, a former five-star general, did not return military salutes while president. Nor had other presidents.
 
John Kline, then Reagan's military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.
 
Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, then commandant of the Marine Corps.
 
Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute -- or any sign of respect he wished -- to anyone he wished, Kline wrote, adding he was glad for the change.
 
Every president since Reagan has followed that practice, even those with no military experience. President Bill Clinton's saluting skills were roundly criticized after he took office, but the consensus was he eventually got better.
 
The debate over saluting has persisted, with some arguing against it for protocol reasons, others saying it represents an increasing militarization of the civilian presidency.
 
"The gesture is of course quite wrong: Such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform," author and historian John Lukacs wrote in The New York Times in 2003.
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"But there is more to this than a decline in military manners," he added. "There is something puerile in the Reagan (and now Bush) salute. It is the joyful gesture of someone who likes playing soldier. It also represents an exaggeration of the president's military role."
 
Garry Wills, the author and Northwestern University professor, echoed those remarks in the Times in 2007.
 
"The glorification of the president as a war leader is registered in numerous and substantial executive aggrandizements; but it is symbolized in other ways that, while small in themselves, dispose the citizenry to accept those aggrandizements," he wrote.
 
"We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of Marines."
 
What do you think? Is returning a salute a common courtesy? Or should Obama reconsider the practice?
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Algerians despair despite country’s wealth

December 23, 2008

Two Algerians were detained by Egyptian authorities recently while trying to obtain a work visa from the Israeli embassy in Cairo, a local newspaper has reported, despite the fact that Algeria and Israel are still officially at war.
 
A survey, published by an Algerian newspaper, showed that up to half of Algeria’s young men are tempted by the idea of fleeing to Europe as illegal migrants to escape misery at home.
 
Why do so many people from a country – renowned by many in the Arab world for sacrificing up to one million people in a war to end 130 years of French rule – want to escape to Europe?
 
Algeria is a rich nation but its people are poor. It is the world’s fourth largest gas exporter and the tenth of oil. Foreign currency reserves have soared to $138 billion at the end of Nov. 2008 from $41 billion at the end of 2004.
 
Yet, the UNDP’s human development index, which measures quality of life, puts Algeria in 104th place, behind countries such as Cape Verde and Belize.
 
High unemployment, estimated at 70 percent among people under 30 – though official statistics give far lower figures – is driving many Algerians to desperate measures.
 
Earlier this year, police in the town of Chlef fought angry youths who had burned shops and buildings in the latest in a series of protests against lack of housing and jobs and what critics call an unresponsive political elite.
 
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has led his North African Arab country out of a brutal civil war by combining military force with an amnesty for militants, but getting Algerians out of poverty appears to be proving more difficult.
 
He looks well placed to stay in office after his allies pushed through a law that allows him to seek a third term in office when his second term ends next year.
 
High oil prices over the past few years have helped the country of 33 million launch a $140 billion five-year national economic development plan and repay a large part of its foreign debt.
 
The Algerian government has promised a $100-150 billion national development drive from next year. But many Algerians ponder how to cope until such a plan takes off.
 
“We are desperate,” said Mohamed Tegar, a 32-year-old resident of Chelf. “We are six men living in a very small flat and all of us are unemployed. We don’t understand the local authorities’ reaction.”