Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The other Guantanamo

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the Guantanamo military prison closed within the year, but what about the detention centre in Bagram, the U.S. military base in Afghanistan, which has an equally murky legal status ?

An estimated 600 detainees are held there, without any charge and many for over six years, rights activists say. That makes it more than twice the number held in Guantanamo, and according to military personnel who know both facilities, it is much more spartan and with lesser privileges as this report in the New York Times says.

Few detainees have had access to lawyers, and there was no question ever of allowing journalists or human rights advocates into the facility. I lived on the military base for four weeks as part of a group of journalists covering the war in 2002 and we had no clue where the prison was located, and we would keep guessing which one of the cavernous Soviet-built aircraft hangars the detainees were kept in.

Since then, the New York Times says, the population at the Bagram prison has expanded substantially, especially after the Bush administration largely halted the movement of prisoners to the Cuban facility in September 2004, making the Afghan centre the preferred alternative.

from Africa News blog:

New hope for Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has agreed to join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe, breaking a crippling deadlock four months after the political rivals reached a power-sharing deal.

The decision could improve Zimbabwe's prospects of recovering from economic collapse and easing a humanitarian crisis in which more than 60,000 people have been infected by cholera and more than half the population needs food aid.

Gaza damage more than even the ‘fixer’ can fix

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I first met Raed al-Athamna when he was driving a journalist friend of mine around Gaza in his yellow, stretch-Mercedes taxi during the tense and violent days after Gaza militants captured Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier, in the summer of 2006.

Raed seemed to be a good ‘fixer’ – attentive, sensible and with far-from-perfect but perfectly understandable English.

Israel goes to the polls via the internet

Its election time in Israel which, despite the weighty issues at stake, is always something of a let-down for people who like a bit of U.S. style political pageantry.

There are few, if any, stump speeches, rallies, debates. There is, however, blanket campaigning in the traditional media and of course on the internet as well. Here are a few campaign ads from the internet kicking off with Ehud Barak and his Labour Party.

Afghanistan and the surge skeptics

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For months U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have been asking for more troops and Washington has been increasingly receptive. Today, we turned the spotlight on the skeptics in this story.

How much heed should President Barack Obama pay to their concerns? As a presidential candidate, he promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and he has made the war there the top U.S. military priority. But are more U.S. forces the answer to Afghanistan’s worsening violence? If so, how many more?

Casting a vote against fear in Iraq

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The last time Iraq held provincial elections four years ago, the sole question haunting people’s minds, mine included, was whether or not to venture out to vote, risking life and limb to make our way to polling places as Iraq slid into civil war.

Then, suicide and car bomb attacks were close to their peak, as sectarian violence surged between the Shi’ite majority and Sunnis who were disempowered after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

No melting in Gaza’s ice cream war

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Trying to describe a remote conflict of obscure origins, and also the curious and unexpected situations that arise in combat, a writer once coined the phrase “An Ice Cream War”. The bustle at our local ice cream parlour in downtown Gaza this week brought to mind just those contradictions, between the din and horror of warfare and the everyday civilian life that somehow carries on in the spaces between the battles.

Just up the street from where Ahmed al-Hindi and his colleagues were dishing up sugary cones and sundaes for customers young and old at their Musk & Amber ice cream shop lay the ruins of Gaza’s main security force compound. It was pulverised into a maze of jagged concrete and heaps of dust during the 3-week bombing campaign that Israel said was aimed at the ruling Hamas Islamist movement.  Staff and customers alike - and there was plenty of business on a typically mild Mediterranean winter’s afternoon - were hugely relieved to have come through the war.

from Africa News blog:

Storm in Madagascar

In the relative political calm of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar has long been a centre of turbulence.

Now another political crisis is brewing as the opposition accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of abuse of power and threatening democracy. Tens of thousands of opposition protesters demonstrated in Antananarivo on Wednesday, two days after an earlier rally descended into violence that left nearly 40 people dead.

A fresh start with Russia: what’s the trade-off?

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Russia has reversed its decision to station missiles in the Western outpost of Kaliningrad, next door to the European Union, according to Interfax.

The move would be the clearest signal so far of the start of a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, which could be one of the major changes in U.S. President Barack Obama’s first year in office. We don’t know what commitment, if any, Obama may have given to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the missile shield (the two spoke by telephone earlier this week).

from FaithWorld:

Russian Othodox Church picks Kirill, better Vatican ties expected

The Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Kirill, 62, as its new leader on Tuesday, succeeding Alexiy II who died last month. The new leader of the 165 million-strong Church, the largest in the Orthodox world,  is seen as a moderniser who may thaw long icy ties with the Roman Catholic Church.

There was speculation before the vote that nationalists, anti-westerners and anti-Catholic forces among the clergy and monks might rally to block Kirill's election. He seemed to take the possibility seriously enough to strike a conservative tone in recent days. In his address before the vote, Kirill spoke of "the assault of aggressive Western secularism against Christianity" and of "attempts by some Protestant groups to revise the teachings of Christianity and evangelical morality". He also hit out at Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries, saying they sought converts in post-Soviet Russia -- a key point of discord with the Vatican.

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