Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Welcome to Jerusalem, centre of the world


Not so long ago, as war raged in Iraq, there was much talk about a suggestion that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians deserved less attention from the United States and other world powers than it had enjoyed over the past 60-odd years, that the intractable dispute was distracting policymakers and that the plight of the stateless Palestinians was much less central to the problems in relations between the Arab world and the West than had long been supposed. It is a debate that continues, though as journalists who have chosen to work in Jerusalem perhaps we may be forgiven for occasionally pointing out that many thinkers continue to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as central to the problems of the region and so to the world at large.

A survey last year by Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution, Does the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Still Matter?, found that 86 percent of non-Palestinian Arabs, from Morocco to the Emirates, placed the fate of Palestinians among their top three concerns. That was an increase from 69 percent in 2005, when a larval sectarian civil war in Iraq seemed to be dragging Sunni and Shiite Muslims into a broader regional conflict. And it was still higher than the 73 percent who thought the Palestinian question mattered in 2002: "Despite the Iraq war and the increasing focus on a Sunni-Shiite divide, the Palestinian question remains a central prism through which Arabs view the world," Telhami concluded.

At Reuters, we think it matters. We have more than 70 journalists working in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, covering the news and trends across a range of media, in text, in pictures and in video. You can view much of our work at the Reuters News and AlertNet sites linked to in the bar to the right. This blog site complements that work and, we hope, gives readers and chance to debate the topics that matter in the region and the world beyond. You will see an archive of material from recent months, including during the recent war in the Gaza Strip. With Israeli voters going to the polls this coming Tuesday and Egyptian mediators working against the clock to try and solidify the ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, now seemed like a good time to draw your attention to it and let you know that we plan to enrich the site with more material.

Why call it AxisMundi, the "axis of the world" in Latin? Well from our bureau in Jerusalem, we do sometimes feel we are at the centre of world news. It's not just us of course. Jerusalem has at times and variously been seen as the Axis Mundi, the centre of the world (indeed sometimes "the world's navel"), by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. All believe Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son to God on a rock at what is now Jerusalem, before God stayed his hand. That rock, seen as a point of contact between earth and heaven, is now covered by the golden dome in the picture above. It is where Jews built the Temple destroyed by Roman troops 2,000 years ago in a conflict that would end with the Jews' exile from Jerusalem.  It is where Muslims believe Mohammad rose to heaven and where the Dome of the Rock, built after Muslims captured the city from Christian rulers,  now stands.

from FaithWorld:

Obama evokes church/state divide at National Prayer Breakfast

Religion's role in U.S. politics was on full display on Thursday as President Barack Obama spoke and prayed at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

Obama, an adult convert to Christianity, used the occasion to announce that he will be establishing a White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This will replace or be an extension of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives established by former President George W. Bush, who was strongly supported by conservative Christians.

from Africa News blog:

Time to stop aid for Africa?

Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.

Moyo’s book, her first, comes out at a time when Western campaigners, financial institutions and some African governments have been warning of the danger posed to Africa by the crisis and calling for more money from developed countries as a result. The former World Bank and Goldman Sachs economist spoke to Reuters in London.

from Tales from the Trail:

Clinton goes on charm offensive with French

clinton-kouchnerWASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton went on a charm offensive with France's foreign minister on Thursday, fondly recalling many trips to Paris and heaping praise on the country's education system as a model for America.
Clinton has played up the Transatlantic relationship this week, choosing to meet first with the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France in her second week as new U.S. secretary of state.
"I have been to France many times and I always have a good impression. I enjoy visiting in France," the former first lady and New York senator said at a joint news conference with France's Bernard Kouchner at the State Department.
She recalled meeting Kouchner's wife "longer ago than Christine or I care to admit" and said she was impressed by the country's preschool facilities, prompting her to return home to try and get the United States to follow France's example.
"I not only have enjoyed my time in France but I have learned a lot from my visits. I look forward to returning," she added. "As soon as possible," gushed Kouchner, beaming at her side.
The Bush administration had a prickly relationship with France at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, to the extent that in congressional cafeteria the words "French fries" were changed to "Freedom fries" on menus.
 For more Reuters political news, click here

Photo Credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang (Clinton, Kouchner speak at the State Department)

Seeking the true face of Turkey


The following blog was contributed by Humeyra Pamuk:

Not that Erdogan’s actions found no resonance in the mainstream press.
“The prime minister was right”, ran the headline of veteran commentator Fikret Bila’s column in Milliyet. Bila argued the Israeli President’s manner was provocative and aggressive, repeatedly asking Erdogan how he would feel if rockets fell daily on Istanbul. If Erdogan had not reacted, then he would be open to criticism. “Israel can do whatever it wants, with the wind of the U.S. at its back. Noone reacts or can react, noone can touch Israel. Someone had to do it.”
Hurriyet columnist Oktay Eksi dismissed the admiration Erdogan enjoys on what he calls “The Street”, writing:
”They will applaud you today, because they act with “emotion” rather than reason. But for the very same reasons they could just dump you the next day.”
“We understand why no diplomats come out of Kasimpasa” was the headline over commentator Semih Idiz’s more gentle treatment in Milliyet daily. Kasimpasa is the neighbourhood where Erdogan grew up – a working class part of Istanbul known for a culture of bravado.
Erdogan made no apology for the ‘rough edges’ that many supporters see as refreshing directness.
“I don’t speak the language that some retired diplomats understand. I don’t come from a diplomatic background, I come from politics. I don’t know the ways, traditions of those diplomats, especially the ‘mon-chers’,” he said, slipping into a mocking Turkish- French that was taken amiss by some of Turkey’s older generation of diplomats.
“And I would not want to know.”
Erdogan, without diplomatic niceties, has pushed Turkey’s campaign for EU membership, although entry remains a distant prospect. He has won some respect among White Turks for economic progress. But the fear of the Other Turkey – a Turkey more conservative, with its roots in Anatolia rather than the boulevards of Istanbul — remains, embodied for some by the crowd at Ataturk Airport. The military, above all, see him as a possible danger to secular government and has tried to have his party banned for Islamist activity.
Millions will vote across Anatolia in municipal elections in March when the popularity of Erdogan, re-elected with a landslide in 2007, five years after he first came to power, will be put to the test.
A former Islamist espousing a European future for Turkey, Erdogan marks a break from the traditional secularist parties who had governed the country for decades and collapsed in 2002 polls as voters deserted them. Supporters saw him as straddling the social divides in Turkey. Many in the secularist middle classes, whatever their reservations, contributed their vote in confirming him in power with increased support in 2007.
Are they now taking fright over the man from Kasimpasa? Are the fault lines showing in the secular state created eight decades ago out of the theocratic Ottoman Empire? Or are the two Turkeys, the White and the long silent Brown Turks, simply learning to come to terms with each other?
Turks will be looking to the March elections for some clue.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Of Afghanistan and backpacks

According to George Friedman from the Stratfor intelligence group the United States should forget the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan and concentrate instead on covert operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

As has become increasingly clear, the administration of President Barack Obama faces a hard time raising its troop presence in Afghanistan without either relying on precarious supply lines through Pakistan or making political compromises with Russia to win its support for using alternative routes through Central Asia.

from Africa News blog:

Gaddafi keeps African leaders talking

Despite the extremely tight security at this week's African Union summit in Ethiopia, one brief lapse gave some journalists covering the meeting a very rare glimpse behind the scenes.

Reporters at the annual meeting in Addis Ababa are normally kept well away from the heads of state, except for the occasional carefully managed press conference, or a brief word thrown in our direction as they sweep past in the middle of a phalanx of sharp-elbowed, scowling bodyguards.

from FaithWorld:

Germans fall out of love with their pope

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the head of the Roman Catholicism in 2005, the best-selling daily Bild caught the national mood with a frontpage headline crowing Wir sind Papst! (We're Pope!). Now, Germans are falling out of love with their pope for readmitting to the Church an excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust. For the vast majority of Germans, denying the Holocaust is beyond the pale. Shunning anyone who does deny the Holocaust is considered a civic virtue. So seeing the world's most prominent German rehabilitate a Holocaust denier is quite distressing for a upstanding, post-war German democrat. How could he do it? (Photo: Pope Benedict at the Vatican, 2 Feb 2009/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican and Catholic bishops around the world have been defending the pope, saying the lifting of the excommunications for the controversial Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops was an internal Church issue unrelated to his political views. They say repeatedly that this is not a rehabilitation, but simply a readmission to allow discussions on rehabilitation to start. After botching the initial announcement, the Vatican has had a tough time trying to convince public opinion in other countries. In Germany, where many understandably think Holocaust deniers deserve no sympathy whatsoever, this task is proving to be doubly difficult.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghan supply routes face setbacks in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan

U.S. efforts to improve supplies for its troops in Afghanistan just had a double setback after militants in northwest Pakistan severed the main supply route for western forces and Kyrgyzstan's president said the United States must close its military base there.

Militants blew up a bridge on the Khyber Pass, cutting the supply route to western forces in Afghanistan and underscoring the need for the United States to seek alternative supply lines. The U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through Pakistan but has been looking at using other transit routes through Central Asia. Although Washington has been sketchy on the details of its plans, its Manas military airbase near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek has so far provided important logistical support for its operations in Afghanistan.  During a visit to Moscow, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the closure of the base, opened after the 9/11 attacks.  Bakiyev made the announcement after securing a $2 billion loan and a further $150 million in aid from Russia.

from Africa News blog:

Will Gaddafi bring change to African Union?

Libya's often controversial leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has finally won the top seat at the African Union and promised to accelerate his drive for a United States of Africa, but it seems doubtful that even his presence in the rotating chairmanship will do anything to overcome the reluctance of many African nations to accelerate moves towards a federal government.

Gaddafi, a showman whose fiery, often rambling speeches, sometimes unconventional behaviour and colourful robes are always a scene stealer at international gatherings, has been pushing for a pan-regional govenrment for years. But like his previous, three-decade drive to to promote Arab unity, it has not aroused much enthusiasm in many quarters. All the AU's 53 states have said they agree in principle but estimates for how long this will take vary from nine years to 35.