Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Africa News blog:

Did Dalai Lama ban make sense?

Organisers have postponed a conference of Nobel peace laureates in South Africa after the government denied a visa to Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who won the prize in 1989 - five years after South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu won his and four years before Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk won theirs for their roles in ending the racist apartheid regime.

Although local media said the visa ban followed pressure from China, an increasingly important investor and trade partner, the government said it had not been influenced by Beijing and that the Dalai Lama's presence was just not in South Africa's best interest at the moment.

The conference, ahead of the 2010 World Cup, had been due to discuss how to use soccer to fight xenophobia and racism.

"We stand by our decision. Nothing is going to change. The Dalai Lama will not be invited to South Africa. We will not give him a visa between now and the World Cup," said government spokesman Thabo Masebe.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Talking to the Taliban and the last man standing

The debate about whether the United States should open talks with Afghan insurgents appears to be gathering momentum -- so much so that it is beginning to acquire an air of inevitability, without there ever being a specific policy announcement.

The U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, became the latest to call for talks when he told France's Le Monde newspaper that reconciliation was an essential element.  "But it is important to talk to the people who count," he said. "A fragmented approach to the insurgency will not work. You need to be ambitious and include all the Taliban movement."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s missing people and judge Chaudhry

Among the black-suited crowd celebrating Pakistani judge Iftikhar Chaudhry's reinstatement as the head of the Supreme Court outside his home in Islamabad this week was a  woman with a bouquet in her hand and a prayer in her heart.

Amina Janjua's husband went missing in July 2005, one of hundreds that rights activists allege have been held without judicial process in secret detentions centres as Pakistan's part in the campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Her husband's case was one of the dozens that Chaudhry had taken up in his campaign to fix accountability for the missing people, before he was sacked in November 2007.

Lebanon’s nationality law: one pothole to the next

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-     The lull in full-scale political tensions in Lebanon has
turned people’s attention from the explosive subjects of
Hezbollah, sectarian conflict and competing foreign influence to
the seemingly more mundane issues of civil and social liberties.     But these issues have also raised the ire of Lebanese,
specifically a proposed amendment to the nationality law which
would allow Lebanese mothers to transfer their nationality to
their children.     Like most Arab countries, Lebanon bases its nationality on
paternity. In recent weeks a proposed law to amend that has
gained momentum in government circles, but in tandem with a
caveat likely to be tagged on — the law would not apply to
children of Lebanese women married to Palestinian fathers.     The issue of Palestinians’ integration in Lebanon is a major
source of contention in the Mediterranean country that
hosts some 400,000 Palestinian refugees, roughly 10 percent of
the population.     Lebanon has feared that the presence of mainly Sunni Muslim
refugees would upset its own delicate sectarian balance and
politicians say the curbs are designed to deter their permanent
settlement and nullify the Palestinians’ quest for “the right of
return”.     There is a general pan-Arab principle, with the approval of
Palestinian leaders, of not granting citizenship to preserve
their “right to return”.     Lebanon’s dizzying inter-communal, sectarian and religious
environment has resulted in about 17,860 cases where Lebanese
women have married non-Lebanese, according to some research, out
of 300,415 registered marriages.     The draft law, one of which is with a parliamentary
committee and another being drafted by Interior Minister Ziad
Baroud, is not yet set in stone. But Gilberte Zwein, who leads
the women and child committee in parliament, said the
Palestinian caveat would almost certainly be included in any
future law.     “Of course it has to happen, it won’t work if it’s not
included. When there’s a solution to the Palestinian problem,
then they can actually have a Palestinian nationality. Today a
Palestinian is a refugee,” she told Reuters.     Baroud, who is a big proponent of amending the law, has also
supported restrictions on Palestinians, saying in deliberately
ambiguous language when asked about the issue:     “We will strike a balance between constitutional principles
and the right the family of a Lebanese mother to get her
nationality” and “not putting restrictions will subject the law
to annulment by the constitutional council”.     That does not sit well at all with Ali Khalil, the son of a
Lebanese mother and Palestinian father who left Lebanon when he
was in his mid-20s in 1995 primarily because of hardship he
faced being treated as a foreigner.     “It is not nice to feel like a foreigner in a country you
feel is yours regardless of the nationality of my father. I was
born in Lebanon, my mother is Lebanese, I feel Lebanese, I am
Lebanese in everything, except by passport.”     “And feeling like a foreigner, and being reminded that you
do not belong to this part that is very dear to you is quite
hurting and disturbing,” he told Reuters by telephone from
Dubai.     “The sons of Lebanese mothers married to Palestinians are as
Lebanese as any other children in Lebanon,” said the 36-year-old
journalist. The law, “would be a shame, it would just reinforce
many prevailing discriminatory behaviour towards foreigners in
general and Palestinians in particular”.     Needless to say, advocacy and human rights groups are
outraged about the possible inclusion of this caveat.     Roula el-Masri who works for a civil organisation in Lebanon
that is campaigning to amend the
nationality law in Lebanon: “We don’t want to reach the point
where we discriminated between men and women and now we’re
discriminating between women and women (who choose to marry
Palestinians). Human Rights Watch has echoed the sentiment.”     A Facebook group was also created addressing the issue:
    “We’re one step forwards and 20 step backwards.”     Khalil is livid: “Lebanon is home for me. It’s my right and
I don’t think the Lebanese government has the right to persist
in denying me this right.”     What should happen now? Is it better to attach the
‘exclusion of Palestinians’ in order for the law to be more
likely to pass? Or should the exclusion be dropped, which would
probably lead back to square one?

Iraq six years on — waving hello or goodbye?

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By Aws Qusay

BAGHDAD – When U.S. bombs rained on Baghdad in 2003, rocking the ground beneath me, I would never have imagined U.S. soldiers would later join my family for a birthday party.

In fact, I and most Iraqis could not believe Saddam Hussein was really on his way out six years ago. Even after his statue was toppled in Firdos Square, many believed his real plan  to eject the Americans would come, and that the easy invasion was really an ambush. In the end it kind of was, though not of Saddam’s doing.

from Africa News blog:

Time to drop Zuma charges?

South African prosecutors are considering a legal request by ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma to drop the graft charges against the man who is expected to be the next president after the elections in April. Zuma has always denied any wrongdoing and his followers say the charges were politically motivated.

A decision to drop the charges would give the African National Congress a big boost ahead of what is expected to be the most closely-contested poll since apartheid ended in 1994. It would also remove a major distraction for Zuma in office and the prospect of court appearances that could tarnish South Africa’s standing abroad.

Obama gets rockstar welcome at town hall meeting

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President Barack Obama on Wednesday stepped out from behind the podium, took off his suit jacket and dispensed with the teleprompters to defend his budget, attack Republicans who label him a tax-and-spend Democrat and express outrage at the bonuses paid at insurance giant AIG.
 
Obama, who has made no secret of the fact he chafes in the White House “bubble” and enjoys engaging directly with Americans, headed west to California to hold a town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, a town of about 113,000 in Orange County that has been hard hit by the recession. 
 
Obama’s critics say his comments expressing outrage at the AIG bonuses and other Wall Street scandals lack passion because they are often scripted and read from a teleprompter.
 
But on Wednesday, Obama sounded like he was back on the election campaign trail as he rounded on Republicans for criticizing his $3.5 trillion 2010 budget, which he says is crucial to tackling the worst economic crisis in decades.
 
“Most of these critics presided over a doubling of the national debt. We are inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit. So they don’t have the standing to make this criticism, I think, given how irresponsible they’ve been,”  he said.
 
Under the glare of hot lights in an uncomfortably warm hall at Costa Mesa’s state fairgrounds, Obama invited his audience to ask him questions and feel free to take him to task and tell him if he was a “bum and doing a bad job”.
 
But there was little danger of that. When he entered the hall, he received a rockstar welcome.
 
Obama at times spoke with passion, his voice rising above the cheers, while he was at times professorial, explaining credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities and breaking his promise to keep his answers short as he explained how and why America’s economy had plunged to such depths.
 
Despite the fact that he has only been in office two months, one of the first questions he fielded was from a woman asking him if he would run for re-election in four years’ time.
 
“I would rather be a good president taking on the tough issues for four years than a mediocre president for eight years,” he replied.
 
And if he fails to deliver on his promises on health care, education and fixing the economy, then it will be the voters and not he who decides whether he runs again.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama at town hall meeting in California)

from Africa News blog:

Africa back to the old ways?

The overthrow of Madagascar’s leader may have had nothing to do with events elsewhere in Africa, but after four violent changes of power within eight months the question is bound to arise as to whether the continent is returning to old ways.

Three years without coups between 2005 and last year had appeared to some, including foreign investors, to have indicated a fundamental change from the first turbulent decades after independence. This spate of violent overthrows could now be another reason for investors to tread more warily again, particularly as Africa feels the impact of the global financial crisis.

from Africa News blog:

Madagascar: a slow-motion coup

It seems Madagascar's slow-motion coup has at last come to a head with the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana, announced almost casually in a text message from one of his aides.

The change has been a long time coming -- the first outbreaks of violence were in January -- and it's all rather different from what many would regard as the traditional African coup d'etat.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s chief justice reinstated

Two years after Iftikhar Chaudhry was first sacked by then President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan government officials said he would be reinstated as Chief Justice after a nationwide protest led by Pakistan's lawyers.

It's been a rollercoaster ride. After he was removed by Musharraf, Chaudhry was reinstated only to be sacked again and placed under house arrest along with many other lawyers when the former general declared emergency rule in November 2007. At the time, Pakistani lawyer/politician Aitzaz Ahsan wrote in an editorial in the New York Times that the leaders of the lawyers movement "will neither be silent nor still". But he also fretted that the lawyers' movement would be ignored by the United States and overlooked by the forthcoming election.

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