Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Should Europe help Obama out over Guantanamo?


 Barely noticed, the United States sent a top diplomat to  Europe this week to seek help on an important commitment by President Barack Obama — to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The trip by veteran envoy Dan Fried to Brussels and Prague is part of efforts to persuade European states to take in some of the 241 remaining detainees at the prison, synonomous for many with rights abuses in the “war on terror” under U.S. President George W. Bush.
Europe has long called for the jail to be shut down, but only a few countries — such as France, Portugal and Albania — have  volunteered to resettle any inmates from third countries such as Afghanistan or China.
 Time is steadily running out if Obama is to achieve his goal of clearing and closing the prison by next January.  A perceived  lack of European help could sour the much-vaunted new start in transatlantic ties which both sides say they want.
But many European officials are asking why they should help the United States out of a hole it dug itself into.
The main problem does not involve the small number of  so-called high-value  terror suspects in the camp — they will remain in detention and Washington does not seriously expect anyone to come forward and take them off its hands.
Nor does it involve the 17 detainees who have already been cleared for release. The really hot issue is the fate of  the remaining detainees who are not high risk but have not been given the full all-clear.
 European officials fear the affair could turn into a legal and political nightmare. Who will take which detainees? Given that much of Europe is now border-free, how will one country reassure its neighbours if it agrees to resettle inmates? And doesn’t the fact that European states have different national policies on surveillance and detention pose extra problems?
Worse still, the political fall-out could be devastating. If , for example, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner carried out an attack in Germany just before an election this year, how would Chancellor Angela Merkel explain it to voters? 

Washington knows it won’t be easy to get the Europeans on board. But it says it would be hypocritical for Europe now not to help after all its criticism of Guantanamo.

It also points out that some of the Europeans who are now raising concerns over security were not so long ago saying  most of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners were innocent.
Washington hopes to encourage EU justice and home affairs ministers to at least agree a common line on the need to help it with Guantanamo at a regular meeting scheduled for June. Then it will approach individual countries for negotiations on resettling specific cases.
Is it time for Europe tocome forward and help Obama or is this one file on which it is advised to stay clear?

The Bitter End for South Korea’s Leaders


By Jon Herskovitz

There is almost no such thing as a happy retirement for South Korea’s former presidents.

Former President Roh Moo-hyun, who left office a little more than a year ago, joined the club of troubled ex-leaders on Thursday when he appeared before prosecutors to answer questions about their suspicions his family received at least $1 million in bribes from a shoe company CEO.

Mexicans take flu outbreak with dose of skepticism


Mexicans are taking the swine flu outbreak a bit like they do their tequila – seriously, but with a big pinch of salt.

There’s a real fear of catching the killer virus, which has already claimed up to 159 lives, largely because many Mexicans are skeptical about getting the right treatment from state hospitals.

Everything you wanted to know about swine flu


John McConnell, an editor at The Lancet and founding Editor of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, is answering questions about the swine flu:

What is the science behind how new flu strains arise – this one has pig, human and bird components (mainly pig). How has it got this way and how is it able to gain each of these components?

Scandal-plagued Greeks shrug off corruption


Bombarded with revelations of scandals for decades, Greeks have developed a slightly thick skin regarding graft. An opinion poll this week showed corruption was rated fifth among top voter
concerns, coming after the global economic crisis, education, crime and health.

Fed up with years of socialist scandals, Greeks elected the conservative New Democracy government by a landslide in 2004, mostly convinced by its pledges to clean up Greek politics.

Post card from Nigeria


This is one in a series of post cards from Reuters correspondents across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“Watch out for watermelons” was the ominous warning long given to visitors arriving by night in Lagos. The Third Mainland Bridge, Africa’s longest, snaking over the lagoon and into town from the airport, was notorious for armed robbery. A watermelon embedded with nails and rolled in front of your car was enough to stop you, allowing gunmen to relieve you of your possessions.

Steinbrueck admits long meetings hurt his rear end


It took only a few disarmingly pointed questions from four 7th grade Berlin students to get German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck to loosen up and deviate from the usual stock answers he – and fellow political leaders – serve up.

In perhaps his most candid public comments since taking office three years ago, Steinbrueck admitted long meetings cause his rear end to get sore and also compared deficit-spending just for consumption purposes to spending money on chocolate bars. He also said he doesn’t forget the names of journalists who write nasty comments about him. Here are a few of the more choice morsels from Steinbrueck’s interview in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper published on Sunday:

from Africa News blog:

Can Zuma live up to unity pledge?

Pledging to work for national unity is pretty much a formality for any election winner, but in the case of South Africa’s Jacob Zuma it may be more than a platitude. It may need to be.

“The new President of the Republic will be a president for all, and he will work to unite the country around a programme of action that will see an improvement in the delivery of services,” Zuma said after the African National Congress won its sweeping victory.

Post card from Dubai


This is one in a series of post cards by Reuters reporters across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Oil prices determine the pace of prosperity. The oil-price boom 2002-2008 allowed countries to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure and diversification. They also amassed billions in sovereign wealth funds, which has lifted their profile on the international stage. As oil prices recede, so does the pace of growth and wealth accumulation, although most states possess enough stored wealth to cushion the downturn.
RISK: Prolonged downturn topples GCC states’ ambitious plans.

Post card from Russia


This is one in a series of post cards from Reuters reporters across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Who rules the world’s biggest energy producer? That’s the question that is bugging many people in Russia as the country’s two leaders – PM Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev — try to cope with the worst economic crisis since the 1998 domestic debt default.