Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

In Pakistan, not over the moon

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By Zeeshan Haider

Pakistan is battling Taliban militants, trying to patch up relations with old rival India and struggling to revive a limping economy but another issue has preoccupied the country over recent days: the sighting of the moon that markes the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A row erupted when the Eid al Fitr holiday that follows Ramadan was celebrated in several parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Sunday, a day ahead of the rest of the country. Many Pakistanis say that violated a spirit of harmony and unity that should mark one of the
most important events of the Islamic calender.

Some clerics in NWFP announced on Saturday evening that the crescent moon, which marks the end of a month in Islam's lunar calender, had been sighted, meaning Ramadan was over and Eid would be celebrated the next day. But a government-appointed body of clerics responsible for
moon-sighting rejected the announcement, citing reports from the Meteorological Department that said the moon could not be seen on Saturday.

Clerics in  NWFP, a religiously conservative region on the Afghan border dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, have called Eid early before but this time the politicians jumped into the fray. The Awami National Party (ANP), a secular party ruling NWFP which is also part of the federal coalition, backed the clerics from its province who called Eid early.

Southeast Asia’s Islamists try the domino theory

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Photo: Jihad book collection in Jakarta Sept.21, 2009. REUTERS/Supr

A half-century ago, Washington worried about Southeast Asian nations falling like dominoes to an international communist movement backed by Maoist China, and became bogged down in the Vietnam War.

Noordin Top, believed to be the mastermind behind most of the suicide bombings in Indonesia — including the July 17 attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels — pronounced himself to be al Qaeda’s franchise in Southeast Asia.

Little help from celebs for Germany’s undecided voters

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Nobel prize-winning writer Guenter Grass is dressed in a
mustard-brown cord suit and reading his work to a reverent
audience in a hushed Berlin night club.

It feels more like a book launch than a political campaign
event just days before the German election. Yet as far as
celebrity endorsements for German political parties go, this
is as big as it gets.

Dust coats Australian outback myth

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The huge outback dust storm that swept across eastern Australia on Sept. 23 smothering Sydney in red dirt was a stark reminder that after 221 years of white settlement Australians still only cling to the edge of this harsh island continent.

Australians love to promote the idea that they live in a sunburnt country, of rugged outback cattlemen and ancient Aboriginal culture, but for most Australians it’s a myth.

A world without nuclear weapons: Obama’s pipe dream?

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U.S. President Barack Obama says he wants a world without nuclear weapons. But will that ever happen?
    
Obama showed he’s serious this week. He chaired a historic summit meeting of the U.N. Security Council which unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution that envisages “a world without nuclear weapons”.
    
It was the first time a U.S. president chaired a meeting of the Security Council since it was established in 1946.
 
John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, an advocacy group, identified serious weaknesses in the resolution, including the absence of mandatory disarmament steps for the world’s five official nuclear powers — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.
    
Some diplomats from countries without nuclear weapons said the lack of mandatory disarmament moves is not just a weakness, but a loophole the five big powers — which have permanent seats and vetoes on the Security Council — deliberately inserted into the resolution so that they wouldn’t have to scrap their beloved nuclear arsenals.
 
An official from one of the five big powers appeared to confirm this in an “off-record” email to Reuters explaining the language in the resolution: “I would underline that creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons is not the same as calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.” He added that “the spirit of the resolution is much more about non-proliferation than disarmament.”
    
A diplomat and disarmament expert from a European country with no nuclear weapons said this was typical of the “cynicism” of some permanent Security Council members. He added that the U.S. delegation had made very clear that the use of the word “disarmament” meant total nuclear disarmament — perhaps not today, but someday. 
    
China’s President Hu Jintao said China was not planning to get rid of its nuclear arsenal anytime soon. So did French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    
The resolution didn’t name Iran and North Korea. However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Sarkozy filled in the blanks and called for tougher sanctions against Iran for defying U.N. demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.
 
The resolution didn’t mention Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, the four others known or assumed to have nuclear weapons. But it did politely ask “other states” to sign the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and get rid of their atom bombs.
 
Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was the only leader of a council member state that stayed away from the meeting. Several council diplomats expressed relief at his absence, saying they had been afraid the long-winded Gaddafi would have exceeded the five-minute limit for statements.

(Photos by Mike Segar/REUTERS)

from The Great Debate UK:

German elections too close to call

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Erik Kirschbaum- Erik Kirschbaum is a Reuters correspondent in Berlin. -

Has this been dullest German election campaign in decades or the most exciting?  Has the battle for power in Berlin between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that concludes with Sunday's election been a memorable showdown or a forgettably boring contest?

Many journalists, pundits and voters have complained it's all been a merciless bore compared to the high-octane battles of the past with little action and precious few highlights.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: the changing nature of conflict

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Early last year a group of Indian and Pakistan retired generals and strategic experts sat down for a war-gaming exercise in Washington. The question, predictably enough, was at what point during a conventional war, would the generals in Rawalpindi GDQ reach for the nuclear trigger.

In the event, the simulated war took on an unpredictable turn, which in some ways was more illuminating than the question of nuclear escalation, as columnist Ashok Malik writes in The Great Divide:India and Pakistan, a collection of essays by experts on both sides of the border.

Flashmobs target Merkel at final election rallies

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Getting pelted by eggs or tomatoes is an occupational hazard for most hardened politicians on the election trail.******But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeking re-election on Sunday, has been confronted with a new kind of protest during her final campaign rallies: flashmobs.******The mobs, groups of people summoned over the Internet to show up at a specific time and place to do something unusual, have materialised at several election events in the last week to wave flags and banners and heckle the unsuspecting Merkel.******Mostly, they have been chanting “Yeahhhh!” after every sentence she utters and the slogan is meant as an ironic expression of support.******It may not sound like the most damaging critique, but Merkel has cottoned on to the flashmobs and now even addresses them at the rallies as “My young friends from the Internet”.******So is this a new form of political protest or just a bit of fun?******Blogger Rene Walter, who writes for nerdcore, says there is a serious idea behind the light-hearted gatherings.******”We are not just going to swallow the election messages, we are spitting back the rubbish Merkel speaks in the ironic form of a “Yeahhh!”, he says in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.******Many involved in the flashmobs support the Pirate Party, who are popular among young voters and oppose what they say is censorship of the Internet that has been brought in under Merkel’s government.******One thing is for sure. Flashmobs are injecting some much-needed spontaneity into the final days of a campaign which many voters think has been the most turgid in decades.******But are flashmobs here to stay? Could they become the political protest movement of the Internet age?

A reminder that Greece was not always democratic

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Visitors to Greece’s capital these days cannot escape the fact that a general election is on he way.  But it is not just the constant discussion on television and the excited newspaper headlines about a U.S.-style debate between front runners that lets you know.

Peppered across the city are political stalls, open for the public to come in and be persuaded to vote on Oct. 4 for whichever party is hosting them. The style ranges from a bench and chairs manned by two ageing communists in the northern suburbs to a rather slick structure in Athen’s central Syndagma Square touting the worth  of the ruling conservative New Democracy party. For some reason the latter was blaring out The Clash’s “Rocking the Casbah” on a recent sunny morning.

A year on, the question remains: Is the war in Iraq over?

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A little over a year ago, then-Baghdad Bureau Chief Dean Yates, my former boss, wrote an entry on this blog entitled ‘Is the war in Iraq over?’

Before he wrote it, Dean went to a famed Baghdad park to take the pulse of ordinary Iraqis, who were then cautiously venturing out to public places for the first time in years, a tentative sign that Iraq was finally emerging from height of the violence unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

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