Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Afghan Journal:

UPDATE- A glimmer of hope in Afghanistan

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(Amending the article with the correct name of the organisation which conducted the research as also with more details on the survey itself}

The Asia Foundation has released its annual survey of Afghanistan and a key finding is that the Afghan people are a bit more optimistic about their country than the rest of the world is, at this point of time.  The survey found that 42 percent of the people felt Afghanistan was heading in the right direction, up from 38 percent in 2008, and mainly because of better security conditions.

In fact each year the number of respondents who think security has improved has gone up, even though the Taliban insurgency is at its worst in 2009.  Some 44 percent of those surveyed this year said they felt safer, up from 31 percent in 2006. More respondents in 2009 also mentioned reconstruction and rebuilding (36%) and opening of schools for girls (21%) as reasons for optimism than in previous years.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Bombs and tipping points: Pakistan and Northern Ireland

When Northern Ireland's Omagh bomb exploded, killing 29 people, I was in England, by cruel coincidence attending the wedding of a young man who had been badly injured in another attack in the town of Enniskillen more than a decade earlier.

I had just switched my phone on after leaving the church on a glorious, sunny Saturday afternoon when my news editor called. "There's been a bomb. It sounds bad. We're trying to get you on a flight."

A day with a hyperactive leftist leader, Bolivia’s Morales

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    Spending a whole day with Bolivian leftist president Evo Morales requires a great deal of stamina.
    Morales, an Aymara Indian who has introduced a battery of controversial reforms to give Bolivian Indians more power and has put the state in the driving seat of the economy, is hyperactive, to say the least.
    He tends to start the day meeting diplomats or government officials at about 6 a.m. and often wraps up after midnight.
    In the three years I have been living in Bolivia he has not been on vacation, and it is not unusual for him to visit three or four far-away places in a day.
    Today is one of those days.
    Morales, who herded llamas as a child, lost four siblings to poverty and never finished high school, became the country’s first Indian president in early 2006. He is revered by poor Indians, who identify with his moving underdog story and are benefiting from heavy social spending.
    But he is frowned upon by the middle classes who fear he may try to install a Cuban-style socialist regime in the country.
    Critics see Morales, an ally of Venezuelan leftist President Hugo Chavez and Cuban revolution leader Fidel Castro, as a dangerous socialist.
    The day we spent together, he was wearing jeans, a wrinkled short-sleeve shirt and unbranded sports shoes. He was good humored and cared little for protocol; addressing me as “comrade” or “brother” and once simply with a “What’s up, boss?”
    “I don’t know how he does it. I can’t keep up sometimes. I’ve got soroche — high altitude syndrome,” said a close Morales’ aide, when I asked about the president’s hectic schedule, which often includes trips from the Andean plateau to the lowlands and back.
    I met Morales, a clear favorite to win a presidential election in December, at a campaign rally at 7 a.m. in El Alto, a sprawling shantytown in the outskirts of La Paz.
    “Evo governs and plays but does not get tired,” chanted hundreds of supporters while he played soccer after the rally.
    Then we took a plane to the country’s constitutional capital, Sucre, to catch a helicopter to Tinguipaya, a tiny Quechua village of adobe houses in the central Potosi region, where no Bolivian president had ever visited before.
    After a campaign event in Tinguipaya we flew to the southern town of Tarija, where he presided over an award ceremony for a soccer tournament, and then off to the northern town of Cobija.
    On the plane Morales bragged about a penalty he scored in an impromptu kick about.
    “I fooled the goalkeeper. Did you see?,” he said.
    By 4 p.m. we had visited four places all over Bolivia — a country of 10 million that is roughly the size of France and Spain combined — traveling by car, plane and helicopter. At one point I tried to take a nap but Morales woke me up listening to loud Bolivian pop music on his cell phone.
    At times during the day he looked over papers handed to him by a military officer and he also had private meetings with the defense minister and a governer during our travels.
    Morales, a bachelor with a mop of thick black hair and copper skin, was going to turn 50 the day after our trip.
    “How are you going to celebrate your birthday?” I asked.
    “I can’t,” he said. “It’s forbidden. I’ve got to work. I have a meeting at 5 a.m. … you have to be there, let’s see whether you can keep up with me.”

   “I don’t think I can. I’m already exhausted,” I told him.
    Morales ate little during the morning and early afternoon, just drinking water and popping propolis lozenges, a health food made of resin from beehives. I told him I was hungry, that I could not believe he agreed to take us around for a day but failed to offer us food.
    He called a flight attendant, who brought out a take-away plastic container with lukewarm chunks of beef and potatoes.
    In no time Morales, Reuters’ photographer David Mercado, an army official and myself were all picking food from the container with our fingers. It was a working-class feast inside a presidential plane.
    In Cobija Morales met government officials, dined with supporters and presided over a second sports ceremony.
    After 14 hours of traveling throughout the country Morales, a keen soccer fan, was still going strong and decided to play soccer with a local team.
    On the flight back to La Paz he finally dozed off for an hour or so. We arrived in El Alto after 1 a.m.
    “Comrades, I see you at 5 a.m. at the presidential palace. Don’t let me down,” he said before waving goodbye.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s slow path to salvation in Waziristan

Pakistan's militants have unleashed a guerrilla war in cities across the country in retaliation for a military offensive against them in their South Waziristan stronghold. But while they have seized all the attention with their massive bomb and gun attacks, what about the offensive itself  in their mountain redoubt ?

Nearly two weeks into Operation Rah-e-Nijat, or Path of Salvation,  it is hard to make a firm assessment of which way the war is going, given that information is hard to come by and this may yet be still the opening stages of a long and difficult campaign.

from Afghan Journal:

Choppers, the Achilles’ heel in the Afghan war

AFGHANISTAN PARK/

Back in 2002 during a reporting assignment in Afghanistan, a U.S. helicopter pilot told me that it was important to send a message early on that "we own the skies, night or day".  So at any given point of time if you were at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul, you could see aircraft, mostly choppers taking off, landing or simply idling  in the skies above in what became the region's busiest airfield.

Seven years on, the U.S. military is holding on to the skies ever more tightly as the ground below slips away to a Taliban insurgency at its fiercest level. And because they fly more and because the terrain and weather are difficult, the chances of things going wrong increase, as happened earlier this week when 14 Americans, including 11 soldiers, were killed in two separate chopper crashes.

Death-Defying Doha

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Just as the World Trade Organisation is organizing an intensive push to complete the Doha round trade talks, the atmosphere among negotiators is as pessimistic as it ever has been. 

 

“Gloom” and “frustration” are just two of the more printable words circulating at the WTO’s headquarters by Lake Geneva.

Merkel’s 2nd term off to a bumpy start

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After spending the last four years trapped in a loveless grand coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats, Germany’s conservative chancellor Angela Merkel is looking forward to happier, more productive days in a cosy new centre-right coalition with her preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats.

However, rather than smooth sailing with her new, more like-minded coalition partners, it’s turned out to be one turf battle after another between Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, on the one side and the Free Democrats on the other.

from FaithWorld:

Will Queen Elizabeth give the pope a warm welcome next year?

queenOne can guess what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will say to Pope Benedict when the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion travels to the Vatican later this year. The more interesting question might be what  Queen Elizabeth is likely to say when she hosts the pope next year. (Photo: Queen Elizabeth, 13 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)

The timing of the trips couldn't be more intriguing, especially the second one. The pope is due to visit Britain in September 2010 and is expected to preside there over the beatification of the late Cardinal John Henry Newman, a famous 19th-century convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

from Afghan Journal:

Denying Afghanistan to al Qaeda; is that really the key ?

AFGHANISTAN/Much of the rationale for the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan has to do with making sure that it doesn't become a haven for militant groups once again. As President Barack Obama weighs U.S. and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal's recommendation for 40,000 more troops at a time of fading public support for the war in Afghanistan, some people are questioning the basic premise that America must remain militarily committed there so that al Qaeda doesn't creep back under the protection of the Taliban.

Richard N.Haass, the president of the Council for Foreign Relations, kicked off the debate this month, arguing that al Qaeda didn't really "require Afghan real estate to constitute a regional or global threat". Terrorists head to areas of least resistance, and if it is not Afghanistan, they will choose other unstable countries such as Somalia or Yemen, if it hasn't  happened already, he argues. And the United States cannot conceivably secure all the terrorist havens in the world.

British foreign minister tries to revive Blair candidacy for EU job

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British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has launched a rearguard action to revive Tony Blair’s candidacy to be president of the European Union.

For weeks, the former British prime minister was the front-runner for the post which will be created in the 27-nation bloc’s Lisbon reform treaty, which is still awaiting the signature of the Czech president.

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