Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Did I hear ‘freedom fries’? – France says Iran is no Iraq

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- French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud briefs reporters at the United Nations in New York. UN photo

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud briefs reporters at the United Nations in New York. UN photo

February 2003. Anti-French sentiment sweeps across the United States. President George W. Bush and his top aides can barely contain their irritation at the French government for undermining U.S.-led efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize the impending invasion of Iraq. With the aid of Germany and Russia, France torpedoes the drive for a new resolution authorizing war. Frustration erupts into anger. Bottles of French wine and champagne are emptied into toilets and some restaurants rename French fries “freedom fries.”

The rest is history. The United States tells U.N. weapons inspectors to clear out of Iraq and launches an invasion in March 2003 to put an end to Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs. They topple Saddam’s government and execute the deposed Iraqi leader three years later. But U.S. and British intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein had revived his nuclear, iraqbiological and chemical weapons programs turn out to be false.

Seven years later. France and the U.S. are friends again and working on the same side to prevent Iraq’s neighbor, Iran, from developing nuclear weapons. (Interestingly, both France and the United States had supported Iraq during its bloody 1980-88 war with Iran.)

from Russell Boyce:

The politics of bowing in Japan – How low do you go?

By Michael Caronna, Chief Photographer Japan

In Japan nothing says I'm sorry like a nice, deep bow, and lately there's been a whole lot to be sorry for. Ideally the depth of the bow should match the level of regret, allowing observers to make judgements about how sincere the apology really is. Facing massive recalls Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama faced journalists at separate news conferences.

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama (R) bows after submitting a document of a recall to an official of the Transport Ministry Ryuji Masuno (2nd R) at the Transport Ministry in Tokyo February 9, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp is recalling nearly half a million of its flagship Prius and other hybrid cars for braking problems, a third major recall since September and a further blow to the reputation of the world's largest automaker.      REUTERS/Toru Hanai

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

“My Life with the Taliban” – on study and Islamic values

zaeefIn  "My Life with the Taliban",  Abdul Salam Zaeef -- who fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan and later served in the Taliban government before it was ousted in 2001 -- writes of how he longed to escape the trappings of office and instead follow in the footsteps of his father as the Imam of a mosque, learning and teaching the Koran.

"It is work that has no connection with the world's affairs. It is a calling of intellectual dignity away from the dangers and temptations of power. All my life, even as a boy, I was always happiest when studying and learning things. To work in government positions means a life surrounded by corruption and injustice, and therein is found the misery of mankind," he writes in his memoirs, newly translated and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.

from Afghan Journal:

Afghanistan’s very public offensive : teasing out the Taliban or walking into a trap ?

AFGHANISTAN/

(U.S. Marines in a dust storm in a camp near Marjah. Photograph by Reuters'  Goran Tomasevic) 

Reuters  correspondent Golnar Motevalli is on an embed with U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province ahead of a  widely-flagged operation against the Taliban.  Here's her account,  going into battle.

EU gets new Commission, but little to cheer yet

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There was more a sense of relief than joy when the European Union finally got its new executive on Tuesday. These are difficult times for the EU and there is little to celebrate.

The new European Commission is taking office in a tough economic climate, with the 16-country euro zone facing its hardest test since the single currency came into being 11 years ago.

Cometh the hour, cometh Van Rompuy?

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van rompuy2Three months ago, Herman van Rompuy might have struggled to be recognised on the streets of his native Belgium, let alone Paris or London. The bookish former prime minister, a fan of camping holidays and Haiku poetry, was nothing if not low-key; a studious consensus builder in the world of Belgian politics.

Three months on and Van Rompuy, 62, may not outwardly have changed much, but his title and the expectations surrounding him certainly have. In November he was chosen to be the first permanent president of the European Council, the body that represents the EU’s 27 leaders, and on Thursday he will host those heads of state and government at an economic summit in Brussels — the first such gathering he has chaired.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On India-Pakistan thaw and the changing Afghan dynamics

siachensaluteThere is a time and a place for everything and back in the days of the Obama election campaign the idea that progress on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan could help turn around the flagging military campaign in Afghanistan looked plausible. The argument, much touted by Washington think-tankers, was that Pakistan would not turn against Afghan Taliban militants on its western border as long as it believed it might need to use them to counter India's growing influence in Afghanistan, and as long as it felt the need to keep the bulk of its army on its eastern border with India.

Even in the middle of last year, when Pakistan and India made an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to revive peace talks which had been frozen since the attack on Mumbai at the end of 2008, the possibility of a "grand bargain" from Kashmir to Kabul still carried some resonance.

from Afghan Journal:

The agony of Pakistan

PAKISTAN-VIOLENCE/

It must take a particularly determined lot to bomb a bus full of pilgrims, killing scores of them, and then following the wounded to a hospital to unleash a second attack to kill some more. Karachi's twin explosions on Friday, targeting Shia Muslims on their way to a religious procession were on par with some of the worst atrocities committed in recent months.

It also came just two days after a bombing in Lower Dir, near Swat, in which a convoy of soldiers including U.S. servicemen were targeted while on their way to open a girls school. Quite apart from the fact that the U.S. soldiers were the obvious targets, the renewed violence along with fresh reports of flogging by the Taliban calls into question the broader issue of negotiating with hard-core Islamists as proposed by the Afghan government just over the border.

The view from Iqaluit: mostly white

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iqaluitjpgWhen we told Reuters editors we’d be adding plenty of color to the stories we’re putting together from a G7 finance meeting in the Canadian Arctic this weekend, there was a split second of bemused silence on the line. “I suppose that color is mostly white,” said one wag. And that just about sums up Iqaluit, which is clearly the remotest and most inaccessible place where the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers have ever met.

Iqaluit, for the geographically challenged, is a town of some 6,000 people about three hours flight from either Ottawa or Montreal. (Greenland might be closer but you would have to get to Greenland first.)  At this time of year, the snow is everywhere — gray-white on the roads, blue-white in the shadows and a sort of yellow-white when the watery sun hits it full on. The temperature is a balmy -15C today (0F), although there’s a wind that bites right through you, and it’s chilly enough that you really don’t want to take your gloves off for more than one picture before your fingers start to freeze.

‘Frankenstein’-food fears keep GMOs out of Europe

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As the new European Union executive prepares to debate fresh policy proposals which might unblock the stalemate over approving genetically modified crops for feed, processing or cultivation, there are few signs that Europe’s fears over what some have termed “Frankenstein foods” are easing. 

On Friday Bulgaria’s ruling GERB party proposed a five-year moratorium on the production of genetically modified (GM) crops for scientific and commercial reasons following public outcry over a new legislation. 

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