Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

George Clooney, UN Security Council descend on Sudan

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George Clooney has been roughing it recently, on the latest of his trips to Sudan to highlight the problems there. 

The Hollywood superstar and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador was touring semi-autonomous south Sudan ahead of a planned January 2011 referendum on whether southerners in Africa’s biggest country should secede from the Khartoum-led north. Tensions are high because of fears the plebiscite could be delayed, sparking a new war between the predominantly Muslim north and the heavily animist and Christian south.

The U.N. Security Council delegation I traveled to Sudan with was in Juba, the scruffy capital of south Sudan, at the same time as Clooney. But we reporters never saw him. The  journalists covering the Security Council’s African trip were barred from the party that Clooney, council diplomats and U.N. officials attended. According to several of those present, Clooney and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, had a long huddle to discuss the problems of Sudan, including the referendum and the 7-year-old conflict in Sudan’s remote western Darfur region. Of course Sudan was not the only interesting thing about the evening — one U.N. official boasted of having seven pictures of her and Clooney on her digital camera.

Leaving south Sudan was not so easy. Our plane had engine trouble and we were all marched to a Russian peacekeeper base. Four local Sudanese reporters with us were told by U.N. officials that there no sandwiches for them and initially ordered to remain on the press bus.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan: street rage and sectarian bombings

us flagOne of the more troublesome aspects of the current situation in Pakistan is how subdued - at least relative to the scale of the deaths - are protests against suicide bombings on Pakistani cities. Travelling from Lahore to Islamabad last month, my taxi driver winced in pain when I told him I had a text message saying the city we had just left, his city, had been bombed again. Yet where was the outlet for him to express that pain, or indeed for the many grieving families who had lost relatives?

I was reminded of this reading Nadeem Paracha's latest piece in Dawn on the outcry over Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist  jailed in the United States after being convicted of shooting at U.S. soldiers. She has been claimed as the "daughter of the nation" who must be rescued from an American jail.

from Tales from the Trail:

Loss of U.S. jobs to China becomes powerful election issue

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Joe Sestak, accuses his Republican foe Pat Toomey of favoring China over hard-working Americans.

In a new website, the AFL-CIO pointedly tracks the loss of U.S. jobs to China and other cheap-labor countries.

In Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, new police are charged with stopping the violence

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It is difficult to imagine things getting much worse in Ciudad Juarez, the manufacturing city across from El Paso that has become one of the world’s most dangerous places. Extortions, beheadings, bombs in cars, daylight shootouts and kidnappings are all daily fare in the border town once better known as a NAFTA powerhouse and party zone for fun seeking Americans. Even the Mexican army stands accused of abusing the trust citizens once placed in it, carrying out possibly hundreds of wrongful arrests and illegal house raids. MEXICO/

Things are so bad that business leaders are calling for a state of emergency to be called in the city on the Rio Grande with nighttime curfews in a bid to control the violence.  Around 10,000 businesses have closed in Ciudad Juarez over the past two years. A military-enforced curfew doesn’t resound much with residents who want the thousands of troops sent in by President Felipe Calderon to leave town for good. More than 6,700 people have died in drug killings since the army arrived in early 2008 and locals say the army-led crackdown on gangs has only provoked more violence across the city and its surrounding Chihuahua state.  (Click here for full Mexico drug war coverage)

from MacroScope:

Will China make the world green?

Workers remove mine slag at an aluminium plant in Zibo, Shandong province December 6, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Joschka Fischer was never one to mince words when he was Germany's foreign minister in the late '90s and early noughts. So it is not overly surprising that he has painted a picture in a new post of a world with only two powers -- the United States and China -- and an ineffective and divided Europe on the sidelines.

More controversial, however, is his view that China will not only grow into the world's most important market over the coming years, but will determine what the world produces and consumes -- and that that will be green.

from Afghan Journal:

America takes the war deeper into Pakistan

PAKISTAN-NATO/ATTACK

One of the most interesting things in Bob Woodward's re-telling of the Afghan war strategy in his book "Obama's Wars" is the approach toward Pakistan. It seems the Obama administration figured out pretty early on in its review that Pakistan was going to be the central batttleground, for this is where the main threat to America came from.

Indeed, the mission in Afghanistan was doomed so long as al Qaeda and the Taliban were sheltered in the mountains of northwest Pakistan straddling the Afghan border. The question was how do you deal with Pakistan?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Claiming Jinnah’s mantle: Musharraf joins the queue

jinnah flagThe minute I entered the elegant book-lined club in central London where Pervez Musharraf was about to launch his political career, it was clear who was to dominate the proceedings - Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam, Founder of the Nation, Father of Pakistan. In his trademark peaked Jinnah cap, it was his photo alone which was hanging prominently on the platform where the former military ruler was to speak; and his photo on the little entrance ticket they gave you to get past security.

It was his spirit which was invoked even in the name of Musharraf's political party -- his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) was a deliberate echo of the pre-independence All India Muslim League, through which Jinnah created the state of Pakistan in 1947.

Ireland’s boasts come home to roost

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Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan

Irish literature and legend is full of boasts, like the claim by Christy Mahon in Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” that he has killed his da with a loy (Irish for spade), only to have the old man track him down in another town.

Perhaps that’s the way to view Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s announcement two years ago that the state-backed guarantee scheme to rescue the country’s troubled banks, hit hard by the collapse of the property market, was “the cheapest bailout in the world so far”.
 
It seemed too good to be true. And it was.
 
On Thursday, Lenihan, who has spent the last two years scrambling from one fiscal crisis to another, announced that, actually, the cost for cleaning up years of reckless lending was “horrendous” and in a worst-case scenario the price tag would be over 50 billion euros ($68 billion).
 
The bill will shackle Ireland, once the EU’s fastest growing economy, with a public debt burden of nearly 99 percent of gross domestic product.
 
Ireland’s now crippled economy, meanwhile, has done everything but recover. Unemployment is stubbornly high, property prices remain depressed,  taxpayers face years of cutbacks and, in the second quarter, growth again went into reverse.
 
What happened?
 
Maybe what Lenihan said two years ago was wishful thinking, or perhaps it has taken this long for Ireland to wake up to just how colossal a hole its one-time high flying property tycoons have dug for themselves, and for every Irish taxpayer, even though much of what they were up to is so big as to be unmissable.
 
Take, for example, the Battersea Power Station in London, which is Europe’s largest brick building and has been derelict since it was decommissioned as a coal-burning power plant about a quarter century ago.
 
In 2006, a firm controlled by two Irish property magnates, Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett, bought the building and land surrounding it for a staggering 400 million pounds ($750 million) — even though previous plans to develop it had all come to nought.
 
The boys, as they are referred to in some of the Irish press, had ambitious plans for a new, exclusive, “Knightsbridge”-class development for office, commercial and residential space, including an extension of the Northern Line branch of the London Underground.
 
Four years later, the site is still derelict, promoted, perhaps a bit desperately, as a location for lavish weddings held inside a marquee, and most recently as the venue for a Red Bull-sponsored high-jinx, daredevil motorcycle show.
 
Ronan and Barrett’s property empire, meanwhile,  has seen some of its loans  earmarked for the Irish government’s National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) — Ireland’s “bad bank scheme”, which was  established to purge lenders of commercial property loans, many of them non-performing. 
 
Battersea is at the top end of the scale of Irish property investment during the decade of the Celtic Tiger boom, but replicate it at a lesser level all the way from Eastern Europe to the holiday beaches of Spain and out to Asia, and it becomes clear why Lenihan has had to change his tune.
 
A historical footnote: a Reuters feature informs us that the Battersea Power Station was used during World War Two to burn 120 million pounds worth of banknotes that had to be disposed of to stop enemy forgeries.
 
Something to boast about then. Comparatively small change now.

from Ralph Boulton:

Former British Ambassador recalls German unification

Sir Christopher Mallaby, deputy chairman of the Thomson Reuters Trustee Directors, had a front row seat to German Unification as Britain's ambassador to Germany from 1988 to 1992. Mallaby, who was later ambassador to France, served in the British Diplomatic Service from 1959 to 1996. He was also a managing director of UBS Investment Bank from 1996 to 2006. He has been a Reuters Trustee since 1998.
GERMANY/I arrived in the Federal Republic as Ambassador in March 1988. At that point, there was no indication of the dramatic change that soon would transform Germany. I wrote to the Foreign Office in June 1988:
“Amid the mounting display of the failure of communism in Europe, the Berlin Wall is still the greatest admission of its failure. West Germans and West Berliners see no prospect of its going.”

I could not know then that the next 17 months were to be the most exciting and positive in my 37 years as a diplomat. By autumn of 1989, everything was in flux. Change in the Soviet Union led to the banning of some Moscow publications in the GDR -- an unprecedented act of insubordination and a sure sign of anxiety at the top of the East German communist party. Mikhail Gorbachev, visiting East Berlin, seemed to encourage reform, evidently regarding some reform in East Germany as less dangerous to Soviet interests than no reform. His unscripted remark now seems a landmark: “Dangers await only those who don’t react to life.”
After a few weeks East Germany was crumbling. The demonstrations grew bigger and the Soviet and East German forces did not shoot. Members of the East German leadership who wanted to use force were purged. Gorbachev decided not to use the Red Army. People streamed out of East Germany to the West through the Federal German Embassies in Prague and Budapest, making a key contribution to the end of communism in Germany. In the face of this new haemorrhage of people, the East German government opened the Wall, partly through a misunderstanding among the East German leaders -- one of the most positive cock-ups in history.

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