Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Sex, drugs and toxic shrubs: the best reads of March

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Cubans indulge baseball mania at Havana’s “Hot Corner”

For all the shouting and nose-to-nose confrontations, visitors to Havana’s Parque Central might think they had walked into a brawl or counter-revolution … but here in the park’s Hot Corner,  the topic almost always under discussion is baseball, Cuba’s national obsession.

Iraq’s orphans battle to outgrow abuse

At night, Salah Abbas Hisham wakes up screaming. Sometimes, in the dark, he silently attacks the boy next to him in a tiny Baghdad orphanage where 33 boys sleep on cots or on the floor. Salah, who saw both his parents blown apart in a car bomb, can never be left alone at night.

Colombian soccer club tries to forget cocaine past

Colombian soccer champions America de Cali are first to admit cocaine dollars had a hand in their sporting heyday. But after years of paying the price, they’re trying to wipe the slate clean … Cali’s mayor is leading a campaign to have the team removed from a U.S. anti-drugs blacklist.

Big French press find brand power helps online

In a grimy part of eastern Paris an editorial conference is underway, similar to planning meetings in newsrooms everywhere, except this is being blogged live and readers can join in … The meeting is at Rue89 … one of the interactive  sites to have appeared as a global crisis in the press squeezes French newspapers.

Best reads of February

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Exotic animals trapped in net of Mexican drug trade - From the live snakes that smugglers stuff with packets of cocaine to the white tigers drug lords keep as exotic pets, rare animals are being increasingly sucked into Mexico’s deadly narcotics trade.

End of an era for the Amazon’s turbulent priests - They avoid taking buses, make sure friends know their schedules, and rarely go out when it’s dark. For the three foreign-born Roman Catholic bishops under death threat in Brazil’s northeastern state of Para, speaking out against social ills that plague this often-lawless area at the Amazon River’s mouth has come at a price.

New world shapes up off Somalia

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The Somali pirates who released a Saudi supertanker got a $3 million reward, according to their associates. Good money in one of the world’s poorest and most war-blighted corners.But the waters off Somalia are getting ever more crowded with foreign ships trying to stop the pirates. As well as potentially making life more difficult for the hijackers, it has become a real illustration of the much talked about global power shift from West to East in terms of military might as well as economic strength.This raises a question as to whether this will lead to close cooperation, rivalry or something altogether more unpredictable.This week the United States said it planned to launch a specific anti-piracy force, an offshoot of a coalition naval force already in the region since the start of the U.S. “War on Terror” in Afghanistan in 2001.It wasn’t clear just what this would mean in practical terms since U.S. ships were already part of the forces trying to stop the modern day buccaneers, equipped with speedboats and rocket-propelled grenades. It was also unclear which countries would be joining the U.S.-led force rather than operating under their own mandates.The U.S. announcement came two days after Chinese ships started an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. This is the first time Chinese warships have sailed to Africa, barring goodwill visits, since Ming Dynasty eunuch Admiral Zheng commanded an armada 600 years ago.As my colleague Sanjeev Miglani wrote last month, the Chinese deployment was being scrutinised by the strategic community from New Delhi to Washington.The Chinese had actually been catching up to other Asian countries. India already had ships in the region. So did Malaysia, whose navy foiled at least one pirate attack this month. Reasserting its might, Russia had sent a warship after the big surge in piracy in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen. The European Union has a mission there.For Asian countries there is good reason to send warships. This is the main trade route to markets in Europe and their ships have been seized. Attacks on shipping push up insurance rates and force some vessels to use more fuel on the longer, safer route around Africa instead of taking the Suez Canal.But there certainly appears to be evidence too to back up the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2025” report late last year that highlighted the relative decline in Washington’s long term influence in the face of the rise of China and India.As well as being a chance for the world’s old and new powers to show their strength in terms of numbers, the anti-piracy operations off Somalia could prove something of a test of effectiveness.While the hardware the navies have will always outclass that of the pirates, the new powers may have an advantage in more robust rules of engagement. That might lead to mistakes, however. In November, India trumpted its success in sinking a pirate “mother ship”. It later turned out that a Thai ship carrying fishing equipment had been sunk while it was being hijacked. Most of the crew were reported lost.There is a lot of sea to cover, one of the reasons why naval forces have had so much difficulty in stopping the hijackings, but the presence of so many navies in the same area at the same time must raise questions over how well they are going to work together.Will this become a model for cooperation in a new world order? Or are there dangers? Might this also end up being a display of how little either East or West can do in the face of attacks by armed groups from a failed state with which nobody from outside seems prepared to come to grips? What do you think?(Picture: Commanding officer of a U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser monitors the pirated ship off Somalia REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout)(Picture: Forces from French naval vessel “Jean de Vienne”, seen in this January 4, 2009 photo, capture 19 Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. REUTERS/French Navy/handout)

Is Sri Lanka’s long civil war nearing an end?

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By C. Bryson Hull

Sri Lanka’s army has the Tamil Tigers on the run with a string of convincing military victories. Many people are asking if one of Asia’s longest-running civil wars is near its end after 25 years.

 Sri Lankan tanks patrol near the town of Kilinochchi (REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasingh)

Giving in to Ali Baba

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I once paid a cop 30 ringgit (about $10 then) for making an apparently illegal left-hand turn in Kuala Lumpur. Scores of drivers in front of me were also handing over their “instant fines”, discreetly enclosed within the policeman’s ticketing folder. It was days ahead of a major holiday and the cops were collecting their holiday bonus from the public.

Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a disc he says contains evidence of judge-fixing in Malaysia 

The political price of recession

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As journalists, we spend a lot of time watching politicians and policies to guage their impact on financial markets and economies. Now, as recession takes an inexorable hold in the Asia-Pacific region, we’re watching for the impact on politicians themselves.

 So far there has been no repeat of the political upheaval triggered by Asia’s economic crisis a decade ago, which culminated in the ignominious resignation of President Suharto in Indonesia and the ouster of Thailand’s prime minister (see previous blog). There are no food riots as there were back then, and Asians are not crowding at  banks’ doors to rescue their savings.

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