Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Tales from the Trail:

Honduran coup tests Obama in Latin America

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SALVADOR/

Deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya got his strongest endorsement yet from President Barack Obama on Tuesday as the exiled leftist leader returned to Washington to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
 
The United States has joined Latin America in unanimously condemning the military coup in the banana-producing country that ran Zelaya out of town in his pajamas ten days ago.
 
But Washington has been reluctant to slap sanctions on Honduras and cut off U.S. aid. Instead it is cautiously looking for a negotiated and peaceful resolution to a crisis that looks like a win-win situation for the United States' main adversary in the hemisphere, Venezuela's leftist leader Hugo Chavez.
 
Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who turned left in office and signed on to Chavez's growing anti-U.S. coalition, is hardly the best poster boy for democracy. His moves to follow Chavez's example and extend presidential term limits in Honduras sparked the political crisis in which the Honduran Supreme Court, with the backing of Congress, ordered the army to oust the president.
 
After years of U.S. neglect of Latin America during the Bush administration, Obama is trying to improve relations with the region and cannot afford to be on the wrong side of a crisis that many Latin Americans see as a flashback to a dark era of military dictatorships supported by the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

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The Pentagon suspended military cooperation with Honduras last week, even though it maintains a U.S. base in the Central American country that served as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" in the 1980s when the United States was supplying the Contra war against Nicaragua's Sandinistas.
 
Experts on Latin America warn that the close relationship with the Honduran military could lead the United States to do what it had done for decades during the Cold War: side with the elites.
 
"The battle between Zelaya and his opponents pits a reformist president supported by labor unions and social organizations against a mafia-like, drug-ridden, corrupt political elite who is accustomed to choosing not only the Supreme Court and the Congress, but also the president," said Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
 
Dan Erikson, of the Inter-American Dialogue, believes Chavez is well-positioned to benefit from any outcome.
 
"If Zelaya is restored, then another Chavez ally remains in power. If the coup is not reversed, then Chavez has a new issue with which to rally anti-American sentiments in the region. The bottom line is that Chavez is engaged in trying to exploit the Honduran coup to maximum advantage," Erikson said.
    
The hemisphere has still not figured out how to contain a new breed of power-grabbing populist leaders like Chavez who have risen through the ballot box, Erikson said.
 
But whatever their authoritarian tendencies might be, there is broad consensus today --unlike in decades past-- that military coups against democratically elected governments are totally unacceptable.

HONDURAS/

 

Reuters photos by Luis Galdamez (Zelaya at San Salvador airport on July 5); Daniel LeClair (soldiers stop a woman), and Henry Romero ( Zelaya supporter protesting after soldiers fire tear gas at Tegucigalpa airport, where troops blocked the runway on July 5 to prevent the ousted president from landing).

How much did Russia know about Manas negotiations?

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David L. Stern covers the former Soviet Union and the Black Sea region for GlobalPost, where this article originally ran.

KIEV, Ukraine  — Was Kyrgyzstan’s decision last week not to evict American forces from a strategic air base the result of the “Obama Effect” — President Barack Obama’s reputed benign influence on how other nations now view the United States — or evidence of the new president’s hardball negotiating tactics?

The answer holds implications for the American leader’s first meeting with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, when he is in Moscow July 6 to 8. Depending on whether the Kyrgyz reversal was made with or without the Kremlin’s blessing, the base issue could be a sign of how U.S.-Russian relations will develop over the next four years.

from Tabassum Zakaria:

Obama calls Neda video ‘heartbreaking’

"Heartbreaking."

That was President Barack Obama's response to a video showing the death of Neda, a young woman who has come to symbolize the uprising against the Iranian government.

The video shows the woman, identified as Neda Agha Soltan, on the ground after apparently being shot, blood streaming over her face as she dies.

from FaithWorld:

Almost two million vanish from Obama’s estimate of U.S. Muslims

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dawn-front-page002 (Dawn front page for Sunday, 21 June 2009)

Almost two million people have inexplicably disappeared from the estimates of the U.S. Muslim population that President Barack Obama has given recently. In his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, he spoke about "nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today." On Sunday, the Karachi daily Dawn published an interview with him where he said "we have five million Muslims."

There was no explanation for the change, but his reason for citing the figure seemed to be the same. Shortly before his Cairo speech, Obama told the French television channel Canal Plus that "one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world." He cited no figure there but mentioned seven million in Cairo three days later.

from FaithWorld:

Islamic tone, interfaith touch in Obama’s speech to Muslim world

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obama-speech-baghdadIt started with "assalaamu alaykum" and ended with "may God's peace be upon you." Inbetween, President Barack Obama dotted his speech to the Muslim world with Islamic terms and references meant to resonate with his audience. The real substance in the speech were his policy statements and his call for a "new beginning" in U.S. relations with Muslims, as outlined in our trunk news story. But the new tone was also important and it struck a chord with many Muslims who heard the speech, as our Middle East Special Correspondent Alistair Lyon found. Not all, of course -- you can find positive and negative reactions here. (Photo: Iraqi in Baghdad watches Obama's speech, 4 June 2009/Mohammed Ameen)

Among Obama's Islamic touches were four references to the Koran (which he always called the Holy Koran), his approving mention of the scientific, mathematical and philosophical achievements of the medieval Islamic world and his citing of multi-faith life in Andalusia. These are standard elements that many Islam experts -- Muslims and non-Muslims -- mention in speeches at learned conferences, but it's not often that you hear an American president talking about them.

Should Europe help Obama out over Guantanamo?

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 Barely noticed, the United States sent a top diplomat to  Europe this week to seek help on an important commitment by President Barack Obama — to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
   
The trip by veteran envoy Dan Fried to Brussels and Prague is part of efforts to persuade European states to take in some of the 241 remaining detainees at the prison, synonomous for many with rights abuses in the “war on terror” under U.S. President George W. Bush.
   
Europe has long called for the jail to be shut down, but only a few countries — such as France, Portugal and Albania — have  volunteered to resettle any inmates from third countries such as Afghanistan or China.
   
 Time is steadily running out if Obama is to achieve his goal of clearing and closing the prison by next January.  A perceived  lack of European help could sour the much-vaunted new start in transatlantic ties which both sides say they want.
  
But many European officials are asking why they should help the United States out of a hole it dug itself into.
   
The main problem does not involve the small number of  so-called high-value  terror suspects in the camp — they will remain in detention and Washington does not seriously expect anyone to come forward and take them off its hands.
   
Nor does it involve the 17 detainees who have already been cleared for release. The really hot issue is the fate of  the remaining detainees who are not high risk but have not been given the full all-clear.
   
 European officials fear the affair could turn into a legal and political nightmare. Who will take which detainees? Given that much of Europe is now border-free, how will one country reassure its neighbours if it agrees to resettle inmates? And doesn’t the fact that European states have different national policies on surveillance and detention pose extra problems?
   
Worse still, the political fall-out could be devastating. If , for example, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner carried out an attack in Germany just before an election this year, how would Chancellor Angela Merkel explain it to voters? 

Washington knows it won’t be easy to get the Europeans on board. But it says it would be hypocritical for Europe now not to help after all its criticism of Guantanamo.

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.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Are the Pakistan Taliban charting an independent course?

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For some weeks now there have been persistent reports about Taliban leader Mullah Omar, asking fighters in the Pakistani Taliban to stop carrying out attacks there and instead focus on Afghanistan where Western forces are being bolstered.

The reclusive one-eyed leader had in December sent emissaries to ask leaders of the Pakistani Taliban to settle their differences, scale down activities in Pakistan and help mount a spring offensive against the build-up of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a report in the New York Times said as recently as last week.

Iran warns Obama’s government: “Quit talking like Bush”

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Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee didn’t attend the latest U.N. Security Council meeting on Iraq. But the moment the 3-hour session was over the Iranian delegation was circulating a strongly worded letter from Khazaee that had a very clear message for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama: Stop talking like Bush.

He was responding to less than two dozen words on Iran in U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech to the council during a routine review of U.N. activities in Iraq. Rice said that U.S. policy “will seek an end to Iran’s ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for terrorism.”

Restarting life in Albania after Guantanamo Bay

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Guantanamo Bay prison

Guantanamo Bay prison

By Benet Koleka
Abu Bakkr Qassim, a Uighur from far western China, has seen a number of the world’s more remote corners for a middle aged fruit vendor who is now learning how to make pizzas for a living. He is one of four Uighurs living in Albania since 2006 because they could not stay in the United States nor go to China which sees them as terrorists.

Found innocent of terrorism after three and a half years in the U.S. jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he feels vindicated by President Barack Obama’s decision to close down the notorious prison eventually. “I was happy. First of all, President Obama understood the mistake that happened to us in Guantanamo. We want him to repair the mistake although it is not easy,” said Qassim, 39.

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