Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il says bye-bye bouffant. Hello China?

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NORTH KOREANorth Korean leader Kim Jong-il appears to have abandoned his trademark bouffant, relegating one of the world’s most noticeable hair styles to the scrap heap of history.

Reports have said that Kim may travel to China this month for a visit that would be the reclusive leader’s first trip abroad since apparently suffering a stroke in 2008. Kim’s trips to China, his destitute and isolated state’s biggest benefactor and the closest thing it can claim as a major ally, have often led to moves that decrease the security threat Pyongyang poses to the economically vibrant region. This would be Kim’s first trip abroad since falling seriously ill.

KOREA-NORTH/Kim changed noticeably in April 2009 when he made his first public appearance after the apparent stroke.

His pot belly pressed less firmly against his muddy shade of grey jumpsuit and his hair had thinned. In photos released by his state’s official KCNA news agency in the following months, Kim is seen putting on a little bit of weight and looking more spry, but his hair still remained thin.

Balancing powers in the Malacca Strait

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SINGAPORE-SHIPPING/THREAT  Singapore’s warning of a terrorist threat in the Malacca Straits has again highighted the issue of who is in charge of security in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

 Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have stepped up sea patrols in the strait after Singapore’s navy said on Thursday it had received indications a terrorist group was planning attacks on oil tankers.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Seeking Saudi cooperation on Afghanistan and Pakistan

saudiPrime Minister Manmohan Singh is making the first visit to Saudi Arabia by an Indian leader since 1982, seeking to build economic ties and to enlist the kingdom's help in improving regional security. While much of the focus is likely to be on securing oil supplies for India's growing economy, the visit is also part of the complex manoeuvres by regional players jostling for position on Afghanistan and beyond.

Singh told Saudi journalists ahead of the visit that he would discuss with Saudi King Abdullah how to promote greater stability and security in the region.  "Both King Abdullah and I reject the notion that any cause justifies wanton violence against innocent people. We are strong allies against the scourge of extremism and terrorism that affects global peace and security," he said.

Renewing trans-Atlantic ties Finnish-style

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It’s not often that Finland takes the lead in calling for better trans-Atlantic ties, but as the Nordic country’s energetic foreign minister might say: there’s a first time for everything.

In a speech in London this week, delivered on the eve of the Afghan conference, which might perhaps have led it to garner less attention than it otherwise would, Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb laid out a bold five-point plan for closer EU-US relations.

Does Siemens’ move send a message on Iran sanctions?

nuclearWhen it comes to further sanctions on Iran, the clock is ticking relentlessly, even if those leading the drive – the United States, Britain, Germany and France — are giving little away in terms of timing or what might be targeted under any new, U.N.-agreed package.

Still, companies that do business with Iran appear to be getting the message that time is running out.

from Afghan Journal:

America, don’t “leave us in the lurch” in Afghanistan

(U.S. Marines in Nimroz province, southern Afghanistan)

(U.S. Marines in Nimroz province, southern Afghanistan)

One of the first things that U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates did during his trip to India last week was to assure Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the United States did not intend to cut and run from Afghanistan.  America was committed to Afghanistan for the long-term, he said, trying to calm Indian concerns over the Obama administration's stated plans to begin  withdrawing troops from July 2011. 

It struck me as quite remarkable that India, long a prickly nation opposed to superpower presence in the region, had so openly pinned its hopes on a prolonged U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Quite a change from the time  it would rail against the presence of such "extra-regional" powers.

Allah, Antarctica and Ancient Inca-The best reads of 2009

When I have time to lavish on reading something other than news, I want to spend it on stories that leave me saying, “Wow!” A great read should tell readers something they don’t already know, enlighten them about the world and its people, inform them about the human condition. Readers should be moved to laughter, tears, anger, action through superb writing and extraordinary reporting.  Here are my picks for the best reads of 2009.

As Spain’s jobless lose homes, tensions mount

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A packet of cigarettes is enough to cause a fight among the Spaniards and immigrants shivering in the dark outside an emergency homeless shelter in Madrid, set up for a bitter winter and depression-era unemployment. Police push past jobless Romanian and Hungarian construction workers.  ”One day this place is going to explode,” says unemployed waiter Miguel Roa, a Spaniard.

“Earth to Ban Ki-moon” or how a deal was sealed in Copenhagen

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cop15Sweden complained that the recent Copenhagen climate change summit was a “disaster.” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described it as “at best flawed and at worst chaotic.” Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, dubbed the outcome confirmation of a “climate apartheid.” For South Africa it was simply “not acceptable.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who for over a year had been urging the 192 members of the United Nations to “seal the deal” in Copenhagen, saw things differently. In a statement issued by his press office, Ban said the two-week meeting had a “successful conclusion with substantive outcomes.” Speaking to reporters, the secretary-general expanded on that: “Finally we sealed the deal. And it is a real deal. Bringing world leaders to the table paid off.” However, he tempered his praise for the participating delegations by noting that the outcome “may not be everything that everyone hoped for.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Can China help stabilise Pakistan?

forbidden cityWhen President Barack Obama suggested in Beijing last month that China and the United States could cooperate on bringing stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and indeed to "all of South Asia", much of the attention was diverted to India, where the media saw it as inviting unwarranted Chinese interference in the region.

But what about asking a different question? Can China help stabilise the region?

What to do while the world burns

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A firefighter puts out a fire at a village near Bangkok March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

This opinion piece by Mort Rosenblum originally appeared in GlobalPost. The views expressed are his own. For the full article, click here.

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