Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Cattle Rustling, Pythons and Boogie Angola Style …. the best reads of May

Climate health costs: bug-borne ills, killer heat
Tree-munching beetles, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and deer ticks that spread Lyme disease are three living signs that climate change is likely to exact a heavy toll on human health. These pests and others are expanding their ranges in a warming world, which means people who never had to worry about them will have to start.  

Spain rearranges furniture as economy sinks

Moving a 17-metre high monument to Christopher Columbus 100 metres down the road is how the Spanish government is interpreting the advice of John Maynard Keynes. The economist once argued it would be preferable to pay workers to dig holes and fill them in again, rather than allowing them to stand idle and deprive the economy of the multiplier effect of their wages.  

Picking up the pieces from Afghanistan’s war

U.S. gunners scanned a lush Afghan valley from their helicopter, as a  white van containing a badly burned baby inched toward another Black Hawk waiting at the army outpost. Eight soldiers had flown into the heart of hostile eastern Afghanistan, in a convoy of one air ambulance and one “chase” helicopter for protection, to collect 18-month-old Amanullah who knocked a pot of scalding water over his legs, penis and scrotum.  

In Brazil, extreme weather stokes climate worries

No one could say they hadn’t seen it coming. The sand dunes had been advancing for decades before they swallowed the houses of families in Ilha Grande, an island in Brazil’s Parnaiba river delta. Standing on a dune that covers his old home, one man describes the landscape of his childhood — cashew trees as far as he could see. Not a dune in sight.

Merkel flirts with FDP as German election heats up

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her would-be allies, the opposition Free Democrats, did not waste any time putting their spin on the re-election of President Horst Koehler on Saturday – a razor-thin victory for the conservatives over the rival candidate put up by their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, in a vote four months before the parliamentary election.

Mere minutes after Koehler squeaked out a one-vote victory in the 1,224-seat Federal Assembly to win a second term as Germany’s ceremonial head of state, a beaming Merkel popped up on national television alongside FDP chairman Guido Westerwelle for a joint impromptu news conference rich with symbolism; it was the first time they appeared together in such a formal setting since the 2005 campaign.

Argentina’s Kirchner shows softer side on campaign trail

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Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner developed a reputation as a sharp-tongued leader who did not hesitate to upbraid company executives, opposition leaders and journalists as president.

Now, he’s looking to showcase a softer side as he returns to the campaign trail — this time as a candidate for Congress.

Back-slapping at the European Parliament – but also concerns

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Members of the European Parliament engaged in some mutual back-slapping at their final session this week before an election next month.

“Nowadays very few decisions are taken in the European Union without the express consent and participation of the European Parliament,” said the parliament’s president, Hans-Gert Poettering

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Two views on Obama’s handling of Karzai

With President Hamid Karzai now looking all but unassailable in Afghanistan's August election, two articles out this week - one from Washington and the other from India - offer mirror-image analyses of President Barack Obama's handling of the Afghan leader. They should really be read as companion pieces since both offer insights into the workings of the Obama administration and the complexities of Afghan politics.  Reading both together also highlights how different the world looks depending on your perspective, whether writing from America or Asia.According to this article in the Washington Post by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (highlighted by Joshua Foust at Registan.net) the Obama administration had decided to keep Karzai at arm's length. It says Obama's advisers faulted former President George W. Bush for forging too personal a relationship with Karzai through bi-weekly video conferences and as a result creating such cosiness that it became hard for his administration to put pressure on the Afghan government."It was a conversation. It was a dialogue. It was a lot of 'How are you doing? How is your son?'" it quotes a senior U.S. government official who attended some of the sessions as saying. "Karzai sometimes placed his infant son on his lap during the conversations.""Obama's advisers have crafted a two-pronged strategy that amounts to a fundamental break from the avuncular way President George W. Bush dealt with the Afghan leader," the report said.  "Obama intends to maintain an arm's-length relationship with Karzai in the hope that it will lead him to address issues of concern to the United States, according to senior U.S. government officials. The administration will also seek to bypass Karzai by working more closely with other members of his cabinet and by funnelling more money to local governors."Retired Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, has a rather different reading on the wisdom of the Obama administration's approach. In this article in the Asia Times Online, headlined What Obama could learn from Karzai, (highlighted by Marie-France Calle on her French-language blog), he says the Americans allowed themselves to be outmanoeuvred by the Afghan President by keeping him at arms-length."In retrospect, United States President Barack Obama did a great favour to Afghan President Hamid Karzai by excluding him from his charmed circle of movers and shakers who would wield clout with the new administration in Washington," he writes. "Obama was uncharacteristically rude to Karzai by not even conversing with him by telephone for weeks after he was sworn in, even though Afghanistan was the number one policy priority of his presidency."But Karzai, he says, had the last laugh, as the opprobrium heaped upon him by the west raised his standing in Afghan eyes. Karzai had been able to manoeuvre himself into a strong position through weeks of Afghan-style backroom negotiations, capped by a decision by a popular candidate to pull out of the election race."The Afghan experience with democracy offers a good lesson for Obama: it is best to keep a discreet distance and leave the Afghans to broker power-sharing on their own terms, according to their own ethos and tradition," he writes. "However, Obama has a long way to go in imbibing the lessons of democracy in the Hindu Kush ..."(Reuters photos: President Karzai, and Karzai with President Obama and Vice President Biden. Photos by Yuri Gripas and Jonathan Ernst)

from Africa News blog:

Zuma sweeps in

It was South Africa’s most exciting election campaign for a long time, enlivened by the split in the African National Congress and the personality of Jacob Zuma, the man who is now pretty much assured of becoming president despite the best efforts of plenty of people within his party as well as the opposition.

So far, the results don’t look too different from the pre-poll forecasts. An ANC victory was never in doubt and the battle was as much as anything about whether the party could keep its two-thirds majority in parliament, which lets it change the constitution and further entrench its power. That was still in doubt after early figures.

Steinmeier’s uphill battle to oust “Angie”

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If keeping his fractured party together was the main goal, Frank-Walter Steinmeier passed his first big test as the German Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor with flying colours.

   Unveiling the SPD’s election campaign programme at a party conference on Sunday, Steinmeier (who is also Germany’s foreign minister) tried hard to satisfy everyone gathered at the Berlin Tempodrom – and by and large succeeded.

from Africa News blog:

Will Mandela effect help ANC?

Nelson Mandela, a global symbol of reconciliation after the end of apartheid in 1994, appeared at the ruling ANC's last election rally before Wednesday's vote, delivering a last minute campaign boost for party leader Jacob Zuma.

Wearing a Zuma t-shirt, he sat beside the ANC leader, who has been fighting corruption allegations for eight years. The case was just dropped on a technicality and some South Africans still question his innocence.

from Africa News blog:

Will South Africa’s poor always back ANC?

It’s one of the biggest ironies in South African politics -- the most loyal ANC voters are often those the party appears to have let down most bitterly.

For millions of poor, mostly black South Africans, life has barely changed since the African National Congress defeated apartheid under Nelson Mandela in 1994.

Indonesia: To hell and back

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By Dean Yates

(The author lived in Indonesia from 1992-1995 and 2000-2005, with various assignments in between)

It was not that long ago that Indonesia was lurching from crisis to crisis, even drawing some (misplaced) predictions it could go the way of the former Yugoslavia and break apart. These days it rarely makes the front page. It has a steady president in Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, probably the freest press in Southeast Asia and political violence appears to be a thing of the past. The last major bomb attack blamed on Islamic militants was in 2005.

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