Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Strangers to electoral office and with little experience in government, 23 parties outside the political mainstream are aiming to gain ground in Germany’s federal election this month, and their success or failure may give a taste of what’s to come in a country whose two main parties are losing appeal. Some analysts say that without reform, the number and importance of smaller parties will rise and make the country’s coalition system of government unmanageable – a harrowing reminder of the chaos of the Weimar years that made Hitler’s rise possible. At the moment the small parties are polling at around 5 percent, compared to the last election when they won 4 percent. But none alone is even close to clearing the 5 percent hurdle to access parliament.
Most of the micro-parties are based on single issues, some focusing on things like pensioners rights or animal protection. A smattering of religious parties are calling for stronger Christian values, and far-left groups urge different visions of proletarian revolution and state economic control. The computer-geek founded Pirate Party, which is also the fastest growing party in Germany, wants to legalise free downloads.
While the strongest of the obscure – the far-right German People’s Union (DVU) and the German National Party (NPD) already have a handful of representatives in state-level government, the others do not. None of them of course stand a chance against bigger rivals like the centre-right CDU/CSU, the free-marketeering FDP, the centre left SPD, or even the environmental Greens or far-left Left Party. But some are attracting younger voters, including those born after the fall of the Berlin Wall who increasingly reject the mainstream parties.
For a look at 23 German political parties (including the main ones), check out the Vote-O-Mat (aka “Wahl-O-Mat” in German). Answer a series of questions (in English) and a tool will produce a recommended voting list based on your responses.
Founded by computer geeks in Sweden in 2006 and now active in 33 countries, the Pirate Party is hoping to win over young, disaffected voters in Germany’s federal election on Sept. 27 with demands to reform copyright and patent laws along with their policies that oppose internet censorship and surveillance. But do the single-issue activists, with no stance on foreign policy or the economy, even have the faintest hope of overcoming the five percent hurdle needed to enter parliament?
This looks unlikely given the 0.9 percent of the vote they won at the European parliamentary elections in June. Nonethless, the Piratenpartei with more than 8,000 members is the fastest growing party in Germany, a development partly sparked by the German parliament’s ratification of controversial legislation on blocking certain websites in a bid to fight child pornography.
from Africa News blog:
How times change. Somalia’s new Islamist president has been feted in Ethiopia, whose army drove him from power two years ago - with Washington’s backing - when he headed a sharia courts movement.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was greeted with a standing ovation from African Union leaders at a summit in Ethiopia, which pulled the last of its troops out of Somalia last month, leaving the government in control of little beyond parts of Mogadishu. The hardline Islamist al Shabaab militia control much of the rest of southern Somalia.
from Africa News blog:
There are some expectations that piracy in the Gulf of Aden is about to tail off for a bit. It appears that pirates don't like rough weather any more than anyone else does.
Exclusive Analysis, a political risk consultancy, has conducted a detailed study of incidences of maritime hijacking in order to give its insurer clients the heads up about when and under what circumstances piracy is most likely to occur. It has told the International Underwriting Association of London that the arrival of the monsoon in the Gulf of Aden about now usually keeps pirates on shore. Not so for Somalia, where the waters are generally calmer at the moment. Technically, it is when the Sea Scale hits 5 or 6, that is, rough to very rough.
from Africa News blog:
With the naval might of the United States, Europe, China and others now lined up against Somalia's pirate fraternity, shippers are hoping the nightmare year of 2008 will not be repeated.
Somali pirates -- mainly gangs of poor young men seeking a quick fortune under the direction of older "financiers" and boat leaders -- reaped tens of millions of dollars in ransoms last year in a record haul of 42 hijacks, 111 attacks, and 815 crew taken hostage.
That pushed insurance prices up, persuaded some ship-owners to go round South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal, and prompted the unprecedented rush of navies from 14 different nations to the region. Even China is in on the act, deploying its navy for the first time beyond its own waters. And Japan is considering following suit despite its post-World War II pacifist constitution.
There have been some early successes from all the deployments - half a dozen pirates arrested and a series of attacks blocked, by helicopter and boat. Bad weather, too, has given the pirates some real problems, drowning five of them when their pockets were stuffed with dollars after taking their share of the ransom from the release of a Saudi super-tanker.
Yet the pirates have still managed two new hijacks and 11 attacks in the first half of January. They are hanging on to 11 ships with 207 hostages - most notably a Ukrainian ship with tanks on board.
And with such a vast area of operations -- plus fancy new speedboats that have taken them as far as Kenya and Madagascar, and GPS equipment to keep away from the warships -- the pirates are confident of keeping their business going. So who will win this modern-day battle of the seas? Will the shipping industry lose as much to the pirates this year as they did last? Should they keep paying huge ransoms like the $3 million paid for the Saudi boat?
Maybe, some argue, it will never really be possible to eradicate such a lucrative business which, in one of the world's most failed states, offers an opportunity for poor and hungry men to become millionaires after a few successful raids. As one pirate told us, they will carry on until there is government again in Somalia.
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)
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Chinese naval ships may soon be steaming into the Gulf of Aden to join a growing fleet of international warships fighting Somali pirates.
A first probably for a navy that has long confined itself to its own waters, the move is certain to stir interest in the strategic community stretching from New Delhi to Washington.