Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

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.

West risks repeating Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan - The foreign warplanes swooped in just as the Afghan village of Ali Mardan was celebrating a wedding. Bombs slammed into the crowded village square, killing 30 men, women and children. After the smoke cleared and the dead were buried, all the able-bodied men left alive took up arms against the invaders. That was 1982…

Drought starts to bite in northern Kenya - Clouds of dust rising above the harsh scrub herald the arrival of more livestock at a borehole in northeastern Kenya, the end for some of a 45 km (28 mile) trek for water that must be repeated every few days. Drought is starting to bite into east Africa’s biggest economy and the government says 10 million people may face hunger and starvation.

Colombia – a model for U.S. dealings wtih Afghanistan?

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After more than seven years of U.S.-financed fumigation and eradication, Colombia is still producing at least 600 tonnes of cocaine a year. The U.N. estimated this month that coca leaf used to produce the drug covered 27 percent more land in 2007 than a year earlier. Violence from Colombia’s guerrilla war may have fallen sharply thanks to Washington’s funds, but the success of the anti-narcotics portion of the U.S. program is far less clear.

Now U.S. officials are touting their lessons in dealing with Colombian guerrillas as a possible model for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and the poppy harvests and opium that help fuel that conflict.  Can the U.S. really claim success against Colombia’s coca trade and what if anything from Colombia can be applied to Afghanistan’s war?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The Pakistan Army and “the history of the stick”

In his book on the Pakistan Army, South Asia expert Stephen Cohen quotes a senior lieutenant-general as warning the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto against using the military to control political opposition. "If you use a stick too often, the stick will take over," Cohen quotes the general as saying. "This has always been the history of the stick."

There's no sign yet of the Pakistan Army reverting to its usual role of wielding the big stick. But with the police out in force to quell protests in Punjab over a Supreme Court ruling excluding former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from office, the obvious question to ask is whether we are about to see a repeat of the old cycle in which security forces are called out to restore order and end up taking over altogether. Indeed, the Pakistan Army's first involvement in politics is generally dated to the 1953 imposition of martial law in Lahore -- where protests erupted on Thursday over the court ruling.  Sharif has blamed President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the late Benazir Bhutto, for the ruling.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The Pakistani kaleidoscope and the Swat ceasefire

The debate over the Pakistan government's decision to seek peace with Taliban militants in the Swat valley by promising to introduce sharia law is proving to be like everything else in the Pakistani kaleidoscope - turn it a little bit and you see something else.

Pakistani analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said the peace deal could encourage groups in other parts of the country to copy the example of the Taliban in forcing through changes. "The bottom line is that while conflict might be arrested for the short term in one part of the country, it might escalate in other parts where groups of people acting like the Taliban could impose their will on the rest of the population in the name of changing the judicial, economic or political system," she says. "Ultimately, this could come to redefine Pakistan’s identity completely."

from MacroScope:

Winners in a trade war

Trade protectionism -- or at least the threat of it -- has raised it head as the global economy has declined, bringing with it all the historical fears about the Great Depression. Consider the flurry of concern about a "Buy American" clause in one of the U.S. stimulus bills.

It is traditionally assumed that widespread protectionism would most hurt the biggest economies, the United States and Japan. But Barclays Capital analyst David Woo says this is not so and that Russia, Canada, Australia and Sweden are the most vulnerable.

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.

from Africa News blog:

Time to stop aid for Africa?

Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.

Moyo’s book, her first, comes out at a time when Western campaigners, financial institutions and some African governments have been warning of the danger posed to Africa by the crisis and calling for more money from developed countries as a result. The former World Bank and Goldman Sachs economist spoke to Reuters in London.

from Africa News blog:

Somalia’s new chance

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.

Afghanistan and the surge skeptics

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For months U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have been asking for more troops and Washington has been increasingly receptive. Today, we turned the spotlight on the skeptics in this story.

How much heed should President Barack Obama pay to their concerns? As a presidential candidate, he promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and he has made the war there the top U.S. military priority. But are more U.S. forces the answer to Afghanistan’s worsening violence? If so, how many more?

A fresh start with Russia: what’s the trade-off?

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Russia has reversed its decision to station missiles in the Western outpost of Kaliningrad, next door to the European Union, according to Interfax.

The move would be the clearest signal so far of the start of a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, which could be one of the major changes in U.S. President Barack Obama’s first year in office. We don’t know what commitment, if any, Obama may have given to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the missile shield (the two spoke by telephone earlier this week).

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