Home > News > News in Brief: 19 March 2009

News in Brief: 19 March 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

US spills its Afghan war into Pakistan. Expanding a covert war into Pakistani territory, as proposed in Washington’s new Afghan war plan, will derail any potential political dialogue and rightly inflame the Pakistani public. There is now a growing regional perception that President Barack Obama’s administration lacks any clear-headed strategy in the war. Political chaos in Kabul and Islamabad is only making matters worse. (Asia Times)

Afghans think security situation is worse than four years ago. The Afghan population feels increasingly threatened in a society they see as slipping backwards, racked by rising violence and endemic corruption, according to a report produced by leading human rights groups and aid organisations. (The Independent)

Israeli troops shot ‘unarmed Palestinian civilians under orders’ during Gaza war. Striking testimony has emerged from Israeli soldiers involved in the Gaza war in which they describe shooting unarmed civilians, sometimes under orders from their officers. One soldier described how an Israeli sniper shot dead a Palestinian mother and her two children, adding that fellow troops believed the lives of Palestinians were “very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers”. (Guardian)

Israelis Using ‘Excessive’ Force Against Protesters. The critical wounding of a U.S. activist has highlighted the excessive use of force by Israeli forces. (IPS)

Israel Arrests 10 Hamas Leaders. Israel arrested 10 Hamas leaders in the West Bank late Wednesday and early Thursday, including four parliamentarians, in what Hamas said was an attempt to pressure the organization after the collapse of negotiations for the release of a captive Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit. (new York Times)

Israel mulls toughening prisoner conditions, tightening Gaza siege. An Israeli ministerial committee convened on Wednesday to discuss ways of worsening the conditions in prison of Hamas detainees following the collapse of Egyptian-brokered talks on a prisoner swap. The committee, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedman, decided to create work teams to “examine the reduction of the privileges of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners,” the ministry said in a statement. (The Daily Star / AFP)

Kuwait’s democracy experiment on the line. Kuwaiti political system today is not fully democratic, but neither is it fully monarchical—it occupied a halfway house in between the two. But Kuwait’s democratizing experiment is currently on the line and the political crisis there bears watching. (Marc Lynch)

Khatami: Iranian opposition must unite to replace Ahmadinejad. Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has called on all opposition groups to unite in order to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the upcoming elections, the ISNA news agency reported Thursday. Khatami on Monday quit the presidential race to support former prime minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi in the June 12 elections. (Haaretz)

Azerbaijan scraps presidential term limits, paves way for Aliyev return. Azerbaijan’s top election official said Thursday voters have overwhelmingly supported scrapping presidential term limits in the ex-Soviet republic, paving the way for President Ilham Aliyev to indefinitely extend his family’s dynastic hold on power. (Hurriyet)

France braced for huge street protests over economic crisis. France is bracing for a wave of street protests in the second general strike over Nicolas Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis. Traditional public sector strikers such as teachers, transport workers and hospital staff will join an unprecedented new protest movement by private sector workers from banks and supermarkets to multinationals. (Guardian)

U.S. auditors return $13 million to Iraq, billions wasted. The U.S. has returned $13 million to Iraq – found “improperly” in American reconstruction budgets – results of an increased workload for the top U.S. auditor of Iraq rebuilding efforts. There’s a long way to go still: the head of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said Monday between 15 percent and 20 percent of the $21 billion in Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Funds, appropriated by Congress, was lost due to waste. The blame falls on U.S. leadership, he said. (Iraq Oil Report)

Obama’s Afghanistan ‘surge’: diplomats, civilian specialists. President Barack Obama is planning a major “surge” into Afghanistan of diplomats and civilian specialists steeped in running elections, fighting corruption and battling narcotics trafficking as part of a counterinsurgency strategy to stabilize the country, current and former U.S. officials said on Wednesday. (McClatchy)

Pakistan Accused of Link to Kabul Attacks. A group of suicide bombers who stormed the Justice Ministry and a prison department building in the Afghan capital last month were trained in Pakistan’s lawless border region, according to Afghan intelligence officials. (New York Times)

Kyrgyzstan: Is China the Hidden Power in Bishkek? The ongoing Manas air base controversy has highlighted questions surrounding the US and Russian roles in Kyrgyzstan. But for many Kyrgyz, China is the outside power that wields the most influence in the Central Asian nation. It is reaching a point where Chinese immigration into Kyrgyzstan is emerging as a politically sensitive topic. (EurasiaNet)

90 tax percent on US employee bonuses. US lawmakers look set to pass a bill later on Thursday that would impose a 90 percent levy on employee bonuses at insurance giant AIG and other companies that have been propped up by state bailouts. (Deutsche Welle)

US Military Contracts for Private Aerial Refueling Services. Aerial tankers are essential when moving large quantities of men and materials long distances, or stretching the range and length of fighter combat air patrols. Most are government-owned, but a segment of semi-privatized services may be set to grow alongside existing military fleets. (Defense Industry Daily)

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. If you think preventing climate change is politically difficult, look at the political problems of adapting to it. (Monbiot)

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