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News in Brief: 10 April 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Georgia: Opposition Gives Saakashvili Ultimatum to Resign. On the kickoff day of what they pledge could be ongoing protests, organizers of Tbilisi’s April 9 opposition rally gave Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili 24 hours to resign over alleged misdeeds ranging from election fraud to the 2008 war with Russia. There was no immediate reaction from the government. Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zguladze stated that the government has already “initiated” dialogue with the opposition. (Eurasianet)

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: 2009-2010. The F-35 Lightning II is a major multinational program which is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role strike fighter. System development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners.” (Defense Industry Daily) [Nima: This is about a US$300 billion program, the largest weapons program ever]

Obama requests $83b war fund for Iraq and Afghanistan. US President Barack Obama has asked US Congress for a $83.4 billion to fund military and diplomatic operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The special measure also includes $3.6 billion for the Afghanistan National Army. According to the Congressional Research Service, the US President’s request will escalate the cost of both wars to nearly $1 trillion since the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. (Gulfnews)

Russia Signs Deal To Buy Israeli Drones. Russia has signed a contract to buy airborne drones from Israel, in a move analysts said was aimed at strengthening the armed forces after last year’s brief war with Georgia. Russian media have reported the deal is worth about $50 million and that Russia will buy the drones from Israel’s largest defense firm, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). (RFE/RL)

ABKHAZIA: Russia Offers a Boost. Russia is stepping up investment in Abkhazia and South Ossetia after recognising their independence last year. Abkhazia has a population of about 180,000, and South Ossetia 70,000. (IPS)

Israel’s Arab Students Are Crossing to Jordan. Obstacles to Israel’s Arab minority participating in higher education have resulted in a record number of Arab students taking up places at universities in neighboring Jordan, a new report reveals. Despite the fact that most Israeli Arab students in Jordan interviewed by the researchers expressed a preference to attend university in Israel, the numbers heading to Jordan have grown four-fold since 2004. (Palestine Chronicle)

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams: Gaza is an open-air prison. Adams met with the head of the internationally-shunned Hamas government during a two-day visit to Gaza, and said he plans to brief President Obama’s special Mideast envoy about his contacts. Adams had asked to meet senior Israeli officials as well, but Israel stipulated that he undertake not to meet Hamas officials, which Adams rejected emphatically. (Haaretz)

Rising Number Of Tajik Migrants Killed In Russia. At least 300 labor migrants from Tajikistan’s Sughd Province have died in Russia since January 1, 2008, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports. (RFE/RL)

Kyrgyzstan: Russian Economic Assistance Gives Bishkek a Lift. The global economic crisis is starting to hit hard just as Kyrgyzstan is preparing to hold a snap presidential election. In an effort to contain the economic damage, officials are intensifying efforts to stabilize the Central Asian state’s finances. (Eurasianet)

CIA to close secret overseas prisons, end security contracts. The CIA is decommissioning the secret overseas prisons where top al Qaida suspects were subjected to interrogation methods, including simulated drowning, that Attorney General Eric Holder, allied governments, the Red Cross and numerous other experts consider torture, the agency said Thursday. The CIA has refused to disclose the locations of its detention facilities. They reportedly are in Afghanistan, Jordan, Poland, Romania and Thailand, and CIA officials have said that they held fewer than 100 suspected terrorists. (McClatchy)

Requiem for the War on Terror Goodbye GWOT, Hello OCOs. If the motives remain obscure, some effects of this major shift in language are already evident, though whether the result is a glass half empty or half full may lie in the eye of the beholder. In some cases, the new administration’s policies still look amazingly like those of the Global War on Terror, sans the name — most notably in Afghanistan, where President Obama is pursuing many of the same old goals with renewed force, and in Pakistan, where he is steadily widening Bush’s war. Sounding a lot like Bush, in fact, Obama played the 9/11 card repeatedly in his announcement justifying his program of stepped up action in the AfPak theater of operations. (Tom Dispatch)

U.S. Military Concedes Afghan Civilian Casualties. The U.S. military has conceded that troops under its command in Afghanistan killed a group of civilians in an operation this week, not militants as earlier reported. Civilian casualties caused by foreign forces hunting militants have sapped support for the presence of the troops in Afghanistan more than seven years since a U.S.-led invasion overthrew the Taliban. (RFE/RL)

Algerians vote in election seen as rigged to favor incumbent. Algerians voted Thursday in a presidential election that is expected to give the incumbent Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika another five years to try to quell terrorism and reform the North African country’s lackluster economy, which is heavily dependent on oil and gas. (The Daily Star / AFP)

Japanese Debt Swells as Aso Unveils Record Stimulus Package. Japan, which soothed the pain of its ruptured bubble economy in the 1990s with massive government borrowing, is again swallowing giant doses of deficit medicine. (Washington Post)

So much for Lebanon’s so-called Cedar Revolution… I know few people who were not, at one point or another, if only for a day, “believers” in the March 14th movement. This includes many people who have long since drifted away from their earlier convictions, or indeed renounced them vehemently. However, what I’ve found is that even when speaking with people who currently define their political alignment in terms of being against March 14th, the conversation usually winds up producing, curiously enough, some kind of conciliatory position vis-à-vis the “original spirit” of the movement: a spontaneous social uprising against a perceived historical injustice. (Qifa Nabki)

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