Home > News > News in Brief: 20 Apri 2009

News in Brief: 20 Apri 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Iraq gets a new speaker. After months of wrangling, Sunni politician Iyad Samaraii has been elected as speaker of Iraq’s parliament. In theory, his position carries with it considerable power, but his real value will be in lending credence to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s planned all-out offensive against the Sunni-packed Awakening Councils. (Asia Times)

The Second Scramble For Africa Starts. Sub-Saharan African countries have of late become the target of a new form of investment that is strongly reminiscent of colonialism: investors from both industrialised and emerging economies buy or lease large tracts of farm land across the continent, either to guarantee their own food provisions or simply as yet another business (IPS)

China and India: Convergence in Economic Growth and Social Tensions? Do the economic policies or the “business model” adopted by China and India necessarily aggravate inequalities in income and wealth distribution, and thus exacerbate social contradictions? (Japan Focus)

Obama’s strategy and the summits. In United States President Barack Obama’s first major international foray, he gave Europe a pass because internally it cannot find a common position and its heavyweights are bound by their relationship with Russia. The key to the trip will be whether Obama can draw some of the venom out of the Islamic world by aligning with the largest economy among Muslim states, Turkey. (Asia Times)

Karzai Objects To Direct U.S. Talks With Taliban. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has said U.S. efforts to tame the growing Taliban insurgency through negotiations would fail unless his government agreed to such talks. (RFE/RL)

India’s eye in the sky takes aim. Monday’s launch of an Israeli-built surveillance satellite is as much a testament to New Delhi’s growing space prowess as it is to rapidly expanding India-Israel defense arrangements since the Mumbai terror attacks. India’s new satellite is meant to deter cross-border infiltration with technology that can decipher license plates from 550 kilometers above the ground. (Asia Times)

India’s MMRCA Fighter Competition. “It’s the biggest fighter aircraft deal since the early 1990s,” said Boeing’s Mark Kronenberg, who runs the company’s Asia/Pacific business… What began as a lightweight fighter competition to replace India’s shrinking MiG-21 interceptor fleet appears to have bifurcated into two categories now, and two expense tiers. (Defense Industry Daily)

Global Food Security Act. A new bill before the Senate would create a federal mandate for genetically modified (GM) crop research as part of U.S. aid programs, despite evidence that these crops will fail to curb hunger. (Foreign Policy in Focus)

UAE aims to stifle press freedom. Foreign journalists working in the United Arab Emirates claim that the authorities are stifling press freedom. A senior correspondent who has been based in Dubai for the past eight years said: “It’s worse than it’s ever been.” Reporters at major news agencies have been told to avoid writing “negative stories” about the UAE’s economy. Two days ago a journalist working for Bloomberg was detained on arrival at Dubai airport and, after a two-hour grilling about his work, was warned to “be careful”. (Greenslade)

CIA waterboarded al-Qaida suspects 266 times. The CIA waterboarded two al-Qaida terror suspects a total of 266 times, according to a report that suggests the use of the torture technique was much more extensive than previously thought. (Guardian)

China increases aid to Nepal by 50%. Ahead of PM Prachanda’s second visit to Beijing, China has jacked up its annual aid package to Nepal. (Expressindia)

New boycotts hit anti-racism meet. New boycotts by Western nations raise concerns over the credibility of a UN conference in Geneva as Australia and the Netherlands also declare that they will boycott the meeting like the United States, Canada, and Israel amid fears that it will serve as a platform against Israel. (Hurriyet)

Iran: Worker poll puts reformist presidential candidate ahead. The majority of Iranian workers will vote for leading reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi in June’s presidential election in Iran according to a survey published on Thursday by the Iranian Labour News Agency. The new agency is considered close to the country’s reformist movement. (AKI)

Iranian President Asks Court to Reconsider Spy Case. The head of Iran’s judiciary said Monday that he had ordered the “careful, quick and fair” consideration of an appeal against the eight-year jail sentence imposed on an Iranian-American journalist, one day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the chief prosecutor to reexamine the case. (New York Times)

Kyrgyz Opposition Unites Behind Single Candidate. Kyrgyzstan’s opposition has backed a single candidate to run in this year’s presidential election, a rare show of unity from a long-fragmented movement. (RFE/RL)

Armenian president to visit Russia. The Armenian president is to visit Moscow next week, the Kremlin announced Saturday, amid intensifying Russian efforts to solve his Caucasus state’s longstanding conflict with Azerbaijan. (The News) [Nima: This is especially interesting since Turkey, a member of NATO, has been very seriously courting Armenia following US president Obama’s visit to Turkey. The US, Turkey, and NATO have been trying to reshape the political situation in the Caspian Sea region to their favour while Russia, which has in the past had more influence there, has been trying to do the same.]

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