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News in Brief: 23 April 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

INTERVIEW : Frontier wisdom. As governor of North-West Frontier Province, tight up against Afghanistan and the troubled Pakistani tribal areas, Owais Ahmad Ghani has a major job on his hands, but he has a clear vision of how to go about it. The key, he firmly believes, is in striking deals directly with tribal leaders, thus marginalizing the militants. In the bigger picture, though, everything depends on the situation across the border, where, he says, the Americans have got it badly wrong. (Asia Times)

Militants burn NATO fuel tankers in Pakistan. Dozens of militants armed with guns and gasoline bombs attacked a truck terminal in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday and burned five tanker trucks carrying fuel to NATO troops in Afghanistan, police said. (Khaleej Times / AP)

G.I.’s to Fill Civilian Gap to Rebuild Afghanistan. Military personnel will fill hundreds of posts in Afghanistan that had been intended for civilian experts, senior officials said. (New York Times)

The EU-Turkey-Cyprus Triangle: “Turkish Cypriots Serve Notice on Peace Talks”,Hugh Pope. After the morale-raising 6-7 April trip to Turkey by U.S. President Barack Obama, Turkey is back to facing the reality of its tough neighbourhood: last-minute stresses in its hopeful recent talks on normalisation with Armenia (see our 14 April 2009 report), isolation for Turkey at the 4-5 April NATO summit as it resisted the eventual choice of a new secretary general and now new challenges for the ongoing talks on a Cyprus settlement, a dispute which, left unsolved, remains Turkey’s biggest obstacle on the road to the EU. (ICG)

Germany warned of unrest as French protesters turn violent. In the wake of violent worker protests in France, rhetoric over social unrest in Germany is growing as the economic crisis continues to take its toll. (Deutsche Welle)

Piracy could top agenda as Somalia donors’ conference opens. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an appeal for funds to help Somalia as a donors’ conference got underway in Brussels. The subject of piracy threatened to dominate proceedings. (Deutsche Welle)

Kenya begins trial for seized Somali pirates. Kenyan court begins trials for two groups of suspected pirates seized by European navies. (Gulf News / AP)

Netanyahu Government Tells Obama What He Can Do With His Peace Plan. Today’s Washington Post quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as saying that “the new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran’s rising influence in the region,” (Post’s words). (Mideast Peace Pulse / Israel Policy Forum)

Indian elections enter second phase. Millions of voters in India were going to the polls today as voting began in the second phase of the country’s month-long national elections… Reflecting the myriad differences of India’s electorate, few expected a clear winner after a lacklustre campaign that has been devoid of resonant, central issues. Suspected communist rebels used a homemade bomb to attack a jeep carrying election officials, injuring two people, officials reported. It followed an attack yesterdayin which communist rebels hijacked a train carrying 300 passengers, later releasing them unharmed, and carried out other attacks aimed at disrupting the polls. A truck driver was killed by suspected rebels on a highway in Bihar, considered one of the most lawless states, a local police official said. (Guardian)

Syria reaches out to ‘friend’ Iraq. This week’s landmark visit to Iraq by Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari is a welcome sign of repaired relations between Damascus and Baghdad that have been icy since the United States invasion of 2003. Iraqis see the visit as an outstretched hand from the greater Arab family, while Syrians are trying to avoid being next door to another neighbor armed to the teeth and living in lawlessness. (Asia Times)

POGO’s Updated Federal Contractor Misconduct Database: Lockheed Martin Leads In Contracts and Penalties. The Project On Government Oversight has updated its Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD) with a new top 100 ranking based on the fiscal year 2007 data of USASpending.gov. The update reveals that the same five contractors remain at the top of the ranking. Lockheed Martin still leads the pack, outpacing everyone else by almost $10 billion in contracts. Lockheed also has the most misconduct instances with 50 instances of civil, criminal, or administrative misconduct since 1995. (Project on Government Oversight)

Reports of Cyberthefts From F-35 Program. The F-35 stealth fighter family is the largest defense program in the world, with estimated total costs of about $300 billion for development and for all planned aircraft. (Defense Industry Daily)

White Stream: Georgia’s Ticket to the Pipeline Big Time? The White Stream gas project could prove the Georgian government’s trump card as it focuses on maintaining Georgia’s business-friendly image among foreign investors, some energy analysts believe. (EurasiaNet)

Sois Libanais. Is Walid Jumblatt brilliant, senile, or both? While seated amongst a klatsch of shriveled Druze elders, the PSP leader launched into a diatribe against his Christian and Sunni allies, which was captured on a camera phone and posted on YouTube. (Qifa Nabki) [Nima: The following are translations of Jumblatt’s talk on the YouTube clip, from friday-lunch-club] “But at the time I saw what’s his name, Samir Geagea, and saw how the Christians were hoping we would clash with the Shi’is so that they can sit back and watch. Even some Sunnis were hoping for that. We saw what the Sunnis did in Beirut. He [Future Movement Leader Sa’d al-Hariri] brought 1,000 men from Akkar and they did not last 15 minutes. They were hoping we would clash with each other so they can sit back and watch ,,, I believe that our head is still high. We were not defeated. At the same time, we cannot proceed with a psychological, political and sectarian war against the Shi’is.” (friday-lunch-club)

The Dull Compulsion of the Economic (ix): Zizek. Zizek’s take seems to be that capitalism is becoming less able to garner popular support except in societies in which it is rigorously imposed. And in other societies, its growth trajectory will, in all likelihood, be increasingly reduced. This may not be much of a surprise in the wake of the financial crisis, but given the almost religious belief in the symbiosis of capitalism and democracy that held before the crisis (in spite of the experience of places like Singapore) it is a development that requires keen monitoring. Especially if countries like Singapore, which tend to be export-dependent and hold large current account surpluses, diversify into consumer-led economies (remember China’s large and growing income inequality), assuming they can successfully (and quickly) make this transition in the first place. (Dollars & Sense)

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