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News in Brief: 7 May 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Electing the Nuclear Pope. The IAEA will select its next leader through secrets and posturing. Largely outside the public limelight, one of the world’s most important elections has been taking place in Vienna. Its victor will become the next leader of the planet’s so-called nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That agency has served as the world’s guardian of peaceful nuclear power programs for more than 50 years, ensuring that countries do not abuse their “right” to atomic energy by building nuclear weapons. It’s (literally) Nobel Prize-winning work. But unfortunately, the IAEA’s elections are a secretive and convoluted mess. (Foreign Policy)

Marine Protection as Empire Expansion. The Bush administration used marine protection as a cover for consolidating U.S. bases in the Pacific. The new president must reverse this policy. In a last-minute bid to salvage a legacy, President George W. Bush created three new protected marine areas in the Pacific. Environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council applauded. But the situation is more complicated than it looks. Why would a president who rarely saw a public land or off-shore site he didn’t want to drill on, and whose climate change policies have done lasting damage to oceans and their inhabitants worldwide, exhibit such concern for marine life in these particular faraway places? One possible clue: This protective blanket will extend only 50 miles beyond land, rather than the 200 that the law permits. Could it be his real concern was for the land itself rather than for the water around it? (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Georgian opposition clash with police as NATO war games begin. Riot police in Georgia clashed with anti-government officials during a late night rally, attempting to disrupt the kick off of NATO’s controversial military exercises. (Deutsche Welle)

Secret U.S.-Israel nuclear accord in jeopardy. President Obama’s efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel’s nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists say. (Washington Times)

Offensive intensifies in Swat, Buner. Separately, in Lower Dir, a fierce gun battle had erupted between militants and security forces, reports said. The Swat offensive intensified on Thursday with the army bringing in gunship helicopters and jet fighters to target militant hideouts in the district’s Khwazakhela tehsil. Meanwhile, the corps commanders were holding a meeting in the GHQ to review the operations against the Taliban. (Dawn)

Return to Unity Government in Pakistan? Reuters suggests that one of the outcomes of Wednesday’s summit between Obama, Zardari and Karzai might be a US push for a national unity government in Pakistan, uniting the Pakistan People’s Party with the Muslim League-N of Nawaz Sharif. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn does not rule out the possibility, though the obstacles are severe. It alleges that the Muslim League-N may need the support of the center to fight off Taliban infiltration of the Punjab, its main electoral base. (Informed Comment)

Abbas to form new government without Hamas deputies. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask his prime minister within the coming week to form a new government without the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers, signaling a breakdown in unity talks with the Islamic militant group. (Haaretz)

Top Turkish judge probed over possible links to Ergenekon case. Turkey’s Constitutional Court said late on Wednesday it had launched an investigation into a top judge over possible links to a controversial group accused of plotting to overthrow the government. (Hurriyet)

Afghans Protest Civilian Deaths. Hundreds gathered Thursday in western Afghanistan to protest American airstrikes that Afghan officials and villagers said had killed many civilians. (New York Times)

Af-Pak Troubles Coming to a Head. Despite an overhaul of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, it appears that the U.S. strategy there is running into obstacles as varied as the U.S. Congress and the leaders of those countries, who are both visiting Washington this week. (IPS)

Azerbaijan can look the other way. Azerbaijan, for two decades a reliable energy supplier for the West, may reconsider that “partnership” as Europe drags its feet over the proposed Nabucco pipeline and the Caspian country sees its hope that it could eventually join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization extinguished. (Asia Times)

Armenia: Karabakh Leaders Uneasy with Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks. Expectations are building that a May 7 meeting between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev could boost the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. But amid much diplomatic maneuvering between Yerevan and Baku, a new, complicating factor has surfaced — evidence of discord among Armenian leaders in Armenia proper and in Karabakh. (EurasiaNet)

Gazprom shadow falls over Hungary. Russian energy giant Gazprom may be preparing to take over a large part of the Hungarian domestic gas distribution network. The opaque scheme may also be designed to siphon off funds for the Kremlin. (Asia Times)

What is Moqtada al-Sadr doing in Turkey? We haven’t heard much lately from Moqtada al-Sadr, the erstwhile leader of the Sadrist movement and the Jaysh al-Mahdi who is reportedly living in Iran. Sadr has not been officially been seen in public since June of 2007, and last appeared on the media in al-Jazeera interview in May 2008. So it is a bit of a surprise to see him suddenly appear in Turkey for two days of talks. What’s he up to? (Marc Lynch)

Thousands in Somalia flee clashes with Islamist militants. The pirates get the headlines, but what drove Habibo Kune and her teenage son out of Somalia and into this sprawling, sand-blown refugee camp was a different group of men with guns. (McClatchy)

The Shi‘a of Saudi Arabia at a Crossroads. There, along the coast of the Gulf, a previously unknown group calling itself the Force of Youth summoned Shi‘a into the streets in solidarity with the Shi‘a arrested and injured in Medina on February 21. Days later, the first demonstrations occurred in the town of al-Qatif as well as in the nearby villages of Safwa and al-‘Awwamiyya. The fact of the demonstrations was extraordinary in itself, since such public displays of dissent are illegal in Saudi Arabia, and are usually suppressed by the state even when they concern regional issues. In late December 2008, security forces fired rubber bullets into a crowd of Shi‘a protesting the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and arrested more than a dozen in the Eastern Province.[8] Similar gatherings had occurred in the past, for example, to voice support for Hizballah in its war with Israel in 2006. What was new in February was that the demonstrations concerned a national issue — the treatment of Shi‘a in Medina — and explicitly demanded an end to discrimination against the Shi‘a in Saudi Arabia as a whole. (Middle East Report)

The Emerging Global Financial Architecture… how the composition of debt determines vulnerability to crises, the effect of capital controls on capital flows, the role of the IMF, and the usefulness of macroeconometric models to predict exchange rates even during periods of financial disorder. (Econbrowser)

Nationalism and Anti-Americanism in Japan – Manga Wars. Throughout the postwar period, progressive artists, directors, and authors in many countries, not least the United States, have represented the US in critical ways. Peter Katzenstein has described representations which criticize the United States for failing to live up to its often lofty human rights rhetoric, as “liberal anti-Americanism”.[2] While opposed to American wars and other international actions, it must be asked, however, if “anti-American” is the best label for categorizing such writing. (Japan Focus)

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