Home > News > News in Brief: 13 May 2009

News in Brief: 13 May 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

MIDEAST: Families Down to a Meal a Day. The decimation of wide swathes of agricultural land, as well as cattle and sheep farms, has added to Gaza’s growing food insecurity. But the war only intensified an already dire humanitarian situation, economists say, which has its roots in Israel’s economic siege that hermetically sealed Gaza’s borders in June 2007. The shortage of all but “essential” goods and a flow of only a trickle of fuel have sent prices of food and other products skyrocketing over the past two years, making them unaffordable to many households in the Gaza Strip. After the war, the majority of Gazans are now living below the income poverty line, says the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It defines the line as a family of six subsisting on 500 dollars per month. More than half of those families living below the poverty are living in extreme hardship, on less than 250 dollars each month, or approximately 1.35 dollars per person per day. (IPS)

Afghanistan, blundering on. The American NGO Human Rights Watch noted last September: “High civilian loss of life during air strikes has almost always occurred during the fluid, rapid-response strikes, often carried out in support of ground troops after they came under insurgent attack”, adding that “civilian deaths from air strikes act as a recruiting tool for the Taliban”. Human Rights Watch regularly condemns the lack of transparency of US authorities, which are slow to recognise their mistakes. After a raid on the village of Azizabad in the province of Herat on the 22 August 2008, which killed 90 civilians, mostly women and children, the US-led coalition Operation Enduring Freedom admitted to only the death of “five to seven” civilians and 30 to 35 Taliban – and that admission, which followed an internal investigation, denied the findings of the UN and Kabul government. (Le Monde Diplomatique)

Pipelineistan goes Af-Pak. From the “Las Vegas of Central Asia” to the backlands of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan to Beijing, Moscow and Washington, the politics of “blue gold” (natural gas) and great-power politics are playing out in a lethal liquid war. (Asia Times)

New Pipeline To Deliver Iranian Gas To Armenia. Armenia is set to begin receiving natural gas from Iran for the first time this week, a key development for a country heavily dependent on Russian energy. According to a 2004 agreement, Armenia will import Iranian gas to generate electricity, some of which will then be exported to Iran. The electricity — transmitted by way of a new high-voltage power line — will effectively “pay” for Armenia’s gas imports. Construction on the power line, which connects the two countries’ power grids, is nearly complete (RFE/RL)

Iran: An Unlikely Political Alliance Taking Shape. With one month to go before Iran’s June 12 presidential election, incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection chances seem high. But his candidacy is proving so polarizing that the election campaign could bring about lasting changes to Iran’s political landscape. A strange situation has emerged this election cycle, in which a significant number of mainstream conservatives are quietly rooting for reformists during the election campaign. (EurasiaNet)

Senior Obama advisor comes to Iran: Report. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Vali Reza Nasr, a senior Obama administration advisor on Iran, has come to the Iranian capital of Tehran. New reports claim that Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani and former parliament speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel may be behind the visit. “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was informed well after Nasr entered the country,” Tabnak reported on Wednesday. Nasr, who was appointed as a senior advisor to Richard Holbrooke — the special US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan –, is the son of renowned Islamic philosopher and historian of science, Seyyed Hossein Nasr. (PressTV)

US choice hardly McChrystal clear. The selection of Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal as the new top United States commander in Afghanistan has been hailed by the Pentagon and the press. A closer look at his career, which includes five years as a commander of counter-terrorism operations, not counter-insurgency, indicates he will continue with the special operations and airstrikes that have proved so counter-productive in Afghanistan. (Asia Times)

Fighter jets pound Taliban strongholds across Swat. Some 700,000 people were still stranded in the valley and all exit roads from Mingora had been closed. (Dawn)

Indians cast final votes. Indian voters cast the final ballots today in the country’s marathon elections, with analysts predicting a shaky coalition government that might struggle to survive a full term. Polling was held across seven states for the fifth and final phase of voting in the world’s largest democratic exercise, which began way back on April 16. (The Nation)

Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV). India is a nation that fights for entering the select group of countries that build nuclear powered submarines. Its program ATV, or Advanced Technology Vessel, was initiated in 1974. But after three decades it still had not presented results that could modify the current picture of the navies with nuclear propulsion. (Global Security)

Iraq demands more water from neighbors. Iraq’s Parliament has called on the government to forego partnership agreements with Turkey, Syria and Iran unless they affirm Iraq’s right to a bigger share of the water in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers… Iraq is suffering from a major drought. The effects have worsened because of poor water management and dams that block the flow of the two rivers, the country’s main water source. (Today’s Zaman)

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