Home > News > News in Brief: 14 December 2009

News in Brief: 14 December 2009

A brief listing of news clippings for the day:

Afghanistan: Canada ‘defended’ torturer. A former governor of Kandahar who is accused of personally torturing Afghans might have been removed from office as far back as 2006 if Canadian officials hadn’t defended him, according to diplomatic memos that have never been made public by the Canadian government. (Toronto Star)

Copenhagen talks stall as African bloc accuses west. One of the two negotiating tracks at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen broke up in drama and confusion today when the Africa group of countries followed by other developing countries accused the chair of the conference of trying to “kill” the Kyoto protocol. They were also objecting to what they characterised as efforts to sideline the poorest countries. The crisis was then exacerbated after Australia said that rich countries should suspend talks about emission cuts. (Guardian)

Copenhagen – Memo to Danes: Even You Cannot Control This Summit. The Danes have invested a huge amount of money co-branding their capitol city (now “Hopenhagen”) with a summit that will supposedly save the world. That would be fine if this summit actually were on track to save the world. But since it isn’t, the Danes are frantically trying to redesign us. Take the weekend’s protests. By the end, around 1,100 people had been arrested. That’s just nuts. Saturday’s march of roughly 100,000 people came at a crucial juncture in the climate negotiations, when all signs pointed either to break down or a dangerously weak deal. The march was festive and peaceful but also tough. “The Climate Doesn’t Negotiate” was the message, and western negotiators need to head it. (The Nation)

The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Sobering Update on the Science. On the eve of the Copenhagen conference, a group of scientists has issued an update on the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the face of an incredible din of disinformation from climate deniers, they have mustered the latest and most credible evidence to inform global leaders and attentive publics just how perilous our present situation is. Among other dire warnings, they conclude that the icecaps at both poles are melting faster than predicted, that claims of recent global cooling are false, and that world leaders must act fast if steep temperature rises are to be avoided. (Japan Focus)

The dust bowl of Babylon. As Iraq strives to emerge from years of war, crippling water shortages may be the next great threat. Drought is driving thousands of people away from the fabled southern marshlands, but inept water management, collapsing infrastructure and the government’s inability to stand up to its water-hoarding neighbors also play their part. (Asia Times)

New Oil Bids, Censorship, and the Fate of Iraq. The big news out of Iraq over the weekend was the awarding of a handful of new oil development contracts to companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Russia’s Lukoil. These bids follow earlier awards of fields for development to China. The American oil majors failed to conclude any new deals, though Exxon Mobil won a bid for West Qurna 1 in November. The Iraqi authorities have strong motivations to diversify their petroleum customer base given the current hegemonic position of the United States in their country. (Informed Comment)

In the Eye of the Storm: Updating the Economics of Global Turbulence. Out in the academic cemetery to which avatars of market fundamentalism thought they had consigned their intellectual and political opponents, one can hear today the unmistakable scrape of coffin lids opening. And climbing out of their graves are the bodies of those who contend that the reductionist assumptions of neo-classical/ rational choice orthodoxy are not simply inadequate but flawed in the most fundamental sense. The reason may seem obvious: the financial catastrophe of last year and the failure of so many established thinkers to see it coming. But there is more dogging the luminaries of mainstream finance and economics than the simple inability to have read the tea leaves properly – to their blindness, for example, in the face of the rise in U.S. housing prices to the point they no longer bore any relation to the earnings streams of much of the American population or to the fantastic assumptions about default rates built into the business models of too many Wall Street houses. (Japan Focus)

Israel: Livni reportedly cancels U.K. visit, fearing arrest. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Monday canceled her participation in a Jewish function in London, after a warrant for her arrest was issued over part in last winter’s Israel’s Gaza offensive, Arab-language media have reported. Al-Quds Al-Arabi claimed that Scotland Yard advised the organizers of the Jewish National Fund conference in Hendon, on the British capital’s northwest side, that the former foreign minister had canceled her scheduled address to the assembly over threats of a possible lawsuit by pro-Palestinian groups. (Haaretz)

Powerless in Gaza. The Palestinian power plant has endured bombings, embargoes and blockades: Can it ever fully power Gaza’s grid? Within days, the plant’s desperate engineers came up with a novel solution: They hooked up 170 twelve-volt car batteries to restart the plant’s turbines. To everyone’s amazement, including the engineers themselves, the impromptu kludge actually worked. “It was an abnormal situation,” notes Rafiq Maliha, one of the plant’s managers, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Triumphs, even small ones, are uncommon these days in Gaza, which has endured a devastating run of strife, death, and dysfunction. A three-week war that began in late December 2008 killed 1660 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and left 4000 homes and 80 government buildings wrecked or seriously damaged. Since 2007, Gaza’s 360 square kilometers have been controlled by Hamas, a militant Islamic group that much of the world, including the European Union and the United States, regards as a terrorist organization. (Palestine Think Tank)

Jordan’s ace of spies. Like many Arab intelligence services, the GID has a reputation for using brutal interrogation methods, and I’m sure that it didn’t get the nickname “the fingernail factory” for nothing. But Kheir’s successes in interrogation often came from a different kind of intimidation. Colleagues recall him standing behind a suspect, his voice deep with menace, as he talked of the suspect’s family, friends and contacts. That was much scarier than physical violence would have been. He waited for them to break themselves, and it usually worked. Kheir ran afoul of his boss, King Abdullah, when he began pushing into politics and business. It was the classic overreach of intelligence chiefs in the Middle East, and he was sacked in 2005. (Washington Post)

Reshuffling the Cards? Syria’s Evolving Strategy. Syria’s foreign policy sits atop a mountain of apparent contradictions that have long bedevilled outsiders. Its self-proclaimed goal is peace with Israel, yet it has allied itself with partners vowed to Israel’s destruction. It takes pride in being a bastion of secularism even as it makes common cause with Islamist movements. It simultaneously has backed Iraqi Sunni insurgents and a Lebanese Shiite armed group…From Syria’s vantage point, there is good reason to cling to the status quo. For almost four decades, it has served Damascus well. Despite a turbulent and often hostile neighbourhood, the regime has proved resilient. It has used ties to various groups and states to amass political and material assets, acquiring a regional role disproportionate to its actual size or resources. One does not readily forsake such allies or walk away from such a track record. But satisfaction with the past does not necessarily mean complacency about the future. On virtually all fronts, Syria can see peril. (ICG)

Blair ‘would have supported’ Iraq war without WMD threat. Britain’s Iraq war inquiry said Sunday that former Prime Minister Tony Blair would be questioned “very much in public” amid fears that crucial evidence would only be heard in private. Blair, who is to appear before the a long-awaited official inquiry early next year, said in a BBC television interview screened Sunday that he would have backed the invasion of Iraq even if he had known that President Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (The Daily Star)

Guarding the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal. …policy concerning strategic nuclear forces is determined by the president and the Congress. They have decided that we will maintain a balanced triad of strategic nuclear forces consisting of sea-launched ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range, nuclear-capable bombers. It’s the role of Air Force Global Strike Command to maintain two of those three legs of the triad, the intercontinental ballistic missile and [long-range, nuclear-capable bombers]. (CFR)

Abu Dhabi gives $10bn to Dubai. Dubai’s government has said it has received $10bn from Abu Dhabi to help it repay an Islamic bond and fund the troubled property developer Dubai World. The announcement on Monday came as Nakheel, the property development unit of the Dubai World investment fund, was due to settle the $4.1bn bond. The move by Abu Dhabi follows weeks of uncertainty in Gulf stock markets prompted by Dubai World’s request on November 25 for more time to pay $26bn in debt. (Al Jazeera)

Courtship and censure by US over China. The momentous impacts of recession on the China policy of the United States are apparent in the annual US Congress report that traditionally takes a different, harsher line towards the Middle Kingdom than the White House. This year, signs that hawkish forces in Washington are slowly accepting China’s military expansion contrast with the report’s claims that Beijing, rather than Wall Street, caused the global economic crisis. (Asia Times)

Pak PM takes U-turn, says ops will continue. Taking a U-turn, Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has said the military offensive against Taliban in the restive South Waziristan tribal region would continue and that he could not provide a time frame for completing it, hours after declaring that it has ended. (Asian Age)

Pakistan: Operation in Orakzai displaces 40,000. About 40,000 people have fled Orakzai Agency and 10,000 more families are at the risk of being displaced amid reports an anti-militant operation is likely to be started in the area, a UN report says. (Dawn)

CIA drone strikes may be expanded to Quetta: report. Senior US officials are pushing to expand CIA drone strikes beyond Pakistan’s tribal region and into a major city in an attempt to pressure the Pakistani government to pursue Taliban leaders based in the city of Quetta, The Los Angeles Times reported late Sunday… The concern has created tension among officials in the administration of President Barack Obama over whether unmanned aircraft strikes in a city of 850,000 are a realistic option, the paper said. (Dawn)

Turkey: Top court bans pro-Kudish party. Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Friday banned the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) on charges of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organisation. (AKI)

Three US hikers face Iran trial. Iran is to put on trial three US citizens who crossed into Iran while hiking in Iraq, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said… Iranian officials have also alleged that Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were spying… The United States government has said there is “no evidence to support any charge whatsoever” and called for their release… (BBC)

Iraq 2010 budget expected soon. Iraqi Lawmakers are optimistic towards approving Iraq’s 2010 budget before the end of the present year. (Alsumaria)

Uzbekistan damages power network. The decision by Uzbekistan to officially quit the Central Asia power system affects all countries in the region, particularly Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The move also brings its own domestic problems, notably providing sufficient power during peak demand.

In Abkhazia, the country that isn’t, incumbent wins vote. Abkhaz incumbent leader Sergei Bagapsh on Sunday was declared the winner of his region’s presidential elections by a wide margin amid allegations of fraud. The neighboring country of Georgia greeted the news by reminding the world that Abkhazia in fact is not a country, but rather a Georgian territory occupied by Russian troops. (McClatchy)

EU Presses Russia Over Georgia. European Union monitors in Georgia called on Russian forces on Saturday to pull back from a disputed village and warned that detentions on both sides of the de facto border with South Ossetia were raising tension. (Moscow Times)

Indian State in Paralysis Over Proposed Division. The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh sunk into a seething political paralysis on Monday, as local lawmakers adjourned indefinitely without addressing a controversial resolution to divide the state. Elsewhere in India, demands for statehood intensified in several regions as the issue mushrooms into a nationwide political tempest for the governing Congress Party. (New York Times)

China-Kazakhstan gas pipeline inaugurated. Starting at the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the pipeline runs through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan before reaching China’s northwest region of Xinjiang. (The Hindu)

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