Home > News > News in Brief: 15 December 2009

News in Brief: 15 December 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

This Is About Us. The talks at Copenhagen are not just about climate change. They represent a battle to redefine humanity. The meeting at Copenhagen confronts us with our primal tragedy. We are the universal ape, equipped with the ingenuity and aggression to bring down prey much larger than itself, break into new lands, roar its defiance of natural constraints. Now we find ourselves hedged in by the consequences of our nature, living meekly on this crowded planet for fear of provoking or damaging others. We have the hearts of lions and live the lives of clerks. The summit’s premise is that the age of heroism is over. We have entered the age of accomodation. No longer may we live without restraint. No longer may we swing our fists regardless of whose nose might be in the way. In everything we do we must now be mindful of the lives of others, cautious, constrained, meticulous. We may no longer live in the moment, as if there were no tomorrow. (Monbiot)

China ends Russia’s grip on Turkmen gas. The opening of a 1,833-kilometer pipeline from Turkmenistan to China this week ends Russia’s grip on the Central Asian country’s natural-gas exports. Backers of the proposed Nabucco pipeline to Europe will also gain heart from the success of the Turkmen-Chinese project. (Asia Times)

China wins struggle for Pipelinestan. A common explanation for the US presence in Afghanistan is Washington’s interest in Central Asian fuel sources– natural gas in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and petroleum in Kazakhstan. The idea of Zalmay Khalilzad and others was to bring a gas pipeline down through Afghanistan and Pakistan to energy-hungry India. Turkmenistan became independent of Moscow in 1991, making the project plausible. For this reason some on the political Right in the US actually supported the Taliban as a force for law and order. If that was the plan, it has failed. Instead, China has landed the big bid to develop a major gas field in Turkmenistan, along with a pipeline to Beijing. (Informed Comment)

Water Is the Missing Link in Copenhagen. When the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) announced the grim news that 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record, the U.N. agency also stressed last week the widespread water-related calamities caused by global warming. China has suffered its worst drought in five decades. In East Africa, a drought has led to massive food shortages. In North America, Mexico experienced severe-to-exceptional drought conditions in September. And in central Argentina, a drought caused severe damage to agriculture, livestock and water resources. (IPS)

Israel angry over UK Livni warrant. Israel has reacted angrily to an arrest warrant issued, and later withdrawn, by a British court against Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, over her role during Israel’s war on Gaza. (Al Jazeera)

Growing China-Mideast Ties. China became the largest exporter to the Mideast in 2008, overtaking the United States with nearly $60 billion of exports. Ben Simpfendorfer, chief China economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Hong Kong, says China’s growing demand for oil has resulted in high growth rates in the Arab world, which in turn looks to China for consumer goods. (CFR) [Recorded audio of interview is available at the CFR]

INDIA: 25 Years and Still Fighting for Justice: When Will Dow Chemical Clean Up Its Poisonous Legacy in Bhopal. On the night of December 2-3, 1984, Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, leaked a deadly cloud of methyl iso cyanate gas that floated out into the surrounding area. 8,000 people lost their lives in the immediate aftermath of that terrifying night. According to Bhopal Medical Appeal, at least 25,000 people have died in total as a result of the tragedy. Last week was the 25th Anniversary of this man-made disaster. And Dow Chemical has yet to clean up the contaminated site. The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal estimates 100,000 more people–now including 2nd generation impacted children–are still suffering. Deformities, disabilities, miscarriages and other illnesses such as chronic respiratory problems are among the maladies documented. (CorpWatch)

Germany: Defense minister denies new accusations linked to Afghan airstrike. Germany’s beleaguered Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has rejected reports claiming he wrongly forced the resignations of two top officials linked to a controversial airstrike in Afghanistan believed to have killed civilians. (Deutsche Welle)

Turkey’s Kurd initiative goes up in smoke. The banning of Turkey’s Kurdish-based Democratic Society Party by a constitutional court has sparked violent protests across the country. The turmoil comes after the government had moved to broaden the rights of the 12-million-strong ethnic Kurdish minority in hopes of ending decades of conflict. (Asia Times)

DTP’s Tuğluk faces up to 50-year prison term. Now that the parliamentary membership of Aysel Tuğluk, the former co-chair of the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP), has been rescinded, the former deputy faces the risk of being sentenced to up to 50 years in jail on charges of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization. (Today’s Zaman)

“Pakistan Army, CIA threat to government”. The differences between Pakistan’s civilian government and its all powerful military spilled out in the open on Monday with a lawyer representing the government telling the Supreme Court that the army and an American intelligence agency posed a threat to the country’s democracy. Later, Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani called on Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. It was an unscheduled meeting, and came after he had already met the Prime Minister once before in the day along with the visiting U.S. Centcom chief, General David Petraeus. No details of the meeting were available. An official release from the Prime Minister’s office said only that they discussed issues relating to national security. (The Hindu)

Central Asia: Islamists in Prison. The number of Islamists in Kyrgyz and Kazakh prisons is small but growing, in both size and political significance. Well-organised Islamist proselytisers, mostly imprisoned on charges of religious extremism, are consolidating their position within the informal structures of power behind prison walls. Incarcerating determined activists is providing them with the opportunity to extend their influence among convicts, at first inside prison and then on their release. Problems within jails in Central Asia have been known to seep outside the prison walls; the expansion of radical Islamist thought within prisons is likely to have serious consequences. The paradox of the situation is that, in private at least, political leaders in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are intensely aware that the best way to defeat extremism is to address woeful social and economic conditions, fight the systemic top-to-bottom corruption that besets all the region’s regimes, and in the words of one regional leader, “give people a future”. (ICG)

Two Nato tankers torched near Quetta. Unknown assailants torched two Nato tankers on the periphery of Quetta city. The tankers were headed towards the border town of Chaman… The tankers were carrying fuel for Nato personnel in Afghanistan… (Dawn)

Gulf states step up defences. Arms purchases on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf used to follow a predictable pattern: for governments of countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, they seemed as much about acquiring trophies as about strengthening national security. The prestige of owning the newest technology that the United States, the United Kingdom or France was willing to sell often seemed as important as any actual threat assessment. However, this pattern is changing as some Gulf states perceive a growing threat from Iran. (IISS)

Pacific nation recognises Abkhazia. The South Pacific island nation of Nauru has acknowledged Abkhazia declaration of independence, becoming the fourth nation to recognise the breakaway Georgian region. (Al Jazeera)

Searching times for Japan’s premier. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has been in office three months and his method of handling the conflicting pressures of office is becoming only too evident. Whether he’s waffling over a United States base location, flip-flopping over a Chinese dignitary’s visit, or fighting to preserve party unity, the heat is intensifying. (Asia Times)

Japan Delays Decision on Moving U.S. Marine Base. The government delayed until next year a decision on whether to pursue changes in an accord on the relocation of a U.S. military base on Okinawa. (New York Times)

How We Invaded Afghanistan. Thirty years ago this month, Soviet airborne troops parachuted into Kabul and began a fateful occupation that became Mikhail Gorbachev’s Vietnam. Here’s the inside story of how it happened, as told by the KGB general who planned it. (FP)

Zebari in Arab Cooperation Forum. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosheyar Zebari is participating in the 2nd Turkish Arab Cooperation Forum on the ministerial level held in Damascus to discuss the situation in Iraq mainly in security and economic fields. (Alsumaria)

Gulf Arab states moving closer to single currency. Kuwait’s finance minister says a monetary pact between Gulf Arab nations has gone into effect _ a move that brings the nations closer to the so-far elusive goal of a unified currency… GCC nations have been working toward greater integration, but the plan for a unified currency suffered a blow when the UAE and Oman said they would not join. (Taiwan News / AP)

Mosul: a city still at war. Since 30th June 2009 American troops have formally pulled out of the urban centre, yet their sprawling base on Mosul airport is actually within city limits and US soldiers still conduct almost daily street patrols to check on aid projects. They move in heavily armoured convoys and take a pair of attack helicopters for protection with them when they go. Mosul’s police force is 8,000 men short of full strength and, despite being reinforced by a unit of heavily armed paramilitary federal police from Baghdad, it operates only on the west side of the city. The east side is too dangerous. (Le Monde Diplomatique)

The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini’s oldest daughter Zahra Mostafavi declined to comment about the desecration of her father’s poster. While confronted about the desecration case by reporters at the 30th anniversary of Ayatollah Mohammad Mofateh’s death, Mostafavi said, “Permit me to not say anything [about this issue].” Mostafavi described Imam Khomeini as her father and leader, saying, “As the Imam’s daughter, I would rather remain silent and not say anything.” When asked for her opinion about the exploitation of the incident by certain political movements, Mostafavi said, “Like I said before, allow me to remain silent under the present circumstances.” (Tehran Bureau / Khabar Online)

The Iranian Minister of Industries and Mining walked away from reporters when asked about his imminent impeachment in Majlis. According to Mehr News Agency, on the sidelines of the breakfast for commerce, industries and mining chamber officials, Ali Akbar Mehrabian refused to offer any explanation regarding the Majlis’ motion for his impeachment. In an apparent change of stance, Mehrabian, who had previously claimed that the country’s industries are thriving and have no significant problems, said, “We must take this into consideration that due to a large number of investments in the industrial sector in recent years, the problems are numerous and resolving them requires more time.” (Tehran Bureau / Tabnak)

New Iraqi oil deals challenged in court. Dec. 22 hearing the first legal challenge to oil contracts concluded this year with foreign oil companies, including seven awarded Friday and Saturday. (Iraq Oil Report)

The Nomonhan Incident and the Politics of Friendship on the Russia-Mongolia-China Border. The summer of 2009 in Ulaanbaatar was unusually bustling for an otherwise sleepy city at a time when almost half of its one million strong population were out in summer camps drinking koumiss (Mo. airag) in the vast countryside. The whole nation was determined to enjoy the precious tranquillity after a peaceful presidential election, avoiding a repeat of last year’s violence in the wake of parliamentary elections. Amongst the few momentous events was the high-profile state-visit on August 25–26 by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. His main agenda was to promote cooperation in Mongolia’s strategic mining sector, a sector for which all the major powers in the world jostled to befriend Mongolia in anticipation of the long awaited passage of mineral extraction laws by Mongolia’s parliament. (Japan Focus)

Arms Sales to Taiwan Will Proceed, U.S. Says. The U.S. relationship with Taiwan is one of the most serious diplomatic issues between China and the U.S. (New York Times)

Pakistan: Govt determined to address Balochistan issues: Zardari. President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said the government was determined to address the issues of Balochistan, including that of grant of amnesty, in an institutionalised manner through parliament and with the force of the Constitution. (The News)

Some say attack on Berlusconi reflects climate of hate in Italy. Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa, who said he saved the attacker from a public lynching in Milan’s main square, said the attack was not an isolated case but rather the result of an “unprecedented” hate campaign mounted against Berlusconi… The incident follows weeks of growing political tension in Italy, with Berlusconi presenting himself as the victim of left-wing judges bent on overthrowing his government by dragging him before the courts on corruption charges. The attack is likely to strengthen his resolve to use Parliament to push fresh legislation to protect him from prosecution after the constitutional court stripped him of his immunity in October. (Washington Post)

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