Archive for October, 2008

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World’s Weekly Blue Streak

October 29, 2008

TOP STORIES

Throwing Stones at a Glass Embassy

Since August, 200,000 citizens have been displaced in the Congo (NYTimes, AP)

October 28, 2008: DR CONGO—On Monday, hundreds of protestors in Eastern Congo hurled rocks at the United Nations in response to the continued advancement of rebel forces and the increased number of internally displaced citizens. Since August, over 200,000 people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the intensified fighting between the Congolese government and the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel force from Uganda. The crisis has intensified since a peace deal collapsed in August, and it is estimated that the two years of sporadic fighting have forced over a million from their homes. Although the country holds the United Nation’s largest peacekeeping force of more than 17,000 troops, the UN has been unable to stem rebel forces and the Spanish general leading the mission recently resigned. On Tuesday a spokesman for the UN humanitarian office stated: “The army is no longer guaranteeing security,” and as of Wednesday, will be pulling out aid workers. This humanitarian crisis that has stemmed from Congo’s 1998-2003 War is estimated to have killed 5.4 million citizens, and encompasses some of the most brutal warfare tactics known to man: rape and child soldiers. The situation stands as a stark and terrible reminder of the consequences of a failed state. 

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Damocles’ Sword and the New Prime Minister 

October 28, 2008: GEORGIA–Also on Monday, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia dismissed his prime minister and replaced him with a little-known ambassador, Grigol Mgaloblishvili. Besides the fact that he has a cool, unpronounceable name, Mr. Saakashvili’s choice demonstrates Georgia’s first real change since the Russia-Georgia War. The announcement was not unexpected, and the reorganization of the cabinet in the next couple days is not likely to be drastic. The move is a preemptive effort to stem the protests that are planned on November 7 against the Georgian government; however, Mr. Saakashvili has stated that the previous prime minister was contracted for only one year and the dismissal was planned. Despite all the nonchalance, foreign investors have fled and Georgia’s economic growth has been cut to 3.4% from 12.4% in 2007. Mr. Saakashvili himself summed it up best this week, stating: “Existential threat hangs over Georgia like a Damocles’ sword.” 

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Mikheil Saakashvili should watch his head

 WEEKLY BRIEFS 

The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency has stated the amount of nuclear material stolen is “disturbingly high”. Because you didn’t have enough things to worry about. 

South African leaders have been unable to mediate the crisis in Zimbabwe, and are calling for a full summit. 

The Dalai Lama has called a special meeting in November with Tibetan exiles, to discuss a new strategy in dealings with China

A West African regional has ruled Niger’s government must pay $19,000 to a young woman sold into slavery at age twelve—toast to that. 

And finally, Russian communists claim that the new Ukrainian Bond girl is a traitor to the USSR, because 007 is an “Enemy of the Soviet People.” Sounds like someone is just jealous that she gets to snog Daniel Craig

By Dana Liebelson

                                                                  

 

 

       

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World’s Weekly Blue Streak

October 25, 2008

TOP NEWS

Subversion and Truth

A woman protests for the release of Hu Jia

October 24, 2008: CHINA—On Thursday, the European Parliament awarded Chinese human rights and democracy advocate, Hu Jia, the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. In response, China has responded harshly, expressing their “strong dissatisfaction and stern opposition” and calling Hu Jia “a convicted criminal.” Last year, Hu Jia testified via video-link of Chinese human rights abuses and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, which he is currently serving on grounds of “subversion.” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang has stated that recognizing Hu Jia’s contributions in human rights and AIDS research “fabricates the facts and confuses the truth.” His wife and infant child are also under house arrest. The tension has sprung right before the Asia-Europe summit meeting this weekend in Beijing. China has threatened that the award will seriously damage relations with the EU, a comment that is unnerving considering cooperation on the global financial crisis is at stake. 

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Pakistan Cries Uncle

Asif Zardari

October 23, 2008: PAKISTAN—Pakistan, notorious “war on terror” target, has bit the bullet and asked for economic aid from the IMF. In the last couple of weeks, the economy has skydived and Pakistan’s president, Asif Zardari, has asked for handouts from the usual suspects: Saudia Arabia, China and—oh yeah, the U.S. However, seeing as the impressive downward slanting graph of Pakistan’s economy looks eerily like America’s graph, Asif Zardari has been forced to turn to the IMF. He follows in the footsteps of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharaff in asking for aid that will likely result in army and defense spending restrictions. This news reflects just how much Pakistan’s economic survival is tied to defeating Islamic Extremists—and right now, in a tightened world economy, there’s nothing appealing about throwing money into the bottomless pit of a dysfunctional state. 

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WEEKLY BRIEFS (Not Boxers)

North Korea is facing the worst food crisis in a decade, the UN reported this week, with half of the populace eating only two meals a day. 

Nigerian Supreme Court defers ruling on challenge to President Umaru Yar’Adua’, further unnerving foreign investors

Japanese woman is arrested for murdering virtual husband

French President Nicolas Sarkozy not so thrilled with Nicolas Sarkozy Voodoo Doll. 

A group of Atheists have bought billboards on busses all over London with the message: There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life. 

 

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World’s Weekly Blue Streak

October 16, 2008

TOP STORIES

The Dead Snake Returns 

October 17, 2008: ZIMBABWE – This week, President Robert Mugabe catapulted the Zimbabwean power-sharing deal with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai into stormy waters. Mr. Mugabe has declared that the ministries–conveniently comprised of all military and police forces–will remain under his control, in what has been hailed as “a giant act of madness” by the opposition. Mugabe has continued to cling to power through sham elections and a violent military campaign, and the move comes in the wake of three weeks of deadlock. In response to the heightened tension, the supposedly “dead” snake, otherwise known as the ex-president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, will be arriving on Monday to help mediate the crisis. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has agreed to give up the military, as long as he can retain police forces. In other news, the United States Ambassador has made it clear whom he supports, helpfully stating: “Do I play golf with Morgan Tsvangirai? That is not an allegation, but an absolute fact.” Phew, glad that one is cleared up. 

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Temples and Bullets  

World Heritage Site/Overly Popular Real Estate

October 17, 2008: CAMBODIA – The Cambodian and Thai militaries have agreed to a joint border patrol in the area where an armed clash left two soldiers dead this week. Tensions stem from the UN’s decision to let Cambodia make the Preah Vihear temple a world heritage site—prompting both countries to rush troops to secure the border. Thousands of Cambodian citizens living near the temple have fled away from the border zone, in fear of continued violence. Despite the clash being relatively minor, it has brought to light the difference in opinion between the Thai government and anti-government protestors. The protestors believe that the government’s stance on border control is too soft, although the temple officially belongs to Cambodia. Despite this opinion, Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry has claimed that Thai troops fired first with “heavy armed attacks.” Nothing like a tourism opportunity to make everyone go a little crazy. 

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BRIEFS (Not Boxers)

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan wins landslide vote in a rather iffy election

A Taliban spokesman has claimed that their militants are willing to talk if the Pakistani government ceases military operations against them. A better question: Do you really put “Taliban spokesman” on your resume when applying to Micky D’s?

Iraqi officials have called the $100 dollar barrel a “fair and acceptable” price for oil, and threaten to cut production if prices continue to fluctuate. 

Tensions have been steadily rising in Lebanon, fueled by sectarian violence

That country north-of-the-country-with-the-economic-crisis, cough Canada, is immersed in politics as the Liberal party attempts a rebound. 

And our favorite Somali pirates have decided to rethink actually blowing up the ship, having hauled aboard a couple more months worth of goat meat. 

Poll of the Week 

By Dana Liebelson

 

 

 

 

 

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

October 16, 2008

By way of the Associated Press, it’s Joe the Plumber, aka Joe Wurzelbacher of Ohio. On being continually used as a metaphor for the middle class by the candidates, Joe waxed:

“It’s pretty surreal, man.”

Sage words, and a great way to end the evening.

Mark C. Partridge, Contributing Editor

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

October 16, 2008

As the wives walk on stage and the candidates shake hands, some final thoughts:

As expected both candidates talked about the economy and taxes a lot. As before no moment stood out that would really sway voters.

In terms of what voters were looking for, I think that they got a pretty good portrait of what each candidate would be like in the Oval Office. McCain dueled using details and minutiae to make his points — sometimes to his detriment. Obama, on the other hand, was more concerned about the big picture, answering some specifics but dedicating most of his time to themes. In this way, it did look a bit like the Arizona senator was trying to win the battles, but was letting the war slip away.

This point was particularly evident during the exchanges over spending. McCain repeatedly brought up ear markers and the importance of being fiscally responsible. Yet, economists of every strip agree that the U.S. is going to need to increase spending to ensure that the economy can rebound. In this sense, I don’t know if McCain did what he needed to which was alayed voters’ number one concern: the economy.

In terms of declaring a winner or a loser, I would say it was the moderator’s night. Of the four hosts, Bob Scheiffer asked the most provocative questions about issues that have yet to get much attention — most notably on abortion and education. He gave the candidates their allotted time without badgering them about time and asked good follow-ups. A splendid night’s work from the CBS man.

And with that I’ll leave it to the pundits and spinners. Was this worth the viewer’s time? I do hope so.

***

Closing statements:

McCain goes first, and calls for a new direction for America. Make healthcare and education affordable and available. And again with the spending. And he brings up trust (that’s where the Bill Ayers/ACORN issue comes up).

The freshman senator from Illinois talks about difficult times and the economic troubles. He then links his opponent to Bush — without explicitly saying so — then promises to work on the behalf of the middle class.

And that is it.

***

Last question of the evening: education.

You can tell that the years of war have changed the American psyche, because both Schieffer and Obama talk about education as a national security issue.

Obama talks about his $4,000 tax credit for students who want to volunteer. Interesting that he hit McCain for offering a small credit for something that is too expensive (healthcare). This is particularly interesting because banks, who offer a lot of the student loans out there, are now seizing up.

McCain calls education the “civil rights issue of the 21st century.” Strong answer from McCain here. Both candidates say that there should be more competition in public schools and bad teachers need to get the sack.

McCain is again talking about reform, and really touts the importance of vouchers. Obama disagrees.

***

First mention of any Roe v. Wade, the founding abortion case.

McCain says that there is no litmus test to a Supreme Court appointment. Obama agrees, but says that it was a correct decision.

So far this election has stayed away from social conservative issues. An interesting exchange here. McCain is really trying to win the battles; Obama again reaches for the Change message.

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Healthcare.

Obama is trying to appeal to voters here.

McCain just said that he would give a $5,000 tax credit. My room mate is a doctor, and he quickly snapped that that will pay for about “two days in an ICU.”

McCain again brings up Joe the Plumber, as they trade blows about Obama’s “punishment” for healthcare. And then it turns into a debate about Big v Small government.

***

Energy independence. I would like to know what they even think that means.

McCain says that the U.S. can end its dependence on Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil, and instead use the host of different energy sources: clean coal, wind, hydro … No explanation of how they would be funded, since they are not profitable to be self-sustaining — especially with the falling price of oil, now at $75 a barrel.

Obama says that 10 years is the span needed to become “energy independence.”

They then go off into NAFTA. Free trade and globalization are dirty words right now. McCain tries to link free trade to the wider diplomatic issues using Colombia as an example: the war on drugs, etc. These are small nigglings right now, since the real issue and the reason that jobs are going over seas is China and India. I really think there needs to be more talk about these two countries.

Obama then talks about “green jobs” as the way create jobs.

About halfway through, I saw that McCain is talking about specifics more than Obama; but it seems like nit-picking.

***

Question: Which VP candidate would be the best President should the unthinkable happen?

The Democrat says that his running mate, Joe Biden, fights on behalf of the middle class, and that he shares Obama’s core values.

The Arizona senator says that Palin is a reformer, and talks about his #2’s experience with special needs children.

Obama has to be careful about attacking here. He talks about the need for more funding. McCain attacks Biden’s strength saying that he was wrong on many of the big issues here — before turning back to spending issues.

***

Mr. Schieffer is asking great questions: now its the negative campaigning.

The two are really trading blows here, and both seem rather laissez faire about the negativity. This might be good TV, but I don’t know if this is swaying any middle class voters.

Obama seizes on the fact that the question is really about changing the nature of politics. (Never mind his own attack ads on his rival.)

Bill Ayers, the 1960s domestic terrorists, and ACORN have now come up. Obama strongly repudiates both allegations. He then talks about who he gets policy advice from, and its quite a list: Warren Buffet, Joe Biden, etc. Sounded like a change message.

***

This is the question I most want answered: given the economy, what will the candidates cut to bring the budget back in line.

Obama says that he will cut programs that don’t work and add ones that you do. He is really dodging the question, but keeping it positive. He listed a number of reforms, including energy, but didn’t name a single program that he would give up. Bit of a shame really.

McCain is getting excited. He talks about freezing spending, and then goes into specifics. Talks a lot about ethanol subsidies, before verging into an attack on Obama. I’d like to hear more about this, given that Americans are increasingly queasy about globalization.

McCain whips out a line saying if Obama wanted to run against Bush, he should have run four years ago. Then more talking about spending. I don’t know if spending is really going to do it for McCain tonight. It needs to be about the middle class, not Washington spending scuffles.

Obama says that on “economic issues” McCain would simply be another four years.

***

Bob Schieffer asks for more than just talking points, and inquires about both candidates new economic proposals.

McCain begins by appealing to the middle class by saying that he would address the mortgage issues, rather than the Wall St. banks. No attack on Obama there.

Obama comes out strongly, enumerating the points of his short-term plan and then talks about the need for long-term solutions as well.

The two then trade jabs about taxes — and Joe the Plumber. McCain is talking about taxes, particularly business taxes. I don’t know if that is a good idea given the public’s antipathy for big business right now.

***

Bob, the moderator, promises to ask follow-up questions to ensure that the conversation is lively. The candidates are on stage, and take a seat.

***

A few thoughts before we get started. With an appropriate degree of foreboding, I wanted to quickly say, in response to Joshua Keating’s reposte on FP Passport, I understand that there are too many talking points and catch phrases in today’s politics. No doubt there will be a lot more of both tonight. But I still do think that these debates are meaning full, if only because the serve to inform voters about what to expect from the next administration. To call tonight’s proceedings a debate is a misnomer; it’s more of an interview. The American people now get to see the applicants side by side for the final time.

So we are about to get started, the eagle is in place and the lights are on. Let’s see what happens

Mark C. Partridge, Contributing Editor

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

October 15, 2008

Pre-game:

Tonight’s debate at Hofstra University in New York will be the same format at the first McCain-Obama tango: two minutes to answer the questions, posed by the honorable Bob Schieffer of CBS, then a five-minute “discussion period”.

As far as policy goes, the major issue will again be the economy — as stocks took another beating today. Expect a lot of back and forth here as the candidates look to soothe middle class voters and display their knowledge on the subject. It will also be a good time for the would-be presidents to poke holes in each other’s proposals.

On the political front, McCain has his work cut out for him: the RCP National Average give Obama a 7.3% lead. And the polls in swing states aren’t good reading for the Republican either. Obama has seized the economic issue as his own, continually linking his opponent to the incumbent, George W. Don’t expect anything different tonight.

On the Republican side, McCain’s maverick message has failed to claim him the Change mantle. That won’t stop him making that case again tonight. As the one trailing in the polls, he must convince voters that he is the one to turn the country around.

Also, the campaigns — particularly McCain’s — have taken a decidedly negative turn over the past few weeks. This tack looks to have hurt the Maverick quite a bit. However, the party faithful want him to attack Obama — some quite literally. It will be interesting to see what tone McCain takes tonight.

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Live Blogging at Open Borders: U.S. Presidential Debate

October 15, 2008

I know that there is a lot going on in the world these day. Aside from markets around the world plummeting like bricks, there are World Cup Qualifiers (England’s winning 3-1 to though concerned), the Phillies are playing the Dodgers for a place in the World Series (go Phils!), and I’m sure there is a re-run of CSI that could draw you in. Our friends over at FP Passport are recommending that all of these might be a better use of your time.

So why have debates at all? What would we lose without them? If you’ve been paying attention to the race at all for the last three months, you’re not going to hear anything new. If you’re a low-information voter who’s legitimately curious about how a candidate plans to tackle the economic crisis, I guarantee you won’t learn anything much from the debates that can’t be found in their stump speeches or campaign material.

It is easy to see this event as a news generator that give media types–me included–something to talk about for another day. But that shouldn’t diminish its value.

For one thing, most voters have not been able to make it out to see the candidates stump. Lacking this first hand experience, any chance to see the two duel–be it using talking points or not–is worthwhile. I would wager that the few people who would scour speeches to learn about the candidates respective positions are in the minority and are political die-hards anyway. Voters want things presented to them, and this is one of the few times when they have a nice side-by-side comparison.

Secondly, the nervousness in the U.S.–and around the world, for that matter–is palpable. The first debates have focuses on foreign policy, as well as economic policy; but the situation is so fluid, and things are very different now. Both camps have presented brand-spanking new economic plans in the past few days, and this is the perfect time to explain them to the voters. The next president will be the one managing the fallout from this financial crisis, and giving these candidates a chance to enumerate their policies could serve to calm things–in a way that the lame duck George W. Bush has not been able to. People want to know what McCain and Obama what and how they will fix things–and they want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, if you will. 

Though few voters are explicitely undecided at this point–about 3% according to the latest Rassmussen poll–the political situation is also incredibly dynamic right now. As always happens, both candidates enjoyed a boost in their polling numbers following their conventions, but Messr McCain was in the lead by nearly every measure before the economic picture began to darken. Since, voters have flocked to the Democratic candidate in search of comfort. Now down in the polls, the Arizona senator need to show that he is a cool head who has a plan to right the ship. This is the last time he will be able to make that pitch to a multimillion person audience himself, rather than through the 24-hour news channels. Voters are worried, and if he does a better job than his opponent tonight at reassuring them, it could be the start of yet another comeback.

If that’s not compelling enough for you, it at least gives me something to write about!

 

Mark C. Partridge, Contributing Editor