Archive for the ‘11/29/09 – 12/5/09’ Category

Chechen Warlord Doku Umarov claimed responsibility in a letter for the Russian train explosion that killed 26 people between St. Petersburg and Moscow last weekend. Umarov, an Islamist extremist who calls himself “The Emir of the Caucasus,” is one of the most wanted men in Russia for his violent attacks against civilians and the government. Officials have claimed him dead twice — once this summer and once in 2005. Despite the confession, President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov has urged Russians to be cautious about the legitimacy of Umarov’s claim. “We must not exclude that by taking responsibility for this terrorist act, Umarov wants to raise his standing in the eyes of his foreign backers as he has recently been cornered by the joint efforts of the FSB and other federal departments, and his gang is suffering losses,” Kadyrov said, adding that perhaps Umarov and his supporters want to put the investigators on the wrong track.”

The Australian Senate defeated legislation that would have established the world’s first cap and trade system of greenhouse gas emissions. The Senate is more conservative than Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who will attend the Copenhagen climate change summit.

Atlanta, Georgia’s mayoral race is headed for a recount after official results from the runoff vote showed former state Senator Kasim Reed beating city councilwoman Mary Norwood by a hair. Norwood declined to concede defeat and will likely demand a recount under rules that permit it when less than 1 percent of votes cast separates the candidates. Norwood, who led an initial round of voting in November, would be Atlanta’s first white mayor since 1974.

The House Financial Services Committee voted to approve its “too big to fail” bank bill, aimed at reducing the risk that a financial firm’s collapse might imperil the entire financial system. The legislation proposes a system for dealing with, and, if necessary, breaking up troubled firms so taxpayer bailouts are not needed, but its most controversial part — headed for a House floor vote as soon as next week — is an amendment that would, for the first time, subject the Fed’s monetary policy to audits by a congressional watchdog. The clause is exactly what Fed Chief Bernanke hopes will be omitted, as it would limit the Fed’s independence. Meanwhile, European Union ministers agreed to set up super-watchdogs to police financial services, heralding a tougher regime for the industry blamed for triggering the economic crisis.

Bank of America, the U.S.’s largest lender, will repay $45 billion of government bailout funds in hopes to free itself from limits on executive pay that have hampered its search for a new leader.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) has tasked Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) with finding a way around the public option conundrum, solution to be unveiled next week. So far, Republicans and moderate Democrats have rejected a public option with an option for states to opt-out of the program, as well as one with a trigger (an option that will set the public option in motion if private health care programs prove ineffective after a predetermined amount of time). So far, Carper has been touting a health care “hammer” as a potential solution. The hammer version of the public option would be run by a non-governmental board, unable to use government money outside of its initial start-up funding. It would work alongside private insurers and kick in immediately if states were unable to provide effective health care through the private sector. Public option advocate Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as well as current health care holdout and moderate Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have also been tasked with revamping the public option.

Rupert Murdoch will get what he wished for. Yesterday, the media mogul spoke out against news aggregators like Google, calling them thieves for stealing articles from paid-for-content news sites. Today, Google announced that such sites will indeed be able to limit their searchable content. Murdoch should be happy, as his nascent purchase The Wall Street Journal charges users a fee to read certain articles. But Huffington Post Founder Arianna Huffington, who also spoke yesterday, told Murdoch to be careful what he wishes for.

“Any site can shut down the indexing of its content by Google any time it wants with a simple ‘disallow’ in its robots.txt file. But be careful what you wish for because as soon as you do that, and start denying your content to other sites that aggregate and link back to the original source, you stand to lose a large part of your traffic overnight. But as they say in Australia: ‘Good on ya.’ Of course as someone who cares deeply about the future of this country, I’d say that having Glenn Beck not searchable by Google is an entirely good thing. But a good business move? Not so much.”

Staff

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Obama addresses an audience of 4,000 West Point cadets in his Afghanistan exit-strategy speech.

Former Belgian colony Rwanda was accepted into to the Commonwealth of former British colonies, and reestablished diplomatic ties with longtime arch-nemesis France, the nation that many Rwandan politicians blame for involvement in the 1994 genocide.

On World AIDS Day, South African president Jacob Zuma pledged to expand treatment for all HIV-positive babies and those vulnerable to developing AIDS in the country with the world’s most vast epidemic. Zuma — elected in April — shows a sea change on the topic, compared to predecessor Thabo Mbeki, who denied any link between HIV and AIDS, and whose appointed health minister suggested those with HIV opt for home remedies such as beetroot and garlic, rather than antiretroviral drugs.

Apparently no one’s all that worried about the whole Dubai debt emergency thing anymore.

Now that media giant Bloomberg has bought Business Week, it’s making curve-ball changes to the face of the magazine. For one, PBS talk show host Charlie Rose will write a weekly column starting in late December. Rose will do what Rose does best, engaging with influential people from a variety of fields. In the transition, over 100 BW employees have been slashed, and some of the weekly’s main columnists have moved to other publications.

General Electric is poised to buy French telecom company Vivendi’s 20 percent stake in NBC Universal for $5.8 billion. GE would have to have Vividendi’s substantial stake before it could sell NBC Universal to Comcast.

Chinese Premier Wen Jibao rebuffed calls to loosen up his currency while in the EU. He, in turn, warned countries not to practice trade protectionism. On a lighter note, Wen and EU officials did sign some agreements about energy and the environment and stuff.

Sri Lanka released the over 120,000 refugees of the civil war between the government and the separatist Tamil Tigers of Elam. “Transport out of the camps is a problem, but people seem to be very happy,” said one official. The international community has been calling on the Sri Lankan government to close the camps since the end of the war, the Sri Lankan government had promised to do it by January.

The UN called Switzerland’s ban on the construction of minarets “clearly discriminatory” and divisive. The Swiss foreign minister acknowledged the government is concerned about how the vote would affect the country’s image.

A bomb exploded on a passenger train headed from Siberia to Azerbaijan, while the train was in the North Caucus Republic of Dagestan, which happens to border Chechnya and Georgia. This, after trains traveling between St. Petersburg and Moscow collided after an explosion this weekend, killing 26 people.

Russia said it will join any consensus on more sanctions against Iran, after Tehran claimed it would expand nuclear activity in defiance of a UN rebuke. The decision signals waning patience with Iran’s failure to not make the world think it’s secretly making atomic bombs, and a warning from Russia that Iran may not be able to rely on the country to defend its actions. Meanwhile, China warned the world that diplomacy, not sanctions, is the effective way to deal with Iran’s stubbornness and secrecy.

After three months of deliberations, U.S. President Obama ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, as expected. Exit strategy? Get Afghans to up fight. More on that later.

Staff

A pedestrian walks past a display advertising the initiative against the construction of new minarets in Switzerland, in Geneva. (Photo via Reuters)

The world was still at work.

Resign yourself. The Pentagon’s top official overseeing Gitmo detainee policy resigned over “personal issues,” on the heels of White House counsel Gregory Craig’s resignation earlier this year. Craig was also in charge of detainee policy. Germany’s armed forces chief is also resigning, in the wake of media reports that the government may have concealed a deadly attack that killed numerous civilians in Afghanistan. The son of a southern Philippine province’s governor surrendered to authorities after his family was tagged as prime suspects in last Monday’s massacre of almost 60 unarmed civilians in the country, in which 100 pro-government militiamen herded a caravan of journalists, lawyers, and supporters of Buluan vice town mayor Esmail Magundadatu to a remote area in broad daylight before attacking them with M-16 rifles and machetes.

The White House, walking the talk, announced Obama will go to Copenhagen in the flesh, although the timing of his appearance is early and therefore inopportune, and therefore lackluster. And therefore in step with overrall conference expectations.

U.S. Commanders in Afghanistan will devote most of the fresh troops expected from the White House to securing the country’s troubled south, particularly the volatile Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. Unfortunately, the militants are therefore taking advantage of the lower security in the North.

Bad week for Barack. Public approval of Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan has plummeted, a USA TODAY/Gallup poll reported. Some say that’s because it took the administration so long to reach a decision. The whole recession thing that began before he took office didn’t help, and brethren Dems have started to balk at his legislative agenda, demanding greater efforts to create jobs. Some of the really liberal want him to replace his economic team, while moderates fear Obama’s bid to overhaul healthcare and stem global warming — his two top priorities — may mean more fiscal hard times, at least in the mid- short-term. Then Times pot-stirrer Maureen Dowd got all scathing and called him a “cold shower” compared to his predecessor Bill Clinton, who gave an aura of a “warm bath.” Thomas Friedman was off that day.

Bernanke tells Congress via a WaPo editorial to back off from legislation that would limit the Fed’s role in controlling the national economy, particularly its ability to regulate banks.

China said it will cut emissions by a drastic 40-45 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2020. The announcement came just a day before it was set to hold dialogue with India, South Africa and Brazil on preparations for Copenhagen, putting pressure on other developing nations to buck up.

A former leader of Marxist guerrillas who once sought power through kidnappings and bombings is now the president-elect of Uruguay. Cattle rancher Porfirio Lobo wins the Honduran presidency, defeating Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed by the military in June after the Supreme Court ruled his bid to change the constitution was illegal. The congress will vote Wednesday on whether to allow Zelaya to return to office and finish his term before Lobo takes over in January. Zelaya pledged to fight until “toppling the dictatorship.”

On Wednesday, Dubai’s investment arm Dubai World asked to delay payment on billions of dollars of its debt, causing an international freakout in the global markets. World leaders and major banks that could be vulnerable if the conglomerate defaulted on its loans then looked on the bright side: Dubai World held $59 billion of Dubai’s $80 billion in debt as of August, a hiccup compared to the $2.8 trillion in writedowns U.S. and European lenders made between 2007 and 2010.

U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA voted Friday to rebuke Iran for building a uranium enrichment plant in secret. Tehran rejected the move as “intimidation” that would poison its negotiations with world powers, and then its parliament called to downgrade relations with the Group 5+1. Then, Iran announced it will build 10 new uranium enrichment plants. No secret.

Lebanon’s new cabinet agreed to recognize Hezbollah’s right to use weapons to counter any future aggression from Israel, despite disagreement by some members of the ruling majority weary of the Shiite resistance group.

A Russian train carrying 700 passengers derailed between Moscow and St. Petersburg, killing 26 and wounding over 100, as a homemade bomb planted on the tracks exploded. Terrorism is the consensus culprit.

Torrential downpours killed 77 people performing the Hajj pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca.

Israel will likely free up to 980 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

While Israel unveiled its plan on Wednesday to limit settlement construction and therefore persuade Palestinians to return to peace negotiations, settlers keep building no matter what the Israeli government says.

In Palestine, who’s job for peace? asks Arabic international paper Asharq Aswat‘s editor in chief.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the US President “is not doing anything at the present time” to revive the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations for peace, adding that Obama “called for us to resume the peace process…and I hope that he plays a larger role in the future.” Abbas also said that the Palestinians “are waiting for America to put pressure on Israel to respect international law and follow the roadmap for peace.”

The question that must be asked here is why is it up to Obama to do something for the peace process or for the benefit of the Palestinian people when the Palestinians are not doing anything for themselves?

Staff