February 14, 2011

World News Roundup: Post-Populist-Revolution Edition!

So I woke up to a really impressive populist-democratic-revolution-hangover, and realized that me and the collected staff of Al Jazeera English have been under a current events rock with the Egyptian flag on it for the past two weeks.

So now that I can stop worrying about democratic protesters being killed, and start worrying about the substantially-less-bloody and substantially-more-harrowing matter of practical nation building in Egypt, I'm feeling a wee bit afeared that I no longer have any idea what the pants is happening in this world of mine.

And like a beacon in the night, Foreign Policy has anticipated my need.

Some highlights from the excellent ''What Else Happened This Week?" by Josh E. Keating:

"Excuse us. Please keep your hands off
the murdering dignitary. Excuse us."
-Innnteresting: did anyone else know that a US consulate official (and former Special Forces soldier) in Pakistan is in prison, accused of murdering two men? The Pakistani Taliban are (unsurprisingly) calling for his head, but it looks like everyday folks in Lahore are also right pissed--the police report reads more like an execution than an act of self-defense. The official's diplomatic immunity is a big sore spot, and it's straining the already-tense interactions between Pakistan and the US, who appear to be walking less softly than they should be while carrying their big stick. The House Armed Services Committee has already played the "we'll take your aid away if you don't let him go" card. Keep it classy, americuh.

-The suspects in the Moscow airport bombsplosion a few weeks ago are from Ingushetia, an embattled, largely Muslim region of the Caucasus looking for a sovereignty close to what the Chechens are after. The suspects are also a family of kids under 21, rumoured to have blown up the airport as revenge for law enforcement killing their brother in law in a raid. Situations like this, where everyone's a bad guy with a tragic story justifying what they do, are entirely too common around the former Soviet republics. This is the sound of me moping and grumbling.

-My boy Evo Morales is takin' heat from his population, with people taking to the Bolivian streets, angry about rising food prices and the cuts to subsidies he made. Unfortunately, I can see why--a 73% increase in the price of gas would make me block a highway to make my point, too. Morales is stepping up, though--he rescinded the price hike, which is expected to curtail the cost of food production. Those Bolivians, though, they're marvellously scrappy, so watch this space.

Gbagbo. Blargh.
-To my great shame, I've failed to stay on top of fairly important West African politics. To make up for that, I spent a few hours looking into Cote D'Ivoire's current massive election-and-regime-upfuckery. The Coles-notes version: Laurent Gbagbo, long-embattled Ivorian-civil-war-president, was voted out of office in early December 2010, after great hubbub and flummoxing of any electoral sensibility. Not one to let not being elected stop him, he closed all the borders and ports, shut off communications and foreign news, set up the army, crossed his arms, and told all the foreign powers demanding his abdication "I'm STILL president." The UN has recognized his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, as the legitimate head of state, but running a shadow government from a hotel is a difficult task regardless of how many UN peacekeepers are watching your back, so despite the endorsement, it could be going better for him.
Gbagbo's dug his heels in, kicked out the peacekeepers, thumbed his nose at each progressively more "serious" urging to step down, and even threatened to issue new currency so that no one could use economic measures to get him to leave. Ouattara offered him a unity government, which he declined. So now the African Union is trying to broker a deal in this crazy situation that doesn't leave the country a smoking crater. Cote D'Ivoire, meanwhile, is quickly degrading into a deeply factioned, messy, "lawless" African stereotype, and Ouattara's prime minister says it's in for another civil war. Which is exactly what the area needs, really. Bah.
In other news, the Ivory Coast is where the majority of the world's cacao is exported from--so if you're not eating fair trade chocolate, you're probably implicated in Ivorian slave labour. Happy Valentine's Day!

-South Sudan's almost ready to cede from the country after a vote 99.57% in favour of going out on their own, but they've got substantial problems to kick through first:  someone shot their minister of rural development in his office, and a splinter militia is attacking the South Sudanese miltiary in Jonglei state with civilians being killed in the process.

-Fairly out of left-field, Thailand and Cambodia are fighting over some land, and kind of beating up the 11th century UNESCO heritage site temple on it in the process. People are displaced, UN peacekeepers are deployed. Lame. Also, did you know that Thai politics is generally considered to be colour-coded? I sure didn't.

-Less out of left field, the state media in Burma publishes that the venerable awesome Aung San Suu Kyi and co. will "meet their tragic end" if they keep up with this actual democracy and West-friendly-business. Subtle work, brutal military dictatorship. They'll never know it was you.

-And finally--I love my country, I really do, but sometimes Canada is just so damn -stupid-. The government of my fair province of Ontario suspended the ambitious and interesting Lake Ontario offshore wind turbine project because of the "wind turbines will hurt my children" lobby and the science being "too green". Then I read that our leader for the Great and Powerful 51st State Stephen Harper (and crony Peter McKay of the Defense Ministry) is highly complicit in the torture of hundreds of Afghanis, and could actually be prosecuted for war crimes. Which hopefully would invoke some state accountability, and get them out of my government. Fingers crossed.

Extra credit: the New Yorker followed up their much-buzzed "Wtf, Scientology?" essay with an equally interesting but much more topical "Wtf, Corruption In Afghanistan?" expose. It's here in its entirety, and I'd recommend it if you've got time to kill and illusions about the west's role in the mid east.

Okay. We're totally not caught up, but we're almost close.


  1. Ashley!! You are a champion.
    This is excellent. Well, the news itself isn't. But the snark-meets-absolute-genius roundup? That. Keep it coming. :)

  2. Sean!! You're a walking fount of validation for my terrible sass problem, and a gentleman and a scholar besides.
    And I'll have you know that every time you re-post something from this infernal thing, it basically doubles the readership. That's power, my good sir, and I appreciate your use of it on my behalf.