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September 23, 2008
Saudis celebrate unification on national day

Saudi Arabia celebrates its national day today.

Saudi Arabia celebrates its national day today, commemorating the unification of the country by King Abdul Aziz in 1932 under the umbrella of Islam.

Blogger “mabdrn” provides a history of national day.

The “Everday’s A Holiday” blog remarks that this year’s celebrations will be muted because the holiday coincides with the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“Saudi Jeans” writes that nothing much has changed since national day two years ago, saying, “The country is changing, but at a glacial pace that is leaving me and many others dejected and frustrated.” National day has only been a national holiday since 2005.

The “Victorious” blog points to Saudi companies’ varying recognition of the holiday.

U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia congratulates Saudi Arabia and touts the U.S.-Saudi relationship in the Saudi Gazette.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Saudi under a Creative Commons license.

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September 23, 2008
Bankrupt Italian airline still searches for buyer

Yesterday, private investors in the Italian airline Alitalia officially withdrew their bid, leaving the airline strapped for cash. Pilots and crew also offered their pensions to serious buyers. The airline published notices in Italian newspapers attempting to attract buyers — again.

CNN’s international business blog writes that with support from the Italian government, the airline has enough cash to weather the crisis.

Vincent, at his blog “Plastic Pilot” discusses government intervention in the airline sector and suggests less is more. Years ago, almost all European airlines were owned by national governments, and some see Alitalia’s demise as part of the transition from national, state-owned carriers to private sector companies.

High oil prices and a sluggish economy have impacted the airline industry worldwide. At, users work out odds on the next airline to go bust.

On Aug. 29, Alitalia declared bankruptcy. Union contracts precipitated the airline’s financial woes.

Associated photo courtesy of Flickr user caribb under a Creative Commons license.

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September 22, 2008
Somali pirates sink maritime industry

A bombed boat in Berbera.

Sea piracy has doubled in the last six years, costing the maritime industry more than $16 billion each year.

Somali pirates have attacked more than 30 ships this year in the Gulf of Aden, making piracy a serious concern in the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Navy and its allies have thwarted some attacks.

“The Duck of Minerva” blog calls for targeted efforts in pirate hot spots (also off the coasts Nigeria and in South Asia). The blog also suggests that Western countries recognize the semi-autonomous Somaliland as a legitimate political entity in order to enforce laws within the region.

Blogger “TFS Magnum” is skeptical of the U.N.’s ability to deal with piracy.

“The Maritime” blog examines possible solutions to piracy and the difficult choice companies face in deciding to pay employee ransom or refusing to pay in order to deter future attacks.

After two French hostages were rescued from Somali pirates, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an international effort to combat pirates.

RAND recently released a report stating that piracy and terrorism remain essentially separate issues, with the goals of each being financial and political, respectively.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user friendly-fire under a Creative Commons license.

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September 22, 2008
French court deliberates virginity annulment

Today, French courts in Lille hear arguments from a Muslim husband and wife who had their marriage annulled last April on the grounds of a “mistake on an essential quality of the person.” Post-marital relations revealed that the woman had lied about her virginity, according to her husband. [PDF of French court papers]

The case has ignited a media frenzy and inflamed feminists and French conservatives alike. A discussion of varying viewpoints can be found at the “GalliaWatch” blog.

The blog “Clerical Whispers” argues that the situation sets reactionary precedents affecting women’s rights while The Weekly Standard’s blog reports a case of Sharia law creeping into European courts.

Blogger “Buy Celeb Tickets” discusses the role of the French Minister of Justice Richda Dati, who originally supported the decision but later became involved with the case’s appeal and delay.

A writer for The Independent argues that accusations of religious or sexual bias are unfounded and that the case merely deals with a lie around a politically volatile issue.

The French Court overturned the decision in June and today, the woman is expected to present conflicting reasons for the annulment in court. The pending annulment is scheduled to be granted (or not) by Nov. 17.

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September 19, 2008
Gun battle kills two Indian Muslims

Violence continues in New Delhi, the capital of India.


A gun battle erupted in New Delhi this morning, leaving two suspected Islamic militants dead and one other in custody.

Watch a video of police, media and residents live on the scene in New Delhi.

At least one of the dead was allegedly involved in the series of bombings that killed 21 people and wounded 97 less than a week ago. A group calling itself the Indian Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Blogger “Ravinder Kaur” examines how these attacks are part of the global network of terrorism and takes a look at the evolving perceptions of “India’s war on terror.”

The “Indian Muslims” blog claims that Indian Muslims have been “framed collectively as terrorists,” citing examples of hostility toward Indian Muslims, who make up 13.8 percent of India’s population.

An editorial in The Daily Star says the bombings confirm “the existence of Islamist terrorism in India,” pointing to a growing divide between the majority and minority populations in India.

On Wednesday, a survey emerged showing an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in India and across Asia and Europe.

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September 19, 2008
Representing Venezuela, inside out

Yesterday, a 230-page Human Rights Watch report cited increasing abuses by the Hugo Chavez government. The Guardian was one of many news organizations to cover the report.

International attention turns again to Venezuela’s controversial President Chavez, but the accounts circulated around the world don’t always provide perspectives from Chavez advocates or even the citizens of Venezuela.

There are individuals, groups and governments who protest the media representation of Venezuela as unfair. For example, Samuel Grove writes about how The Guardian misrepresents Venezuela.

Steve Brouwer lives in Venezuela and writes the blog “Venezuela Notes,” dedicated to dispelling misinformation about the “peaceful revolution.” In a specific post, Brouwer describes how the “booming” Venezuelan economy has transformed the village of Monte Carmelo.

Other bloggers do not support the Chavez government and its evolution. Daniel of “Daniel-Venezuela” chronicles the “slow descent into authoritarianism, the slow erosion of our liberties, the takeover of the country by a military caste…”

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September 19, 2008
World elections spark blogger reactions

In recent weeks, several national elections took place around the world. Here is a round-up of the newly elected with comments from bloggers.

Thailand’s parliament elected Somchai Wongsawat on Sept. 17 following the resignation of Samak Sundaravej. The blog “2point6billion” points out the quick turnover of prime ministers in the last two years.

Israel‘s ruling Kadima Party elected Tzipi Livni as its new leader on Sept. 17, putting her on track to becoming the country’s second female prime minister. “Yael K” live blogged about the elections, reporting about several disturbances and the closing of a polling station in Rahat.

Rwanda became the first country where women outnumber men in parliament after its elections on Sept. 15. The “Living in Kigali” blog outlines the day’s events and praises the order of the election.

Hong Kong‘s pan-democrats retained most of their seats and the ability to veto government legislation following legislative elections on Sept. 7. Blogger “Elmer” describes the campaign atmosphere in Hong Kong, where megaphones blasted candidates’ messages throughout the streets.

Pakistan elected Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as its new president on Sept. 6. “Pakistan Policy Blog” criticizes the election of Zardari, saying that it was no victory for democracy.

Angola‘s Sept. 5 elections ended in a landslide victory for the ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola). Human Rights Watch reported problems with media bias and state funding for opposition parties. Lawyer and blogger Robert Amsterdam of “Corporate Foreign Policy” discusses the legitimacy of the election.

Vanuatu‘s Sept. 2 parliamentary election results were contested. The parliament will elect a new prime minister on Monday. “Seth,” a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu, described election day in his blog.

And in current news:

Swaziland held parliamentary elections Friday — even though King Mswati III rules the nation as an absolute monarchy. Richard Rooney, an associate professor at the University of Swaziland, found the election laughable.

Slovenia held parliamentary elections Sunday, and Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s party may suffer from accusations of bribery. “Global Economy Matters” provides an outline of the election.

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September 19, 2008
Israel tests dog DNA to track down littering owners

A standard poodle named Gus.

An Israeli suburb of Tel Aviv is compiling a DNA database of local pet saliva to cross test with dog stool piling up on its streets. Dog owners who use city disposal bins will be rewarded with pet food coupons and dog toys, while littering owners could face city fines.

The city’s chief veterinarian claims that Petah Tikva residents are responding positively to the program, which will also assists dog disease research and tracks non-microchip-embedded animals.

“To Do Today” jokes that “Israel solves the Middle East’s real problem,” while “Dolittler” wonders how much the program will really help clean the streets in its voluntary form. Those who fail to curb their dogs seem less likely to participate.

Sarah Gilbert of “Wallet Pop” suggests that city leaders in Philadelphia follow suit, while “samzenpus” of “Slashdot” muses, “I wonder what sin you had to commit in a previous life to find yourself the official dog poop examiner of Petah Tikva, Israel.”

If the Petah Tikva program proves successful the city will consider making it mandatory.

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September 18, 2008
U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan show policy shift

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will meet with President Bush next week. Photo: Getty Images

Over the last several months, the U.S. military has carried out several attacks in the northern regions of Pakistan along the Afghan border. The attacks target Taliban and al-Qaeda forces and have taken place without the official consent of the Pakistani government, headed by the newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari.

President Bush exercised controversial executive power in July when he authorized the use of military force within Pakistani borders.

Howard LaFranchi of The Christian Science Monitor discusses the precedent set by former U.S. Presidents Reagan and Clinton to authorized the use of military action in other nations.

A student at “Another Foreign Policy Blog” analyzes the use of power versus diplomacy, and advocates for U.S. restraint.

Rick Francona, a retired intelligence officer and Middle East expert, discusses Pakistani citizens’ support and sympathy for the Taliban and suggests there is no public desire to secure borders.

Some Pakistani citizens are outraged by U.S. military action because air strikes place too many civilian lives in danger.

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September 18, 2008
Nigerian militants threaten “oil war”

Niger River Delta, Nigeria


AUDIO: Sarah Simpson of The Christian Science Monitor provides
an update on the crisis.

Rebel militants threatened an “oil war” in Nigeria after attacks on Shell and Chevron flow stations earlier this week.  Oil companies claim that the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) has killed 100 people and still holds 27 oil workers hostage.

Pipeline bombings and other attacks began on September 13 when the rebel militia said they reacted to an unprovoked attack by the Nigerian military.  MEND has ordered oil companies in the oil-rich region to evacuate or risk attack with the objective of gaining control of the oil-rich resources of this poverty-stricken East African nation.

Here is a Reuters video about Nigeria’s oil industry, the oil pollution in the region and the impetus for Nigerians to join militant groups.

The blog “Reginald’s Weblog” writes about Nigeria’s relationship with oil companies and questions whether these attacks will lead to a civil war.

Blogger “Nigerian Curiosity” says that war is not an option, and some worry that the battle between militants and the government could throw Nigeria into violent anarchy.

The blog “Armchair Enlightened Despot” highlights the corrupt relationship between the government and rebel militias and asserts that the Nigerian people continue to suffer.

The violence has halted oil production by 20 percent in Nigeria. The Niger Delta is currently the U.S.’s fifth largest supplier of crude imports.

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Blogwatch summarizes what bloggers and news sources are saying about the international news of the day. We’ll link to informative and bold voices that place the headlines in the context of the global conversation.

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