TOP NEWS: Nat’l Security / Foreign Affairs: July 18, 2012
- Syrian Defense Minister Killed as Rebels Strike
- Unity Government in Israel Disbanding Over Draft Dispute
- Dire Signs for Spanish Economy
- North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Takes Title of Marshal
- In Trade Deal With Russia, U.S. Plans Sanctions for Human Rights Abuses
Excerpts and more top stories
TONY KARON, Time – When a civil war fought on sectarian religious lines reaches the capital city and the seat of power — as it did last weekend, prompting days of continuous fighting involving armor and artillery that continued to rattle Damascus into Wednesday morning, with Syria’s state-run TV saying that the country’s defense minister was killed in a suicide blast — the prospects for any kind of soft landing via a political settlement may have been eclipsed, leaving the country’s fate in the hands of its hard men.
JODI RUDOREN, NY Times – The broadest unity coalition Israel has seen in many years broke apart Tuesday evening as the Kadima party resigned from Netanyahu’s government. Irreconcilable differences developed over how to integrate ultra-Orthodox men and Arab citizens into the military and civilian service, a fundamental question for the future of the Jewish democracy.
EUROZONE/SPAIN: Dire Signs for Spanish Economy
MATTHEW WALTER AND CHRISTOPHER BJORK, WSJ – Spain’s housing and banking sectors continue to deteriorate, grim new government data showed Wednesday, providing the latest indication that the country’s economy remains caught in a protracted recession.
NORTH KOREA: North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Takes Title of Marshal
CHOE SANG-HUN, NY Times – North Korea announced on Wednesday that its leader, Kim Jong-un, had assumed the title of marshal, a move widely seen as aimed at bolstering his authority over the military, which analysts say he has been trying to tame through a reshuffling of top generals.
PETER BAKER, NY Times – For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, a bipartisan coalition in Congress has agreed to normalize trade relations with Russia, the onetime adversary in the long struggle between capitalism and communism. But at a time of renewed tension with Moscow, lawmakers have decided to grant the status with one large caveat — that Russian officials be held responsible for human rights abuses.
ADAM NOSSITER, NY Times – The vast desert expanse of northern Mali has become a magnet for Islamic extremists who have tightened their grip on Timbuktu and other far-flung towns, imposing a strict form of justice that is prompting tens of thousands of people to flee what some are likening to an African Afghanistan. Refugees described witnessing repeated whippings, beatings and other punishments in the streets, ostensibly for having violated strict Islamic law.
RAJESH ROY AND PAUL BECKETT , WSJ - India plans to let foreign carriers acquire stakes as large as 49% in Indian airlines and is working to persuade individual states to back the introduction of foreign supermarket chains, India’s commerce minister said. The policies are a sign that the government is trying to shed the perception that its business climate has become hostile to foreigners.
FREDERIC NEUMANN, WSJ Opinion – Asia has lost its economic stride. China’s central bank has cut rates twice in quick succession, and Korea’s central bank surprised with a rate cut last week. Although falling inflation has given officials around the region room to maneuver, monetary policy may not be the most appropriate response to the current slump in growth.
MICHAEL WINES, NY Times – Even some in the elite are worried about the course the Communist Party is charting for China’s future. And to advocates of political change, they offer hope that influential party members support the idea that tomorrow’s China should give citizens more power to choose their leaders and seek redress for grievances, two longtime complaints about the current system. But the problem is that even as the tiny band of political reformers is attracting more influential adherents, it is splintered into factions that cannot agree on what “reform” would be, much less how to achieve it.
EUROZONE/POLAND: Economic Gloom in Europe Barely Touches Proud Poland
NICHOLAS KULISH, NY Times – Poland’s economy was the only one that did not shrink in 2009, the year the financial crisis hit hardest. Now, austerity measures in Europe threaten to crimp the country’s growth.
RUSSIA/SYRIA: Russia accuses West of inciting Syrian opposition, criticizes proposed UN resolution
Associated Press via Washington Post – Russia on Wednesday accused the West of inciting the Syrian opposition after the defense minister and President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law were killed in a bomb attack, arguing that a proposed U.N. resolution amounted to support for the rebels and would lead to more bloodshed.
Karin Brulliard, Washington Post – Even as the Jordan branch of the Brotherhood participates in a simmering protest movement that has shaken stability here, the group says it is pushing to ride the Islamist tide into electoral gains, not cause the collapse of a monarchy with which it has coexisted relatively peacefully since 1946.
RUSSIA: Russia’s Summer of Idealism
SASHA SENDEROVICH, NY Times Op Ed – Something surprising is beginning to stir in the outlook of young Russians. A pervasive cynicism about communal action that took hold after the Soviet state and its professed collective ethos collapsed may be making way for a new sensibility — the idea that citizens can organize, be responsible for one another, and ultimately have an effect on how Russia governs itself. The evidence can be found in the number of young volunteers helping the flood-devastated town of Krymsk, and in the skittishness of some Russian officials about such volunteers.
NEIL MacFARQUHAR and DALAL MAWAD, NY Times – President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law and Syria’s defense minister were killed on Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked a crisis group of senior ministers and security chiefs meeting in central Damascus, according to state television and activists. The assassinations were the first of such high-ranking members of the power elite in the 17-month revolt against Mr. Assad’s rule, and could represent a turning point in the conflict, analysts said, confirming that opposition forces have been marshaling their strength to strike at the close-knit centers of state power.
Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes – After months of slowly falling housing prices, real estate in China is on the rise again. The number of Chinese cities seeing a month-on-month increase in home prices rose to the highest level in 11 months in June.
Hugh Carnegy, Financial Times – France’s socialist government is tearing up one of the key labour market measures introduced by former centre-right president Nicolas Sarkozy. The reimposition of income tax and social contributions on overtime the latest in a series of partial reversals of Sarkozy-era reforms since François Hollande won the presidency in May.
SOUTH KOREA: South Korea probes suspected loan rate fixing
Simon Mundy, Financial Times – South Korean competition authorities are investigating suspected manipulation of a national benchmark loan rate by banks, in a case that has drawn local comparisons with the global controversy surrounding the fixing of the Libor.
CASSELL BRYAN-LOW, WSJ - During a tense appearance before the Home Affairs Committee Tuesday, G4S Chief Executive Nick Buckles apologized for the company’s mishandling of the contract, which has forced the army and police to step in to fill the gap. He blamed the problems on scheduling systems that had failed to effectively register staff and acknowledged that his company’s reputation was in tatters.
Eric Schmidt and and Jared Cohen, Washington Post – Technology is just a tool. The residents of Juarez told us they desperately want technologies that, when used in the right way by the right people, would make a difference. There will be real consequences of trial and error, but we cannot let fear prevent us from innovating. In a world where cartels and criminals are masters of innovation, technology companies can tip the scales over the long run, helping to provide an innovation advantage to those who need it most.
VATICAN: Vatican Gets Critique on Finances
STACY MEICHTRY, WSJ - The Vatican received a mixed report card from a key financial transparency watchdog on Wednesday as the Holy See seeks to lend credibility to its crackdown on potential money-laundering and other financial crimes.
STACY MEICHTRY AND LIAM MOLONEY, WSJ - Prime Minister Mario Monti said he would meet on July 24 with the governor of Sicily to discuss the region’s finances as business leaders raised questions about the Italian island’s solvency.