Facebook Slider

buzzflash-header

Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!
Monday, 17 September 2007 02:07

Gloria R. Lalumia's World Media Watch for September 17, 2007

  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email

WORLD MEDIA WATCH

BuzzFlash Note: Gloria's column is on hold while she works on some computer issues for a few days. Thanks for your patience.

Summaries are excerpted from the source articles; the featured article follows the summary section.

1//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong
RUSSIA'S NEW PREMIER HAS BITE

Russia's new Prime Minister Victor Zubkov has moved from obscurity to presidential status in half a day, showing character not seen in Moscow for 25 years. The man, whose name in Russian means "tooth", shows he has mettle and bite - confidence in himself, pride in what he has done, and toughness toward what he must do, characteristics last on display in Moscow when Yuri Andropov took charge. That was in November 1982, when the Soviet Union was still going strong, and Andropov, head of the KGB, took over the country two days after the death of Leonid Brezhnev. In Asia, the most likely reactions to Zubkov are a sigh of relief in Beijing and renewed frustration in Tokyo. If the Andropov model forecasts anything, applied to Russia's future as energy, minerals and metals supplier to the factories of northern Asia, it means more certainty for China, less for Japan. ... Unnoticed until now, it was Zubkov and Serdyukov, acting as Putin's overseers of the cash flow of the country, who assisted in Putin's most decisive political and economic move - the arrest in 2003 of oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the subsequent breakup of the Yukos oil company group. That campaign, attributed by political analysts to Putin's chief aide Sechin, continues to dismantle the great oil, metal and mining fortunes amassed during the years of the late president Boris Yeltsin by a dozen men known as the oligarchs. To combat the power of their money, Putin turned to his old network of KGB colleagues, creating a faction in government known as the siloviki ("the power men"). Just as the US government once brought down Chicago gangster Al Capone with an indictment for tax evasion, Putin's choice of Zubkov means that the future Russian government, and its economy, will be run by people who intend to threaten the oligarchs, and control them in the same fashion. Zubkov is backed by the siloviki. His appointment is also a clear signal that the US-favored candidate for president, St Petersburg lawyer Dmitry Medvedev - also deputy prime minister until now, and Ivanov's rival - will not be promoted to govern the country. The new Russia is beginning to look very much like the old one. But with oil at US$80 per barrel, it is a magnitude more potent than the economy Andropov took charge of in his brief 15 months in office, before his death in 1984.

(AN EXPANDED EXCERPT OF THIS FEATURED ARTICLE FOLLOWS THE SUMMARIES)

2//Gulfnews.com, United Arab Emirates
PAKISTAN'S ELECTION RULES CHANGED

Pakistan's Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has amended the rules governing presidential candidates, sparking accusations that the changes were designed to pave the way for re-election of President General Pervez Musharraf. "The CEC has amended the rules and President Musharraf is now very much eligible to contest for another five-year term," Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Niazi, said. An alliance of Pakistani opposition parties said they would resign from national and provincial assemblies if Musharraf tried to seek re-election. ...

Under the amendment, Article 63 of the Constitution would not apply to the forthcoming presidential election. The article lays down conditions for a person to be eligible to become a member of parliament. It is mandatory for a presidential candidate that he be eligible to be elected to parliament.

3//iafrica.com, South Africa
FASCISM THREATENS SWISS POLITICS

Switzerland's main right-wing party is shaking up the country's traditionally placid electoral scene with a febrile campaign denouncing alleged conspiracies, while some opponents have branded its tactics fascist. The Swiss People's Party (SVP), dominated by its charismatic strongman and current Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, is riding high in the opinion polls ahead of the 21 October parliamentary elections. Analysts fear however its provocative tactics threaten the consensus-based governing formula that has been the bedrock of Swiss stability for decades. "Switzerland is in the midst of profound change. Politics based on a non-competitive democracy, with an implicit non-aggression pact between the parties, has been thrown into question," political scientist Oscar Mazzoleni told AFP. The SVP has already been accused of inflammatory imagery in its election posters - one showing a black sheep being kicked out of the country by three grinning white sheep under the slogan "For More Security" - and its tactics have been denounced as "disgusting" by the country's President, Micheline Calmy-Rey. ... The SVP campaigns aggressively in favour of what it calls "traditional Swiss values" and is highly critical of multi-culturalism, Islam and working women, to name but a few of its bugbears. It already caused a minor earthquake in Swiss politics after the last federal elections in 2003. The SVP topped the poll with 26.7 percent of the vote, and Blocher successfully fought for an extra seat for his party on the governing Federal Council. ... Leonard Bender, deputy head of the Radical Party, told AFP he regrets the "brutalisation of politics," but added: "The key for us is to work out how to adapt to this new media age but to remain moderate." Christian Democrat chairperson Christophe Darbellay meanwhile paints a gloomier picture, warning that "the political climate is deteriorating. We have the oldest and finest democracy in the world but it is in danger."

4//The Daily Star, Lebanon
US SAYS AID WILL FLOW AS LONG AS LEBANON IMPLEMENTS REFORMS

A senior US official said Friday that Washington will continue its economic and financial aid program for Lebanon as long as the government continues its reform plan based on the Paris III paper. "Lebanon was represented in Paris by a government which represented the Lebanese people and that government submitted its reform plan and for this reason Lebanon received the aid packaged pledged by the international community," Elizabeth L. Dibble, the principle Deputy Assistant Secretary, International Finance and Development, told reporters at the US Embassy. The US official said that any government which takes over responsibility after the presidential elections will continue to receive Washington's economic assistance if the reform programs are implemented according to the plan. ... Dibble, who tried to dodge political questions, made it clear the US hopes to see presidential elections in Lebanon on time and according to the provisions of the Lebanese Constitution and free of foreign intervention. The government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora received $7.6 billion soft-loan and grant pledges to help reduce the public debt, execute reforms and stimulate the economy. The massive aid package was based on a five-year economic-reform program which was highly commended by the international community, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. ... Dibble, who commended the work of the government in tackling major issues in the economy, said the US is not putting a timetable on the privatization of the telecom sector. "If Lebanon decided to postpone the privatization of the telecom sector until next year it will not affect the US benchmark for the assistance to the country," Dibble said, adding that the government so far has met all the US benchmarks. Dibble said that the remaining US assistance will continue to flow into Lebanon as long as the reform measures are implemented on time. The US government last provided Lebanon with $75 million which entirely went to settle a loan from the World Bank. ... Dibble underlined the need for the privatization program and the restructuring of Electricite du Liban. "But Lebanon need some parliamentary actions to complete some of the reforms which was agreed upon," Dibble said.

5//The Guardian, UK
RETURN OF GM: MINISTERS BACK MOVES TO GROW CROPS IN UK

Government ministers have given their backing to a renewed campaign by farmers and industry to introduce genetically modified crops to the UK, the Guardian has learned. They believe the public will now accept that the technology is vital to the development of higher-yield and hardier food for the world's increasing population and will help produce crops that can be used as biofuels in the fight against climate change. "GM will come back to the UK; the question is how it comes back, not whether it's coming back," said a senior government source. Attempts to introduce GM to Britain in the late 1990s met a wave of direct action from activists tearing up crops. At the same time supermarkets such as Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer barred GM ingredients from their ranges for fear of provoking a consumer backlash. In 2004, the government announced that no GM crops would be grown in the country for the "foreseeable future", prompting Lord Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association to declare: "This is the end of GM in Britain." Recent polls also revealed that about 70% of the European public remained opposed to GM foods. However, ministers are confident that the technology's virtues will be more apparent this time because of increased public awareness of pressing environmental concerns. "The ability to have drought-resistant crops is important not only for the UK but for other parts of the world," said the source. "And the fact that some GM crops can produce higher yields in more difficult climactic conditions is going to be important if we're going to feed the growing world population." Ministers are reluctant to publicly back the effort at this stage, admitting that a previous attempt to introduce GM crops to the UK in 2004 fell victim to poor public relations. "We had a bad consultation on GM and it set research back in the UK a very long way indeed," the source added. ... But industry attempts to reverse the situation are now gathering momentum. Earlier this year, the plant science company BASF began field trials in Cambridge and Yorkshire of a potato that has been genetically modified to resist blight, the fungus that devastated Ireland's potato crop and caused the famine of the 1840s. A successful result could lead to the potato being the first in a line of GM crops grown in the UK.

FEATURED ARTICLE

1//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong September 14, 2007

RUSSIA'S NEW PREMIER HAS BITE

By John Helmer
(John Helmer has been a Moscow-based correspondent since 1989, specializing in the coverage of Russian business.)

MOSCOW - Russia's new Prime Minister Victor Zubkov has moved from obscurity to presidential status in half a day, showing character not seen in Moscow for 25 years.

The man, whose name in Russian means "tooth", shows he has mettle and bite - confidence in himself, pride in what he has done, and toughness toward what he must do, characteristics last on display in Moscow when Yuri Andropov took charge. That was in November 1982, when the Soviet Union was still going strong, and Andropov, head of the KGB, took over the country two days after the death of Leonid Brezhnev.

In Asia, the most likely reactions to Zubkov are a sigh of relief in Beijing and renewed frustration in Tokyo. If the Andropov model forecasts anything, applied to Russia's future as energy, minerals and metals supplier to the factories of northern Asia, it means more certainty for China, less for Japan.

Both for President Vladimir Putin, who appointed Zubkov in a surprise move on Wednesday, and for Sergei Ivanov, the deputy prime minister expected, until now, to be Putin's successor in presidential elections next March, Andropov was a personal model and career godfather, when they commenced their intelligence-agency service in the mid-1970s.

(SNIP)

When Putin became prime minister, and then president in 2000, Zubkov was brought to Moscow as overseer of tax evasion and money-laundering. From 2004 until now he headed the Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Finance Ministry. At the same time, his son-in-law, Anatoly Serdyukov, was head of the Federal Tax Service. In February, Putin appointed Serdyukov defense minister, replacing Sergei Ivanov, who moved up to deputy prime minister, and president-in-waiting.

In retrospect, that appointment appears to have been the first sign of Putin's confidence in Zubkov. Unnoticed until now, it was Zubkov and Serdyukov, acting as Putin's overseers of the cash flow of the country, who assisted in Putin's most decisive political and economic move - the arrest in 2003 of oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the subsequent breakup of the Yukos oil company group.

That campaign, attributed by political analysts to Putin's chief aide Sechin, continues to dismantle the great oil, metal and mining fortunes amassed during the years of the late president Boris Yeltsin by a dozen men known as the oligarchs. To combat the power of their money, Putin turned to his old network of KGB colleagues, creating a faction in government known as the siloviki ("the power men").

Just as the US government once brought down Chicago gangster Al Capone with an indictment for tax evasion, Putin's choice of Zubkov means that the future Russian government, and its economy, will be run by people who intend to threaten the oligarchs, and control them in the same fashion. Zubkov is backed by the siloviki. His appointment is also a clear signal that the US-favored candidate for president, St Petersburg lawyer Dmitry Medvedev - also deputy prime minister until now, and Ivanov's rival - will not be promoted to govern the country.

The new Russia is beginning to look very much like the old one. But with oil at US$80 per barrel, it is a magnitude more potent than the economy Andropov took charge of in his brief 15 months in office, before his death in 1984.

Commenting on Zubkov, one of the sharpest of Kremlin observers said Putin "has a level of trust in this man that he does not in others. There are power centers around the others, and Putin decided to pull the rug from under their feet. Putin owes nothing to the present cabinet and coterie, and the stability of the past eight years has run its course. He has been constructing a new team all this while, and bringing a man from finance and tax is very significant in terms of what could come next."

Gleb Pavlovsky, a well-known political public relations man in Moscow, with a penchant for spotting, and staying, on the winning side, announced after Zubkov's nomination as prime minister: "Doubtless, the new prime minister will be this candidate [for president], but one should take into account one important nuance." According to Pavlovsky, if parliamentary elections scheduled for December do not go the way the Kremlin wants, and there is an eruption of unplanned protest from voters, Zubkov could become Putin's scapegoat, and he may be dropped from the succession plan.

(MORE)

Copyright 2007, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH