The Global Note: U.S. Forces to Australia…Syrian Base Attacked?…World Leaders Lock Lips

By Tom Nagorski

Nov 16, 2011 1:22pm

U.S. MILITARY TO AUSTRALIA

In a joint press conference today, President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced an increased U.S. Air Force and Marine presence in the country beginning in 2012. As Jake TAPPER reports, 200 to 250 Marines will be deployed to Australia’s Northern Territory in mid-2012, before ramping up to a full force of 2500. There will be no U.S. bases; instead, the plan is for American Marines and the USAF to use Australian bases. During the presser, Obama said the increase of Marines in country was in no way a reaction to any potential threat from China’s, saying “the notion that we fear China is a mistake.” As Mary BRUCE notes, President Obama will spend a busy day in Australia Thursday, delivering an address to parliament and visiting with troops in Darwin before heading to Bali.

SYRIAN UPRISING

-MILITARY BASE ATTACKED…An Air Force intelligence complex near Damascus was reportedly attacked this morning by army defectors, activists say, in what would be one of the bigger and bolder attacks against the Syrian military since the uprising began in March (at least symbolically, body count far lower than previous attacks). Fighters of the “Free Syrian Army” reportedly fired rockets and machine guns, parts of the building were destroyed as the military responded with gunfire and helicopters.

-ARAB LEAGUE SUSPENSION…The Arab League is meeting today in Morocco where the suspension of Syria is expected to be made official. Syria is boycotting the meeting.  SANA reports that 1,180 detainees were released yesterday, on top of 553 released on the 5th.

AFGHAN “JIRGA”

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai tells tribal elders and political leaders (2000 of them gathering in a tent) that he would allow U.S. forces to remain in his country — provided the U.S. suspends its controversial night raids. As Nick SCHIFRIN reports,  night raids infuriate most Afghans but are seen by the U.S. as a successful tool against the Taliban. The 2,000-member jirga will debate for four days the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as how to negotiate with the Taliban. Its concluding statement will not become law, but in recent days, U.S. officials were confident jirga delegates would not challenge any conditions the U.S. has set on the long-term strategic agreement. If it does, then the difficulties that the U.S. and Karzai have already had over trying to find agreement on night raids as well as detention rules and the presence of U.S. troops in cities will only be exacerbated. “Our condition is that America & NATO in Afghanistan should stop searching Afghan houses. That’s not acceptable,” Karzai said. “We don’t accept night raids on our houses, we won’t accept it at all.”

PAKISTAN DRONE ATTACK

A major attack from the CIA’s drone program today. Habibullah KHAN reports that two drone strikes in South Waziristan, apparently targeting members of the Pakistani Taliban, have killed 17 people and injured 5 others.  

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft carrying American astronaut Dan Burbank and two Russian cosmonauts has docked successfully at the International Space Station.  They joined the current three man crew which includes American Mike Fossum. The latter are due to return next month. (video from the ISS here.)

EURO-MESS

-”SUPER MARIO” SWORN IN…Mario Monti is Italy’s new Prime Minister, sworn in today as Silvio Berlsuconi’s successor and the man charged with the unenviable and daunting dask of restoring some fiscal stability to the world’s 7th-largest economy.

-GREEK VOTE OF CONFIDENCE…Greece’s interim Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos, has won a confidence vote to secure support for Greece’s bailout package.

-CAMERON/MERKEL TENSIONS…A competing vision of Europe is brewing between Cameron and Merkel ahead of their meeting in Berlin Friday. And in a speech at the annual CDU party conference, the party chairman Volker Kauder MP, said the UK had a duty to help the Eurozone despite being outside the single currency. 

-MARKET WATCH Financial markets are still very jittery about Europe.  Government bond yields spiked yesterday and fell this morning with reports of significant sovereign debt purchases by the European Central Bank.  Yesterday was one of the worst on record for French sovereign debt.  Investors sold triple-A rated French and Austrian bonds. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says the euro zone now faces a systemic crisis, and he’s urging member states to act to deal with it.

AI WEIWEI: “I WAS ROBBED”

The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei says he feels he was robbed by the government — commenting for the first time on camera on the tax evasion charge against him. The outspoken 54-year-old artist made the comments as he exited his studio and headed to the Beijing tax office – where he paid $1.5 million in back taxes. Ai said he will challenge the tax bill (Chinese officials said the back tax was owed while Ai was held in prison). 

1ST SELF-IMMOLATION IN TIANANMEN SINCE 1989

It happened in October – but the Daily Telegraph has obtained a photo of a man who set himself on fire in protest in Tiananmen Square - the first since the pro-democracy protests there in 1989. A British tourist snapped the photo of police dousing the flames.

JULIAN ASSANGE TO APPEAL

The Guardian reports that the Wikileaks founder will  appeal his extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations. His solicitor said he will ask a London court on December 5th for consideration by the highest court. Assange lost a high court battle on November 2nd to remain in the country

CANADA UNVEILS PLASTIC $100 BILL

Canada unveiled a plastic $100 bill this week, moving away from paper currency. The bill is tear-proof and  thought to be nearly impossible to  counterfeit-proof. The new polymer $50 bill goes into circulation in March while the $20, $10 and $5 bills will arrive in 2013.  

HIP-HOP DIPLOMACY

America’s latest attempt to win the hearts and minds of young Pakistanis…ran into a little roadblock with the Pakistani military. A hip-hop group from Chicago called FEW Collective (it’s lead singer was born in Pakistan) is touring Pakistan. As Nick SCHIFRIN writes  the U.S. embassy has been bringing musical acts to Pakistan for decades. In the 1950s it was different genre of music when Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck toured. More from Nick on what happened…

VLADIMIR THE DENTIST

Another bizarre photo op for Sportsman and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin posed with a dentist drill in hand, with the Governor of Belgorod seated in a dentist chair. Putin was campaigning in the region for a third term as president and was visiting a local hospital and a clinic.

“UNHATE”: GLOBAL LEADERS LOCK LIPS

And finally — there is this, from Joe SIMONETTI. Not foreign news (per se) but features foreign leaders. It’s Benetton’s  first major advertising campaign in more than a decade, it’s called “Unhate” and features photo-shopped images of  global lip-locking (Barack Obama & Hugo Chavez; Obama and China’s Hu Jintao; the Pope and the Imam of al-Azhar mosque). The NYT has apparently turned down the ads.  The Huffington Post didn’t — posting seven images.

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