The Global Note: For U.S., 4 Global Nightmares…No-Fly Plea for Syria…Elephants Slaughtered…In New Zealand, Lost In Translation

By Tom Nagorski

Sep 4, 2012 10:20am

THE WORLD, FOUR YEARS LATER…

The Democrats descending on Charlotte may not spend much time talking about the rest of the world – but they begin to make the case for a second Obama term, the globe presents a slew of challenges – and dangers – for any occupant of the Oval Office. To name a few: As the U.S. winds down the war in Afghanistan (an Obama talking point) the U.S. has halted key training of Afghan forces, an essential part of the drawdown effort, because it’s become too hard to tell friend from foe among the trainees; Iran has pressed on with those nuclear centrifuges – while Israel and the U.S. continue an awkward diplomacy over the question of when and whether to launch an attack on the Iranian nuclear program; Syria’s regime continues to defy the predictions of its demise – with a brutality that is now sometimes matched by the rebel fighters; the Pacific powers are ramping up the rhetoric over patches of islands that China, Japan and Korea claim as their own; and (for good measure) global investors have a laser-like focus on Mario Draghi, European Central Bank chief, waiting to hear his ideas and forecasts in remarks coming Thursday. Anything less than specific plans and real reassurance could sent markets into a fresh downward spiral. (Still want to be President…?)

SYRIA’S WAR

-AL BAB BOMBING…These dramatic videos are rare instances of near real-time filming of an alleged atrocity carried out by the Syrian regime. Dozens of people were killed when at least three bombs were dropped by warplanes. One military analyst has identified the plane as a Czech-designed Aero L39 Albatros, known to be used by the Syrian regime. 

-REFUGEES FLEEING IN GREATER NUMBERS…

With the refugee flow from Syria growing along several of its borders, the U.N. refugee agency announced this morning that 100,000 refugees fled Syria in August alone, the highest monthly total since the uprising began. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross says the group’s chief met with Syrian President Bashar Assad today. ICRC president Peter Maurer began a three-day visit to Syria Monday.

-PLEA FOR NO-FLY ZONE…Médecins Sans Frontières co-founder, Jacques Beres, puts the Syrian death toll closer to 50,000, nearly double the tally by activist organizations. In Syria for the third time, Beres calls the conflict an “incredible massacre,” telling  AFP that “it is shameful that a no-fly zone hasn’t been set up.”

-MISSION IMPOSSIBLE?…The new UN-Arab League Syria envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been clear about the difficulties he faces, addresses the General Assembly and meets Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon. 

IRAN, ISRAEL + U.S.

-ISRAEL AND U.S., LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT…From Alex MARQUARDT in Jerusalem: The Israeli media report this morning that the U.S. and Israel appear to be working towards an agreement designed to avert the possibility of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and ease tensions between Washington and Jerusalem. The Israeli media report on talks that have been held between Israeli and American officials regarding a possible presidential statement specifying American red lines, which, if crossed by Iran, would prompt military action.               

-IRAN COULD HIT U.S. BASES IF ISRAEL STRIKES…Iran could hit U.S. bases in the Middle East in response to any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities – even if American forces played no role in the attack, the leader of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah warns. “A decision has been taken to respond and the response will be very great,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview with the Beirut-based  Al Mayadeen television. 

U.S. HONES PLANS FOR EGYPT BAILOUT

Nearly 16 months after first pledging to help Egypt’s failing economy, the Obama administration is nearing an agreement with the country’s new government to relieve $1 billion of its debt as part of an American and international assistance package intended to bolster its transition to democracy, the  New York Times and Wall Street Journal report today. 

THE PAIN IN SPAIN: WITHDRAWING CASH, LEAVING THEIR COUNTRY

The New York Times publishes some alarming statistics this morning: In July, Spaniards withdrew a record $94 billion from their banks — an amount equal to 7 percent of the country’s overall economic output. More disturbing for Spain is that the flight is starting to include members of its educated and entrepreneurial elite – according to official statistics, 30,000 Spaniards registered to work in Britain in the last year. That is a 25 percent increase from a year earlier. 

IN NORTH KOREA, HINTS AT REFORM

From the Washington Post: Under new leader Kim Jong Eun, North Korea in recent months has shifted its rhetoric to emphasize the economy rather than the military and is introducing small-scale agricultural reforms with tantalizing elements of capitalism, according to diplomats and defector groups with informants in the North. The changes, which allow farmers to keep more of their crops and sell surpluses in the private market, are in the experimental stage and are easily reversible, analysts caution. But even skeptical North Korea watchers say that Kim’s emerging policies and style — and his frank acknowledgment of the country’s economic problems — hint at an economic opening similar to China’s in the late 1970s.

MILITARY TAKES APPS TO WAR

Soldiers in the field now use mobile devices for mapping, networking, virtual lineups and other military uses. The Wall Street Journal reports that the idea is to create a more pervasive military wireless network and use it to connect drones and other sensors and relay real-time video down to mobile devices in the battlefield. Contracts for the networking projects are being given out this year. 

ELEPHANTS DYING IN EPIC FRENZY

The New York Times writes that Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter. Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized. 

TOKYO POPULATION SET TO DROP BY HALF

As Akiko FUJITA has noted before – Japan’s population is dying, quickly. Now The Japan Times reports that Tokyo’s population will decline by half by 2100. For reference, that puts the population close to what it was in the 1940s, pre-Pearl Harbor.

ANOTHER CHINA SCANDAL?

A new scandal in China…this one involving the death of a senior official’s son who crashed during what may have been sex games in a speeding Ferrari. Gloria RIVIERA filed on the crash at the time, but now it’s being reported that the man driving the car was the son of one of China’s most powerful men, Ling Jihua, 55, a close ally of the departing President, Hu Jintao. It may well have to do with jockeying ahead of the major leadership reshuffle this fall.

PRINCE HARRY 

Prince Harry has been out and about again today, this time at the Paralympics watching Great Britain play Denmark in women’s goalball, as well as swimming at the Aquatics Centre.  

STATE DEPARTMENT: LOST IN TRANSLATION 

From TV New Zealand: Prime Minister John Key’s accent has led to an embarrassing mistake by the United States’ State Department which appeared to suggest New Zealand was ready to join forces with the superpower in another international conflict. It has issued a transcript of Key’s recent meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which stated the Prime Minister welcomed the chance to cooperate with the US “in the next conflicts”. A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister today said Key did not say what was transcribed. “Where the State Department has transcribed “we welcome the opportunity to cooperate with the US in the next conflicts”, what the Prime Minister actually said was: “we welcome the opportunity to cooperate. In that context…”, she said.

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