Also today: Pakistan says Taliban commander killed as Marjah assault frees intelligence flow; Dubai suffers “shark attack”, Indians and Pakistanis meet for talks about talks; Israeli Passover dinners threatened by customs tax.
Burma’s Suu Kyi’s appeal is denied
Detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hoping to be freed by Myanmar’s (Burma to the politically-minded) highest court and not having to serve the remaining 18 months of her latest sentence. Unfortunately, her appeal was rejected, as the country’s military dictatorship has imprisoned her and held her under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years decided not to move an inch. The junta deeply fears her National League for Democracy party, which won 1990 elections by a landslide. The military annulled the result and has ruled ever since. It wants to hold new elections on its own terms, and has reserved 25% of seats in any future parliament for itself. Most recently Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour, but that was immediately commuted to 18 months of house arrest amid international condemnation. Hopes for the Nobel Peace laureate’s release are now pinned on the recent freeing of 82-year-old Tin Oo, deputy leader of Suu Kyi’s party, who served nearly seven years in detention.
Pakistan says Taliban commander killed during Marjah offensive
In the latest sign that Pakistani intelligence has come on-sides, they’re claiming a Taliban commander, Mohammed Qari Zafar, has been killed in a suspected CIA missile strike on the Pakistan-Afghan border. That kind of information hasn’t always been offered up, but increasingly seems to be now. The Afghan flag is blowing in the breeze over the opium-producing town of Marjah once again, depriving the Taliban of a crucial source of income – drug money. US General David Petraeus says the biggest assault of the eight-year Afghan war is just the start of a long campaign, adding that the enemy is formidable. But there’re suspicions in the American camp that there’s another enemy – certain elements within the Pakistani intelligence services, who seem to support the Taliban rather than fight them. Recent joint operations with the CIA indicate that this situation may be changing, but US scepticism remains.
Dubai suffers “shark attack”
Dubai head their more than fair share of problems lately, with some $80 billion debt and a glut of empty real-estate. But the latest “catastrophe” to hit Dubai didn’t come from the markets: it came as water gushed from a shark-filled aquarium in a glitzy mall, sending shoppers screaming for cover. The mall sits in the shadow of the world’s tallest building, which has had teething problem of its own, so the sight of floods of water gushing across the tiled splendour of a premium shopping plaza is unfortunate for the emirate. It’s been in the news a lot lately, having scared markets with its property bust, debt holdovers, and the assassination of a top Hamas commander in his fancy hotel room. The “shark attack” raises new questions about whether the futuristic buildings in the desert state were just thrown up willy-nilly during the good times, with little thought for quality and safety. No sharks or other fish were hurt during the deluge.
Indians and Pakistanis meet for talks about talks
The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers met for wide-ranging discussions on terrorism, the Mumbai attacks, their dispute over Kashmir, and competing water claims, in what’s been dubbed a “first step” to restore trust between the nuclear-armed neighbours. The parties say it’s premature to restart broader bilateral discussions, but have agreed to keep talking informally. India broke off dialogue after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks left at least 163 people dead, claiming Pakistan was not aggressively pursuing domestic terrorist groups that focus on India.
Israeli Passover dinners threatened by customs tax
It seems Israeli customs authorities want to deprive citizens of their seder dinners, a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover, after they slapped a 120% import duty on a shipment of American-caught fish destined for tables in Israel. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew laughter from a congressional panel when she said the delay affecting nine containers of Asian Carp from an Illinois fishery sounded like an issue that should rise to the highest levels of government. But she promised the state’s republican congressman Don Manzullo that she would take this fishy problem head-on.
Alcatraz had some of the best prison food in the United States.