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NightWatch 20100820

NightWatch

For the Night of 20 August 2010

Australia: During this Watch, voting began in national elections. Some 14 million voters will participate because voting is required by law.

All of the seats in the lower house of parliament and half the seats in the upper house are contested. Labor Party Prime Minister Julia Gillard appears to be about even in the polls with Liberal Party leaders Tony Abbot.

Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, is running neck and neck with conservative coalition leader Tony Abbott. Gillard is suffering from a backlash in the manner in which she ousted former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd two months ago in a party leadership challenge. Also at issue are increased taxes and controversial social policies

Abbot told the press, "I'm determined to fix up the mess that this government has created…That means we've got to end the waste, pay back the debt, we've got to stop the big new taxes and we've got to stop the boats of asylum seekers."

Comment: Typical of Labor governments since the time of Geoff Whitlam in the early 1970s, this labor government has squandered widespread popular support since its overwhelming victory in 2007. The political discourse is provincial and bland. No large issues of state are at stake because Australia has not experienced the recession that the rest of the world has. Australian analysts attribute this mostly to the policies of ousted Prime Minister Rudd.

Political analysts forecast a marginal Labor victory, but NightWatch expects Abbott and the Liberal Nationals to win.

South Korea-North Korea: For the record. South Korea wants an apology from the North for having sunk the corvette Cheonan last March, before the South will consider returning to Six-Party nuclear talks with the North. Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Shin Maeong Ho said on 20 August. Under the current circumstances, it is too early to talk about the resumption of the six-party talks, the spokesman stated.

Comment: The South Koreans should be outraged that the international community response to an act of war by North Korea is to reward it with talks and their implied promise of bribes. South Korean leaders are prone to consider this a betrayal of allied trust and they will not forget it. They also know the North will not honor any agreement it makes on nuclear issues, a lesson that seems to escape others, despite 17 years of  similar talks.

India-Russia: It has been 19 years, but India once again has leased from Russia a nuclear powered attack submarine, manned by an Indian crew. The Russian submarine Nerpa, which NATO classifies as Akula II, nuclear-powered attack submarine leased to India departed Russian waters today bound for India, with a mixed Russian and Indian Navy crew. Once the boat arrives in India, it will be re-christened, INS Chakra and begin sea trials, news services reported.

Comment: Chakra was the name of the Charlie-class nuclear submarine India leased from Russia between 1988 and 1991. Today's departure represents the culmination of negotiations and arguments since at least 2004.

Regardless, India has a nuclear attack submarine for the next ten years, time enough to exploit it for crew training and guidance in constructing India's indigenously built, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. A squadron of three is planned. The Akula II - an India's conventionally powered submarines -- can launch torpedoes and cruise missiles. India has purchased some of the most advanced underwater-launched cruise missiles in existence.

Israel-Palestinian Authority: US Secretary of State Clinton said on 20 August that Israel and the Palestinians agreed to resume direct negotiations for the first time in 20 months.

A senior PLO official said the Palestinians accepted the U.S. invitation to begin direct peace negotiations between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 2 September in Washington.

He also said that the talks would be threatened if Israel fails to stop settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Clinton said the goal is to reach a peace agreement within one year.

No news service has reported a promise by Netanyahu to stop settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

During President Clinton's administration, the US pursued process over substance in the conviction that repeated process would produce substance. In this policy theory, talking was considered a result. That approach failed everywhere it was tried. Apparently, Ms Clinton has brought the same view to the Obama State Department, namely, that form is substance.

The talks today are not likely to ease the tension, produce a durable peace or create a philosopher's stone. One reason is that HAMAS and the Gaza Strip Palestinian groups are not parties to today's agreement.

Russia: For the record. The Russian Defense Ministry announced an international tender to build two helicopter carrier ships for the Russian navy, Defense Minister Serdyukov said. The French firm that produces the Mistral assault ships will participate in the tender, which is planned for September. Results will be announced by the end of the year

Algeria: An attack near the eastern Algiers suburb Dar el Beida in the Baghlia region of Algeria killed three soldiers and injured four others yesterday, 19 August. The attackers detonated a bomb as a military convoy passed by and then shot at the bombing victims with automatic weapons.

The last attack reported in open sources occurred on 1 July and resulted in 11 dead. The interval between attacks and the results indicate the terrorists are struggling to demonstrate they remain an effective force.

Mexico: Update. Nuevo Leon State Attorney General said today, 20 August, that six individuals have been arrested for their involvement in the kidnapping and killing of Santiago Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos. Five of the individuals arrested were police officers serving in the Santiago municipal police force, while the sixth individual was a local traffic official. There are at least four more people implicated in the crime, the Attorney General said.

Cavazos died apparently because he fought police corruption and the police fought back.

End of NightWatch for 20 August.

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