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NightWatch 20120424

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For the night of 24 April 2012

North Korea: International press services have repeated an unnamed source who claims that North Korea is nearly ready to detonate a third nuclear test.

Comment: South Korean forces are on alert against the North's threat yesterday against the South Korean leadership and for this possible test.

China: For the record. The state-owned China News Service reported Friday that aircraft carrier sea trials may take place 20 -29 April. Civilian observers reported the Chinese Varyag aircraft carrier departed Dalian port on the 20th for its fifth sea trials.

Comment: The Chinese have not yet named their aircraft carrier which was named Varyag. The Chinese Varyag's sea trials overlap the ongoing Sino-Russian naval exercises that run through 27 April. Four Russian Navy ships from the Pacific Ocean Fleet, including a Russian aircraft carrier, also named Varyag, are participating with 25 Chinese ships.

No news service or civilian observers have reported the Chinese Varyag is participating in the training. As yet, observers have reported the carrier still has a skeleton crew and no aircraft have been seen taking off or landing on the flight deck. The presence of an air wing or squadron has not been reported.

Israel-Lebanon: For the record. Israel plans to build a wall along part of its border with Lebanon starting next week to shield the northern town of Metulla, a private Israeli TV station reported on Monday.

The wall supposedly will extend more than two kilometer and be 10 meters high. Its purpose is to prevent clashes between Israeli and Lebanese border forces whose posts are often just meters apart.

Israel has informed Lebanon of the wall project and supposedly has coordinated it through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Comment: The Israelis are satisfied with the effectiveness of high walls in improving population control and reducing direct attacks by Palestinian fighters. This project only affects a small part of the 79 kilometer Lebanese border, but might represent a feasibility test for more extensive barrier construction.

Egypt: The election commission disqualified another presidential candidate using, applying a new law ex post facto. The latest disqualified candidate is Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's prime minister during the 18-day uprising last year.

His disqualification quickly followed approval by Egypt's military rulers of a law passed by the Islamist-dominated parliament, banning senior Mubarak-era officials who served in the past 10 years from running for office. Later on the 24th, the armed forces council apparently exempted Ahmed Shafiq from the new law.

Comment: The Muslim Brotherhood dominated parliament showed its commitment to rule of law by immediately passing a law barring presidential candidates of whom it disapproved, as soon as it appeared that the Brotherhood candidate would be challenged and then disqualified. Then they insisted that it be applied retroactively. This behavior seems to reflect the Brotherhood-led parliament's understanding of democracy and is a portent of what to expect. It looks a lot like the Mubarak government, in effect.

The election campaign looks increasingly not credible and rigged. The armed forces are intervening openly to support candidates who will protect their interests and to disqualify others. The Brotherhood-led parliament is doing precisely the same.

End of NightWatch for 24 April.

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