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August 2008

Aug 1  An e-mail to the BBC: "I am from Serbia and I am glad to see this criminal [Radovan Karadzic] sent to The Hague. The protests here showed that the support for the war criminals comes from the worst corners of Serbian society... Patriots are not those who burn other people's houses. I am proud of Serbian history but not what Serbs did in the 1990s."

Aug 1  Conservatives, most of whom we can presume voted for President Bush, are attacking candidate Obama for lacking in political accomplishment. The conservative columnist David Brooks is among them. Intellect is not an issue they are addressing, with some success, as many voters see intellect as mere pretense. A McCain ad dismisses whatever qualifications Obama has in intellect by associating him with celebrities such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

Aug 1  Japanese worry about dwindling schools of tuna. They temporarily suspend tuna fishing and plan for periodic suspensions.

Radovan Karadzic

Radovan Karadzic, psychiatrist, poet, politician, on trial in The Hague

Aug 3  On Meet the Press, Senator John Kerry says of Wesley Clark's comment about John McCain getting shot down not being a qualification for president: "I think it was entirely inappropriate. I have nothing but enormous respect for John McCain's service." Clark had prefaced his remark with the same praise for McCain. Some people believe that Kerry's military service did not make him qualified to be president and that he overplayed his military service when he ran for president in 2004.

Aug 4  British counter-intelligence officials speak of al Qaeda overcoming its disorganization of recent years. They speak of it being based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and describe it as successfully recruiting, training, possessing organizational communications channels and building dispersed cells.

Aug 6  In Iraq, Kurds want a referendum in Kirkuk on whether it will be governed by the Kurd's regional government. Kirkuk is historically Kurdish. Arabs and Turkmen live there and these ethnicities don't want to give the oil-rich region back to the Kurds. The conflict threatens the provincial elections for later this year that are seen as necessary for political reconciliation.

Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi

President Abdallahi

Aug 6  In the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is overthrown by a military coup. He was elected in March 2007 in the country's only multi-candidate election for the presidency since the country's independence from France in 1960. Abdallahi had just moved to replace senior army officers.

Aug 7  USA Today and others report that scientists confirm the link between global warming and more powerful rainstorms.

Aug 8  FactCheck.org has criticized both Obama and McCain. Today its lead "Recent Postings" article headlines "More Tax Deceptions" and says "McCain misrepresents Obama's tax proposals again. And again, and again."

Aug 8  In Burma, the military arrest people demonstrating on the 20th anniversary of the crushing of democracy in their country. A Buddhist monk complains to ABC News about a lack of support from the international community. ABC News protects his identity.

Robert Kagan

Robert Kagan, foreign policy advisor to McCain

Vladimir Putin

Prime Minister Putin

John McCain

Candidate McCain

Aug 9  In the second day of all-out war between Russia and Georgia, Russian jets bomb several towns, including Gori in central Georgia. The conflict centers on South Ossetia, which has claimed independence but is claimed by Georgia. Russia has been supporting the de facto government in South Ossetia, and a lot of Russians live there. Georgia initiated military action that killed Russian "peacekeepers" and civilians in South Ossetia. Russia wants Georgian forces to withdraw to the positions they held outside South Ossetia before yesterday.

Aug 11  Robert Kagan is of the famous family of scholars whose views the Bush administration generally shares, and he is a foreign policy advisor to John McCain. In a Washington Post article titled "Putin Makes His Move" he writes of the war still going on between Russia and Georgia. He writes: "It is a war that Moscow has been attempting to provoke for some time," and he describes Putin as involved in a big geopolitical power play not unlike the old Soviet Union. "Russia's attack on sovereign Georgian territory" he adds, "marked the official return of history." "The next president," he concludes, "had better be ready."

Aug 11  Vladimir Putin complains about the inability of "Russia's western partners" to adequately assess what has happened in South Ossetia. Quoted by Russia Today, he says, “I’m amazed by their skills at seeing black as white, of portraying aggressors as victims and of blaming the real victims for the consequences of the conflict. Putin complains about a double standard, saying, “As we all know, Saddam Hussein was hanged for burning down several Shiite villages. But now suddenly the situation is different. The Georgian leaders who in a matter of hours wiped out ten Ossetian villages, who ran over children and the elderly with tanks, who burned civilians alive, those people have to be protected.”

Aug 13  Many are finding fault with Georgian President Saakashvili regarding the war that just ended. Mikail Gorbachev, who has been critical and no friend of Vladimir Putin, finds fault with Saakashvili. So too do Anne Gearan, Fred Kaplin and Dimitri Simes, founding president of the Nixon Center in Washington. Simes says "This is not black-and-white. There are no good guys in this situation," and he speaks of "considerable responsibility" by the Bush administration.

Aug 13  In Saudi Arabia the Arab News reports a man using the Interior Ministry anti-terrorist hotline telephone number, 990, to seek "help and guidance before his thoughts turned into violent actions." The report adds: "The man has reportedly been referred to religious scholars and therapists and his family has been brought into the rehabilitation process." People have been responding to the anti-terrorist program by reporting family members.

Aug 14  According to the BBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells reporters that any peace deal making reference to Georgian territorial sovereignty would be taken by the Abkhazians and South Ossetians as "a deep human insult." The US recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia as ruled by Georgia. In Abkhazia de facto independence from Georgia was declared in 1992. In South Ossetia de facto independence apparently began with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the independence of Georgia in 1991.

Aug 14  On the News Hour, guest scholar Anna Vassilieva says, "The conflict between South Ossetians and Georgians is decades old. It's 80 years old at least. South Ossetians never felt themselves to be Georgians or a part of Georgia, and that feeling of resentment of Georgia was enforced very strongly in 1991 and 1992, when both sides committed extraordinary atrocities against each other in that war that brought – that Russian peacekeepers brought to an end ..."

Aug 15  Presidential candidate John McCain assesses the Russia's military movement into Georgia: “My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War. This is an act of aggression.”

Aug 18  Nepal's president swears in the Communist former guerrilla chief, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, as prime minister. Prachanda was elected prime minister last week.

Aug 18  The government of Hugo Chavez announces the nationalization of the cement industry in Venezuela owned by the Mexican cement giant Cemex.

Dmitri Rogozin

Dmitri Rogozin (photo from Pravda)

Bernard Lewis

Bernard Lewis
Photo: Princeton University

Beijing Olympics symbol

Aug 19  In Pakistan there has been dancing in the street with yesterday's announcement by President Musharraf that he is resigning. One Pakistani says "the entire nation is happy." Another worries about a lack of direction.

Aug 19  The Bush administration and others are urging that Georgia and Ukraine join NATO as a way of standing up to the Russians. Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist asks whether NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine will keep Russia in its place. And if it doesn't will we fight for Georgia?

Aug 19  Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, says, “NATO is still an organization of the past. The best phrase to describe the [NATO] alliance is ‘born in the Cold War’. Unfortunately, all NATO’s attempts to find its role in the new world and maintain collective security in partnership with Russia have failed.”

Aug 20  Russia cancels all military cooperation with NATO. The United States and Poland sign an agreement to put a missile defense base into Poland that is untested and will not be ready to operate for several years, to defend Poland from an unlikely attack in years to come from North Korea or Iran. The timing of the agreement, the Russians believe, is to demonstrate against Russia's recent move into Georgia. The Russians see the agreement as a threat although the missiles do not have a range that can strike at Russia's missile defense system.

Aug 22  In Somalia, Islamists win control in the port city of Kismayu. Elsewhere are rival militias, occupying Ethiopian troops, rival clans, chaos, fighting, lawlessness, drought and people on the run. Mass starvation is expected.

Aug 23  Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, has told Foreign Policy magazine that Islam "can, and I think will, develop their own brand of democracy, by which I mean limited, civilized, responsible government. And there are signs of that."

Aug 25  The Beijing Olympics end. Muslims did not make much of a showing, especially the sheltered half of their number: women. We didn't see any Saudi women at volleyball. There were 340 "Arab" participants at the game, thirty more than the British. The British won 47 medals. A man from Bahrain won gold. Algerians won a silver and bronze. A Moroccan finished second in the men's marathon, in record time. A Moroccan, Afghani and Egyptian won a bronze. The country with the best showing was Jamaica: one medal for every 254,939 in population. Iceland had a medal for every 304,367, Cuba one for every 486,231, Mongolia 749,020, Georgia 771,806, the Dutch won a medal for every 1.0 million in population, Britain and Finland 1.3 million, Sweden 1.8, Germany 2.0, South Korea 2.7, Israel 7.1 million, Kenya and the US one for every 7.6 million, China one for every 13.3 million. India won three medals: one for every 383 million in population. Unfortunately in this calculation gold equals bronze and the hoola hoop and splashing around in water equals long distance running. Okay, grace is glorious, but special congratulations from here go to Constantina Tomescu and Samuel Wansiru for winning their marathon races.

Aug 25  An Iraqi Health Ministry official announces that in the last two months some 650 doctors have returned to their jobs from abroad. The return is attributed to improved personal safety in the country. Around 8,000 Iraqi doctors fled the country since 2003.

Barack Obama

Nominee Obama

Aug 26  Arab News reports that in England a gang of youths beat to death a 16-year-old Qatari student studying English at a language school. According to his roommate, who survived the terrorist attack, the gang chanted racist abuse and "called me Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden."

Aug 27  The Democratic Party nominates Barack Obama as their candidate for US President.

Aug 28  Accused by Republicans of giving "feel good" speeches of soaring oratory and turning people with empty words as would a rock star, Barack Obama instead delivers an acceptance speech that is essentially a pragmatic campaign speech. His supporters appear to like it because he said "all the right things" and confronted his opponent, McCain.

Aug 28  Civilian deaths from air strikes results in Afghanistan's government calling for an end to NATO's use of air strikes in their country. Accusations are made that a recent air raid killed 90 civilians. The United Nations joins the call. NATO forces operate in Afghanistan under UN authorization. Airpower has been described as a cheaper way of conducting war than using instead more ground forces with their more precise and more discriminate use of weapons.

Magomed Yevloyev

Magomed Yevloyev

Aug 29  Russia is the largest export market for the US poultry industry. Russia announces that it is banning imports from nineteen US poultry suppliers because of their failure to provide test results measuring levels of antibiotics and arsenic in their products.

Aug 31  Russia has been suffering from unrest among the Ingush people (in the province of Ingushetria) as well as people in the neighboring province of Chechnya. (Both provinces border with Geogia.) Russian police are accused of murdering a popular website owner in Ingushetria, Magomed Yevloyev, soon after having arrested him. Yevloyev was a critic of Russian government policies.

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