Daily News Brief

February 23, 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Deficit questions loom as Obama plans ten-year budget release.
- Sri Lanka rejects Tamil Tiger cease-fire request.
- U.S. advisers reportedly working secretly to aid military in Pakistan.
- Somali terror group vows further attacks against AU peacekeepers.

Top of the Agenda: Obama's Budget and the U.S. Deficit

The U.S. economy will come under the spotlight this week as President Barack Obama sets his first budget. The Financial Times reports Obama's budget will show the U.S. budget deficit rising this year, due in part to new fiscal stimulus spending, but then falling to roughly half its current level by 2013. Bloomberg reports Obama's budget cuts rely heavily on reductions in military spending.

The budget release will come following a fiscal responsibility summit (AP), which Obama will preside over today in Washington. The Boston Globe reports the summit could prove a "warning" for Obama on spending, noting that budget experts have already said that long-term budget problems could prove even more challenging to Obama's presidency than short-term economic concerns.

The Wall Street Journal says Obama will follow up on the summit tomorrow with an address to Congress on his budgetary plans, before releasing a ten-year blueprint for U.S. spending on Thursday. The article says the week could prove to be the most significant thus far of Obama's presidency, notwithstanding the efforts the president has already made to press through large-scale fiscal stimulus and housing plans.

Obama's efforts at budgetary cuts won't come without frictions. The New York Times reports the president has already encountered resistance from his own party as he has worked to shore up social security spending-many Democrats, the article says, feel money would be better spent on health care and other reforms.

Background and Analysis:

- This report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office examines planned U.S. spending from 2008 to 2018 and describes some of the geopolitical implications of running large deficits.

- TIME looks at some of the lobbies in Washington that wish to prevent entitlement reform and could make it more difficult for Obama to bring about budget reductions.

MIDDLE EAST: GCC Rebukes Iran

The Arab News reports the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council rebuked Iran for making "hostile remarks" about its Arab neighbors and proposed a joint Arab fund to support reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.

ISRAEL-HAMAS: A new report from Amnesty International notes that many of the weapons used by both Israel's government and Palestinian fighters during the recent Gaza war were supplied by foreign governments; the report calls for a freeze on all foreign weapons sales to both Israel and Palestinian groups.

TURKEY-IRAQ: Hurriyet reports Turkey and the United States have begun preliminary talks on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq through Turkey.

PACIFIC RIM: North Korea Missiles

A white paper from South Korea's defense department says Pyongyang has deployed new medium-range missiles (Yonhap) capable of reaching more parts of Asia and the U.S. territory of Guam.

S.KOREA: The Korea Times reports South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's approval ratings have fallen sharply in the last year.

VIETNAM: TIME reports corruption has undermined stimulus spending efforts in Vietnam.

A recent CFR.org Backgrounder looks at how the economic crisis has affected Vietnam.

SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA: Tamil Talks

The Sri Lankan government rejected a cease-fire offer by Tamil Tiger rebels in the country's north, and rebel groups appealed to international forces to prevent further government attacks (AFP) on their territories.

PAKISTAN: The New York Times reports this morning that a U.S. unit of more than seventy military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to aid the country's military in its campaign against militant groups in the country's tribal areas.

Meanwhile, the Afghan news outlet Quqnoos reports Pakistan's government has been arming villagers in the country's northwest in the hopes that they will fight against al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the region.

AFRICA: Somalia Group Vows Attacks

The Somali terror group al-Shabaab pledged it would carry out more attacks (Mail & Guardian) on African Union peacekeepers working in Somalia following a strike that killed at least eleven troops from Burundi.

TELECOM: A new briefing from AllAfrica.com looks at technological advances in the African telecommunications sector and what they might mean for African governments.

AMERICAS: Antigua Bank Panic

The Miami Herald reports regional banks will help shore up the Antiguan banking system, which devolved into a full-scale panic following a probe into the U.S. billionaire Robert Allen Stanford, who headquartered his offshore Stanford International Bank in Antigua.

COLOMBIA: The BBC reports a growing scandal in Colombia over a criminal wire-tapping conspiracy has forced the chief of the country's secret police to ask the entire high command of the agency to resign.

EUROPE: Germany and the G-20

Deutsche-Welle reports German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to carve out a guiding role in European meetings being held in advance of this April's G-20 summit, which will focus on how to address global economic problems.

SPAIN: The Basque separatist group ETA bombed (AFP) the headquarters of the Basque Socialist party in the town of Lazkao.

OPINION ROUNDUP

In Monday's roundup: the United States reaches out to Asia; talks between Fatah and Hamas; and the dangers of a premature exit from Iraq.

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