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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 29, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Hurricane Sandy Closes In on East Coast

Hurricane Sandy closed in on U.S. Eastern Seaboard's largest cities Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools, and markets as communities evacuated and braced for possible flooding and power outages. As of 5 a.m., Sandy was producing winds of eighty-five miles an hour after turning due north (NYT), and is expected to veer again to the northwest later Monday morning and take aim at the coastline of New Jersey. President Barack Obama declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, authorizing federal relief work (AP) to begin ahead of time. The storm has already killed sixty people after sweeping through the Caribbean in the past week.


"This gives Barack Obama a chance to appear above politics and to look presidential—but any failure would be magnified, and problems tend to get blamed on the president," writes Mark Mardell for the BBC.

"[T]here was the potential for power outages that could effectively bring about a campaign advertising blackout in Virginia, and a chance that heavy media coverage could drown out both candidates' final messages as voters turn their attention to a major storm, even in states that aren't directly affected," write Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Lisa Lerer for Bloomberg.

"The storm forced both candidates to scrap campaign stops and, with eight days until Election Day, will require Mr. Obama to balance the roles of president in an emergency and candidate. That could benefit or hurt him, depending on how voters view his performance, and distract from efforts by both camps to advance a closing argument," writes Peter Baker for the New York Times.


What Will Be the Top Global Hot Spots in 2013?

Each year, CFR's Center for Preventive Action asks a group of experts to rank various violent contingencies in order of their importance to U.S. national security interests. Help them create that list by telling them what international conflicts you are worried about breaking out or escalating next year. Learn more and weigh in here.


Chinese Premier's Family Disputes 'Hidden Riches' Report

On Sunday, Premier Wen Jiabao's family denied claims (SCMP) made in a recent article in the New York Times that it had amassed a $2.7 billion fortune. This marks the first time a top Chinese leader has issued a rebuttal to a foreign media report.

INDONESIA: This weekend, Indonesian authorities arrested eleven people suspected of planning terrorist attacks (NYT) on targets across the country, including U.S. diplomatic missions.



Myanmar Death Toll Rises

Eighty-four people have died since the fighting between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar began last week. At least 22,500 people have been displaced by the sectarian violence (CNN), which stemmed from an incident in May when three Muslim men were arrested on suspicion of raping and killing a Buddhist woman.

Aung San Suu Kyi has remained quiet over the issue, writes Joshua Kurlantzick in this CFR blog post.

INDIA: India's government swore in twenty-two new ministers on Sunday in a major reshuffle (TimesOfIndia) that aims to get younger politicians into the Congress Party-led government ahead of national elections in 2014.



Lakhdar Brahimi to Visit Russia After Cease-Fire Fails

U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will head to Russia on Monday to seek new resolutions (AlArabiya) for the crisis in Syria after a truce during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha failed. Russia supported Brahimi's cease-fire, although it has blamed the rebels for continued violence.

ISRAEL: The Israeli Air Force struck a Palestinian rocket launching pad and two militant activity sites in the Gaza Strip on Monday (Haaretz) in response to rocket and mortar fire, breaking an Egyptian-brokered truce.



At Least Seven Dead in Nigeria Church Bombing

A suicide bombing during mass at a Catholic church in the northern Nigeria city of Kaduna killed at least seven people and wounded dozens (BBC). Kaduna has been targeted by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, and lies on the border between Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian south.

CFR's John Campbell discusses the Nigerian army's role in battling Boko Haram in this blog post.

ALGERIA: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Algeria on Monday to discuss the crisis in neighboring Mali (AP), where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Islamists have claimed large swathes of land.

This CFR Backgrounder outlines al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.



Ukraine Ruling Party Claims Win

The Party of Regions of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych claimed victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections (BBC). Though the opposition is charging widespread voting irregularities, thousands of observers were in Ukraine for the vote (BBC), which the president hopes will boost his legitimacy.

Alexander Motyl and Rajan Menon explain why Russia was the real winner in the Ukrainian elections in this piece for Foreign Affairs.

GREECE: Greek journalist Costas Vaxevanis was arrested Sunday and then released pending a trial for publishing the "Lagarde List" (Ekathimerini), a list of 2,059 Greek nationals with Swiss bank accounts, in Hot Doc magazine. Vaxevanis is charged with violating laws relating to the privacy of personal data.



Argentina to Take Sovereign Bond Case to Supreme Court

A U.S. Appeals Court ruled in favor (MercoPress) of investment funds owed $1.33 billion in bond payments by Argentina, which defaulted on the debt in 2002. President Cristina Fernandez said the country would take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

CUBA: Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, a prominent Fidel Castro supporter-turned-critic (MiamiHerald), died Friday in Havana at the age of seventy-seven.



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