Daily News Brief

December 10, 2010

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Nobel Awarded to Chinese Dissident
- Pakistan Media in WikiLeaks Hoax
- Obama Weighs Tax Overhaul
- Croatia Issues Warrant for Ex-PM

Top of the Agenda: Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Chinese Dissident

Chinese jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today in absentia, amid continuing anger (WashPost) from the Chinese government. His chair on the podium was left empty as China has refused to release Liu, who is serving an eleven-year jail sentence, or allow his family and friends to attend the ceremony. China also pressured other countries to boycott the event (NYT). According to the Nobel Committee's website, as of December 6, fifteen countries had declined the invitation to attend the ceremony. News reports indicate a few more have declined since then. China blocked broadcasts of the ceremony on television and the Internet. On the eve of the ceremony, the Chinese government also blocked access to several foreign media outlets, intensified a crackdown on political activists (WSJ), and ratcheted up its campaign to discredit the awards. China created its own peace prize, the "Confucius Peace Prize" and awarded it Thursday to Lien Chan, the former Taiwanese vice president, at a ceremony in Beijing.

During the ceremony, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland called for the immediate release of Liu (BBC). On Thursday, the Nobel committee defended its award to Liu as based on "universal values," rejecting Beijing's accusation that it is trying force Western ideas on China. Jagland told a news conference, "It is a signal to China that it would be very important for China's future to combine economic development with political reforms and support for those in China fighting for basic human rights" (Reuters).

Analysis:

On CFR's Asia Unbound blog, expert Elizabeth Economy writes that China constructs its own reality when reality doesn't conform to Chinese interests.

Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch argues that Beijing's far-reaching efforts to keep Chinese supporters of Liu Xiaobo from attending the ceremony in Oslo reveal an increasingly anxious undercurrent in China (ForeignPolicy).

Read a profile of Liu Xiaobo, including a 2006 video message from him and links to some of his writing.

Read the full text of Charter 08, the document co-authored by Liu in 2008 which calls for political reform, greater human rights, and end to one-party rule in China.

MIDDLE EAST: Gates Meets UAE Defense Chief

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met on Thursday with the United Arab Emirates' defense chief Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Reportedly, the talks focused on security in the region (NYT) and fears of a nuclear Iran. A cache of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, recently showed how Arab leaders were greatly concerned about a nuclear-armed Iran.

Iran: Iran denied reports on Friday that it freed Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning (al-Jazeera) for adultery. A German campaign group said on Thursday that Ashtiani had been released after photographs apparently showing her at home with her son appeared in the media. Ashtiani is also accused of murdering her husband, and her case has sparked much global outrage.

SOUTH ASIA: Pakistan Media in WikiLeaks Hoax

Pakistani newspapers acknowledge they were tricked after publishing reports based on fake WikiLeaks cables (BBC) containing anti-Indian propaganda. According to the reports, Indian spies were said to be supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan's Waziristan tribal agency and Balochistan province. The Guardian said an extensive search of the WikiLeaks database failed to locate any of the incendiary allegations. It added that this was the first case of WikiLeaks being exploited for propaganda purposes. The controversial claims, published in four Pakistani papers, were credited to the Online Agency, an Islamabad-based news service that has frequently run pro-army stories in the past.

Afghanistan: A suicide attack on Friday (AP) in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed two civilians. Meanwhile, in Kabul, hundreds of demonstrators called for peace and justice in recognition of International Human Rights Day.

PACIFIC RIM: China Raises Bank Reserve Requirements

China raised the amount of reserves (Xinhua) that commercial banks must keep with the central bank by fifty basis points, after the economy recorded another large trade surplus last month and exports and imports both had strong growth. The latest tightening move, the sixth this year (FT), came after trade figures heightened concerns that the economy could be at risk of overheating.

AFRICA: WikiLeaks: Mozambique a Major Drug Transit Hub

According to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, Mozambique is become a leading drug trafficking center (Reuters) in Africa, with high-level government officials receiving bribes to turn a blind eye to the trade. Interpol has said the country is increasingly becoming a hub for trafficking from Latin America to Europe.

AMERICAS: Obama Weighs Tax Overhaul to Address Debt

President Barack Obama has instructed his economic team to draft options to close loopholes and lower income-tax rates ahead of what would be a multi-year effort to overhaul and simplify the U.S. tax code (NYT). This would be his first major effort to begin addressing the long-term growth of the national debt. White House aides cautioned that the effort was in its infancy (WSJ). But in the wake of last week's report from his presidential deficit commission, a broad tax overhaul has been pushed as members of both parties try to find a way to bring down the $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

 

At this CFR meeting, financial analysts Richard Koo, Ronald Temple, and James Grant address the implications of the proposed U.S. tax cut deal and the challenges of deleveraging post-recession economies. The deficit commission report is available here.

 

Haiti: Following a disputed election, Haiti will conduct a recount (MiamiHerald) in full view of monitors and potentially the three leading candidates, the president of the nation's electoral council said Thursday

 

EUROPE: Croatia Issues Warrant for Ex-PM

Croatian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Ivo Sanader (AP), the former prime minister who left the country shortly before parliament allowed an anti-corruption probe. Sanader has been linked with various criminal cases during his time as prime minister from 2003 until 2009. His arrest has become a high priority (FT) for the former Yugoslav country, which aims to complete accession talks with the EU by mid-2011.

UK: Student protests against parliament's controversial plans to raise university tuition fees turned violent (Independent) Thursday. The protesters attacked the car of the royal couple--the prince of Wales and his wife Camilla. Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attack.