August 2, 2007

Russia Claims Pole Territory

Two Russian submersibles ventured to the seabed beneath the North Pole thursday, where they staked a rust-proof, titanium Russian flag. The goal of the Russian expedition, according to Moscow, was to gather evidence supporting Russia's claim that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Russia's continental shelf, and therefore entitles them to more than 460,000 square miles of Arctic seabed via international law and strengthens their claim to a theoretically rich supply of untapped Arctic gas and oil resources.

Others saw the expedition as a land grab. Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackey was quoted as saying, "This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'."

According to the Star Tribune, the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified U.S. accession to the U.N. Law of the Sea, which would ultimately give the U.S. a seat on the panel that will consider and rule on Russia's territorial claims.

Also, interestingly enough, Reuters and the Star Tribune quote expedition leader Artur Chilingarov in slightly varied fashion. Reuters quotes him as saying, "If a hundred or a thousand years from now someone goes down to where we were, they will see the Russian flag." The Star Tribune phrases it this way: "If someone else goes down there in 100 or 1,000 years, he will see our Russian flag.'' It remains unknow whether he actually said both of these things...

Also, it is worth noting that the BBC posted this story much higher than the other two sources.

The Reuters coverage of the event can be found here:

The BBC here:

And the Star Tribune coverage here:

July 26, 2007

Castro Absent From Revolution Day Ceremonies

Fidel Castro was absent from the July 26th Revolution Day ceremonies, leaving his brother and interim president Raul Castro to speak in his place. Fidel has not appeared in public since the previous year's speeches. He announced five days later that he would be undergoing intestinal surgery, and remained out of the public eye since.

The day marks the 1953 assault on the Moncada barracks in the city of Santiago on the eastern part of the island, of which both the Castro brothers were apart. The attack was a failure, but effectively served to begin the revolutionary movement that would unseat Fulgencio Batista in January 1959 and bring Fidel to power.

The New York Times covered the story in considerable depth, though Reuters and the BBC maintained decent detail. The most notable difference in the coverage between the stories is that the Reuters and BBC stories create an image of two beloved Cuban leaders that the people hold in high regard, and that the people have faith in Raul Castro in Fidel's stead, whereas by contrast, the Times story portrays Fidel as little missed. In the Times story, Raul is described as assuming power with relative ease, and that the real nature of his policy preferences will be seen in the coming year. Raul Castro says that he is still interested in opening talks with the U.S.

The New York Times story can be found at the following:

The BBC story is here:

And Reuters here:

July 19, 2007

Gaza Aid and Economics

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency reported that it has been providing food for approximately 825,000 refugee-classified Gazans, and that the U.N. World Food Program is aiding an additional 200,000-250,000 (Depending on whether the numbers come from Reuters or the New York Times), as Gaza's crossings with Israel have been completely cut off since Hamas' routing of Fatah forces in the Strip.

Also, according to the New York Times, some 68,000-70,000 (also depending on the source) Gazans have lost their jobs since mid-June due to the stifled economic circumstances of the territory. This is about 80 percent of those employed in the private sector. Raw material shortages and the inability to trade/export have largely contributed to these figures. The commissioner general of the UNRWA, Karen AbuZayd, warned that the closures of key crossings from Gaza to Israel could cause further economic collapse and greater need for outside aid and food supplies, a task for which the UNRWA does not have sufficient funds to accommodate.

The Karni crossing, an important access point between Gaza and Israel, has been closed since June 12th, as it was previously operated on the Gaza side of the border by Fatah forces, and Israel presently has no Palestinian allies in Gaza that it trusts enough to assume the position. This has caused the exchange of goods to be routed through smaller checkpoints with less-advanced technology. The current method of exchange requires all goods to be unloaded on one side of the border and reloaded on the other, driving up costs approximately $300 per ton and restricting the flow of goods.

The Reuters article concerning the subject can be found at the following:

The New York Times story can be found here:

July 12, 2007

Israeli Casualies

Israel sustained its first combat casualty in nine months on Thursday, during an early-morning raid in Gaza. In the confrontation with Hamas militants, two other soldiers and two Islamic Jihad gunmen were also killed.

Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has vowed that Israel will continue to fight the militants in Gaza for their failure to recognize Israel and their refusal to ban the firing of rockets at Israeli bordertowns.

The confrontation, which began when about 10 tanks and two bulldozers with helicopter support advanced into farm fields near the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip before dawn. Hamas said that it detonated two large mines, and that Israeli aircraft fired on them when gunmen advanced.

While the New York times covers this story in a certain amount of detail, adding information attributed to Hamas that is not found in the Reuters wire story, Reuters covers it in greater depth. They go on to discuss further plans for Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Ehud Olmert to meet and discuss future plans. They also discuss how Olmert lost a great deal of popularity after the Israeli army's failure to crush Hezbollah on the norther border a year ago.

The stories can be found at the following:

The New York Times:


July 5, 2007

Gaza Casualties

Israeli forces conducting a routine raid into the Gaza strip thursday clashed with militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. According to The New York Times and the Star Tribune, both printing the same Associated Press wire story verbatim, six Hamas militants were killed in ground fighting, including their field commander in central Gaza, and two more militants from missiles launched at militant sites in the area by Israeli aircraft.

Reuters reports different figures. They report that the six Hamas casualties includes the two killed in airstrikes, and adds that a seventh man, an unarmed Islamic Jihad militant, was also killed. According to medics cited in the Reuters article, 13 people were also wounded, including children. Reuters also reports that both legs of a Hamas television cameraman were amputated after he was shot while standing with gunmen, though he appeared to be unarmed. Israel commented that these cameramen are not journalists but rather part of Hamas' operational forces, joined with squads of armed men to gather intelligence, and are often armed themselves.

The Times and the Star Tribune report the location of the fighting as being near the Bureij refugee camp, though Reuters reports that the fighting took place in al-Maghazi refugee camp.

Ismael Haniyeh of Hamas has condemned Israel's "military escalation" and "criminal massacre," saying that Palestinian gunmen had the right to respond. The AP wire also reports that a spokesperson for Fatah, Hamas' rival in the West Bank, also condemned the Israeli actions. Haniyeh is quoted here as saying, ''We assert that our people have the full right to defend themselves and to confront these aggressions." The AP goes on to add that Hamas officials have claimed that some 15 tanks and three bulldozers have moved into Palestinian farms and begun leveling the land. Israel has denied knowledge of or involvment with any such activities.

The two wires wrap up by focusing on different aspects of the ongoing conflict. The AP discusses the unrest surrounding the discrepencies in the recognized work weeks between the West Bank and Gaza, with Hamas attempting to assert its control in the West Bank by enforcing its Saturday through Wednesday work week, and Fatah recognizing the Israeli Sunday through Thursday work week.

Reuters discusses Palestinian ambulance workers being seized by Israeli forces while attempting to evacuate a wounded Palestinian man. Reuters cites one of these workers as saying that Israeli forces used them as human shields to exit the area. Israeli law prohibits such tactics, and Israel has denied knowledge of any such actions.

The stories can be found at the following:


The New York Times:

The Star Tribune:

June 20, 2007


For the first time since Hamas siezed control of Gaza, Israeli forces attacked the Islamist militants early Wednesday. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the launch of two rockets that landed outside the Israeli border-city of Sderot, which caused no reported casualties. Israel retaliated by launching an airstrike on the two rocket launch-sites. Earlier in the day, they also moved tanks across the border and began hunting for wanted militants, eventually killing four militants in their pre-dawn incursion into Gaza. Additionally, Islamic Jihad guerrilla and one Fatah gunman died in a gun battle in the West Bank. More details can be found at:

Furthermore, the Israelis as well as their western supporters continued to refuse to negotiate directly with Hamas, regarding it as a terrorist organization for its failure to recognize Israel as a state and their on-going desire to ereadicate the Zionist regime. Despite this, Israel allowed the passage of 12 trucks of food and medical supplies to enter Gaza in hopes of averting a humanitarian crisis. They have also been allowing the passage of some Gaza residents at the Erez border into Israel for medical needs on a case-by-case basis. So far, those allowed through have included those wounded by factional fighting, a teenager with leukemia, and other seriously ill patients. More can be found at the following two sites:

The United States, the United Nations, and Israel of pledged to ease embargo restrictions on Palestine put in place when Hamas gained power in early 2006 in hopes of bolstering Abbas' Fatah government, though Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has thusfar not agreed to full-scale peace talks with the Palestinians. Some Fatah leaders have questioned Olmert's motivations, and Abbas' national security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, has alleged that "Israel is releasing money not because they are honorable but they just want to entrench the divide between the West Bank and Gaza" (Reuters - see first link at top of page).

It is also worth noting that, at this point, Reuters, the New York Times, and the local Star Tribune have presented comparitively in-depth coverage of the unfolding events in Gaza and the surrounding areas. It is also worth noting, perhaps, that the Star Tribune's material is an Associated Press wire, whereas both the Reuters and New York Times material do not originate from an external agency, but are reported in-house, so to speak.

For further reading, the following two links lead to Op-Ed contributions from the New York Times. The first is entitled "What Hamas Wants," and was written by Ahmed Yousef, the political adviser to Ismail Haniya, the Hamas-backed prime minister of the Palestinian Unity Government. It is worthwhile to read for the sake of garnering some insight into Hamas' perspective of the present situation, though it is not discussed herein as it is not actual news coverage. The second item is "Brothers to the Bitter End," written by Fouad Ajami, who is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. This piece details the current dynamic of the Fatah-Hamas relationship, and discusses the fundamental similarities between the two and the general asininity of the current situation. This section was also not discussed herein due to the fact that it is not actual news coverage, but it is worthwhile to read nonetheless for the sake of thorough understanding. They are as follows:

June 14, 2007

Developments in Gaza

Over the past six days, Islamic Hamas militants and secular Fatah security forces have been clashing in Gaza, leaving some 80 casualties thusfar. As of today, Hamas gunmen have captured the Preventive Security headquarters, one of the last strongholds of the western-backed Fatah in Gaza. More can be found here on the subject:

Political science professor Ayman Shaheen from Al-Azar University in Gaza has said that he believes this to be "the end of Palestinian democracy" (Nissenbaum, Star Tribune). Shaheen was also quoted as saying of Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, that "Abu Mazen will be a symbolic president in Gaza without any power" (ibid). See for more details.

Additionally, Hamas has been referring to its victory in Gaza as the second liberation of Gaza, referencing the departure of the Israelis in 2005. Hamas has also said that it is still ready for dialogue with Fatah, but that only the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas was legitimate, and that Abbas' West Bank institutions are illegal. Go here for more:

At the suggestion of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the E.U. and U.N. have begun considering forming an international contingent to station on the Gaza-Egypt border to attempt to curtail weapons smuggling activities and Hamas' growing power. The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), however, has said that it will not support such a contingent, and that a "better understanding between internal forces" (OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu) is what is needed. More can be found here:

Furthermore, the E.U. has suspended humanitarian aid to Gaza due to the violence in the area, and has said that it will only resume when "security" is reestablished. More can be read on this here: