THE INDEX – January 13, 2009

The Index

What looked like a done deal to restart Russian gas exports to Europe has hit a Ukraine-shaped snag, according Andrew Osborn and Marc Champion at the Wall Street Journal. The initial deal to get the gas flowing again was mediated by the European Union on Monday (January 12), but the Ukraine gas company Naftogaz Ukrainy said “it was unable to resume transit because it hadn’t received the right paperwork on time from its Russian counterpart, OAO Gazprom.” Is this a case of paperwork or politics? Read more from a Russian service here, and a Ukraine outlet here.

After gracing the pages of World Policy Journal‘s latest issue with this piece, William M. LeoGrande, along with Peter Kornbluh, reiterates that now is the time to resolve U.S.-Cuba relations in Monday’s Los Angeles Times. With the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban revolution having just passed, and a new administration soon to take power in Washington, LeoGrande sees the present moment as a unique opportunity to bridge these two estranged countries.

One week away from the end of his term, President George W. Bush held his last press conference on Monday. Watch a report on the conference, and the jokes he made to journalists. During the conference, President Bush argued the most urgent threat Barack Obama will have to tackle is not the economy but “an attack on our homeland.” Asked about the challenge Obama would have to face concerning the restoration of “America’s moral standing in the world,” Bush answered, “I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite, but people still understand America stands for freedom….” Though he acknowledged mistakes and disapointments (Abu Ghraib and “Mission Impossible” among them), he defended the policies he championed throughout his term, especially those aimed at curbing terrorism.

In celebration of President Bush’s farewell, Jacob Weisberg on Slate.com has complied some of the best “Bushisms” of the past eight years. Reminisce and enjoy.

In the Kenyan Daily Nation, Kenneth Juma, a businessman, worries for his country. In the wake of last year’s post-election violence, Kenya has experienced vast economic turmoil. Government officials hoped tourism would help fuel a recovery, but the global economic crisis has tempered expectations. Kenya is now set to have the largest budget deficit in its history and corruption is still a major problem. Moreover, the Kenyan government has set in motion a new law giving the state power to raid media outlets and control broadcast content. So far, massive public and political dissent has caused the new “Media Bill” to come under review, but, according to Juma, the government must act quickly to avoid squabbling, otherwise Kenyans’ patience will be exhausted and violence may resume.

Somali pirates released the hijacked oil tanker, Sirius Star, last Saturday (January 10) thanks to a $3 million ransom, Barney Jopson and Robert Wright report in the Financial Times. The tanker, carrying 2 million barrels of oil, was raided by 30 or more pirates on November 15, 2008. In addition, according to Mohamed Olad Hassan in the Huffington Post and other reports, five pirates drowned with their share of the $3 million when their “getaway” boat capsized after leaving the tanker.

Georgia and the United States signed on January 9 a Strategic Partnership Charter (read full text of the Charter here), Civil Georgia reports. As it merely restates areas of cooperation and reiterates U.S. support for the Georgian government and its territory, the charter is far from a “security guarantee” for a country still licking its wounds following the conflict with Russia last August. The charter, however, does include the intention to “expand the scope of…ongoing defense and security cooperation programs.” Could this be a prelude to NATO membership?

The Mosaic Intelligence Report, a daily news broadcast from Link TV that compiles independent and state-controlled news from the Middle East, has a good selection of unfamiliar and opinionated voices reporting on the Gaza conflict.

Michel Chossudovsky, a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, posits on GlobalResearch.ca that the invasion of Gaza by Israeli Forces is directly linked to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves discovered in 2000. According to Chossudovsky, “This is a war of conquest.”

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