♦ China has executed one of its product-quality violators and initiated new consumer safety standards.  According to CSM, this was due more to domestic pressure than international outcries–just as happened in the U.S. (see my previous post).  They are also going after the recently discovered perpetrators of slave labour (see Rambling Intelligence, w/e June 10).
♦ Indonesia’s counter-terrorism squads are making headway, capturing the Afghanistan-trained head of Jemaa Islamiya head Abu Dujana.

Former Soviet Union:
♦ A strange argument that seems to combine Russian nationalism and Russian anti-nationalism to explain the fall of the Soviet Union; and one analysis of the argument.
♦ The future of Kazakhstan’s secession, press, financial infrastructure is inextricably mixed together in the criminal proceedings against the President’s son-in-law.  The son-in-law is no prize; so we have to hope that the President’s intents are as honorable as he says they are.
♦ Russia has new customers for its defense industry: Venezuela plans to buy nine submarines.  Economic globalization is undoing Monroe Doctrine?

The Middle East/North Africa:
Conflict in General: Up.  I missed this post on problems of insurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq; and I also missed a more dispassionate review of the charges and denials over Iran’s assistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
♦ Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood failed to win seats in Egypt’s June 11 elections, which did not enjoy a good turnout and were attended by violence.  the Muslim Brotherhood is commonly felt to be tied to Hamas; two weeks previous to elections, dozens of M.B. members were arrested.  The Constitution does not allow religious parties to hold office, but the M.B. was undeterred.  Another focus: border security, with an influx of Fata refugees from Gaza, and then those from Hamas looking for them.
♦ Iran nuclear impasse: The White House seems committed to working with the EU on Iran’s nuclear disarmament.  Cheney & Co. are still talking action a la Mr. Podhoretz  who has asked for bomb strikes.  Mr. Bolton’s mention of regime change is not in itself a way to stop Iran’s nuclear program: the Bushehr plant was an infrastructure program initiated by the Shah previous to 1979.
♦ Iraq: A new U.S. offensive begins today in Iraq, amid feelings that the surge has not worked.  Oil strikes are over, but oil controversy is not, and neither is oil smuggling
♦ Palestine: Fatah is routed in Gaza but takes the West Bank.  Now the minority politicians stranded in opposite territory are at risk.  The U.S. gets to support the very-corrupt Fatah government they wanted after the last elections, when Hamas won against U.S. calculations; and the potential for more conflict, to me, and despite this analysis, seems fairly straightforward.  The real loser, as always: Palestine’s people.  Some new analyses of democratization have been needed for this process for a long time, and now, and again, and continually, We See Why. 
♦ Just because Gaza and the West Bank have been featured in the rationed space on news frontpages and topstories, doesn’t mean that Lebanon still isn’t in extremis, either.

U.S. Politics:
♦ At last: a second conservative calls for parity for the gay in the military.  (The first conservative spoke up in March.)  This rule has always condemned our country to choosing by something other than strict meritocracy.  And as for military security, open acceptance of choice eradicates the waste of energy required for collusion, secrecy–and blackmail.  We need every talent we can get–troubled times have made this clear, but it has always been true.
♦ Bluster without a Pause: Two Florida Congressmen condemn Nicaragua’s President Ortega for visiting Mr. Ahmadinejad, and President Chavez of Venezuela for setting the Precedent.  It looks as if these two citrusheads have been reading the Houston Chronicle, which expects Mr. Chavez to raid Aruba with the Russian submarines he’s planning to buy, (see above-FSU) and then shoot missiles at Miami.
Announcement: Still somewhat under construction, but looking good: My respected friends at the Foreign Policy Association has created an U.S. Presidential Elections blog.  So far they have a page for each candidate plus some posts–this will become a great resource as it gains mass. 

♦ Oil prices, June 15th: Brent crude, USD 70.67; West Texas Intermediate, USD 67.43 per barrel. Luis at found a great bar graph and posted it on The Oil Drum.  It compares price per gallon world-wide –the U.S. isn’t paying very much–not even close–and is using the most.  For this reason, the new U.S. Energy Bill’s focus on decreased consumption is a far more realistic approach to energy policy than any policy that would increase U.S. production.  I see the barriers to this policy more a problem with the U.S. auto lobby than the oil lobby.  The car-making kings need to step out of their martini-clubs and start looking at the future of –not just domestic policies–but energy realities.  The auto lobby is out of the radar, but we need to bring it back to mind.

♦ In this world full of strife and pain, remember as Azar Nafisi writes, that art and literature are our solace and salvation.  Almost everything in this week’s R.I. is about folly, conflict, and division–some things though, are common to all of us and good.  And if you get a chance, listen to one of the following: Kronos Quartet’s Pieces of Africa; or Miles Davis’ Kind of  Blue; or Yo Yo Ma; or anything that transports you to beauty and peace.