This past week has been substantially newsworthy:

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Anna Politkovskaya, the thirteenth journalist assassinated in the Russian Federation  under Putin’s reign, continues to speak beyond the grave: her biography is out, and reviewed here.  She was best known outside of Russia; best-known for her work on Chechen conflict and Chechen-region war crimes.
♦ The pressure is on for Exxon Mobil in Russia–to sell Sakhalin-1 assets.  That’s not what this article says.  But it’s what it means.

Latin America:
♦ Declassified: CIA papers, redacted of most nouns and verbs, but still showing the non-transparent and illegal hegemony of past U.S. administrations in Latin America.
♦ Adios, Venezuela: Conoco and ExxonMobil say good-bye to their assets in the Orinoco fields.  If you can’t make a deal, then you don’t stay.

Middle East:
♦ The Abbas government is finally allowed to access its funds: the first tranche of USD 120 million has been released to Palestine from Israel.  Who gets the interest since the money sat in someone else’s bank?  Nothing personal: just everybody needs an auditor on general principles.
♦ Tony Blair as Quartet representative, analyzed at The Strategist.  C-Span had his farewell in the hot seat: to one sally that derided his policy of further UK integration into the EU, he said [paraphrasing now], “Au Revoir, Adios, Arrividerci.” 
♦ Israel’s President Moshe Katsav resigns after deal is made changing rape charges to harrassment charges.  Twenty thousand protest the deal; the government is still deciding whether or not to revoke his post-office privileges.
♦ Afghanistan: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited President Karzai this past week; more trouble from the air strikes and civilian casualties; the Netherlands has their first casualty during its mission in increasingly-embattled Uruzgan province, and is considering scaling back their mission of 1,000 people.  There have been 60 suicide bombings in Afghanistan this year, compared to 25 in 2005 and 140 in 2004.
♦ Iran: Venezuela’s colorful president Hugo Chavez, fresh from denouncing Brazil’s political leadership, comes for the third time this year to make nice with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad.  Venezuela is one of the states that backed Iran’s development of nuclear plants at the UN; they are currently arranging new petrochemical and construction deals.  In particular, Venezuela’s agreement to participate in a new petrochemical plant is a step toward ameliorating Iran’s profound energy disinvestment.  It may also help with the imposing gasoline shortage within Iran, which is adversely affecting Mr. Ahmadinejad’s popularity.  In the meantime, Mr. Larijani has invited Dr. el-Baradai of the IAEA to again visit Iran, and the UN Security Council discusses more sanctions.
♦ Iraq: New war crimes allegations against U.S. soldiers near Iskandariah.  It looks like oversight, however, is improving, because their arrest took place quickly. 
Iraqi officials are also protesting U.S. operations within Sadr City, which supposedly took place without permission from said officials.  Civilian deaths are reportedly down by 36%, but there are still major bombings of bridges .  Kurds offer to guard Shi’ite mosque in Samarra.  Also, a look at private military contractors in Iraq: thank you, Joshua Foust at The Conjecturer, and also for showing how we can’t seem to think this through.

U.S. Politics:
♦ Well worth a read or re-read: The Washington Post series on Mr. Cheney.  The first article discusses the ways and people that have aided the Vice-President on expanding Presidential power.  It also details a volte-face on Cheney’s advice on clear paperwork transmission to an exceedingly opaque method for President Bush II.  The second article expands upon the first, especially with respect to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib interrogation methods. The third article investigates Mr. Cheney’s power over domestic issues such as the controversial tax cuts of 2003; and the fourth details this power over domestic environmental issues.  Jo Becker and Barton Gellman have written reference-quality work in this series.
♦ The Supreme Court  limits the use of racially-based quotas in school desegregation.  Some who are concerned with equality issues in public schools do not see this as a step back.
No immigration reform: Rich Basas explains that the U.S. public is 47% in favor of friendlier policies, but that the issue crosses parties and ideologies.  Greg Weeks also notes the lack of compassion of the other 53%; and Cathryn Cluver  gives a great round-up of essential articles that accompany the compromise bill’s failure.  Rich and Cathryn write the FPA Migration blog, which is a fantastic resource.

UK Security:
Three car bombs averted by savvy Peelers and citizens in Glasgow.  Additional accomplices arrested.

Energy:
♦ Oil prices still headed up, some people say to USD 80–why stop there?  As of June 28: USD 71.13 for Brent crude; USD 69.33 for West Texas intermediate.

International Aid:
♦ Paul Collier is the brilliant economist of World Bank and Cambridge creds, who most positively and best linked the phenomenon of civil war to underlying economic causes rather than grievances.  Now he has a new book out: The Bottom Billion, which is reviewed here.  To read Professor Collier is to learn–Niall Ferguson thinks so too.

Islamic culture:
♦ Tabsir has three thoughtful articles at the moment on Islamic culture.  One on obscure fatwas that impede technological progress; another on fatwas in diaspora communities; one on the burqa.  Check it out.

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