♦ In Australia, the charges against Dr. Haneef have been dropped in connection with the UK car bombings; his prosecutors were shown to have lied, possibly in order to enhance pre-election anti-terrorist credentials.
♦ China continues to crack down on governmental corruption, this time in Shanghai.

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Thanks to Robert Amsterdam blog for bringing forward some new papers on EU-Russia relations.  First: an article by Mr. Lynn at Bloomberg  suggests that the EU cease trading Russian stocks when the Russian Federation expropriates assets from EU companies investing in Russia.  This tit-for-tat on the editorial side is matched by an policy analysis from the Centre for European Reform, which concludes that there are no “strategic partnerships” between the EU and Russia based on “common values” .  What with disputes over gas & oil,  missiles, and oh, yeah, plutonium and extradition, it has been kind of tough lately . . .  🙂 
♦ Yukos assets–Lot 19, worth USD 1.2 billion, is up for auction.  Starting bid: USD 300 million.  What a bargain!  But it looks like Rosneft will get the goods.  In the meantime, more claims against Yukos’ post-bankruptcy assets, these filed from a ruling in a London Court.  Uh-huh. 
♦ The U.S., always somewhat ambivalent about its strategic interests in Central Asia, is signalling more pull-out from the region.  In the meantime, more trouble at Ganci AFB in Manas, Kyrgyzstan.  Ganci relations have never been handled correctly. The Latest: the air traffic controllers are threatening a strike.

Latin America:
♦ Energy news: Mexico announced USD 76.5 million in new investment to shore up their failing oil reserves.  Their top-producing Cantarell Field offshore has hit its peak, and new investment is required.  This also has an effect on Mexico’s budget for the short-term at least: PeMex profits have paid for Mexico’s social services for years.
What U.S. Company?Boz takes a look at the double standard in Colombian-U.S. relations: accusations of aid to terrorists in Colombia by U.S. companies–not investigated by the Justice Department, and More.  Hint on the company: They must be bananas to do such a thing.  (Drawing: from VivirLatino).
♦ The IMF’s Managing Director Rodrigo Rato is on a world tour to re-establish or renew relations with member countries, with Latin American states one high priority–one issue will be giving Brazil, for instance, more voting share commensurate with their economy.  Also, Mr. Rato’s likely successor, Mr. Straus-Kahn, has started a world tour in Africa, but will swing through Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil on his way around the world.  This is all upcoming and highly important: Latin American states rejected IMF reports as inaccurate this last April, which means they also reject methods proposed by IMF based upon those reports.

Middle East:
♦ Saudi Arabia may receive up to USD 20 billion in weapons from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia gets dissed for its destabilizing influence in Iraq.  The weapons systems are to help aid Saudi Arabia as well as other Persian Gulf states who will get military enhancement a chance to counter Iran nuclear capability.  In the meantime, Secretaries Rice and Gates are making another pitch to the Saudis to aid Iraq’s government.
♦ Afghanistan: Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands are reportedly weakening their commitment to ISAF, following casualties and the likelihood of more.
◊ One of the South Korean hostages has been killed.  Negotiations continue for the other 22 hostages.
◊ Some timeless principles of counter-insurgency-including individual talent-at Afghanistanica.
◊ Reuters builds a Timeline of Hostage Incidents in Afghanistan
◊ Carl Robichaud at Afghanistan Watch talks about strengthening the capabilities of the Afghanistan Police: what needs to happen and what is happening.  A must-read.

Iraq:  If you’ve stopped here at all this week, you’ll have seen a lot of analysis of the July Benchmark Report to the U.S. Congress.   First, RG has featured the benchmarks themselves, their purpose and importance, in the Iraq Primer series of posts.  Right now this blog is about halfway through an analysis of the report itself: already complete, one overview of the report’s organization, and one post on amnesty and political benchmarks.  Please keep checking back: in this effort, my own personal benchmark is to inform the debate, not choose a side.  Whoever we are and whatever we believe, we have to be ready for September’s report, with better than one-note analyses to aid us.
◊ Joshua Foust at The Conjecturer writes on the Scott Thompson debate, where a soldier recounts the sick/mean/gallows humor of the troops and the resulting firestorm, and then segues into what I would call the must-view portion: slave labor emplyed by contractors constructing the U.S. Embassy to Iraq.  The testimony on video is very convincing-and disheartening. 
◊ Biggest corruption case ever in Iraq being investigated, Major Cockerham accepts USD 9.6 billion in bribes from contractors, and the scandal is likely to radiate outward.
◊ PTSD: 116 official U.S. troop suicides reported amid Iraq-stationed troops, not counting the dozens still under investigation, and not counting the ones back home.

♦ Oil prices this week ended up, but not with the meteoric rises of the last two weeks.  Brent crude, USD 77.28; West Texas Intermediate, 76.88.  The gap between the Brent and WTx price is decreasing–no predictions here though.
♦ Shell announces 18% profit for the quarter.  That does not mean that their long-term picture looks so rosy-sweet: still Sakhalin Island problems continue to obtrude.  Shell lost half its share earlier this year, after years of investment–ostensibly for ecological infractions.  Now that Gazprom has taken those shares, the pipeline is being shut down again–for ecological infractions.
♦ Conoco lost 94 percent of its profit in second quarter due to Venezuelan expropriation of its production.