Shows such as LinkAsia and Mosaic are a tremendous resource for a global media studies professor. They bring together news clips from across the world and dub them into English with tremendous speed and accuracy, while providing context and creating original content to form a full picture. These programs provide the perfect balance for a teacher or student of international media culture. Importantly, they are curated, with careful editing ensuring that the clips are presented in a coherent and representative fashion.
Yet, at the same time, Mosaic and LinkAsia avoid the impulse to impose overarching narratives, allowing the juxtaposition of news from a diverse body of sources to emphasize the fractured, often contradictory picture that media paints. These programs provide the near-immediacy of a web search while avoiding the chaos that such an approach to media study inevitably entails. It's truly amazing to think that, free of charge, I can show my students a half-hour of professionally translated news from Asia or the Middle East shortly after its original airing.
The network presents global media while striving to preserve a strong sense of locality. By finding and distributing locally-produced programs intended for local audiences, Link TV allows its audience a unique opportunity to get a sense of what media activity is like in a far off place.
After over 20 years, Sudanese citizens are finally rising up against Omar al-Bashir and his one-party rule. Even a month ago, some Sudanese activists were skeptical that an "Arab Spring"-style revolution could blossom in their country. After all, the Sudanese government has shown that it is willing and able to commit human rights abuses to stay in power; dissenters have kept silent for decades in fear of retribution. So what happened, and why now?
To put it simply: Oil. The secession of the South left Sudan with only 30 percent of its oil production capacity, and the drop in government oil export revenues has resulted in a staggering budget deficit of over USD 2 billion and growing. In mid-June, the Sudanese government announced a new set of austerity measures that included increasing taxes and removing fuel subsidies, which doubled gasoline prices and thus transportation costs. This sharp rise in basic living expenditures was the final straw for an already impoverished nation.
However, it has been Sudan's educated youth who have led the charge. Students from the University of Khartoum were the first to hold protests against the austerity measures, and students from other universities have followed suit. Going back even further, in 2009 a group of students in Khartoum started the peaceful Girifna ("We are fed up") movement, in protest of the National Congress Party's monopoly over the Sudanese government. This group, along with other youth opposition groups, has risen to prominence during the recent protests, thanks to their multilingualism and their savvy use of the Internet to mobilize demonstrators both at home and abroad.
These young people know that Sudan does not have to resort to such drastic measures in order to meet its USD 2 billion deficit. In fact, the government can save five times that amount by cutting military spending. But the Sudanese are beginning to understand that the current regime may not be willing to solve this crisis by giving up the military might that has kept them in power for so long. For example, Friday's Dubai TV report on the arrests of Sudanese protestors in the name of "maintaining security" and fighting terrorists" draws some worrisome parallels to other regimes. This oppressive might, wielded by a man who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has also alienated Sudan from countries that would otherwise be willing to help. And so, faced with a choice between starving slowly and risking their lives for change, the Sudanese people have begun to rise up.
Whether this budding uprising will take root and achieve its goals remains to be seen. The international community has remained quiet for now. But drawing worldwide attention to this crisis, whether it be through the media, business, or politics, will be crucial in pressuring Khartoum to serve the interests of its people. If that pressure is not enough, one can only hope that the world will not stand idly by and watch another Syria take place.
Image: People wait to get fuel for their cars at a petrol station in Khartoum June 21, 2012: REUTERS/Stringer
Was Yasser Arafat killed by polonium poisoning?
Al Jazeera - The Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland found abnormally high levels of polonium on the personal belongings of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. If an analysis of Arafat's remains produce similar results, experts say it proves that the Palestinian leader was poisoned with this material, since it is usually only produced in nuclear reactors. The Geneva-based Forum for Human Rights and Development indicated that it is ready to send an independent investigative team that includes experts in forensic medicine and criminal investigation to find out if the late Palestinian leader was assassinated.
Sudanese activists protest for third week in hope of sparking popular uprising
BBC Arabic - Sudanese activists organized new protests today dubbed "Vagabonds Friday," in response to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's description of protestors as a handful of rogue vagabonds with no prospects. This is the third week of protests in Sudan, which is witnessing unprecedented popular anger due to deteriorating living conditions in the aftermath of the government's attempt to implement austerity measures, in response to worsening economic conditions, especially after the secession of the South one year ago.
Syrian Republican Guard General Tlass defects to Turkey
New TV - A high-level Syrian security source confirmed that Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, the brigade commander of the 105th Republican Guard, has fled to Turkey. Tlass is the highest ranking officer to defect from the regime. The source added that Tlass is an important witness to the crimes of the Syrian regime, and that rejected the destruction that killed thousands in his city of al-Rastan.
Libyans set to vote in first post-Gaddafi election amid fears of violence
Dubai TV - Amid fears over the inability of Tripoli's government to maintain security, Libyans are preparing to hold their first free general elections in over half a century. Nearly three million voters will head to the polls tomorrow to elect 200 foundation council members out of the 3,700 mostly Islamist candidates. However, the election process is facing significant challenges, mot notably security threats and anti-election groups, which include pro-federalism protestors who closed the eastern oil port of Ras Lanuf in protest of the allocation of seats in the General National Congress.
Egypt's Morsi orders investigation into killing of protestors
Al-Alam - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi issued a presidential decree ordering the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigation the killing and injury of protestors during the January 25th revolution. The decree orders a review of the investigations and a reexamination of sites that witnessed acts of violence and killings.
Image: A Palestinian woman walks past a mural depicting late leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City July 4, 2012: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
The US and North Korea have agreed to a deal that would send over 240,000 tons food aid to North Korea in exchange for a moratorium on their nuclear program and missile testing. Yul Kwon speaks with Stanford University's David Straub about the agreement.
To help us understand what this agreement means, we're joined on Skype today by David Straub. Mr. Straub is associate director of the Korean Studies Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. Among other diplomatic jobs, he was head of the political section at the US embassy in Seoul and ran the State Department's Korea Desk in Washington, DC. Thanks for joining us today, David. Now first of all, the Al Jazeera report says that this deal was in the works even before Kim Jong-Il died and his son was thrust into power. What can you tell us about that?
David Straub, Stanford University:
Well, that's basically correct. The US and North Korea were negotiating last year, and I think they were close to finalizing this agreement during the month of November, just before Kim Jong-il died. So I think the fact that they've now finalized the agreement suggests that there's a great deal of continuity in North Korea under the new leadership. That's the good news. It would have been bad if they had not been able to finalize this agreement. It would have suggested that there are serious problems with the new leadership.
So Kim Jong-un isn't exactly making a U-turn in terms of policy. But have circumstances in North Korea changed or worsened in the past year such that the regime is more anxious to make a deal now rather than later?
I don't think the situation has seriously deteriorated in North Korea, but it's probable that the new leadership there would like to show other people and the elite, as well as the people as a whole, that they're able to manage external threats and challenges. And also, North Korea is chronically short of food, and so under this deal, they're going to receive 240,000 tons of US food aid over the next year, and that will help alleviate the food shortage.
Secretary of State Clinton sounded very cautious when she announced the deal, characterizing it as a "modest first step," and saying that the US will "watch closely and judge" North Korea by its actions. From your experience in dealing with North Korea, do you feel that this level of caution is warranted?
Yes, indeed. The North Koreans have, in their own mind, good reasons to keep nuclear weapons. And over the years, they've negotiated with US and others about eventually giving up those weapons, but so far, all they've been willing to do is negotiating suspension of various programs, various kinds of talks on the margins that have never led to them completely giving up their nuclear weapons. And in the meantime, they get various concessions and aid. So yes, we need to be realistic and cautious when dealing with the North Koreans.
In contrast to the US, which gave a more tepid and cautious tone, North Korea by contrast, seemed a lot more positive when it released its statement about the moratorium. Was there anything about the statement that surprised you?
In the North Korean statement, they do say that when six-party talks are resumed, that the priority will be put on lifting sanctions on North Korea and providing North Korea with light-water nuclear reactors to provide energy. Now that's not in the American statement. And in fact, if you look at the North Korean statement, it doesn't say that there was agreement with the United States about this point. This is the North Koreans putting their negotiating position on the record.
A moratorium on the nuclear program and missile testing implies that the stoppage is just temporary and that it could resume at some future point in time. What do you think the US could do to try to facilitate a more permanent solution?
Well the moratorium is indeed just a temporary measure. In fact, in the North Korean statement, it says that the moratorium on nuclear tests and missile launches will continue only as long as the talks are continuing. That means, obviously, continuing to North Korea's satisfaction. But what this does do is move us a step closer to being able to hold another round of six-party talks in Beijing on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. And when we get there, if and when we get there, then it will be up to the six parties to have some very tough negotiations to try to reach a comprehensive agreement that will finally end North Korea's weapons programs.
How do South Korea's upcoming elections play into this week's announcement?
South Korea this year has national assembly elections and a presidential election. And South Koreans have long been very divided by how to deal with North Korea. On the right, the position is typically similar to the United States. That is, North Korea must first move to give up its nuclear weapons, and as it does so, we'll be willing to remove sanctions and provide some assistance. The left in South Korea believes that North Korea will not respond positively to that and that the best way to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons is to provide it with assurances, aid, and eventually to make North Korea believe that it no longer needs nuclear weapons to be secure. There's a possibility that the left will win the elections in South Korea, and if they do, they're going to pursue that kind of a policy, which usually is called a Sunshine Policy, that's significantly different than the policy of the Obama administration or of previous US administrations for the most part. So by having these talks with the North Koreans and possibly resuming six-party talks, the United States will be in a better position to try to cooperate with its South Korean ally if the progressives do win the elections this year.
Thanks, David. David Straub is a former diplomat and Korea expert. In 2009, he helped Bill Clinton gain the release of two American reporters who'd been captured on the border with China.