In a televised address Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Gilead Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held captive for five years, will be released “in the coming days” in a prisoner exchange with Hamas. This is a really, really big deal with profound ramifications for Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The BBC’s Paul Danahar breaks it down. “It is hard to overstate how important the fate of Gilad Shalit is to Israel. Almost every family in the country has a son or daughter serving in the military. Shalit’s capture resonates with them all. He is probably the most recognisable figure in the country. It is for that reason that the government is ready to swap him for – according to Hamas officials -1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. But after so many false dawns why now? The timing is important because Hamas has been on the back foot in recent months after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s attempt to get Palestinian membership at the UN gained huge support in the occupied territories. This is their way of showing their more violent approach can also win results. What will be key politically for both sides is how many high-profile prisoners Israel has been ready to give up.” (BBC http://bbc.in/qzxEB4)
Now for the diplomatic fallout from the alleged Iranian plot to the Assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the USA
American authorities have arrested two men alleged to be members of the Iranian special forces in connection to a plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. The United States Treasury Department swiftly announced additional sanctions on Tehran and now it looks like the Americans are looking to take this to the UN. “The Obama administration plans to leverage charges that Iran plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States into a new global campaign to isolate the Islamic republic. ‘It’s critically important that we unite the world in the isolation of and dealing with the Iranians,”’ Vice President Joe Biden said on ‘The Early Show’ Wednesday. ‘That’s the surest way to be able to get results.’ U.S. officials say the administration will lobby for the imposition of new international sanctions as well as for individual nations to expand their own penalties against Iran based on allegations that Iranian agents tried to recruit a purported member of a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi envoy on American soil.” (CBS http://bit.ly/ruOX1O)
Political Prisoners Released. Is Myanmar Beginning to Open Up?
Potentially game changing news from the reclusive Burmese regime: “Myanmar granted amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners in a move that may signal even more significant policy changes ahead, said Nyan Win, a spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy. The announcement yesterday came a day after Kurt Campbell, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Asia, said that Myanmar is experiencing ‘dramatic developments’ and the U.S. is ready to revamp ties with the Southeast Asian nation. It was unclear how many of the country’s 2,100 political prisoners would be freed, Nyan Win said. ‘We are optimistic,’ he said by phone from Yangon, the former capital. ‘We hope real changes will be coming soon.’ The amnesty builds on steps taken by Myanmar President Thein Sein to loosen state controls on public discourse since taking power in an election last year that ended five decades of military rule. Western governments are hoping for the release of about 500 political prisoners…Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Sept. 21 she was ‘cautiously optimistic’ of progress in her native land, where she has spent 15 of the past 22 years under house arrest. (Bloomberg http://buswk.co/qCXYbB)
Global TB Cases Down for the First Time Ever
Some good news in the just-released WHO 2011 global tuberculosis control report. “The World Health Organization says the number of people worldwide getting tuberculosis declined last year for the first time. WHO statistics published Tuesday show the number of people who became sick with the disease dropped to 8.8 million in 2010. The number of people who died last year from TB fell to 1.4 million. The U.N. agency says that overall, the death rate from TB has dropped 40 percent since 1990. WHO’s Director-General Margaret Chan says strong leadership in many countries, coupled with domestic financing and foreign donor support, has begun to make a difference in the fight against tuberculosis. The WHO report says some of the biggest gains came in Kenya, Tanzania and Brazil. China also made major gains, lowering its death toll more than 70 percent, to 55,000.” (VOA http://bit.ly/plV9KJ)