North Korea: Comment. The space launch failed about 90 seconds into the flight. One news report said the first stage blew up in a large fireball. That means after a decade of research and development and two prior test launches, the North Korean rocket engineers, and anyone helping them, still have failed to master stage separation.
Readers should now expect a nuclear-related detonation, as in 2009, which has about the same prospects for success as the space launch, but is easier to camouflage.
Succession politics. Yesterday, 11 April, Kim Jong-un also was named Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Korean Worker's Party. This is a good indicator that he will be named as the head of the National Defense Commission, once the Supreme Peoples' Assembly convenes.
The position of Chairman of the National Defense Commission, or equivalent title, is a government post. The Chairman of the Central Military Commission holds a Party post.
The Philippines-China: Update. Authorities in Manila said they withdrew their biggest warship from the standoff with Chinese vessels, but the impasse was not resolved because China sent a third ship to the disputed waters.
Comment: Without US Navy support, the Philippines have no ability to stand against Chinese maritime security ships. They did good service in challenging the Chinese intrusion, but are prudent in averting a confrontation at sea. Maritime disputes invariably end up in negotiations, even after a war. Shooting is almost pointless, unless a great power navy is involved. Even then, when the smoke has cleared, the international lawyers always take over, to paraphrase the late Dean Fischer, Georgetown University Law Center.
Syria: Update. Syrian troops held their fire in the hours after a U.N.-backed ceasefire took effect at dawn on Thursday, casting a silence over rebellious towns they had bombarded heavily in recent days.
A Syrian army officer was killed and 24 other officers and civilians were wounded by an explosion in Aleppo, an official source told the press. The blast occurred at 8 a.m. when an armed group targeted a military bus with an explosive device.
Egypt: Hosni Mubarak's former spy chief said in comments published Thursday that he decided to run for president to prevent Islamists from turning Egypt into a "religious state," and warned that the country would be internationally isolated if one of them won the presidency.
Omar Suleiman's comments in a weekly newspaper interview came just hours before the Islamist-dominated parliament passed a bill that strips senior officials in the Mubarak regime of their political rights for 10 years. The bill was hurriedly put together this week to prevent Suleiman, who briefly served as Mubarak's vice president, from running for president.
The law can only come into effect if the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ratifies it. The generals have yet to speak publicly on the issue, but they are not likely to take action on the bill before the election commission issues a final list of presidential candidates, which is expected later this month.
Decisions of the election commission cannot be appealed. The generals are highly unlikely to disqualify Suleiman, who is one of their own. The Islamists overplayed their hand, despite their visit to the US. The power elite in Egypt is not ready for an Islamic theocracy.
Comment: With the backing of the military and the security forces plus powerful business interests, Suleiman can win the presidential election. His candidacy indicates the old guard remains in control in Egypt and that the past year of political confusion has been window dressing. Secondly, the old guard has decided the time for political window dressing has run out.
Suleiman is no fool and has not entered the presidential race to lose. His entry confirms the longstanding NightWatch judgment that Egypt has experienced no revolution. The tipping point for the latest old guard intervention appears to have been the entry of a Brotherhood candidate for president. That represented a point of departure that might have resulted in the start of a genuine revolution.
If Suleiman is elected president, he could govern under the same constitution that legitimated Mubarak.
Sudan: On 12 April Sudanese combat aircraft dropped five bombs on Bentiu, the capital of the Unity border state, South Sudan officials said. The aircraft were aiming at a strategic bridge at the edge of town, South Sudanese deputy Information Minister Atem Yaak Atem said.
Comment: This attack appears to be the opening round in the new Sudanese border war.
Greece: The jobless rate rose to a record of 21.8 percent in January, twice as high as the euro zone average, statistics service ELSTAT announced on Thursday. For the second consecutive month, those aged between 15-24 years were hit hard. Unemployment in that age group stood at 50.8 percent, twice as high as three years ago.
Youth unemployment remained at levels where more are jobless than in work.
Budget cuts imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund as a condition for saving the debt-laden country from a chaotic default have caused a wave of corporate closures and bankruptcies.
A record 1.08 million people were without work in January, 47 percent more than in the same month last year, according to ELSTAT figures. The number in work dropped 8.6 percent to a record low of 3.88 million.
As an increasing number of people claim unemployment benefits, the government is finding it increasingly difficult to meet its budget targets.
Comment: The youth unemployment rate is at the level when the youth begin to engage in self-help practices, such as crime and looting. This situation looks volatile, waiting for a spark.
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