China: Following a meeting of the Communist Party of China's Politburo, the leadership announced it will convene the second plenum of the 18th Central Committee from 16 to 18 February. The Politburo meeting set the agenda for the Plenum which will discuss institutional restructuring and function transformation of the State Council and the candidate list for cabinet positions.
At the meeting General Secretary Xi Jinping said, "No organization or individual should be put above the constitution and the law," according to Xinhua. He also stressed the need for government to be administered in accordance with the law, while similarly developing the country and society as a whole.
Comment: The South China Post noted this was the second time in three months that General Secretary Xi has stressed the importance of adherence to the constitution and the rule of law.
The Party leaders want to reduce corruption in administration and abuses in the state security and judicial systems, which they have said threaten the survival of the communist state. This is a broad move towards a more orthodox and less arbitrary communist system of administration. Strict adherence to law and order by the government and the populace appears to be the chosen strategy to reduce internal tension.
South Korea: For the record. Park Geun-hye took her oath of office on 24 February to become the first woman to hold the office of President of the Republic of Korea.
In her inaugural address, she said, "North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people, and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself."
She also said she would "not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation".
She said she intended to "lay the groundwork for an era of harmonious unification where all Koreans can lead more prosperous and freer lives and where their dreams can come true....I will move forward step-by-step on the basis of credible deterrence to build trust between the South and the North."
Comment: Her inaugural address co-opted the theme of unification, which the North Koreans are stressing less under the current leadership. President Park might become a more insidious and formidable threat to North Korea than the Allied military forces.
Direct talks between President Park and Kim Jong Un would be a study in Korean cultural norms.
Jordan: Update. Border Guards in northern Jordan have closed the border to Syrian refugees after arresting a Syrian woman wearing an explosive vest. Her purpose reportedly was to carry out terrorist acts in the Kingdom. The woman has been detained and is undergoing interrogation to learn who financed her operation.
Comment: According to the Jordanian press, security authorities are aware of threats to Jordan arising from the Syrian fighting. Some Syrian groups are attempting to smuggle arms and ammunition into Jordan in order to target security institutions and forces as well as foreign and diplomatic buildings in Jordan.
Supposedly they use women to do some of the smuggling because they are not subjected to security checks. Some 3,000 Syrian refugees per day have been entering Jordan, but no longer.
Egypt: Thousands of brick workers protesting rising industrial oil prices blocked rail lines by removing tracks near Beni Suef, resulting in the cancellation of nearly 20 scheduled trains to Cairo, security officials said.
Protesters also blocked the main entrance to the Mugamma, Cairo's main administrative building, in a political demonstration against President Mursi. Leading opposition figure Mohamed El Baradei called for citizens to boycott the parliamentary elections.
On Saturday, President Mursi acceded to the request by the Copts by modifying the election phasing so as to not infringe on the Copts' celebration of Easter.
The new phasing:
22-23 April in Cairo
11-12 May in Alexandria and environs
28-29 May in eight provinces
15-16 June in the remaining six provinces
The Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram reported that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been holding meetings about the political situation without the presence of the chairman, President Mursi.
Comment: The Egyptian Army has no intention of intervening in politics again, except to prevent state collapse. On the other hand, it must look out for its own economic interests, which are extensive and varied.
Tunisia: Update. Thousands protested Tunisian Prime Minister-designate Ali Larayedh on Saturday.
Italy: For the record. On the 24th, Italians began voting for 630 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 315 elective members of the Senate.
Silvio Berlusconi campaigned on a program that promised to relax austerity measures. If a workable coalition fails to emerge from the elections, the euro zone crisis could worsen again. Italy's national debt is 120% of its gross domestic product.
Mali: Update. On 23 February, French President Hollande said the fighting in the mountains on the Algerian border is the "final phase of the process" because, he said, that is where the al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb fighters have "probably" regrouped. Hmmm…..
The jihadists warned Mali and the French that the fighting has just begun
End of NightWatch ###
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