It’s been another busy week. The Olympic games are gearing up, Obama and McCain have been going after one another on the campaign trail, and the US (and the global) economy continues to struggle. So what are the top stories of the week?
1. After losing soundly in a Scottish by-election, Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown now faces challenges for his leadership position. Speculation that Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who some view as having Tony Blair-like charisma, may challenge Brown’s leadership before the next election has the Labour Party looking like it is in total disarray.
2. Suffering from an ongoing corruption scandal, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced he will step downfrom his position at the next election, scheduled for two months from now. Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu used the opportunity to call for snap elections. Olmert’s departure throws current peace negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria into uncertainty, with many speculating that no progress can be made before a new government takes office, and leaving room for lots of speculation about who will replace him.
3. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, narrowly survived a High Court ruling which could have dissolved the AKP. Turkey’s constitution prohibits “anti-secular activity.” The AKP had been charged with attempting to introduce sharia law through political reform. The High Court ruled that the AKP had been involved in such activities, and imposed financial penalties for their actions. But the Court declined the shut the party down.
4. With world food prices increasing dramatically over the past year, the Russian government announced last week that it would seize control of up to half the country’s grain exports. Russia is the world’s fifth largest grain exporter, and western analysts fear the move may be an attempt by the Kremlin to use grain as a tool for Russian foreign policy, much in the same way the Kremlin has effectively used Russia’s vast oil exports as an instrument of foreign policy.
5. Members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation singed an agreement to work together to fight terrorism. The initiative includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. But tensions between India and Pakistan over the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul threaten to undermine the agreement before it even comes into force.