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FPF: Week of August 17

By Chris Zoia

This week on Front Page Flash: War Erupts between Russia and Georgia, the 29th Olympiad Begins in Beijing, Nigeria Cedes Bakassi to Cameroon, PM to Resign, Olympic Mess-ups, and the Election Update!

Cold War II? [New York Times]
War broke out last Thursday between Russia and Western-backed Georgia (formerly part of the U.S.S.R.) after the Georgian military unleashed an offensive against Georgia's Russian-supported, breakaway region of South Ossetia. Georgia’s efforts were routed by the Russians, who retaliated with what many Western countries believe to be a disproportionate response: Russia's wresting control of South Ossetia, invading Georgian territory with tanks, occupying the strategic Georgian city of Gori, and sparking a second front of fighting from Georgia's other breakaway region, Abkhazia. After several days of intense bombings and battles, a cease-fire was brokered by France, in which Russian forces agreed to withdraw to their “normal bases of encampment.” Yet Russia continues to occupy parts of Georgia and refuses to withdraw completely. In light of this crisis, Bush decided yesterday to send humanitarian aid to Georgia and warned Russia about possible US retaliation if it did not comply with the peace accords. Is Russia trying to flex its Soviet era muscle in the face of other former U.S.S.R. states?

Olympics Roundup [Washington Post]
The Olympics kicked off last Friday in Beijing with one of the most impressive (and expensive) opening ceremonies to date. Some highlights from the 29th Olympiad so far: Team USA beat China in basketball, and later qualified for the quarterfinals; Michael Phelps, “the icon of the games,” became the most decorated Olympian in history; both men's and women's USA gymnastics lost to China, nabbing medals nonetheless; and American James Blake upset Roger Federer in the tennis singles competition.

Nigeria Cedes Bakassi to Cameroon [BBC]
After a long-standing dispute over the oil rich Bakassi peninsula in Africa, Nigeria has finally handed it over to Cameroon, ending conflicts that claimed the lives of over 50 people over the past year. Although Bakassi’s population considers itself Nigerian, an international court ruled that it should belong to Cameroon. A spokesman for Cameroon said that this handover will mark the “end of the crisis.”

Pakistani PM Urges Reconciliation Too Late [New York Times]
In a last ditch attempt to stay in power, Pakistani Prime Minster Pervez Musharraf implored the country’s leaders to bury their differences and embrace reconciliation. His plea comes in the face of increasing pressure from the ruling coalition for him to step down or face charges of corruption and abuse of power. In spite of his request, Musharraf is expected to resign in the next few days to avoid charges.

Water Cooler Story:

China's Opening Ceremony SNAFUs: It turns out that the little Chinese girl who sang at the opening ceremony last Friday was actually lip-syncing. The Chinese authorities hid the real singer backstage--a la Wizard of Oz--because she was not deemed pretty enough to appear on camera as a representative of China.

In addition, some of the awesome fireworks viewers saw on TV (e.g., the footsteps leading to the stadium) were added as CGI effects. Chinese authorities claim this was because of “poor visibility” at the actual stadium. Then again, this is entertainment, folks.

More controversially, half the Chinese women's gymnastics team is allegedly underage, clearly giving it an unfair advantage over other teams (the younger you are in gymnastics the better you preform).

In more Olympic drama, a Swedish wrestler chucked his bronze medal and stormed off the podium in a hissy-fit after the judges ruled he didn't merit the gold.

And (this one is not for the faint of heart) a Hungarian weightlifter inverted his elbow during the men’s 77kg division, ending his first Olympics in agony.

Election Update:
Neo-conservative Jerome Corsi, author of the anti-John Kerry book ("Unfit for Command") that destroyed the Democrat's bid for the presidency in 2004 recently published a new anti-Obama book with the aim of crippling Obama's campaign. Much of the book's content has already been challenged as false or misleading, but it is unclear how the presumptive Democratic candidate will respond.

Regarding Obama's other "opponent," Hilary Clinton's name will be placed into nomination at the Democratic National Convention, which means her delegates will be given the chance to support her through a "roll call" vote so that she can show how many delegates she won. This a “symbolic move” that is meant to pay homage to her campaign and to soothe the tension between Clinton’s supporters and Obama.

Lastly, McCain took a tough stance against Russia this week, arguing that the US should respond harshly towards Russia's anti-democratic actions in Georgia. He even rebuked a statement Bush made in 2001 where he said Vladimir Putin was "very straightforward and trustworthy." McCain believes Bush has since reevaluated his assessment of Putin.

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