Reuters blog archive

from Edward Hadas:

A corporate abdication of corruption

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Allegations of corruption did not exactly cost King Juan Carlos the Spanish throne, but they probably played a role in his decision to abdicate. A popular desire for change was fuelled in part by claims of a 5.6 million euro fraud by his son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, who denies any wrongdoing. The resulting dynastic change may be considered a sign that corruption has become less acceptable. That would be a misreading.

Actually, it is hard to decide whether corruption is waxing or waning globally, because the concept is hard to define. A Danish anti-corruption group’s explanation captures the ambiguity: “Corruption is a broad term covering a wide range of misuse of entrusted funds and power for private gain… A corrupt act is often – but not necessarily – illegal. In handling corruption you will often face grey zones and dilemmas.”

That sounds about right, and the grey zone is large. A bribe, for example the sort of payment alleged to have contributed to Qatar’s selection as host nation for the 2022 soccer World Cup, is obviously corrupt. But what about a consulting arrangement that channels a substantial portion of the revenue from an oil well to someone with excellent political connections? In the country with the oil, such payments can be perfectly legal and socially accepted remuneration for services rendered. Outsiders see a corrupt power and business elite.

from Breakingviews:

Britain’s monarchy-fest shows power of sentiment

By Robert Cole

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

On Sunday, access to the banks of the river that runs through London had to be closed four or five hours before anything actually happened. Half a mile down the Thames, at a location boasting nothing better than a squinting view of some boats and no chance of seeing Britain’s queen, people lined up fifteen deep. It was cold. And very wet. Why were people there, in such huge numbers? And why, a distance away, did an 86-year-old woman and her 90-year-old husband stand shivering in the rain for what must have seemed like an eternity? Because people do not always make logical decisions.
The nineteenth-century Scottish writer Charles McKay observed that extraordinarily popular delusions can drive people to bouts of madness and markets to extreme bubbles. In fact, London’s jubilee crowds did not take leave of their senses completely. The celebrations were, for the most part, free at the point of receipt. And as any supermarket manager will attest, customers love a giveaway. Moreover the celebrations came with an extra holiday. It is logical, surely, for people to express appreciation for that if only in the hope the gesture is repeated. Britain’s royal family, among others, might also point to the importance of public service. They might have you believe that duty, rather than money, motivates them.

from Breakingviews:

UK could sacrifice its jubilee queen to Europe

By Edward Hadas
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The postal address of Queen Elizabeth II is simply “Her Majesty The Queen”. It doesn’t say what she’s queen of. As a gift for her 60th anniversary on the throne, why not extend her realm by making her Queen Elizabeth of Europe?

from The Great Debate:

Is America tipping toward a British system of government?

Sixty years ago in London, Queen Elizabeth was crowned in succession to her father, the now famously stammering chain-smoker George VI. For most Brits the queen’s Diamond Jubilee is a chance to celebrate her reign with street parties, fireworks, concerts, and pageants along the Thames. They will be toasting the woman who has so far presided over 12 prime ministers, including perhaps the greatest of them all, Winston Churchill.

It is a mark of Elizabeth’s benign demeanor and quiet charm that she will be celebrated not only in the 54 member states of the Commonwealth, the independent nations that were Britain’s former colonies and dominions, but around the world, too. Few countries do pomp as well as the Brits, as the weddings of Prince William to Kate and Prince Charles to Diana attest. But not all Americans, when they watch the Jubilee, will  grasp the true role of the queen.

from Andrew Marshall:

Fishy Facebook tales in Thailand

Tilapia fish lies in an ice bucket at factory in Phetchburi province, 135 kms south of Bangkok REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Thailand has the strictest lèse majesté laws in the world. As a result, the full story of the country's dramatic political conflict and the likely upheavals to come cannot be told in public.

As David Streckfuss writes in Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason and Lèse Majesté:

from Andrew Marshall:

Bahrain’s king still standing against the tide


The New York Times reports from Bahrain where beleaguered King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has called in troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia to help crack down on peaceful protests by the island state's Shi'ite majority demanding more rights and greater equality:

With Saudi troops now in the country to support King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Bahrain has taken on the likeness of a police state. There have been mass arrests, mass firings of government workers, reports of torture and, on Sunday, the forced resignation of the top editor of the nation’s one independent newspaper.

from Royal Wedding Diary:

Getting a piece of the royals

Royals7.jpgEveryone, it seems, wants a piece of the royals. From Kate Middleton's dress to the estate of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, people are tripping over themselves to get hold of something with an association to the monarchy.

The most extreme example was probably the 65,000 pounds/$105,000 (plus a 13,000-pound commission) paid out by an unidentified buyer from Jersey for a see-through, black mesh slip dress designed by Charlotte Todd and worn by royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton at a charity fashion event in 2002. The significance of the racy item is that it is widely believed to have convinced Prince William, who was in the audience on that day, that Middleton was the one for him. The couple are to marry in Westminster Abbey on April 29.

from Fan Fare:

What’s wrong with a royal knees up?

BRITAIN-WILLIAM/I'm looking forward to the April 29th wedding of Prince William to his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton as a chance to celebrate some of the good things about Britain.

People on my street and the street next to it are considering clubbing together for a street party on one or the other, my seven-year-old is learning a little bit about the political make-up of the country where he was born and a Friday off work in spring in a country that's pretty miserly with the public holidays can't be too bad of a thing.

from Royal Wedding Diary:

Royal “guess” list sets tongues wagging

Royals2.jpgFor royal wedding guest list, read guess list.

Palace officials refuse to say exactly who has been invited to the big occasion on April 29, but that has not prevented royal pundits from filling their alloted column inches with creative conjecture, and then another army of commentators pitching in with what they think about those believed to be attending.

If you want to be on-message, then the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton are not about celebrity, but more a reflection of a surprisingly ordinary young couple. Well, if it is normal, that is, to count among your friends the likes of David and Victoria Beckham, who are expected to attend.

from FaithWorld:

Saudi national day reflects monarchy’s growing clout against clerics

abdullah (Photo: King Abdullah on a visit to Jordan, July 30, 2010/Muhammad Hamed)

Saudi authorities are taking greater liberty in celebrating the modern monarchy’s anniversary, a sign of their growing clout against clerics who have criticized holidays outside of the Islamic calendar.

Present ruler King Abdullah, 86, emphasised his push to reform the deeply conservative country upon taking power in 2005 by decreeing September 23 as an official holiday marking the kingdom’s unification led by founder King Abdul-Aziz and an army of ultra-conservative followers.