Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
It’s been nearly a century since the United States began its experiment in prohibiting recreational drugs besides alcohol, caffeine and tobacco -- and virtually no one sees the trillion dollar policy as a success. A recent study [PDF] shows that drug prices have dropped more than 80 percent in the last two decades alone; purity and availability has risen; and overall addiction and death rates haven’t been cut, despite an exponential increase in incarceration since the 1980s.
Even the hardline U.N. drug czar admitted in the annual World Narcotics Report [PDF] that “the international drug control system is floundering,” citing specifically its inability to match the speed and creativity of Internet-enabled chemists who create and distribute new legal highs like “bath salts” and “fake marijuana” faster than governments can ban them.
But one country is trying a new approach. For the first time in history, New Zealand has created a regulatory body to oversee recreational drugs. Passed by parliament this summer on a vote of 119 to 1, the legislation has already granted interim approval to over 50 products with names like “Dr. Feelgood,” “4:20,” and “Everest Tibetan Toot.”
The world should closely watch what happens next. If implemented carefully, New Zealand’s new laws offer the first genuinely scientific and public health-oriented approach to dealing with the negative aspects of humanity’s eternal quest for consciousness alteration. Anthropology tells us that getting high is universal -- no culture, no matter how remote, lacks chemical experimentation.
By Peter Thal Larsen
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
New Zealand’s dairy scare has exposed its dependence on milk. A warning about contaminated products at Fonterra, the country’s largest producer, has triggered recalls and temporary import bans around the world. The immediate fallout may be limited. But it’s a reminder that, with milk generating a quarter of its exports, New Zealand remains vulnerable to food scares.
The buzz on who will replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman has grown this year and amplified recently with talk of Lawrence Summers as a real possibility. There is also lingering speculation over Timothy Geithner, another previous U.S. Treasury Secretary, and former Fed Vice Chair Roger Ferguson among others as possible successors. Bernanke has provided no hint he wants to stay for a third term.
But above the din the central bank's current vice chair, Janet Yellen, has remained the front-runner. Her deep experience and implicit policy continuity has crowned her the heir apparent until proven otherwise. A Reuters poll of economists showed Yellen was seen as far and away the most likely candidate.
By Andy Mukherjee
(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)
New Zealand’s overvalued kiwi dollar is testing its central bank’s single-minded devotion to price stability. The country, the first in the world to formally adopt inflation targeting as a monetary policy tool in 1990, is struggling to defend the regime following the four-year, 65 percent rise in the local dollar against the US currency.
Piracy means never having to say you're sorry.
That might as well be the mantra of Kim Schmitz, better known as Kim Dotcom, the most flamboyant internet character this side of John McAfee.
For those who've missed this story so far, until about a year ago Kim Dotcom ran a wildly popular site called Megaupload from his New Zealand mansion. Megaupload allowed people to upload massive files – you know, like movies and TV shows the uploaders don't own and don't have the right to share. Which probably explains both the site's wild popularity, and the Justice Department’s prosecutorial zeal.
from Global Investing:
Good news for Europe as the cost for insuring sovereign debt against default fell in the third quarter of 2012, according to the CMA Global Sovereign Credit Risk report.
Ireland slipped out of the 10 most risky sovereigns for the first time since the first quarter of 2010 according to CMA, making space for Lebanon to enter the club of the world's ten most risky sovereign debt issuers.
from Global Investing:
Lucky Australia. In a world of slowing economic growth its central bank today raised forecasts for 2012 GDP growth by a half point to 3.5 percent. That's down to a mining boom, driven of course by China. But there's a downside. Australia's currency, the dollar (or affectionately, the Aussie), has steadily risen in recent years, and is up 3 percent versus the U.S. dollar this year. Unsurprisingly, the Reserve Bank of Australia tempered its good news on growth with a warning over the Aussie's gains.
Analysts at Credit Agricole note that the Aussie's gains this year have come in tandem with a rise in Japan's yen. That in itself would have been highly unusual in the past: the yen is a so-called safe haven, the currency investors run to when all else is selling off, while the Aussie is a commodity currency, one that does well when world growth is looking good and risk appetite is high. CA analysts explain thus:
from Global Investing:
Japanese mom-and-pop investors' penchant for seeking high-yield investments overseas is well known. Mrs Watanabe (as the canny player of currency and exchange rate arbitrage has come to be known) invests billions of yen overseas every year via so-called uridashi bonds, debt denominated in currencies with high yields. Data shows the lira has suddenly become the red-hot favourite with uridashi investors this year.
In a note entitled Welcome Mrs Watanabe, Barclays analysts estimate $2 billion in lira-based uridashi issuance this year, ahead of old favourite, the Australian dollar.
from Stories I’d like to see:
Is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano completely on the sidelines? And has she not gotten the memo about limiting government travel? How else to explain that on May 2 she began a trip to New Zealand and Australia? May 2 was the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, when we were supposedly on high alert for possible al Qaeda attacks; and it was also when the prostitution scandal involving the Secret Service – which is part of Napolitano’s department – was raging. A Department of Homeland Security press release described the trip this way:
In Wellington [New Zealand], Secretary Napolitano will meet with Prime Minister John Key, and participate in bilateral meetings with New Zealand counterparts to discuss a variety of issues including information sharing, combating transnational crime and human trafficking.
from Photographers' Blog:
By Bogdan Cristel
After 40 hours of flying Bucharest - Amsterdam - Beijing - Auckland, I arrived in New Zealand; my first time in the Southern Hemisphere.
The first nice surprise here was that both my check-in pieces of luggage arrived on the same flight (I expected it to take a week and to be on the safe side packed a toothbrush in my hand luggage).