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from Photographers' Blog:

Afghanistan – ten years of coverage

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Kabul, Afghanistan

By Tim Wimborne

It's now widely accepted that the latest war in Afghanistan has not gone well. As an intermittent visitor here over the past 10 years, several differences are visible to my western eyes, but I keep realising how much there still is in common with the Kabul of a decade ago.

I had not long been on staff at Reuters when I was given my first assignment in Afghanistan. That was the spring of 2004. Back then, there were perhaps more people of foot in the city and fewer cars. There were certainly not as many cell phones and Internet cafes as there are today.

Now, the country’s presidential election, which is supposed to mark the first democratic power-transfer in Afghanistan’s history, is just a few days away and heightened security ahead of the vote makes a big difference to the way Kabul looks. Security was also an issue in 2004, but the threat of violence was much less great, and I could travel outside the city without too much concern.

But other things haven't changed. Although there’s more barbed wire and a 3G service has become available, overall infrastructure problems don't appear to have reduced. As Kabul's population has boomed, the roads and water supply don't seem to have advanced at all.

from MacroScope:

ECB – stick or twist?

 

The European Central Bank meets today with emerging market disorder high on its agenda.

It’s probably  too early to force a policy move – particularly since the next set of ECB economic and inflation forecasts are due in March – but it’s an unwelcome development at a time when inflation is already uncomfortably low, dropping further to just 0.7 percent in January, way below the ECB’s target of close to but below two percent.

from India Insight:

RBI puts the brakes on the bitcoin train in India

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By Abhiram Nandakumar and Ratnika Maruvada

Enthusiasm over bitcoins has dampened in India after the country's central bank cautioned investors to be wary of using virtual currency because of the associated security, financial and legal risks.

Bitcoin, which was introduced in 2009 by a developer known as Satoshi Nakamoto (the developer's real name or names is unknown), is an online currency created by users, also called miners, by solving complicated math problems on the Internet. The currency is designed in a way that will produce 21 million coins that can be traded or, increasingly, used to buy things. (For a detailed explanation, visit bitcoin.org)

from India Insight:

India’s debit card safety rule boosts sales of payment processing firms

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Companies that help in processing card payments look set to benefit from rising demand for portable card swipe machines after the Reserve Bank of India adopted new rules to prevent fraud and enhance security.

Merchants in India usually swipe cards through a reader to generate receipts that customers sign, but the new rule, effective Dec. 1, adds another layer of security by making debit card holders enter their personal identification numbers to validate transactions via these machines, also referred to as point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

from Stories I’d like to see:

Behind a legislative triumph, Mandela memorial security, and a question for Politico

1. Behind a legislative triumph:

According to this article in the Capitol Hill newspaper the Hill, the House is poised this week to pass legislation that relates to three controversial issues: the federal budget, airport security, and funds for the military. Yet the bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 43 House members.

Does this bipartisan breakthrough signal an end to Washington gridlock? Hardly. In fact, the bill seems more like it was drafted by Saturday Night Live scriptwriters looking for a new way to make fun of Congress.

from The Great Debate:

What we learned from the BlackBerry era

BlackBerry changed the world. It made wireless email a killer app that every salesperson and traveling executive absolutely needed to have to get their work done. It gave us devices with batteries that lasted a full week, connectivity that made email feel real-time even over very slow networks, and a user experience that everyone LOVED. And, for IT departments, BlackBerry established a standard of security that protected even the most sensitive information with comprehensive policy support from a central management console.

Great email and great security were the hallmarks of the BlackBerry solution and no one else in the first decade of this millennium even came close to matching them. The term “Crackberry” became so popular to describe the addictive nature of the service that it was selected as the 2006 Word-of-the-Year by Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

from Photographers' Blog:

Tightening Croatia’s borders

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Along the Croatia border

By Antonio Bronic

Two months ago, I started working on a story about Croatia's border police preparing for the country's EU accession and trying to prevent illegal migrants from crossing into Croatia. For a media person, it is indeed rare to hang out with the police for 24 hours and I was afraid they would be stiff and uncooperative. How wrong I was. They were friendly and nice and, in the end, even took pity on my efforts to capture something dramatic on camera.

I visited three border crossings, two in the south, with Bosnia and Montenegro, and one in the east, with Serbia. I was mostly interested in finding out who were the people trying to cross the border illegally. They were mostly poor and unemployed citizens of Afghanistan, Syria and Albania, who wanted to reach rich European countries through Croatia, in hopes of finding salvation there.

from Full Focus:

Inside Siberia’s prisons

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Photographer Ilya Naymushin spent time documenting life inside Siberian prisons, including high-security male prison camp number 17, a facility outside Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk for male inmates who are serving a sentence for the first time and have been convicted for serious crimes. The prisoners work in wood and metal processing shops, manufacture furniture, sew clothes and do other kinds of work. Naymushin also documented the end of 32-year-old Boris Kovalyov's time in high-security male prison camp number 5, for men who have multiple convictions for serious crimes. Kovalyov was sentenced to eight years in a high-security prison camp for drug trafficking, but was released two and a half years early for good behaviour and participation in sports and cultural activities. Read Ilya's personal account here.

from The Human Impact:

Postcard from Brazil: A woman free in Rio, not in Delhi

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I have lived in the Indian capital for several years and, like many other women in this metropolis of 16 million, I soon learned how to deal with the lecherous stares and dirty comments, the drunken men in cars who follow my auto-rickshaw home from work at night.

I have learnt to be aggressive, to talk straight and serious when addressing male strangers, to not make eye contact, to not extend a handshake and to certainly not smile, share personal details or be friendly when dealing with men I do not know.

from Global Investing:

Amid yen weakness, some Asian winners

Asian equity markets tend to be casualties of weak yen. That has generally been the case this time too, especially for South Korea.

Data from our cousins at Lipper offers some evidence to ponder, with net outflows from Korean equity funds at close to $700 million in the first three months of the year. That's the equivalent of about 4 percent of the total assets held by those funds. The picture was more stark for Taiwan funds, for whom a similar net outflow equated to almost 10 percent of total AuM. Look more broadly though and the picture blurs; Asia ex-Japan equity funds have seen net inflows of more than $3 billion in the first three months of the year, according to Lipper data.

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