Reuters blog archive
Dramatic twist in the Ukraine saga last night with a conversation between a State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine posted on YouTube which appeared to show the official, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, deliberating on the make-up of the next government in Kiev.
That led to a furious tit-for-tat with Moscow accusing Washington of planning a coup and the United States in turn saying Russia had leaked the video, which carried subtitles in Russian. A Kremlin aide said Moscow might block U.S. "interference" in Kiev.
Nuland is due to give a news conference today after her visit to Kiev.
Vladimir Putin is likely to meet Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in Sochi as the Winter Olympics get underway. It could be awkward for Yanukovich’s opponents if they look like western pawns.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's central bank has introduced restrictions on certain types of foreign exchange purchase to help stabilize the financial system.
from Photographers' Blog:
By Jonathan Ernst
One of the great things about Washington is historic Capitol Hill, where there’s a lot of life beyond the headlines and punch lines about the U.S. Congress. I like to describe it as a small town attached to the city. We know our neighbors. We walk our dogs.
Sure, our neighbors include senators and congressmen, and every once in a while at the grocery store you’ll find yourself in line behind a woman who happens to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services holding the bouquet of flowers she’s picked out, or a guy who happens to be the director of the CIA as he’s making a selection at the olive bar. But at that moment, they’re just neighbors. They probably walk their dogs too. While a security detail in a large black SUV watches from a discreet distance.
A two-day EU summit kicks off in Brussels hamstrung by the lack of a German government.
Officials in Berlin say they want to reach a common position on a mechanism for restructuring or winding up failing banks by the end of the year but with an entire policy slate to be thrashed out and the centre-left SPD saying the aim is to form a new German administration with Angela Merkel’s CDU by Christmas, time is very tight.
from Ian Bremmer:
When I write about our new G-Zero world, I am describing an international phenomenon: a global environment in which no power or group of powers can sustainably set an international agenda. The global community, used to orienting itself around a collection of U.S.-led powers, has fallen victim to a widening leadership vacuum, what with the United States disengaging from foreign affairs and Europe too busy with its own crisis. Emerging powers like China have grown large enough to undermine a Western-led global agenda -- but not yet developed enough to prioritize their own international role over their domestic concerns.
Every major power is too busy watching out for its own needs to focus on the bigger picture. As a result, the international community has been unable to make any progress on pressing crises like global warming, a civil war in Syria, or the rise of cyber warfare. A vacuum of leadership has led to a dearth of mutually beneficial planning.
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During the recent round of financial crises, policymakers have done a whole lot of “kicking the can down the road”.
The latest is taking place in the United States where a fiscal stalemate between Republicans and Democrats has forced the first partial government shutdown in 17 years. It has also raised concerns about a U.S. debt default, should the government not meet a deadline this week of raising the debt ceiling. That has kept short-term U.S. interest rates and the cost of insuring U.S. debt against default relatively elevated.
from Photographers' Blog:
By Jim Bourg
When reports of “shots fired” came in from multiple locations on Washington’s Capitol Hill on October 3, I dispatched Reuters Washington photographers in force, with four staff photographers and two contract photographers racing towards the scene within minutes of the shots being fired. Early on it was unclear how big the incident was and whether the Capitol was in fact under attack, and we were taking no chances if this might become a huge world news event. But in this day of ever present camera phones, and with so many members of the public carrying cameras, unless a news photographer is lucky enough to be right on the scene when spot news happens, there is always someone else who was there shooting pictures first.
Staff photographer Larry Downing was one of the first Reuters photographers on the scene at the Capitol Hill shooting. While Larry was shooting pictures, and as I remotely edited his pictures from the Reuters Washington bureau over a cellular data card connected to his laptop, a young freelance photographer named Alexander Morozov walked up and started asking questions, expressing his interest in becoming a professional news photographer.
Here are comments from a U.S. Treasury official on Secretary Jack Lew’s meeting with incoming Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel this morning, following a scandal of political targeting that cost the previous acting commissioner his job. Treasury officials knew about the problem as early as last June, according to this report in the Wall Street Journal:
Secretary Lew met with incoming Acting IRS Commissioner Werfel this morning and directed him to conduct a thorough review of the organization in an effort to restore public confidence in the IRS and ensure the organization is providing excellent and unbiased service to the taxpayer. Secretary Lew also requested that he take actions immediately as appropriate, and that within the next 30 days, Werfel report back to the President and him about progress made in three areas: 1) ensuring staff that acted inappropriately are held accountable 2) examine and correct any failures in the system that allowed this behavior to happen and 3) take a forward-looking systemic view at the agency’s organization.
By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Financiers typically turn away fees as willingly as dogs give up steaks. But Wall Street banks are leery of financing bids for gun maker Freedom Group for fear of damaging their reputations. Making assault rifles, it turns out, has joined pornography on the list of activities with risks that money can’t hide.
Massachusetts' rookie Senator Elizabeth Warren was out making waves again at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill today. The former Harvard law professor contrasted the legal code affecting drug prosecutions with what she depicted as cushy settlements for large Wall Street firms that committed egregious crimes.
Take Standard Chartered. They were fined $667 million by U.S. regulators for breaching sanctions related to Iran and three other countries. Yet the bank posted a tenth straight year of record profits.
Despite the Obama administration's cataclysmic warnings about the effects of $85 billion in looming spending cuts known as the "sequester," chances are the lights will not go out when they kick in this weekend. Still, the economic impact could be significant. The cutbacks might shave a half percentage point or more from an economy that is forecast to grow around 2 percent this year -- but which only mustered a 0.1 percent increase in annualized fourth quarter GDP. This, at a time when a similar austerity-driven approach has left much of Europe mired in recession.
Both the public and the markets seem to be taking Washington's latest war of words in stride. After all, people are becoming inured to the regularly scheduled fiscal crises that have become a part of the capital's landscape. But the sequester's most frightening potential consequence is much broader than its near-term economic ripples. The real danger is that, with every new episode of political theater over the budget, America's credibility as a serious, trustworthy nation is eroded. The concept of political risk, once reserved for banana republics in the developing world, is now very much alive in the United States. And that is one liberty a debtor nation cannot afford to take.