Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Central Europe; a safe harbour in the financial storm

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euro.jpgIf being in the European Union were ever controversial in central Europe, the current financial turmoil may be delivering the ultimate proof that it was worth it.

While markets plunged in Russia and Turkey, the emerging markets of central Europe saw only muted reaction (some of their currencies are actually up on the year) largely because their EU status guarantees them access to easy money from the bloc.

“Convergence” — a gradual process of approaching the euro zone — provides priceless insurance, a point Austrian central bank head Ewald Novotny made this week.

“I think that, with some finessing, it (relatively good performance of central Europe) could be linked with the stability and investor confidence in the region due to their EU
membership and obligation to join the euro,” he said in the Slovak capital Bratislava.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Kashmir trade: glimmer of hope or false dawn?

In the aftermath of the deadly hotel bombing in Islamabad, amidst fresh tensions with the United States over  helicopter intrusions in Pakistan's northwest, and in spite of reports of fresh cross-border firing in Kashmir, negotiators from India and Pakistan met in New Delhi and agreed to open trade across Kashmir. There could hardly have been a more unlikely time for the two countries to agree to crack open one of the world's most militarised frontiers, where a ceasefire which has more or less held since 2003 is beginning to fray at the edges.

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To be sure, the neighbours have a passenger bus service twice a month that links the two parts of Kashmir under their control, but it is heavily restricted and travellers are subject to all sorts of clearances before they can get anywhere near it.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan: firing reported on Indian and Afghan borders

Just two days after a suicide bomb attack on the Marriott killed 53 people in the heart of Islamabad, there were reports of trouble both on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and on the Line of Control with India.  

File photo of Indian bunkerOn the Afghan border, Pakistani troops fired on two U.S. helicopters that intruded into Pakistani airspace on Sunday night, forcing them to turn back to Afghanistan, according to a senior Pakistani security official.  On the Indian side, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire across the Line of Control dividing Kashmir, in the latest breach of a ceasefire agreed in 2003. And as if that was not enough, Afghanistan's top diplomat was kidnapped in Peshawar.

“I told you so!” Merkel tells U.S., Britain

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech to members of her conservative Christian Democrats in Berlin, September 22, 2008. Wage gains in Germany have been moderate in recent years, and this will likely remain the case, Merkel said on Monday. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a clear “I told you so!” to the United States and Britain at the weekend, criticising them in unusually frank terms for resisting measures that might have contained the current financial crisis. The conservative leader of Europe’s largest economy reminded her partners that she had pushed for steps to boost the transparency of hedge funds during Germany’s presidency of the Group of Eight last year. ”We got things moving, but we didn’t get enough support, especially in the United States and Britain,” she told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper. Merkel expanded on her point in a speech in Austria, suggesting that both Washington and London were only now coming around to her view.

“It was said for a long time ‘Let the markets take care of themselves’ and that there is ‘no need for more transparency’…Today we are a step further because even America and Britain are saying ‘Yes, we need more transparency, we need better standards for the ratings agencies’.

Should South Africa’s ANC split?

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Supporters of Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa’s ruling ANC, chant slogans at the Pietermaritzburg high court outside Durban, August 5, 2008. Zuma appeared in court in a bid to win the dismissal of a graft case that could wreck his chances of becoming the nation’s president next year. REUTERS/Siphiwe SibekoThe African National Congress faces the biggest internal crisis of its history after the decision to oust President Thabo Mbeki following suggestions of official interference in the corruption case against his rival, party leader Jacob Zuma.

South Africa’s ruling party has stressed that the decision of the executive was unanimous. Mbeki’s resignation speech also made clear he was not planning to fight.

The new Iraq invasion: tacky, boring design

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atlantis-in-dubai.jpgHaving escaped the plastic camels and plasterboard Islamic arches of the Gulf’s mostly soulless hotels and malls, my heart sank when I saw plans for “new Najaf”, to be built next to the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf in southern Iraq.

Here in a computer generated mock-up were the glitzy but anonymous tower-blocks that have mushroomed all over the Gulf, the sterile malls and boxy hotels that I thought I had left behind after two years of living there.

Tzipi Livni as Israel’s next Golda Meir? Well, not so fast.

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Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi LivniTzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, put some deep cracks in the macho Mediterranean country’s glass ceiling with her victory — albeit a narrow one — over former general Shaul Mofaz in Wednesday’s Kadima party leadership election.  But no sooner had she moved a step closer to becoming Israel’s first woman prime minister since the legendary Golda Meir in the 1970s, than two former members of the vaunted Sayeret Matkal commando unit got together for a strategy session.    

Ehud Barak, whose Labour Party is a key member of the Kadima-led coalition government, and Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the right-wing opposition Likud, met on Saturday to discuss their next moves in Israel’s political turmoil.

Are U.S. troops learning from cultural blunders in Iraq?

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U.S. soldiers patrol a road in Mosul“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave that bottle of water in the vehicle,” Captain Adam Canon told me as I got out of the Humvee. We were about to meet some Iraqi army officers in the northern city of Mosul, one of Iraq’s insurgent hotspots. “It’s because it’s Ramadan. The men we’re about to meet haven’t had anything to drink in this heat the whole day and there’s still three hours to go.”

I was embarrassed not to have thought of it myself, but I was also encouraged: U.S. troops have often been accused of failing to understand Iraq’s cultural landscape.

Trotsky in the night

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trotski.jpgI’d almost forgotten he was there, in my home. Then came the global economic crisis with its visions of apocalypse, and he caught my eye again, this fiery orator, this ruthless revolutionary killer, the scourge of global capitalism.

His is the first face — hornrimmed glasses, goatee beard — guests might see as I usher them into my living room. My treasured, framed photograph of Lev Davidovich Trotsky
posing like some uneasy tourist, cap in hand, before a spreading palm tree in Sochi, commands pride of place. Not that I admire the man.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Huge bomb hits heart of Islamabad

Scene of destruction outside Marriott Hotel

A suicide truck bomber hit the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Saturday, killing at least 40 people, wounding nearly 250 and starting a huge fire.

The explosion came hours after President Asif Ali Zardari made his first address to parliament a few hundred metres away, calling for terrorism to be rooted out.

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