Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Merkel smiles through pre-election jitters

Photo

Pressure? What Pressure?

That was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s message during a 90-minute grilling in Berlin by journalists at her last major news conference before the Sept. 27 election. Even though opinion polls show a narrowing in her re-election campaign and amid a growing nervousness in her conservative party, Merkel was a picture of tranquillity.

Although some of her conservative party allies are pushing for her to raise the volume and intensity of what has been an exceedingly cautious campaign, Merkel made it abundantly clear that she is not at all worried. Perhaps it was all a good bit of acting. But she answered even the most surly of questions from the pack of 100 journalists with a nationwide TV audience watching with smiles and jokes along with the usual assortment of evasive answers.

Like she has so often in the last four years, Merkel managed to find a shimmer of optimism in just about every query hurled her way. She turned each question about opinion polls showing the lead of her preferred centre-right alliance narrowing upside down by pointing out the centre-right still has a lead.

“The opinion polls are quite encouraging for us,” Merkel said even though the centre-right’s lead over a trio of left-leaning parties has shrunk to just two points in two polls and disappeared into a dead heat in a third. Two weeks ago, the centre-right had a six- to eight-point lead in those same polls over the Social Democrats, Greens and Left party. Four years ago, Merkel’s centre-right alliance also had a big lead before the election that evaporated on election day. The conservatives are particularly nervous after having seen their support plunge in the final days of the last two campaigns in 2002 and 2005.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The missile shield and the “grand bargain” on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Back in 2008, even before Barack Obama was elected, Washington pundits were urging him to adopt a new regional approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan involving Russia, India, China, Saudi Arabia and even Iran. The basic argument was that more troops alone would not solve the problems, and that the new U.S administration needed to subsume other foreign policy goals to the interests of winning a regional consensus on stabilising Afghanistan.

It would be simplistic to suggest that the Obama administration's decision to cancel plans to build a missile-shield in eastern Europe was motivated purely -- or even primarily -- by a need to seek Russian help in Afghanistan. But it certainly serves as a powerful reminder about how far that need to seek a "grand bargain" on Afghanistan may be reshaping and influencing policy decisions around the world.

from Maggie Fox:

Where scientists go to learn about swine flu

Usually, at a forum on swine flu, all the experts stand up, present a bunch of general background material, a few new findings, and leave. The learning curve on H1N1 is so steep that by the time you fill in the background, you are out of time, and there's no point in hearing the next presenter speak to a general audience

But this week's Institute of Medicine  meeting was different. Epidemiologists - the people who specialize in how disease spreads - were talking to molecular geneticists. Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organization filled in the bench scientists on how negotiating to get vaccines and drugs for poor countries was taking up everyone's valuable time. Veterans of the 1976 swine flu vaccine mess told their stories. Every scientist sat there raptly listening to the other's presentations. Much of the material had not yet gone through the time consuming peer-review process needed for publication in a medical journal, so it was a little raw, but that much more useful and timely to an educated audience.

from Commentaries:

Shelved missile shield tests NATO unity

foghAfter just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.

In search of Russia

Photo

President Dmitry Medvedev’s conference on the modern state and global security this week was an object lesson in efficiency and organisation. Four hours north east of Moscow in the ancient city of Yaroslavl, security was tight but not overbearing, hundreds of Moscow and Saint Petersburg students guided guests to their hotels and waited tables with exquisite fish, caviar, pastries, vegetables and fruit in a marquee beside the conference hall.

Russia was showing the face of a modern state with a global role.

Escaping the speeches for a view of Yaroslavl’s medieval Kremlin and onion-domed churches and monasteries, a few of us set off down the road from the conference centre in search of a taxi to drive us into town. The modern conference grounds quickly gave way to small wooden kiosks selling ‘products’, ‘vegetables’ – no brand names here.

Less content, more Merkel in campaign posters

Photo

With two weeks to go before Germany holds an election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have unveiled a new set of election posters, depicting Merkel, Merkel, and more Merkel.

Rather than campaigning on the issues highlighted in their election programmes, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) are keeping it simple and hoping to capitalise instead on the popularity of their leader, Germany’s first female chancellor.

from Tales from the Trail:

Is Chavez helping Iran build the bomb?

IRAN/

Veteran Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau is on Hugo Chavez's case.

Morgenthau warned last week at Washington's Brookings Institution that Iran is using Venezuela's financial system to avoid international sanctions so it can acquire materials to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.  He urged more scrutiny of the "emerging axis of Iran and Venezuela" in an op/ed article in the Wall Street Journal, in which he said a number of mysterious Iranian factories had sprung up in remote parts of Venezuela.

Chavez's man in Washington, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, called the allegations "outrageous ... unfounded and irresponsible" in a letter to the district attorney seen by Reuters.

German election TV debate: Live 2

Photo
10:45 p.m. – My colleagues Madeline Chambers and Noah Barkin have been busy filing updates on the debate. Here is the start of their latest story: BERLIN, Sept 13 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier clashed in a TV debate on Sunday over tax cuts, manager pay and nuclear energy two weeks before an election in Europe’s biggest economy. Steinmeier, whose SPD trails Merkel’s conservatives in opinion polls, went on the attack at the outset, criticising the chancellor for resisting a minimum wage and limits on manager salaries. Merkel parried the attacks of Steinmeier, who has served as her foreign minister for the past four years in Berlin’s “grand coalition”, defending her record but largely steering clear of direct confrontation.
10:30 - ZDF has just published the results of a quick poll of 1,129 viewers: 31 percent said Steinmeier had the upper hand while 28 percent Merkel came out better with 40 percent saying “no difference.” The poll by the Electoral Research Group also found Merkel’s big lead melting among voters after the debate when asked “Who would you rather have as chancellor?” Merkel got 64 percent before the debate but only 55 percent after it while Steinmeier was preferred by 29 percent before the debate and 38 percent after the debate.That is quite a quite a shift. ”This debate marked the start of the hunt for the ‘undecideds’,” said Matthias Jung, head of the polling institute.

10:20 p.m. - My colleagues Dave Graham and Sarah Marsh have been busily keeping track of the debate highlights. Here is their report. 10:02 p.m. – It doesn’t take long for the spin doctors to pop up on the airwaves on all four networks. I’ve been watching public broadcaster ZDF. They’ve got the editor of the left-leaning Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Heribert Prantl, and he says somewhat predictably that Steinmeier won while Helmut Markwort, editor of the right-leaning Focus newsweekly, calls it a draw. “Steinmeier was surprisingly strong,” says Prantl. “I didn’t think he had that in him. He came out of the defensive and went on the attack from the start. Merkel didn’t find her form until towards the end.” Markwort disagrees: “It was a clear draw. They will have galvanised their own supporters. It was relatively lively. I didn’t expect them to go after each other like that.”

9:58 p.m.- Merkel has also obviously rehearsed her closing speech-let. She gets all those terms in that conservatives want to hear: family, children, parents, grandparents, education and “ensuring jobs.” After a rousing debate, Merkel is back in her “feel-good” campaign-speech mode now: vague. “Together we can accomplish a lot,” she says.

German election TV debate: Live

Photo
9:15 p.m. - The whole country has come to a standstill for this debate, it seems. It’s like during the World Cup soccer tournament — with “public viewing” arenas like this one in Berlin set up from The Black Forest to the Baltic. 9:00 p.m. - The sparks are flying here in the first half hour. The four interrogators, network heavyweights, are grilling both Merkel and Steinmeier and there’ s an unexpectedly good discussion going on here without a lot of long speeches. They’re debating about Opel right now — who deserves credit for saving the carmaker. Steinmeier said it would be “Mausetot” (dead as a mouse) if it had been up to Merkel and a centre-right government. Merkel counters — nonsense.

 

Germany’s Greens trade in woolly sweaters for business suits

Photo

Having traded in their woolly sweaters, jeans and sandals for dapper suits and shiny shoes, Germany’s Greens are ready for business, claiming that to be the “party that truly knows its economics”.

The world’s most successful environmental party is eager to get back into power at the federal election on Sept. 27 after a first stint in coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) from 1998 to 2005.

  •