Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Europe’s nominee to be climate chief surprised car manufacturers last week by saying she thought EU policymakers might have been too soft on them when carbon-capping rules were set in 2008.
Connie Hedegaard’s forceful intervention during hearings for the European Commission raised the possibility of a renewed push by Europe to legislate car emissions if the Dane is approved by the European Parliament for the post next month.
The exisiting rules were hard-fought-over in 2008, with big European auto nations such as France, Italy and Germany arguing that a slow transition to tougher targets was necessary to protect jobs in a sector that is not only one of the EU’s biggest employers but already feeling the heat from the economic crisis.
If new emissions caps were brought in, Big Auto and its army of lobbyists would swing back into action, pitting themselves against environmentalists and industries with an interest in tighter curbs, such as car parts suppliers and aluminium producers, who promise to cut the weight of future cars.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Kamran Shafi has a column up at Dawn mocking Pakistan's old strategy of seeking "strategic depth" - the idea that in the event of war with India its military would be able to operate from Afghanistan to offset its disadvantage as a small country compared to its much bigger neighbour:
"Let us presume that the Indians are foolish enough to get distracted from educating their people, some of whom go to some of the best centres of learning in the world. Let us assume that they are idiotic enough to opt for war instead of industrialising themselves and meeting their economic growth targets which are among the highest in the world. Let us imagine that they are cretinous enough to go to war with a nuclear-armed Pakistan and effectively put an immediate and complete end to their multi-million dollar tourism industry. Let us suppose that they lose all sense, all reason, and actually attack Pakistan and cut our country into half.
Euro zone finance ministers have failed to pick the next vice president of the European Central Bank, partly because they are not sure how to do it under the European Union’s new Lisbon treaty. The treaty, which came into force in December, gives the euro area finance ministers — the Eurogroup — legal status and is supposed to simplify decision-making in the 27-nation bloc. But the 16 euro zone ministers decided to ask lawyers how to choose a successor to ECB Vice-President Lucas Papademos, delaying the decision until February, one diplomat said. Vitor Constancio and Yves Mersch, central bank chiefs of Portugal and Luxembourg respectively, are running, as is Peter Praet of Belgium’s central bank.
The problem is uncertainty about how the Eurogroup should vote under the treaty.
In fact, the Eurogroup, which met on Monday as usual on the the eve of an Ecofin meeting of all of the EU’s 27 finance ministers, and is described in the EU treaty as an informal group, cannot take formal votes. But it can probably hold informal ones.
Formal votes are held at the Ecofins, but on issues concerning the euro zone only Eurogroup ministers vote. If they do, then what majority is needed? What if you have to choose from among three, not two candidates? In theory, the Eurogroup ministers could hold a vote on what voting rules to apply. But in that case, there is also no clarity on how to vote.
Haitian-born hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean, who is leading fundraising for his earthquake-devastated homeland, rejected on Monday accusations that he had profited from his foundation but admitted mistakes were made.
The Grammy Award-winner dismissed accusations raised by The Smoking Gun website that he had made money from Yele Haiti, a charity he founded in 2005 to raise awareness of Haiti and run education, sports, arts and environment programs.
In the six days since a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, the world has responded with vast amounts of aid and promises of long-term reconstruction, something the Caribbean country’s creaking infrastructure desperately needs.
The World Bank and the United States pledged $100 million each, the United Nations promised $10 million and announced a “flash” appeal for $500 million more, and dozens of companies including Google, Microsoft and Bank of America committed $1 million a piece. Hollywood stars, rap singers and tennis champions all immediately raised money themselves or lent their support to encourage donations to the relief effort.
from Tales from the Trail:
There's something weirdly symbolic in the sight of thousands of homeless Haitians massed in a sprawling tent city bang in front of the collapsed icing-sugar white presidential palace.
They're here because it's the biggest open space in the capital, but it somehow looks like an appeal for President Rene Preval to come out and speak to his people and reassure them that he stands behind them, that together the country will get through the catastrophe caused by Tuesday's earthquake.
Four days after Tuesday's earthquake the Haitian flag that once fluttered above the National Palace still lies in a wilted heap over the toppled white ruin. In the park opposite, men and women strip to their underpants to bathe in a large fountain and scrub their clothes. The hang their laundry on the park rails.
Garbage is scattered everywhere and the smell of urine and excrement is getting worse.
Far from coming to address them, Preval is holed up in the judicial police headquarters near the airport, mumbling that he can't do much when half the government's offices are destroyed and he doesn't even have a cell phone signal.
Meanwhile, the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their homes and families have been left to fend for themselves, with no food handouts and no proper medical treatment. In many cases, they are seriously injured.
Foreign rescue workers are battling round the clock digging for survivors. But in the absence of a working government, the disaster relief teams who are supposed to be delivering food, latrines and medical supplies are still mostly dithering about sorting out logistics.
From the shambles outside the presidential palace, you wonder if anybody is in charge at all.
"The country is not working right now. It's not even eating," remarked Louis Widlyne, one of the countless people sleeping on a sheet that marks out his living quarters in the park.
A police officer called Joe was more sympathetic. He had received no orders since Tuesday's disaster, but decided on his own on Saturday that it was time to go back on the beat.
"Preval should have come and spoken to his people, but he hasn't," he said. "He is like that. It's just the kind of president he is."
Click here for more coverage of the Haiti earthquake.
from Tales from the Trail:
As a ragtag group of Haitian rescue workers tried to dig a dead man from underneath a collapsed telecoms company building in Port-au-Prince this week, the firm's owner told me how the 40-year-old security guard had been a cherished employee.
Only a short time before, Tarek el Bakri, a Lebanese businessman who lived at the top of the now perilously slanted building, had paid for the funeral of the man's grandson, so much was he part of the family. Now he was paying workers to free his corpse.
The workers yelled and squabbled about how best to get at him -- only his arm, shoulder and head were visible -- without causing the structure, which had desks sandwiched between its layers, and a car crushed underneath, to collapse further.
A water mains had burst, causing a small fountain to spray out near the dead man's head. At one point an excavator churned toward the site, but the workers waved it away.
The man had three children, el Bakri told me. He was crushed along with two cleaning staff. In all, Bakri lost 11 employees in offices across the city, as well as his own home.
He said he was the only one pushing for the bodies to be pulled out. He hadn't heard anything from city officials about what he should do. "In any other country people would gather together to help each other," he said. "Here you are on your own. Nobody cares."
When I returned a day later, the man's corpse was still there. His dark skin dustier than before. The fountain was still spurting.
I remembered then what el Bakri had told me: looters squeezed in to steal all the office computers and cell phone stocks well before anybody had tried to free the victims.
Reuters photos by Eduardo Munoz and Carlos Barria.
Click here for more stories on the Haiti earthquake disaster.
from Tales from the Trail:
Last night, I slept on the floor with the cries of the wounded searing through the night air across the hills of Port-au-Prince. Every so often, there was an outbreak of wailing and shrieking, when someone died. Sometimes, prayers were sung and chanted. We are all becoming inured to the pain - I found myself longing for earplugs.
At 5 a.m. in the morning, there was an after-shock from the earthquake, one of the strongest yet. The ground shook, sending more rubble falling off the half-destroyed Hotel Villa Creole, waking up dozens of exhausted journalists, and causing more pain to the many wounded and homeless Haitians sleeping on the street outside the hotel. The few waiters still working here served us coffee, while volunteers at the impromptu hospital on our porch tried to close gashes and keep people alive.
By midday, I had visited a dozen makeshift refugee camps where no one had received a drop of water or a bite to eat from authorities or aid agencies. I found nine mass graves outside the capital, the putrid smell of piled up corpses still hanging on my T-shirt. I saw chaos at the airport where Haitians are clamoring to get out, and the world is clamoring to get aid in.
Now, after grilled chicken at the hotel (where does it keep coming from?) it is time to step over the bodies on the porch again to go and check reports of rioting downtown and burning bodies in a nearby refugee settlement. Then, it will be back to the Villa Creole to see if the water is back on for a shower in the room I share with about a dozen colleagues. Despite the large comfortable bed, no one dares sleep there because of the after-shocks. But until the water went off, it was worth the risk for a few minutes to shower and get clean.
Yesterday, the wine and beer flowed for some during dinner, though conversation was interrupted by chilling groans from over the wall. Don't take any of that flippantly -- it is most certainly not written that way. After nearly two decades covering the trouble-spots of Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, this correspondent and most of the multitude of veteran colleagues here still find the surreal juxtapositions deeply disturbing. Everyone reacts in their own way -- some stop to help, others walk on by. But nobody is sleeping soundly, believe me.
from Tales from the Trail:
Former President Bill Clinton, who is helping to coordinate global relief for Haiti with former President George W. Bush, says the quake-stricken country could bounce back much more quickly than people might think.
Clinton told NBC's Today show that Haiti had made it onto the path to modernization when the earthquake struck on Tuesday. But he denied claims that the devastation may have set the impoverished country's development back by half a century.
By David Brunnstrom
EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner designate Olli Rehn drew inspiration from former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a hearing in the European Parliament this week.
Each prospective commissioner has to endure a three-hour grilling to check their credentials.