Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

EU “maximises its bottom-up cohesion going forward”

All institutions have their gibberish and jargon, but the European Union really does take the biscuit sometimes.

Whether it’s endless acronyms that tumble out of press officers’ mouths without the faintest irony, or stock phrases that ministers, commissioners and assorted lower-level officials just can’t stop themselves from using, the EU and its institutions have given rise to a plethora of empty or confusing verbiage.

At a briefing by the European Defence Agency on the sidelines of a meeting of European foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday — known in the lingo as a GAC/FAC — an official produced the following phrase to describe efforts to create a new security body: “We want to adopt a pragmatic, output-oriented, bottom-up approach.”

Having a “bottom-up approach” is currently de rigueur, with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now a Middle East envoy, repeatedly using the phrase in recent weeks to describe efforts to build-up Palestinian institutions and the economy. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, likes to use it regularly too.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On tipping points and Taliban talks

Photo

british soldierOne of the issues that seems to arouse the strongest emotions in the Afghan debate is the question of when the United States and its allies should engage in talks with the Taliban.  Some argued that the moment was ripe a few months ago, when both sides were finely balanced against each other and therefore both more likely to make the kind of concessions that would make negotiations possible.  It was an argument that surfaced forcefully at the London conference on Afghanistan in January. Others insisted that U.S.-led forces had to secure more gains on the battlefield first.

If you go by this survey carried out in December by Human Terrain Systems (pdf) (published this month by Danger Room) the people of Kandahar province were convinced at the end of last year of the need for negotiations: (as usual health warnings apply to any survey conducted in a conflict zone):

Thai red shirts defy crackdown with carnival-like protest

Photo

(“Red shirt” protesters dancing in the main shopping district in Bangkok. Reuters/Eric Gaillard )

THAILAND/ I saw Chewbacca last night at the red shirts barricades in Bangkok.

    The hairy Star Wars character was  standing with a couple of red shirt protesters who were directing traffic in front of their wall of truck tyres, chunks of paving stone and bamboo poles at the entrance to the business district, and the Patpong go-go bars. I was in a taxi and didn’t have a chance to ask the guy in the Wookie suit what he was doing at midnight standing between the red shirts and lines of riot police, shield and batons at ready, under a bank of spotlights shedding garish light on an other-wordly scene. The gentle hairy character doesn’t speak in the movies so maybe no explanation would have been forthcoming.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Wagah – The tragicomedy of India-Pakistan

Photo

wagah2Most people who follow South Asia have either watched the Beating the Retreat ceremony at Wagah on the India-Pakistan border on video or been there in person. The farcical and choreographed display by goose-stepping soldiers from India and Pakistan as they slam shut the gates on the border crossing is such a  staple for Western journalists that it has almost become too cliched to write about.

But having been there myself for the first time last week, after 10 years of following India and Pakistan, I can't resist throwing in my own two cents' worth.

Greece gets help, but debt quicksand is all around

Photo

After five months of struggling to stay afloat in the quicksand of a debt crisis, Greece has finally asked the European Union and the IMF to throw it a lifeline

Some might think that’s the end of it — Greece now has access to up to 45 billion euros in special funds, it can finance its deficit and refinance its debts at better rates, and speculators (who have metaphorically been stepping on Greece’s head while it thrashes around in the quicksand) have to beat a retreat.

Which companies are oiling the cogs of EU legislation?

If Europe’s lobbying register is correct, oil giants like Shell and BP are spending just a few hundred thousand euros a year on EU lobbying, sums that are dwarfed by the millions they spend across the Atlantic.

Europe’s voluntary Register of interest representatives, launched in 2008, shows that Shell and BP spent 400,000-450,000 euros each on lobbying in 2008. 

Biofuels’ green credentials called into question

Photo

Biofuels were once seen as the perfect way to make transport carbon-free, but a series of EU studies are throwing increasing doubt on the green credentials of the alternative fuel.

The latest to be released gave a preliminary assessment that biodiesel from soybeans could create four times more climate-warming emissions than conventional diesel.

from Tales from the Trail:

Senate Republicans keeping powder dry on START treaty

Photo

There appears to be no rush among Senate Republicans to finish what President Barack Obama STARTed when he signed the new arms reduction treaty recently with Russia's Dmitry Medvedev.

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/At a closed-door meeting Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans listened to arms experts and leaders in their caucus discuss the deal, a follow-on to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Luxury brands ride high in online trade dispute

Photo
The European Union’s competition regulator made an important move this week, issuing revised rules governing the sale of goods and services over the Internet in Europe.

The so-called “vertical restraints block-exemption regulation”, unveiled on Tuesday, set down new guidelines for online retailers who don’t operate a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ outlet. In doing so, it sought to resolve a debate that has been going on for years between luxury brand retailers such as Gucci and Chanel and discounters who sell big-name brands more cheaply from warehouses over the Internet.

gucci

If how quickly a company sends out a press release welcoming an EU decision is a measure of how popular that decision is, then the European Commission’s updated rules were just what luxury goods manufacturers were waiting to hear.

from MacroScope:

A “Greed Tax” on banks

Photo

The International Monetary Fund has done what it was bid by the G20  and come up with proposals for getting banks to pay for the government help they receive when they get in trouble.  You can read the actual wording here, but it comes down to this:

Cat1) A "Financial Stability Contribution" which would be pooled into a fund that would use it to help weak banks, or just go into general government revenues.

  •