Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Angela Merkel’s “read my lips” moment


    Angela Merkel has already abandoned plans to pursue billions of euros in tax cuts next year — the central policy pledge of her 2009 election campaign and main plank of her 7-month-old coalition agreement with the Free Democrats.

    But now her uneasy government looks ready to go one step further and raise value-added tax on certain products which benefit from a reduced rate to help it consolidate the budget.

    This is what Merkel had to say about such a move in an interview with N24 television in June 2009, in the midst of the election campaign: “There is absolutely no need to worry about that, it won’t happen. In the midst of an economic crisis it is absurd to even discuss these questions.”

    She told top-selling daily Bild that same week: “With me, there will be no increase in the next legislative period, neither of the full, nor of the reduced rate of value-added tax.”

Colombia’s Santos vs Mockus – Who will be the next president?

Colombia’s presidential electiCOLOMBIA-ELECTIONS/on had been painted like an establishment versus anti-establishment contest between Juan Manuel Santos – a former government minister and son of a wealthy family – and Antanas Mockus, who once dressed up as a superhero while mayor of Bogota and sent mimes into the streets to shame residents into obeying the laws. With a strong party machinery and the rural popularity of President Alvaro Uribe, Santos cruised to victory on Sunday when nearly 15 million Colombians caste their ballots, 47 percent for Santos – not enough to bypass a June 20 run-off but enough to send a strong signal of support for the former defense and finance minister. Opinion polls in the lead up to the vote showed Mockus and Santos deadlocked with no clear winner; the surveys said the same thing about the second round in June. But looking at a map of who won each province, Colombia is orange – the color of Santos. Only a single province was colored green for Mockus, trapped in the ginger sea. Alliances will be key for the run-off, but after securing only a fifth of votes, Mockus might find himself all but friendless. How would the country be different if Santos won versus if Mockus were elected?

Holiday in the “axis of evil”


This article by Stephen Kinzer originally appeared in GlobalPost.

YAZD, Iran —“You are American?” a surprised Iranian asked me as I sat down near him in a restaurant famous for eggplant and pomegranate stews. “How did you get a visa?”

Ever since 2002, when U.S. President George W. Bush named Iran a member of the world’s anti-American “Axis of Evil” — or perhaps since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the searing hostage crisis that followed — the idea that American tourists would visit Iran has seemed to border on the bizarre. Yet an adventurous few do come, and most find a welcome far beyond what they had imagined.

from MacroScope:

Spend Save Man Woman

Far from being lauded as a virtue, China's high savings rate has been blamed for the economic imbalances underlying the global financial crisis. The criticism being that the Chinese spend too little and rely too much on exporting to Western consumers.

The IMF and World Bank have long called for Beijing to ramp up social spending so its citizens will feel less need to save for a rainy day and instead consume more.

Japan prime ministers haunted by ever-present media


Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a news conference on April 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)

JAPAN-POLITICS/It’s not unusual for a politician whose popularity has slumped to want to avoid the media. But for Japan’s premiers it’s not just a question of keeping critical newspaper editorials out of sight.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Between golf and war, Pakistan’s General Kayani’s future is debated

kayani profileThe Pakistan Army prides itself on being an institution which rises above politics and personal ambition, committed to defend the interests of the nation. That this has not always been the case is demonstrated by its history of military coups, and a tendency of past military rulers, from General Zia ul-Haq to former president Pervez Musharraf, to impose a very personal brand of leadership.  Where Zia pushed Pakistan towards hardline Islam, Musharraf aimed at "enlightened moderation" in a country he wanted modelled more on Turkey than on Saudi Arabia.

While no one expects the military to launch another coup, some of that historical memory is feeding into increasingly intense speculation about the future of Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is due to retire in November.

EU squabbles feed market frenzy

Jose Manuel Barroso

Jose Manuel Barroso

  The European Union can rarely have been more in need of a
show of unity than now, as it tries to convince financial
markets it can handle the euro zone’s debt crisis.

    Hardly a day goes by without a European leader underlining
the need to act together, but hardly a day passes without signs of
differences among them that undermine the impression of unity.

Deal or no deal for Iran?


In broad terms Iran seems to have done what world powers urged it to do months ago and accepted a plan to part with some of its nuclear material. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listens to a reporter's questions during a news conference in New York, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listens to a reporter’s questions during a news conference in New York, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Under the proposal, agreed with Turkey and Brazil last week, Iran would transfer over one tonne of low-enriched uranium – enough for an atomic bomb if enriched to higher levels — to Turkey to be put under the watch of U.N. inspectors.

The Fire Next Time in Thailand


(Thai firefighters douse the Central World shopping mall building that was set on fire by anti-government “red shirt” protesters in Bangkok May 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)

THAILAND/We were walking down Sukhumvit road in downtown Bangkok just after the 9 p.m. curfew  –  down the MIDDLE of a road that on any other Friday night would have been filled with honking vehicles,  hawkers, tourists and touts. We were escorting a colleague home from the temporary newsroom in that Reuters had set up at the Westin Hotel after we were chased out of our office near the red shirt encampment in central Bangkok. Not a creature was stirring. But what was that sound we kept hearing? Squeak, squeak, squeak.Then we saw them. Rats. Thousands of them.  Scurrying along in packs on the sidewalks, the streets, the closed-down Skytrain overhead, at the entrances to shuttered shops, around piles of garbage that had mounted in the Thai capital since the May 19th riots. It was like a movie about an urban apocalyptic event where humans are wiped out and the vermin are triumphant.

Tax evasion becomes extreme sport in Greece


By Dina Kyriakidou

GREECE-TOURISM/In Greece, hiding a little from the taxman is considered good sport, so the government, struggling with a debt crisis is shaking international markets, is firing every weapon in its arsenal to crack down on rampant tax evasion.

A snapshot of the Greek capital’s northern suburbs, where the Athenian nouveau riche have built big swimming pools as status symbols, revealed about half of them had not been declared to tax authorities.