Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from UK News:

From Celtic Tiger to road kill: Ireland’s rapid economic descent

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How the mighty have fallen. When I lived in Ireland five years ago, the country had a spring in its step. Its property magnates were snapping up prime real estate in central London, or paying eye watering sums for prestigious sites in crowded Dublin. Their banks were some of the top-rated in Europe, busily acquiring businesses in the United States and eastern Europe. High-end housing estates mushroomed, a gleaming new tram system was installed, and the finance district buzzed and hummed with industry as international businesses flocked to a country they praised for its low taxes and well-educated workforce.

Of course, the warning signs were there. House prices were ridiculously inflated (I wrote back in 2006 that less than a fifth of houses for sale in Dublin were on offer below 317,500 euros - the level at which property tax kicked in for first time buyers). The economy was highly exposed to its banking sector and to external shocks, as the central bank recognised at the time - although it saw the risks as limited : "While the strengthening of domestic demand puts the euro area in a better position than previously to withstand a U.S. slowdown, this challenge would intensify if the U.S. economic situation were to deteriorate sharply," the Irish central bank said in October 2006. "This, however, still remains a risk scenario rather than the baseline one."

Anglo Irish bank - the disgraced lender that will cost the Irish government up to 34 billion euros to bail out - was a shining star of the country's banking system. "We're confident about the future," Anglo Irish's then-group finance director, Willie McAteer, told me in a phone interview in 2006. "When he had half a billion (euros in profit) in '04 we talked about making a billion in five years' time. I suppose now we're looking forward really to 2010 to one and a half billion".

The Irish finance minister during this period was one Brian Cowen, now the country's Prime Minister who is fighting for his political life. Cowen's parliamentary majority has been slashed to less than four in the lower chamber and his government is – unsurprisingly- deeply unpopular. The government has slashed public spending to pay for its ballooning deficit and help fund the bank rescue. Propping up the troubled lenders will lift the country's deficit to 32 pct of GDP, with the underlying deficit to GDP at 12 percent. That's among the highest of all advanced economies globally.

from Tales from the Trail:

Special Relationship? How quickly they forget….

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So much for "Hilly-Milly".

Just last year U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gushed to Vogue magazine about  former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband,  calling the young diplomat a dashing addition to the international scene. AFGHANISTAN/

"Well, if you saw him it would be a big crush. I mean, he is so vibrant, vital, attractive, smart. He's really a good guy. And he's so young!" Clinton said in remarks that provoked a spate of joking British tabloid headlines about the new "special relationship" between the United States and Britain.

The dark side of German reunification

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Germany will mark the 20th anniversary of its reunification on October 3 — but not everyone in Germany will be SPORT SOCCER WORLDcelebrating two decades together.

German unity has been a shaky marriage. That may seem like a surprise to people outside Germany. But opinion polls inside Germany show widespread discontent, especially in the formerly Communist east. Chancellor Angela Merkel has called it a success and other political leaders will be singing the praises of unification in their lofty speeches and German media interviews this weekend. But for many in the east, like straight-talking Brandenburg state premier Matthias Platzeck, German unification in 1990 was not a merger of equals but instead an “Anschluss” (annexation) with West Germany taking over East Germany.

from Reuters Investigates:

Morbid money-spinners

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If the life settlements market seems ghoulish, here’s a British scandal which isn’t doing the image of the business any favours. It’s one of the worst the country’s seen.

Around 30,000 mainly elderly investors in the UK put their money into a company called Keydata, hoping to make a little extra cash to fund their own retirement with the promise of a healthy return.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Does that U.S. “retribution plan” for Pakistan still stand?

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flagburningOne of the more interesting details in the advance reports of Bob Woodward's "Obama's Wars" is that Washington had prepared a "retribution plan" in the event of a major attack on the United States which is traced back to Pakistan.

"While no contingency plans exist for dealing militarily with a collapse of nuclear-armed Pakistan, there is 'a retribution plan' in place, developed by the Bush administration, if the United States suffers another 9/11-style terrorist attack," according to the Los Angeles Times. "That would involve bombing and missile strikes to obliterate the more than 150 al Qaeda training and staging camps known to exist, most of them in Pakistan, which presumably would suffer extensive civilian casualties."

Madeleine Albright pumps iron — and vouches for healthy lifestyle

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CZECH/We knew she was tough — but this tough?

“I can leg press 450 pounds,” the former U.S. Secretary of State modestly told a panel on health in Mexico City on Friday.

Albright, who also served in the 1990s as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke of the importance of good nutrition at a panel sponsored by dietary supplement company Herbalife, which counts some 50,000 Mexicans among its global distributors.

Colombia kills a top rebel leader, any chance for peace?

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Colombia has killed a top rebel leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym FARC. The aerial bombardment of Mono Jojoy’s jungle camp – which was complete with tunnels and a concrete bunRebel commander of the FARC, Jorge Briceno, known as "Mono Jojoy"ker – was one of the hardest blows to the guerrillas in their more than four-decade-old insurgency. Since the launch of a U.S.-backed offensive in 2002, the rebels have been on the run, pushed back to remote hideouts and forced to use ambushes and other hit-and-run tactics. The new government of Juan Manuel Santos says that there can be no talks until the FARC stop attacks and release security forces held by the rebels. The Marxist insurgents have called for talks before and used discussions to regroup. Colombia had dealt significant blows to the group before, but has been unable to completely defeat the guerrillas. Can the insurgents be defeated militarily? What should Colombia do to end its conflict?

Mexican reporters decry gagging in brutal drug war

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MEXICO-DRUGS/After his newspaper printed a series of reports about a drug gang with ties extending from the Mexican state of Chihuahua to Los Angeles, California, the editor of El Diario in Ciudad Juarez, Pedro Torres, received a chilling phone call. ”If you publish other news about this … we will kill your people,” said the voice on the other end of the line. 
 
Threatened and intimidated by drug cartels and seemingly abandoned by authorities, journalists covering Mexico’s violent drug war are increasingly self-censoring in order to stay alive. Patricia Mercado of Imagen de Zacatecas put it simply:    “We’re not doing investigations because we’re being threatened and we can’t say anything about the drug gangs.”  Mexico today is considered one of the world’s most dangerous places for reporters since President Felipe Calderon launched a war in 2006 on violent cartels fighting for dominance in the lucrative drug trade. Robberies, extortions, kidnapping, threats — and worse — are part of the daily landscape for many living in Mexican border towns today.
 
The violence has so far claimed the lives of over 29,000 people, undermining the global image of Mexico.  More than 30 media workers have been killed or disappeared since late 2006, according to U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). A recent report by the CPJ on “Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press” can be found here.  Reporters covering Mexico’s escalating drug war not only are forced to contend with the drug traffickers, but corrupt local and state authorities who operate with impunity, said participants at a full-day conference on Sept. 23 sponsored by the Interamerican Press Society (SIP) and the CPJ. “We’re in the middle of two forces that are trying to limit our ability to do journalism,” said Torres. “What they’ve managed to do is to pressure us to report only the most basic news.” 
 
Mercado said local authorities are “washing their hands of it all.” “They’re not imposing the law, their police have infiltrated the narcs. Unfortunately the federal government isn’t doing anything either,” said Mercado. “I don’t feel protected.”  Last week, a photographer from El Diario, which publishes across the border from El Paso, Texas, was killed by drug gang hitmen, the second journalist from that paper to be killed in the last two years.  The newspaper published an editorial on Sunday addressed to the cartels, asking them to tell the newspaper what was wanted of them, in order to avoid more deaths.   That controversial stance spurred a sharp rebuke from the federal government, which vowed never to make a truce with the cartels. Members of the CPJ and SIP say they’re encouraged by recent assurances by Calderon that he will push for legislation that would make attacks on the press a federal crime. Similar legislation stalled in Congress two years ago. “It pains me that Mexico is seen as one of the most dangerous places for the profession,” the CPJ said Calderon told them in a meeting this week at the presidential palace. 
 
But journalists on the front lines are increasingly skeptical of the ability of any authority — local, state or federal — to control the bloodshed.  The United States granted asylum this week to Ciudad Juarez-based journalist Jorge Luis Aguirre, who had received a threatening phone call in November 2008, minutes after the murder of a fellow reporter, in which he was told he was the next reporter to die.
 
Drug violence has now spread from the border region to the northern business center of Monterrey, and has even cropped up in previously sheltered tourist havens like Puerto Vallarta and Cuernavaca, outside Mexico City. Another challenge to press freedom and safety is coming from inside the media organizations themselves.  Some reporters and editors working for  border area newspapers are paid off by the cartels, who pressure them not to publish certain stories. 
 
The Pacific state of Sinaloa has a big problem with corrupt journalists, said Ismael Bojorquez of Sinaloa’s Rio Doce. Papers, he said, need to “clean house.”  “You can’t do your job as a journalist if you’re on the payroll of an organized crime group,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon. “It’s happening on a large scale.” Given the risks, reporters have drastically scaled back coverage of the drug wars and violence in their cities. Specific incidents of violence mostly go unreported now, with papers publishing broader analyses, or statistical reports to keep their readers informed — and the cartels at bay.

At India’s Commonwealth Games, shame might be a blessing

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This story by Jason Overdorf originally appeared in Global Post.

There’s still a chance that Delhi will pull off the Commonwealth Games next month. In India, anything is possible. There’s even a chance that people will call this futile exercise in mismanagement a success. But that would be a real shame.

Shame is the word of the week here, with 10 days left before the scheduled opening ceremony of what the erstwhile jewel in the British crown once hoped would be the largest and most impressive Commonwealth Games ever. Now, the growing fear is that the event may not come off at all, as the threat looms of a boycott by England, Scotland and Wales.

Tardy Obama plays second fiddle to Swiss at UN

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It happens every year. When the U.S. president arrives at the United Nations for the General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders, the east side of midtown Manhattan goes into lockdown mode. You can’t cross the streets before he arrives and until well after the most powerful man in the world has safely arrived inside the headquarters of world diplomacy.

President Barack Obama was a little late this year and unable to keep his prestigious spot as the second speaker in the annual marathon of speeches. When Obama failed to show, the Swiss president of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss announced that the president of his homeland, Doris Leuthard, would take Obama’s place and give Switzerland’s address.

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