Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Merkel fights back with drop-dead argument

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GERMANY-FINANCIAL/TAXChancellor Angela Merkel and the leader of the opposition Social Democrats squared off in one of the more riveting debates in parliament seen in ages on Wednesday, treating their respective camps to some fiery rhetoric that may galvanize support and help each side recover from steady erosions in opinion polls.
After SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel threw down the gauntlet and spent 40 highly entertaining minutes ripping into Merkel and her centre-right government, the chancellor rose to the challenge — spending the next 40 minutes with a spirited defence of the performance since taking power 10 months ago and attacking the centre-left opposition for such things as putting Germany’s long-term energy security at risk with “ideologically driven energy policies.”
Merkel, who may well face off against Gabriel in the next federal election due in 2013, whipped out a drop-dead argument that will probably make it difficult for anyone from either the SPD or from inside her own somewhat disenchanted conservative party to knock her out of office: unemployment has fallen by nearly two million to about three million since she took office in 2005.

Merkel’s popularity has nevertheless plunged since her re-election last year – due in part to incessant squabbling within the coalition and a perception her government has made little headway in moving the country forward. The centre-right government trails the centre-left opposition by about 10 points in opinion polls, an astonishing reversal of fortunes after they won the election last September by about 15 points.

“The most important thing is that the labour market is in robust shape,” Merkel, 56, said to cheers from her centre-right coalition of Christian Democrats and liberal Free Democrats sitting on the right half of the parliament floor who were clearly relishing their leader on the attack for a change. “Unemployment has fallen back to the level it was at before the financial crisis started two years ago. Five years ago it was nearly five million. This year we’ll possibly slip below the three million mark. That’s the mark of success for this Christian-Liberal coalition. We’re the growth engine of Europe.”

GERMANY-FINANCIAL/TAXGabriel, 52, had opened the debate in fine form, accusing Merkel of being a lapdog to lobbyists – her government gave hugely unpopular tax breaks to hotel owners and defied public opinion by agreeing to the demands of utilities to extend the use of nuclear energy. Gabriel also criticized what he called an increasingly unfair distribution of wealth in Germany under the centre-right government and the government’s habit of “giving tax breaks to the wrong people.”

from Africa News blog:

Nigeria on the brink? Of what?

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NIGERIA-ELECTION/Former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell sparked a furore when he suggested in Foreign Affairs magazine  that elections due in Nigeria in January could trigger a conflict between Muslim north and Christian south or even precipitate a coup.

In his article entitled “Nigeria on the Brink”, Campbell argued that the ending of a power-sharing agreement between north and south in the ruling party -- and a lack of consensus for the first time since the end of military rule over who its candidate should be -- could be a recipe for disaster.

from Environment Forum:

Attack survivors at UN: Save the sharks!

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THAILAND/Jaws needs help.

Nine shark-attack survivors from five countries headed for the United Nations in New York City to plead the case for shark preservation. U.N. member countries could take this issue up this week as part of an annual resolution on sustainable fisheries. They'll also be reviewing the Millennium Development Goals -- a long-range set of global targets that includes stemming the loss of biodiversity, including sharks.

"I'm very thankful to be alive," said Krishna Thompson, a Wall Street banker who lost his left leg in a shark attack while visiting the Bahamas in 2001.  “I have learned to appreciate all of God’s living creatures. Sharks are an apex predator in the ocean. Whether they continue to live  affects how we as people live on this Earth. I feel that one of the reasons why I am alive today is to help the environment and help support shark conservation.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

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gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

German banker bows out after stirring race, religion debate

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A German central banker, Thilo Sarrazin, whose outspoken comments on race and religion sparked a fierce national debate unexpectedly quit the Bundesbank board on Thursday evening, sparing Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Christian Wulff and Bundesbank President Axel Weber a messy legal and political battle.

But Sarrazin, 65, made it clear that he will not go away and plans to use his new-found fame to press forward with the issues tackled in his best-selling book: that Muslims are undermining German society and threatening to change its character and culture with their higher birth rate. Whether Germans like his views or not, there is no denying that Sarrazin has struck a chord.

from Andrew Marshall:

Risks to watch in Asia: Country guides

For Reuters analysis of risks to watch in Asian countries, kept updated in real time and with graphics and video, click on the links below.

AustraliaChinaIndiaIndonesia/

JapanMalaysiaMongoliaNew Zealand

PakistanPhilippinesSingapore/South Korea

Sri LankaTaiwanThailandVietnam

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Giving a voice to Pakistan’s flood victims

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charpoyIf you were to give the flood victims in Pakistan a voice, they would tell you that they need seeds to replant the crops destroyed by the water and enough emergency relief to tide them through the winter. After that the land, newly fertilised by the floods, could yield bumper crops in the years ahead.

The children would tell you that the floods hit so powerfully that the memory of feeling in panic while loudspeakers broadcast warnings from the mosques will be forever etched on their minds. They don't blame the government for a disaster so big that not even in the tales of their ancestors had they heard stories of such floods. They just want enough help to rebuild their homes so they don't have to sleep in half-destroyed buildings with sunken floors, worrying about them collapsing on top of them in the night.

from Tales from the Trail:

State Dept: church Koran burning plan”un-American”

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There have been lots of angry words over plans by an obscure Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley pulled out the biggest gun of all on Tuesday in his effort to distance the government from the pastor's incendiary proposal -- he called it "un-American."

EU delivers its own “State of the Union” address

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The European Union talks frequently about wanting to be a bigger player in the world, about making its political influence match its economic weight and the need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States.

And at least in one respect it can now say it’s America’s equal – both have a State of the Union address.

from Tales from the Trail:

Mideast peace veterans and handshake diplomacy

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly referred to them as "veterans" of the Middle East peace process.

That description is probably one thing everyone can agree on. The process to bring Israelis and Palestinians to a lasting peace agreement has been going on for decades and every U.S. president hopes he's the one who will finally achieve what those before him tried and failed. PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/

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