Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
I heard the bursts of gunfire near my house in Monterrey as I was showering this morning. Then the ambulance sirens started wailing, and as I drove my kids to school about 20 minutes later, a convoy of green-clad soldiers, their assault rifles at the ready, sped by us. In northern Mexico, where I cover the drug war, it has become a part of life to read about, hear and even witness shootouts, but today I shuddered at the thought: what if those soldiers accidentally ever shot at me?
It was in February 2007 that Amnesty International raised concerns over Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision, two months earlier, to send thousands of troops across the country to control Mexico’s spiraling drug violence. Echoing worries voiced by the United Nations, the rights group warned that sending the army onto Mexican streets to do the job of the police was a bad idea. Even individual soldiers have commented to Reuters, off the record of course, that they feel very uncomfortable about their new role.
Back then, when there was still plenty of optimism about winning the war against drug cartels, many Mexicans brushed off concerns of rights abuses and the possible deaths of innocent bystanders. Washington praised Calderon for his bold move.
But almost four years on, it would seem Amnesty, the U.N. and a host of other rights groups were right. For the family of slain architect Fernando Osorio, who was shot dead by soldiers who mistook him for a hitman late last month, they were certainly right. Fernando, 34, was killed on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico’s richest city, as he worked on a piece of land soon due to become a housing development. “The army is committing atrocities, they destroyed my family today,” Fernando’s father Oswaldo Osorio told reporters on Oct. 28.
If people stop commenting on the financial crisis, does it still exist?
A month ago, Europe was in the throes of fretting about Greece’s debt problems and whether they were going to spill over to Portugal and Spain, bringing down the euro and a decade of monetary union with it. At the same time there was intense anxiety about impending results from stress tests on nearly 100 European banks.
Every day — and sometimes several times a day – European Union officials, ministers, leaders or central bank governors would say something about the crisis, providing more fodder for frazzled financial markets to make another round of cliff-hanging calls over whether things were getting better or worse.
Whichever way you look at it, Germany is in a bit of a quandry.
For the past 11 years, since the launch of the euro single currency, Europe’s biggest economy has enjoyed steady current account surpluses as it has exported its manufactured goods around the world, while keeping labour costs down and productivity steady at home.
Its economic growth may not have been stunning in recent years, but it has experienced none of the huge budget-deficit and debt problems of its euro zone partners, particularly those in southern Europe such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy. And it has none of the nagging competitiveness issues that all those countries also face.
Never let it be said that the European Union doesn’t get things done.
It may have a slightly maddening way of going about it — last-minute, late-night summits, hours and hours of sweaty, closed-door negotiation, multiple conflicting plans put forward by the likes of the Finns, the Italians and, who knows, the Estonians – and then, hey presto, like the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, at 2 in the morning, a $1 trillion deal to haul the world back from the debt-crisis abyss. All in the name of European unity.
As one Brussels policy analyst put it somewhat delphically : “The EU is not crisis resistant, but perhaps it is crisis proof.”
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.
The 16 countries that share the euro single currency have agreed they will help Greece out if it needs. So far so good. But only now is the nitty-gritty of how member states will go about paying for their contributions being hammered out. And suddenly things are getting a little complicated.
Italy announced on Tuesday it would have to issue government bonds — known as BTPs – to raise funds for its part in any Greek assistance.
The surge in the spread of Greek bond yields over German ones since European leaders issued a promise of emergency loans to Greece last month indicates financial markets do not believe the pledge of euro zone support is anything more than a bluff.
And they are itching to call it.
Euro zone leaders have been betting that a promise of loans to Greece and strong words of political support will be enough to calm markets and allow Athens to borrow at more reasonable rates, therefore rendering any real aid — the dreaded bailout — unnecessary.
The Greek debt crisis appears to be entering a new phase, in which the country is no longer just waiting to get needed help but getting concerned that others -- including euro zone powerhouse Germany -- may actually be making it hard for them to recover.
First, there is Prime Minister George Papandreou (right in photo). His concern is that speculators are pushing the cost of borrowing so high that it is undermining the plans he has put in place for deficit reduction. Papandreou is known for being a mild-mannered sort, so any kind of irritability is worth noting.
Three months ago, Herman van Rompuy might have struggled to be recognised on the streets of his native Belgium, let alone Paris or London. The bookish former prime minister, a fan of camping holidays and Haiku poetry, was nothing if not low-key; a studious consensus builder in the world of Belgian politics.
Three months on and Van Rompuy, 62, may not outwardly have changed much, but his title and the expectations surrounding him certainly have. In November he was chosen to be the first permanent president of the European Council, the body that represents the EU’s 27 leaders, and on Thursday he will host those heads of state and government at an economic summit in Brussels — the first such gathering he has chaired.
from Africa News blog:
Nigeria's central bank sliced through the hubris of the business elite with its $2.6 billion bailout out of five banks and the sacking of their heads in what looks as though it could be a new era for corporate governance in Africa’s most populous country.
Recently appointed Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said lax governance had allowed the banks to become so weakly capitalised that they posed a threat to the entire system, and described the move as the beginning of a "restoration of confidence" in sub-Saharan Africa's second biggest economy.