Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Europe can’t put out the blaze

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If the world thought that Europe’s finance ministers were running in to put out the blaze spreading through Athens and Rome this week, it might come as a surprise to learn they still don’t agree on the size of the fire or how to deal with it.

Any training course will tell you that if a small fire isn’t tackled quickly, it could make things a lot worse. The Greek crisis is like a small electrical fire that has grown into a dangerous inferno now threatening to gut Italy.

But ministers meeting in Brussels have clearly not been on any fire extinguisher training courses lately — they don’t know their water from their foam and their dry powder. In fact, they appear to be pouring oil on the fire.

Belgium’s Finance Minister Didier Reynders says it is best to try to smother the blaze with a small cloth soaked in a chemical called a financial transaction tax, while Sweden’s Anders Borg and Austria’s Maria Fekter say they can’t spare any of their CO2 extinguishers.

Half time at the euro zone cup final

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Covering a summit of European leaders is a bit like covering a soccer match with no ticket for the stadium and no live TV broadcast to watch. The only way you have an idea of the scoreline is from the groans and cheers from inside the ground.

With EU leaders meeting on Brussels on Sunday and again on Wednesday to try to resolve the region’s debt crisis, the emergency back-to-back summits look like a game of two halves.

from Reuters Investigates:

China’s rebalancing act puts consumer to the fore

consumerWal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, now has 189 stories in China, according to its website. Soon it will have many more.  The U.S. chain has announced plans to open a series of "compact hypermarkets", using a bare-bones model developed in Latin America, the Financial Times said.

Wal-Mart stores are a bit different than the one's you might find in, say, Little Rock Arkansas. They sell live toads and turtles for one thing, The Economist reported. But they also sell the appliances, gadgets, and housewares that Wal-Mart stores merchandise everywhere.

from Tales from the Trail:

Green energy aspirations for Obama’s India visit

INDIAWhen Barack Obama heads for India next month, he'll be carrying a heavy policy agenda -- questions over the handling of nuclear material, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and India's status as a growing economic power, along with regional relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace laureate who heads the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hopes the U.S. president has time to focus on clean energy too.

Even as Pachauri and the U.N. panel evolve -- and as Pachauri himself weathers pressure from some quarters to resign -- he urged Obama to work on U.S.-India projects that he said would enhance global energy security.

from India Insight:

Going global in India’s chaotic way

Labourers walk on a flyover in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi September 25, 2010. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

India is globalising, but not the way much of the world wants.

That rather contradictory thought nagged at me one morning during the chaotic Commonwealth Games here in New Delhi.

On the road to the media venue's gate, I trudged past a squatter's family living in a tarpaulin. The mother was helping her son pee on my left. Rubbish, the smelly, sickly kind, lay to my right. My shoes sunk in mud from an unfinished pavement.

from Reuters Investigates:

In case you missed them

Just because it was summer, doesn't mean we weren't busy here at Reuters. Here are a few of our recent special reports that you might have missed.

IRAN-OBAMA/ECOMOMYTracking Iran's nuclear money trail to Turkey. U.N. correspondent Lou Charbonneau -- who used to cover the IAEA for Reuters --  followed the money to Turkey where an Iranian bank under U.S. and EU sanctions is operating freely. Nice to see the New York Times follow up on this today, and the Washington Post also quizzed Turkey's president about it.

Acronym soup swamps Malaysia reform drive

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak says he has embarked on a series of radical economic reforms. In reality it feels as if he has unleashed a barrage of incomprehensible acronyms on the unsuspecting public of this Southeast Asian nation.

The charge for economic reform is being led by the snappily named PEMANDU. As well as being the Malay word for “driver” it stands for the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit.

Germany’s king of the ‘Sommerloch’ silly season

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- PORTUGAL/The Germans have a lovely word to describe the slow news period during the summer doldrums — Sommerloch  (“summer hole” or “silly season). It’s the time in July and August when the main newsmakers in Berlin disappear to holiday retreats in the Alps, to the North Sea island of Sylt or the Baltic Shore. It’s also the time when the second-tier politicians — eager to fill the void — know that it can be relatively easy to get into the headlines with a bit of cunning, good fortune and good timing.
 
Rainer Bruederle is not normally someone many Germans pay a lot of attention to. The Economy Minister from the pro-business Free Democrats party, junior coalition partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government, does not have a lot of clout and few of his ideas have ever gone beyond the proposal stage. Bruederle,  65, has been called one of the most ineffective ministers since Merkel’s centre-right government took power nine months ago.

But now — with the big cats out of town — Bruederele has turned into mighty mouse. He has played the German media like a fiddle, floating one trial balloon after another with a near daily deluge of newspaper interviews. With little else to write about, German correspondents are filling their columns with Bruederle.
 
“Koenig des Sommerlochs” (King of the summer hole) was the headline in Stern magzine’s website on Monday after a fresh batch of Bruederle proposals over the weekend. “No one has jumped into the Sommerloch with as much vigour as Bruederle,” wrote Hans Peter Schuetz of Stern magazine. “But, let’s be honest about this, Bruederle is helping journalists like me get through the Sommerloch.”
 
Like with most Sommerloch proposals, Bruederle’s will likely not get anywhere close to becoming law. And Bruederle knows that. He also knows his ideas will only cause tensions in the ruling coalition anger Merkel and almost everyone else in her Christian Democrats — and many of her deputies have already rejected his suggestions. But he also knows the publicity could help him raise his profile a bit.
 
Bruederle first said the government should scrap its 2009 promise for a guaranteed minimum pension level, an idea widely picked up in the German media for a few hours one day last week. It was summarily rejected by Merkel’s party. Yet that didn’t stop Bruederle. A few days later, in another newspaper interview, he suggested relaxing rules to allow more foreigners into Germany to counter a looming labour shortage of skilled labour, comments that filled airwaves for a few more glorious hours.
 
GERMANY/And then Bruederle criticised Merkel’s party, the coalition partners, for not having enough enthusiasm about reforms — just a few weeks after party leaders had promised to stop that very same sort of sniping that had sent the government plunging to record low levels in opinion polls. On Monday, Bruederle was at it again with a new banking proposal.
 
“Bruederle is doing his best to fill the Sommerloch,” wrote Sascha Raabe in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.  But he attacked Bruederle as a “colourless minister with an addiction to headlines”.  He pointed out, for instance, that Bruederle’s ideas on cutting pensions actually contradicted the position of his own ministry, which views the steady pension levels as an important pillar of economic growth. “If Bruederle had only read the position of his own ministry instead of frightening millions of pensioners,” Raabe wrote. “Maybe it’s time for Bruederle to retire himself.”

Angela Merkel’s “read my lips” moment

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    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.

Merkel’s 2nd term off to a bumpy start

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After spending the last four years trapped in a loveless grand coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats, Germany’s conservative chancellor Angela Merkel is looking forward to happier, more productive days in a cosy new centre-right coalition with her preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats.

However, rather than smooth sailing with her new, more like-minded coalition partners, it’s turned out to be one turf battle after another between Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, on the one side and the Free Democrats on the other.

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