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.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and the taboo of secularism

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graveFor everyone trying to understand the implications of Salman Taseer's assassination, this essay from 2007 is good place to start (h/t Abu Muqawama).  "The Politics of God" is about why Europe decided, after years of warfare over the correct interpretation of Christianity, to separate church and state.  But it is also relevant to Pakistan, where the killing of the Punjab governor over his opposition to the country's blasphemy laws has shown that what was left of Pakistani secularism, is, if not dead, at least in intensive care.

Read the opening paragraph to understand why it resonates:

"For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Claiming Jinnah’s mantle: Musharraf joins the queue

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jinnah flagThe minute I entered the elegant book-lined club in central London where Pervez Musharraf was about to launch his political career, it was clear who was to dominate the proceedings - Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam, Founder of the Nation, Father of Pakistan. In his trademark peaked Jinnah cap, it was his photo alone which was hanging prominently on the platform where the former military ruler was to speak; and his photo on the little entrance ticket they gave you to get past security.

It was his spirit which was invoked even in the name of Musharraf's political party -- his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) was a deliberate echo of the pre-independence All India Muslim League, through which Jinnah created the state of Pakistan in 1947.

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.

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?

Sun setting on Merkel coalition?

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GERMANY-PRESIDENT/As the sun started to set on the west side of the Reichstag on Wednesday evening — and perhaps on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government as well — delegates to the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly) began switching to beer from the preferred beverage earlier in the day — coffee, water and apple juice.
 
There was an unmistakeable air of “Endzeitstimmung” (doomsday atmosphere) on the comfortable rooftop terrace of the historic German parliament building, where the catering is superb and the view of Berlin breathtaking. 
 
The conservative delegates on the Reichstag roof were easy to spot — they were the ones with worried looks on their faces after a couple dozen unidentified “rats” from within their ranks twice failed in votes during the afternoon to give Merkel the votes she needed to get her candidate elected.

The conservatives were drinking their beer and trying to forget the day’s humiliation before going into battle for a third and final round later in the evening.

Japan’s new “voluntary militia” cabinet under PM Kan

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Newly-appointed Banking Minister Shozaburo Jimi bows to the Japanese national flag  after a news conference. REUTERS/Issei Kato .

Newly-appointed Banking Minister Shozaburo Jimi bows to the Japanese national flag after a news conference. REUTERS/Issei Kato .

When Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshito Sengoku, was asked — as new Japanese leaders often are — to characterise the government’s new cabinet line-up, he fumbled a bit and then awkwardly said something about it being “fresh and hardworking.”

MP’s nosedive mirrors Japan leader’s sinking ratings

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With voter popularity for Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sinking to new lows, there was little sympathy even when a lawmaker from his Democratic Party fell flat on her face in parliament last week. Internet chatrooms and blogs have accused Yukiko Miyake of  faking her fall, which the Democrats blamed on a shove by a stocky opposition party lawmaker.  Footage of the scene in slow motion has flooded YouTube. One comment: “Miyake needs acting lessons”.

Just  9 months ago, the government’s support ratings stood above 70 percent after the Democrats won a landslide election, ending a half-century of nearly non-stop conservative rule. Miyake was one of many first-time lawmakers on whom voters pinned their hopes  for change – reviving the economy, cutting wasteful spending and fixing the pensions system. But polls now show the Democrats may struggle to win an election for parliament’s less powerful upper house, expected in July. Failure to win a majority risks policy deadlock at a time when Japan needs the political mandate to push through reforms and cut huge public debt.

from MacroScope:

Deficit-obsessed Czechs grapple ahead of vote

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If one were to believe the noise coming from right-of-centre politicians in Prague, the Czechs are on the brink of a Greece-style budget meltdown, and victory by the leftist Social Democrats in a May 28-29 election would plunge them into economic collapse.

ODS Greece1An ad in newspapers this week from the right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) showed masked Greek rioters in front of a burning barricade. “Socialists in Greece – the same as in the Czech Republic”, the headline read. Alongside, a picture of Jiri Paroubek, leader of the Social Democrats (CSSD) bore the caption “CSSD = State Bankruptcy”.

Japan’s “political deflation”

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JAPAN-POLITICS/

“Political deflation” – that’s how one quipster described the woes besetting Japan’s political sphere as support for both the new ruling party and its main conservative rival slips on concerns that neither side is capable of steering an economy plagued by falling prices, decades of lacklustre growth and a fast-ageing, shrinking population.

Six months after the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to power  for the first time in a landslide election win that ended more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democrats, support for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government is only about half the exuberant 70 percent level enjoyed when he took office.

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