Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Steinmeier sheds dull image with rousing speech

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Steinmeier address SPD conventionAs Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has delivered many speeches,  but none that anyone can particularly remember. Germany’s top diplomat has impeccable credentials yet has rarely come close to stirring anyone with his balanced, cautious, usually dry and sometimes rather dull addresses. No one would ever think of ticking the box “rousing speaker” next to his name.

That all changed on Saturday — when Steinmeier gave the speech of his life to a congress of his centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). The 500 delegates interrupted the white-haired lawyer’s riveting 88-minute address with applause 114 times. They then elected Steinmeier, who had never won election for any public office, as their candidate for the 2009 election with 95 percent of the vote.

By brilliantly latching on to the dominant issue of the moment — the global financial crisis – Steinmeier told the SPD delegates who have suffered post-war record lows in opinion polls this year and are worrying about their own job security in next year’s elections that it is the SPD more than any other party that is ideally positioned to benefit from the banking crisis. The SPD has long pushed for more state controls, he reminded them, and always stood up to protect the proverbial “little guy”.

“Let’s close our flanks, let’s not settle for second place but rather let’s fight for the victory next year,” Steinmeier told the delegates, who gave him a five-minute standing ovation for the fiery address.

Small farm financing looks secure despite Wall St meltdown

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UNITED NATIONS – Small farmers feed nearly 2 billion people globally and the rise in commodity prices has put a crimp in their ability to do business as well as feed themselves.

The global credit crunch has taken its toll on banks and investors and caused a redesign of the U.S. financial system. With the easy debt financing on Wall Street gone and donor countries fighting for their own economic health, financing the development of small farmers might seem to be in jeopardy. But the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development says it has funding in place through 2009 and is hopeful for its next round of money raising.

What’s next in the Russia-West crisis over Georgia?

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South Ossetian servicemen fire their weapons and wave South Ossetian (C) and Russian flags as they celebrate Russia's recognition of their state as an independent state in Tskhinvali August 26, 2008. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced on Tuesday that Moscow had decided to recognise two rebel regions of Georgia as independent states, setting it on a collision course with the West. REUTERS/Sergei KarpukhinThe people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were celebrating on Tuesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognising the independence of the two regions. 

Western leaders responded with harsh words. U.S. President George W. Bush said it increased world tensions and Britain called for “the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” where the two regions lie. 

Does the West still matter for Africa?

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First on Zimbabwe, now on Darfur, Western countries have lost out at the U.N. Security Council to African states backed by China and Russia.

A Western attempt to get sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government flopped on July 11. Three weeks later, when it came to renewing the mandate of peacekeepers in Darfur, Western countries bowed to demands to include wording that made clear the council would be ready to freeze any International Criminal Court indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide. The United States abstained, but that made no difference to the vote.

Israel’s West Bank barrier

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west-bank-barrier.jpg Four years ago this week, on July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, known as the World Court, ruled in an advisory opinion that the wall and fence barrier which Israel was building in the West Bank was illegal under international law and that Palestinians affected by it should be compensated. Israel responded  by dismissing the decision as politically motivated and defended the barrier, which it calls the “security fence”, as an effective response to “Palestinian terrorism”. Israel says the barrier, whose projected route of fences and walls snakes through the West Bank for over 700 km, has saved Israeli lives by preventing a continuation of attacks, notably suicide bombings.

 The United Nations General Assembly voted  later in July 2004 to demand that Israel comply with the decision of the World Court. Following the court ruling, the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators – the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – also reaffirmed an earlier statement which said “We note the Government of Israel’s pledge that the barrier is a security rather than political barrier and should be temporary rather than permanent. We continue to note with great concern the actual and proposed route of the barrier, particularly as it results in confiscation of Palestinian land, cuts off the movement of people and groups, and undermines Palestinians’ trust in the roadmap (peace) process by appearing to prejudge the final borders of the future Palestinian state.”

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