The Great Debate UK

from Anatole Kaletsky:

An ‘atomic bomb’ is hovering over France’s economy

France's President Hollande and German Chancellor Merkel talk during a conference on jobs in Milan

An “atomic bomb” is about to blow up in “the confrontation between Paris and Brussels.”

It was in these terms that Le Figaro, perhaps the most influential French newspaper, reported the European Commission’s near-certain rejection of President Francois Hollande’s 2015 budget on Oct. 29.  That is the date the commission must issue a judgment on the French budget, which proposes a two-year delay in reducing the  budget deficit to the EU-mandated maximum of 3 percent of gross domestic product.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted that she will not tolerate any such relaxation of the European Union’s new, toughened budget rules. Meanwhile, Hollande has stated repeatedly that France will refuse any demands from Brussels for more cuts.

A full-scale budget war between Paris and Berlin/Brussels looks inevitable, with catastrophic effects on the European economy and markets. But on closer inspection, this impending budget battle is no more lethal than the fiscal shadow-boxing in Washington last year.

from The Great Debate:

Far from Hong Kong, ethnic minority regions in China are a tinderbox of tension

A young Tibetan monk is seen in the smoke as monks burn trees during their morning ritual in the Dzamthang Jonang monastery in Barma township

As the Hong Kong demonstrations continue, foreign observers question whether the democracy movement might embolden minority groups seeking greater autonomy in Tibet or Xinjiang, also known as East Turkistan. Like Hong Kong, these regions were once promised greater autonomy, but have yet to see it fully realized.

Before the Chinese Communist Party actually ruled the country, the 1931 Chinese Soviet Republic Constitution recognized "the right of national self-determination of ethnic minorities within the borders of China," as well as their right to secession. Mao Zedong backtracked on this position by the time the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949. The Chinese annexed ethnic minority regions and said they would grant Tibetans and Uighurs autonomy. However, critics argue that Beijing has failed to adhere to the rule of law by denying ethno-religious minorities the rights and freedoms originally promised.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Will the European economy’s summer squalls turn into an autumn tempest?

Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) answers reporter's questions during his monthly news conference at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt

Following the grim market response to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s latest monetary policy pronouncements, Europe is approaching another make-or-break moment comparable to the crisis of 2012. The summer quarter ended this week, and financial markets delivered their judgment on just how bad things are, pushing the euro down to its lowest level since September 2012. Europe’s quarterly stock market performance was the worst since the nadir of the euro crisis. The question is whether the miserable summer will give way to a milder autumn. Or whether the summer squalls will turn into a catastrophic tempest.

Given the absence of any decisive action at this week’s European Central Bank meeting, the answer will depend on three events in the month ahead: the Ukrainian elections on Oct. 26; the bank stress tests due to be finalized in late October by the central bank, and the judgment on French and Italian budget plans due to be delivered in outline by Europe’s political leaders at the Milan “growth summit” on Oct. 8 and then in detail by the European Commission at the end of the month.

from Hugo Dixon:

Whatever help the West offers to fight Islamic State, it should have conditions.

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq

What should the West’s military policy be toward Islamic State?

Most observers fall into two camps. Some point to the sorry history of Western intervention in the Middle East and argue the job of combating the Islamic State should be left to local powers.

Others say the West, led by the United States, should be more active in fighting the insurgents. Only the West has the firepower to defeat the group, the argument goes, and it has a responsibility to fix what it has broken as well as a strategic interest in stopping the Islamic State militants from becoming more powerful and dangerous.

from Breakingviews:

Cameron takes deficit amnesia to a new level

By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

David Cameron crowed when UK opposition leader Ed Miliband forgot the deficit in a keynote speech last week. Yet Britain’s prime minister has now taken deficit amnesia to a new level, insisting on the need to tackle the country’s biggest problem while simultaneously pledging a tax giveaway. It’s an electoral bribe he can’t afford.

from The Great Debate:

We all know about jihadists, but what about those waging an ‘anti-jihad’?

Human rights activist holds a placard during an anti-Talibanisation protest in LahoreAs the UN Security Council tackles the entity claiming to be “Islamic State,” and President Barack Obama invokes global Muslim responsibility, many ask whether people of Muslim heritage do enough to counter extremism.

The fact is, away from the media spotlight, thousands wage daily battles in their own countries against what President Obama called a “network of death.”

from The Great Debate:

Are ‘Hong Kong people’ still Chinese? Depends on how you define ‘Chinese’

A protester sleeps under an umbrella as she blocks a street outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong

“Hong Kong people! Hong Kong people!” shouted tens of thousands of Occupy Central demonstrators on the streets of downtown Hong Kong as they braved police pepper spray and tear gas this weekend. So simple and self-evident, the slogan gets to the heart of the matter, because beyond the immediate causes of contention are the much larger existential issues of who gets to define just exactly what it means to be part of China, and to be Chinese.

Hong Kong, normally the most civil and efficient of cities, has been swept by an enormous wave of characteristically polite and peaceful protest directed against the Beijing-leaning government’s dilution of long-promised reforms. These would have allowed direct election of the chief executive, under the much touted but perhaps never well understood “One Country; Two Systems” formula.

from Data Dive:

Ebola’s spread brings host of other diseases in its wake

Almost 3,000 West Africans have died from the current outbreak of Ebola virus, and on Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that by January between 550,000 and 1.4 million people could be infected if nothing is done.

But the outbreak, which began in Guinea in March before spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal, is only part of the terrifying picture. Last week, fear of Ebola caused locals to kill eight members of an Ebola education team, sick people are avoiding clinics, and the World Health Organization says that 208 of the 373 infected healthcare workers in the region have died from the virus.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

It ain’t over yet: Last-minute promises to Scotland will scar the UK

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre in Aberdeen, Scotland

Astonishing as it was to contemplate the breakup of Europe’s most stable nation-state threatened by last week’s Scottish referendum, we now have an even more extraordinary possibility. In the days since the Scottish voters rejected secession 55 percent to 45 percent, a new threat has suddenly appeared to blight Britain’s political and economic prospects for years ahead. It now looks like Britain may be dissolved by one rogue opinion poll.

The YouGov survey, released shortly before the referendum, found nationalists overtaking the unionists for the first time. (And, as it turned out, the last time.) This triggered total panic among Britain’s establishment politicians.

from The Great Debate:

‘The Boss’ is now a senior citizen. His music’s stayed young.

Bruce Springsteen performs with drummer Max Weinberg of E Street Band during the "12-12-12" benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York

On Sept. 23, 2014, Bruce Springsteen turned 65. 

It should no longer be shocking to learn that a rock star has hit retirement age. Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger are all over 70, still performing and, at least in Dylan's case, releasing albums that seem to matter. It is worth recalling, however, that in the 1960s and 1970s, when these artists first made their marks, it was widely assumed that no one would remember them just a few years later. A 1975 Newsweek cover story, for example, asserted that Springsteen was a product of "hype," suggesting he would likely be forgotten once the next big thing came along.

Rock stars and their music, however, have proved far more durable. One reason is that rock changed the cultural status of popular music. The ephemeral nature of popular music may have been overstated to begin with -- songs by composers such as George and Ira Gershwin or Cole Porter became "standards" long before rock ‘n’ roll. But celebrated singers or bandleaders were viewed as entertainers, and popular songs often addressed nothing more serious than a broken heart.

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