The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

American guns and the war next door

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Last year, around 2,500 Mexicans died in the twin wars drug cartels are waging against each other and against the Mexican state, using weapons smuggled in from the United States. In the first 11 months of this year, the death toll was 5,367, according to the Mexican attorney general. Next year?

There is no end in sight. At least two of the lethal ingredients in the toxic brew that fuels Mexico's ever-widening violence are unlikely to change: lax American gun laws and a Mexican border that barely controls north-south traffic. On many of the crossing points along the 2,000-mile frontier, travelers coming in from the United States, by car or on foot, are routinely waved through without even having to show identity papers.

Weak Mexican border controls rarely feature in official or academic reports on a problem that has prompted some experts and U.S. publications to wonder whether Mexico is a "failing state". That's the headline over a cover story on Mexico in the latest edition of the business magazine Forbes. Mexican officials reject the label.

from The Great Debate:

Electric cars will not cure environmental woes

diana-furchtgott-roth_great_debate

-- Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed are her own. --

The world is falling in love with plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. President-elect Obama wants to put 1 million on the road by 2015. GM features them, particularly the Chevy Volt, in its new business plan for a debut in 2010. The EU wants them to shrink greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 by 20% from 1990 levels. This week the Chinese auto company BYD began selling the world’s first commercially-available plug-in hybrid sedan.

from The Great Debate:

Obama spurs EU on climate, economy

Paul Taylor Great Debate-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

He wasn't present and he isn't even in office yet, but Barack Obama was the elephant in the room at last week's European Union summit on economic recovery and climate change.

The 27 EU leaders knew they needed strong agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give their recession-hit economies a big fiscal stimulus to make themselves credible partners for the U.S. president-elect.

from The Great Debate:

Minimizing exposure to investment management fraud

williams_mark-- Mark T. Williams, a finance professor at the Boston University School of Management, is a risk-management expert and former Federal Reserve Bank examiner.  The opinions expressed are his own. --

It looks like the oldest trick in the book was used to allegedly bilk wealthy investors, banks, charities, endowments, and hedge funds out of their money.  How could sophisticated investors have been duped by what could potentially be the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history?  The answer may center on their due diligence prior to signing up with the investment firm run by Bernard Madoff, accused of masterminding the massive fraud.

from The Great Debate:

Great U.S debt engine slips into reverse

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

After six decades of uninterrupted credit creation and an unprecedented era of consumption and prosperity, the credit process has come to an abrupt halt. If credit has been the locomotive of the modern economy, the third quarter of 2008 marked the point when the engine stalled and the economy began to roll back down the hill.

For decades, financial activities have grown much faster than the real economy. Between 1952 and 2007, U.S. nominal GDP grew by a factor of 39 times, while total credit market debt outstanding surged 101 times.

from The Great Debate:

Finance throws sand in wheels of trade

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Trade finance, a basic lubricant for the global economy, is becoming much more expensive and tougher to get, accelerating an already harrowing downturn.

Banks are reluctant to allocate scarce capital to trade finance, which funds cross-border buying and selling, and are very wary about being caught short by defaults by other banks which write letters of credit or by the importers and exporters themselves.

from The Great Debate:

Can Obama avert an Arab-Israeli disaster?

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Time is running out for Israel and the Palestinians. Barack Obama is probably the last American president to have the option of pursuing an accord leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called two-state solution.

If that fails, another generation will be locked into bloodshed and strife. That is the bleak scenario painted by two senior American Middle East experts in a new book, Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President. It is the product of an 18-month joint study by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, two pillars of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

from The Great Debate:

“Risk free” rate going way of free lunch

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

One of the many comfortable but unreliable certainties now coming unglued is the idea that U.S. Treasury interest rates are the paramount benchmark, a measure of "risk free" investment, an idea at the heart of finance.

In the old days we quaintly believed that U.S. government debt yields represented a benchmark against which all other types of risk taking could be measured. The 30-year yield, later supplanted by the 10-year, used to be called the most important rate in the world for just that reason. All other risk taking began from this handy jumping off point and all capital allocation decisions used it as an implicit or explicit input.

from The Great Debate:

In China, OPEC’s nightmare comes true

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

China's decision to link domestic fuel prices indirectly to the international crude oil market, subject to a price cap, while hiking the consumption tax on gasoline and diesel and phasing out a variety of road tolls and other fees shows Saudi Arabia's worst fears about high prices and demand destruction are starting to come true.

It seems likely to confirm the kingdom's determination to see prices stabilize around $75 per barrel, well below recent price peaks, and far below the level sought by some other OPEC members, as well as international oil companies and advocates of alternative energy.

from The Great Debate:

Banking spins destruction myth: Hoocoodanode?

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Just as every society has a creation myth, banking is now busily writing a destruction myth that seeks to explain and soothe in a world torn to its foundations.

The myth, as expounded by regulators, bankers and their various service providers, is that we were hit by a perfect storm, a 1,000-year flood so unpredictable that we can't possibly be held accountable for it. An act of god, rather than the folly of man.

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