Archive for category International
Ian Traynor, Europe editor
6 February 2015
Analysis: That Angela Merkel has gone to Moscow speaks to the sudden gravity of the situation in east Ukraine
In Brussels and other European capitals, the fear of Vladimir Putin is becoming palpable. The mood has changed in a matter of weeks from one of handwringing impotence over Ukraine to one of foreboding.
The anxiety is encapsulated in the sudden rush to Moscow by Angela Merkel and François Hollande. To senior figures closely involved in the diplomacy and policymaking over Ukraine, the Franco-German peace bid is less a hopeful sign of a breakthrough than an act of despair.
“There’s nothing new in their plan, just an attempt to stop a massacre,” said one senior official.
Carl Bildt, the former Swedish foreign minister, said a war between Russia and the west was now quite conceivable. A senior diplomat in Brussels, echoing the broad EU view, said arming the Ukrainians would mean war with Russia, a war that Putin would win.
Announcing the surprise mission to Kiev and Moscow, Hollande sounded grave and solemn. The Ukraine crisis, he said, started with differences, which became a conflict, which became a war, and which now risked becoming “total war”. Read the rest of this entry »
James McBride and Jeanne Park
Dec 26 2014
From GDP growth in China to consumer debt in the U.S., the stories to watch next year.
As 2015 dawns, instability in Russia, stagnation in Europe, and uncertainty in China are being offset by a sharp drop in oil prices that the International Monetary Fund says could boost global economic growth by as much as 0.8 percent above the expected 3.8 percent.
The United States “faces a debt reckoning,” writes Guardian finance and economics editor Heidi Moore. U.S. consumer debt worth $3.2 trillion and the resurgence of subprime lending are both danger signs for an economy that otherwise appears to be on the mend.
Europe too could face trouble in 2015 without major structural reform, argues the Council on Foreign Relations’ Robert Kahn. Growth and investment remain low, unemployment is “sky-high,” and early elections could once again put Greece “on a collision course with the rest of Europe.”
China, which is in the midst of a delicate rebalancing act, will de-emphasize GDP growth in favor of structural, financial, and energy reform, writes the Paulson Institute’s Damien Ma.
Finally, CFR’s Edward Alden foresees that 2015 could see “breakthroughs in global trade liberalization.” U.S.-led trade agreements with both Asia and Europe promise to boost growth, although they face significant obstacles at home and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
By Mark Magnier
Wall Street Journal
Dec 19, 2014
New Calculation Adds About 3.4% More to 2013 Data
BEIJING — With the stroke of a pen, China announced Friday that world’s second largest economy was 3.4% larger last year than previously thought — chiefly due to a more accurate counting of services and their impact on economic output.
China’s 2014 gross domestic product will be calculated using the new methodology when the full-year results are released next month.
The new calculation added 1.92 trillion yuan ($308.3 billion)—or about the equivalent of the economy of a Colorado or a Singapore—to the size of China’s economy in 2013, bringing it to a total of 58.80 trillion yuan.
While at one level the statistical change is fairly arcane, it should give investors and policy makers a more accurate picture of the economy as Beijing tries to pivot from investment-led growth in industry and infrastructure toward services and consumption.
“I think they’re genuinely trying to improve the quality of the numbers,” said Michael Pettis, professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. “When you have bad numbers, it’s hard to make policy, and this is especially important in China, where the single most important player is the government.”
Analysts said the recalculation likely moves forward the date approximately a decade from now when China’s economy is projected to surpass the U.S.’s as the world’s largest. The U.S. surpassed the U.K. as the world’s largest economy in 1872. China has been expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy around 2024 or 2025. Read the rest of this entry »
by Narayan Ramachandran
October 13, 2014
While liberal democracy may be the least imperfect system yet known to man, it is not very clear whether mankind will pursue this desirable destination without long and costly detours.
Twenty-two years ago, American political scientist and author, Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama wrote a treatise on western liberal democracy called The End of History and The Last Man. Fukuyama wrote with authority and confidence and argued that the dominance of western liberal democracy may well signal the arrival of a ‘final’ type of government – an end to the historical evolution of political systems.
Fukuyama claimed to have been inspired by Alexendre Kojeve, a Russian-French philosopher of Hegelian persuasion – who coined the term the “End of History”. Read the rest of this entry »
Oct 25th 2014 | JAKARTA
Indonesia’s new president – Taking the reins
EVERYONE loves a politician with a common touch—except that politician’s security detail. After Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, was inaugurated as Indonesia’s seventh president, he and his vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, rode through central Jakarta to the presidential palace in an open horse-drawn carriage, their wives following along behind. Tens of thousands of well-wishers lined the path, banners saluting “the people’s president”. As ever, he reached out to them. Only the security men in black suits failed to look elated.
More hard-bitten observers did not share the crowd’s optimism. They set the simple, almost innocent demeanour of this grass-roots politician against the ruthlessness of the old guard he beat. It is determined to fight hard to preserve its wealth and privilege—and parties sympathetic to his opponent in the presidential election, Prabowo Subianto, control the legislature. Such observers are writing Jokowi off as a decent man but a political naif. Read the rest of this entry »
Oct. 19, 2014
The ‘Jokowi Effect’ Could Be the Most Important Thing in Indonesia’s Elections
On Oct. 20, Indonesia inaugurates its first President truly of the people. Joko Widodo, known commonly as Jokowi, is unique in Indonesian presidential history because he comes from neither a politically elite nor a military background. Raised in a riverside slum, Jokowi ran a furniture-exporting business in the heartland city of Solo before he successfully ran for his hometown’s mayor in 2005. Two years ago, he was elected governor of Indonesia’s chaotic capital, Jakarta. Although he prevailed in the July presidential election against old-guard candidate Prabowo Subianto — a former general once married to the daughter of Indonesian dictator Suharto — Jokowi, 53, faces numerous challenges as he helms the world’s third largest democracy: Read the rest of this entry »
By John Ruwitch and Donny Kwok
35 minutes ago
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong started to return to work on Monday after more than a week of pro-democracy protests disrupted the Chinese-controlled city, with the protest movement facing a test of its stamina after more clashes with police and pro-Beijing opponents.
Civil servants began arriving for work at the main government offices of Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, which have been the focal point of protests that initially drew tens of thousands onto the streets. The bureaucrats were allowed to pass through protesters’ barricades unimpeded.
Numbers of protesters fell sharply overnight into the hundreds. The protesters remained at a stalemate with Leung’s pro-Beijing government and there was no sign of movement on talks that were proposed to end the stand-off.
The protests have ebbed and flowed over the past week, with people leaving the streets overnight to return later. The test on Monday will be whether that pattern continues in the face of the government’s determination to get Hong Kong back to work. Read the rest of this entry »
September 29, 2014
Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front has issued a new threatening audio message featuring its leader warning the West “will pay the heaviest price” for its actions. The Syrian group is reportedly now joining up with the estranged Islamic State militants.
The leader of Syria’s most prominent terrorist group, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, in denouncing the US-led air strike campaign, has urged Westerners everywhere to do the same “by standing against the decisions of your rulers,” otherwise bloodshed would be brought to their soil.
“Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed. Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price,” Reuters cited him as saying. He threatened viewers that the fight would be brought “to the hearts of your homes.”
The US-led coalition has been involved in airstrikes against what until lately it thought was the most dangerous group in the Middle East – the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Read the rest of this entry »
September 21, 2014
New intelligence has emerged warning Washington that its upcoming confrontation with the Islamic State may leave it blind to a more sinister and direct threat from a much lesser known terrorist group that has arisen from the ashes of the Syrian war.
Very little information is being released at the moment by anyone within American intelligence circles, but the group calling itself Khorasan is said by officials to have concrete plans for striking targets in the United States and Europe as a chosen modus operandi – more so than the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS.
The first ever mention of the group occurred on Thursday at an intelligence gathering in Washington DC, when National Intelligence Director James Clapper admitted that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”
According to the New York Times, some US officials have gone as far as saying that, while the Islamic State is undoubtedly more prominent in its show of force in the Middle East, it is Khorasan who’s intent on oversees campaigns in a way Al Qaeda usually is.
In this sense, the US air strike campaign and the coming actions by the anti-IS coalition might just be what coaxes the IS into larger-scale attacks on American and European soil – what Khorasan is essentially all about. Read the rest of this entry »
By Wilfred Chan, CNN
September 29, 2014
Hong Kong (CNN) — It was 10 PM on Sunday and 22-year-old Michelle Li, a dancer, was supposed to be in her room doing homework.
But when she saw Facebook updates of police tear gassing pro-democracy protesters in downtown Hong Kong, she was too agitated to study. Within minutes, she followed online postings to the protest site itself — and soon had tear gas fired at her as well.
Only then did she peel her eyes from her mobile device. “While we were waging battle, we screamed out news to each other,” she tells CNN. “But before and after, I’d update people on the internet.”
It’s a high-tech response to a high-stress situation. Read the rest of this entry »
Robert Pigott reports on the last hours of the campaigns
17 September 2014
Both sides in the Scottish referendum debate are making their final pitch to voters on the last day of campaigning.
It comes as the latest polls suggested the result remained too close to call, with a slender lead for a “No” vote.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has written to voters appealing to them to vote “Yes”, saying “let’s do this”.
Key figures from the pro-Union Better Together campaign were out meeting nightworkers into Wednesday, ahead of a Love Scotland, Vote No rally.
Three new polls, one by Opinium for the Daily Telegraph, another by ICM for the Scotsman and a third by Survation for the Daily Mail, were published on Tuesday evening.
With undecided voters excluded, they all suggested a lead for “No” of 52% to 48%. Read the rest of this entry »
By JON WILLIAMS
17th September 2014
Of all the many crises this summer — from ISIS, to Ukraine, Ebola to Libya — who’d have thought jolly old England would be on that list?
Technically, it’s the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But for how much longer? On Thursday, after 307 years, Scotland may vote for independence and with it, potentially change the world order that has lasted since the end of the Second World War. Decisions taken across the highlands and lowlands of Scotland will echo far beyond the shores of a disunited kingdom. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dara Doyle, Ben Sills and Svenja O’Donnell
Sep 17, 2014
Here are some of the fault lines in tomorrow’s referendum on Scottish independence.
“Yes” side: Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond says the pound is just as much as Scotland’s currency as the rest of the U.K. Retaining the pound as part of a formal currency union is the best option for the nation after independence, a panel of advisers has told him.
The “yes” side argues that Scotland is the second-biggest market for the rest of the U.K., which would be damaged if the pound was taken away from the Scots. The currency would also continue to benefit from being backed by North Sea oil.
Salmond said the Bank of England will continue to decide monetary policy day to day, with Scotland seeking input in the bank’s remit and governance.
“No” side: the Better Together campaign, led by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling and backed by the three biggest U.K. political parties, says that if Scotland leaves the U.K. it loses the pound. It says Salmond can’t guarantee what money Scots would use, and it’s not clear if an independent Scotland would seek to adopt the euro, set up an unproven national currency or use sterling unilaterally without any input into monetary policy making.
They say uncertainty will push up Scottish interest rates, meaning consumers and companies face higher borrowing costs. Read the rest of this entry »
By Mark Phillips/CBS News
September 16, 2014
EDINBURGH, Scotland – In the lead up to Thursday’s high-stakes referendum in Scotland, everything is political — even drinking.
A bar in Scotland is holding its own independence opinion poll.
At the Twa Dugs pub, you can order a “Yes” beer if you’re for independence. A “No” beer if you’re against it. It’s pub owner Bob Shields’ private opinion poll.
“I am calling it vote with your throat,” Shields laughed.
At the bar, the yes vote is ahead. But across Scotland polls show the vote is too close to call. Read the rest of this entry »
Today Ukraine commemorates its 23rd year of independence from the Soviet Union as the military conflict in the East continues and NATO has confirmed that Russian artillery units are firing on Ukrainian forces inside Ukraine.
This Independence Day sees the country in pretty rough shape—fighting off Russian aggression while watching its economy contract 4.7% in the first quarter of this year. But despite all negatives, the country celebrates its Independence with a newly discovered sense of self and readiness to fight for its freedom fiercely.
This Sunday Kyiv will hold a military parade in Khreshchatyk, in the center of Ukraine’s capital’s and the cradle of winter’s revolution known to the world as Maidan.
The parade itself evokes mixed feelings in the Ukrainian public as the country mobilizes all its resources for what the government calls an “anti-terrorist operation” in Donbass and what to many citizens looks like a real war, with casualties and wounded, with the separatists armed with Russian weapons and Russian artillery operating inside Ukraine. The idea of holding a parade in such a time was criticized as unnecessary pomposity. But the president Petro Poroshenko, as well as his army commanders, decided to hold the parade anyway to demonstrate military capability and to lift the army’s spirit. Read the rest of this entry »
By Howard LaFranchi
Christian Science Monitor
August 20, 2014
WASHINGTON — The video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley features a black-robed Islamic State militant claiming – in British-accented English – that the execution is in retribution for recent US air strikes against IS forces in Iraq.
The video also shows another prone and bound captured American journalist, Steven Sotloff, and issues a warning that he will suffer the same fate if the US pursues its military campaign against fighters for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
But while the IS militants who made and disseminated the gruesome video may have aimed on one level to halt the US air strikes, experts in Islamist terrorism and its messaging say the group had a range of objectives and audiences in mind. Read the rest of this entry »
Aug 19, 2014
Malaysia is not an Islamic state or a Muslim nation-state, but a Muslim-majority country which is well regarded by most of the world for our unity-style moderate government and our consistent principled stand on global issues; within the larger paradigm and context of a Muslim world which appears often confused or inconsistent on universal issues and values; mostly internal but some global inaction as well.
While it is not my purpose to highlight any failures of our Foreign Affairs Ministry, we have to manage Malaysia’s reputation which had been put on a global scale which is still much respected for our principled position, as exemplified by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, especially on the issue of a racist South Africa.
Today however, we appear somewhat inconsistent in a number of foreign policy issues and global actions. For example, for me it is still not very clear if and whether the government of Malaysia did pay a few hundred millions for the release of our cockpit recorders for the downed MH17. Is then negotiating with International terrorists’ part of our new foreign policy?
For another instance, we have not ratified many international agreements and conventions; can the minister please explain the delay especially since we are now fighting so hard to sit not only on the UN Human Rights Council but also seeking to occupy one of the UN Security Council’s non-veto seat. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jane Arraf, Correspondent
AUGUST 7, 2014
Christian Science Monitor
Tens of thousands of Yazidis have taken refuge on a mountain in Sinjar province after Islamic State fighters overran their town and other areas, pushing out Kurdish paramilitary forces.
BAGHDAD — Sunni Arab militants in northern Iraq are hunting down and killing large numbers of minority Yazidis, acts which amount to genocide, according to a senior United Nations official.
On Sunday, fighters from the self-declared Islamic State overran the city of Sinjar, part of a widening offensive that on Thursday saw IS take control of other Christian and Yzedi towns on the Nineveh plains. According to UN officials and Yazidi elders, the militants have killed hundreds of Yazidis, a secretive faith with pre-Islamic roots. Others have been taken as slaves. Tens of thousands have taken refuge on Sinjar Mountain, their traditional refuge over centuries of persecution, and are appealing for emergency aid.
Unlike Christians, who have been told they must either pay a religious tax or convert to Islam to avoid death, the Yazidis are considered by Sunni militants to be infidels who deserve extermination.
“We believe that what they have done may be classified as genocide and a crime against humanity,” Gyorgy Busztin, the deputy special representative in Iraq of the UN secretary general, tells the Christian Science Monitor. “Regrettably the information indicates that they are not even given the choice of life or conversion but they are being treated as a group to be eliminated from the face of the earth.” Read the rest of this entry »
APR 25, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR – When Barack Obama lands in Malaysia this weekend, his two-day stopover will be the first visit by a US president since 1966. Unfortunately, human rights will probably not be on the agenda. Even as Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s government pursues yet another politically motivated case against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the United States, by refusing to schedule a meeting with Anwar, has signaled that it will not stand up for justice in Malaysia.
In fact, the Obama administration has refused to treat Malaysia like a normal country and engage leaders from all sides – a stance that has emboldened Najib to move against Anwar, whose coalition received a higher proportion of the popular vote in the May 2013 election than Obama did in the 2012 US election. And the many serious challenges to human rights and governance in Malaysia do not end with politicized convictions of opposition leaders. Just days after Obama declared last October that Malaysia was a model of “diversity and tolerance,” Malaysian authorities denied non-Muslims the right to use the word “Allah” in the practice of their own faiths – a decision condemned throughout the Muslim world for its negative portrayal of Islam.
Moreover, members of Najib’s government endorse hudud, a class of penalties within sharia law that could imply strict limitations on Muslims’ right to choose how they practice their faith. According to the US State Department’s own human-rights reports, curbs on religious freedoms have included demolition of Hindu temples, bombings of Christian churches, and a ban on the practice of Shia Islam, to which some 15% of the world’s Muslims adhere. Likewise, according to the Pew Research Center, Najib’s government has “very high” restrictions on religious freedom. Read the rest of this entry »