International Round Up

Russia admits Syrian Government is losing territorial control

Syrian men break the concrete of a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)

Syrian men break the concrete of a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)

The situation in Syria is aggravating for the local Government. An official from the Russian Government has said for the first time that opposition forces might defeat Syrian government. The opposition is gaining legitimacy after more than 100 countries signed a declaration yesterday in Morocco to give it a political lift. The United States formally recognises the opposite party as “the legitimate representative” of the people in that country.

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North Korea launches rocket ignoring UN Security Council

A screen shows the Unha-3 rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at North Korea's satellite control centre in Cholsan county (AP)

A screen shows the Unha-3 rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at North Korea’s satellite control centre in Cholsan county (AP)

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea for launching what they consider to be a long-range missile, while Pyongyang states that it was a satellite. The Council is going to have a meeting next Wednesday to consider an “appropriate response” to the threat.

In the meantime, the US has considered the action as “a highly provocative act that threatens regional security.”  In a statement released last Friday, they announced their intention was to send warships to the Asian country.

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The Eurozone agrees rules towards banking union

The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Johannes Eisele/AFP) Photo/Johannes Eisele)

The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Economy and finance ministers have reached an agreement today on rules for supervising Eurozone banking. The biggest banks of the Union will be under the direct oversight of the European Central Bank.

The supervision will be made over the biggest banks, with assets over 30,000 millions or the 20% of the GDP. The main obstacle has been a disagreement over power distribution in terms of the supervisor. Germany wants to leave out regional banks, while France and Spain have asked the supervisor for an inspection of every bank, without exception.

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Putin wants Russian couples to have at least 3 children

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state-of-the nation address in Moscow, Russia (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state-of-the nation address in Moscow, Russia (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The Russian president Vladimir Putin called on Russians to have at least three children each. He added that he wants people who own luxury goods to pay higher taxes.

After the end of the Soviet Union, the standard of living decreased due to a growth in the mortality rate and a substantial reduction of births. “In order for Russia to be a strong and sovereign country, there must be more of us and we must be better in morality, in our competences, our work and our creativity”, the Russian leader said.

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Oregon mall gunman identified

Police handout photo of suspect from Tuesday's shooting in Happy Valley, Oregon (Clackamas County Sheriff's Office)

Police handout photo of suspect from Tuesday’s shooting in Happy Valley, Oregon (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office have identified Jacob Tyler Roberts as the gunman who shot two people before killing himself in Oregon last Tuesday. According to Oregon law enforcement, he opened fire on a crowded Portland shopping mall and was shooting victims at random.

Roberts was armed with a stolen AR-15 semi-automatic rifle when he opened fire. Two victims were fatally shot, identified as Cindy Yuille, 54 and Steven Forsyth, 45. A third victim, 15 year-old Kristina Shevchenko, is still in serious condition at the Oregon Health and Science university Hospital, in Portland.

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First Pope tweet in eight languages

Pope Benedict XVI sends his first tweet (EFE)

Pope Benedict XVI sends his first tweet (EFE)

The Pope has tweeted for the first time in eight languages in his eight Twitter accounts. “Dear friends,” he wrote, “I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

He delivered it from a tablet computer at the end of a general audience in the Vatican, with a group of young people gathered round him and after an official announced: “And now the Pope will tweet!”. He has already reached over one million Twitter followers.

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No progress in fiscal cliff talks

US House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)

US House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)

Large differences remain between congressional Republicans and the White House to avert the “fiscal cliff” of steep tax hikes and budget cuts. House Speaker John Boehner called on President Barack Obama to produce a new offer. “I was born with a glass half full. I remain the most optimistic person in this town. But we’ve got some serious differences,” Boehner has told reporters at a news conference.

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Worldwide Geminid meteor shower tonight

A massive Geminid fireball from 2009's shower, one of the brightest ever recorded (NASA)

A massive Geminid fireball from 2009′s shower, one of the brightest ever recorded (NASA)

The annual meteor shower will reach its peak later tonight and into the early hours of Friday morning. The meteors will appear to radiate from a point near the star Castor, in the constellation Gemini. The skies will thus be free of the moon’s glare, allowing viewers in rural areas to see perhaps 100 or more meteors per hour, experts say.

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An early season of dangerous weather

The weather in the United States has quietened after a chaotic weekend of severe storms and deadly tornadoes.

The most recent chain of storms have killed at least 39 people across 5 states, this is on top of deadly storms earlier in the week, bringing the total deaths this week to nearly 52.

According to Jonathan Erdman, Senior Meteorologist at weather.com the preliminary count from the National Weather Services for tornadoes, on 2nd and 3rd of March, was 79 twisters that touched down. Once the final damage reports are conducted, this could prove to be the largest March outbreak on record.

This is only 8 less then the 10-year average of 87 tornadoes in the whole of March.

These tornadoes are coming unseasonably early this year. Tornadoes are most common during the spring and summer months, typically from April to June, however the weather requirements for a tornado can happen at any time of the year.

The latest death came last night as the 15-month toddler, Angel Babcock, who was found in an open field was taken off life support last night at an Louisville,Kentucky hospital. The toddler died of intensive head and neck injuries, which had kept her in critical condition since Friday.

Weather reports for the week have predicted a quiet start to the damaged area, but with thunderstorms rolling in at the end of the week, though these storms should be without the damaging winds and weather patterns experienced in the past week.

Missile Whodunnit

By Ryan C. Gavan

The speculation is rife about the missile trail (Picture from theage.com.au)

Mystery is still surrounding a suspected missile launch yesterday off the coast of southern California.

Video footage of the alleged missile launch was captured by a CBS news helicopter. It shows a missile like object shooting up into the sky, followed by a trail of vapour. The US government knows of no scheduled or accidental launches in that area.

The Pentagon has denied that this was an US weapon test. A spokesperson stated: ” nobody within the department of defence  that we’ve contacted has been able to explain what this contrail is”.

It seems to have completely vexed officials. The Federal Aviation Authority, the US body in charge of tracking aircraft, say that the object was not picked up on radar reports.

The North American Aerospace Defence Command issued a statement about the occurrence:  “we are aware of the unexplained contrail reported off the coast of Southern California yesterday evening,” but reassure, “there is np indication of any threat to our nation”.

The ‘blogosphere is already awash with conspiracy theories. Online speculation argues that it could be a rogue attack being denied by the government. There are also claims it is reminiscent of the UFO crash landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The film ‘Loose Change’ has famously argued that a missile was shot at the Pentagon in 2001 as opposed to a plane crashing into it.

This comes at a time when US national security is already at high alert. Recently, the UK and US security services thwarted a terrorist plot. Bombs concealed in printer ink cartridges were found on cargo planes addressed to Jewish synagogues in Chicago.

Project Prevention hits UK with bumpy landing.

By Luke Langlands

“If every drug addict woman got into treatment and got clean it would be wonderful, but that’s not the reality…money motivates people – it’s a bribe”. These are the words of Barbara Harris – the founder and head of Project Prevention – the US organization set-up to “bribe” drug addicts into sterilization for $300. Harris is now plying her trade in the UK, with a recent visit to Glasgow and more planned in the future.

[Read more...]

US raise concerns over Anglo-French Treaty

by Simon Black
French and British Leaders at conference
President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron at the Anglo-French Summit, 2010

What is supposed to be a major step in the right direction has already found milestones to trip over along the way. Last night PM David Cameron was cautioned that the US are concerned with the groundbreaking French-UK deal and are considering to pull out of intelligence sharing.

The deal, signed yesterday, marks an interdependence between France and the UK. It is ultimately a pool of resources which each country will make benefit off. Sharing air carriers and nuclear intelligence will further the bond between the two allies and also benefit the financial climate and civilian safety in each country.

Although it marks a long-term companionship between European powers, there are concerns circulating across the Atlantic that the deal will cut ties with the US Government. John Bolton, a UN ambassador for the US, claims this deal could dramatically decrease the amount of intelligence the US will share with the UK. “‘Inevitably the risk with this is that American methods and sources will be compromised and it is going to have a very profound effect” Bolton told reporters in the wake of the deal.

John Bolton, US Ambassdor for the UN

John Bolton, US Ambassador for the UN

The US are apprehensive that they share classified information with the UK and this could be at risk with this new deal. France were opposed to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and only recently rejoined the NATO command structure, and some could argue they are renowned for retreating over repleting.

‘There is a long track-record of duplicity on the French part” says Bernard Jenkin, a former Tory defense spokesman.

With the Republicans gaining in the mid-term elections the US are obviously already in uncertainty. The sharing of resources between European powers can only further fuel the uncertainty that a European Army may lie in the future. This fear is substantiated by  a specific part of the deal stating that either country can deploy troops at a single command and can use each deployment bases.

Mr Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have stressed that the deal will further enhance the defense and attack capabilities of both countries while being a major landmark in compatibility between both powers.

Mr Sarkozy has stressed the deal “is unprecedented and it shows a level of trust and confidence between our two nations that is unequaled in history”. Mr Cameron suggested it is the “greatest bang for our buck”.

Time for gathering together

Twenty of the world’s influential leaders meet this week in London at the Excel Centre on the banks of the Thames. They meet during a period of almost unprecedented financial turmoil.

But will they come up with world-changing solutions?

The United Kingdom chairs the Group of Twenty in 2009 and this week it hosts the G20 summit.

The Washington Summit held in November 2008, on the international response to the global financial and economic crisis, set out an agenda for G-20 Finance Ministers to take forward work in areas of financial management such as the promotion of integrity in financial markets. It is also proposed that the G20 should reinforce international cooperation and that  International Financial Institutions should be reformed. 

World leaders gathered in a G20 meeting

World leaders gathered in a G20 meeting

Four working groups were set up to undertake this work in anticipation of the London Summit and now this week they come together to discuss what might still be required to restart the global economy.

World leaders are set to reiterate a pledge to avoid protectionism and complete stalled global trade talks but offer little to those calling for more economic stimulus. 

The G20 now has a crucial role to drive forward work betweenboth advanced and emerging economies to tackle the international financial and economic crisis, restore worldwide financial stability, lead the international economic recovery and secure a sustainable future for all countries.

The financial markets and the world economy both continue to face serious global challenges and the severity of the crisis and ongoing uncertainties demonstrate need for urgent action. During the United Kingdom’s Chair, the immediate priority will be to gain further agreements for a concerted and managed international response.

The G-20 will need to send a strong message that it will do whatever is necessary to stabilise the financial system and to provide further economic support. The Financial TImes says that the group must  commit to maintaining open trade and investment, to avoid a retreat to protectionism, and direct necessary additional support to emerging markets and developing countries. It is understood that it could be emerging markets who actually help other countries out of this dilemma. 

Whilst China holds much of the US debt in its hands it is also exporting many cheap goods to the US, which can only be seen as a relationship which is beneficial to China, a so called emerging market. 

In China the economy continues to grow. 

The G20 should develop proposals to restore growth in the medium term, including the unwinding of emergency measures taken in response to the crisis.

President Barack Obama is voicing optimism that this week’s crucial G20 summit will set the framework for recovery, saying that world leaders know they must “deliver a strong message of unity” for the sake of the global economy but he played down talk of a split between the US and the leading continental European economies, notably Germany and France.

Gordon Brown said: “The world is coming together and the results of this week will show that global problems… require global solutions.

PM Gordon Brown

PM Gordon Brown

“I believe the world will rise to the challenge and defeat those who say doing nothing is an option and defeat those who say protectionism is an option.”

Meanwhile Ministers were struggling to maintain momentum for the G20 summit last night after it emerged that any spending decisions would be deferred to a later meeting.

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister who will hold pre-summit talks with Brown tomorrow, said it was now up to the International Monetary Fund to determine how much additional support the world economy would need next year, and that there had never been any expectation that the decisions on that package would be taken in London.

 

The so called Casino Capitalism in the City of London has been severely criticised by our neighbours in Europe. The light touch regulation so much revered by Gordon Brown and his Government in 2006 has not worked. The need and desire to reduce the burden of paperwork has allowed loopholes to develop. 

Transparency is now the watchword of the G20 and they want more regulation done more obviously. 

Lord Turner of the FSA thinks that, for example, AIG was the worst case of an institution falling between the stools of the US and the UK regulatory processes. Madoff was also regulated in the UK and the US. But that too was missed by both sets of regulators. 

Now we have toxic assets being sold around the world. Some believe that tax havens such as The Isle of Man, Jersey or Monaco with their shadow banking systems may have to be brought to an end.  France has already threatened that Sarkoy will resign as Prince of Andorra and now Andorra has agreed that it will give up its special status. Common standards will have to be applied. There cannot be a separate banking system evading the national jurisdiction in the opinion of Peter Mandelson, Business Secretary, who also thinks that in this country there was a sound regulatory framework but that the powers could have been used more “intrusively”. 

Separately five British people have been arrested in connection with a suspected plot involving explosives to disrupt the G20 summit.

The individuals were arrested at addresses in Plymouth and they are being held under terrorism legislation.

Despite the involvement of explosives, a police source with knowledge of the investigation has told the Guardian that initial inquiries indicate the five were “not planning a Guy Fawkes plot”.

“I think it was more designed to disrupt than injure or kill,” the source said, adding that reports that the individuals were Greek nationals were false. It is understood that the “suspicious devices” found suggest a small-scale stunt. Unconfirmed reports said the individuals may have had “flares” in their posession.

What is the G20?

The G 20 is otherwise known as the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. It is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 states, 19 of the world’s largest national economies and includes the European Union.

It is a forum for cooperation and consultation on matters pertaining to the international financial system. It studies, reviews, and promotes discussion among key industrial and emerging market countries of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability, and seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.

Should I stay or should I go….?

img_11062

New York City

By Greg Lorraine

Searches for flights to the US are down by 15 per cent in the run-up to Christmas, according to flight search engine Skyscanner.

It is a time when us Brits usually make the trip to places like New York and Los Angeles to pick up holiday bargains.

The current economic climate and the stronger dollar are said to be the main factors putting people off.

A spokesperson for Thomson Travel said: “People don’t appear to be put off spending money on holidays, in fact I think they actually want to get away more than ever before to relax and take time out from the stresses of everyday life.

“However, the current exchange rate for dollars and the Euro aren’t as good as it has been in recent times. Because of this, people are thinking more about getting the best deal on a holiday and looking closely at how much money they will have to spend once they reach their destination.”

Places such as Turkey, Thailand and Croatia are among the places proving most popular for holidaymakers.

Clinton to become Secretary of State?

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton share a tender moment

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton share a tender moment

By Euan Black

There is increasing speculation that Hillary Clinton will become Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.

The rumours come as Mr Obama promised to work with John McCain, his Republican rival for the presidency.

The job offer for Mrs Clinton serves as a further indication that Obama will create a challenging and opinionated cabinet for his administration.

As part of her job as Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton would be expected to be the country’s voice in foreign affairs, a role she is well qualified for. She has specialised in foreign affairs since her appointment as Senator for New York.

There is allegedly a process underway to try and weigh up the pros and cons of such an appointment.

This process includes a thorough vetting of Bill Clinton’s charity foundation, to ensure there is not a conflict of interest. This would be viewed as a potential hindrance, as well as the fact she has been outspoken in the past on issues such as Iran. She claimed she would “obliterate” the country if they struck Israel, a comment which caused Iran to lodge an official complaint to the UN.  Despite this, she would be a popular choice, both in the Democrat and Republican party.

Meanwhile, in his first meeting with John McCain, Mr Obama made clear his intention to work with the Republicans in order to “launch a new era of reform”.

In their joint statement after the meeting, the two former rivals stated: “We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation’s security”.

A video of the meeting can be seen here on BBC’s iPlayer.

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