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Archive for August 10, 2006

Politics this week: 5th – 11th August 2006

August 10, 2006 Leave a comment

Police in London said they had foiled a terrorist plot on an “unimaginable scale” to blow up a number of aeroplanes flying between Britain and the United States. Despite many arrests, the authorities raised Britain’s threat level to “critical”. Passengers departing from Britain faced lengthy delays as security was tightened at airports in response to the threat. See articleE+

At the United Nations, diplomatic efforts to stop the conflict in Lebanon continued. A French and American draft resolution on a ceasefire was opposed by Lebanon and the Arab League, which called for the text to include a demand for Israel’s immediate withdrawal from Lebanon. See articleE+

Israel’s cabinet approved an army plan to push deeper into Lebanon, up to the Litani river, to control areas used by Hizbullah to launch its rockets into Israel. Some saw the move as a ploy to persuade the UN Security Council to propose a resolution that would not require Israel to withdraw immediately.

America’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said that Iraq was not sliding towards civil war after last week’s evidence to Congress by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the top United States commander in the Middle East said it was. Sectarian violence continued in Iraq itself, showing little sign of abating. See articleE+

Despite a peace agreement signed in May between rebels and the government, violence continued in the Darfur region of Sudan. In July, eight aid-workers were killed, more than in the previous two years. Many aid organisations have ceased visiting some refugee camps, which hold about 2m people, because of the escalating violence.

Four more foreign oil workers were kidnapped by militants in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. The militants, who have managed to reduce the country’s oil production by about 25%, want a greater local share of oil revenues.

At least 200 people were killed and hundreds more were missing after a river overflowed near the city of Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia. Thousands were also made homeless by the flood.

Reuters
Reuters

In a big political upset, Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut to Ned Lamont, an anti-war candidate backed by a “net-roots” campaign. Mr Lieberman, Al Gore’s running-mate in 2000 and a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, said he would stand as an independent candidate in the mid-term elections, potentially splintering the state’s Democratic vote. However, Democratic leaders, including John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, endorsed Mr Lamont’s win. See articleE+

As a reminder of another big issue that could hurt sitting politicians in the mid-term elections, Bob Ney, a congressman who has been under investigation for his ties to Jack Abramoff, a disgraced lobbyist, declined to stand for re-election in his Ohio district. And the saga of Tom DeLay lumbered on as the Supreme Court rejected a Republican request to remove his name from the ballot in Texas in November. Mr DeLay, who had resigned from Congress to fight a corruption scandal, then formally withdrew from the race. See articleE+

Another incumbent fell by the wayside when Cynthia McKinney lost her primary run-off election. Ms McKinney, a black congresswoman from the Atlanta suburbs, became embroiled in a race row earlier this year after she hit a policeman on Capitol Hill. See articleE+

America’s state governors launched a bipartisan effort to remove a provision in a congressional bill that would give the presidency more power in domestic crises over the National Guard, which traces its history back to the colonial militias. Federal and state governments were criticised last year for the unco-ordinated deployment of the guard in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Cuba’s ailing leader, Fidel Castro, is recuperating from emergency surgery but will take several weeks to resume the powers he handed temporarily to his brother, Raúl, according to the government. Neither man has been seen in public since Fidel fell ill. See articleE+

The seven-judge tribunal charged with certifying the result of Mexico’s presidential election on July 2nd called for a recount at 9% of the polling stations. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who apparently lost narrowly, has said protests against the result will continue until the tribunal calls for a full recount. See articleE+

More largesse from the Gates Foundation. It announced that it would give $500m over five years to the Global Fund, the main international vehicle for sponsoring projects to tackle AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in poor countries. The announcement came four days before the opening in Toronto of the XVI International AIDS Conference.

A fresh round of talks in Vienna on the political future of Kosovo was rapidly deadlocked after Serbs from the province boycotted a session on minority rights.

AFP
AFP

Firefighters struggled to contain more than 100 forest fires in the Galicia region of north-west Spain that killed at least three people. The fires, which at one point encroached on the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela, are thought to have been started by arsonists.

Heavy fighting continued for a second week in north-eastern Sri Lanka between government forces and Tamil rebels. In the town of Muttur, 17 aid-workers were killed and thousands have fled violence that threatened to destroy a four-year ceasefire pact.

Nepal’s government and Maoist rebels agreed to invite the UN to monitor their respective arms stocks. This promised to settle an issue that had threatened to block peace talks between them. A rebel leader had warned that the talks could collapse over disagreement about the future of the country’s monarchy.

Hundreds of people fled fighting in Afghanistan’s Faryab province between a militia loyal to the army chief of staff and another loyal to a former adviser of President Hamid Karzai. In southern Afghanistan, more serious fighting continued between Taliban fighters and American and European troops.

Close to 1.5m people were evacuated in south-eastern China as a typhoon approached.

Categories: Uncategorized

Politics this week: 5th – 11th August 2006

August 10, 2006 Leave a comment

Police in London said they had foiled a terrorist plot on an “unimaginable scale” to blow up a number of aeroplanes flying between Britain and the United States. Despite many arrests, the authorities raised Britain’s threat level to “critical”. Passengers departing from Britain faced lengthy delays as security was tightened at airports in response to the threat. See articleE+

At the United Nations, diplomatic efforts to stop the conflict in Lebanon continued. A French and American draft resolution on a ceasefire was opposed by Lebanon and the Arab League, which called for the text to include a demand for Israel’s immediate withdrawal from Lebanon. See articleE+

Israel’s cabinet approved an army plan to push deeper into Lebanon, up to the Litani river, to control areas used by Hizbullah to launch its rockets into Israel. Some saw the move as a ploy to persuade the UN Security Council to propose a resolution that would not require Israel to withdraw immediately.

America’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said that Iraq was not sliding towards civil war after last week’s evidence to Congress by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the top United States commander in the Middle East said it was. Sectarian violence continued in Iraq itself, showing little sign of abating. See articleE+

Despite a peace agreement signed in May between rebels and the government, violence continued in the Darfur region of Sudan. In July, eight aid-workers were killed, more than in the previous two years. Many aid organisations have ceased visiting some refugee camps, which hold about 2m people, because of the escalating violence.

Four more foreign oil workers were kidnapped by militants in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. The militants, who have managed to reduce the country’s oil production by about 25%, want a greater local share of oil revenues.

At least 200 people were killed and hundreds more were missing after a river overflowed near the city of Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia. Thousands were also made homeless by the flood.

Reuters
Reuters

In a big political upset, Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut to Ned Lamont, an anti-war candidate backed by a “net-roots” campaign. Mr Lieberman, Al Gore’s running-mate in 2000 and a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, said he would stand as an independent candidate in the mid-term elections, potentially splintering the state’s Democratic vote. However, Democratic leaders, including John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, endorsed Mr Lamont’s win. See articleE+

As a reminder of another big issue that could hurt sitting politicians in the mid-term elections, Bob Ney, a congressman who has been under investigation for his ties to Jack Abramoff, a disgraced lobbyist, declined to stand for re-election in his Ohio district. And the saga of Tom DeLay lumbered on as the Supreme Court rejected a Republican request to remove his name from the ballot in Texas in November. Mr DeLay, who had resigned from Congress to fight a corruption scandal, then formally withdrew from the race. See articleE+

Another incumbent fell by the wayside when Cynthia McKinney lost her primary run-off election. Ms McKinney, a black congresswoman from the Atlanta suburbs, became embroiled in a race row earlier this year after she hit a policeman on Capitol Hill. See articleE+

America’s state governors launched a bipartisan effort to remove a provision in a congressional bill that would give the presidency more power in domestic crises over the National Guard, which traces its history back to the colonial militias. Federal and state governments were criticised last year for the unco-ordinated deployment of the guard in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Cuba’s ailing leader, Fidel Castro, is recuperating from emergency surgery but will take several weeks to resume the powers he handed temporarily to his brother, Raúl, according to the government. Neither man has been seen in public since Fidel fell ill. See articleE+

The seven-judge tribunal charged with certifying the result of Mexico’s presidential election on July 2nd called for a recount at 9% of the polling stations. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who apparently lost narrowly, has said protests against the result will continue until the tribunal calls for a full recount. See articleE+

More largesse from the Gates Foundation. It announced that it would give $500m over five years to the Global Fund, the main international vehicle for sponsoring projects to tackle AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in poor countries. The announcement came four days before the opening in Toronto of the XVI International AIDS Conference.

A fresh round of talks in Vienna on the political future of Kosovo was rapidly deadlocked after Serbs from the province boycotted a session on minority rights.

AFP
AFP

Firefighters struggled to contain more than 100 forest fires in the Galicia region of north-west Spain that killed at least three people. The fires, which at one point encroached on the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela, are thought to have been started by arsonists.

Heavy fighting continued for a second week in north-eastern Sri Lanka between government forces and Tamil rebels. In the town of Muttur, 17 aid-workers were killed and thousands have fled violence that threatened to destroy a four-year ceasefire pact.

Nepal’s government and Maoist rebels agreed to invite the UN to monitor their respective arms stocks. This promised to settle an issue that had threatened to block peace talks between them. A rebel leader had warned that the talks could collapse over disagreement about the future of the country’s monarchy.

Hundreds of people fled fighting in Afghanistan’s Faryab province between a militia loyal to the army chief of staff and another loyal to a former adviser of President Hamid Karzai. In southern Afghanistan, more serious fighting continued between Taliban fighters and American and European troops.

Close to 1.5m people were evacuated in south-eastern China as a typhoon approached.

Categories: Uncategorized

Business this week: 5th – 11th August 2006

August 10, 2006 Leave a comment

BP‘s reputation in North America was dealt another serious blow. A corroded pipeline caused it to shut down its Prudhoe Bay oilfield, in Alaska, which provides 400,000 barrels of oil a day, or 8% of the American total. The British energy giant is already under scrutiny after a series of accidents in America, including an explosion that killed 15 people at a Texan refinery in March 2005 and an oil spill at Prudhoe Bay earlier this year. The latest incident helped push the price of oil close to $78 a barrel. See articleE+

Google announced two big deals to strengthen its position as the market leader in online advertising. It beat its rivals to win a contract for search and advertising features on News Corporation’s internet sites, which include MySpace, a trendy social-networking website, and also reached an agreement with Viacom to syndicate a selection of clips from Viacom’s MTV and Nickelodeon programmes to websites that use Google’s advertising network. See article

Sprint Nextel unveiled a $3 billion blueprint to create a wireless broadband network in America. The decision gives the mobile operator an edge over its competitors in harnessing “fourth generation” technology to deliver faster and more reliable video-to-phone services. See articleE+

Telstra cancelled plans to build a high-speed internet network in Australia after it failed to reach agreement with regulators on access fees for its rivals. The news adds to the Australian government’s concerns as it considers a sale of its 51.8% stake, worth A$25.3 billion ($19.4 billion), in the telecoms company.

Charles Allen, the chief executive of ITV, Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, resigned. Viewing figures and advertising revenue have declined, and critics have savaged the quality of ITV‘s recent programming. See articleE+

Aramark, a company that provides food services to schools, hospitals and sports grounds, including New York’s Shea Stadium, agreed to be bought by a consortium of private-equity firms and investors led by its own chief executive in a deal worth $8.3 billion. It is the latest in a series of big private-equity deals, including the recent sale by Philips of 80% of its semiconductors business to a group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. See article

In America, a federal appeals court ruled that IBM had not discriminated against its older workers when it changed its retirement plan. Pensioners argued that a switch away from benefits based on service and final pay favoured younger employees. The ruling could affect other suits brought against American companies’ pension plans on the ground of age discrimination.

Martha Stewart reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil insider-trading case related to the lifestyle guru’s sale of shares in ImClone Systems in 2001. Ms Stewart (who was jailed in a parallel criminal case but has since made a comeback) will pay a fine of $195,000 and is banned from holding a director’s post for five years. She neither admits nor denies wrongdoing.

After months of pressure exerted by a group of foreign investors led by Carl Icahn, KT&G, South Korea’s biggest producer of tobacco and ginseng, agreed to return $2.9 billion to shareholders by increasing dividends and buying back shares. The deal represents a breakthrough for shareholder activism in Asia.

The European Commission said it would investigate the Italian government’s decision to block a euro14.3 billion ($18.3 billion) merger between Autostrade and Spain’s Abertis. The sale, intended to create the world’s biggest toll-road operator, is the latest in a string of takeovers that have been hampered by the apparent economic nationalism of some governments. See articleE+

Anticipating a court ruling in its favour, Apotex, a Canadian pharmaceutical firm, introduced a generic version of a bestselling drug, Plavix. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis are in the midst of a legal fight with Apotex to protect Plavix’s patent.

Air China reduced the value of its forthcoming public offering in Shanghai by 40% because of weak demand. The carrier’s listing follows a spurt of big domestic offerings in mainland China this year after a 12-month ban on new share sales ended in May.

America’s Federal Reserve left the federal funds rate unchanged at 5.25%, ending a run of 17 meetings at which it had increased interest rates. Economists pored over the accompanying statement, which said that although core inflation had been “elevated” the signs were that economic growth had “moderated”. See articleE+

Categories: Uncategorized

Business this week: 5th – 11th August 2006

August 10, 2006 Leave a comment

BP‘s reputation in North America was dealt another serious blow. A corroded pipeline caused it to shut down its Prudhoe Bay oilfield, in Alaska, which provides 400,000 barrels of oil a day, or 8% of the American total. The British energy giant is already under scrutiny after a series of accidents in America, including an explosion that killed 15 people at a Texan refinery in March 2005 and an oil spill at Prudhoe Bay earlier this year. The latest incident helped push the price of oil close to $78 a barrel. See articleE+

Google announced two big deals to strengthen its position as the market leader in online advertising. It beat its rivals to win a contract for search and advertising features on News Corporation’s internet sites, which include MySpace, a trendy social-networking website, and also reached an agreement with Viacom to syndicate a selection of clips from Viacom’s MTV and Nickelodeon programmes to websites that use Google’s advertising network. See article

Sprint Nextel unveiled a $3 billion blueprint to create a wireless broadband network in America. The decision gives the mobile operator an edge over its competitors in harnessing “fourth generation” technology to deliver faster and more reliable video-to-phone services. See articleE+

Telstra cancelled plans to build a high-speed internet network in Australia after it failed to reach agreement with regulators on access fees for its rivals. The news adds to the Australian government’s concerns as it considers a sale of its 51.8% stake, worth A$25.3 billion ($19.4 billion), in the telecoms company.

Charles Allen, the chief executive of ITV, Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, resigned. Viewing figures and advertising revenue have declined, and critics have savaged the quality of ITV‘s recent programming. See articleE+

Aramark, a company that provides food services to schools, hospitals and sports grounds, including New York’s Shea Stadium, agreed to be bought by a consortium of private-equity firms and investors led by its own chief executive in a deal worth $8.3 billion. It is the latest in a series of big private-equity deals, including the recent sale by Philips of 80% of its semiconductors business to a group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. See article

In America, a federal appeals court ruled that IBM had not discriminated against its older workers when it changed its retirement plan. Pensioners argued that a switch away from benefits based on service and final pay favoured younger employees. The ruling could affect other suits brought against American companies’ pension plans on the ground of age discrimination.

Martha Stewart reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil insider-trading case related to the lifestyle guru’s sale of shares in ImClone Systems in 2001. Ms Stewart (who was jailed in a parallel criminal case but has since made a comeback) will pay a fine of $195,000 and is banned from holding a director’s post for five years. She neither admits nor denies wrongdoing.

After months of pressure exerted by a group of foreign investors led by Carl Icahn, KT&G, South Korea’s biggest producer of tobacco and ginseng, agreed to return $2.9 billion to shareholders by increasing dividends and buying back shares. The deal represents a breakthrough for shareholder activism in Asia.

The European Commission said it would investigate the Italian government’s decision to block a euro14.3 billion ($18.3 billion) merger between Autostrade and Spain’s Abertis. The sale, intended to create the world’s biggest toll-road operator, is the latest in a string of takeovers that have been hampered by the apparent economic nationalism of some governments. See articleE+

Anticipating a court ruling in its favour, Apotex, a Canadian pharmaceutical firm, introduced a generic version of a bestselling drug, Plavix. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis are in the midst of a legal fight with Apotex to protect Plavix’s patent.

Air China reduced the value of its forthcoming public offering in Shanghai by 40% because of weak demand. The carrier’s listing follows a spurt of big domestic offerings in mainland China this year after a 12-month ban on new share sales ended in May.

America’s Federal Reserve left the federal funds rate unchanged at 5.25%, ending a run of 17 meetings at which it had increased interest rates. Economists pored over the accompanying statement, which said that although core inflation had been “elevated” the signs were that economic growth had “moderated”. See articleE+

Categories: Uncategorized