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Archive for August 17, 2006

Politics this week: 12th – 18th August 2006

August 17, 2006 Leave a comment

A ceasefire took hold between Hizbullah and Israel after a month of fighting. Negotiations continued at the UN on the size and mandate of a peacekeeping force for south Lebanon. Lebanon began sending troops into the south, but said they would not disarm Hizbullah fighters. As Iran hailed a “divine victory”, Israelis criticised their government’s handling of the war. See articleE+

At least 57 people died in a series of blasts in Baghdad (which the Americans attributed to an accidental gas explosion) and nine were killed in an attack on the offices of an Iraqi Kurdish party in the northern town of Mosul. America assigned still more troops to Baghdad to try to contain the sectarian violence.

Islamist militiamen extended their hold over Somalia by capturing three ports close to the northern region of Puntland, where the administration is hostile to their advance. The internationally recognised transitional government remains holed up in the central town of Baidoa.

The Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, promised to increase security in the Niger Delta region after the kidnapping of five separate groups of foreign oil workers by militants in recent weeks. Ransoms paid by oil companies for the release of their workers have increased the militants’ boldness.

India stepped up its competition with China for Africa’s energy and commodity reserves by unveiling a blueprint to invest $1 billion to develop oil and mining projects in Côte d’Ivoire.

Ethiopia appealed for international help as the death toll from recent flooding rose to 870. Officials are concerned that after a month of storms the country’s dams are holding so much water that it could spill on to surrounding towns and villages.

California’s legislature abandoned a plan to redraw political districts and increase term limits for politicians in the state. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been pushing the body to introduce changes to the electoral system after his much wider-ranging reform package was defeated at the polls.

The Census Bureau released a snapshot of the United States’ population at mid-decade. Among other things, America’s foreign-born population increased to 12.4% in 2005 (from 11.1% in 2000), accounting for around 40% of the population of Los Angeles.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Junichiro Koizumi, the outgoing prime minister of Japan, paid a sixth visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which counts convicted war criminals among the dead soldiers it honours. Mr Koizumi’s excursion further angered China and South Korea, especially as it came on the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in the second world war. Polls show that most Japanese no longer favour such visits. See articleE+

An aid organisation based in Seoul claimed that last month’s floods in North Korea left almost 55,000 people either dead or missing and 2.5m homeless. Good Friends said the North Korean government is trying to suppress news about the disaster for fear of stirring social unrest.

The death toll from the worst typhoon to hit China in 50 years reached at least 320. Wind speeds in the storm, which was centred on the south-eastern province of Fujian, hit 216kph (134mph).

Fighting between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil rebels continued in the north of the country. Schools were closed across Sri Lanka amid fear of rebel reprisals in revenge for an air strike on what the rebels claim was an orphanage in Tamil territory. See articleE+

British police continued to question 23 suspects still held in connection with an alleged terror plot to blow up as many as ten planes flying from Britain to America. Pakistani authorities reportedly held another 17 people. Flights at British airports started to return to normal, although increased security measures, such as smaller carry-on bags, seem likely to stay in place. Some airlines claimed Heathrow was unprepared. See article

Ukraine’s new prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, visited Russia for talks with his opposite number, Mikhail Fradkov, and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, who strongly backed Mr Yanukovich’s bid for Ukraine’s presidency in 2004. Mr Yanukovich, who is seen as pro-Russian, said he had secured a favourable deal from the Russians on the price of gas exports. See articleE+

The United Nations chose a new representative to run Kosovo. Joachim Rücker, a German diplomat, will take over from Denmark’s Soren Jessen-Petersen. Talks on Kosovo’s future remain deadlocked.

The Czech Republic may at last acquire a new government, with Mirek Topolanek, leader of the right-wing Civic Democrats, as prime minister. The breakthrough came after a deal on the election of a parliamentary speaker. But Mr Topolanek will, at best, lead a minority government that is unlikely to last long.

EPA
EPA

Günter Grass, a German novelist, admitted that he had served in the Waffen-SS during the second world war. The shock of the news was greater because Mr Grass has long acted as the conscience of the nation over war guilt. See articleE+

In Cuba, the authorities released photos and a video of Fidel Castro on his sick bed after an operation for severe intestinal bleeding. The pictures suggested that Mr Castro was recovering but that he remains seriously ill. See articleE+

A recount of 9% of the votes in last month’s presidential election in Mexico ordered by the electoral tribunal was completed. The tribunal did not immediately release the result, but the party of Felipe Calderón, the conservative candidate who won by 244,000 votes out of 42m, said the recount only altered 1,500 votes. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist challenger, claimed the recount showed evidence of massive fraud.

Bolivia’s government said it was temporarily suspending its nationalisation of the oil and gas industry because the state oil company lacks the funds and technical capacity to take over production from foreign firms. See articleE+

Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled Paraguay as a dictator for 35 years until 1989, died in Brasília, the capital of Brazil.

Categories: Uncategorized

Politics this week: 12th – 18th August 2006

August 17, 2006 Leave a comment

A ceasefire took hold between Hizbullah and Israel after a month of fighting. Negotiations continued at the UN on the size and mandate of a peacekeeping force for south Lebanon. Lebanon began sending troops into the south, but said they would not disarm Hizbullah fighters. As Iran hailed a “divine victory”, Israelis criticised their government’s handling of the war. See articleE+

At least 57 people died in a series of blasts in Baghdad (which the Americans attributed to an accidental gas explosion) and nine were killed in an attack on the offices of an Iraqi Kurdish party in the northern town of Mosul. America assigned still more troops to Baghdad to try to contain the sectarian violence.

Islamist militiamen extended their hold over Somalia by capturing three ports close to the northern region of Puntland, where the administration is hostile to their advance. The internationally recognised transitional government remains holed up in the central town of Baidoa.

The Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, promised to increase security in the Niger Delta region after the kidnapping of five separate groups of foreign oil workers by militants in recent weeks. Ransoms paid by oil companies for the release of their workers have increased the militants’ boldness.

India stepped up its competition with China for Africa’s energy and commodity reserves by unveiling a blueprint to invest $1 billion to develop oil and mining projects in Côte d’Ivoire.

Ethiopia appealed for international help as the death toll from recent flooding rose to 870. Officials are concerned that after a month of storms the country’s dams are holding so much water that it could spill on to surrounding towns and villages.

California’s legislature abandoned a plan to redraw political districts and increase term limits for politicians in the state. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been pushing the body to introduce changes to the electoral system after his much wider-ranging reform package was defeated at the polls.

The Census Bureau released a snapshot of the United States’ population at mid-decade. Among other things, America’s foreign-born population increased to 12.4% in 2005 (from 11.1% in 2000), accounting for around 40% of the population of Los Angeles.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Junichiro Koizumi, the outgoing prime minister of Japan, paid a sixth visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which counts convicted war criminals among the dead soldiers it honours. Mr Koizumi’s excursion further angered China and South Korea, especially as it came on the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in the second world war. Polls show that most Japanese no longer favour such visits. See articleE+

An aid organisation based in Seoul claimed that last month’s floods in North Korea left almost 55,000 people either dead or missing and 2.5m homeless. Good Friends said the North Korean government is trying to suppress news about the disaster for fear of stirring social unrest.

The death toll from the worst typhoon to hit China in 50 years reached at least 320. Wind speeds in the storm, which was centred on the south-eastern province of Fujian, hit 216kph (134mph).

Fighting between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil rebels continued in the north of the country. Schools were closed across Sri Lanka amid fear of rebel reprisals in revenge for an air strike on what the rebels claim was an orphanage in Tamil territory. See articleE+

British police continued to question 23 suspects still held in connection with an alleged terror plot to blow up as many as ten planes flying from Britain to America. Pakistani authorities reportedly held another 17 people. Flights at British airports started to return to normal, although increased security measures, such as smaller carry-on bags, seem likely to stay in place. Some airlines claimed Heathrow was unprepared. See article

Ukraine’s new prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, visited Russia for talks with his opposite number, Mikhail Fradkov, and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, who strongly backed Mr Yanukovich’s bid for Ukraine’s presidency in 2004. Mr Yanukovich, who is seen as pro-Russian, said he had secured a favourable deal from the Russians on the price of gas exports. See articleE+

The United Nations chose a new representative to run Kosovo. Joachim Rücker, a German diplomat, will take over from Denmark’s Soren Jessen-Petersen. Talks on Kosovo’s future remain deadlocked.

The Czech Republic may at last acquire a new government, with Mirek Topolanek, leader of the right-wing Civic Democrats, as prime minister. The breakthrough came after a deal on the election of a parliamentary speaker. But Mr Topolanek will, at best, lead a minority government that is unlikely to last long.

EPA
EPA

Günter Grass, a German novelist, admitted that he had served in the Waffen-SS during the second world war. The shock of the news was greater because Mr Grass has long acted as the conscience of the nation over war guilt. See articleE+

In Cuba, the authorities released photos and a video of Fidel Castro on his sick bed after an operation for severe intestinal bleeding. The pictures suggested that Mr Castro was recovering but that he remains seriously ill. See articleE+

A recount of 9% of the votes in last month’s presidential election in Mexico ordered by the electoral tribunal was completed. The tribunal did not immediately release the result, but the party of Felipe Calderón, the conservative candidate who won by 244,000 votes out of 42m, said the recount only altered 1,500 votes. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist challenger, claimed the recount showed evidence of massive fraud.

Bolivia’s government said it was temporarily suspending its nationalisation of the oil and gas industry because the state oil company lacks the funds and technical capacity to take over production from foreign firms. See articleE+

Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled Paraguay as a dictator for 35 years until 1989, died in Brasília, the capital of Brazil.

Categories: Uncategorized

Business this week: 12th – 18th August 2006

August 17, 2006 Leave a comment

Amid the worries about the security risk of business travellers bringing laptops on to aircraft, Dell put a further dent in the device’s safety credentials by issuing a recall of 4.1m lithium-ion laptop batteries (which are made by Sony). Such batteries, used in a variety of consumer electronics, have been responsible for several recent safety incidents, bursting into flames on at least five aircraft. See article

The effectiveness of Mark Hurd’s strategy at Hewlett-Packard was underscored when the company reported a quarterly net profit of almost $1.4 billion, compared with $73m a year ago (when HP took a tax charge). Profitability at its PC unit, long seen as a drag on HP‘s earnings, also continued to perk up.

PepsiCo appointed Indian-born Indra Nooyi as its new chief executive. In doing so, the food and beverages firm becomes the biggest company in America (by stockmarket value) to be led by a woman. See articleE+

LG Card, South Korea’s primary credit-card issuer, looked set to be acquired by Shinhan Financial Group after it was chosen as the preferred bidder in a pubic auction. LG was bailed out by creditors, led by Korea Development Bank, after a consumer-debt crisis in 2002. With Shinhan reportedly paying around $7.5 billion, LG‘s takeover is likely to be South Korea’s biggest.

In a much-watched court decision on disputed home-insurance claims arising from Hurricane Katrina, a federal judge in Mississippi ruled that a couple’s insurance policy did not provide for damages caused by flooding, but did for damages caused by wind. The distinction is significant for insurance firms, which do not usually pay out for flood damage in standard homeowners’ policies. The industry faces claims for billions of dollars that stem from flooding after Katrina and has already paid out nearly $18 billion in claims for wind damage.

Wal-Mart reported a drop in quarterly profit, its first decline in profit since 1996, as it accounted for charges stemming from the sale of its operations in Germany. The retailer’s net income fell by 26%, compared with a year ago, to just under $2.1 billion for the three months ending July 31st. Excluding operations in Germany and South Korea, where it is also selling stores, profits rose by 4.6%, to $3 billion.

In what could be one of Australia’s biggest takeovers, retailer Coles Myer confirmed it had been approached by parties wishing to “discuss the company’s ownership”. Speculation mounted that the unnamed parties included Britain’s Tesco.

The FBI said the former chief executive of Comverse was now considered a fugitive from justice after he failed to appear at an arraignment for fraud connected to backdated stock-options; the former head of finance and former general counsel at the technology firm were charged at the hearing. Dozens of firms are being investigated by regulators in various stock-options scandals.

UBS, the world’s biggest wealth manager, said it expected trading conditions in the second half of the year to be difficult, possibly dampening its revenues. The Swiss-based bank’s caution came as it reported a second-quarter net profit of SFr3.1 billion ($2.5 billion), a rise of 47% compared with a year earlier. See article

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Eurotunnel’s credit rating after it defaulted on an interest payment on a tranche of bank debt. The operator of the rail tunnel that links Britain and France is taking advantage of its protection, granted earlier this month, under a new French bankruptcy law. Negotiations are continuing between the company and its bondholders on a debt restructuring plan.

The battle to win control of Inco, a Canadian nickel miner, intensified when CVRD, a big Brazilian mining company, threw its hat into the ring with a C$19.9 billion ($17.8 billion) bid. Teck Cominco, a compatriot of Inco’s, saw its offer expire. Meanwhile, Xstrata said it had won control of Falconbridge, which had made a deal to merge with Inco until the Swiss-based company muscled in.

The price of oil, which reached nearly $77 a barrel last week, fell back after a ceasefire was agreed in Lebanon.

The euro area’s GDP grew by 0.9% in the second quarter compared with the previous quarter, its fastest rate for six years. It is the first time since 2001 that the 12-country bloc’s quarterly growth rate has exceeded America’s. Much of the impetus came from Germany, which registered a strong performance in its domestic market, offsetting a slightly weaker demand for exports. See article

Categories: Uncategorized

Business this week: 12th – 18th August 2006

August 17, 2006 Leave a comment

Amid the worries about the security risk of business travellers bringing laptops on to aircraft, Dell put a further dent in the device’s safety credentials by issuing a recall of 4.1m lithium-ion laptop batteries (which are made by Sony). Such batteries, used in a variety of consumer electronics, have been responsible for several recent safety incidents, bursting into flames on at least five aircraft. See article

The effectiveness of Mark Hurd’s strategy at Hewlett-Packard was underscored when the company reported a quarterly net profit of almost $1.4 billion, compared with $73m a year ago (when HP took a tax charge). Profitability at its PC unit, long seen as a drag on HP‘s earnings, also continued to perk up.

PepsiCo appointed Indian-born Indra Nooyi as its new chief executive. In doing so, the food and beverages firm becomes the biggest company in America (by stockmarket value) to be led by a woman. See articleE+

LG Card, South Korea’s primary credit-card issuer, looked set to be acquired by Shinhan Financial Group after it was chosen as the preferred bidder in a pubic auction. LG was bailed out by creditors, led by Korea Development Bank, after a consumer-debt crisis in 2002. With Shinhan reportedly paying around $7.5 billion, LG‘s takeover is likely to be South Korea’s biggest.

In a much-watched court decision on disputed home-insurance claims arising from Hurricane Katrina, a federal judge in Mississippi ruled that a couple’s insurance policy did not provide for damages caused by flooding, but did for damages caused by wind. The distinction is significant for insurance firms, which do not usually pay out for flood damage in standard homeowners’ policies. The industry faces claims for billions of dollars that stem from flooding after Katrina and has already paid out nearly $18 billion in claims for wind damage.

Wal-Mart reported a drop in quarterly profit, its first decline in profit since 1996, as it accounted for charges stemming from the sale of its operations in Germany. The retailer’s net income fell by 26%, compared with a year ago, to just under $2.1 billion for the three months ending July 31st. Excluding operations in Germany and South Korea, where it is also selling stores, profits rose by 4.6%, to $3 billion.

In what could be one of Australia’s biggest takeovers, retailer Coles Myer confirmed it had been approached by parties wishing to “discuss the company’s ownership”. Speculation mounted that the unnamed parties included Britain’s Tesco.

The FBI said the former chief executive of Comverse was now considered a fugitive from justice after he failed to appear at an arraignment for fraud connected to backdated stock-options; the former head of finance and former general counsel at the technology firm were charged at the hearing. Dozens of firms are being investigated by regulators in various stock-options scandals.

UBS, the world’s biggest wealth manager, said it expected trading conditions in the second half of the year to be difficult, possibly dampening its revenues. The Swiss-based bank’s caution came as it reported a second-quarter net profit of SFr3.1 billion ($2.5 billion), a rise of 47% compared with a year earlier. See article

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Eurotunnel’s credit rating after it defaulted on an interest payment on a tranche of bank debt. The operator of the rail tunnel that links Britain and France is taking advantage of its protection, granted earlier this month, under a new French bankruptcy law. Negotiations are continuing between the company and its bondholders on a debt restructuring plan.

The battle to win control of Inco, a Canadian nickel miner, intensified when CVRD, a big Brazilian mining company, threw its hat into the ring with a C$19.9 billion ($17.8 billion) bid. Teck Cominco, a compatriot of Inco’s, saw its offer expire. Meanwhile, Xstrata said it had won control of Falconbridge, which had made a deal to merge with Inco until the Swiss-based company muscled in.

The price of oil, which reached nearly $77 a barrel last week, fell back after a ceasefire was agreed in Lebanon.

The euro area’s GDP grew by 0.9% in the second quarter compared with the previous quarter, its fastest rate for six years. It is the first time since 2001 that the 12-country bloc’s quarterly growth rate has exceeded America’s. Much of the impetus came from Germany, which registered a strong performance in its domestic market, offsetting a slightly weaker demand for exports. See article

Categories: Uncategorized