Archive for September 7, 2006

Politics this week: 2nd – 8th September 2006

September 7, 2006 Leave a comment

Tony Blair, Britain’s prime minister, suffered his worst week since taking power in 1997. He was plunged into a leadership crisis when some of his Labour Party MPs pushed him to set a timetable for his departure from office. Britain’s political class has talked of little else but the date of Mr Blair’s leaving since he announced his intention to quit in good time before the next general election. See article

A survey of European public opinion revealed rising disapproval of George Bush’s handling of international affairs. The survey, conducted by the German Marshall Fund, found that 77% of European Union citizens disapproved of the American president, up from 56% four years ago.

After a controversial debate, Turkey’s parliament voted by a substantial majority to send troops to join the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The foreign ministry said the Turkish contingent was likely to be made up of fewer than 1,000 soldiers.

A report from the European Parliament was critical of Turkey’s progress in membership negotiations with the EU. The report said that Turkey was failing to fulfil promises on human rights and on relations with Cyprus.

At a youth rally for the centre-right UMP party, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, emerged as the clear candidate for the party in France’s presidential election next spring. His most popular Socialist rival, Ségolène Royal, is still being challenged by heavyweight contenders within her party. See article

Catching some of his critics off guard, George Bush confirmed the existence of a secret CIA programme for interrogating suspected terrorists in foreign prisons. He announced that 14 of the prisoners, including the alleged mastermind behind September 11th, were to be transferred to Guantánamo Bay where they may be tried by revamped military tribunals awaiting Congress’s approval. See articleE+

Campaigning for November’s mid-term elections began in earnest as congressmen returned to Washington from their August break. Republicans stuck to their familiar theme of national security (see above). The Democrats focused their attacks on Donald Rumsfeld, calling for a change in the civilian leadership at the Pentagon. The party said America had been made less secure by following a “stay-the-course strategy” in Iraq. See articleE+

The former governor of Illinois, George Ryan, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for his part in a corruption scandal that convulsed the state Republican Party for years. Mr Ryan made world headlines when he commuted the capital sentences of prisoners on Illinois’s death row shortly before he left office in 2003.

Columnists mulled over last week’s (downplayed) allegation that Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, was the original source that leaked Valerie Plame’s name to the press. For months, journalists had focused on Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s top adviser, as the source.

In separate visits to Kabul, Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, and NATO‘s secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, pledged more co-operation with Afghanistan in fighting the Taliban. NATO‘s top commander called for troop reinforcements to fight a stronger than expected insurgency in Afghanistan’s south. See articleE+

Meanwhile, Pakistan insisted its army spokesman had been misquoted in an interview for American television in which the official said that Osama bin Laden would not be taken into custody if he was in Pakistan as a “peaceful citizen”.


Protests calling for electoral reform ahead of January’s election in Bangladesh turned violent in the capital, Dhaka. The main opposition party alleged that one of its politicians was beaten by police.

Fighting continued in Sri Lanka’s north-east between the government and Tamil rebels. The army claimed it had won control of a strategic area near the port city of Trincomalee, an important industrial and naval centre.

Israel said it would lift its air-and-sea blockade of Lebanon, as UN peacekeeping forces began to move into the south of the country; nearly 10,000 troops have been pledged, but the UN wants 15,000. Earlier, at a conference in Sweden, governments of rich countries promised to provide nearly $1 billion towards rebuilding Lebanon after its 34-day war.

At a preliminary hearing, a state prosecutor asked for Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former deputy president, whose supporters still want him to be the next president, to be tried next month for corruption.

More than 60 international HIV scientists, calling the South African government’s policy on the virus “disastrous and pseudo-scientific”, sent a letter to President Thabo Mbeki to demand the resignation of his health minister.

The governments of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda said they were ready, in principle, to send peacekeepers to Somalia to stop the conflict between the UN-backed transitional government and the Council of Islamic Courts. Islamists in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, protested against foreign intervention.

Police in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, fired tear gas at demonstrators protesting against higher fuel prices. Opposition to the Islamist regime is getting bolder as the government faces pressure from the UN to let a peacekeeping force into Darfur, where troops are threatening to launch an all-out assault on rebels. See articleE+


Two months after Mexico’s presidential election, the country’s electoral tribunal delivered its final verdict: Felipe Calderón, the candidate of President Vicente Fox’s ruling party, had won. But Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the loser, continued to dispute the result and threatened to declare himself president. See article

A 25-day strike at Chile’s Escondida mine, the world’s biggest privately owned copper mine, ended after workers accepted a new contract. See articleE+

Cuba’s ailing president, Fidel Castro, who temporarily ceded power to his brother after undergoing intestinal surgery, said that “the most critical moment” was behind him and that he was on the road to recovery.

Categories: Uncategorized

Business this week: 2nd – 8th September 2006

September 7, 2006 Leave a comment

Ford appointed Alan Mulally as its chief executive after Bill Ford, Henry Ford’s great-grandson, said he was stepping down (he remains chairman). The news took some by surprise; Mr Ford had just completed a round of media interviews and announcements, such as a proposal to sell Ford’s luxury Aston Martin unit. Mr Mulally heads to Detroit from Boeing, where he led a successful turnaround of the commercial-aircraft division. Investors in Ford will hope he can do the same for them; the company’s share price has nose-dived since Mr Ford took control in 2001. See article

Fresh from his blockbuster bust-up with Tom Cruise, Viacom’s chairman, Sumner Redstone, ousted Tom Freston as chief executive. The company’s share price has been languishing of late, despite splitting its CBS operations into a separate unit, a decision intended to boost Viacom’s stock. Mr Freston was in charge of Viacom’s Paramount studio and cable-TV stations, but was criticised for lacklustre operations on the internet. See article

BAE Systems confirmed that it would, after all, sell its 20% stake in Airbus to EADS, which holds the other 80%. The price of the sale—euro2.75 billion ($3.5 billion)—is the same value that an independent audit by Rothschild put on the holding. Meanwhile, Christian Streiff made his first big change at Airbus since becoming chief executive by replacing the head of the A380 super-jumbo project.

Two months after it mapped a blueprint to create one of the world’s biggest mining groups, Phelps Dodge, a copper miner based in Arizona, abandoned its bid to take over Inco, a Canadian nickel miner. The pair were keen to unite, but the transaction required Inco to complete its (now failed) merger with Falconbridge, a compatriot. Big investors were also dissatisfied with the deal. A C$19.4 billion ($17.5 billion) hostile bid for Inco remains on the table from CVRD, a big Brazilian mining firm.

Takafumi Horie, the former boss of livedoor, pleaded not guilty to fraud charges at the start of his trial in Tokyo. The internet-services company was thought to embody a new brash style in Japan’s business culture before it collapsed earlier this year.

It emerged that the state of California had launched an investigation into Hewlett-Packard’s methods of dealing with leaks that sprung from a boardroom dispute at the time of Carly Fiorina’s sacking last year. Former directors have alleged their communications were hacked by the company.

Intel said it was cutting 10% of its workforce, or 10,500 jobs, to reduce costs and boost profit, which is being squeezed by intense competition from Advanced Micro Devices. Investors, hoping for more savings, were unimpressed with the chipmaker’s plans.

Sony announced another embarrassing delay to the launch of its PlayStation 3 games consoles in Europe. Further problems related to the integration of new Blu-ray technology mean the device will not now be available in the region until March 2007.

Universal Music, a unit of the media conglomerate Vivendi, won the bidding to buy Bertelsmann’s BMG Music Publishing, for which it will pay euro1.6 billion ($2.1 billion). The deal vaults Universal ahead of EMI and Warner Music in the lucrative business of licensing song lyrics and tunes to enterprises for uses ranging from television shows to ringtones.

Russian authorities exerted more pressure on a liquefied-natural-gas project led by Royal Dutch Shell through a legal challenge to its construction on environmental grounds. The action should help the efforts of Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, to gain leverage over the $20 billion venture on Sakhalin island.

The Compagnie Générale de Géophysique, a French energy-field surveyor, said it was buying Veritas, a Texan rival, for $3.1 billion. The deal underscores increased demand for seismic-equipment services linked to the hunt for new energy reserves.

Meanwhile, Chevron, in alliance with two partners, revealed it had successfully completed a deep-water oil-production test in the Gulf of Mexico (breaking several records in the process). Some think that yields from recent discoveries in the Gulf may eventually rival those at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, America’s biggest field.


Asian stockmarkets continued to rebound from sharp falls early in the summer, when they performed particularly badly amid a worldwide decline in shares. Figures pointing to economic and labour-market stability in America fed optimism that Asia’s exports will rise as a result. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index reached a six-year high.

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