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Politics this week: 9th – 15th September 2006

September 14, 2006 Leave a comment

America commemorated the fifth anniversary of the terrorist strikes of September 11th 2001. In a series of solemn events, George Bush went to Ground Zero in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to honour the almost 3,000 victims of the attacks.

In a nationally televised broadcast, Mr Bush once again made the link between September 11th and the war in Iraq. Democrats rejected it, and a long-awaited Senate report on pre-war intelligence disclosed the CIA‘s conclusion of no links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

In a closely watched race, Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican senator who has often opposed the party line, won his primary election in Rhode Island. Mr Chafee faced a strong challenge from the right, but the national party pulled out all the stops to help him win, conceding it would forfeit the seat in November if he lost. See article

Keith Ellison beat the competition to become the Democratic candidate for the congressional district that includes Minneapolis. If he wins, as expected, in the mid-term elections, Mr Ellison will become the first Muslim to sit in Congress.

Adrian Fenty won the Democratic primary for mayor of Washington, DC, virtually ensuring that he will be elected to the post in November. Anthony Williams, the incumbent, has served the maximum of two terms. See articleE+

A bomb blast in Diyarbakir, in the Kurdish south-eastern region of Turkey, killed 11 people. Turkey has experienced an upsurge of violence by separatist Kurdish guerrilla groups recently.

The deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank, Andrei Kozlov, was shot dead in the grounds of a leading Moscow football club by two gunmen. Mr Kozlov had been revoking licences for banks suspected of involvement in money laundering.

After infighting last week, senior figures in Britain’s Labour Party attempted to dampen further speculation about the date of Tony Blair’s eventual departure from office. The plea seemed to work. Meanwhile, following his confirmation that he would be gone within a year, Mr Blair made his last visit to the annual gathering of Britain’s trade unions. His speech was received with even less grace than usual. See article

The coalition led by Milo Djukanovic, prime minister of Montenegro, easily won the first election held since the country became independent in May. Mr Djukanovic is hoping to restart talks on joining the European Union.

AP
AP

A meeting of NATO at Mons, in Belgium, failed to produce offers of fresh troops to reinforce the security force in Afghanistan. Condoleezza Rice, America’s secretary of state, had given warning that Afghanistan risked becoming a dangerous failed state, a markedly more downbeat assessment than before. Poland later offered to send 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, but not until February.

Police in India said they were exploring the possibility of a link between last week’s bomb attacks in the western town of Malegaon, which killed 32 people, and July’s bombings in Mumbai. The latest attacks came before this week’s expected meeting in Havana, Cuba, between India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf. See articleE+

China announced a new, more restrictive system of controls on the reporting of court cases. Leaks from anyone other than authorised spokesmen will be punished.

Ubiratan Guimar��es, Brazil’s former chief of police, who was held responsible for the deaths of 111 prisoners in a riot in a S��o Paulo jail in 1992, was found shot dead at his home. Although the target of frequent death threats, police believe his murder to have been a crime of passion. See articleE+

An American court ruled that Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban former CIA agent, should be released from an immigration centre. He is wanted by Cuba and Venezuela in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane that killed 73 people and a plot to kill Fidel Castro. The Americans refuse to deport him, believing he could be tortured.

Hamas, which runs the Palestinian Authority, and Fatah, which used to, agreed to form a national unity government. Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, is expected to stay on as prime minister. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will be in charge of negotiations with Israel. It remains unclear whether Western countries will resume aid to the PA. See articleE+

A car-bomb attack on the American embassy in Damascus was thwarted by local security forces. Three of the attackers and one Syrian security man were killed.

Violence in Iraq continued undiminished. The bodies of 60 people were found on one day in Baghdad bound, tortured and shot; car bombs claimed yet more victims. A health ministry report says that 1,536 people were violently killed in Baghdad in August.

Tony Blair went to Lebanon for talks with his Lebanese counterpart, Fouad Siniora, about aid for the country. Leading Shia politicians accused him of supporting Israel during its recent conflict with Hizbullah and some 2,000 pro-Hizbullah protesters took to the streets of Beirut.

Experts from the World Health Organisation flew to C��te d’Ivoire after deadly toxic waste was dumped last month in residential areas of Abidjan, the country’s biggest city. At least six people have died from the pollution and some 10,000 have suffered illness. A public backlash forced the government to resign last week. See articleE+

AP
AP

Unions called a day of protest in Zimbabwe, complaining about miserable living conditions, a lack of AIDS treatment for the poor and the fast-collapsing economy. Police detained union leaders before they could march and chased away protesters.

The African Union approved a plan for the deployment of 8,000 peacekeepers to Somalia. The deployment is supposed to take place within weeks, but member countries have yet to stump up the soldiers and money required for the mission.

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Business this week: 9th – 15th September 2006

September 14, 2006 Leave a comment

In an effort to take some of the heat out of a boardroom spying scandal at Hewlett-Packard, Patricia Dunn announced she would step down as chairman in January (in favour of the company’s chief executive Mark Hurd). Ms Dunn, who will remain on the board, has been criticised for her handling of the affair, which revolves around the dubious methods used by outside investigators in uncovering the source of a series of boardroom leaks. California’s attorney-general said he now has enough information to bring charges in the case. See article

Dell revealed that the Justice Department has joined a widening investigation into the company’s accounting. Michael Dell, the computer-maker’s chairman, threw his support behind Kevin Rollins, the chief executive.

It emerged that a Russian state-owned bank has taken a 5% stake in EADS, making it the biggest investor in Airbus’s parent company outside its “core” group of shareholders. It is thought the holding was bought on behalf of a state company set up to co-ordinate strategy in Russia’s aerospace industry. An aide to President Vladimir Putin fuelled speculation about how deep a partnership Russia is seeking with EADS by implying that the bank might raise its holding to acquire a blocking stake.

Meanwhile, Mike Turner, the chief executive of BAE Systems, which is selling its 20% stake in Airbus to EADS, said he would be “surprised” if there were no more delays to the A-380 super-jumbo. Airbus is assessing the project after a series of hold-ups.

Bristol-Myers Squibb dismissed both its chief executive and general counsel for their conduct in negotiations with Apotex, a Canadian maker of generic drugs, in a patent lawsuit. The decision to sack the pair was made on the recommendation of a federal judge who is monitoring corporate governance at Bristol-Myers as part of a deferred prosecution deal, struck with investigators last year, over a separate accounting scandal.

The Internal Revenue Service settled the largest-ever tax dispute in its history. America’s taxman reached an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline, a British drugs company, in which it will pay $3.4 billion to resolve charges that it tried to minimise its tax bill by underreporting its American profits through a system of transfer pricing. GSK will also drop its claim that it is owed $1.8 billion by the IRS.

Two big Wall Street banks cheered investors by reporting better-than-expected quarterly earnings. Goldman Sachs recorded a net profit of $1.6 billion for the three months ending August 25th, down slightly from a year ago (and reversing a trend of stellar increases in earnings), but the bank beat estimates thanks to its investment-banking operations. Lehman Brothers said its net income for the quarter ending August 31st had risen by 4% to $916m.

Nationwide agreed to take over Portman, the biggest merger yet among Britain’s mutually owned building societies, creating the country’s second-largest mortgage lender after HBOS.

Gold Fields struck a $2.5 billion deal to take control of the South Deep mine near Johannesburg, one of the world’s biggest and deepest gold mines. The South African miner’s gold reserves will increase by half as a result, taking it closer in size to rivals such as Newmont Mining.

Telecom Italia caused a political storm when it unveiled a plan to spin off its fixed-line and mobile arms in two separate enterprises, hinting that both are up for sale. TI completed the merger of its mobile-phone unit only last year, but now wants to direct its attention to broadband and media services. Any potential sale would help reduce the company’s euro41 billion ($52 billion) debt, which almost exceeds its market value. See article

Apple Computer unveiled its latest service, films which can be downloaded from its iTunes website. Only Disney titles are available. Amazon introduced a similar service last week, Unbox, which offers films from seven Hollywood studios. See article

News Corporation agreed to buy 51% of Jamba, which specialises in ringtones for mobile phones, for $188m. The deal gives Rupert Murdoch control of a firm that last year recorded sales of $500m, having unleashed the “Crazy Frog” ringtone on the world.

The price of oil continued to retreat from recent highs, falling to the level it reached in early spring. One factor that affected trading was OPEC‘s decision not to lower its production quotas (for the time being). However, the head of the IMF warned that oil prices would remain high by comparison with recent years. See article

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