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Politics this week: 11th – 17th November 2006

November 16, 2006 Leave a comment

President Bush, battered by the mid-term elections, embarked on a long foreign trip seemingly designed to boost his image as a global statesman. He was to drop in on Moscow and Singapore before heading to Hanoi in Vietnam for the summit of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations. See article

The victorious Democrats served notice that the promised spirit of bipartisanship will have its limits. They say they will block the confirmation of John Bolton’s appointment as ambassador to the UN. The White House is still determined to get Mr Bolton confirmed. See article

Senator Trent Lott, who was forced to resign from the Republican leadership in December 2002 after he made racially insensitive remarks at a birthday party, returned to the Senate’s centre of power by winning election as the minority whip in the next session. Mr Lott will be second-in-command to Senator Mitch McConnell, who replaced Bill Frist as minority leader in the Senate. See article

Work began on a memorial to Martin Luther King on Washington, DC‘s National Mall. King’s will be the first memorial there to someone who was neither a president nor a war hero, and the first to a black American. Work is due to finish in 2008.

Leaders of Mexico’s main opposition, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), called on their legislators to disrupt the inauguration of the new president, Felipe Calderón, on December 1st. The PRD‘s candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who narrowly lost the presidential election in July, named a “shadow government” and plans to proclaim himself the “legitimate” president on November 20th. See articleE+

Argentina’s President Néstor Kirchner sacked his housing secretary, Luis D’Elía, after he criticised a warrant issued against nine former Iranian officials for helping to plan the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994. Mr D’Elía is a sympathiser of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela‘s pro-Iranian president, and a leader of an unemployed workers’ movement. See article

EPA
EPA

In Iraq 11 people were killed at a Baghdad market; more than 35 were killed in American raids; and 20 bound bodies were found in the cities of Mosul and Baquba. Kidnappers, apparently from the interior ministry, abducted dozens of men after storming the education ministry in Baghdad; most were released later the same day.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, said that the world now accepted that his country would master the nuclear-fuel cycle. But after a meeting with George Bush, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said that Israel could not accept a nuclear-armed Iran, and that he and Mr Bush had “complete understanding” over their approach. See articleE+

Hamas and Fatah were reported to have agreed on Muhammad Shubair, an academic from Gaza who is close to Hamas but not a party member, as new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. But Hamas continues to vow that it will not recognise Israel. Meanwhile, one Israeli was killed and others injured by a series of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza. See article

South Africa‘s Parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriages, the first African country to do so. The ruling African National Congress party ordered all its MPs to vote for the bill to bring the law into line with the country’s constitution, despite opposition from churchmen and traditional leaders.

With all the votes counted, the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, was declared the winner of Congo‘s presidential run-off election against Jean-Pierre Bemba. But Mr Bemba’s supporters have alleged widespread fraud and the result is likely to be contested in the Supreme Court and on the streets, where the two candidates’ private armies have been exchanging gunfire. See article

Severe flooding in eastern Kenya has killed at least 21 people and made a further 60,000 or so homeless.

The European Parliament approved a law, much delayed and watered down, boosting cross-border competition in services from 2010. Supporters say it could create 600,000 new jobs.

In return for diplomatic help against Iran, America is backing Russia‘s entry bid to the World Trade Organisation. That removes one of the last big obstacles to Russia‘s membership, although Georgia and Moldova, both of which are suffering Russian sanctions, have yet to confirm their agreement.

Less than two weeks before a planned Russia-EU summit, Poland vetoed the start of talks covering energy, trade and human rights. It wants the Kremlin to lift a ban on Polish food imports and ratify an earlier treaty liberalising Russia‘s energy market.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, an American pressure group, has asked Germany to sue the former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, over alleged prisoner abuse in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay. See article

EPA
EPA

Senior diplomats from India and Pakistan resumed talks, broken off after India accused Pakistan‘s intelligence forces of involvement in bomb blasts in July that killed almost 200 people in Mumbai. They put a little flesh on skeletal proposals for a “joint mechanism” to combat terrorism and build trust.

On the eve of George Bush’s departure on his trip that will take in the ASEAN summit in Hanoi at the weekend, America’s State Department removed Vietnam from a list of countries accused of suppressing religious freedom. But Congress failed to approve a proposal that the two countries normalise trade relations.

After shutting down Bangladesh for four days in protest at the alleged bias of the authorities due to oversee elections in January, the opposition called off its national strike, at least until November 20th. See article

In the latest twist in Taiwan‘s continuing corruption scandals, prosecutors interviewed Ma Ying-jeou, the mayor of Taipei and likely future presidential candidate for the opposition Kuomintang, over allegations that he had misappropriated funds. Mr Ma denied any wrongdoing.

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Business this week: 11th – 17th November 2006

November 16, 2006 Leave a comment

US Airways offered to buy its bankrupt rival Delta for $8.7 billion, in a hostile bid analysts hailed as proof that the outlook for America’s struggling airlines was improving. The deal would create America’s biggest carrier, and might prompt other mergers. See article

The boss of Deutsche Telekom, Kai-Uwe Ricke, resigned after shareholders complained about falling profits. The head of the firm’s mobile unit, René Obermann, will succeed him. But strict German labour laws will make it difficult for Mr Obermann to pare costs by cutting jobs. See article

Benetton’s chief executive, Silvano Cassano, also quit abruptly. He had rowed with the Benetton family, which owns a controlling stake in the firm, over the fashion retailer’s plans to expand internationally. The chief financial officer resigned at the same time. Benetton’s shares fell by almost 9% on the news.

The job of Arun Sarin, the embattled boss of Vodafone, appeared secure, however, after the mobile-phone operator’s results proved better than expected. Earnings for the six months to October reached £6.2 billion ($11.5 billion). The firm projected revenue growth for the full year of 6%.

Sony launched a new games console, the PlayStation 3, which it hopes will revive its fortunes after a year of embarrassing scandals and expensive technical faults. But because of further glitches, the firm could supply Japanese retailers with only 93,000 units, which sold out within hours. See article

In the latest proof of Gazprom’s growing clout, ENI, an Italian energy firm, agreed to cede 3% of Italy‘s retail gas market to the Russian state-controlled giant. In return, Gazprom will extend contracts to sell gas to ENI, its largest foreign customer, until 2035. The pair also agreed to look for and develop new fields together in Russia and Africa.

General Electric and Hitachi agreed to set up joint ventures in America and Japan to vie for contracts to build nuclear power plants. Their main rivals in the industry have already forged similar alliances.

The price of copper and other metals dropped as inventories rose. That led to a fall in the shares of mining firms and a slide in the currencies of countries that export lots of minerals, including Australia, Canada and South Africa. See article

Anglo American, a mining conglomerate with big assets in South Africa, said it would invest $4 billion in coal mining and processing in China. Earlier, Larry Yung, a Chinese tycoon, had spent $800m on a 1.1% stake in the firm, in the latest example of Chinese investment in natural resources in Africa.

Deutsche Börse, which runs Frankfurt‘s stockmarket, dropped its bid to buy Euronext, an operator of exchanges in London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Lisbon. The decision clears the way for a rival offer from the New York Stock Exchange, and leaves Deutsche Börse searching for another partner. See article

Meanwhile, a consortium of big investment banks unveiled their plans for a new share-trading platform that would compete with European stock exchanges. Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS will all own shares in the new venture.

Russia reached a deal with America on joining the World Trade Organisation, a big boost to its 13-year-old campaign for accession. The two countries plan to sign an agreement on November 19th in Vietnam, which is about to become the WTO‘s 150th member. No sooner had Vietnam‘s WTO membership been formally approved last week than Intel, a computer-chip maker, announced that it would raise its investments in the country by $700m.

Marshall Wace, a British-based hedge-fund manager, plans to raise as much as €1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) on the Euronext stock exchange for a new fund. If successful, MW Tops may be the largest such listing. Traditionally, investors have been able to buy stakes only in funds-of-funds, not individual ones, through the stockmarket. See articleE+

The economy of the euro area grew by a sluggish 0.5% in the third quarter compared with the previous one, according to preliminary estimates. Economists had predicted a better performance, but stagnation in France, lacklustre growth in Italy and a slowdown in Germany all weighed on the numbers. Japan‘s GDP also expanded by 0.5% in the third quarter compared with the previous one, but that was higher than most economists had forecast. Compared with the same period last year, the economy grew by 2.7%. See article

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