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September 11, 2008
Politics contribute to economic slowdown in Asia

Nazia Vasi blogs at 2point6billion.

Asia slumps as unrest spreads

Is it the deadly combination of a failed economics and politics that’s tarnishing Shining Asia’s rise to the top?

Coups, protests and resignations have been the flavor of the past month in Asia, which has seen uprisings spread across the region, from Pakistan to Japan. The potent combination of a rudderless society crippled with inflation woes, and plummeting stock markets has suddenly left Asia in limbo.

Stocks fell around the world Monday, led by Asian exchanges as concerns about a slowing global economy weighed heavily on the markets, AP reported. Adding to the crisis, were analysts who expect further near-term volatility and are warning foreign investors to stay away until the year-end.

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September 10, 2008
Russian aggression worries investors

Rodger A. Payne is Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville and writes for the blog The Duck of Minerva.


The market punished Russia

Dan previously reported that the European Union decided not to impose economic sanctions on Russia — at least for now. However, The New York Times had an interesting story on September 3 noting that the market was imposing its own penalty on Russia for its war versus Georgia.

…[I}nvestors are also unnerved by the aftermath of the five-day war in early August.

Russian shares have lost about a third of their value since hitting record highs in May. Russian and Western bank analysts polled by Reuters have cut forecasts for Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves.

As much as $25 billion in foreign capital may have left Russia since the Georgia conflict started, they said: while their growth forecasts were little changed at 7.5 percent, the crisis sharply cut the liquidity of the banking system.

Apparently, the Russian “stock exchange’s benchmark RTS index…suffered its biggest decline since the financial crisis in 1998.”

A major investor from Hong Kong is quite pessimistic:

“I have assets in both Georgia and Russia and I’m going to get out. What seemed a great idea at that time has become a sort of disaster,” said a 31-year-old banker at one of the world’s top 10 investment banks, who — like most here — spoke on condition of anonymity.

A British investor who lost money in 1998 is anonymously quoted saying “we’ll soon see a downward spiral that will result in another crash — give it a few months.”

On the other hand, at least one investment advisor was willing to be quoted by name in the article. “Armine Guledjian, vice-president of Halcyon Power Investment Company and a native Californian” admittedly has a strong self interest at stake. Still, she says simply:

“This is a great time to invest, as markets are so low.”

Don’t view that as an official Duck of Minerva recommendation.

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September 10, 2008
Worry over Swiss nuclear test unfounded

Alex Knapp writes for the public and foreign affairs blog Outside the Beltway.

Large hadron collider will switch on tomorrow; world will be fine

Amidst a bunch of conspiracy theorist nonsense, CERN will be switching on the Large Hadron Collider to begin the process of experimentation tomorrow (it’s already been switched on twice before for testing).

At roughly 3:30 a.m. Eastern time, scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, say they will try to send the first beam of protons around a 17-mile-long racetrack known as the Large Hadron Collider, 300 feet underneath the Swiss-French border outside Geneva. And a generation of physicists, watching from control rooms and auditoriums on the scene, on Webcasts at webcast.cern or on Eurovision will meet their destiny. The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, outside Chicago, will hold a “pajama party” for staff members and journalists to watch the events live from a remote control room.

The collider, 14 years and $8 billion in the making, is the most expensive scientific experiment to date. Thousands of physicists from dozens of countries have been involved in building the collider and its huge particle detectors. It is designed to accelerate protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts — seven times the energy of the next largest machine in the world, Fermilab’s Tevatron — and smash them together.

The experiment being conducted here is really cool–it’s an examination of the fundamental particles of the universe and a chance to confirm some physics theory about how everything is put together.

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September 10, 2008
El Salvador sets election dates amid criticism

Tim has been visiting El Salvador since 2001 and writes Tim’s El Salvador Blog.

Elections update

El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE for its initials in Spanish), opened the 2009 election process this week. The TSE officially set the dates of January 18, 2009 for elections of mayors and deputies to the National Assembly, and March 15, 2009 for the presidential election. Candidates for president can register between now and January 13, 2009. The TSE announced there would be no reforms in El Salvador’s electoral system between now and the elections.

The TSE has been criticized by the FMLN for opening the election cycle without taking into account the outcome of the 2007 census. The FMLN believes the census will require reallocating deputies to the National Assembly with more deputies being allocated to the urban areas of San Salvador where the FMLN has greater strength.

Another criticism of the TSE has been a change to allow vote tally sheets to be submitted without a seal and signature from the local election officials. The FMLN introduced legislation to repeal this change in the election procedures, but the measure was defeated by the conservative coalition in the National Assembly led by ARENA. The elimination of these requirements has led observers to worry about the possibility of fraud in the upcoming elections.

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September 10, 2008
Poland’s government knew about CIA prisons?

Beatroot writes for Umbrella Blog and maintains the beatroot, a blog about Poland and Central Europe.

Poland’s government knew all about ‘secret’ CIA prisons?

Radio Zet has alleged that top ministers in the previous Law and Justice government were shown a report back in 2006 detailing the existence of those illusive CIA prisons in Poland used to detain Islamist terrorist suspects.

The names who saw and authored the report will be familiar to regular readers of this blog.

The author was our old friend Roman Giertych, who was heading a committee on the activities of Poland’s secret services at the time.

His report, written sometime in 2006 – confirming allegations made by Human Rights Watch back in late 2005 – was seen by Zbigniew Ziobro, state prosecutor Janusz Kaczmarek and special services coordinator Zbigniew Wasserman.

Crucially, today’s allegations have neither been confirmed nor denied by the present state prosecutor, Marek Staszak.

My understanding of the evidence collected by the Council of Europe’s report – which supported the original allegations made by the NGO and the Washington Post – you can see here and here.

Government ministers, and former president Aleksander Kwasniewski have always denied the allegations, dismissing them as nonsense.

In May 2007, the U.N. Committee Against Torture called on the Law and Justice government to disclose information gathered by Poland’s parliamentary committee on the CIA prisons issue. Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski dismissed the request: “The matter is now closed,” he said. But if the parliamentary committee had had access to the report written by Roman Giertych – and is it not too dumb to presume that they had? – then he, the prime minister, knew of the existence of these places in Poland.

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September 10, 2008
Crisis in the Caucasus, compiled timeline

Nicolai N. Petro writes for the Discovery Institute’s Russia Blog.

August 7-16, 2008

First compiled on August 28, 2008, this timeline is continuously being revised as more information becomes available. The latest PDF version can be downloaded from my web site.

This unified timeline of the onset of the crisis in the Caucasus is based on the detailed timelines available on the web sites of the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russia Today news service. These have been supplemented with various Georgian, Russian, and international press reports (references in brackets refer to the list of sources at the end of this document: “G” for Georgian, “R” for Russian, “M” for miscellaneous). For convenience all local times have been converted to GMT (UTC) which, at the time these events unfolded, was GMT (UTC) +4 in both Moscow and Tbilisi. There are surprisingly little disagreement about the actual sequence of events. Those that exceed two hours are noted with italics. My comments, in yellow at the bottom, attempt to highlight notable findings.

After six days of intermittent sniper and machine-gun exchanges between Georgian troops and South Ossetian militia, on August 7 the conflict intensifies. South Ossetian separatists claim that Georgian forces seek to occupy the surrounding hills. Georgia denies this, but by the morning of August 7 has amassed some 12,000 troops on the border to South Ossetia…

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September 10, 2008
Mexico’s drug violence is bad for business

Deborah Bonello writes from Mexico City for LA Times’ La Plaza blog and From the Frontline.

Mexico’s drug violence is bad for business

The drug violence that continues to sweep across Mexico isn’t only damaging citizen confidence in the country’s government and public security. It also is taking a toll on Mexico’s economy, according to Treasury Secretary Agustin Carstens.

The Mexican government estimates that the violence has slowed economic growth by more than 1%.

Increased safety concerns have meant that companies and businesses spend 5% to 10% more on security services. This has hurt domestic competition and sales, according to Carstens, as well as having a negative affect on national development generally.

Last week was another bloody one for Mexico – on Thursday, 12 headless bodies turned up in the normally quiet southern state of the Yucatan. Five bodies – four of them decapitated – were found earlier in the week in Tijuana. All the deaths are thought to have been drug-war related.

The ongoing drug wars and rising levels of crime and kidnappings in Mexico prompted thousands across the country to march over the weekend, expressing their anger and demanding action.

Carstens also announced that the security budget for 2009 will increase substantially, speaking to the newspaper Reforma.

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September 9, 2008
Venezuela’s Chavez announces African intentions

Thiago de Aragão is the Latin American senior research associate at the Foreign Policy Center in London and the director for Latin American political risk analysis at Arko Advice. He writes for Latin American Politican Analysis.

Venezuela: Chavez aims at Africa

Hugo Chavez announced his intention in creating political bases in African soil. Arriving in South Africa for an official visit, Chavez said that he aims at “creating political and legal bases to antecipate bilateral cooperation”. Chavez added to his comment that his goal is to “spread the basis for South-South cooperation in the beginning of the 21st century”. To Chavez, South America is heading towards a “new independence” from neoliberal and imperial forces.

In his evaluation, there is in Africa a renewal movement that seeks paths of sovereignty to its people. He believes that the Bank of the South must not be restrained only to South America, but to Africa and Asia as well.

We can deduce from past behaviour that Chavez is again focusing on his foreign policy instead of domestic policy. His new laws that approved many bills that have been rejected by popular referendum last year, caused some internal problem to him. He will step on the brakes for a while (domestically) preparing the terrain for the municipal elections in November. Until then he will oscillate high foreign profile with low domestic profile.

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September 9, 2008
Mutual trust breaks in North Korean denuclearization

Citizen journalist Leonid Petrov writes for OhMyNews, based in South Korea.

Mutual trust broken in six-party talks

On Tuesday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry announced through the KCNA news agency its decision to suspend disabling its nuclear facilities.

The alleged violation by the United States of the understandings, reached at the Six-Party Talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, was mentioned as the primary reason. North Korea says it took this step because the US failed to remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism. However, the US insists on a more stringent verification processes before it does so.

North Korea was expecting to be removed from the US list of terrorism sponsors in return for the submission to the Six-Party Talks of a long-delayed account of its nuclear facilities. However, this positive move was delayed amid disagreement between the other five parties — South Korea, the US, China, Russia and Japan — over how to verify the North’s declaration.

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September 9, 2008
The future of Pakistan under Asif Ali Zardari

Arif Rafiq of The Pakistan Policy Blog is a policy and communications consultant based in New York and the author of the upcoming independent report “Pakistan: The Way Forward.”

Welcome to Zardaristan

On Saturday, a group of less than 500 politicians annointed Asif Ali Zardari as the next president of Pakistan. It was less the victory of democracy, and more that of small-minded elites.

These politicians have bandwagoned around Zardari — a man bankrupt of achievement, aptitude, moral rectitude, and public esteem, blamed by many for the downfall of his wife’s political career during the 1990s, effectively separated/estranged from her and indifferent to politics a year and a half back and now the inheritor of her checkered legacy.

They have lavished Zardari with undeserved platitudes and legitimacy.

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Perspectives highlights the best of the blogosphere by cross-posting columns culled from a network of contributors. We cut through the noise of tens of millions of bloggers worldwide and bring you commentary from experts and voices on the ground.


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