The American presidential race is finally entering its final stretch. With a little more than a week left in the campaign, both candidates are sharpening their attacks against one another, and the news coverage has largely devolved into a horse race in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and a handful of other tossup states. From a global perspective, perhaps the most interesting story from the campaign trail this week was Joe Biden’s warning that the next American president would be tested early in his new administration. The McCain campaign seized on the comments, quickly producing an apocalyptic commercial warning of the dangers facing the United States and hinting that McCain was the only candidate who could successfully navigate those dangers. Despite the gaffe, Obama seems well-poised to win the presidential election next Tuesday.
But enough on the American election. Here’s five stories you might have missed with all the attention on the race for the presidency:
1. Responding to sharp declines in global oil prices over the past few weeks, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced it would cut its output by 4.5 percent from November. On Friday, oil fell to $62.25 per barrel, its lowest level since June 2007 and a sharp decline from the nearly $150 per barrel over the summer. Oil prices have fallen dramatically as a result of the global financial crisis, which has resulted in sharp declines in demand for oil.
2. A 43-nation meeting of Asian and European leaders on Friday met to consider a range of issues, including a new system of global financial regulation. As home to the world’s largest foreign currency reserves, China has come under increasing pressure to help address the global financial crisis. So far, China has avoided making any public commitments regarding the crisis. But according to Charles Grant, director of the London-based Centre for European Reform, “All countries with current account surpluses have people knocking on their doors at the moment and China with the biggest surplus will be the most courted.” A global summit scheduled fro next month will address global financial regulation in greater detail, and China looks to be a key player there.
3. Israel appears to be headed towards early elections as Tzipi Livni, who replaced Ehud Olmert as leader of the governing Kadima party, was unable win the support of the ultra-orthodox Shas party. The differences between the two parties center largely on the status of Jerusalem in negotiations with the Palestinians. Shas demands that Jerusalem be the undisputed capital of Israel and maintains that the status of Jerusalem is off limits in negotiations. But by refusing to even consider the status of Jerusalem as part of a broader settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Shas’ position undermines the likelihood of a negotiated settlement.
4. Iceland became the first western country since the United Kingdom in 1976 to seek a rescue package from the International Monetary Fund. Facing an economic contraction as large as 10 percent next year and a decline in currency value of 70 percent during the crisis, the government of Iceland requested a $2 billion loan from the IMF as part of a larger $6 billion rescue package provided by other Nordic countries. As part of the IMF package, the government of Iceland will have to impose severe financial restrictions, including curtailing government spending with a goal of balancing the structural budget in the medium term.
5. The government of Mexico has pushed through changes in the country’s oil sector intended to make the country energy independent and halt declining production. The changes would grant greater flexibility to Pemex, the national oil company of Mexico but imposes strict limits on the ability of private or foreign oil companies from tapping Mexican oil resources.