Tag Archives: African National Congress

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Not surprisingly, coverage of the campaign for the U.S. Presidency continued to dominate the headlines this week.  Obama has taken a commanding lead in many polls, and McCain is embracing his role as underdog.  This morning, Colin Powell endorsed Obama suggesting that the race may quickly be spiraling out of McCain’s reach.

In other news:

1. President Bush on Sunday announced his intention to call a global financial summit.   The move appears to be an attempt to undermine efforts by the European Union, led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to reconsider the foundation of the global economic order.  Meanwhile, Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization was warned against a rise in protectionism by governments who seek to blame other countries for their financial crises.  “This is exactly what happened in the 1930s when [protectionism] was the virus that spread the crisis all over the place…This is a risk,” he cautioned.

2. New economic figures out of China this week illustrate that no country is immune from the current global crisis.  Figures due out on Monday will provide some insight in to current developments in the Chinese economy.  But economists are bracing for a continued economic slowdown in China.  Already, the Chinese government has introduced an economic stimulus package intended to boost the economy. 

3. A status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraq has been negotiated, but the agreement now faces the difficult task of garnering support from the Iraqi parliament.  The draft agreement, which was circulated on Friday, would extend the U.S. commitment to Iraq to 2012.  The agreement faces numerous obstacles, including the question of jurisdiction over American soldiers who commit crimes while in Iraq.  The agreement, which faces stiff opposition in the Iraqi Parliament, must be passed by the Iraqi parliament by the end of the year, when the United Nations mandate for the U.S. operation ends.

4. The South African political fissure continues to grow.  The ruling African National Congress ousted its sitting president, Thabo Mbeki, several weeks ago.  In more recent developments, Mbhazima Shilowa, an influential figure within the party and close ally of Mbeki, quit the party and has hinted that he will found a new party to challenge the ANC in upcoming elections.  The fissure threats to deprive the African National Congress of the two-thirds majority it has held in the parliament since the establishment of multiracial democracy in 1994.  If that happens, it would force the ANC to compromise with rival parties to effect constitutional change in the country.

5. The sharp decline in global oil prices over the last two months has led to economic problems for countries once flush with cash.  Oil has slipped under $80 per barrel on global markets.  Over the summer, oil was trading near $150 per barrel.  The decline has created problems–such as declines in government revenue and export earnings–for major oil exporters, including Russia, Mexico, and Nigeria, and the oil exporting Gulf States.

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Five Stories You Might Have Missed

John McCain decided to participate in Friday’s presidential debate, which was predictably dominated by questions on the economy.  The status of the U.S. economy continues to garner significant international attention, but other stories also developed this week.

1. In perhaps the most important development last week, Congress reached a deal on a $700 billion bailout package for the financial sector.   Progress towards an agreement had collapsed last week after House Republicans withdrew their support for President Bush’s initial proposal and Democrats refused to move forward without their support.  The impact of the financial collapse (and bailout) in the United States has yet to be felt, but already some—including Germany’s finance minister, Peer Steinbrück—are arguing that the crisis means the U.S. has lost its “financial superpower status.”

2. In the most recent development in souring Russian-American relations, Russia and Venezuela moved to cooperate more closely in areas of energy policy.  This follows on the announcement that Russian naval vessels and aircraft would participate in Venezuelan war games in the southern Caribbean.  Since 2005, Venezuela has used a portion of its oil wealth to purchase more than $4 billion worth of weapons systems, including fighter aircraft, helicopters, anti-aircraft systems, and armored personnel carriers, from Russia. 

3. The vast expanses of space are becoming a bit more crowded, as China and India expand their own space programs.  China launched the country’s third manned space mission on Friday.  The mission culminated with a successful space walk over the weekend.  Meanwhile, India is planning its own launch intended to map the surface of the moon.  According to some observers, the Chinese and Indian governments are engaged in a new space race, echoing the U.S.-Soviet rivalry of the 1960s.  

4. On Saturday, the Syrian capital Damascus was rocked by a car bomb which killed 17 and injured 44 people.   Although no group has yet claimed responsibility, suspicions have fallen on resurgent Sunni fundamentalist groups.

5. South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki abruptly resigned last week.  Although the African National Congress’ leader Jacob Zuma is likely to be elected president in the upcoming election, Kgalema Motlanthe, former guerrilla and union leader, was selected as the interim president on Thursday.  Motlanthe says his agenda will focus on maintaining economic and political stability.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Events this week have been dominated by the continuing crisis in the financial sector and the chaotic week in world markets

1.  In an effort to address the ongoing financial crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission took the unusual step of banning short sales of some companies’ stock.  Announced on Friday and confirmed by similar bans in the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Ireland, Australia, and other major markets, the move was intended to prevent future downward pressure on financial stocks.  According to an FT analysis, many hedge funds may be hurt by the move.  In an even more dramatic move, the Bush administration has proposed a $700 billion relief package for Wall Street.  The package, which will require the ceiling on the national debt be increased from $10.6 trillion to $11.3 trillion, would be the largest rescue package in the history of the country.  

2. On Saturday, South African President Thabo Mbeki agreed to step down from office after his ruling party, the African National Congress, called for his resignation.  It is widely expected that Jacob Zuma will replace Mbeki as the new President of South Africa.  There are considerable questions about what will happen to South Africa’s economic policy under a Zuma Presidency.  Mbeki moved the ANC’s economic policy towards a more open, free-market system at odds with the party’s strong union and activist base.  It remains to be seen in what direction Zuma will steer Africa’s largest economy.

3. Relations between the United States and its South American neighbors took a hit last week, as Bolivia and Venezuela expelled the U.S. ambassadors.  The United States responded by expelling the Bolivian and Venezuelan ambassadors.

4. On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to making an overture towards Israel, confirming his close ally and vice president Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei’s assertion that Iran was “a friend of [the] Israeli people.”  The FT speculates that the move may be part of a broader strategy of improving relations with the West.  However, Ahmadinejad’s history of calling for the destruction of Israel and denial of the holocaust suggests that he may have a great deal more work to do if that is indeed his intention.  Further, Ahmadinejad’s move was countered on Friday by a statement from Iran’s supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said it was “wrong” to claim that Iran could be a friend of Israel.

5. On Sunday, militants in Nigeria called an end to a week-long series of attacks against oil facilities in the Niger River Delta region.  The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had claimed responsibility for the attacks, which it claims are part of its effort to establish local control over the region’s oil resources.