Across the Pond: January 20th, 2013 – Sunday Round Up

Right. Well, I’m up anyway, so let’s check the webs.

The Hostage Crisis in Algeria seems to be over. But it ended in a bloodbath. The situation is still not quite resolved while I am typing this, but one thing is clear: All attackers and the hostages remaining in the hands of their captors are dead.

The Algerian government seems to not have thought twice about getting this done, never mind the cost. It reminds me of the Beslan massacre where a hostage taking by Chechen rebels in a school was ended by the Russian forces without any consideration of the hostages’ fate.

“The terrorists were prepared to commit a collective suicide; the army’s intervention led to their neutralisation. Unfortunately, the hostages were executed,”

said El Watan a local newspaper. Well, the public will hear the truth about this at some point.

There is, of course, the war in Mali headlining over here in Europe. You can find a very useful summary of the players involved on the BBC News website. The French are involved in a situation, which, in my humble opinion, may land them in their own version of Afghanistan. Germans are discussing what kind of contribution they can make but there’s the fact that this is a super election year which will be kicked off today in Lower Saxonia. Chancellor Merkel will, obviously, not be getting into any military adventures this year if she can help it at all. President Obama does not show any inclination to get the US involved either. 

Neu ist, dass die USA nicht instinktiv zu einer Führungsrolle innerhalb einer solchen «Koalition der Willigen» drängen. Bereits im Libyen-Krieg hatten sie nach aussen hin den Franzosen den Vorrang gelassen. Die Amerikaner übernahmen damals aber, ohne dies an die grosse Glocke zu hängen, einen beträchtlichen Teil der Lufteinsätze und halfen den Europäern aus, als diesen die Munition ausging. Obama nannte dies «Führung von hinten», was ihm einigen Spott eintrug – aber um einen Führungsanspruch handelte es sich gleichwohl. Davon kann in Mali keine Rede mehr sein.

(It is new, that the US does not instinctively claim a leading role in such a “coalition of the willing”. In the Libya war they had already let the French have the leading role, at least outwardly. The Americans, however, have at that time without making any fuss about it taken over a considerable number of airstrikes and helped out when the Europeans were running out of ammunition. Obama called this “leading from behind” which caused some ridicule, but – nevertheless – included the will to lead. In Mali there is no mention of it. Translation by yours truly

When it comes to foreign politics, looking at it from our side of the pond, New Obama, is naturally a topic of interest. The sudden change in his handling of the Republican opposition does not go unnoticed:

After being widely criticised in his first four years for a lack of savvy during negotiations with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Obama has suddenly taken a much harder line. In debates over the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of last year, Obama’s team secured a deal widely seen as a victory. That tougher stance has also been matched by Obama staking out a strong position on forthcoming talks with the Republicans in Congress over raising the debt ceiling. Indeed, only days after Obama gave a speech on the issue marked by stern language the Republicans last week appeared to cave in and moved to extend the ceiling for another three months. (read the whole post here)

About time, I’d say.

Have you finished your coffee? Not yet? Well, there’s more for reading found in the old world:

Oil and the interests of Canada’s First Nations

Catholic Hospitals refuse Aid to Rape Victim (Germany has its own bible belt, methinks)

Boeing’s Dreamliner is grounded

and

The Swiss are fretting over what will happen to their banks.

I hope you’ll enjoy your Sunday Morning reading.

This is an Open Thread! Join in. What is important to you today?

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The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 15th – Europe

A Storm is brewing over Europe in more than one sense…

There is the unsolved, so called debt crisis, which entangles Spain and Italy now and has, by all accounts all but devoured Greece already. 

The second one is a political storm. In France it has swept Sarkozy out of office, in the UK the Tories got to feel quite a blustery breeze. In Germany last weekend and the one before voters were giving Merkel’s austerity politics quite strong headwinds. Again, Greece is at the center of the disturbance. The last election brought a stiff breeze from the left, but some serious gusts from the right as well. The Captains of the coffin ship contemplate to test the waters again and that should bring a solid gale from the left and swipe them off board.

Then there’s the weather. It’s really gusty and nasty outside, so much for spring. Ugh.

No matter how it eventually ends, there is some turbulence ahead for sure.

This is our Open Thread. Talk about the Weather?

UPDATE JUST IN: GREECE TALKS BROKE UP – NEW ELECTIONS DUE.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 8th – Men in Kilts

On the last Sunday in April I was in Säckingen with the boys. They have this Festival, which translates into Medieval Phantastic Spectacle, or some such. Loads of men were wearing kilts there, but I whipped my head around when a saw a guy wearing nice nature colored tartans. Little did I know I’d see the bloke on stage shortly after and, boy, this was fun to watch and listen to. The video above is from the same festival a year ago.

Other than making music, they have a charity going on. See more here and here. As the boys and me are planning for a Scotland visit this summer, we know where to go.

I could have written about the North Carolina Amendment 1 vote tonight, but it depresses me. I could have written about Greece’s troubles, but the fact that they are considering yet another vote rather than listen what the People says, depresses me. I could have written about Chancellor Merkel’s arrogance in the face of European voters’ will, but that depresses me as well. So I decided on music and men in kilts.

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy and weigh in.

The Watering Hole: March 20th – Europe’s Hate Crimes

Ok, ok. I knooow. There’s Illinois tonight. But still. Europe has it’s own stories to tell. We do have elections coming up, some really important, too. Most prominently France. And here’s what setting me off, once again:

You do not pander to the right wing haters without consequences. Marine LePen, daughter of ill-reputed right winger Jean-Marie LePen is running at around 16% of votes in recent polls.16% that Nicolas Sarkozy desperately wants to have, to get a second term. Sarko himself has been busily blaming minorities for France’s problems for years now, to get the right to vote for him and LePen wouldn’t be her father’s daughter if she didn’t, never mind her switch of focus.

Look what happens:

The neighborhood near Toulouse railway station where the Rue Jules Dalou is located is shabby and depressing. The houses are narrow and mostly only two stories high. There are no gourmet shops or chic boutiques. It’s a long way from the image of France that you see in the tourist brochures.

On any normal evening, the area would be deserted at 10 p.m., but this is not a normal evening. Since Monday morning, nothing in Toulouse is normal. That was when an unknown perpetrator on a motor scooter drove into the Rue Jules Dalou and shot dead three children and a teacher.

The shooting took place in front of and inside a Jewish school, the Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah. Now, photographers, cameramen and reporters are gathered in a crowd outside the cordoned-off building. Local residents, students and friends have placed flowers at the entrance, where the killer fired the first shots. “You will always be angels,” is written on one of the notes.

The four haven’t been the only ones to die. Three paratroopers of North African descent were killed recently as well as well as one of Caribean descent wounded. By the same perp.

This, obviously, reminds me of the German so-called Döner killings mentioned in the earlier post on the subject. Random shootings of immigrant small business owners, that could recently be traced back to a Nazi cell.

I dare to predict it is going to be a right wing Neo-Nazi behind this all. He will be, of course, a lone lunatic, as the three Germans behind the killings were lone lunatics, as Breivik was a lone lunatic and it has nothing at all to do with the fact, that hate speech and pandering to the right wing of politicians is making the Nazi’s sick views legitimate and sets the violence off. Nothing at all.

This is our open thread. Join us and yes, you may mention Illinois.

March 21st, UPDATE: The Washington Post has an UPDATE today.

By Jove!

Reuters:

 

(Reuters) – The leaders of France and Germany scrambled on Tuesday to limit damage after Prime Minister George Papandreou decided to let Greeks vote on a bailout package — a move that stunned markets and threw Greece’s euro zone membership into question.

European politicians complained Athens was trying to wriggle out of the 130 billion-euro rescue deal agreed at a summit only last week, concerned not so much about the fate of Greece as the possibly dire consequences for the entire currency union of the referendum. (read all)

BIG OUCH!!!

Check for Market Updates here.

Across the Pond: Austerity, Losers and Football

French Team Plotting (source:l'équipe)

In the United Kingdom there are only two newsworthy items today. One is the return to fiscal austerity of the new government:

Public sector workers face cuts in their pay and job prospects worse than anything they have seen for a generation as George Osborne tries to cut spending in the way that Margaret Thatcher did – but in half the time. (read more)

The list of cruelties in this “bloodbath budget” is impressive (discussion can be found here). I’m, for my part, shudder at the implications, Britain will come to an economic standstill IMHO.

The second is: Football. At least until this afternoon. Should you do business with the UK, hurry up. After 3 p.m., if you are really lucky, a polite utterance of incomprehension will be all you get. Don’t try it after 6 p.m. either, they’ll be eithere grieving or celebrating collectively.

In Germany you have time until 8.30 p.m. and you will encounter similar reactions.

The football mania is probably a welcome relief for some in Germany who are losing their match in the politics business:

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, head of Chancellor Merkel’s junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, is facing mounting criticism from his party. Falling poll numbers and limited political leverage have led many to believe it is time for a change at the top.

One can be forgiven for having forgotten, but Germany’s foreign minister still does exist. (read more)

The current coalition is down to 35% approval and won’t last the whole four years, if you ask me.

France is already grieving collectively. Their team has managed to go out of the World Cup in utter disgrace and it starts to have consequences:

PARIS – Sponsors are starting to distance themselves from France’s scandal-hit soccer team.

Credit Agricole said on Monday it had cancelled its television campaign with the team, which on Sunday boycotted a training session in support of expelled striker Nicolas Anelka.

“We are suspending our advertising campaign on insurance products that features the French team,” a spokeswoman for the French bank said.

The campaign was initially slated to end on June 25.

They only got in on a foul and I don’t believe the Irish, who have been cheated out of participating, would have dared to behave like this.

The Italians? Don’t get me started on them. Luckily, this time the unspeakable Umberto Rossi of the fascist Lega Nord, insinuated bribery himself:

Federal Reforms Minister Bossi reportedly said two to three Slovak players would surface in the Italian league next season, responding to a question about which team would win.

They are the worst divers ever and I adamantly refuse to recognize a penalty for them unless the player is bleeding profusely. Everything else is a dive!

So what is really going on in Europe these days? Well, Football! Never mind the Euro is still in trouble, we can take care of that after July 11th.