Monthly Archives: February 2012

Edward Luce

Among political types, Rick Santorum has often jokingly been compared to Ned Flanders – that pious but kindly neighbour of The Simpsons who makes hot cocoa for Bart. On Tuesday the Drudge Report dug up (or was handed) the audio from a speech Mr Santorum delivered in Florida four years ago, which puts that comparison into the shade. It would be hard to imagine Ned Flanders talking quite so apocalyptically.

In his address, which is worth hearing in full, Mr Santorum said Satan was winning his war to take over America’s institutions. Having worked his way through American academia, which was “the first to fall”, the devil used the “domino effect” to topple “mainline Protestantism”, then “popular culture” and now “politics and government” in America. Read more

Gideon Rachman

After the latest Greek bail-out, there is a great deal of focus on whether the new deal is economically or financially-sustainable. The FT’s story on the leaked “downside scenario” report suggests that even those putting the deal together have severe doubts about whether it will stick.

But it is not just economic sustainability that matters. There is also the question of whether the deal is politically sustainable? What if the voters simply reject the deal? Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Josefina Vázquez Mota. Photo AP

Women currently govern some 40 per cent of Latin America’s population. If Josefina Vázquez Mota wins Mexico’s presidential elections in July, that figure will rise to 60 per cent. “I will be Mexico’s first presidenta (female president),” Ms Vázquez said this month after she won the primary of the conservative National Action PartyRead more

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis.

After more than 13 hours of talks, a second bail-out for Greece was agreed early on Tuesday morning. We’ll be bringing you reaction to the deal throughout the day. All times are GMT. By John Aglionby, Leyla Boulton and Tom Burgis on the news desk in London.

We’re going to wrap up now since, after getting no sleep last night, diplomats and officials across the eurozone appear to be heading home while Athens remains abuzz with how it will meet its side of the second Greek bail-out. To recap today’s highlights:

  • Negotiators for private bondholders have backed the latest Greek deal forcing them to accept a haircut, but avoiding a disorderly default next month.
  • While the euro rallied, European equities closed down as the deal left investors unimpressed while US stocks neared a post-financial crisis high, driven by psychological thresholds .
  • Evangelos Venizelos, Greek finance minister, told an Athens press conference that the official offer on the bond swap would be made to bond holders by the end of this week. A government official added that the collective action clause, forcing holdout investors to participate, would be approved by parliament on Thursday.
  • Reaction on the streets of Athens was muted, with leftwing parties saying the deal was bound to make the recession worse. Aleka Paparriga, Greek Communist party leader, said “it’s not impossible that this crisis will turn into a disorderly default within months”.
  • Lucas Papademos, prime minister, convened a cabinet meeting to put the finishing touches to a pile of legislation that must pass in parliament by the end of February – if Greece’s credibility is to be maintained at the March 2 summit of European leaders, the next stage towards getting funding from the bailout agreed overnight.
  • Greek government officials confirmed that the country will hold a general election at the end of April or the beginning of May.

 Read more

By Gideon Rachman

The question of whether a war will break out over Iran’s nuclear programme has been around for so long that it is easy to become almost blasé. In 2006 Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, was already asserting dramatically: “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany.”

Photo: Getty

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis.

By Esther Bintliff and John Aglionby in London and Anjli Raval in New York, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times GMT.

It was decision day on the Greek bail-out. After so many twists to this saga here is a round-up of what came out of the meeting of eurozone finance ministers after more than 13 hours of talks, courtesy of Peter Spiegel and Alex Barker of the FT’s Brussels bureau.

  • A long-delayed €130bn second bail-out for Greece was agreed on.
  • Further “haircuts” were pushed for after a confidential debt analysis showed that the previously-negotiated deal would cost €136bn and would only lower Greek debt to 129 per cent, rather than 120 per cent, of economic output by 2020.
  • Although Greek bondholders agreed in October to accept a 50 per cent cut in the face value of their bonds, they will now be offered a “voluntary” deal with a haircut of 53.5 per cent.
  • That will get Greek debt levels to 120.5 per cent by 2020, close to the IMF’s goal for long-term debt sustainability.
  • The euro rose 0.8 per cent to 1.3257 on the news, before falling back to 1.3263 at 4.20 GMT.

 Read more

By Shawn Donnan, FT World News Editor

Anthony Shadid (C) as he interviews residents of Cairo's impoverished Imbaba neighborhood, during the Egyptian revolution. AFP PHOTO/ED OU FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Anthony Shadid (C) as he interviews residents of Cairo's impoverished Imbaba neighborhood, during the Egyptian revolution. AFP PHOTO/ED OU FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Middle East and its conflicts have generated plenty of great works of journalism. However, the reporting produced by Anthony Shadid, the New York Times correspondent who died on assignment in Syria on Thursday, was exceptional.

While many others have found a calling in grand analysis of the region’s geopolitics, his was in the often heartwrenching stories of its people.

For more than a decade, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner gave the Middle East’s citizens a compelling voice in a western media often more prone to stereotype and cliché. Read more

Further uncertainty in Greece and Chinese princeling Bo Xilai under pressure

This week Gideon Rachman discusses with Peter Spiegel, FT’s Brussels bureau chief, whether time really has run out for Greece. He also talks to Jamil Anderlini, FT’s Beijing bureau chief, about Bo Xilai, the Chinese princeling who recently suffered a severe blow to his chances of becoming a member of the Communist party leadership. Read more

Esther Bintliff

 

This handout picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency shows the statues of former North Korean President Kim Il Sung (L) and late leader Kim Jong Il (R) riding on horses together after being unveiled at the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang on February 14, 2012

KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

Let’s face it, equestrian statues have since ancient times been an effective way for countries/governments/propaganda machines to honour their leaders and heroes (the earliest preserved equestrian statue is the Rampin Rider, found in the Acropolis).

So perhaps it is not surprising that North Korea decided to cast a larger-than-life bronze version of their late leader, Kim Jong-il, and his father Kim Il-sung, both gripping the reins of two rather spectacular ponies (the contrasting postures of the riders and their steeds are rather interesting – share your thoughts on any coded messages in the comments below).  Read more

Alan Beattie

Bye bye Robert Zoellick! Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Robert Zoellick goes from the World Bank, no doubt biding his time and eyeing up the possibility of a job as secretary of state or Treasury secretary in a future Republican administration (most likely Romney – he’s not really a Santorumite), and for the second summer in a row, the starting flag drops on the race to run one of the world’s top financial institutions.

Given that the quid of the Euro-American stitch-up worked to install Christine Lagarde at the IMF last summer, the pro, as it were, will most likely drop into place with an American appointment this year. To John Cassidy’s list of possibles I’d add John Kerry – international name recognition, interest in development, administrative experience –  though that could depend on whether he has something else in mind. Read more