Daily Archives: June 28, 2012

Those worrying about the US being in hock to the rest of the world have fresh reasons for alarm: the US net international investment position (what Americans owe foreigners minus vice versa) last year worsened by about a trillion and a half dollars to a nice round $4tn deficit.

Alarm and despondency! America going bust! Ravening wolves on the streets of Manhattan! Read more

So primed was everyone for an iconoclastic Supreme Court ruling that it took a few moments to realise Obamacare had emerged pretty much unscathed. Among those who mis-skimmed the 66-page document were CNN, Fox News and a host of Republican lawmakers. “Individual mandate ruled unconstitutional. Let Freedom ring!” tweeted Dennis Ross, a Republican congressman from Florida. A few minutes later Mr Ross deleted that and followed up with a new one: “Truly disappointed with Justice Roberts and others who allowed this assault on the Republic to stand.”

Legal scholars will pore over what motivated John Roberts to side with his four liberal colleagues and deprive his fellow conservative justices of a majority. Self-preservation might have been one motivation – it would be a rash chief justice who put his name to the obliteration of a sitting president’s signature domestic reform. Political analysts have less patience than scholars. In addition to the pundits, campaign staff for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama instantly agreed that the ruling would offer bigger political benefits to the Republicans. Read more

Fighters loyal to the Free Syrian Army prepare their weapons (Lo/AFP/GettyImages)

Fighters loyal to the Free Syrian Army prepare their weapons (Lo/AFP/GettyImages)

Activists close to the Free Syrian Army say that recent defections from the regime include a general who was associated with non-conventional weapons, adding that he is the most senior military official to join the opposition thus far.

Syria has an arsenal of chemical weapons, allegedly including significant stocks of nerve gas, that has been high on the list of concerns of western governments and Israel.

The activists say they expect the general will now help them restructure the leadership of the rebels. “He has a lot of information about the deployment of security forces and the regime’s assets,” one activist says. The general, whose name is likely to be made public in the next few days, is thought to have left his post a month ago and gone into hiding before being smuggled to Turkey. Read more

Following the elimination of Lleyton Hewitt and a couple of compatriots in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon, there is no Australian man in the second round of the men’s singles. This is the first time this has happened since 1938. Gideon Rachman asks why. Read more

We’ll be keeping an eye out for the US Supreme Court decision on Obamacare today, but these are the reads that caught our eye on the world news desk this morning:

Hillary Clinton and Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics on June 28 (Ilmars Znotins/AFP/GettyImages)

Hillary Clinton and Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics on June 28 (Ilmars Znotins / AFP/ GettyImages)

Visiting Latvia on Thursday, Hillary Clinton praised the Baltic state for taking “very difficult” austerity measures that would ensure a “stable, prosperous future”.

The US secretary of state is not the only high-profile figure praising Latvia’s economic record.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, dropped in this month and proclaimed its austerity programme an “inspiration” for heavily-indebted eurozone countries.

Latvia and its Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania suffered the world’s steepest economic contractions in 2009 amid swingeing austerity measures. But now they find themselves in the frontline of the debate over austerity versus growth as the best way to tackle the eurozone’s debt problems. Read more