Monthly Archives: July 2013

Graffiti outside the ECB’s future headquarters. (Getty)

Could the European Central Bank be learning a thing or two about managing the message? Ahead of Thursday’s interest rate-setting meeting, when policymakers will want to do nothing more than say “we’re holding steady”, it looks like the bank may come up with an eye-catching announcement to give everyone something to write about.

That something is the long-running and vexed question of why the bank that loves to tell you how transparent it is (well, at certain times, once you’ve cleared security and as long as you understand no quotes should be used from this conversation) keeps the minutes of its governing council meetings secret for 30 years. The practice makes it an outlier – the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan all publish minutes of their monetary policy meetings within a month of the meeting that they cover.

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Dreamstime

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for two days of talks in Washington this week to discuss restarting the peace talks that collapsed in 2008. US secretary of state John Kerry said that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have set themselves a goal of reaching a “final status” agreement within nine months.

We’ve put together a potted history of the peace process and writing on the talks to show why an agreement to talk, incremental though it sounds, is still a big deal. Read more >>

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The deal reached between China and the European Union on solar panel dumping may have stopped a potential trade war, but for EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, it was one more incident where his free trade crusade was dampened by the fragmented bloc he represents.
♦ Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is funnelling billions of dollars into building the backbone of necessary communications networks throughout Africa, but has some worried that its domination of the sector creates the potential for widespread espionage.
♦ Despite multiple innovations in male contraceptives, progress towards their approval for widespread use has stagnated due to difficult barriers, particularly the lack of incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in a product with so many cultural and societal implications.
♦ Larry Summers should go ahead and book his summer vacation, John Cassidy writes, arguing that despite White House support, Summers has not made a great enough effort to appease Obama’s supporters by distancing himself from financial deregulation.
♦ Bradley Manning has been called many things, but a look at his background shows a conflicted young man struggling with his gender identity and personal values as a soldier in the U.S. Army. Read more >>

By Catherine Contiguglia

♦ Civil activism in China is becoming a force the Chinese government can no longer ignore as activists increasingly unite to rally with broader demands, largely through the growing platform of social media.
♦ Following the initial applause for getting Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table for the first time in four years, US secretary of state John Kerry is facing deep scepticism about the two-day talks in Washington D.C.
♦ Borzou Daragahi argues that in the wake of Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in Egypt, Islamists should investigate their own role in contributing to the tensions in the years leading up to the coup.
Alexei Navalny is hitting the streets “western-style” to revamp his mayoral campaign in Moscow six weeks before the vote.
♦ France’s culture minister Aurélie Filippetti has survived a tough first year in office, representing her party by bringing “extravagant” French culture to the level of the people, while still fighting for France’s “cultural exception.”  Read more >>

♦ Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University, argues that a slowdown in China’s economy will not lead to social unrest, provided median household income continues to grow at 6-7 per cent.
♦ The killings in Egypt over the weekend have highlighted the resurgence of the country’s shadowy ministry of interior.
♦A private group in Mumbai is hiring teachers with rather unusual backgrounds, but its engaging teaching methods are helping students to succeed.
♦ Paul Krugman thinks urban sprawl might be preventing social mobility in US cities.
♦ The BBC gives the lay of the land in Zimbabwe ahead of the elections. Read more >>

♦ Lawrence Summers made dismissive remarks about the effectiveness of quantitative easing back in April, while a senate letter by a group of Democrats backing Janet Yellen for the next Fed chair is circulating. The Washington Post’s Wonk blog asks, who would make the better chair, Yellen or Summers?
♦Pope Francis is walking the walk in Latin America, inspiring the masses, and many should be feeling uncomfortable about this, argues John-Paul Rathbone.
♦ When Wen Jiabao defined Bo Xilai as a man who wanted to repudiate China’s effort to reform its economy, open to the world and allow its citizens to experience modernity, he was getting his revenge on a family that had opposed him and his mentor Hu Yaobang.
♦ Medieval Irish chronicles might be able to expand our understanding of climate change.
♦ Abbe Smith, a professor of law and the director of the Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic at Georgetown University, examines why lawyers choose to defend someone like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or George Zimmerman.

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♦ Zimbabwe’s state TV service faces its first rival – which is competing with it from South Africa.
♦ China can stop the world’s tallest skyscraper from being built, but it can’t stop the curse of the skyscraper.
♦ David Pilling explains why multinationals operating in China are likely to find the going gets tougher.
♦ China is pushing ahead with dams on the Mekong River, but politicians and dam builders have done little to assuage the worries of local communities.
♦ Western countries including the US and UK may be asked to accept tens of thousands of Syrian refugees because the exodus from the civil war is overwhelming countries in the region.
♦ Have the millions of elderly people being kept alive via feeding tubes become a symbol of an ageing Japan?

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Ordos, Inner Mongolia (Getty)

Not content with banning lavish banquets and overseas junkets in its efforts to shore up declining moral standards within its own ranks, China’s communist party has moved to stop the building of any more monumental offices.

As the FT’s Simon Rabinovitch points out:

Whether the latest ban has a similarly negative impact on the property market will depend on how it is interpreted by state-owned companies. Chinese corporate executives have felt pressure to comply with Mr Xi’s earlier austerity policies even though government officials, not companies, were his targets.

Beijing has previously tried to stop local governments from building massive new offices, but only with limited success. Even in poorer parts of China, cities and villages have built monolithic offices, replicas of the US Capitol building and faux-European palaces.

But just how excessive are these party palaces? We’ve got a few of them here for your gawping pleasure. Read more >>

David Gardner

Residents gather at the site of an explosion in Beirut's southern suburbs, stronghold of Hizbollah, July 9, 2013. AFP/Getty

Hizbollah has brushed off the European Union’s decision on Monday to blacklist its “military wing” as a terrorist organisation. Well, it would, wouldn’t it.

The Shia paramilitary group issued the mandatory rhetorical broadside. “It looks as if the decision was written by American hands and with Israeli ink”, it said, to which “the EU only had to add its signature”.

In fact, as Hizbollah would surely know, it takes a great deal more than that for the EU’s 28 member-states to reach a consensus on anything at all. Read more >>

♦ China’s growth still contributes more to global demand than that of any other economy The FT looks at how rebalancing will generate winners and losers in different sectors.
♦ Turkey’s decision to raise its overnight lending rate for the first time in nearly two years underscores the dilemma facing developing economies as the end to US monetary easing draws near: focus on inflation or growth?
♦ Inflation has defied all predictions in the US during the past five years and it is making life complicated for the Federal Reserve.
♦ Haïdara Aïssata Cissé, the only woman standing for president in Mali’s upcoming elections, is an outsider, but she has improved her chances by going on walkabouts.
♦ Shaun Walker at Foreign Policy thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin should be worried about Alexei Navalny, especially as people start to compare him to Mandela and Lenin. Read more >>