Monthly Archives: September 2013

John Aglionby

Ted Cruz takes the Senate floor

Ten things about Senator Ted Cruz, 42, the junior senator from Texas, who has been talking for more than 14 hours on the Senate floor in a bid to cut off funding for President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

1) Cruz was one of only three senators to vote against the nomination of John Kerry as secretary of state. “We’ve got two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, both of whom are very prominently anti-US – less than ardent fans of the US military.”

2) In his speech in July 2012, after winning the Republican nomination to run for the Senate he invoked Milton Friedman, the economist. “We should take it as a providential sign that today would be the 100th birthday of Milton Friedman,” Mr Cruz said. “A true champion for liberty, and we are walking in Uncle Milton’s footsteps.” Read more >>

By Sally Davies
♦ Qatar looks set to strike a more conciliatory tone in the Middle East, after ruffling feathers with its support of Islamists in Egypt and the rebels in Syria, writes Simeon Kerr in the FT.
♦ Across the gulf, Iran is suffering under anti-nuclear sanctions. James Blitz looks at the prospects for a deal ahead of U.S. secretary of state John Kerry’s much-hyped meeting with the Iranian foreign minister, while Geoff Dyer says Obama has come full circle on Middle East diplomacy.
♦ The Obama doctrine: the president is absorbing some tough lessons from the international conflicts he’s observed – and intervened in – over the last five years, writes David Sanger in the New York Times.
♦ Amway is funding a Harvard scholarship to schmooze bigwigs in the Chinese Communist Party. It seems to be working: the household-goods chain has more than quadrupled its sales in China since the program began.
♦ Christine Lagarde examines how women’s under-participation in the workforce hobbles economic growth, on the back of an IMF report.
♦ The haunted house that gave even China’s Red Guards the spooksRead more >>

By Thomas Hale
♦ The Wall Street Journal looks closely at Janet Yellen and the ‘tougher tone’ she may bring to the Fed.
♦ Meanwhile, Roger Cohen ponders Merkel’s election success and her role as the ‘great consolidator’.
♦ Iranian Qassem Suleimani, a supporter of the Assad regime in Syria, has been described as the most powerful operative in the Middle East today. The New Yorker profiles this elusive figure.
The demographic for budget travel is changing – the New York Times looks at business people in hostels.
♦ Christian Caryl’s book Strange Rebels suggests that the 21st century was heavily moulded by the pivotal events of 1979. David Runciman’s review in the LRB is an exhilarating analysis of the future for progressive politics.
♦ Are the lines between the natural and artificial worlds becoming blurred? Sue Thomas expounds on the fascinating notion of technobiophilia in Aeon magazine.
♦ The New York Times looks closely at China’s forays into Central Asia, specifically their recently acquired share in Kazakhstan’s oil.
♦ Paul Mason, writing for Channel 4, weaves together Western intervention in the Middle East with the mercurial plot of HomelandRead more >>

Michael Steen

This is a map, courtesy of the Berlin returning officer’s website, of the constituency votes in Berlin. Blue is the Christian Democratic Union of Angela Merkel and purple represents the Left party, which was formed from the remnants of the communist SED that ruled East Germany as well as leftwing defectors from the centre-left SPD, shown in red. (The Greens are, um, green.) Read more >>

James Blitz

Can Iran and the west finally do a deal on the Iranian nuclear programme, ending the decade long stand-off that has plagued international diplomacy? As we watch the extraordinary set of encounters at the UN General Assembly in New York this week between leading Iranian and US figures, that question will be on the mind of every diplomat and journalist.

The atmospherics between Iran and the US this week are certainly exceeding expectations. All the attention on Tuesday will be on whether an encounter occurs between Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But whatever happens on that front, other important encounters are already being scheduled that say a lot about just how much the mood has changed. Read more >>

By Gideon Rachman
When pundits analyse Angela Merkel’s political success, they tend to fall back on a few well-worn ideas. The German chancellor is said to be a cautious pragmatist, a scientist who proceeds through trial-and-error, a reassuring mother-figure, a natural politician with an instinctive rapport with voters. All these things are true. But they miss out one vital element. Ms Merkel is also a political visionary. In the midst of a sometimes terrifying currency crisis, she has redefined Germany’s relationship with the EU – on a new and more sustainable basis.

Interactive by John Burn-Murdoch

Getty

This week scientists, policymakers and leaders meet in Stockholm to finalise The Physical Science Basis – the first part of the long-awaited fifth assessment report (known as AR5) by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This, essentially, sets out the latest state of thinking on the impact of climate change and is the fifth of its kind in 25 years.

This report’s projections, like those of its predecessors, will be heavily scrutinised in keeping with the controversies that surround this field of science.

Here, we show how the projections for temperature and sea level rise set out in the fourth Assessment Report in 2007 compare with actual measurements. We can see that global average temperatures have not accelerated at the rate predicted in some scenarios but sea levels have risen at the upper end of predicted ranges.

 Read more >>

Neil Buckley

Alexei Navalny, opposition leader and blogger, who came second in Moscow's mayoral election (Reuters)

Little by little, more air is set to be let into Russia’s tightly managed democracy. Opposition members from outside Kremlin-approved parties ­– the so-called non-system opposition ­– will be allowed to compete in, and even win, local-level elections. The recent polls in Moscow and Yekaterinburg were the start.

Those are conclusions that can be drawn from four days of discussions last week among invited Russian and foreign experts at the annual Valdai Club conference, and off-record meetings with some very senior Russian officials. They provided some grounds to hope that the worst of the clampdown that followed the demonstrations of winter 2011-2012 may be over. Having established some ground rules, the Kremlin seems to be elaborating a new approach to the oppositionRead more >>

♦ China’s political elite at the Central Party School are beginning to consider the unthinkable: the collapse of Chinese communism.
♦ Since Kenya sent troops into Somalia to fight al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in 2011, the risk of reprisal has been growing.
♦ Janet Yellen, the frontrunner to replace Ben Bernanke, is “motivated by genuine fascination with the questions she deals in” and seems to be unusually well-adjusted.
♦ Secret recordings have revealed Hosni Mubarak’s belief in far-fetched conspiracy theories and his worry that Washington was trying to oust him as president.
♦ The veteran foreign correspondent who lent credibility to a claim that Syrian rebels had admitted responsibility for the August chemical attack has denied writing the article.
♦ Vienna has adopted “gender mainstreaming” in its urban planning, to take account of how women move about within the city. Read more >>

Michael Steen

(Getty)

The first official German election results are in and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats enjoyed a huge swing in the polls, but remain five seats short of achieving the first absolute majority since 1957.

That fires the starting gun for coalition talks, raising some interesting questions, especially after the chancellor’s existing coalition partner, the liberal Free Democratic Party, has crashed from its best-ever election result in 2009 to parliamentary annihilation, failing to reach the five per cent threshold. Read more >>