|« Business this week - Feb 18th 2012||Evangile dominical / Sunday's Gospel »|
The latest brinkmanship between Greece and other members of the euro zone was the most quarrelsome yet. Amid violent scenes on the streets of Athens, the Greek parliament passed a new austerity package in the hope of securing a second bail-out worth €130 billion ($170 billion). But German officials said more cuts were needed and demanded written assurances from Greek politicians that they would stick to the deal after elections, due in April.
In an early test of its commitment to reform, the new Spanish government approved a set of changes to labour laws designed to allow companies both to employ workers more easily, but also to sack them. The country’s biggest trade unions said they would march in protest. Spain’s unemployment rate of 23% is the highest in the European Union.
Gazprom Media dissolved the board of Ekho Moskvy, a radio station in which the Russian gas giant holds a two-thirds stake. Despite its owners’ links to the Kremlin the broadcaster has often provided an outlet to opposition voices. Last month Vladimir Putin, the prime minister and president-to-be, said the station often “poured diarrhoea” over him.
Ten central and eastern European countries urged the Dutch parliament to take down a controversial website set up by Geert Wilders’s far-right Freedom Party that encourages Dutch citizens to complain about immigrants from the region. Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, who relies on Mr Wilders for support in parliament, has refused to condemn the website.
The White House released its budget request for next year, forecasting a deficit of $901 billion for 2013 and a cumulative deficit of $6.7 trillion for 2013-22. Barack Obama used the occasion to call once again for increased spending on infrastructure and higher taxes on the rich to pay for it all.
Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise on extending a cut in payroll taxes until the end of this year, after Republicans said they would not push for conditional spending cuts. The issue led to a stand-off with the White House in December, until an irate public forced the Republicans to back down.
Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Republican caucuses in Maine (even though a few precincts have yet to vote). But he had to crank up his campaign in Michigan, his home state, which votes in a primary on February 28th, after Rick Santorum surged to take a big lead in polls there.
Xi Jinping, China’s vice-president and leader-in-waiting, arrived in Washington, DC, for talks with Barack Obama. Mr Xi’s itinerary in America includes a visit to Iowa, where he had spent time studying farming in 1985. China’s current leader, Hu Jintao, made a similar trip to the United States in 2002 shortly before he ascended to the presidency.
Washington became the seventh American state to legalise gay marriage (which is also permitted in Washington, DC). Legislators in New Jersey and Maryland who support same-sex marriage tried to get similar bills passed in their states this week.
A fire at a jail in Honduras killed over 350 people. The list of possible causes includes an inmate’s protest, a fight and an electrical fault. Rescue crews said they could not save many prisoners because they did not have the keys to the jail cells.
Henrique Capriles won the presidential primary of Venezuela’s opposition coalition. Mr Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, will face Hugo Chávez, the incumbent, in an election in October.
Peruvian security forces captured Florindo Flores Hala, the leader of the rump of the Shining Path guerrillas. Ollanta Humala, the president, has vowed to eliminate the remnants of the group by the end of his term in 2016.
A bomb hit an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in Delhi, injuring four people. A similar device attached to an Israeli embassy car in Georgia was defused. In Bangkok a bomb accidentally went off in a house rented by three Iranian men. Israel accused Iran of being behind the mischief, which it denied.
Meanwhile, Iranian state TV reported that Iran had stopped exporting oil to six European countries, a retaliation for EU proposals to block Iranian oil imports. Officials refused to verify the report. Meanwhile, and to great fanfare, Iran also announced advances in its nuclear programme.
A nationwide five-day strike in Israel led by trade unions ended with a 20% pay increase for low-level public sector workers.
After months of tense negotiations Sudan and South Sudan signed a non-aggression pact, but a final deal on splitting the two countries has not been reached.
Malaysia deported Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old journalist, back to Saudi Arabia. Mr Kashgari was detained in Kuala Lumpur for posting a tweet containing what was perceived to be an insult to Muhammad. He is expected to be charged with blasphemy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
Umar Patek, who is accused of being a high-ranking member of the group responsible for the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, went on trial in Jakarta. He was arrested early last year in Abbottabad, the Pakistani town where Osama bin Laden was found.
Chinese television viewers will no longer be able to watch foreign shows during prime time, according to new government regulations. The rules also restrict imported programming to no more than 25% per channel per day. Last year China’s TV regulator took a popular talent show off the air and announced that channels must broadcast more cultural programmes.
China decided that a group of North Korean defectors it found living in the city of Shenyang, which is not far from the border with North Korea, should be forcibly sent back. Human-rights groups pleaded with China not to carry out the deportations.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was re-elected for a second term as president of Turkmenistan. There were seven other candidates, all from his own (and the only) party. He picked up only 97% of the vote.
(From The Economist, Feb 18th 2012)
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