Linking Up with the World

Here is the Monday, January 4th, 2010 edition of what's making news and interesting reads from around the world.

Japanese PM Hatoyama Wants a More Equal Relationship with the US
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan said Monday he wants to press for more equal ties with the United States. In a televised speech on New Year's Day, PM Hatoyama said it is important “for both sides to be able to firmly say what needs to be said, and increase the relationship of trust.” Hatoyama also reiterated his determination to find a mutually acceptable solution to a row with the United States over the relocation of a U.S. Marine base on the southern island of Okinawa within the space of several months. Not only are Okinawans opposed to a plan to move the Futenma base to a different part of the island, but the tiny pacifist Social Democratic Party has threatened to leave Hatoyama's ruling coalition if the plan goes ahead unchanged. More from Agence France Presse.

Abbas Visits Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh
The President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Egyptian Hosni Murbarak on Monday in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on the tip of the Sinai peninsula. It is expected that President Mubarak will encourage the Palestinian leader to restart peace talks with Israel. On Sunday, the Qatar-based news network Al-Jazeera reported that Obama's administration supported Egypt's vision for a Middle East peace plan that would include a complete halt of construction in West Bank settlements as well as the release of senior Palestinian officials from Israeli prisons. More on this part of story from Haaretz.

The other relevant development is that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have quietly working behind the scenes to effect a reconciliation between the Hamas and Fatah. Hamas and Fatah have been feuding since March 2007 when Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip. More on the joint Egyptian-Saudi diplomatic effort from Al Jazeera.

Singaporean Economy Hits a Snag
Singapore reported a greater than expected decline in its 4Q09 GDP after posting three successive quarters of growth. Singapore's economy has shrunk a bigger-than-expected 6.8 per cent in the fourth quarter, led by a 38 per cent plunge in manufacturing. The SE Asian city-state's economy, which relies on trade, finance and tourism, had bounced back from a 12-month recession by surging the last two quarters: growing 22 percent in the second quarter and a revised 14.9 percent in the third. The performance of the Singaporean economy is often seen as a barometer of global trade. More from Business Week.

US Lifts HIV Travel Ban
The US has lifted a 22-year immigration ban which has stopped anyone with HIV/Aids from entering the country. President Obama had said when he announced the lifting of the ban that such a restriction was not compatible with US plans to be a leader in the fight against the disease. The new rules come into force on Monday and the US plans to host a bi-annual global HIV/Aids summit for the first time in 2012. More from the BBC.

Below the fold, three stories on the global energy sector.

World Markets Tumble on Dubai World Debt Moratorium

The government of the Emirate of Dubai, one of the seven emirates that makes up the United Arab Emirates, stunned global financial markets with the news that it was asking banks to allow its main investment vehicle, Dubai World, to suspend its debt repayments for six months. The news sent stock markets tumbling across Asia and Europe with indices shedding about 3% on average. The worst performer was Hong Kong's Hang Seng index which fell by 5.3%. Markets were closed across the Persian Gulf for Eid holiday, and in the US for Thanksgiving.

With a motto of The Sun Never Sets on Dubai World, the holding company is Dubai's flag bearer in global investments. The fund operates in a highly diversified spectrum of industrial segments - Transport & Logistics, Drydocks & Maritime, Urban Development and Investment & Financial Services - and has played a major role in the emirate's rapid economic growth.  Its stated primary aim is to play the role of a growth engine that powers development both locally and internationally. Its overextension is now playing a role in the financial collapse of high-flying Dubai which unlike Abu Dhabi is relatively oil poor.

Dubai World is seeking a six-month moratorium on interest payments. During that time, it could negotiate with creditors a restructuring that would pare liabilities, which include $20 billion of loans and bonds coming due in the next 18 months, according to estimates. If the lenders don't agree, Dubai World will default on the notes. The holding company has some $59 billion in total liabilities and accounts for 80 percent of the total debt held by Dubai.

The banks with the greatest exposure to Dubai World are Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Emirate NBD PJSC both based in the UAE. Among the international banks that have large exposure are the U.K.'s Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, HSBC Holdings PLC, Barclays PLC, Lloyds Banking Group PLC, Standard Chartered PLC, Germany's Deutsche Bank and ING Groep NV of the Netherlands.

There's more...

US Arms Sales to the Middle East Soar

A new report (pdf.) released earlier this week by the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that the volume of arms transfers worldwide increased by 21 percent during the group's latest five-year reporting period. While that number is off a low base as arms transfers had been at their lowest level since the 1960's during the previous reporting period (1999-2003), the number masks a significant rise in arms transfers to the Middle East. The SIPRI report shows that arms transfers to the Middle East have increased by 38 percent during the past five years, compared to the base period.

It should come as no surprise that five biggest suppliers of major conventional weapons for the period 2004-2008 were the United States, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom with these top five suppliers accounting for 78% of total world arms sales. Furthermore, the global arms trade is largely two nation game with the United States and Russia accounting for 56% of total arms sales. The US alone accounted for 31% of the world arms trade on sales to 69 different countries.

There's more...

UAE--Not Democratic, Hate Freedom, No Borders

Shouldn't We Bring Democracy To the UAE Before We Let Them Manage Our Ports?

President Bush and some of his supporters are saying that opposition to this sale is racist and anti-Arab. I decided to learn more about the United Arab Emirates. Most of the following was obtained from the websites of the U. S. State Department and the CIA World Fact Book.

The United Arab Emirates is a loosely knit group of seven rulers. They do not have political parties or any form of Democratic government. Each ruler holds power on the basis of their dynastic position in their tribes. Yes--dynasty, tribes. Doesn't sound very American does it? Unless you are Bush.

There are not clear borders between the U. A. E. and its' neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and Oman. That sounds pretty unstable. Here is what the CIA site says: "Location and status of boundary with Saudi Arabia is not final, de facto boundary reflects 1974 agreement; no defined boundary with most of Oman, but Administrative Line in far north."  An erratic perimeter in a volatile region. They can't keep their own borders safe. Yet we are handing them the keys to ours.

There's more...

Port insecurity

What Vice President Cheney did to Harry Whittington, President Bush is doing to himself. But this time, no one is coming to the shooter's defense.

The administration built on being strong on national security is poised to transfer six ports to a state-run business from a nation with ties to international terrorism. The administration built on a robust American economy is poised to outsource more jobs. The administration built on law and order is breaking the rules yet again.

And while politicians from both parties are against the deal, Bush seems willing to fight tooth and nail to protect his short- and long-term interests, neither of which jive with his role as leader of every American, not just an elite, wealthy few.

There's more...


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