Daybook: Future International and Political Events
DAYBOOK updated on 25 May 2013
DAYBOOK updated on 25 May 2013
The International Observer
Reports published in the International Observer in
Our 32nd year of publishing The International Observer
North Korean belligerency and threats
Rebel takeover in Central Africa, strife in Mali
Civil war in Syria
Regrouping of Islamic insurgents in the Southern Sahara
Noticed and Noted
Crimes of white supremacists get little attention from US Congress—Concern by politicians and public is diverted from the dangers posed by home-grown US hate groups. “Congress obsessed with American Muslims, neglects real threat of White Supremacists,” wrote University of Michigan History Professor Juan Cole on 4 April in Informed Comment on www.juancole.com. He cites the recent killings of Texas district attorneys and a Colorado prison official, allegedly committed by extremist white terrorists. He also notes that “Congress not only has held few or no hearings on the danger of white terrorism, it has actually pressured the Department of Homeland Security not to produce studies on the phenomenon.”
In 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) of Mobile, Alabama, counted 1,007 active hate groups in the US. It describes them as having beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. Without implying that a group is criminally active, SPLC finds that a group’s activity can include criminal acts and violence.
Work of the press varies greatly from country to country and from
situations of peace to chaos and conflict. It continues to suffer from
death, imprisonment, torture, and abuse of individual journalists, as
well as censorship, legal chicanery, and repression of media. In 2012,
journalists--local and foreign
professionals--lost their lives in the course of their
profession—2 more than during the same period in 2011, reports the
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York NY .
The press suffered its highest death toll in Syria (28), Somalia (12), and Pakistan (7), accounting for more than two-thirds of all losses.
In addition to deaths, at least 232 (179 in 2011) members of the press were imprisoned at year’s end, according to CPJ. In the Middle East and North Africa 121 journalists or 52 percent are in jail, at least 49 in Turkey, 45 in Iran, and 15 in Syria. In Asia, 65 media members are imprisoned, led by China (32), Vietnam (14), and Azerbaijan (9). In Africa, 44 members of the press are held of which 28 are held in Eritrea. In the Americas and Europe, one journalist each is in jail.
Australia’s September elections are posing severe challenge to prime minister. In September, Australian voters will decide whether to stick with the government of Prime Minister Ms. Julia Gillard or turn to the Liberal Party under Anthony John “Tony” Abbott. The outlook for the Labor Party is far from rosy, partly because of its introduction of several reforms and controversial measures and because of internal squabbling over the role of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It did not help the public image that a nasty but bungled split about leadership erupted on 21 March which has led to the fifth change of ministries after resignations and dismissals of several ministers and junior ministers.
The Prime Minister says she is fully aware of the tough campaign ahead. In an interview in The Washington Post of 10 March, she points out that the party supported her twice against Rudd, in 2010 and again in February 2012, and that she is confident of Labor’s continuing confidence in her government. The leader of the Liberals has supported changes in health care, the role of the first Australians but has criticized proposals to control emissions. As Leader of the Opposition he is seen more as an obstructionist than one contributing to shaping national policy.
Political freedom: Freedom House of Washington in its annual survey* characterizes 2012 as a year of “Democratic Breakthroughs in the Balance.” For seven years running, global declines in freedom outweighed earlier gains and the number of countries designated shown as Free in 2012 stands at 90, representing 46 percent of the world’s 195 countries and 43 percent of the world population (relatively unchanged since 2010).
the World 2013, Washington DC: Freedom House,
Leadership turnover in 2012
There were 35 changes, excluding reelections of incumbents, at the head of state level (33 in 2011). Heads of state of Ethiopia, Malawi, and Tonga died in office. At least 432 heads of government were changed, excluding those reappointed or reelected (42 in 2011). The prime minister of Ethiopia died in office. The chairmanship of the presidency rotated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Switzerland and in San Marino two semi-annual changes took place.
The number of turnovers jumped to 24 in Africa (15 in 2011, 14 in 2010), the same as in Europe (16 in 2011, 23 in 2010). Asia recorded 9 changes (10 in 2011, 9 in 2010), the same as in the Middle East and North Africa (16 in 2011, none in 2010), followed by the Americas with 7 (12 in 2011, 11 in 2010). Fewer took place in Oceania, 5 changes (6 in 2012, 8 in 2010).
EU fiscal compact enters into force after Finland ratifies
The monetary house of the European Union (EU) will be stabilized for the time being after the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union takes effect on 1 January 2013. On 21 December, Finland became the twelfth member state to ratify the balanced budget rule which was initially signed by 25 member states on 2 March—by all except the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.
Agreed rules require that national budgets of participating member states must be in balance or in surplus, provided the annual structural government deficit does not exceed 0.5 percent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP). The deficit must be in line with the country-specific minimum benchmark figure for long-term sustainability (set by the preventive arm of the Stability and Growth Pact, assessed every year).
Changes at the top in December 2012: Bermuda (PM), Japan (PM), Lithuania (PM), Mali (PM), Mexico (president), Montenegro (PM), Namibia (PM), Săo Tomé e Principe (PM), and San Marino (Captains General).
January 2013: Central African Republic (PM), Chad (PM), Ghana (president and vice president reelected), Palau (president), Saint Kitts and Nevis (governor general), Switzerland (president), Taiwan (PM), and United States of America (president and vice president reelected). (For details on changes of government in December, please see Country Notes 2012 in the current issue. PM New prime minister named).
China’s leadership of seven
The 82 million members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and 1.3 billion people of China are now subject to decisions by five new and two holdover members of the CPC Political Bureau. They were not nationally elected but chosen by 2,270 party delegates to the 18th CPC National Congress held on 8-14 November in Beijing. The general view in the People’s Republic and abroad seems to be that the balance between conservative and reform-minded decision makers has not changed only the new leadership is younger and better educated but grew up during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Before the 18th Central Committee was chosen on 14 November, many believed and hoped the next leadership would push forward with democratic, political, and social reforms. (It should be pointed out that reforms per se in authoritarian and communist-ruled countries can also result in changes that strengthen control rather than relax it.) The new leader of the party who will ascend to the state’s presidency in March may tend to be more practically than ideologically oriented but it will probably take him the next two years to get settled in his new positions and work out power relationships with party factions, regions, and the strengthening economic middle class.
The General Secretary of the Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Xi Jinping (born 15 June 1953 in Shaanxi Province) was elected on 15 November. He studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing from 1975-1979, graduated with a major in Marxist theory and later was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws.
The second ranking member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau Li Keqiang (born 1 July 1955 in Anhui Province) studied economics at Peking University from 1978-1982 and following post-graduate studies was awarded the degree of Doctor of Economics.
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