World View: France's President Francois Hollande Suffers Election Debacle
This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com
- Thailand approaches a crisis point in anti-government riots
- France's president François Hollande suffers election debacle
- Russia, U.S. remain deadlocked over Ukraine after 4 hours talks
- Michael Lewis: How the stock market is rigged
Thailand approaches a crisis point in anti-government riots
Thailand's "red shirt" supporters of prime minister Yingluck
Shinawatra have remained relatively quiet, in the face of "yellow
shirt" anti-government protests that have been going on since
December. But on Monday Yingluck will have to defend herself against
corruption charges before a National Anti-Corruption Commission
(NACC), and if the commission recommends impeachment, then it could
trigger counter-protests and riots by the "red shirt" supporters.
The anti-government protesters are demanding that prime minister
Yingluck Shinawatra resign, and allow the protesters to appoint an
unelected "People's Council" that will rule in place of the elected
government. The Bangkok protests are a clash between two ethnic
groups: the "yellow shirt" market-dominant light-skinned Thai-Chinese
elite minority, vastly outnumbered by the "red shirt" dark-skinned
Thai-Thai who do most of the menial labor, and who continue to support
the Yingluck's Pheu Thai political party. Because of the Thai-Thai
majority, the Pheu Thai have won the last five elections and can
continue to do so. That's why the elite Thai-Chinese anti-government
protesters want to throw out democracy and replace the elected
government with their own People's Council that they can control.
There are fears that any red shirt march on Bangkok could end in a
bloodbath, similar to one that occurred in 2010. Reuters
France's president François Hollande suffers election debacle
Sunday's nationwide municipal elections in France have dealt a
stunning blow to president François Hollande and his governing
Socialist party. Turnout was low, and it's thought that the reason is
that his supporters, furious that he's not left-wing enough and
embarrassed by his scandals, stayed home without bothering to vote.
France's economy has been tanking. The number of people out of work
is at a record high, and earlier this month, the European Commission
warned that France's debt is going out of control, blaming it on lack
of competitiveness in the unfavorable business environment:
"France is projected to miss both headline deficit and
structural adjustment targets over the entire forecast period.
Despite measures taken to foster competitiveness, so far there is
limited evidence of rebalancing. While wages have developed in
line with productivity, the labor cost remains high and weighs on
firms’ profit margins.
The unfavorable business environment, and in particular the low
level of competition in services, further aggravate the
competitiveness challenge. In addition, rigidities in the wage
setting system result in difficulties for firms to adjust wages to
Further, President Hollande has been through two recent scandals
that would be fit for a televised situation comedy.
The first occurred in January, when Hollande called a reporter
"I wish to make it known that I have ended my
partnership with Valérie Trierweiler."
Trierweiler was his 48 year old girlfriend, who had lived with him in
the Élysée Palace since he took office last year. But a reporter had
discovered that Hollande was sneaking out of the Palace and spending
nights with a 41 year old actress, Julie Gayet.
The second recent scandal occurred earlier this month, over an
investigation in the wiretapping of the phone of Hollande's
predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. Hollande denied that this government
had anything to do with it, and France's Justice Minister Christiane
Taubira gave a press conference denied knowing anything about it.
During the press conference she held up two documents, assuming that
no one could read them. But Le Monde was able to zoom in and read the
documents, and the documents proved that she was lying, as she had to
admit the next day.
Beyond the theatre, French voters were looking for a change. Many had
expected Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front party would score
well in the elections. The National Front did well, though not nearly
as well as they had hoped. The big winner was the center-right Union
for Popular Movement (UMP), which is headed by Nicolas Sarkozy.
However, Sarkozy himself is also under investigation, for involvement
in irregular party funding practices (which is the reason why his
phone was being tapped in the first place). BBC and Reuters and Reuters
Russia, U.S. remain deadlocked over Ukraine after 4 hours talks
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov talked for four hours on Sunday, with no agreement. At the
end, according to the BBC, Lavrov looked "satisfied," while Kerry
"just looked tired." (I believe I also heard an on-air female BBC
reporter actually say, "Awwww. Couldn't they reach any agreement?
That's a shame.") Lavrov denied that Russia has any plans for an
invasion, but continued to lay the groundwork for such an invasion, by
calling the government in Kiev "fascists," jeopardizing the safety of
ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. Russian troops massed on
Ukraine's borders will not be pulled back. The impression, according
to the BBC, is that the U.S. is "bending over backwards" in the hope
of getting a diplomatic solution. The meeting had been arranged on
Friday, when Russia's president Vladimir Putin telephoned President
Barack Obama. BBC
Michael Lewis: How the stock market is rigged
Most people who are active in the stock market these days
are large hedge funds and institutional investors, who run
"high-frequency computerized stock trading" shops. These huge
companies have invested millions of dollars in software algorithms
and high-speed networking to be able to make dozens of stock
trades in a second.
So it won't come as a surprise to anyone that the wealthiest investors
have rigged the stock market so that they can make unethical profits
at the expense of less fortunate investors. According to best-selling
financial investigative reporter Michael Lewis, they use a technique
called "front running."
The way it works is that if you buy a million shares of something,
then your order will go through another company's computer. That
computer will allow only half your order to go through. Then it will
purchase the other half of your order, and resell it to you at a
higher price. All this goes on in a fraction of a second on a
computer server in New Jersey linked to the NY Stock Exchange.
CBS News 60 Minutes
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