22-Feb-12 World View

22-Feb-12 World View

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Netanyahu and Obama to meet in Washington on March 5
  • Syria’s regime launches ‘sickening’ assault on Homs
  • Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez makes emergency trip to Cuba for cancer test
  • Tibetan’s Lhakar movement confounds China’s Han leaders
  • EU Commissioner in Athens will review all Greek budget decisions
  • Private investors in Greek bonds to ‘voluntarily’ lose 74%
  • Greece lurches to the left amid radical austerity


Netanyahu and Obama to meet in Washington on March 5

U.S. President Barack Obama will host a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on March 5. The meeting will likely center on the question of Iran, and the widely discussed proposal for somebody (Israel or the U.S.) to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent development of a nuclear weapon. When the two met at the White House last year on May 20, they disagreed sharply on the question of Israel returning to its pre-1967 boundaries. It’s believed that Israel and the U.S. are in disagreement on the Iran issue as well. Haaretz


Syria’s regime launches ‘sickening’ assault on Homs

The army of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad launched an intensive assault on residences of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs. Watching the barrage of shells injure civilians, and a baby die after shrapnel had pierced his body, one reporter called the assault “sickening.” Hundreds of shells rained down on the city in a two-hour period, reportedly razing buildings and killing at least 30 people. It’s suspected that the assault is a prelude to a full scale ground attack. BBC

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez makes emergency trip to Cuba for cancer test



Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez took a secret trip to Cuba over the weekend to test for a return of the cancerous tumor that was removed last summer. “It’s a small lesion that must be removed surgically. I’m in good physical condition to face this new battle. With God’s help they will successfully remove the lesion,” said Chávez. Havana Times


Tibetan’s Lhakar movement confounds China’s Han leaders

China’s strategy for handling Tibet has always been to encourage Han Chinese from the east to move to Tibet, so that the Han will eventually dominate the Tibetans, and hopefully absorb the Tibetans into the Han culture. However, the Tibetans began a strategic resistance movement in 2008, after the Chinese crushed the violent uprising in 2008. It’s known as the “Lhakar movement,” where Lhakar means White Wednesday. Every Wednesday, thousands of Tibetans–men, women and children– are meeting in their villages and towns to take pledges to express their determination to preserve their Tibetan identity and their refusal to be assimilated into the Han culture and identity. Eat Tibetan, Speak Tibetan, Dress Tibetan, Think Tibetan, Live Tibetan, Die Tibetan– that is their motto:

“Lhakar is a homegrown, Tibetan self-reliance movement that started in the aftermath of the 2008 uprising. In spite of China’s intensified crackdown, Tibetans have embraced the power of strategic nonviolent resistance. Every Wednesday, a growing number of Tibetans are making special effort to wear traditional clothes, speak Tibetan, eat in Tibetan restaurants and buy from Tibetan-owned businesses. They channel their spirit of resistance into social, cultural and economic activities that are self-constructive (promoting Tibetan language, culture and identity) and non-cooperative (refusing to support Chinese institutions and businesses).”

The Lhakar movement has unnerved the Chinese. They do not know how to stop its spread. The Chinese have sent reinforcements of their security forces to the Tibetan areas and cut off all Net connections. Despite this, the movement is showing no signs of abating. On the contrary, it is gathering strength. Bahukutumbi Raman


EU Commissioner in Athens will review all Greek budget decisions

Greeks are enraged that the final bailout agreement hashed out during an all-night meeting in Brussels cedes Greek sovereignty to the “troika” — the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund. At the insistence of the Germans, the Dutch and the Finns, the €130 billion bailout loan will be tightly controlled: It will be put into an escrow account under the control of a troika commissioner who will dole out the money only as agreed. This will force Greece to make bond repayments, giving them higher priority than payments for such things as pensions or civil service salaries. Telegraph


Private investors in Greek bonds to ‘voluntarily’ lose 74%

This is shaping up to be an dramatic battle. During the Monday’s all-night session, the negotiators knocked a few more percentage points off the value of Greek bonds currently held by private investors. Last July, when this plan was first hatched, the bondholders were to take a voluntary 21% “haircut,” meaning they would lose 21% of their original investment. That figure has increased every time someone held a meeting, up to 50%, then 60%, then 70%, and now at 74%. Most of the private bondholders are banks, many of which are controlled by their respective national governments, so they will accept the “voluntary” sacrifice. But any investor refusing the voluntary offer will be forced to take it, because the Greek parliament will retroactively changes the laws governing the bonds by passing “collective action clauses.” This will probably be done in the next couple of days. Hedge funds that have insured their bonds with credit default swaps (CDSs) will prefer this route, because they can collect 100% of their investments when the collective action clauses trigger a “credit event.” Bloomberg


Greece lurches to the left amid radical austerity

Hot communist chicks shout slogans in front of the Greek parliament building in Athens. (AFP)

Hot communist chicks shout slogans in front of the Greek parliament building in Athens. (AFP)

A radical austerity drive has triggered the biggest political upheaval in Athens since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974. So far, it is leftist parties who have benefitted the most from the debt crisis, though the leftist parties are divided as well. Alexis Tsipras, the 37 year old leader of Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, shouts, “We must prevent Greece from becoming a German protectorate once again. We are not a German colony.” Tsipras has a plan for getting Greece out of debt. He wants “Greece to remain a systemic problem for Europe,” so that the Europeans will eventually be forced to defer or reduce Greece’s debts. Fotis Kouvelis, 61, is more moderate, calling for reforms, though frighted of “German financial and economic hegemony.” Spiegel


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