Thursday, December 25, 2008

German President Horst Koehler Backs Finance Reforms

Berlin has been pushing for reforms which would require regulators in every nation to crack down on risky investment schemes.

Koehler, who is a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said the worldwide financial and economic crisis could be overcome, but "we'll have to work hard at it."

Xmas speech excerpts

"An incredible amount of money has been lost. Many people are worried about their savings. Many worry whether their jobs are safe.”

"Our country, our citizens and our government responded wisely and with level heads."

"It's an opportunity for greater cooperation among nations, an opportunity for a better economic and financial order, where capital serves everybody and nobody has to feel oppressed by it.” Dec 24, 2008 - Deutsche Welle


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sarkozy warned of industrial wasteland in Europe

French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned (Dec 16) that the European Union could turn into an industrial wasteland without government help for manufacturers hit hard by the global financial crisis.

"We cannot be the only continent in the world that does not support its builders and manu
facturers. We have to help our industrial infrastructure," Sarkozy told the European Parliament assembly. "Otherwise we are going to see an industrial wasteland."

European car makers deserve help, he said, especially if the United States gives subsidies to its struggling auto sector. France should consider a loan programme helping consumers buy environment-friendly new vehicles, he said. ... By Huw Jones, Reuters UK


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Climate Change Curb & Economic Stimulus Plan

European leaders adopted what they described as a historic pact to combat global warming, Dec 12, and challenged President-elect Barack Obama to join in their commitment to drastically reduce greenhouse gases despite the global economic crisis.

The 27
European Union nations also endorsed a €200 ($260) billion economic stimulus plan, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the bloc's gross domestic product, and urged the incoming Obama administration to prepare similarly ambitious measures and financial reforms for coordinated action at a summit of the world's 20 major economic powers scheduled for April 2 in London.

The appeals, at a two-day E.U. summit in Brussels, reflected widespread expectations among European leaders that Obama and his team will be easier to work with than the Bush administration and that, to a large extent, the president-elect shares their assessment of the need for bold steps to slow global warming and to revive economies that have been sapped by financial turmoil… By Edward Cody, Washington Post

Friday, December 5, 2008

Carmakers' bailout pleas hit Senate scepticism

Desperate U.S. automakers ran into fresh obstacles from sceptical lawmakers, December 4, as they appealed with rising urgency - and a new dose of humility - for a $34 billion bailout. Without help, said one senator, "we're looking at a death sentence."

With lawmakers in both parties pressing the automakers to consider a pre-negotiated bankruptcy - something they have consistently shunned - the Big Three were contemplating a government-run restructuring that could yield results similar to bankruptcy, including massive downsizing, in return for the bailout billions. But there was no assurance they could get even that.

And that wasn't all the unwelcome news. Congressional officials said one leading proposal - to tap an already approved fund set aside for making cars environmentally efficient - wouldn't give the carmakers nearly as much money as they say they need.

The auto executives pleaded with lawmakers at a contentious Capitol Hill hearing - their second round in less than a month - for emergency aid before year's end. But with time running out on the current Congress, skepticism about the bailout appeared to be as strong as ever… By Julie Hirschfeld Davis,
Associated Press

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Barrack Obama’s New National Security Team

Appearing at a Chicago press conference with secretary of State nominee Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and five others whom he plans to put on his team, Obama announced yesterday his administration would restore U.S. standing in the world through alliance-building and international institutions, as well as by maintaining American military might. […]

Obama said he would nominate Susan E. Rice, a former State Department official, to the U.N. post. The national security team will also include Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who will continue in his position; retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr., the new national security advisor; Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, the nominee for secretary of Homeland Security; and former deputy attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., the nominee for attorney general... Los Angeles Times


Friday, November 28, 2008

Germany Reaches Kyoto Emissions Commitments

A new study shows that Germany has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions to the level pledged in the Kyoto Protocol. But a greater reliance on coal-fired power plants may soon reverse the trend.

When it comes to global warming and concurrent efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, Germany has always tried to present itself as a leader. New data set to be released today shows that the country has earned its bragging rights.

According to the most recent numbers collected by the "national emissions inventory," which keeps tabs on Germany's CO2 emissions, the country has already lowered its emissions to the level set out by the Kyoto Protocol agreement. In 1997, Germany pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent by 2012 relative to 1990 levels. New numbers indicate that the country has managed to reduce emissions by 22.4 percent, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung which saw the report before it was published… Spiegel


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Financial Crisis ▪ World Leaders (G20) Urged Fast Action

World leaders pledged rapid action, November 15, in Washington to rescue a weakening global economy from the worst financial crisis in over 70 years and agreed to give emerging nations more say in running financial affairs.

The Group of 20 leaders from major industrialized and developing countries set out plans to toughen oversight for major global banks, study limits on banker pay and try for a breakthrough by year end in global trade talks - all part of a roadmap to rebuild a financial system crippled by the credit crisis. […]

In what portends a major shift in the global balance of economic power, the G20 agreed to a place for emerging market economies on the Financial Stability Forum, where top bank regulators evaluate banking and market risk. […]

In the medium term, the G20 also opened the door to the big prize - more seats for developing countries at the IMF and World Bank. […]

Advisers designated by U.S. President-elect
Barack Obama to meet with dignitaries on the sidelines of the G20 summit said he supports a coordinated response to the global financial crisis and is ready to work with member countries on improving the financial system when he takes office. […] Reuters (excerpts)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Global First Aid by Nobel Economists

New Mindset Required

Five winners of the Nobel Prize for economics share their views on what the future global finance order should look like… Spiegel

During six years Haplif occasionally referred, e.g., in particular to Joseph E. Stiglitz.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama Won Historic US Election

The announcement came, November 4, at 10pm Chicago time. Barack Obama was declared America’s next President. The vast sea of humanity packed into the city’s Grant Park erupted in a deafening roar that must have been audible ten miles out in Lake Michigan.

Tens of thousands of Obama supporters cheered and whooped themselves hoarse. People wept, hugged and embraced. They waved flags, and erupted in chants of “Oh-bah-mah” and “yes we can!”... Times Online

OBAMA'S VICTORY SPEECH (Spiegel) + video (YouTube)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Financial Crisis Exposes German Leader's Weaknesses


The financial crisis and the threat of recession are revealing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's weaknesses and could contribute to a dramatic change in her party's prospects in next year's election. The Social Democrats, sensing an opportunity, are already planning their attack… By Roland Nelles and Ralf Neukirch, Spiegel International


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Financial Crisis: USA & EU seeking series of summits

The leaders of the U.S., France and the European Commission agreed yesterday to ask other world leaders to take part in a series of summits on the global financial crisis, with the first held in the U.S. sometime soon after the Nov. 4 presidential election.

George W. Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Barroso said in a joint statement after a three-hour meeting at Camp David, the presidential retreat, that they would maintain coordinated steps to solve the crisis in the global economy…

Germany’s biggest post-war bailout designed to ward off financial meltdown has passed on October 17, 2008.

The huge 500 billion euro safety package has been signed into law after passing overwhelmingly in Germany’s upper and lower chambers of parliament…


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Financial Crisis: Markets surge after bank bailouts

After one of the biggest one day gains in its history yesterday, Wall Street may find added impetus today on the back of news that the US Treasury is expected to inject 91 billion euros of capital into the country’s top nine banks.

It is the first tranche of a 182 billion euro deal announced yesterday…

European markets also rose with news of massive banking bail-outs by numerous EU countries.
Asian stocks also surged shortly when trading began this morning, with Japan’s Nikkei up more than 12 percent, after plunging more than 24 percent last week … Euronews

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Global crisis: Sarkozy and Merkel prepared an EU plan

COLOMBEY-LES-DEUX-EGLISES, France - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel paved the way on Saturday for European measures to tackle the global financial crisis but revealed little about their plans.

Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union, has called an emergency meeting on Sunday of the 15 countries that have the euro as their currency, with a view to taking steps to stop the rot.

"We have prepared a certain number of decisions that we will submit to our partners in the presence of the president of the European Commission and the governor of the (European) central bank. You understand that it is not appropriate for us to talk about it," Sarkozy told a joint news conference with Merkel… By Francois Murphy, Reuters (France)


Monday, September 29, 2008

US Finance Crisis: Modified Bailout Plan \ Apostasy

WASHINGTON - The House braced for a difficult vote set for Monday on a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry after a weekend of tense negotiations produced a plan that Congressional leaders portrayed as greatly strengthened by new taxpayer safeguards.

The 110-page bill, intended to ease a growing
credit crisis, came after a frenzied week of political twists and turns that culminated in an agreement between the Bush administration and Congress early Sunday morning. […]

The bill calls for disbursing the money in parts, starting with $250 billion followed by $100 billion at the discretion of the president. The Treasury can request the remaining $350 billion at any time, and Congress must act to deny it if it disapproves... The New York Times

While many Republican lawmakers seek to distance themselves from the plan, or disown it altogether, White House officials hope the heated opposition gradually will cool if the plan works.

Many frustrated conservatives see Bush's rescue plan, on top of his decision to invade Iraq, as cementing his legacy as a big-government conservative. To others, it marks his apostasy from conservative orthodoxy… The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Bailout Failed

The spirit of bipartisan US congressional cooperation that brought the Wall Street bailout bill to the vote has fallen apart in a rancorous slanging match, amid talk of a "poisoned" debate. […] The New York Stock Exchange suffered its worst ever single-day points drop as news broke of the failed bailout bill. Telegraph UK

Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama and McCain: No Financial Bailout Deal

The presidential campaign swept loudly into Washington on September 25 as Barack Obama and John McCain met with President Bush and congressional leaders at the White House to discuss a massive bailout of the nation's ailing financial markets.

The candidates' much-ballyhooed return from the trail, however, appeared to produce more theater than lawmaking. …
Los Angeles Times


German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck’s speech on global financial markets at the Bundestag (prior to the White House meeting).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wall Street’s NYSE: Investment Bank Stocks Plunged

NEW YORK, Sept. 15, 2008 - Shares of investment banks tumbled Monday morning as Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch & Co. brokered a sale to Bank of America Corp.
Lehman Brothers stock was virtually wiped out at the opening bell after the storied investment bank, wracked by the credit crisis and mortgage-backed investments, filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Its shares gave up $3.40, or 93 percent, to 25 cents in morning trading. The stock was trading at a 52-week high of $68.44 in November.

Shares of Merrill were the one bright spot. Under terms of its sale, Bank of America would exchange 0.8595 shares of its common stock for each Merrill Lynch common share. Merrill shares soared $4.86, or 28.5 percent, to $21.90. …

Supplementary: McCain, Obama Confront the Market.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Frank-Walter Steinmeier to run against Chancellor Angela Merkel

Germany's beleaguered Social Democratic party (SPD) yesterday named the foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to run against Chancellor Angela Merkel in next year's general election.

With the nomination of a moderate, the SPD hopes to halt its sinking popularity and resolve an internal battle between old-school leftwingers and liberal reformists.

An emergency meeting of party leaders near Potsdam, outside Berlin, also named Franz Müntefering to replace Kurt Beck, who is stepping down as party chairman. … Guardian UK

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Barack Obama’s Historic Nomination Speech (US Democrats)

Denver (Colorado) – August 28, 2008

Excerpt - We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work … Full text at

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NATO - USA – Russia \ Eastern and Western European Interests

Condoleezza Rice stated on August 18: NATO must “deny Russian strategic objectives, which are clearly to undermine Georgia's democracy, to use its military capability to damage and in some cases destroy Georgian infrastructure and to try and weaken the Georgian state.”

Eastern European countries have largely followed America’s line, fearing that a resurgent Russia is once again a direct threat to their interests.

In contrast a group of west European countries, notably France, Germany and Italy, is anxious to avoid greater confrontation with Russia. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, strongly criticised Russia’s actions this weekend, even as she stood beside Mr Medvedev in Sochi, a Russian coastal resort near to Georgia. She said that Russia’s response to Georgia’s (ill-considered) attack on South Ossetia was both “disproportionate” and “unreasonable.” But German dependence on energy from the east - roughly half of the 80 billion cubic metres of gas consumed in Germany each year are now piped from Russia - encourages others, such as her foreign minister and the former chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, to seek a more emollient line. Mr Schröder told Der Spiegel this week that Europe should “maintain a strong relationship with Russia”, adding that “there is not a single critical problem in world politics or the global economy that could be solved without Russia.” …


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Georgia agreed to modified Russian Peace Plan

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili said today they had agreed to a modified version of a peace plan with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt to military operations in Georgia on August 12 in support of the plan proposed by Sarkozy, who flew to Georgia after meeting Medvedev in Moscow.

"It is a political document. It is an agreement of principles ... and I think we have full coincidence of principles," Saakashvili told a joint news conference with the French president.

Sarkozy said the text would be presented to a meeting of European Union foreign ministers today so they could throw their weight behind it. It would then provide the basis for a U.N. Security Council resolution. Reuters

Friday, August 8, 2008

Beijing (CNN) - Emotion kicks off China's Olympics

Fireworks, athletes and pageantry on a scale never before seen in the Olympics opened the Summer Games in Beijing on


as the Asian nation kicked off the biggest and most scrutinized Games in history.

Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the the Olympics officially open, retired Chinese gymnastics champion Li Ning was carried through the air to light the Olympic cauldron and pyrotechnics exploded throughout Beijing as the crowd of 91,000 at National Stadium cheered wildly.

It was a stunning display from the nation of 1.3 billion people. Some media observers believe the Opening Ceremony may be the single most watched television event in history... More at

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Anti-Bush Triumph \ Obama’s Whirlwind Tour

A crowd of 200,000 in Berlin and an enthusiastic welcome in Jerusalem and Paris: Barack Obama's whirlwind tour of the Middle East and Europe has fascinated the crowds and impressed politicians. Will it be enough to overcome doubts about his foreign policy expertise?

On Obama’s Berlin Speech

Excerpts - From the very second he walked onto the stage with an athletic bounce in his step, waved, smiled, it was obvious here was a man who so obviously knows where he stands and is so confident in his message. This doesn't look like just another political product that needs to be sold -- at most just someone who needs to be coached in the details. Here comes a natural talent with the charisma of John F. Kennedy, the kind of man who only comes along once in a generation. [...]

He gave an almost poetic speech, a tour de force through global politics, but without many specifics, in which he invoked what has fallen by the wayside during the Bush years without even referring to George W.: the partnership with Europe, cooperation on climate protection, phasing out nuclear weapons. On the topic of Afghanistan, he called on the Germans to play a more active role. He didn't utter a single negative word abroad about his own government, about the lies that were used to justify the Iraq war, about the ongoing revelations of torture by the CIA, or the fact that 74 percent of Americans feel that their country is on the wrong path. … More by Erich Follath, Spiegel International

Friday, July 25, 2008

Barack Obama’s Berlin Speech to the People of the World

In front of the Victory Column [photo] - July 24, 2008

Excerpt - So far Obama has provided scarce details -- and he has generated criticism in the US for not being more forthcoming with his ideas. For days now, his advisors have been warning that Obama is still just a presidential candidate and not the president. As such, he can only speak generally about his vision, and he can't make any concrete policy proposals. But perhaps he also went too far in announcing that this was going to be a "keynote speech on trans-Atlantic" relations.

Nevertheless, it could be that the trans-Atlantic relationship needs a new tenor a lot more right now than it needs new political projects. The degree to which tensions in the relationship have developed in recent years was illustrated by lines Obama gave in his speech that under normal circumstances would be self-evident, like: "The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand." Or even better: "We will reject torture." … More by Gregor Peter Schmitz, SPIEGEL INTERNATIONAL
with 34 photos & video

Thursday, July 17, 2008

UNESCO awarded six BAUHAUS estates in Berlin

Why are these examples of modernist architecture so important?

Dr. Annemarie Jaeggi, Bauhaus Archiv Director, says: “Sure these buildings go back 80 years and the collectivist model is no longer there in our society. However, this architecture spread right across the world. That is really one of Germany's contributions to the 20th century.

Why does that not have just as much a claim to UNESCO status as a Gothic cathedral? I don’t see the difference. Why should one say modernism is not worth protecting just because it was a utopia?” … Spiegel interview


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Economist: What a way to run the world?

G8, U.N., IMF, WTO, et al.

Excerpt - The G8 is not the only global club that looks old and impotent. The U.N. Security Council has told Iran to stop enriching uranium, without much effect. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is in tatters.

The International Monetary Fund, the fireman in previous financial crises, has been a bystander during the credit crunch. The World Trade Organization's Doha round is stuck.

Of course, some bodies, such as the venerable Bank for International Settlements, still do a fine job. But as global problems proliferate and information whips around the world ever faster, the organizational response looks ever shabbier, slower and feebler. The world's governing bodies need to change… From the Economist Magazine via Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bill Gates (Microsoft Chairman) Stepped Away

Microsoft experienced a ritual (on June 27) that is common to offices across America: a valued employee's last day. Co-workers paused to gather around their departing colleague, speeches were made and perhaps some cake was consumed.

But this employee isn't just any staff member; he is Bill Gates. Although he will remain chairman, his day-to-day role with the company is over. How do you sum up 33 years spent building the world's largest software company? What accomplishments do you highlight? What topics are best avoided for the sake of politeness?

In Gates's case, sometimes it's hard to tell. …To read more at Washington Post