Archive for July, 2009

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Swine Flu Passengers Allowed on European Flights

July 31, 2009
oern Pollex/Getty Images

oern Pollex/Getty Images

With over 11,000 confirmed cases of swine flu (H1N1 Influenza) in England alone, the chance of catching the dangerous new strain of influenza is certainly very real. European airlines, in an effort to reduce passenger fears and protect their own work force from infection, have started refusing travel to those customers suspect of having swine flu.

The European Commission, however, thinks otherwise. Because an individual can have swine flu and show no symptoms for several days, it is illogical to deny someone with outward symptoms, since the person assigned to sit next to them might already have the disease and not even know it.

As a result, if airlines in Europe deny passengers the right to fly because they have H1N1, those passengers are due to receive extra compensation, in addition to rerouting. Moral of the story? Have swine flu, and want to visit Europe? Go right ahead. Your flight just might even be free!

-Chris Hildebrand

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Can Serbia Catch Mladic – Even If They Want To?

July 31, 2009
REUTERS/Marko Djurica

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

A Serbian government official said Monday that Ratko Mladic, the famed Serbian general wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes and genocide, “will not stay at large much longer,” in the face of a renewed search effort.

Mladic’s freedom today is a stark reminder that extremist Serbian nationalism might not be completely extinct. It is suspected that Serbian nationalist movements – some of whom might be in the government – know Mladic’s whereabouts, but refuse to give him over to international authorities for extradition. Mladic is wanted for the massacre at Srebrenica, in which over 8,000 Muslims were slaughtered by Serbian paramilitary forces.

According to an EU poll, Serbians distrust international organizations such as the ICTY, and as a result, they are hesitant to betray a fellow Serbian. Unfortunately, Serbia’s EU bid is intricately linked to the alacrity with which Serbia finds and extradites wanted war criminals. If they fail to demonstrate to the international community their earnest efforts to do so, their EU negotiations will be blocked by the Netherlands, which is home to the ICTY.

Mladic, then, is the subject of a tug-of-war between Serbians looking forward – accession to the EU, economic prosperity and liberalization – and Serbians looking to the past, to the extremist nationalism which sparked off a war. Regardless of who wins the battle, justice still needs to be served.

-Chris Hildebrand

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Ready or not, here comes Bank of America!

July 31, 2009
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Bank of America is set to open a wholly owned subsidiary in China. This subsidiary will build up its corporate and investment banking business and offer wealth management services to some of its rich Chinese clients. The plans are still being finalized, but BoA is expected to apply for a local incorporation license in the next few months.

After acquiring Merrill Lynch this January, receiving $45 billion in aid from the US government, and then being forced to sell one-third of its stake in China Construction Company, the prospect of a new venture such as this seems daunting at best.

Bank of America still needs to find a local partner for a joint venture to handle high-profit investment banking businesses such as underwriting shares and bonds for local companies in domestic markets.

Earlier this week BoA announced plans to modestly shrink its 6,109-branch US network in an effort to reduce costs.

-Daniel Smart

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Germany sees job gains, or does it?

July 30, 2009
REUTERS/Johannes Eisele (GERMANY)

REUTERS/Johannes Eisele (GERMANY)

Unemployment fell drastically and unexpectedly in Germany during June. This turn around comes after nine consecutive months of increasing job loss and comes just months before the national elections in September. Most economists forecasted job losses to equal 45,000 so the sudden gain of 6,000 was shocking.

The secret to Germany’s success might not be as wonderful as the surface picture portrays. Germany has changed the way that it calculates unemployment. If a person is looking for a job through a private agency, they are no longer considered unemployed, even if they have no job. This means that the estimates of 45,000 jobs to be lost in June were not far off from the 30,000 actually lost if calculated under traditional measures. Another way to keep figures low is to enforce shorter workdays.

“The huge use of short-time work is playing an important role. Unemployment will, in our view, become more noticeable than expected in the coming year,” said Eckart Tuchtfeld, an economist at Commerzbank.

The truth does not matter though until after the national elections when Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks re-election. “Unemployment will rise noticeably after the federal election,” said Thorsten Polleit, an economist at Barclay’s Capital in Frankfurt.

-Daniel Smart

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UBS in the courts again..

July 29, 2009

REUTERS/Michael Buholzer/Files (SWITZERLAND BUSINESS)

Swiss banking giant UBS is in international courts yet again. This time, it is not for storing people’s money, but actually stealing it. At least so claims 77-year-old Chan Wai-yee in court documents filed in Hong Kong.

Chan claims that the risks associated with leveraged derivative products, known as accumulators were never explained to her. She also claims that UBS provided all documents in English, which she does not speak.

Between September 2007 and February 2008 Chan participated in 25 transactions facilitated by UBS which resulted in net losses of $25.8 million. UBS told her to sell some of her stocks so that she could settle her debts and then charged her $6.1 million in transaction fees.

Chan’s fortune started at $33.5 million, though she refuses to comment on how the fortune was amassed.

-Daniel Smart

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“Tweet away” says the UK

July 28, 2009
AP Photo/John McConnico

AP Photo/John McConnico

The UK has compelled its departments to step into the new world of social networking through microblogging service Twitter.  A 20-page manual on how to “tweet” stands as a stark contrast from the 140 characters allowed through Twitter.  In this manual, the government established guidelines of what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, all in an effort to push them to the digital age without playing big brother.

Departments have been advised to issue between 2 and 10 tweets per day, never within 30 minutes of a previous tweet so as “to avoid flooding our followers’ Twitter streams.” They have also been told that they are not allowed to follow any people on twitter to avoid the appearance of surveying the country.

The guidelines are the government’s latest attempt to embrace the Internet and social media — efforts that have been both praised and mocked.

-Daniel Smart

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China/U.S. conference to discuss recovery and relations

July 27, 2009

China's State Councillor Dai Bingguo (bottom row, 5th L), China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan (6th L), U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (5th R) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (4th R) stand with participants in the first joint meeting of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue for a family photo in Washington July 27, 2009.    REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES POLITICS BUSINESS)

China's State Councillor Dai Bingguo (bottom row, 5th L), China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan (6th L), U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (5th R) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (4th R) stand with participants in the first joint meeting of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue for a family photo in Washington July 27, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES POLITICS BUSINESS)

China and the United States convened today for their annual two-day conference to discuss relations between the two powerhouse nations. The stakes are raised this year, and everyone is playing for keeps.

The economy and recovery is one of the most important issues on the agenda. One of the major recent pushes has been for China to promote its domestic markets rather than relying on the international markets, specifically the United States. U.S. households are saving at a rate not seen in decades, meaning that they are not spending the money they once did. This shift in consumer spending does not loan itself to a strong a quick recovery for either nation.

In a joint op-ed article printed in The Washington Post, Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner stated, “Simply put, few global problems can be solved by the U.S. or China alone and few can be solved without the U.S. and China together.”

China has sent over 150 diplomats to the discussions, signifying that China understands the critical nature of their relationship with the U.S. China is currently the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury debt with $801.5 billion worth of bonds. They are also on the losing end of an enormous U.S. trade deficit that has improved slightly this year, but still stands at a staggering disadvantage.

In opening remarks Secretary Clinton stated, “This dialogue…marks the beginning of an unprecedented effort to lay the foundation for a positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-Chinese relationship in the 21st century.”

-Daniel Smart