World Wrap: November 7, 2013
Xi’s inability to close labor camps indicates limits to his political clout, Russia scales back its economic growth prediction, and world powers meet with Iran to discuss its nuclear program. Today is Thursday, November 7, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Xi Jinping’s power cuts
China’s President Xi Jinping lets Jordan’s King Abdullah (not pictured) leave first after a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Feng Li/Pool
Failure to launch. Chinese President Xi Jinping, expected to usher in reforms when he took office last year, has so far failed to shutter China’s labor camps in an indication of weakness:
Despite holding the three top posts in the country – president, party chief and head of the military – [Xi] is not as strong as he seems, said at least half a dozen sources in the party and government. His two immediate predecessors as president, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, wield considerable clout through allies and protégés they promoted, as do powerful factions within the Communist Party. Xi must keep the two former presidents on his side, but this means an erosion of his power… despite being obstructed on major political and social change, Xi has implemented considerable economic reform in recent months – on interest rate policy, the banking system and converting Shanghai into a free trade zone – in the face of opposition from powerful ministries and state banks, two of the sources said. However, failure to address some of the political and social ills in China – including regional tensions, the rich-poor gap, corruption and degradation of the environment – could affect stability.
Last week, a car drove into a crowd and burst into flames in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five including three in the vehicle. China blamed the attack on members of the Xinjiang region’s Muslim minority, calling it part of a holy war against the country. Many Uighur Muslims are upset by official controls on their culture and religion, despite official claims that the group is not oppressed by Chinese policy. Chinese citizens also struggle with housing prices which continue to rise despite a four-year government effort to stabilize rates – perhaps because local governments rely on revenue from property sales for income. Xi has continued cracking down on corruption, currentlytargeting a top executive in the shipping industry, following the high-profile sentencing of ousted politician Bo Xilai. The fate of Xi’s plans for reform plans will likely be determined during the Communist party’s Central Committee’s third plenum meeting from November 9 to 12, when Chinese leaders determine their term agendas. Below, Chinese officials target corruption.
Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court’s microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song
Yang Dacai, a former provincial official, listens to a verdict at a court in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
Putin backtrack. Russia lowered its growth expectations on Thursday, admitting in public for the first time that its economy would trail behind global growth over the next twenty years. According to Russia’s Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s economy will grow 2.5 percent on average in that time period, compared to 5.2 percent average growth in Brazil, China, India, and South Africa.
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on before an award ceremony to mark National Unity Day at the Kremlin in Moscow, November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool
The revision could cost Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has promised to make Russia one of the top five economies by 2020, credibility and power in the future. In an effort to increase patriotism among young people, Putin today asked parliament to pass a law to increase displays of Russia’s flag.
Nuclear negotiations. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with representatives of six world powers – the U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain – in Geneva to discuss his country’s contentious nuclear program, calling the negotiations “tough,” but adding that “the talks went well.” He added, “I’m hopeful that we can move forward.”
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) leaves with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after a photo opportunity before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, November 7, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
The leaders seek a “first step” towards a solution over the nuclear dispute. Western powers fear that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities but Iran maintains it is using its nuclear program for energy and science alone. Reuters learned that Iran has offered to ship crude oil to India for free, in a sign that Western sanctions on Iran have taken a toll. Talks continue through tomorrow.
Murderers into martyrs - Reuters columnist David Rohde argues that covert drone strikes are counterproductive. (Reuters)
Femme retail - Voluptuous Venezuelan mannequins reflect plastic surgery trend. (New York Times)
Meteoric warning - Fireball that exploded over Russian city could be a sign of greater risk from meteors. (Associated Press)
Christmas cuts - Spain has cut holiday spending by over 40 percent over the past five years. (Quartz)
Biker ban - Liberia forces hundreds to walk to work with motorcycle taxi ban. (BBC)
Full-time students - French children might have to start going to school on Wednesdays. (Los Angeles Times)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: October 15, 2013
Nuclear talks with Iran begin in Geneva, powerful quake strikes Philippines, and Russia increases Moscow security during Eid. Today is Tuesday, October 15, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Iranian leaders present a nuclear plan
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a photo opportunity before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva, October 15, 2013.REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool
Nuclear PowerPoint. Iran used a PowerPoint presentation to outline what it called a “logical” nuclear plan to representatives from the six world powers. Details of the plan are not available, but Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany “welcomed” the proposal, adding that the plan to solve the nuclear standoff ”has the capacity to make a breakthrough.” But global leaders have tempered expectations:
A spokesman for the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who oversees diplomacy with Iran on behalf of the powers, described the Iranian presentation as “very useful” in a carefully-worded comment that appeared to signal Iran has gone further than in the past in its willingness to engage. A senior U.S. State Department official said negotiators would be “looking at further details” of the Iranian proposal in an afternoon session on Tuesday, hinting that it was being treated as incomplete by Western diplomats… Western diplomats have said their demands related to 20-percent uranium must be addressed before further progress is made. But some diplomats acknowledged ahead of the Geneva talks that their initial offer to Iran might be changed substantially depending on what concessions Iran offers.
Relations between Iran and the U.S. have apparently warmed since moderate-backed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in August. Iran is keen to escape increasingly harsh sanctions, issued against the country for its disputed nuclear program which Western powers fear is intended to develop arms capability. Israel, Iran’s long-time foe, warned Western powers not to give up on sanctions before Iran agrees to abandon its program, saying “It would be an historic mistake not to take full advantage of the sanctions, by making concessions before ensuring the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” The statement, notably, stopped short of making a veiled military threat against Iran – as it has in the past. The talks will conclude Wednesday.
Residents walk along huge cracks in a road after an earthquake struck Bohol province, central Philippines, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
Philippine islands struck by quake. A magnitude-7.2 earthquake killed at least 74 people and injured 260 when it hit islands in the quake-prone Philippines. At least 65 were killed in collapsed structures, including low-rise buildings and historic churches, and mudslides in Bohol, and nine more were killed in Cebu and Siquijor Island, according to a report from the regional National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council:
The death toll looks bound to rise. Dennis Agustin, Bohol provincial police director, said in a radio interview as many as 77 people had died in 11 towns on the island, much of which was left without power and communications. Four bridges and some government buildings collapsed in Bohol. Roads cracked, with many declared impassable due to landslides, prompting the authorities to declare a state of calamity in the province, along with Cebu.
Nearly 300 aftershocks were recorded after the earthquake. The islands struck were popular with tourists, though no foreign visitors were reported dead.
Interior Ministry members walk in a line while persuading people to leave after an Eid al-Adha mass prayer in Moscow, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Eid defense. Russian authorities increase security in Moscow following the most violent racial clashes in three years as Muslims celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha:
Outside Moscow’s main mosque, police set up barriers and metal detectors to control the flow of people. Ethnic tension is often higher during the Islamic holiday because crowds spill out into the streets around the city’s few mosques. Crowds of residents in southern Biryulyovo district have called for tougher policing of migrants and roamed the streets hunting for men who matched a police description of a suspect in the stabbing death last week of Yegor Shcherbakov, 25. On Sunday, rioters smashed shop windows, clashed with police and stormed a market in Biryulyovo where many migrants work. In an apparent move to appease residents, Moscow’s police chief fired the senior police officer in the neighborhood district on Tuesday.
On Monday, over 1,600 migrants were detained following the riots, apparently to appease residents of the southern Moscow neighborhood where the protests were located.
Nota Bene: Typhoon Nari hits Vietnam, displacing 122,000 people.
Crying capture - A woman accused of staging her own kidnapping is arrested in Nigeria. (BBC)
This little piggy… - A Chinese official is fired for accepting a piggy-back ride from a constituent. (Quartz)
Moving on up - Hong Kong’s trams catch up to its subways. (New York Times)
Instajail - Rihanna’s tweets lead to another arrest in Thailand. (Time)
Ruins ruined - Egypt’s artifacts are a casualty of its political unrest. (Al Jazeera)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: October 14, 2013
Indian officials halt search for stampede victims after weekend of disaster, Iranian leader says nuclear talks in Geneva could be productive, hopefully, and migrants are rounded up in Moscow after a violent protest targeted them this weekend. Today is Monday, October 14, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
India weathers weekend storm, but questions remain on pilgrims’ stampede
A woman cries next to the body of a victim killed in a stampede near Ratangarh temple in Datia district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, October 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
Stampede, cyclone plague India. Indian officials counted at least 115 pilgrims dead in a stampede that broke out among 150,000 pilgrims gathered at India’s Ratangarh temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday before announcing the end of their search:
Devotees thronging towards the temple across a long, concrete bridge panicked when some railings broke, triggering the stampede, Dilip Arya, a deputy inspector general of police, told Reuters. Many victims were crushed by the crowd while others drowned when they fell or jumped into the fast-flowing Sindh river, swollen by heavy rain. “The death toll has increased to 115 and the rescue operation is over,” Arya said. Most of the dead were women and children. Many pilgrims were injured and in hospital, Arya said. Rescuers had combed the river in the hunt for victims.
Sunday’s incident marks the second deadly stampede at the holy site in seven years. In February, 36 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a charge at the world’s largest religious festival. Some victimsblamed police for fuelling the panic by using sticks in an effort to control the crowd. Indian officials were praised for their handling of another disaster that hit India over the weekend:
Cyclone Phailin, India’s fiercest storm in 14 years, smashed into the coastline of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states over the weekend, flooded swathes of farmland and ripped part tens of thousands of mud-and-thatch homes – but surprisingly, only 15 people have been reported dead. Early warnings which started five days before the storm’s arrival, the pre-positioning of food rations and packaged drinking water in shelters, and the orderly – and sometimes forceful – evacuation of close to one million people saved many lives, said aid workers.
A 1999 cyclone which left more than one million homeless served as a wake-up call for authorities. Reuters reported that roughly 76 percent of India’s coastline is vulnerable to cyclones and tsunamis, 59 percent of the country to earthquakes, and 68 percent to droughts. Authorities still fall short in emergency preparedness, however, as demonstrated by the catastrophe caused by unprecedented rainfall in Uttarakhand in June, which has left 6,000 missing and presumed dead.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) are seated during a meeting of the Foreign Ministers representing the permanent five member countries of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Cautious optimism on nuclear talks. Iranian Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said he is hopeful that global negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program – slated to begin in Geneva on Tuesday – will lead to a means of solving the standoff, adding that the process will be complicated:
“Tomorrow is the start of a difficult and relatively time-consuming way forward. I am hopeful that by Wednesday we can reach agreement on a road map to find a path towards resolution,” Zarif said in a message posted on his Facebook account late on Sunday. “But even with the goodwill of the other side, to reach agreement on details and start implementation will likely require another meeting at ministerial level.”… Zarif’s deputy on Sunday rebuffed the West’s demand that Iran send sensitive nuclear material abroad but signaled flexibility on other aspects of its atomic activities, including the degree of uranium enrichment, that worry global powers.
The nuclear conference is the first since Rouhani’s election in June, and onlookers hope that the president’s apparent openness to dialogue over the program will make these talks more fruitful than previous efforts. Western leaders contend that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is designed to develop nuclear arms capability for the nation, an outcome Western leaders would find unacceptable. Iranian leaders say their program is focused solely on producing energy and medical advances.
Russian police detain migrant workers during a raid at a vegetable warehouse complex in the Biryulyovo district of Moscow, October 14, 2013. REUTERS/Ivan Stolpnikov
Moscow migrants detained. Russian police rounded up roughly 1,200 migrants a day after violent protests erupted over the death of a Russian man who was allegedly killed by a migrant from the largely Muslim Caucasus region:
The detainees were taken to police stations and police will seek to determine whether they were involved in any crimes, he said. Televised footage showed detainees standing against walls or lined up in front of camouflage-clad police. By rounding up migrants, authorities seemed to be trying to appease residents who had rallied in the Biryulyovo district to demand police find the killer of Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, and take more action to prevent crimes by migrants… On Sunday, a mob in the southern neighborhood smashed shop and vending stalls, fought with police and stormed the vegetable market in the biggest outbreak of anti-migrant violence in Moscow in three years.
Police arrested at least 380 people involved in the riots in an attempt to contain violence. The outbreak highlights tension between Moscow residents and migrants from North Caucasus and the ex-soviet states of the Caucasus and Central Asia, who have played a key role in Russia’s economic transformation since Russian President Vladimir Putin took office in 2000.
Nota Bene: Three Americans have been awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics for their work on asset price forecasting.
African leaders lose - The Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance in Africa is awarded to nobody for the fourth time in five years. (BBC)
Home-grown - Russia’s Side by Side LGBT festival wins appeal against its ‘foreign agent’ classification. (The Guardian)
Professional smoker - A Chinese tobacco appraiser has been smoking up to 30 cigarettes a day over a 21-year career. (Quartz)
Criminal campaign - Indian politicians wear jail time as a badge of honor. (New York Times)
Journey to Mount Arafat - Muslim pilgrims start Hajj in Saudi Arabia. (Associated Press)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
Exclusive: North Korea’s nuclear test ready “soon”
North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test, a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters, which will draw further international condemnation following a failed rocket launch if it goes ahead.
The isolated and impoverished state sacrificed the chance of closer ties with the United States when it launched the long-range rocket on April 13 and was censured by the U.N. Security Council, including the North’s sole major ally, China.
Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at honing the North’s ability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, a move that would dramatically increase its military and diplomatic heft.
Now the North appears to be about to carry out a third nuclear test after two in 2006 and 2009.
Embarrassed by rocket crash, North Korea may try nuclear test
North Korea said its much hyped long-range rocket launch failed on Friday, in a very rare and embarrassing public admission of failure by the hermit state and a blow for its new young leader who faces international outrage over the attempt.
The isolated North, using the launch to celebrate the 100th birthday of the dead founding president Kim Il-sung and to mark the rise to power of his grandson Kim Jong-un, is now widely expected to press ahead with its third nuclear test to show its military strength.
"The possibility of an additional long-range rocket launch or a nuclear test, as well as a military provocation to strengthen internal solidarity is very high," a senior South Korean defense ministry official told a parliamentary hearing.
READ MORE: North Korea may try nuclear test next
A majority of Americans would support military action against Iran if there were evidence that Tehran is building nuclear weapons, even if such action led to higher gasoline prices, a Reuters/Ipsos polled showed on Tuesday.
The poll showed 62 percent of Americans would back Israel taking military action against Iran for the same reasons.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said all options are on the table in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
On Thursday, US regulators approved plans to build the first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years, despite objections of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman, who cited safety concerns stemming from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The graphic above shows the locations of the 104 nuclear power plants in the US. It also provides some statistics about nuclear power worldwide. [Graphic: REUTERS]