The Playboy.com Global Report: March 2, 2012

By Michael J. Lockhart

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We give you this week's top international news from America to Asia and everything in between.


Welcome to the Global Report: our weekly column of the most important issues happening across the planet. From politics to war, monarchies to dictatorships, and everything in-between, we’ve got it covered. It’s world news, Playboy.com style.

As the United States Republican primaries continue, this past week saw front-runner Mitt Romney take Arizona and his home state of Michigan (albeit by a minuscule 3.2% margin)  heading into next week’s Super Tuesday (check back for our in-depth coverage).

Down in Latin America, the Syrian campaign (more on that below) is being propped up, energy-wise, by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in yet another display to disgruntle the United States' efforts. This comes as a clear sign from his government that Chavez is indeed still in control despite undergoing surgery in Cuba earlier this week.

Also in the region, Argentina is fighting a second Falklands War against Britain by depriving citizens of their tea and cookies in a somewhat humorous boycott engineered to reopen negotiations regarding the disputed ownership of the offshore islands.

In a follow-up to the massive second Greek debt rescue package we spoke about last week, Eurozone ministers passed the deal which delivered Greece another 109B euro to save it from defaulting. The latest news comes as ministers mull a proposal to combine the bailout rescue fund (the European Financial Stability Fund  or EFSF), with the permanent stabilization fund (the European Stability Mechanism or ESM).

This change, which would increase the total available ”firewall” funds to 750B euro, hinges on the foremost financial backer of the funds, German-leader Angela Merkel and her CDU party. While this proposal is definitely a way to plan long-term in case of another major default, when will this ongoing game of European allowance stop?  It’s almost as if Germany is the parent in this situation and the Eurozone nations are its fiscally irresponsible children who spend cash like its burning through their pockets.

While the European grand plan of an integrated monetary union was ideal, it was also ambitious. Though a larger fund is warranted, could it possibly handle a default of Spain or Italy? And what if both defaulted? There are too many variables that could end in financial ruin for the federalist EU and perhaps instead of pouring in money, it should focus on how it can resolve the discrepancy issues that continually separate the union into two-parts: the more self-restricted economies such as Germany and Sweden and the grossly mismanaged economies such as Greece.

With that in mind, yesterday’s news of Serbia being granted official candidate status pinpoints yet another reason the EU needs to reform. Enlargement, especially with  much smaller economies such as Serbia, soon-to-be ascending Croatia, and the rest of the Balkans in-wait should not happen without the removal of the clause stating new members must adopt the euro. With eight current EU members obliged to join, and the prospect of several others should they ascend, the heart of the EU financial problem lies with restraining not only money, but ambitious goals that could end in turmoil should they be achieved.

Next up, Middle East, Africa, Asia, & Oceania.

The latest chapter of the so called Arab Spring took another step today as the pro-democracy Baba Amr rebel group in Syria withdrew from battle torn city of Homs after an intense 26-day siege by state forces commanded by President Bashar al-Assad. In a conflict which saw the death of UK war reporting veteran Marie Colvin (of the Sunday Times) who had been sneaked into the area by rebels to cover the bloodshed,  the Red Cross has been given permission to enter the area to treat the estimated 4,000 remaining citizens.

It’s frustrating that this campaign has lasted so long without international intervention in some capacity; though the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Western partners have strived to bring this to the UN Security Council, veto-wielding members such as Russia and China are adamant to not interfere. This action not only frustrates partners such as the US and the EU, but allows for further violence that ought to be curbed by now.

Piracy (no we’re not talking about file-sharing) on the high-seas, particularly around the horn of Africa (East Coast) has been a continuing problem for quite some time now as ships, cargo, and tourists from wealthier nations are held for ransom while traversing the sea route. Earlier this week the Danish Navy enacted a rescue mission from one of the pirate mother ships off the coast of Somalia, freeing 16 hostages after intercepting and firing on it after repeated warnings. Counter-piracy efforts in the region have been increasingly effective over the past few months with the number of reported attacks dropping. This however may also be due to the fact many ships are contracting armed guards to protect them as they pass through the area.

In North Africa, news this week centers upon the pro-democracy protestors from America who were allowed to leave Egypt after being subject to a travel ban. We’re not surprised with the swift change as the US threatened to withhold their $1.3B in annual aid. Money is always a strong motivator, and it didn’t hurt that the son of a US Secretary was involved.

China took a small step towards changing its one child policy this week as it announced it would re-brand certain associated propaganda. As published by the People’s China Daily, examples such as “we would rather scrape your womb than allow you to have a second child” will be replaced by “caring for the girl means caring for the future of the nation.” The latter, which speaks to females being abandoned in order to produce a male heir to support the family is definitely a welcome change to a cruel enforcement that has apparently reduced 400M births since enacted decades ago. This may be due to the fact China has become much more globalized (look for our Apple vs. China article soon) and the fact its societal hierarchy has been rapidly changing with modernization.

It’s been a good week for the world’s nuclear powers with first Iran getting back to the table and now the State Department has announced it has made inroads with the new North Korean leader, untested Kim Jon-un. Jon-un will reportedly suspend long-range missile and nuclear tests, as well as its uranium enrichment program in exchange for much needed food aid. While this may seem like a winning situation, no mention has been made of its plutonium program which could be just as dangerous. Though we’re inclined to take these ‘baby steps’ as welcome change of pace, things could have been a lot worse if the world’s youngest head-of-state chose to show off his weapons instead.

Unlike the rest of our Global Report, the Oceanic region (Australia, NZ, Indonesia and the countless island nations of the South Pacific), were relatively quiet this week in terms of conflict unless you’re the leader of Australia right now. Prime Minister Julia Gillard fought off a leadership confidence vote on Monday within her ruling Labor Party. Brought on by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the vote was in her favor 71-to-31. Long live the Aussies.

Check out Global Report next week for our coverage of the Russian presidential elections.


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