Mark Twain once observed, "History has tried hard to teach us that we can't have good government under politicians." So far, Belgium has found that it is hard to have any government under politicians. Yesterday, this polyglot nation of two major linguistic groups, Flemish and Walloon, set the world record among countries with parliamentary systems for going the longest time after a general election without any government being formed (Iraq, “saved” by American forces, held the old record of 288 days).
When billionaire George Soros wrote two years ago that what the world needed now was “a new world architecture,” he was already laying plans for Bretton Woods II, April 8-11, 2011, to be held at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire (pictured, left).
As analysts debate possible motives behind President Obama’s United Nations-backed military intervention in Libya, one angle that has received attention in recent days is the rebels’ seemingly odd decision to establish a new central bank to replace dictator Muammar Gadhafi's state-owned monetary authority — possibly the first time in history that revolutionaries have taken time out from an ongoing life-and-death battle to create such an institution, according to observers.
Canadians are headed for the polls again, showing how shaky politics has become in such countries. Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party “won” a general election in early 2006 by garnering more seats than any other party. The other three major parties — Liberal (or “Grits”), New Democrat Party, and Bloc Québécois (the French separatist party) — each held significant numbers in the Parliament (pictured). Conservatives gained 24 seats for a total of 125; Liberals lost 32 seats for a total of 103; the New Democrats gained 10 seats for 29 total; and Bloc Québécois lost 3 seats down to 51; there was 1 independent.
A March 25 article from ANSAmed reports that “Secularism in Spain is quickly gaining steam,” and that the Archibishop of Madrid is warning of “the persecution of Catholics in Spain.” Although Spain is often viewed as historically serving as one of the bulwarks of Roman Catholicism, recent events offer evidence that anti-clerical sentiment is once again on the rise in that nation.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in London over the weekend to oppose proposed budget cuts being pursued by the new government. And while most of the union-led demonstrators reportedly remained peaceful, violence and vandalism were frequent occurrences. (See videos at bottom of page.)
When the Portuguese Parliament failed to pass an austerity bill on March 23, the country’s Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, resigned. That move leaves Portugal leaderless for at least two months while facing a significant financial crisis: it must refinance nearly $13 billion of short-term debt by June. Investors have already pushed interest rates on Portugal’s sovereign 10-year debt to almost 8 percent, while credit-rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s both downgraded that debt’s quality on March 24.
The Obama administration’s UN-backed military intervention against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is aiding al-Qaeda, which, according to media reports citing high-level commanders in the terror group and Libyan rebel leaders, is deeply tied to the revolution. When the dust settles, the anti-American Islamic extremists could easily emerge as the new rulers of that nation, or at least a part of it. And al-Qaeda is already reportedly grabbing up advanced military weaponry there.
As a means to increase government revenues, which the government says will help reduce the nation’s ever-expanding federal deficit, the Department of Homeland Security is looking into a proposed change to border crossing policies that would force Canadians looking to visit the United States, arriving via air or sea, to pay more for the privilege.
The almost unrestrained drug trafficking in Mexico has pushed violent drug wars deeper into Central America, as drugs are funneled through small countries ill-equipped to handle the squeeze of traffickers using their shores, ports, and jungles for smuggling. The New York Times reported on March 23 that, even though traffickers have used Central American points for stopovers since the 70’s, “crackdowns on criminal organizations in Mexico and Colombia [and the Caribbean] have increasingly brought the powerful drug syndicates here [Honduras].” The seven tiny countries are now no longer just “stopovers” but territory coveted by cartels, and the scenes of escalating drug violence.