Daily News Brief

November 8, 2007

Top of the Agenda: Market Fears Escalate

The dollar nosedived and markets drooped worldwide as a slew of economic factors—from skyrocketing oil prices to a crumbling credit market—spooked investors. The U.S. Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday plummeted 360 points (NYT), or nearly 3 percent, and oil moved above $98 a barrel before settling a little lower. The weakness comes in the wake of huge losses at Citigroup and, most recently, General Motors (U.S. News & World Report).

Asian markets also fell today. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 4.9 percent (BusinessWeek), its biggest one-day drop in four months. Markets in Australia, India, South Korea, and the Philippines also suffered heavy losses.

The Financial Times says the losses come amid rising fears that housing market weakness and finicky credit could damage economic growth globally. The article added that the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has already slashed its benchmark interest rate three-quarters of a percent, might not be able to make further cuts without crippling the dollar or spiking inflation.

MIDDLE EAST: Yemen Oil Attacks

The BBC reports twelve dead in clashes between army guards protecting a Ukrainian energy firm in Yemen and tribal militants. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government convicted thirty-two would-be attackers (al-Jazeera), said to be al-Qaeda affiliates, on charges of plotting against oil installations in 2006.

Iran: U.S. President Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy affirmed their staunch position on halting Iran’s nuclear development (LAT), and expressed support of military efforts in Afghanistan. The meetings between Bush and Sarkozy came as Iran announced it has met a nuclear milestone, having now created three-thousand centrifuges (CSMonitor) to enrich uranium.

RFE/RL reports on a French-Iranian filmmaker who was arrested in Iran after inadvertently stumbling upon a mass grave.

Saudi Arabia: Newsweek International interviews Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal about his frustrations with Middle East diplomatic efforts.

ASIA: Myanmar Meetings

Democratic activist Aung San Suu Kyi met (ABC Australia) with the UN’s envoy to the country on the final day of his six-day tour.

Al-Jazeera interviews Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the crisis in Myanmar, a fellow ASEAN nation. Yudhoyono called on the Myanmar government to hold direct talks with Suu Kyi and encouraged the country’s leaders to speed up democratization.

China: A new recall has been issued for millions of Chinese-made toys (AP) after U.S. and Australian scientists noted that a chemical contained in the toys converts into a drug-like chemical when ingested.

A Daily Analysis brief surveys the rising tide of safety concerns expressed by countries that import from China.

SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA: Pakistan Tensions

President Pervez Musharraf defended his military crackdown (NPR) on dissidents, comparing it to U.S. actions after 9/11. Pakistani television reported that Musharraf announced elections will be held in Pakistan before February 15 (BBC). The announcement comes following former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s statement that she will not delay major protests scheduled for Friday.

The BBC also has a report on the effects of a media ban in Pakistan, noting a spike in the price of satellite dishes.

A new Backgrounder surveys Pakistan’s private and civic institutions, noting the role each plays in Pakistani politics.

India-Pakistan: The International Herald Tribune examines India’s muted response to Pakistan’s troubles.

AFRICA: Sudan’s South Makes Demands

The leader of South Sudan spoke in Washington on the recent political breakup (allAfrica.com) of the unity government binding the north and south parts of Sudan. He said the political crisis will not be resolved until officials in Khartoum commit to the terms of a 2005 peace agreement meant to end a decades-long civil war between the north and south.

AIDS: Newsweek International reports on the apparent bust of an AIDS vaccine one pharmaceutical company thought would be a blockbuster.

Nigeria: The Nigerian paper Daily Trust reports that soaring global oil prices are feeding government coffers in Nigeria and spiking the country’s budget.

AMERICAS: U.S. Blackwater Ruling

A team of investigators from the U.S. State Department cleared a member (WashPost) of the firm Blackwater USA of killing three Iraqi security guards earlier this year. The incident is separate from the September shootings in which seventeen Iraqis were killed.

Guatemala: NPR’s “Morning Edition” reports Guatemala’s government imposed a “dry law” to forbid alcohol consumption during the recent presidential elections, a move applauded by women victimized by domestic abuse.

Chile: The Latin Business Chronicle reports that the Chilean capital of Santiago is experiencing a real estate boom and that demand from foreign companies outstrips supply.

CAMPAIGN 2008: Immigrant Licenses

Rudy Giuliani put out a press release on his website calling for congress to ban states from giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The debate over immigrants’ licenses was sparked when Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said a plan by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to provide licenses to immigrants “made sense” as a way to make American roads safer, as a stop-gap until more comprehensive immigration reform is put in place. The only Democrat to oppose the measure was Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who said: “The idea that we’re going to extend this privilege of a driver’s license is troublesome.”

Democrats: The Economist has an article examining Hillary Clinton’s rivals and arguing that the large edge she is shown holding in many polls is misleading, and that her election in the Democratic primary is no sure thing.

Invitation: Please join us in New York City on November 12 for the first in a series of public meetings to discuss international issues in the 2008 presidential campaign, co-hosted by CFR.org, the Economist, and NYU-Stern. More information and RSVP details here.

EUROPE: Georgia State of Emergency

After six days of anti-government protests in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, the government declared a state of emergency and police moved to drive protestors from the streets (FT).

Russia: NPR reports on Russians’ perceptions of their own history, saying a “glossy view of the Soviet era” has taken hold.

A Backgrounder examines how this view is clouding Russia’s relations with the West.