Economist 6/19/14

  1. Hong Kong Legislators accused Beijing of reneging on its treaty obligations under the 1984 Sino-British declaration, signed between Margaret Thatcher and Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang, to make Hong Kong a semi-autonomous region of China. The agreement said Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy and maintain its capitalist system for a period of 50 years until 2047; and many of the city’s social and political freedoms (such as being able to protest against the Communist Party) have indeed been retained.PEOPLE in Hong Kong have responded with alarm, and some defiance, to a white paper issued by China’s leaders about the city’s political future. But the white paper stressed that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy “is not full autonomy” and the city’s ability to run its local affairs comes solely from the authorisation of the central leadership.
  2.  On his arrival in Poland on June 3rd, Mr Obama went straight to an aircraft hangar where American and Polish airmen serve together to announce that he was asking Congress for $1 billion to finance troop rotations, bigger training programmes and joint exercises aimed at increasing America’s military presence in Europe. To show that Poland is willing to do its bit, the Polish president promised to increase his country’s spending on defence to 2% of GDP. The “European reassurance initiative” may unsettle some western Europeans who are worried about annoying Russia, but it fell short of Poland’s real, long-standing goal, which is a permanent presence of NATO forces on its territory. 
  3. Police in China are investigating whether companies have committed fraud by pledging the same holdings of copper and aluminium to multiple banks, multiple times. Banks have been willing to grant them letters of credit to fund purchases of metal. The traders have used the credit to buy some and then, on occasion, immediately resell it, leaving them with cash to invest in high-yielding shadow-bank products.
  4. In 2011 the town of  Allende in Mexico 27,000 people suffered a violent attack by the Zetas, Mexico’s most brutal drug gang. Driven by a thirst for vengeance against two local men whom the gangs believed had betrayed them, mobs of Zetas drove into town, rounded up their extended families and friends—totalling hundreds of people—and abducted them at gunpoint.The massacre may well be one of the worst in Mexico’s six-year drug war from 2006 to 2012.Yet establishing the number of disappeared is only the first step. Trying to find them is another; prosecuting those responsible another still. Although the government has set up a task force to find the disappeared.
  5.  On June 16th a rolling national strike in France by trade unionists at the SNCF, the national railways, entered its sixth day.The two unions leading the strike, the Communist-linked CGT and the even tougher-talking SUD, are against the government’s plans to merge two companies: the heavily indebted RFF, which runs the tracks, and the SNCF, which manages the trains. Although no jobs are at stake, the unions suspect that this reform could lead to changes in work practices, and want the government to take on the debt.Yet the timing of this strike, reaching into the baccalauréat week, is also a public-relations risk. Every June, as part of a national ritual, over half a million school-leavers sit down to take the first bac exams.

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