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Archive: January, 2009

POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2009, 5:26 PM

What a difference a few years makes at Davos. A plenary panel on Climate Change and preparing for the Copenhagen summit this year was packed; this issue now galvanizes corporate executives. But everyone has been asking whether, at a time of acute global financial crisis, the developed countries can afford to pay for new technology that's needed.

So you could have heard a pin drop in the hall when Al Gore described the thinking in the Obama administration on this issue. The new US leadership, he said, "is prepared to engage the world on the climate crisis." The largest component of the $820 billion stimulus package passed this week by Congress "was a green stimulus", he said.

The Obama administration "is saying we need to build a national smart electrical grid" which can transfer soar energy from the southwest and wind energy from the west. "My friends in the new administration," he added, "say that the greenest person in the room is President Obama. He is pushing hard for a bold solution. If other governments do the same we can make the move" towards a different energy future based on renewables. "I  believe the US retains the capacity to provide leadership for the world" on this issue, Gore continued.

POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2009, 7:00 PM

   Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Turkish premier RecepTayyip Erdogan got so emotional over each other's remarks at a panel on Gaza that the huge plenary hall was practically vibrating with their anger. 

    Erdogan was furious, among other reasons, because he felt betrayed by Israel over the Gaza invasion.  Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Ankara on Dec. 23 to discuss peace talks with Syria that Turkey was mediating. The talks were going so well that Erdogan believed they could soon be upgraded to direct Israel-Syria talks. He also suggested to Olmert that Turkey try to mediate the release of a kidnapped Israeli solider with Hamas and Olmert promised him an answer on the next day.
     "We never got an answer," Erdogan shouted on the stage, "and four days later Israel went into Gaza." The Turkish leader was also furious about civilian suffering in Gaza.

    Peres was angry that the world didn't understand how unsupportable it was for hundreds of thousands of Israelis to have to rush to shelters when Hamas was shooting missiles at Israel. "What would you do?" he shouted at the audience. "What we did was due to lack of choice."

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 2:13 PM

The plenary hall was indeed crammed to hear China's premier Wen Jiabao detail how Beijing plans to tackle the global economic crisis. The slight, bespectacled Chinese leader wowed them with a detailed outline of a massive Chinese stimulus package that will sound familiar to Americans: build new infrastructure, establish a comprehensive national health system in the next three years, improve compulsory education.

What sounded different was the Chinese leader's obvious self confidence (he used the word "confidence" around a dozen times). China's banking system is in far better shape than those of the USA and Europe, and Wen predicted a growth rate of 9% for this year. He was stinging in his indictment of the "unsustainable economic model" in the United States (which he didn't refer to by name) that saved too little and relied on the "blind pursuit of profit."

Of course, China has helped fund that blind persuit by buying our T-bills with dollars earned from exporting cheap goods to America. That model is going to change, and Wen was telling the audience that he thinks China can flourish with a new model that relies more on domestic consumption.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 10:18 AM

    Journalists crowded into a Davos media lunch for George Soros, the billionaire financier, who had warned a year ago that the global financial system was heading for a bender. But he told me that even he didn't expect things to be so back. "I'm very worried we're still heading into the storm rather out of it.

    "Since last year we've lived through a remarkeable period in history where the global financial system that we used to take for granted has collapsed."

     More of my conversation with Soros later, but I am heading to the plenary hall to hear Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. Since the future of the global economy right now rests heavilly with the world's largest importer, the USA and its largest exporter, China, the hall will be packed. People will be waiting to hear about China's stimulus plan - in other words whether China will be encouraging its own people to save less and buy more from abroad.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 7:09 PM

     Here's a glimpse into why the World Economic Forum is so terrific for a foreign affairs columnist. In one hour, walking up and down the stairways in the compact, underground conference center, I spoke with the following people:

     A former Jordanian deputy prime minister who is a leading voice for social and economic reforms in the Arab world. A South African executive and his wife - he of Sri Lankan origins and she of mixed German-Iraqi background - who talked of the gains their country has recently made in fighting HIV-AIDS. A Chinese journalist who interned last year at The Inquirer and is attending Davos with her husband, the managing editor of a leading Chinese business magazine.  The energy expert Dan Yergin. A leading columnist for a Lebanese newspaper. Two well known economic analysts who predicted the current crisis, Steven Roach and Nouriel Rubini. The head of an Egyptian think tank. And on and on.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 7:00 PM

It was strange enough that the World Economic Forum invited Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to give the opening address at the conference. After all, Russia doesn't seem interested in playing by the international rules that the forum is so anxious to promote. Only recently, Moscow shut off the gas, again, to Ukraine, which impacted flows to Europe. And that's not even to mention that journalists and human rights workers get murdered regularly in Russia, with the real culprits never found.

But what was even stranger was Putin's shabby performance. Following the impressive special address by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, the Russian premier's speech underlined why China is surging ahead economically while Russia is stuck with a limping economy that depends on the price of oil.  

Putin never cracked a smile, and clearly enjoyed criticizing America's troubled economy and calling for a multipolar world that lessened American dominance. What was incredible was when the Russian leader, whose government throws private entrepreneurs in jail when they displease him and seizes their property on bogus charges, started lecturing the West about the risks of too much government interference in the private sector. And when he claimed that the Internet was completely free and fully available in every town in Russia, even in Siberia. And when he issued veiled threats to Europe about dealing with Russia properly on energy issues.

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2009, 3:23 PM

 According to contacts at the State Dept. this post has been travelling around the department's computers: 

Dear World:

 

POSTED: Monday, January 19, 2009, 10:14 AM

About this blog

Trudy Rubin’s Worldview column runs on Thursdays and Sundays. In 2009-2011 she has made four lengthy trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the past seven years, she visited Iraq eleven times, and also wrote from Iran, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, China, and South Korea.

She is the author of Willful Blindness: the Bush Administration and Iraq, a book of her columns from 2002-2004. In 2001 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary and in 2008 she was awarded the Edward Weintal prize for international reporting. In 2010 she won the Arthur Ross award for international commentary from the Academy of American Diplomacy.

Reach Trudy at trubin@phillynews.com.

Trudy Rubin Inquirer Opinion Columnist
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