Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pittsburgh a "Steel City" of Security for G20 Summit

Again the enforcement goes on an overdrive. Considering the Obama Adminstration had already decided not to do a separate media accreditation to NGOs, mounting the steel city with steel is unduly.


* Pittsburgh a "steel city" of security for G20 summit

* Locals worried about business, traffic and football

By Michelle Nichols

Dubbed the "steel city" for its industrial history, Pittsburgh will live up to its name for a different reason when world leaders meet amid heavy security on Thursday and Friday for the Group of 20 (G20) summit.

Thousands of additional police have been brought in to the western Pennsylvania city and tall steel fencing is being erected along streets around the convention center where 19 leaders of developed and developing countries will meet.

While presidents and prime ministers will be discussing issues such as rebalancing the world economy and tackling climate change, Pittsburgh locals are worried about violent anti-G20 protests and disruption to business and traffic.

"It's a positive thing for Pittsburgh to be shown, but the downtown businesses are afraid. They really don't know what to expect," said Phillip Injeian, 54, a violin maker whose shop near the G20 headquarters is shadowed by a security fence.

Injeian said he plans to have classical music students playing on the street outside his shop on Thursday and Friday.

"I feel like that will soothe the beast," he said as he ate pizza in Mama Pina's Pizzeria down the street from his shop.

But protesters are not alone in wanting to send a message to G20 leaders. More than 25 religious leaders are also meeting in Pittsburgh to "remind world leaders that the most important indicator of economic recovery should be what happens to hungry and poor people."


Nick Buffone, 56, the owner of Mama Pina's Pizzeria, said he is not sure if he will be able to get into downtown Pittsburgh to open his restaurant while the G20 is on.

"Nobody's explaining anything to us," he said. "I don't think it's benefiting us at all. People don't know what to expect."

Protests against a G20 meeting in London earlier this year turned violent when thousands of people took to the streets. Protesters are planning anti-G20 marches on Thursday and Friday.

Concrete barriers are already in place outside the nearby PNC Financial Services Group Inc (PNC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) building, suggested by anti-capitalist protesters as a target along with other companies such as Starbucks (SBUX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and McDonald's (MCD.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

Pittsburgh police say 65 agencies were involved in G20 security but declined to detail how many officers will be on the streets.

But some of Pittsburgh's 313,000 residents seem more concerned about how their beloved Steelers football team, six time winners of the Super Bowl, will fare on the weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the nearby Strip District, Jim Pierce, 66, manages a Steelers shop and said that while he wasn't expecting many customers while the G20 was on, he hoped a world leader might become a fan.

"We would like to see someone stop here (to buy Steelers merchandise)," he said, laughing.

"I have seen nothing that will make us believe there's going to be problems (with protesters)," he said. "There were 300,000 people here for the Super Bowl parade in February and there was less talk of problems." (Editing by Mark Egan and Paul Simao)

G-20 - Vows Against Protectionism Not Always Kept

By David J. Lynch, USA TODAY

As President Obama and other leaders of the G-20 nations prepare to meet today in Pittsburgh, it's worth recalling what became of their previous promises.

At earlier summits, G-20 leaders solemnly vowed to refrain from worsening the crisis by erecting new trade barriers — then returned home and promptly began erecting new trade barriers.

Since November's Washington gathering, G-20 members have enacted about 100 separate trade-restricting provisions. Last week, for example, the U.S. announced a 35% tariff in response to what it called a damaging surge of Chinese-made tires.

"On average, a G-20 member has broken the no-protectionism pledge every three days," concludes a study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London. Still, the largest impact on world trade has come from the credit crunch and recession. This summit, expected to center on a U.S. proposal to rebalance the global economy, is likely to yield a renewed endorsement of open markets. "We're going to keep this under control," says Uri Dadush, of the Carnegie Endowment's international economics program.

But some worry that major nations may yet stumble into a costly trade spat. "It's going to get nasty. ... You're talking about a war that could potentially involve more than just goods and services," says David Smick, who heads a global investment consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Example: China's Assets Supervision and Administration Commission last month warned six foreign banks that its state-owned companies might refuse to honor derivatives contracts that had produced unexpected financial losses.

The global economy is stronger than when the G-20 last met in April. Michael Mussa, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, expects solid growth of 4.2% next year. "Deep recessions are followed by steep recoveries," he says.

Asia's turnaround has been impressive. China is expected to grow 8.2% in '09 before rising to almost 9% next year, says the Asian Development Bank.

Trade flows, however, remain deeply depressed. U.S. exports of $86.7 billion in July were more than 26% below the level of the same month in 2008, according to Commerce Department data.

One fear: An anemic global recovery would leave unemployment elevated. And that could prompt countries to protect domestic jobs at the risk of inviting retaliation from abroad.

"It could be a real problem for the world trading system," says Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pittsburgh Must Allow Protest at G-20

New York Times
Sean D. Hamill

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the City of Pittsburgh to allow a group’s tent city protest during the Group of 20 meeting next week, but he denied two other requests for permits for demonstrations, saying the city’s goal of “protecting visiting foreign leaders is of the highest interest.”

The judge, Gary L. Lancaster of Federal District Court, made his ruling just over a week before the leaders of 20 of the world’s largest and emerging economies meet here in a gathering that has become a rallying point for a variety of protesters.

Six groups sued the city, state and federal governments last week after being denied permits after months of discussions.

Since their lawsuit was filed, the city granted permits to three of the groups: for an interfaith march by the G6 Billion group; for another march by the group Bail Out the People; and for permits for a group of artists to use a city park.

Judge Lancaster granted one of the remaining groups, CodePink, the right to use Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh to hold a tent city demonstration Sunday night through Tuesday night. The city had tried to deny the permit, saying it would conflict with a run in the park, as well as a free-speech festival being organized by a group supported by former Vice President Al Gore. Denying CodePink the right to hold its tent city “would result in the loss of CodePink’s First Amendment freedoms,” Judge Lancaster ruled.

Jules Lobel, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which was representing the organizations along with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling for use of the park “shows that it’s not just for the powerful, but for everyone.”

Judge Lancaster denied a request from the Thomas Merton Center to end a march through the city on Sept. 25 with a rally on the Seventh Street Bridge, near the convention center where the meeting will be held.

He said the city’s view that such a rally, with 5,000 to 7,000 people on a bridge, would be unsafe was valid. The judge also denied a request from the 3 Rivers Climate Convergence to camp out overnight in a city park all of next week because it would put too much of a burden on the city to clean up after the campers, and set a precedent for other groups.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

G8 Women's Summit Opens in Rome

A Group of Eight conference on violence against women opened in Rome Wednesday with keynote speaker, Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna, calling it a crime against humanity.

This crime, she said, was sometimes condoned for tribal or religious reasons, or ''accepted as part of human nature''.

''We do not accept this indifference...we want the whole world to speak out, be outraged, and act,'' she told women's representatives from 25 countries, calling for ''new laws, mass movements,'' and action to raise public awareness.

''We must free our sisters from fear. If a woman is free, if she can love and marry whom she wants, if she studies, if she can work, if she can choose when and if to become a mother, to dress as she thinks, speak out and smile, the whole of society will bloom''. Some 140,000 women worldwide are the victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse and 50,000 are killed by close relatives each year, Carfagna observed.

In other opening remarks, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said ''chilling episodes of group violence against women of all ethnic groups, from the very young to the less young'' were happening worldwide, even in rich countries like Italy where rights are constitutionally protected''.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for a United Nations ban on female genital cutting and said Italy would gather ''many countries'' to debate the issue on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.

Until Thursday afternoon, women politicians from around the world including an Afghan delegation will meet with representatives from charities, activist groups and international organizations to discuss the causes of violence and look at ways to avert the threat to women.

Rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, workplace intimidation, abuse during armed conflict and violence against girls are all subjects under discussion. The event, which Italy has organized in its capacity as this year's Group of Eight president, will produce a final document to be submitted to a G8 foreign ministers conference in New York on September 25.

During the course of the conference, the Italian Equal Opportunities Ministry is encouraging politicians and supporters to wear white in order to raise awareness about the conference and issues under discussion. Over 20,000 bracelets emblazoned with the conference's slogan, ''Respect women, respect the world'', will also be distributed at various points around Milan, Naples and Rome.

But a number of activists attending the conference expressed doubts about the event's effectiveness. Opposition MP Marina Sereni, House deputy whip for the Democratic Party, said words were not enough.

''There is a massive need for funds to build structures and to set up prevention and welcome programmes, be they public or private initiatives,'' she said. The Afghan women's coordinator for the international ActionAid agency, Nasima Rahmani, praised the idea of the conference but said it needed more concrete support. ''The next step must be getting the [G8] world leaders to put women's rights on their agenda,'' she said. ''So far, no date has been set for confirming the resources that G8 countries and international organizations are ready to provide in order to fight violence against women''. And the president of a top Italian women's development charity, AIDOS, dismissed the entire initiative as ''futile''.

''Not a single concrete proposal has been put forward,'' said Daniela Colombo. ''You don't fight violence against women by distributing bracelets but through real projects and programs''.

She also implied the Italian government was being hypocritical, noting it had donated ''barely 500,000 euros to UN women's agencies this year ...compared to 50 million euros from Spain''.

Finally, Colombo questioned the Italian foreign minister's call for a UN ban on female genital cutting, suggesting it was a waste of resources that could be spent on more critical issues. The procedure should be ''a private matter for individuals'', she added. Speakers at the conference include UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro of Tanzania, the founder of an association for trafficking victims in Italy, Isoke Aikpitanyi, the US-based Iranian activist Manda Zand Ervins and Burkina Faso's First Lady, Chantal Compaore.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

IMF: As economy recovers, exit strategies are key

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Failure to define stimulus exit strategies could undermine the slow global recovery currently under way, senior International Monetary Fund economists said Wednesday, also warning that the surge in public debt will need to be reined in.

In a series of articles published in Finance and Development magazine, the economists argue that failing to properly plan strategies to remove stimulus could destabilize expectations and weaken the effects of the fiscal and monetary policies put in place over the past two years of the crisis.

IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said major advanced economies could probably not afford to provide fiscal stimulus for very much longer without structural adjustments, although he emphasized it was too early in the recovery to withdraw the stimulus.

To prolong the stimulus, he said countries will need to tackle entitlement programs with more vigor, whether rising outlays are driven by healthcare or support for an aging population.

The economists said the unprecedented fiscal and monetary response to the crisis was necessary to tackle the financial upheaval but the result was a massive surge in public debt.

IMF figures show that the ratio of debt to gross domestic product is expected to rise to 115 percent in advanced economies in 2014 from 75 percent in 2007.

Debt ratios will be close to, or exceed, 90 percent by 2014 in all seven major industrial countries except Canada, IMF data shows.

The economists said the bulk of the debt increase stems from fiscal stimulus and will require an unprecedented fiscal adjustment over the next few decades.

"Failure to address the trend of rising debt could lead to concerns that the debt will ultimately be 'inflated away' or that default is inevitable," said Carlo Cottarelli, director of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department, and Jose Vinals, director of the IMF's Monetary and Capital Markets Department.

"Interest rates would then rise, making the fiscal problem worse and potentially killing the recovery," they added.

A study by the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department suggests that advanced countries with higher debt would have to maintain an average primary surplus of 4.5 percent beginning in 2014 to reduce the debt to 60 percent of gross domestic product by 2030.

The economists said the fiscal adjustment would have to go beyond pensions and health care, to revenues and expenditures, including broadening of tax bases and tax structures.

In planning stimulus exit strategies, Cottarelli and Vinals said central banks will have to look at unwinding or limiting the unconventional crisis-related practices, restructuring balance sheets and preparing to tighten monetary policy.

While it was still too soon to tighten monetary and fiscal policy, it wasn't too soon for governments to anchor expectations by defining and communication their strategies and proposed measures to ensure fiscal solvency, they added.

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