The Global Note: Rogue Trader…Africa Famine…Afghan Rock Show…The “Sleepbox”

By Tom Nagorski

Sep 16, 2011 12:14pm

ROGUE TRADER CHARGED

Rogue trader suspect Kweku Adoboli was charged by police today in London with fraud and false accounting over $2 billion worth of unauthorised deals at Swiss banking giant UBS. He will appear in court later today. His last posting on Facebook read “I need a miracle.” One can only imagine what was going through his mind as he sat at his desk in the wee hours of yesterday, looking at that $2 billion loss. If, as reports in the British media say, UBS only discovered the massive loss because Mr Adoboli informed his colleagues, rather than by the bank’s own monitoring controls, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the ability of investment banks to effectively manage risk. The law firm which represented Nick Leeson (who famously brought down Barings in 1995) says that it’s been hired to represent Adoboli. The Financial Times reports UBS losses could mean that thousands of UBS bankers will receive zero bonuses this year. The BBC is reporting the UBS trader, Kweku Abodoli, who cost the bank $6.7 billion alerted the bank himself.

GEITHNER AT EUROZONE CRISIS MEETING

In a sign of how worried the U.S. is about how the European debt crisis will affect the global economy, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is at gathering of European finance ministers in Poland, the first time he’s ever attended such a meeting. Officials announced that they would wait until October before assessing whether to pay out the next installment of Greece’s bailout package, which is contingent on the country cutting its deficit. One good thing about the escalating Eurozone crisis – cheap vacation villas. The Wall Street Journal writes prices for vacation homes in the so-called PIIGS – countries hit hard by the European debt crisis, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy – have fallen as much as 30 percent in recent months. Check out your next vacation home in the PIIGS here.

SOMALIA:  HIGHEST CHILD DEATH RATE IN THE WORLD

ABC’s Dana Hughes reports a shocking but sadly perhaps not surprising statistic: Somalia has the highest child death rate in the world, according to a new UN report on child mortality. “Last year at least 180 children died per every 1000 live births, meaning that one in five children died before reaching 5 years old. Frighteningly these numbers were taken before the current famine crisis. The UN says next year’s statistics are expected to be even more dire”. On a brighter note, the response to ABC’s David Muir’s coverage from Somalia earlier this week has been profound, and generous: 107,000 viewers at last count have contributed to the fund to fight a measles outbreak in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The New York Times examines the famine ravaging Somalia and finds the world is less likely to intervene now than it was when a similar famine hit the country in the early 1990s. The effort then was marred by the infamous “black hawk down” incident and created the impression that foreign intervention in Somalia will not fix the country’s ills. Beyond that, the world is significantly more cash-strapped and weary of intervention than it was in the 1990s.

PAKISTAN FLOODING

Prime Minister Gilani has cancelled a visit to the U.S. because of the flooding in the south of his country. The U.N.’s World Food Program has published preliminary data that shows 5.4 million people have been affected by the floods, some 665,000 homes damaged or destroyed and 1.8 million people displaced – many of them are seeking temporary shelter along roadsides or river embankments. 73 percent of food crops in the flood zone have been destroyed and 36 percent of livestock has been lost. And the rain continues. The UN’s refugee agency says that in some places, the water is so deep, it will take up to six months to clear. The prime minister was due to attend next week’s U.N. General Assembly session in New York.

U.S.-PAKISTAN TENSIONS 

Nick Schifrin also reports that Pakistan army chief Gen. Kayani will speak to NATO’s military conference in Spain today and meet with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen on the sidelines. The two are expected to discuss brining U.S. military trainers back into Pakistan, according to a U.S. official. Nick says that if that happens, “it will be the most positive sign that the U.S. and Pakistan are beginning to back off from the tension and mistrust that peaked after the unilateral Osama bin Laden raid”.

FIGHTING RESUMES IN LIBYA

Rebel forces have renewed their attacks on the remaining Gaddafi strongholds of Sirte and Bani Walid. The BBC’s Ian Pannell in Tripoli says the latest attacks suggest the battle for the remaining contested areas of Libya could be entering a decisive phase, but concern is growing for the tens of thousands of civilians still believed to be living in both cities. The UN is expected to vote to establish a mission in Libya today. The Guardian is also reporting the rebels have claimed to have capture Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte after an attack involving 900 armed trucks that attacked loyalists positions from three directions.

FRIDAY: SYRIAN UPRISING

Fresh anti-government protests have flared across Syria, with opposition activists saying security forces have opened fire at protesters after Friday prayers in a suburb of Damascus and in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. Meanwhile a group of Syrian opposition activists in Turkey have announced the creation of a single body designed to present a united front against President Bashar Assad’s regime. The new “Syrian National Council” is aid to b made up of 140 members reflecting the diversity of groups within the opposition. ABC’s Alex Marquardt reports that in an interview aired on Syrian TV last night, an army officer retracted his accusations that the military was ordered to fire on protesters. He was thought to be in Turkey, and activists accuse the Turks of handing him back to the Syrians. Turkey denies it.

“POSION TIP NEEDLE” PLOT

ABC’s Karson Yiu reports that South Korean officials have arrested a North Korean defector suspected of plotting to kill another refugee with a poison-tipped needle: “It could be a plot out of an action thriller. The arrested man is said to be a former commando in his 40s who defected to South Korea in the late 1990′s.  The target was anti-Pyongyang activist Park Sang-hak. A North Korean defector himself, Park leads a group called Fighters for Free North Korea that routinely flies balloons over the two countries’ border with leaflets criticizing the Pyongyang government. Ahn was reportedly trying to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Park earlier this month but South Korean authorities told Park not to proceed fearing an assassination attempt. Indeed Ahn was picked up by police shortly after carrying poison-tipped needles.”

NORWEGIAN CRUISE SHIP UPDATE

Rescue teams have been pumping water from the hull of a Norwegian cruise ship that was listing dangerously Friday, a day after fire on board killed two crew and forced its evacuation. Police Chief Jon Steven Hasseldal told The Associated Press that the MS Nordlys is considered safe enough to send in a team to place a pump inside.

SWEDISH  MURDER MYSTERIES BIG AT GITMO

The Miami Herald examines the most popular books checked out at Guantanamo Bay’s detention library (yes, apparently there is a library there) and  finds the ever-popular Stieg Larsson murder mystery series is big, as is Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” and the movie “True Grit.” The library boasts that it has 24,000 titles — 17,000 of them books and the rest DVDs, magazines and newspapers.

INTRODUCING THE “SLEEPBOX”

Have trouble sleeping on airport benches? ABC’s Alexandra Nadezhdina points out that the Moscow Times carries a story on a soundproof capsule designed to allow sleep-deprived travelers to get some rest. The “Sleepbox”, which is still in the prototype phase of development, contains a bed, ventilation system, luggage space and manager standing by to hand out clean bed sheets. The idea is to put them in train stations, hospitals, malls, etc and could cost around $10 an hour to rent. A non-operational prototype of the Sleepbox is now on display at  Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

DOG ADOPTS TIGER CUBS

A dog at the Tianshan Mountain Wildlife Park in China has adopted three rare white tiger bus after they were rejected by their mother. Watch the video here.

FIRST ROCK FESTIVAL IN 35 YEARS IN KABUL

From ABC’s Nick Schifrin again: “rock musicians in Kabul are refusing to let a major Taliban attack in the capital this week stop them from putting on the first rock festival in Afghanistan in more than 35 years. Although some venues that agreed to host Rock Central Asia events yesterday – opening day — closed their doors, the dozen or so gigs planned for the month-long festival will go on. Western and Afghan musicians will play at “under the radar” events using an “underground stealth fest” promotion strategy. For security reasons, the “stealth concerts” are not being announced until just a few hours before a show. Afghan rock fans are being informed by text message, email, and social network websites such as Facebook”.

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