The Global Note: Rogue Trader…Cruise Ship Fire…Palestinian “Train Wreck?”…Queen & “The Fonz”

By Tom Nagorski

Sep 15, 2011 10:58am

ROGUE TRADER – $2 BILLION LOSS

UBS says a rogue trader has caused the Swiss bank an estimated loss of $2 billion and warned it could report a loss for the entire third quarter as a result, but said no customer money was affected. A 31-year-old man has been arrested in London in connection with the trade, though his role in the matter isn’t yet clear. At this writing, UBS stock is down 5.8 percent after plummeting more than 8 percent earlier. Worth noting  that Societe Generale stunned investors in 2008 when it revealed one of its traders cost the bank $6.7 billion through a complex scheme of unauthorized trades. That trader – Jerome Kerviel – was convicted for losing more than $6 billion of the bank’s money and sentenced to three years in prison. He remains free because he has lodged an appeal, and there’ve been reports he is working in IT in Paris. (And as Jean FIEVET notes, “He landed a book deal, naturally. And became a cult figure. I haven’t read ‘Trapped In A Spiral: Memoirs Of A Trader’.”) At trial, he claimed the bank knew about the risk-taking.

HIKERS’ RELEASE – IN LIMBO

Jim SCIUTTO continues to monitor the (imminent? possible? questionable?) release of the Americans held in Iran. It looks increasingly likely that if they are freed, the pair will be brought to Muscat, Oman, but it also appears that Iran’s judiciary is doing what it can to delay the process, in part to show President Ahmadinejad who really controls this. Only two days ago the President publicly promised a speedy release.

NORWAY: CRUISE SHIP FIRE KILLS TWO

A fire onboard a cruise liner off the Norwegian coast has killed two people and forced the evacuation of the ship. More than 100 passengers escaped into lifeboats before the MS Nordlys reached the port of Alesund. Police have sealed off part of the town because of heavy smoke still coming from the vessel. The ship’s operator and local police tell ABC News that there were 207 passengers and 55 crew onboard at the time. You Tube amateur video

BREAST CANCER KILLING MORE WOMEN THAN CHILDBIRTH

It’s long been assumed that women in poor countries were more likely to die in childbirth than from cancer, but new numbers from the World Health Organization show that is changing. Officials estimate breast cancer kills 425,000 women each year – more than the 343,000 women who die in childbirth each year.  The increase in breast cancer is partly explained by aging populations, but the globalization of bad habits – like eating junk food and getting little exercise – is also driving the growth.

U.S. V. PAKISTAN: “UPPING THE ANTE”

Nick SCHIFRIN reports: A military official in Kabul just told me that the U.S. impatience with Pakistan is “coming to a head” after the two huge attacks by the Haqqani network this week in Afghanistan. Nobody is willing to say what the next steps the U.S. is going to take. But the U.S. has definitely been delivering its message of impatience publicly. Look at these comments in the last 48 hours: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: “Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis, and we have made very little progress in that area…We’re not going to allow these types of attacks to go on.” VP Joe Biden: Pakistan  has “been very helpful in other times… But it’s not sufficient. They have to get better…We are demanding it.” Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker: “The information available to us, is that these attackers…are part of the Haqqani network, they enjoy safe haven in Northern Waziristan. It’s tough when you’re trying to fight an insurgency that has a lot of support outside the national borders.”

THE NEW LIBYA: FIRST HEADS OF STATE VISIT

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron have made surprise visits to Tripoli, travelling separately, amid a large security operation. They are the first foreign leaders to visit since the Gaddafi regime was ousted from the city. They will be holding formal meetings with the Transitional National Council leadership to congratulate them, offer support, and discuss concerns about a power vacuum and the threat of Gaddafi regime remnants. As Jean FIEVET notes, NATO is still carrying out airstrikes in Libya every day, involving French and British jets. Cameron and Sarkozy were behind the push for a UN resolution on the no-fly zone. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is considering a new resolution that would establish a UN mission in Libya, unfreeze assets of two major oil companies and lift a ban on flights by Libyan aircraft. A vote is expected by the end of the week.

PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD BID: “TRAIN WRECK” COMING?

The seemingly frantic U.S.-led effort continues to find an alternative to the Palestinian push for U.N. recognition. From Alex MARQUARDT: U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale met with Prime Minister Netanyahu late last night, and they are due to meet with President Abbas today. A large amount of speculation about different formulas to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table…but it still looks unlikely that Abbas will back down. Netanyahu has reportedly said behind closed doors that “if the Palestinians succeed in obtaining the U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines, that will stymie negotiations for the next sixty years.” And it’s not just the Israel military beefing up security in the West Bank ahead of this. Haaretz reports that the Palestinian Authority has approached Israeli firms to stock up on anti-riot gear. The IDF recommended it and the move was approved by Israel. “Now, the PA is working furiously to buy the equipment, but seems to be having difficulty procuring the goods because time is so short.” The IDF has added 20% to their forces in the West Bank. Good read here on why Palestinians believe any risks are worth the effort:

SYRIA: SIX MONTHS OF REBELLION

Today marks six months since the uprising began. The U.N. says more than 2,600 people have been killed, mostly civilians. State news agency SANA says Syrian TV will broadcast at 8:30pm tonight the confessions of “Israeli spy” Lt. Col. Hussein al-Harmoush, whose defection video made headlines when it came out in June. He was reportedly arrested in the northern city of Idlib. SANA says “the Israeli spy will reveal some of the details of the conspiracy against Syria, how he facilitated the assassination of [Hezbollah commander] martyr Imad Mughniyah, and how spies are working to sow sedition…and cause chaos.”

AFRICA-BASED TERRORIST GROUPS A THREAT TO THE US

The NYTimes writes General Carter Ham, the top officer at Africa Command, said three terrorist groups based in Africa - the Shabab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb across the Sahel region of northern Africa and Boko Haram in northern Nigeria – pose a threat to the U.S., though they have not yet shown the capability to mount significant attacks outside their homelands.

SOCIAL MEDIA THREAT + MEXICO’S DRUG WARS

The Washington Post notes a dangerous escalation in Mexico’s drug war - two bodies were found hanging from a bridge accompanied by a sign warning people to keep away from social media networks that report on violence. Because many of Mexico’s traditional news outlets have scaled back their coverage of the drug wars for fear of retribution, social networks are increasingly important sources of information. Worth remembering that just three weeks ago, two men were charged for terrorism and sabotage for allegedly tweeting that schools were under attack. These incidents seem to suggest Mexico is struggling with what to do about the explosion of social media as it relates to crime.

GLOBAL QUAKES

Whitney LLOYD notes there were four earthquakes of note on her overnight watch. Three quakes above 6.0 magnitude – off the east coast of Japan, north of New Zealand and off the coast of Cuba. Another 3.5 earthquake struck Orange County, CA as well. KABC tells us they’re getting lots of calls that people felt it. None of the earthquakes caused any major damage or injuries or triggered any tsunami alerts, but perhaps worth noting that we saw so many in just a few hours.

CHINESE PETITIONERS WERE DETAINED DURING BIDEN VISIT

From Karson YIU: Police detained and tied up six Chinese farmers involved in land disputes with the government to prevent them from seeing Vice President Joe Biden during his visit last month, one of the farmers said Thursday. The farmers, all women from southwest China’s Sichuan province, filed a joint complaint with provincial prosecutors this week against police in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, said Gan Xingyan, 46, one of the plaintiffs. Police in China frequently detain dozens of activists and petitioners ahead of major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, President Barack Obama’s first state visit to the country in 2009 and National Day celebrations on Oct. 1. On the day VP Biden was visiting Chengdu, August 20, the farmers claimed they were rounded up by plainclothes officers who placed handcuffs and leg irons on them and tied them to benches. ”They threatened us and interrogated us without stop and kept us awake,” she said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “They detained us without any proper documents and tortured us with despicable means. We want justice, but we’re not sure whether we will get it in the end.”

WORLD’S LARGEST INCINERATOR?

The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen has announced plans to build the world’s largest trash incinerator, capable of processing 5,000 tons of garbage a day. Existing landfills are at capacity and cannot cope with the growing pile of trash put out by the city’s 13 million residents. Shenzhen dumps an estimated 5 million tons of trash a year. Waste incineration projects are a sensitive issue in the province of Guangdong, where Shenzhen is located. Proposals for new plants are often met by fierce local demonstrations; in January, more than 1,000 residents from two districts in the neighboring city Guangzhou staged  protests against incinerator projects near their neighborhoods. And environmental activists are up in arms about the announcement saying that building the world’s largest incinerator was the wrong path to take in waste management.

POLANSKI TO ZURICH FILM FESTIVAL

The  Hollywood Reporter writes filmmaker Roman Polanski will attend this month’s Zurich Film Festival, the venue where he was arrested two years ago on sexual assault charges. The Oscar-winning director will fly to Zurich September 27th to receive the lifetime achievement award the festival intended to give him in 2009. Because the Swiss have decided not to extradite him to the U.S., he doesn’t face the threat of another arrest this time around.

‘X’ NOW A GENDER OPTION ON AUSTRALIAN PASPORTS

Australian passports will now have three gender options — male, female and indeterminate — under new guidelines announced the government Thursday to remove discrimination against transgender and intersex people. These new rules will allow intersex individuals, who are biologically not entirely male or female, to list their gender on passports as “X.” Transgender people, however, whose perception of their own sex is at odds with their biology, will be able to pick whether they are male or female only if their choice is supported by a doctor’s statement. Transgender people cannot pick “X.”

THE QUEEN HONORS “THE FONZ”

Actor Henry Winkler has been made an honorary “OBE”, or officer of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”, for his work on helping children with dyslexia in the UK. The British ambassador presented the award during a ceremony at the embassy in DC yesterday. Non-British nationals can receive honorary awards for their contribution to British interests, and they are conferred by the Queen on the advice of the UK Foreign Office. Wonder if Her Majesty ever watched “Happy Days”…?

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