Tom Rouse presents the news from USA, Maldives, Syria, and Europe.
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The week has been dominated by discussion of Obama’s proposed budget for 2013. The proposed 3.8 trillion dollar budget contains a number of controversial proposals including tax hikes for the rich and increased spending on education and infrastructure.
These proposals show that for the first time since office the President has looked to place the desires of his base front and centre in budget negotiations, proposing a budget that will never be passed by the Republican controlled House, but will rejuvenate his previously flagging activist base.
By doing so, he has not only set out a clear stance, but more importantly left himself room to maneourve. The final budget will be markedly different from the version which is currently circulating, but it is another indicator that Obama is planning to take the fight to Republicans in Congress.
This more aggressive strategy and the slow, but steady growth in the economy have led Nate Silver to conclude that Obama’s chances of re-election are now far greater than they were in November.
Despite these improvements, he cautions that it is premature to expect an Obama victory, given the diversity of the Republican field, it is impossible to tell what strategy Obama will have to pursue and what attacks he is likely to be subjected too.
This has been accompanied by a small rise in his approval ratings, with the latest Gallup polling placing him at 47 per cent approval; equally significantly, a growing number of Americans are beginning to have faith that the economy has turned the corner, and this is being reflected by a renewed faith in the Obama administration.
More significantly his stock is rising when voters are asked to compare him to his potential Republican rivals. He has comfortable leads over both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum when they are compared head-to-head and these leads are likely to increase if the Republican race gets any messier.
Romney’s decision to repeat his criticism of the Michigan Auto Industry bailout in an op-ed for a local paper has turned the state from one which looked like a relatively comfortable victory for him into one of the race’s key battlegrounds. Despite being a Michigan native, Romney chose to attack Obama rather than play to the crowds.
This decision, although in a sense laudable, has allowed Santorum to have a sniff of victory, with a recent poll placing him ahead of Romney.
Germany has been rocked by a cash scandal, after President Christian Wulff was forced to resign over a home loans scandal. Federal prosecutors had petitioned parliament to remove his immunity and his resignation means they will be free to press charges over his role in the scandal, should they consider the evidence sufficent to do so.
The row centres around accusations that Mr Wulff accepted a 500,000 euro loan from the wife of Egon Geerkens in October 2008 and then failed to mention it when asked by Lower Saxony’s parliament if he had any business dealings with Mr Geerkens.
The French presidential race is heating up, with President Sarkozy accusing his socialist rival, Francois Hollande of “lying from morning to night“. The outburst came as part of a speech he was giving to party supporters, and marks a return of the oratory form which helped him win the Presidency in 2007.
Such outbursts are likely to become increasingly frequent, as the President looks to address Hollande’s impressive poll lead, with recent surveys suggesting he enjoys a 14 point lead over Sarkozy.
The UN’s general assembly has backed calls for Syrian dictator President Assad to step down, despite opposition from China and Russia. Resolutions passed by the assembly are non-binding, but are a useful indicator of current world opinion on specific topics.
Russian and Chinese opposition comes as little surprise, with the countries refusing to back measures to depose Assad or strengthen the range of sanctions imposed on the country.
The UN’s call has been echoed by William Hague, who said the vote sent an unambiguous message to Damascus that the violence against protestors must stop immediately.
Internal political tension continues to destabilise life in the Maldives, with the deposed President Mohamed Nasheed leading rallies against the new President, Dr Waheed Hassan his former deputy.
Mr Nasheed has called for power to be transferred to the speaker of parliament and for fresh elections to be held within 2 months. However, Dr Hassan seems unlikely to relinquish power anytime soon. Speaking to Reuters, he said:
“At the moment, the election is scheduled for late 2013, more than a year and a half from now. If we agree to bring it forward we will have a discussion with all political parties, but the conditions have to be right to ensure there will be free and fair elections.”
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• Israeli trade unionists striking for non-unionised workers’ rights shows way forward – Professor Alan Johnson, February 17th 2012
• European Socialists call for more than talk on youth unemployment – will the blue bloc listen? – Alex Hern, February 17th 2012
• We need to defend the hope at the heart of Christianity, not fight militant secularisation – Ed Jacobs, February 14th 2012
• The Greek debacle – George Irvin, February 13th 2012
• The Left has to raise its voice on the Falklands – James Hallwood, February 12th 2012