(CNN) – After mass defections within his own government following the deaths of hundreds of unarmed protesters, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has pledged to hold onto power or “die a martyr.”
Those words have had a calamitous effect on world markets. Stocks globally suffered their worst performance Tuesday in months; investors from Hong Kong to London and New York sold en masse as energy uncertainties ate away at world appetite for risk.
The turmoil has pushed oil prices near two-and-a-half year highs, as the OPEC basket of crude oils rose above $100 a barrel for the first time since the financial crisis. Stocks of airlines like Delta, United Continental and U.S. Airways all lost more than 5% as airlines shed $2 billion in market value on Tuesday alone due to the specter of higher fuel prices.
The VIX index, also known as the “fear” index in monitoring volatility in the markets, jumped in its biggest one-day gain since May, rising 27% on Tuesday.
(CNN) – As rescue crews continued to search through the rubble for survivors of the deadly Christchurch earthquake, Tuesday’s temblor already has shaken confidence in New Zealand’s fragile economy.
The New Zealand currency, known as the kiwi, dropped about 2% in trading in the hours following the quake, which struck in the early afternoon in the country’s financial center and second largest city. The earthquake comes just five months after a nighttime earthquake hit the city, causing $3 billion damage to the area but no deaths. Tuesday’s quake was centered closer to the city and shallower than the September quake, causing more damage and deaths during the busy lunchtime hour when it struck.
“Whatever rebuilding that was going to occur [after the September quake] was only just getting started, so you have to presume that process has to start all over again,” said Michael Turner, a strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Sydney.
New Zealand’s economy was already limping after credit ratings agencies put the government on negative watch late last year due to growing debt. New Zealand was hit hard by the financial crisis with high levels of government and household debt. The government has promised an austere budget and the sale of state assets to return the government’s budget to a surplus by 2015.
Citibank Group had forecast that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand would increase interest rates this year, but Citibank economist Akash B. Reddy believes the new earthquake makes any interest rate hike unlikely until the latter half of 2012. “We may even see an interest rate cut,” Reddy said.
Beijing, China (CNN) – Peng Gaofeng appeared exhausted, but the migrant worker couldn't have been more content.
After three years of searching for his son, Wenle, he and his child were playing together at the offices of internet company Sina in Beijing. Peng traveled here last Friday to express his gratitude to some of the people behind China's version of Twitter for helping him bring his son back home. "Without the Internet, it would be too difficult - nearly impossible - to find my child," he told me.
Across the Middle East, social media is fueling political change. In China, it is fanning civic campaigns. Chinese bloggers are encouraging private citizens to fight injustices such as child trafficking. People are taking photos of street kids and uploading them on blogs for hundreds of millions of people to see and potentially identify them as missing children. And the Internet censors aren't stopping them.
Deng Fei, a reporter turned activist, says saving children is an indisputably worthy cause. Thousands are kidnapped every year here, he said, to be sold to factories or parents who want a son. Deng says the Internet is a game changer in this regard. He said, for many distraught parents, searching for one kidnapped child in a country of 1.3 billion people is seemingly futile and often costly. Deng said, "Tweeting changed all that. It spreads information openly, quickly, and cheaply."
(CNN) - How infectious is this wind of change sweeping through North Africa? Will it blow south? Or continue to move east across the Middle East?
These are questions that are being debated in Africa.
The East African, a Kenyan-based newspaper, recently had an article entitled, "The Revolution in Black Africa won't be played out in the streets."
The Mail and Guardian’s Zimbabwean proprietor Trevor Ncube just published a hard-hitting analysis entitled, “We are our own liberators." In it he urges the "Zimbabwean masses to do what they have got to do; the cost of doing nothing is too high."
Both articles, and countless others written in the past month, reflect a deep sense of soul-searching by Africans. Hard questions are being asked if Africans can emulate what has been achieved on the northern edges of the continent.
As an active observer and a consistent visitor of the Middle East, one asks a simple question: Why does it have to be this way?
I am not talking about Shiite/Sunni divides, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict or Iran’s growing influence in the region, but persistent and unacceptable levels of poverty in a region blessed with nearly half of the world’s oil and gas reserves.
First it was Tunisia, then Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Libya and stretching into the Gulf with Bahrain.
There are major historical and cultural differences, of course, and even vast differences in per-capita income – Bahrain for example is high at $38,400, Yemen low at $2,500. But a few common threads can be found: the region’s youth lack opportunities, power is concentrated at the top and the inner circle around them, and most waited too long to embrace the winds of change brought on by globalization.
(CNN) – In Shandong Province in northeastern China, the nation's grain heartland, the worst drought in 60 years has raised the specter of shortages for the world's largest wheat producer.
Russia - still reeling from a drought that slashed wheat harvest by nearly 40% and spurred Moscow to ban exports last summer - hopes new, resilient strains of the crop will lead to a resumption of wheat exports. However, soil damaged by the drought means nearly 10% of Russian wheat fields couldn't be planted this year.
Social media may have fanned the flames of revolt which toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt and triggered demonstrations across the Middle East. But the tinderbox was built on high unemployment, corruption and rising food prices. It's a telling sign that the trouble in Tunisia started with the self immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor protesting the police seizure of his produce cart.
"I think that we have to be careful, as an international community, not to let food prices become not [only] a national security threat in countries, but a global security threat," Ngozi Iweala, managing director of the World Bank, told CNN.
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