Why is a US interest rate rise such a big deal?

  • Interest rates (a key tool of monetary policy) are a fundamental driver of where the global savings that swish around the planet are parked.
  • Industrial world interest rates have been zero or close to zero for a while now - the US will be the first to raise rates.
  • So already have seen a global move towards buying US$ assets, hence US$ stronger - a rate rise will reinforce this trend.

Iranian and Russian differing political & geographic interests in Syria?

  • Both want Syria falling under their sphere of influence.
  • Political interests: Russia supports the core, secular base of the Assad regime (and the army), while Iran supports pro-government militias.
  • Geographic interests: Russia focus on the western coast where it has a port and airbases, while Iranian interests are in the south (wants to keep supply corridor open to Hezbollah in Lebanon).

Macrosnap Australia economy?

  • Big commodity exporter hence suffering as commodity boom has ended (due to weak demand from China).
  • So most Australia macroeconomic variables looking cloudier.
  • Growth slower, budget deficit up, unemployment up.

National Front defeat in France local elections?

  • Marine Le Pen's far right National Front (FN) performed badly in 2nd round of local elections, failing to gain control of any regional governments, despite a very strong showing in the first round.
  • Voting surge + Socialists (under Hollande) withdrawing candidates (to avoid diluting opposition to the far right) ensured success for Republicans (under Sarkozy).
  • But despite the lack of success here, the FN still gets stronger every election as French society shifts to the right.

Is censorship in China getting worse?

  • Yes - now the new normal in China.
  • Tighter restrictions on expression widespread.
  • Old habits returning - businessmen and the press now face choice between ideological conformity or punishment (censure/jail/being fired/humiliation).

Broader rightward shift in French society?

  • Yes - desire for order, feeling that society has gone too far to the side of liberalism & individualism.
  • Roots lie in economic woes of former socialist president François Mitterrand's two terms (1981-1995).
  • Amplified by recent terrorist attacks and fears of immigrants.

Is Poland a worry for Europe?

  • Yes.
  • Populist, nationalist party in power, rewriting constitution, backtracking on commitments to the EU.
  • New leader admires Hungary's right wing PM Orban, who aspires to "illiberal democracy".
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