Morning Briefing

The ECB’s house of cards

The ECB governing council under Mario Draghi has decided: Interest rates will stay at zero and a bond-buying binge to support southern Europe will be upped by €540 billion. Our weekend read looks at what this monetary hocus pocus is doing to our global financial system. In a nutshell: my money, your banks, our house of cards.

Our companion piece is an exclusive interview with the King of Wall Street, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. The Bronx boy who rose from humble roots made a passionate plea for financial deregulation. “You could turn the entire planet into a Treasury bill with no risk and a yield of zero. But I don’t think you’d want to live in such a world.” If risk was a religion, Blankfein would be its chief prophet.

The European Commission is taking Germany to court for looking away while Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal burned. Berlin is accused of failing to enforce E.U. law by not penalizing VW for using illegal software to evade emission controls on a global scale. Federal authorities didn’t look more closely into the scandal, but looked away. The Berlin government is suddenly being seen as a VW accomplice.

Here’s a shout out to CDU politician Jens Spahn. For his backbone, Wolfgang Schäuble’s 36-year-old top lieutenant has fallen into Angela Merkel’s disfavor. At the CDU’s party convention this week, Spahn criticized the chancellor’s refugee policies and forced through a hardline vote to abolish dual nationalities in Germany, which she opposed. He reportedly got an earful from her afterwards in private but should take that as an honor. The man on the CDU’s steering committee may have steered himself into trouble, but perhaps he is on the road to somewhere.

Russia’s ceasefire in Syria isn’t going to help the people of Aleppo much. Assad’s troops are pressing ever deeper into neighborhoods and soon, the dictator’s troops will have full control of the ruined city. In the past, armies captured oil wells and residential areas but now they’re just seizing skeletal homes in a concrete desert. War is nihilism in practice and Assad is its poster boy.

At the same time and with similar brutality, the western alliance is pressing ahead in Iraq. In an attack on Al-Qaim, a town controlled by IS, 55 civilians were killed. Planes flew over the city three times, raining bombs and targeting crowded markets. A German tabloid claimed there are good and bad bombs, but nowadays it takes a cynic to tell them apart.

Helmut Markwort, journalist and founder of weekly newsmagazine Focus, celebrated his 80th birthday last night with celebrities such as Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness, actress Uschi Glas and mega journalist Mathias Döpfner. Mogul Hubert Burda, whose publishing empire includes Focus, described how Mr. Markwort regularly brought success and prestige to his group. The speeches were declarations of love for a man whose warmth lights up the chilly business of media. Even a grandson was on hand to pay tribute, with a wordplay on Mr. Markwort’s trademark line: “Facts. Facts. Facts. And always think about Grandpa.’’


Image of the Day

British Prime Minister Theresa May is joined by children from her constituency to switch on the Christmas lights outside No. 10 Downing Street. Source: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA
We hope you enjoyed this article

Make sure to sign up for our free newsletters too!