Media Digest 23/3/15

By Rowan Williams

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa will have ended by August, the head of the United Nations’ Ebola mission has said. A year after the outbreak was declared, over 10,000 people are known to have died from the disease, with deaths concentrated in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. While UN Ebola mission’s head, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, declined to pin a firm date on when the Ebola threat would be extinguished, he expressed his belief that the outbreak would be over by summer. Ahmed also pointed to arrogance and ignorance in the international community during the earlier stages of the outbreak; medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has criticised a “global coalition of inaction” for the scale of the outbreak. The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, admitted in January that it had been too slow to respond to Ebola. Case numbers continue to fall across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while international organisations have begun proposals for better handling of outbreaks through rapid response teams. The outbreak will be declared over once all three worst-affected countries report no cases for six weeks.

A Conservative Party election candidate suspended for allegedly plotting with right-wing group the English Defence League (EDL) is likely to be expelled from the party within days, a senior Conservative has said. Afzal Amin, the Conservative candidate for the Dudley North constituency, is to face a party hearing on Tuesday, where Amin has said he will defend his actions. Conservative insiders have said that it would be difficult for Amin to justify any involvement with the EDL, however. In a secretly filmed video, Amin appears to ask EDL representatives to schedule and later call off a protest march over the planned building of a mosque, with Amin claiming credit for averting the protest. Amin has denied all wrongdoing, claiming that he had involved local police Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson in the talks from the outset. Chief Superintendent Johnson has confirmed his knowledge of the attempt to promote dialogue between a local mosque and the EDL, but denied all knowledge of the plan.

Italian tyre maker Pirelli is to be bought by China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina), after ChemChina put in a €7.1 billion bid for the firm. The deal was agreed on Sunday with the shareholders of Pirelli , the world’s fifth-largest manufacturer of tyres. The deal is the fifth-largest outbound deal by a Chinese state-owned enterprise. ChemChina will first buy the 26.2 percent stake in Pirelli held by Italian holding firm Camfin, before launching a mandatory takeover bid for the rest of the company. Pirelli’s acquisition by ChemChina could also give the firm a sales boost in the Chinese market, while ChemChina would gain access to techonology used in making premium tyres. Shares in Pirelli rose to a 25-year high on Friday when details of a takeover bid were first leaked.

The Papers

A few political stories make the headlines today. The Times leads with news that the Scottish National Party (SNP) will “hold Labour to ransom” should the SNP hold the balance of power after May’s general election. Former SNP Leader Alex Salmond has said the SNP would use its position to demand higher public spending for Scotland. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that party leaders have been “caught in cash for access row” after fake political party donors were shown as able to pay their way into the “heart” of Britian’s three biggest parties. The leaders of all three have been secretly filmed meeting an ‘undercover businessman’ posing as a donor. The Guardian leads with news that in the US, oil giant BP has been found to fund a climate sceptic politician. According to the paper, one “Outspoken US senator received cash” from BP’s political action committee as he campaigned against climate change regulation. The Financial Times leads with news from Greece, where Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel of “impossible” debt obligations. Tsipras has said that Greece will be unable to meet its financial obligations without short-term financial assistance, raising fears that “Athens could run out of cash before the end of April”. The Independent leads with news of a “charity that spreads ‘groundless’ fears over GM” in Africa. Action Aid Uganda was reported to have used a campaign spread fears of a cancer threat to African farmers from genetically modified crops. Action Aid has reportedly ended the campaign.

British Media on China

On Australia and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB): the media’s ruminations over the China-led AIIB continue today, with an opinion piece in The Guardian by Matt Thistlethwaite focusing on Australia’s position in the debate over the bank. The bank is “a global financial system shake up Australia should be part of”, Thistlethwaite writes. Despite the bank being a “dilemma for the Abbott government”, Australia is “better in, than out”. Uncertainty about the bank reflects Australia’s uncertainty about its own future role in Asia, Thistlethwaite opines, but Australia’s dominance in the region puts it in a strong position to work with China.

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