Media Watch 15/4/15

By Rowan Williams

Cuba has welcomed a United States pledge to remove the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba has said it should not have been on the list in the first place. The White House has said that President Obama has submitted documents to Congress expressing his intent to remove Cuba from the list, in the latest move to normalise relations  between the two countries. Cuba had been designated a state sponsor of terrorism since 1982; but the US has now acknowledged that any differences between the US and Cuba are not relevant to its terror list. The thaw in ties was first announced in December, with President Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro shaking hands and holding historic formal talks last week. A US trade embargo against Cuba remains, and can only be removed with Congressional approval. Some economic sanctions will be lifted through the removal of Cuba from the terror list, however.

The Liberal Democrat party is to launch its manifesto on Wednesday, with pledges from the party including an extra £2.5 billion in spending on education. The proposed spending increase goes beyond the education spending commitment of other main parties, with the Lib Dems stating that the commitment aims to boost opportunity. Per-pupil spending is to be maintained in line with both inflation and economic growth rates. The Liberal Democrat manifesto itself is expected to be a simpler, more focused document, with the party expressing its commitment to a handful of unbreakable pledges. The party is keen to re-establish trust after famously breaking a pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees in its 2010 manifesto. In an interview before the manifesto’s release, Party Leader Nick Clegg acknowledged the high likelihood of a coalition government, stating that his party offered a more stable choice of coalition partner than the Scottish National Party or UK Independence Party. Anti-EU party UKIP will also launch its manifesto today.

China’s economy grew by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, its slowest rate since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis. In the final quarter of 2014, growth had averaged 7.3 percent. Power usage in China also dropped by 3.7 percent, in what some have said is a sign of decreased activity in the country. The drop in power usage is also the greatest since the financial crisis. Despite growth figures being in the line with Chinese authorities’ official targets, observers have said that the figures will increase the likelihood of further stimulus from policymakers in Beijing. Interest rates were cut in February for the second time since November.

The Papers

Political stories remain on the agenda today. The Guardian leads with a pledge from Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg, who states that his party “will not sell out in coalition talks”. In an interview with the paper, Clegg has said that his party “will stick to its manifesto policies”, the paper reports. The Liberal Democrats have been keen to show commitment to manifesto pledges after famously reneging on their promise to oppose tuition fee rises after the 2010 election. The Daily Telegraph leads with the headline “Return of the good life”, another quote from David Cameron’s speech at the Conservative Party manifesto launch on Tuesday. The Prime Minister has promised that “economic pain will be rewarded with a better future for all”, the paper writes. The Times leads with news that Brussels has vowed to “block Cameron on EU treaty”. According to the paper, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said that he will refuse to allow Britain to renegotiate its terms of EU membership before 2019. The EU also makes the front pages of the Financial Times, with the paper reporting that Brussels is to “charge Google with abusing its market dominance”. The case is to be the “Defining competition case of internet era”, the paper writes. The Independent leads with news of a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research; the news “gives hope to millions”, the paper writes. Scientists may have found the potential cause of the disease “in the behaviour of immune cells”, with human trials being considered for a new drug that proved effective against the disease in mice.

British Media on China

On China’s economic growth: China’s 7 percent quarterly growth figures received coverage from the BBC, Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. The Daily Telegraph writes that China is “poised for stimulus”, and highlights a list of statistics showing waning growth.  The BBC reports that China’s economy is “still one of the world’s fasting-growing and analysts have said it was proving to be more resilient than expected”. The Guardian’s agency piece notes, however, that fixed-asset investment – “a vital driver of the economy” – rose 13.5 percent compared with the same period last year.

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