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How the Eurozone Might Split

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 06:19 AM PST

In February 2016, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development opined that developed country growth prospects had “practically flat-lined” and that only a stronger “commitment to raising public investment would boost demand and help support future growth.” Fast-forward some 24 months, and despite Brexit, the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, and the rise of the populist Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, the euro seems to be a much better bet than it has been in a long time. But has the euro really weathered the crisis and come out stronger? In this article, we make two interrelated arguments about the future of the eurozone.

The first is that even if the recent economic upturn continues, the eurozone could still split in two over the medium to long term thanks to a built-in design flaw in the eurozone architecture that makes it extremely difficult for the eurozone governors to deal with persistent export and import imbalances between states.

As a single-currency area, the eurozone formally has no internal imbalances. In reality, however, the persistent export surpluses it runs against the rest of the world are generated in the north and east of the eurozone, while persistent budget deficits are generated in the south, an imbalance that could yet lead to a split in the eurozone. This would result in Germany and the eastern European states keeping the euro even if France and the southern Europeans bail out. Europe would be left with two sets of countries: those in the core of the eurozone, largely in northern and eastern Europe, that would remain on the euro (or “real euro”) and those in the south that would be pushed to adopt a new currency, which we term the “nuevo euro.” (The nuevo euro countries would be unlikely to revert to their pre-euro national currencies for fear of adding to the already grave disruption caused by their break with the real euro.)

Such a split would be massively disruptive. As investors came to fear a devaluation of the nuevo euro, assets denominated in real euros would instantly become more valuable. The banking systems of nuevo euro countries would implode owing to capital flight, and the currency would plunge in value. Most important, the resulting flood of capital into core Europe would cause the value of the real euro to rise dramatically, damaging these countries’ all-important exports.

In such a world, countries on the real euro would be forced to adopt the United States’ strategy of debt management. Once the nuevo euro had stabilized at a lower real effective exchange rate (REER), investors from nuevo euro countries would want to hold real euro assets-in particular real euro government bonds-as insurance against further depreciation of their own currency. As a hedge against further devaluation, nuevo euro investors would be willing to accept very low returns on their real euro assets, much the way European investors currently hold low-interest Swiss assets and Asian countries hold U.S. Treasury bills. And just as the United States has done over the past 30 years, real euro countries could in turn invest the proceeds of these bond sales abroad in search of higher returns.

In order to pursue these returns, however, the real euro countries would open themselves up to the significant risk of their new external investments losing value because of a currency shock or other crisis. Although the United States can cope with such shocks given its size and the fact that it prints its own currency, thus making its debt problems more manageable, Germany and other real euro countries would enjoy no such luxury. By accumulating such assets, they would be exposing themselves to very large capital losses (relative to their GDP) in the event of a market shock. And since these countries have no ability to print money in order to bail out those holding such assets, a shock could be seriously disruptive. As such, real euro countries would likely resist such a buildup of external assets, preferring instead to allow their currency to appreciate strongly, at least until that really began to impact their exports.

Taken together, this would lead the real euro countries, especially Germany, to become a European version of the United States, albeit without the latter’s famous “exorbitant privilege,” whereby the United States gets to print the reserve currency, dollars, that everyone else has to earn in order to conduct foreign exchange. For the real euro countries, although their currency would be a reserve asset for nuevo euro investors, it wouldn’t buy them the “free lunch” that the United States gets from printing the dollar. Rather, it would merely expose them to more risk on their excess foreign assets.

Our second argument is that in the short to medium term, even if the eurozone generates enough growth to avoid such a split, populism in Europe remains alive and well. A populist electoral victory resulting in a Brexit-style referendum on the euro somewhere in the eurozone therefore cannot be ruled out entirely. If such a referendum was to pass, it would lead to the same capital flight and REER appreciation detailed above, albeit through a slightly different pathway. In short, for reasons of both long-term sustainability and short-term politics, the euro is not out of the woods yet.

ASIAN FUSION

The narrative emanating from Brussels since the start of 2017 is that with an increasingly robust economic recovery, all is returning to normal. Forecasts do indeed look brighter than they have for a decade, and, politically speaking, the French and Dutch general elections both saw defeats for populists, suggesting that the center will hold. This narrative is reassuring. Given recent populist electoral successes in Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic, however, and the looming Italian elections with several anti-euro parties in the mix, it could be complacent. As such, and despite the turn to growth, the euro’s future is by no means secure. A comparison of Europe’s financial crisis and aftermath with what happened in Asia a decade ago shows why this is the case.

In the 1990s, a number of Asian countries received large capital inflows from the developed world as part of that decade’s mania for emerging markets. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and South Korea, like peripheral eurozone countries in the first decade of the twenty-first century, were places where developed world investors could seek higher rates of return than were available in their own countries. As a result, these Asian states accumulated liabilities in foreign currencies, mostly dollars, that took the form of government bond purchases and external lines of dollar-denominated credit. When liquidity evaporated in 1997, they were unable to print the money to pay their debts. To avoid a repeat of this fiasco, all the countries affected by the crisis began, by 1999, to run structural export surpluses and accumulate massive foreign exchange reserves as insurance against future shocks.

In response to its own crisis in 2011, Europe pulled the same macroeconomic trick. Between 2001 and 2016, according to data from Haver Analytics, the eurozone shifted from a trade surplus of under one percent of GDP to one of close to 3.5 percent. But although the entire eurozone’s export surplus in the first quarter of 2017 was 90.9 billion euros, 65.9 billion of that surplus against the rest of the world came from Germany alone. Germany may be legendarily efficient, but how does less than 30 percent of the eurozone generate over 70 percent of the surplus? The answer points to a structural tension that could prove to be the real undoing of the euro.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, central and eastern European economies ran large current account deficits-that is, they imported more than they exported. These deficits were driven by an influx of capital from Germany, as German export firms invested in rebuilding the capital stocks of these central and eastern European countries and integrating them into German supply chains. Because most of this was equity investment in the form of plant and equipment, and in moving plant and equipment to eastern Europe from Germany, and since equity is more resistant to shocks than debt, once global export markets recovered after 2011, these economies boomed. According to our own calculations based on data from the UN and the Atlas of Economic Complexity, an average of 25 percent of the exports of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia go straight to Germany. Like East Asia a decade before, these countries now run structural trade surpluses and rely on tight public spending at home to keep costs down and exports competitive. But what about other countries in Europe, such as France, Italy, and Spain, whose growth models are much more dependent upon internal consumption and domestic demand, and for whom the budgetary squeeze in the years following the financial crisis contributed to extremely low growth or no growth at all? Can they too profit from austerity-driven exports?

AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

The short answer is “No.” Italy has barely grown in over a decade and is now running a small external trade surplus. Spain has gone from a trade deficit of around ten percent in 2007 to a surplus today of around two percent. The big outlier in the eurozone is France, which used to run a trade surplus but now runs twin budget and trade deficits of around 3.5 and 2 percent, respectively. Given the common eurozone pressures to export one’s way to growth, the result of the eurozone governments collectively doing too little to boost domestic demand, both France and the other larger consumption-led states will have little option but to try to improve their trade competitiveness over the next few years and grow through exports. Spain has been able to do so, but mainly because imports have fallen as consumption declined and unemployment rose, depressing labor costs and improving export competitiveness. Italy is stuck.

This amounts to a structural problem. The Germans and the central and eastern Europeans are running an export surplus against the rest of the eurozone, and at the end of the day all surpluses and deficits must sum to zero. But the EU’s fiscal framework makes it hard for eurozone countries such as France to run budget deficits to offset the depressing impact on their economies of their trade deficits with the rest of the eurozone. The resulting message to these countries-you must engage in ongoing austerity so the Germans and others in northern and central Europe can grow-is populist dynamite, because in such a world permanent austerity becomes the government’s de facto policy regardless of whom you vote for.

This arrangement creates the obvious risk that France, or more likely Italy, will eventually elect a populist government. Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French presidential election in May was seen as a rejection of populism, but he has yet to persuade the Germans to agree to the deep eurozone reforms necessary for his agenda to move forward, and it is doubtful that he will be able to do so. If Macron fails, the next French president could be a populist of the left or right committed to holding a referendum on French membership in the eurozone. Meanwhile the Italian economy is still in deep trouble. At its current rate of growth, between one and 1.5 percent, it will take several more years for it to return to its 2007 size, and its banking system is a mess. The next Italian general election, or the one after that, could still bring a party into government intent on calling a referendum on the euro. What would happen then?

The threat of France or Italy (or both) leaving the euro could, in theory, prompt Germany and its allies to accept a substantive pooling of risk within the eurozone to head off any exit, perhaps through the issuance of common eurozone debt or a combination of large-scale debt write-downs and more expansionary fiscal policies, which would help the debt-burdened countries of southern Europe. Doing so, however, would require a seismic shift on the part of the Germans, who have staked out a position based on austerity and fiscal discipline. Indeed, it is more likely that the German government will double down on existing policy. By doing so, however, it will make these eurozone referendums all the more likely.

If a referendum in France or Italy went ahead, the outcome would not really matter, as the simple announcement of such a vote would prompt investors to move their deposits from the referendum country’s banks-and possibly those of every other peripheral EU state-into banks in Germany and other core European states to guard against devaluation. The scale of this capital outflow would dwarf the ability of the European Central Bank (ECB), let alone local banks and governments, to stabilize the situation. And even if states tried to stem this outflow through the imposition of capital controls, this very imposition would effectively sound the death knell for the currency union. Although the process would be hugely disruptive, eventually a core group of countries would emerge, based around Germany, that remained on the original euro, at the same time as more peripheral states such as France, Greece, Italy, and Spain adopted a weaker currency, the nuevo euro.

A RELUCTANT HEGEMON

Such a split would be especially difficult for Germany. First, yields on German accounts would fall sharply as the country’s banks pushed down interest rates in order to deter further capital flight into the country. The influx of cash would cause the real euro to appreciate, and although Germany could simply allow this to happen until real euros became expensive enough to deter the purchase of German assets, such a rise in value would massively disadvantage the exports of the real euro countries. In all likelihood, Germany and its allies would suffer a precipitous drop in exports and industrial production, while the strength of the real euro would push down German inflation as the price of imports dropped, compounding pressures on the country’s banks. Germany would thus be faced with an invidious choice-the reluctant hegemon’s dilemma. It could either learn to cope with a hugely overvalued currency and deflation or issue tons of new sovereign debt to soak up foreign demand for its assets.

There is currently a shortage of German sovereign debt because the country is running a sizable budget surplus and the ECB is buying up much of whatever debt is available as part of its program of quantitative easing. But in this scenario, with exports and domestic production taking a massive hit as a result of a eurozone split, a large debt-financed fiscal stimulus would be much more appealing, even in Germany. Of course, Germany would have to run sizable fiscal deficits on an ongoing basis in order to satisfy foreigners’ desire to hold German government debt, and not just as a temporary response to an economic shock, which could be a hard policy to follow even if it allowed exports to recover.

FINIS GERMANIA

Faced with such a dilemma, Germany will not be able to pull off the United States’ trick of accommodating huge demand for its debt without suffering much upward pressure on its REER. The German economy is only one-fifth the size of the U.S. economy, which means that Germany will never be able to issue as many bonds as the United States does Treasury securities. And unfortunately for Germany, this flight into German assets could be happening at precisely the time that the Trump administration is making investors question how safe U.S. assets are relative to German ones.

If investors began to flee U.S. bonds, the pressures on Germany would become global. It would be expected to act like a local hegemon-issuing debt and buying external assets with the proceeds, as the United States does today. But unlike the United States, it would get little of the upside from doing so, such as paying significantly lower returns to foreigners than it earns on its foreign assets. Specifically, in order to prevent the value of its currency from rising to dangerous levels, Germany would have to allow its external balance sheet (the assets it buys abroad with the proceeds it gets from selling all those new bonds) to balloon. Germany would simultaneously experience a combination of a very sizable currency appreciation anda very large increase in its exposure to external risk.

In the long term, such a combination of outcomes would not be uniformly bad. Export competitiveness would take a hit, but the flip side would be a big boost to domestic consumption as the prices of imported goods and services fell. This would in turn help rebalance these economies away from their dependence on exports. But as a country with a big surplus of external assets over liabilities, Germany already has significant exposure to foreign risk, which would only increase in this scenario. Moreover, Germany has a poor record of choosing which foreign assets to invest in. German banks have tended to either recycle the country’s excess savings into low-risk, low-return, fixed income assets abroad or lend them to foreign banks. Unlike U.S. banks, they have generally not invested in equities and other high-earning  assets. As a result, the Germans have earned disappointingly low returns on their foreign assets when times were good and suffered losses when (as in the pre-euro period) the mark appreciated in real terms or (after the introduction of the euro) financial and fiscal crises reduced the value of its external assets.

If Germany is to enjoy some quasi-hegemonic exorbitant privilege, then it will have to become much better at generating returns on its foreign assets during the good times. What, then, would be the likely balance of privilege and burden for Germany after a messy eurozone breakup?

Given the size of its economy, Germany’s foreign risk, relative to its GDP, would quickly come to exceed that of the United States, meaning that it would suffer much more in any future global economic or financial crisis. Germany would have to accommodate a much sharper real appreciation of its currency than would the United States in the event of a crisis, and its success in doing so would depend to a large extent on whether it embraced structural changes toward more consumption-led growth or resisted this shift and tried to defend its export-led model. Put another way, Germany would have to choose between becoming a kind of enlightened regional economic hegemon and doubling down on its export-driven mercantilism. The challenges facing the central and eastern European economies sharing Germany’s currency would be even starker, as demand for their exports would be more sensitive to an appreciation of real euros.

A NEW HOPE?

A eurozone breakup would undoubtedly be disruptive for Europe, but it wouldn’t necessarily be all bad. Such an unraveling would force Germany and other states with large structural current-account surpluses to rebalance their economies. To contain their exposure to foreign assets, they would have no choice but to allow their currency to appreciate, hitting exports and boosting domestic consumption. And their need to provide safe assets without igniting an explosion in the size of their banks’ balance sheets would force them to issue more debt, reversing the unnecessary austerity that has wreaked so much damage in the eurozone since the onset of the financial crisis. The countries with excess savings-those using real euros-would be left to address the deflation problem they have done much to create, rather than force indebted countries to deal with it through punishing internal devaluations, as they do at present. The problem is how to get there from here without destroying the EU.

It might be possible to engineer such a split by design, but that would require a high degree of cooperation between participating countries and unprecedented dexterity by the ECB together with the national central banks. Moreover, there is little political will for such a move. But in all likelihood, if a single country was to call a referendum on its membership in the eurozone, it would destabilize the power relationships that underpin the EU. This would be a tragedy. The EU badly mishandled the eurozone crisis and appears to be in denial about the scale of the challenges it faces. But the EU still provides the best hope of reconciling globalization with the requirements of national politics.

All of which brings us full circle. The creators of the euro burdened Europe with a currency that can realize its full potential only with a degree of political integration that appears beyond the ability of its participating countries. Yet it is also all but impossible to dismantle the eurozone without imperiling the EU and, with it, political stability in Europe. As we have argued, growth within an unbalanced union can still lead to a split, with populism the trigger. If that happens, Germany’s likely inability to play the role of regional hegemon would make the U.S. dollar ever more indispensable and the U.S. economy still more central to the global one, even if it does shift to more overtly antiglobalist policies under Trump. Indeed, German weakness might ultimately be what allows the current system to continue on, despite the best efforts of those in Washington.

This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.

Motorhead Guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke Dies at 67

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 06:13 AM PST

“Fast” Eddie Clarke, the last surviving member of Motorhead‘s classic 1976-82 lineup, died Wednesday after being hospitalized for pneumonia, according to a post on the band’s Facebook page. He was 67.

While Clarke went on to form Fastway with former UFO bassist Pete Way, he is best remembered for his work with Motorhead, which despite a blistering hard-rock sound and leader Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister’s harsh vocals had several high-charting records in the U.K., including a No. 1 with their legendary 1981 live album “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” — even the album’s title has become an oft-parodied catch-phrase, not least by the Beastie Boys with their 1986 song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” Clarke left the band at the peak of its success, yet their influence has been vast and lasting: they were a prototype for many thrash and speed-metal bands and their songs have been covered by Metallica and many others.

Motorhead was formed by Kilmister in 1975 after he was ejected from the LSD-addled British psychedelic act Hawkwind — who’d had a British hit in the early ’70s with “Silver Machine,” which he sang — ironically for being arrested for possession of amphetamines. An original lineup faltered, but he united with London-born Clarke and wild-man drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and the combination gelled: In a VH1 documentary on the band, Clarke recalls saying after Taylor’s audition, “What a ‘orrible little sh-. He’s perfect!”

The band released its debut single, also called “Motorhead,” on the British independent label Chiswick, in 1977, and even at the height of the punk-rock explosion, it’s difficult to convey how galvanizing that song sounded: A lightning-fast roar of distorted guitars and drums and throat-shredding vocals that’s over before the listener knows what’s hit them. It set the template for the band’s sound, and while the group benefitted and was lumped in with the fast-rising “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” — which also spawned bands ranging from Iron Maiden to Def Leppard — Motorhead was slightly outside of that realm, with connections in both the punk and ’60s-rock world (Kilmister was a veteran of the scene and even roadied for Jimi Hendrix before joining Hawkwind).

Their template set, the band followed with a string of similar-sounding albums — “Bomber,” “Ace of Spades,” “Overkill,” the titles say it all — and by the time “Hammersmith” topped the British charts, they were one of the biggest bands in the country. However, they lost momentum with their follow-up, “Iron Fist,” and Clarke left soon after. He formed Fastway and ultimately released seven albums with the band; Kilmister carried on with a new lineup (with Taylor rejoining from 1987-92). Clarke rejoined the band onstage for guest appearances on several occasions over the years. The three appear in several documentaries on the band.

Taylor died of liver failure in November of 2015, and Kilmister, for decades a staple at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip (where a statue of him now stands), passed away from cancer the following month.

 

Hong Kong Star Eric Tsang Denies Rape Allegations

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 06:01 AM PST

A previously reported series of accusations concerning actor-director-producer Eric Tsang Chi-wai and the alleged rape of Hong Kong actress Yammie Lam have resurfaced this week in China. They sparked hints at other instances of inappropriate sexual behavior in the Asian entertainment industry.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Tsang claimed that a video interview with Lam in which the actress accused him of raping in the 1990s her was untrue. Tsang said that the video was inaccurately edited, and his name imposed in the editing process.

The video was first published by Hong Kong’s Next Magazine in 2013. In it Lam claimed that over two decades ago she was raped by two powerful Hong Kong actors. One was already dead at the time of publication, while the name of the other was muted.

Lam claimed that the incident took place in Singapore when she was invited to go on a movie set visit in the city-state. But instead of reporting the case to the police, she went to see the doctor for a morning-after pill.

The actress, who was formerly with TVB and appeared in several Stephen Chow films, retired from acting, apparently due to mental illness.

Tsang could not be contacted by Variety.

When the story emerged in 2013, film producer and political commentator Stephen Shiu used his YouTube channel to urge Tsang to accompany Lam and report the case to the police in Singapore. Actress Carina Lau also said that Tsang would be the right person to help Lam. But neither of them elaborated why.

The video went viral this week in China on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. It attracted comments from Grace Han, former head of the Ford Modelling agency in Asia. Using her verified Weibo account, Han said that it was not the first time Tsang has made unwanted sexual advances to women in showbiz, including the fashion models she trained. She also alleged that Tsang spiked a model’s drink in a Hong Kong karaoke bar.

The allegations against Tsang also stoked rumors about an alleged inappropriate relationship with Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu, who won the Golden Horse best actress award in 2016 for her role in “Soul Mate”, directed by Tsang’s son Derek. Zhou denied the allegations in a statement released on Thursday.

Bon Jovi To Hit the Road Ahead of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 04:59 AM PST

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Bon Jovi have announced the spring dates of their “This House Is Not for Sale” Tour, presented by Live Nation. The trek kicks off on March 14 in Denver and wraps two months later in. The band will also re-release their latest LP, “This House Is Not for Sale,” as a sort-of deluxe edition with two new songs, “When We Were US” and “Walls,” on February 23.

“In light of this crazy world in which we live, it has taken me a year to process some of it and be able to write it into lyrics [of ‘Walls’], which reflects what is going on in the country,” frontman Jon Bon Jovi recently told Variety.
The This House is Not for Sale tour has already earned $47 million in gross box office from its North American leg and an additional $40 million on the South American portion.

Fan club and VIP Experience tickets go on presale Jan. 16, Live Nation presales on the 18th and general public on the 19th — full info is available at bonjovi.com.

“This House Is Not for Sale” Spring 2018 Tour Dates:

Wed., Mar. 14, 2018 Denver, CO Pepsi Center
Fri., Mar. 16, 2018 Salt Lake City, UT Vivint Smart Home Arena
Sat., Mar. 17, 2018 Las Vegas, NV T-Mobile Arena
Tue., Mar. 20, 2018 Little Rock, AR Verizon Arena
Thu., Mar. 22, 2018 San Antonio, TX AT&T Center
Fri., Mar. 23, 2018 Houston, TX Toyota Center
Sun., Mar. 25, 2018 New Orleans, LA Smoothie King Center
Mon., Mar. 26, 2018 Dallas, TX American Airlines Center
Mon., Apr. 2, 2018 Boston, MA TD Garden
Wed., Apr. 4, 2018 Montreal, QC Bell Centre
Sat., Apr. 7, 2018 Newark, NJ Prudential Center
Sun., Apr. 8, 2018 Newark, NJ Prudential Center
Wed., Apr. 18, 2018 Orlando, FL Amway Center
Fri., Apr. 20, 2018 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena
Sat., Apr. 21, 2018 Charlotte, NC Spectrum Center
Tue., Apr. 24, 2018 Raleigh, NC PNC Arena
Thu., Apr. 26, 2018 Chicago, IL United Center
Sat., Apr. 28, 2018 St. Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center
Sun., Apr. 29, 2018 Milwaukee, WI BMO Harris Bradley Center
Wed., May 2, 2018 Allentown, PA PPL Center
Thu., May 3, 2018 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center
Sat., May 5, 2018 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
Mon., May 7, 2018 Ottawa, ON Canadian Tire Centre
Wed., May 9, 2018 New York, NY Madison Square Garden
Thu., May 10, 2018 New York, NY Madison Square Garden
Mon., May 14, 2018 Washington, DC Capital One Arena

 

 

WeMake Inks First Look Deal with Global Agency

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 04:27 AM PST

WeMake, the French banner recently launched by former Shine France COO Bouchra Réjani, has signed a first look deal with Global Agency, the Istanbul-based series and format distribution company.

Under the deal, WeMake gets an exclusive first look deal on all of Global Agency’s existing and future projects for the French market.

WeMake, which is partly owned by Federation Entertainment, is dedicated to the production of unscripted, scripted and digital content. Through its agreement with Global Agency, WeMake will seek to adapt the Turkish company’s formats for the French market.

Izat Pinto, the founder and CEO of Global Agency, said “France has always been one of Global Agency’s key territories.

“Three of our formats, ‘Joker,”Shopping Monsters’ and ‘My Wife Rules,’ are some of the greatest hits in the region that we’re proud of — ‘Joker’ has aired on more than 100 episodes while ‘Shopping Monsters’ hit the rating records in the region with than 800 episodes,” said Pinto, who added that ratings for “My Wife Rules” increased by 45% compared with 2016.

Rejani described Global Agency as “one of the most dynamic and creative forces in the international television market.”

Liam Gallagher: Dad drama never left me depressed

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 04:00 AM PST

Liam Gallagher never felt “depressed” growing up with an abusive father.

The 45-year-old rock ‘n’ legend and his Oasis bandmate and brother Noel, 50, and their older sibling Paul were raised solely by their beloved mother Peggy after she made the decision to leave her husband Thomas, whom had problems with alcohol and was violent towards her and his older two sons.

Liam was never hit by his dad but was very grateful to Peggy for finding the courage to leave her husband and give her boys a better life, but despite the problems he had to endure in his childhood the ‘For What It’s Worth’ hitmaker never let them get him down.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the singer shared: “I was about seven when my mam left my dad. He was out all the time, fighting, beating my mam up, beating Noel and Paul up. Never touched me, though. Then, one night, while he was out, my mam got her brothers round, got all our gear in a truck, left him a mattress, and we went off to our new house. It was immediately better for all of us … I was always out playing football, load of energy, never depressed, not a loner, just rounding up the troops … let’s go and have a bit of mischief. Always chasing the girls – but once you got ’em, I was like, ‘I’d rather go out with the lads.’ Burnage was a great place to grow up. It’s not as moody as people make out. It’s in between Didsbury, which is a nice area, and Heaton Moor, which is posh. In Manchester, everyone aspires to be there.”

Liam admits his father tried to find out where he and his family had moved to but he never got a chance to be part of their lives again.

He said: “I missed my mates: we’d only moved up the road but I couldn’t go back round that area because he was always around. If I was wagging school I’d see him. I’d be stood there, having a cigarette with my mates, he’d spot us, start chasing us, shouting, ‘Where have you gone, you bastard?’ Because he didn’t know where we’d moved to. I’d always outrun him.”

Although his mother Peggy was a very loving mother, Liam insists she could be very strict with him and his brothers when needed.

He explained: “My mam was a dinner lady at our school. I’d go in, sign the register, then jump over the fence and go to my mate’s house. Then I’d come back into school, sign back in, just in time for lunch with my mam. She’d ask, ‘How was double maths?’ ‘Yeah, it was all right, struggled a bit.’ Eventually the head teacher found out and spoke to her, and she gave me a brush round the back of the head.”

Camila Cabello ‘hurt’ by Fifth Harmony dig

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 04:00 AM PST

Camila Cabello was “hurt” by Fifth Harmony’s dig at her at the MTV Video Music Awards.

The ‘Havana’ hitmaker – who went her separate ways from the girlband in 2016 – was devastated when she saw her former bandmates appearing to knock a member of the band, thought to be a dig at her, off the top of the set when performing at the award show in August 2017.

She said: “It definitely hurt my feelings. I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t prepared for it – especially because at that point I’d moved on from it. I was just like, ‘What? Why?’ …

“I have to make space for the good stuff to happen in my life. I don’t like holding onto the past, especially when it’s stuff that, in my opinion, is just petty.”

The 20-year-old singer says things started to fall apart when she teamed up with Shawn Mendes for ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’.

Speaking about the experience, she added: “I was just curious and I wanted to learn and I saw all these people around me making music, writing songs and being so free. I just wanted to do that and it did not work … It became clear that it was not possible to do solo stuff and be in the group at the same time. If anyone wants to explore their individuality, it’s not right for people to tell you no.”

Camila thinks the secret to success is just to be the “you-est you possible”.

She told the New York Times: “I feel like the best way to come up with something new and different is just to be the you-est you possible. If you pull from all the different little parts of yourself, nobody can replicate that.”

George and Amal Clooney send flowers

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 04:00 AM PST

George and Amal Clooney sent a personal letter and a bunch of flowers to a set of theatre performers.

The couple took some of their extended family to see ‘My Fair Lady’ at The Mill in Sonning, Berkshire, south England and were so thrilled with the performance that they sent the cast and crew a thank you gift.

One of the performers wrote on Instagram: “This is better than fairy dust! A letter and flowers from George and Amal Clooney! Thank you!!!#georgeclooney #amalclooney #MyFairLady #showoftheweek #review @millatsonning @newmutinytheatreco #flowers #flowerstagram #fairydust #mademylife #actors #theatre #elizadolittle #thankful #thankyou. (sic)”

There was a letter included with the flowers, which read: “Amal and I wanted to thank you for a fantastic night of theatre. We loved every minute of it. You were all so wonderful. My extended family loved it too. Thank you and have a great run.”

And George isn’t shy about handing out gifts as his pal Rande Gerber recently revealed George once gifted 14 of his friends $1 million each.

He recalled: “George begins to say, ‘Listen, I want you guys to know how much you’ve meant to me and how much you mean to me in my life. I came to Los Angeles, I slept on your couch. I’m so fortunate in my life to have all of you and I couldn’t be where I am today without all of you. So it was really important to me that while we’re still all here together, that I give back. So I want you all to open your suitcases.’

“Every one of us – 14 of us – got a million dollars. Every single one of us. We’re in shock. Like, what is this? He goes, ‘I know we’ve all been through some hard times, some of you are still going through it. You don’t have to worry about your kids, you don’t have to worry about, you know, school, you don’t have to worry about paying your mortgage.'”

Myanmar Charges Reuters Journalists Under Official Secrets Act

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 03:49 AM PST

Myanmar has moved ahead with the formal charging of two journalists working for the Reuters news agency. The two face up to 14 years in jail if found guilty.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were charged under the Official Secrets Act after a meeting with police in which they had offered information on the humanitarian situation in Rakhine state. The Ministry of Information says they “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media.”

Ethnic tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine have led to military intervention, bloodshed and the outflow of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh. The Myanmar government’s official position on the crisis is that Rohingya are illegal Bengali immigrants.

The journalists were arrested on Dec. 12 and detained without access to family or lawyers for two weeks. They appeared in court on Dec. 27 and were remanded until Wednesday, when they were charged. Their next court appearance in due on Jan. 23.

“We view this as a wholly unwarranted, blatant attack on press freedom. Our colleagues should be allowed to return to their jobs reporting on events in Myanmar. We believe time is of the essence and we continue to call for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s prompt release,” said Stephen J. Adler, president and editor-in-chief, at Reuters.

The move against the reporters has also outraged governments, NGOs and journalists’ organizations, many of which were already concerned by deteriorating human rights standards, and possible ethnic cleansing, in Myanmar.

The U.S. said it was “deeply disappointed” by Myanmar’s decision to pursue charges. “The media freedom that is so critical to rule of law and a strong democracy requires that journalists be able to do their jobs,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“The secretary-general has repeated and will continue to repeat his concern at the erosion of press freedom in Myanmar and calling on the international community to do everything to secure the journalists’ release and freedom of the press,” said United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

“They have done absolutely nothing but carry out their legitimate work as journalists,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a statement. “This is clearly an attempt by the authorities to silence investigations into military violations and crimes against Rohingya in Rakhine State, and to scare other journalists away from doing the same.”

In 2017 the Reporters Without Borders organization ranked Myanmar at #131 out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom. It accused the new civilian government of failing the media sector. “The authorities continue to exert pressure on the media and even intervene directly to get editorial policies changed. Widespread racist attitudes towards the Rohingya people restrict free and independent coverage of the humanitarian crisis in (Rakhine) state,” it said.

On Wednesday Myanmar’s army acknowledged for the first time that soldiers were involved in unlawfully killing 10 Rohingyas. An internal inquiry found that four members of the security forces were involved in Inn Din village near Maungdaw in Rakhine.

The Risk of a Nuclear-Tinged South Asian Crisis Is Rising

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 03:47 AM PST

The latest U.S. spat with Pakistan, initiated by President Donald Trump’s inaugural tweet of 2018, suggests that the recently revamped U.S. South Asia strategy may already be in jeopardy.

The South Asia strategy was in some ways a test run for the National Security Strategy (NSS). As the first major strategy review conducted by the Trump administration, it began as a review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, but eventually expanded over nearly six months into a U.S. strategy for the region. Both reflect that the risks of South Asian crises are high on the list of U.S. concerns.

Trump’s speech announcing the new South Asia strategy on August 21, 2017, stated that “Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.” The subsequent NSS released in December described India and Pakistan as “two nuclear-armed states…present[ing] some of the most complicated national security challenges.” The implication of course is that conflict between India and Pakistan — which have fought four wars, numerous skirmishes, and regularly exchange fire across their disputed border — could potentially result in a mushroom cloud.

The United States has longstanding interests in South Asia and stands to lose a lot in the event of uncontrolled escalation. There are U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan that could easily be affected by escalation to the east. U.S. stakes in global stability ensure that preventing any regional war from escalating to a nuclear war remains a key interest. Finally, U.S. policies centered on South Asia — from the Indo-Pacific strategy to efforts to get Pakistan to help broker a peace deal in Afghanistan — would be upturned by a war between India and Pakistan that leaves both parties too battered and distracted to cooperate on U.S. objectives. The fact that the present downturn in U.S.-Pakistan relations is evolving concurrently with tense India-Pakistan relations poses new crisis management challenges for the future.

Rising Risks, Absent Third-Parties

The administration’s words may prove more prescient than most realize. Based on our recently published edited volume, Investigating Crises: South Asia’s Lessons, Evolving Dynamics, and Trajectories, we find that the risks of a South Asian crisis are higher than in the past ten years due to domestic political and geopolitical trends. Furthermore, the sources for crisis onset may be less predictable than otherwise thought. Finally, the consequences of a crisis are greater due to South Asia’s advancing modernization of conventional and nuclear forces.

The book identifies a number of reasons for this heightened risk of an India-Pakistan conflict, including declines in bilateral relations, unstable domestic politics combined with impending elections, rising religious majoritarianism and nationalism, a spike in ceasefire violations, greater instability in the disputed Kashmir region, continued cross-border terrorism, and more dangerous and aggressive military doctrines inclusive of nuclear first use.

Most analysts expect the next crisis to be triggered by a spectacular, high-fatality terrorist attack on a civilian target. Some evidence suggests that the risk threshold may be lower. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a crisis can spark even from lesser incidents because the choice to treat any incident as a crisis is ultimately a political decision.

Several factors account for why the usual third-party brakes may not be applied in the event of crisis onset: the Trump administration’s hands-off approach to numerous international challenges, the generally reduced U.S. presence and stakes in Afghanistan (despite a slight uptick in troops), the U.S. geopolitical tilt toward India, and declining U.S. influence over Pakistan. Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet underscored this last point, that the United States — the traditional third-party intervener — may be both abdicating leadership, but also no longer willing or able to play the role of a credible third-party mediator between India and Pakistan.

Shortcomings in Information, Organization, and Communication

There has been a dangerous dearth of learning from past crises over three decades. Domestic strategic assessment failures, organizational pathologies, and deficiencies in bilateral dialogue persist. Little course correction combined with the false optimism from military modernization makes for a dangerous cauldron.

One chapter of the volume concludes that despite frequent diagnoses of intelligence and strategic assessment failures, the Indian state has not really “learned” from past mistakes and has failed to implement meaningful national security reforms. This has allowed it to be routinely “surprised” and for minor cross-border transgressions to escalate into major inter-state crises placing political reputations on the line. Retired Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran points out in another chapter that reforms on paper are still no panacea absent a culture of adherence and the respect of political principals. He argues from experience that even the best laid organizational planning for crisis management on paper tends to break down and give way to ad hoc procedures in serious, politically-charged crises.

While both studies concentrate on Indian decision making, they undoubtedly apply to Pakistan as well. In other venues, Pakistan’s civilian and military elder statesmen have reflected on the need for the reassessment of Pakistan’s strategic portfolio and decision making, particularly with respect to Afghanistan and the tactical use of violent non-state actors.

Compounding the risks of information and organization problems are gaps in communication. The increasing risk of error, miscalculation, and escalation owes itself to hazardously low levels of institutionalized bilateral communication between India and Pakistan. This inability to transmit and receive signals compounds the fog and friction of crisis. Retired Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Riaz Khan argues that one lesson drawn from past crises is to institutionalize conflict management mechanisms for communication through hotlines, confidence building, arms control, and conflict resolution dialogues.

An unruly media that occasionally crosses ethical and professional boundaries can seize upon the shortage of institutionalized bilateral communication channels that can weather nationalist pressures. One chapter finds media amplification of hawkish narratives can intensify crises and spread disinformation, thereby increasing pressure on leaders.

On top of this all, ten years of conventional military and nuclear force modernization as well as changes in doctrine can enhance false optimism on both sides, intensify crises, trigger miscalculations and inadvertent escalation, and increase the probability of a war.

Some Silver Lining?

Despite the age of increasing uncertainty and risk, we do see two silver linings that have the potential to facilitate stability on the subcontinent.

First, increased exposure to risk indicates that China will play a greater role than in the past. Indeed, strategic South Asia can no longer be discussed in the absence of China. Its alliance-like relationships, economic footprint, forward military presence, and present or looming political influence effectively makes it an essential part of Southern Asian. Even as the United States competes with China in East Asia, it may see its presence in western Asia as positive and a net stabilizer, with a role to play in crisis management. And there is sporadic evidence that China does periodically and subtly apply pressure on Pakistan to reduce the instability caused by non-state actors. Alternately, some analysts consider that in a future crisis China may not play a third-party stabilizer role but could become an active participant to large-scale South Asian war. The 2017 spike in China-India hostilities, particularly during the Doklam standoff, makes this scenario more plausible.

Second, should the United States choose to employ it, history offers a tried and tested U.S. crisis management “playbook” with mechanisms to dampen a crisis from spiraling out of control. These include: early warning of an impending terror attack, intelligence sharing to clarify to both states their intentions and capabilities, frequent high-level visits to both countries, private security or punitive commitments, public statements or evacuation calls that could impose economic pressure on both sides, and publicly encouraging confidence building measures after the de-escalation of a crisis.

Whether or not the United States is still willing to pull the brakes or China is willing to share the burdens of crisis management, the biggest challenges lie with India and Pakistan. Absent major reforms to redress deficiencies in intelligence, strategy, national security architecture, and bilateral communications, the risk — and associated costs — of another South Asian crisis will continue to rise.

Sameer Lalwani (@splalwani) is a Senior Associate and South Asia Co-Director at the Stimson Center. Hannah Haegeland (@hhaegeland) is a Research Analyst at the Stimson Center. They are the co-editors of the recently published Investigating Crises: South Asia’s Lessons, Evolving Dynamics, and Trajectories.