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World Headlines: France Has Its Credit Rating Downgraded

NPR icon by Krishnadev Calamur
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Michel Euler/Pool

France, Le Monde

Standard and Poor's has lowered France's credit rating one notch from AA-plus to AA, citing the country's limited ability to get its public finances in order.

French officials called the downgrade unfair. Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault said France's rating remained one of the best in the world while Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici said the country's rating was among the top six in the EU.

Speaking at the World Bank in Paris, French President Francois Hollande defended his current policies, saying they were "the only way to ensure credibility."

Nearly two years ago, S&P lowered France's credit rating from AAA status.

Japan, Kyodo

A Japanese lawmaker at the center of a controversy over the handing of a letter to Emperor Akihito has been barred by the country's upper house of parliament from events involving the imperial family.

Taro Yamamoto, an antinuclear activist and independent lawmaker in the upper house, approached the emperor at the annual garden party at the palace last week, and handed him a letter.

He said he wanted to draw Akihito's attention to the impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster on the health of children. A member of the Imperial Household Agency quickly took the letter from the emperor. The agency later described Yamamoto's conduct as inappropriate.

Yamamoto's punishment was decided Friday in a meeting of a parliamentary committee. Kyodo reported that the punishment is considered unusual as it is based on the chamber's right to "maintain order."

The emperor has no political role in Japan, but such contact with him is considered taboo. Akihito's father, Emperor Hirohito, renounced his divine status at the end of World War II, but the emperor's role remains a sensitive one in Japan seven decades later.

Critics from across the political spectrum have blasted Yamamoto. The lawmaker has apologized, but has refused to resign.

Ghana, Ghana Web

Ghana's president has fired a deputy minister reportedly caught on tape saying she'll stay in politics until she makes $1 million.

"His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama has relieved Ms Victoria Hammah, Deputy Minister of Communication of her post as Deputy Minister," said a statement from the Ministry of Information and Media Relation.

The move comes after the leak of a tape in which Hammah can purportedly be heard saying she won't quit politics until she makes at least $1 million.

"If you have money then you can control people," she reportedly tells an associate with whom she appears to be traveling.

The conversation between the two women also reportedly carried unflattering references to Ghanaian political figures. The tape has been widely circulated since it was leaked earlier this week.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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