In brief | Nation & World, February 24, 2014


G-20 finance chiefs vow to boost economy by $2 trillion over next 5 years

SYDNEY — Finance chiefs from the 20 largest economies agreed Sunday to implement policies that will boost world GDP by more than $2 trillion over the coming five years.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey, who hosted the Group of 20 meeting in Sydney, said the commitment from the G-20 finance ministers and central bankers was “unprecedented.”

The world economy has sputtered since the 2008 financial crisis and global recession that followed. Progress in returning economic growth to pre-crisis levels has been hampered by austerity policies in Europe, high unemployment in the U.S. and a cooling of China’s torrid expansion.

The centerpiece of the $2 trillion commitment made at the Sydney meeting is to boost the combined gross domestic product of G-20 countries by 2 percent above the levels expected for the next five years, possibly creating tens of millions of new jobs. World GDP was about $72 trillion in 2012.

The G-20 combines the world’s major industrialized and developing countries from the United States to Saudi Arabia and China, representing about 85 percent of the global economy.

Climate change, executive power at issue in case at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — Industry groups and Republican-led states are heading an attack at the Supreme Court against the Obama administration’s sole means of trying to limit power-plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.

As President Barack Obama pledges to act on environmental and other matters when Congress doesn’t, or won’t, opponents of regulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases cast the rule as a power grab of historic proportions.

The court is hearing arguments Monday about a small but important piece of the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to cut the emissions — a requirement that companies expanding industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must also evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release.

Environmental groups and even some of their opponents say that whatever the court decides, EPA still will be able to move forward with broader plans to set emission standards for greenhouse gases for new and existing power plants.

But a court ruling against the EPA almost undoubtedly would be used to challenge every step of the agency’s effort to deal with climate change, said Jacob Hollinger, a partner with the McDermott Will and Emery law firm in New York and a former EPA lawyer.

Talks suspended to exchange captive soldier for Guantanamo prisoners

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Afghanistan’s Taliban says it has suspended “mediation” with the United States to exchange captive U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban prisoners held in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, halting — at least temporarily — what was considered the best chance yet of securing the 27-year-old’s freedom since his capture in 2009.

In a terse Pashto language statement emailed to the Associated Press on Sunday, Zabihullah Mujahed blamed the “current complex political situation in the country” for the suspension.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as “proof of life” demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mujahed said the indirect talks with the United States had been mediated by the Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where the Taliban established a political office last June. The video of Bergdahl was part of the negotiations which were to lead to the eventual transfer of five senior Taliban leaders held since 2002 in Guantanamo Bay.

“The leadership of the Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend the process for some time due to the current complex political situation in the country,” according to the statement. “The process will remain suspended without the exchange of the prisoners until our decision to resume.”

By wire sources