Spain: ‘The future in flames’:Such was the title of a recently-released Greenpeace report attributing “a new generation of fires with unknown social and economic consequences” to climate change (greenpeace.org espana). High temperatures and strong winds spread fires across southern Europe in July ravaging 500,000 forest acres. Losses in Spain approaching 188,000 acres far exceeded last year’s total.
Meanwhile United Nations officials are preparing for the December gathering in Copenhagen where a new climate pact is anticipated. Reuters reported that at talks Aug. 10-14 in Bonn, 180 nations delivered pledges of 15-21 percent cuts in carbon emissions. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established in 2007 that 25-40 percent reductions are required to reduce climate change effects.
Japan: Opposition leader scores U.S.-led globalization:
A poll last week gave the Democratic Party of Japan a 30-point lead over the incumbent Liberal Democratic Party in Aug. 30 parliamentary elections. Party leader ― and possible prime minister ― Yukio Hatoyama has denounced “U.S.- led market fundamentalism” that damaged “local communities.” Quoted by the Financial Times, he promised not to leave “economic activities in areas relating to human lives and safety, such as agriculture, the environment, and medicine, at the mercy of the tides of globalism.”
Hatoyama condemned recent post office privatization as violating his party’s concept of “fraternity.” “We are moving away from a unipolar world,” he suggested. He advocates closer ties with China and South Korea, adding that regional integration must include “regional currency integration.”
Pakistan: Opinion survey gives U.S. low grades
Release last week of an Al Jazeera poll of 2,600 supposedly representative citizens signified bad news for Washington. Opinion as to Pakistan’s greatest threat ranged from 11 percent identifying the Taliban; 18 percent, India, to 59 percent, the U.S. military.
The Gallup-conducted survey showed 41 percent support for the U.S.-Pakistan anti- Taliban military offensive and 22 percent backing for neutrality. But given the option, 43 percent chose dialogue.
Some 67 percent of respondents oppose U.S. military operations on Pakistani soil, particularly drone attacks, still unacknowledged by Washington. Critics cite violations of national sovereignty and civilian deaths. A report last week on economistan.com centered on land purchased for building a $1 billion military base joined to the U.S. embassy.
Venezuela: Trade ties build with Argentina
Argentine President Cristina Fernández brought a team to Caracas last week to sign trade agreements unprecedented in scope. The agreements are crucial for Venezuela following its cut-off of commercial relations with Colombia, an action prompted by Colombian acceptance of seven U.S. military bases.
To compensate for reduced imports from Colombia, Venezuela will spend $1.1 billion for Argentinean goods, including 10,000 cars, 18 million eggs, 2 million pairs of shoes, and great quantities of beef, rice, corn and milk. “We are collaborating with this brother republic with the object of achieving sovereignty and food security,” observed President Fernández, quoted by TeleSur. She emphasized the goal of Latin American integration. President Chavez’ ban on exports to Colombia, particularly gasoline, will cause hardships there.
Niger: Tandja presidency continues, corruption charged
PressTV reported that the Constitutional Court last week okayed referendum results removing term limits for President Mamadou Tandja. Prior to the Aug. 4 vote he had dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court and muzzled the press. His plans, according to Inter Press Service, are to enrich family and clan through a giant uranium mine (and hydroelectric project) planned by a French government-owned company and through a Chinese-built oil refinery, all projects claiming association with Tandja’s relatives.
The French group Sortir du nucléaire denounced “the complicit silence of French authorities facing a coup organized by Tandja.” Four-fifths of France’s electricity derives from nuclear power, which depends entirely upon imported uranium. Niger is the world’s third largest uranium producer.
Cuba: Food imports from U.S. drop
Pedro Álvarez, president of the Cuban food import corporation Alimport, told a Cuban business weekly that food imports from the United States, worth $4.4 billion over eight years, have recently fallen. The report appearing Aug. 7 on opciones.cubaweb.cu/leer argues that because of U.S. proximity and high food quality, and Cuban needs for imported food, imports could exceed $21 billion over five years, especially if U.S. impediments disappeared.
Exporters require licenses for Cuban travel and are prohibited from granting credit to Alimport. Only third-country banks may dispense loan money that reaches exporters via U.S. banks. Food shipments must be licensed, ships must return empty from Cuba, and they undergo coastguard anti-terrorist inspections.
World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org)