World notes: August 16, 2008

UN: Asia tops child-death list

Having issued an overall report on the world’s children in June, UNICEF, the UN’s children’s organization, reported Aug. 5 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that 40 percent of all deaths of children under age five occur in the Asia-Pacific region.

UNICEF’s web site notes disparities between rich and poor in the area, reduced public health expenditures, privatization of health services, lack of obstetrical services, especially in rural areas, and rampant discrimination against women and girls.

In South Asia, male life expectancy exceeds that of women. Improved child survival in China and India, where 2.5 million children died in 2006, is seen as crucial to global achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals targeted for 2015.





Colombia: Uribe’s lie exposed

The Colombian government came under criticism for employing Red Cross insignia in the July 2 operation ending the captivity of 15 hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Military appropriation of symbols of neutrality violates Geneva Conventions.

President Uribe begged off by suggesting that a frightened soldier had pulled them out at the last moment. However, a video shown on national television Aug. 5 revealed that Red Cross insignia had been used throughout the operation. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos called the video release “treason against the homeland.”

Continuing to call the venture a military rescue, the BBC gave short shrift to reports that the army had hijacked a negotiated hostage release.





Japan: Corruption charges taint militarization plans

The dark side of dealings between U.S. and Japanese advocates of Japanese military buildup was on display July 24 with the arrest in Tokyo of Naoki Akiyama on charges of tax evasion.

Akiyama, head of the Japan-U.S. Center for Peace and Cultural Exchange, a bi-national organization of defense officials, weapons manufacturers and military procurement specialists, is accused of depositing consulting fees into U.S. bank accounts. One was set up by the Washington-based Council for National Security.

According to an internal memo cited by the Japan Press Service, Akiyama advised legislators and defense officials belonging to the Japanese Parliamentary Council for National Security, of which he was secretary-general, to ally themselves with the Washington-based organization.





Palestine-Israel: Labor federations to cooperate

The Israeli Histadrut trade union and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) agreed in July on measures to protect the rights of Palestinian workers working for Israeli employers.

The report on www.ituc-csi.org cites their joint resolve to rely upon negotiation, dialogue and joint initiatives. Arrangements were made for funds Palestinian workers pay employers to be applied to union representation and legal services.

A 1995 agreement between the two labor groups had never been implemented.

PGFTU General Secretary Shaher Sae’d said he looks forward to “future cooperation and the full respect of the rights of Palestinian workers,” and “attention to tackling the appalling state of the Palestinian economy.”

South Africa: General strike demands government action

The largest strike organized by the Confederation of South African Trade Union in years shut down banks, schools, mines, shops and auto plants in a one day nationwide general strike Aug. 6 aimed at the government.

“Johannesburg looks like a Sunday,” COSATU spokesperson Patrick Craven told the Mail and Guardian.

Over a million workers demonstrated against rising food, fuel and electricity prices as well as the government’s handling of the state-owned Eskom power corporation whose failure to add electrical generating capacity has led to power outages this year. The outages have led to factory slowdowns, and marchers demanded job protection.





Cuba: Puerto Ricans defy travel ban

In July, Puerto Rico’s Juan Rius Rivera Brigade visited Cuba for the 17th time, once more in defiance of U.S. travel rules.

Prensa Latina said the 40-person group attended the July 26 celebrations in Santiago de Cuba and conferred with government officials, artists, historians and community representatives in Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus.

Exiled from Puerto Rico in 1868 after failure of the “Grito de Lares” revolt against Spain, Juan Rius Rivera fought in both Cuban wars for independence, in 1897 assuming leadership of rebel forces in western Cuba on the death of Antonio Maceo.

The U.S. Venceremos Brigade and Pastors for Peace group also challenged the U.S.’ Cuba blockade by traveling to the island in July.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney (atwhit@roadrunner.com).