WORLD NOTES: October 27

Canada: Air travel falls under U.S. purview

The Air Transport Association of Canada, acting on behalf of Canadian airline companies, protested Oct. 13 against a new U.S. requirement that air carriers supply the Bush’s administration’s Department of Homeland Security with passenger data on flights crossing U.S. airspace.

The ruling, which went into effect on Oct. 22, requires that passenger lists be handed over to the U.S. agency 72 hours prior to takeoff time.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper accepted the intrusion despite having already instituted no-fly lists in June at Bush administration insistence.

The airline companies fear possible U.S. grounding of Canadian planes, even mid-flight interceptions, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Critics also note that such lists place passengers flying to and from Latin American and Caribbean countries under U.S. surveillance, notably 600,000 of them traveling annually to Cuba.



Afghanistan: Six years after U.S. invasion, troubles mount

By Oct. 6, the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the number of U.S. and allied foreign troops has risen to 50,000, Taliban attacks are sharply increasing (they doubled since last year), and Helmand Province, according to iwpr.net, is supplying nearly “half the world’s opium and its major derivative, heroin.”

U.S. occupiers have targeted Helmand for “reconstruction and development” at a cost so far of $200 million. U.S. humanitarian aid workers there are protected by Blackwater contractors at the annual rate of $1 million per worker, reports the U.K. Independent.

Another contractor, DynCorp, which is charged with curbing the opium poppy crop, has antagonized the province’s farmers, who are increasingly supporting the Taliban. Not coincidentally, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered ministerial posts to the Taliban.

There is no end in sight for U.S. occupancy of the Bagram Air Base: “Whether five or 10 years, we don’t know,” said spokesperson Col. Jonathan Ives.



Brazil: Bank of the South shaping up

Seven South American finance ministers signed a “Declaration of Rio de Janeiro” Oct. 8, establishing the Bank of the South. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, joined by Bolivian and Argentine presidents, proposed the bank two years ago as a funding source for social and development projects and an alternative to the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.

The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela will inaugurate the bank Nov. 3 in Caracas, where it will be headquartered. Member states, each with one vote, will contribute 10 percent of their monetary reserves to capitalize the bank at $7 billion, an arrangement allowing for their “asymmetric” financial capabilities.

Even U.S. ally Colombia may eventually join for the sake of “Latin American integration.” Visiones Alternativas suggested that direct participation by U.S. trading partners may prove problematic.



North Korea: Kim Jong Il hosts Vietnamese counterpart

Nong Duc Manh, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, was in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Oct. 16-18 for a state visit. Meetings with DPRK head of state Kim Jong Il coincided with the 50th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh’s visit there, the last by a Vietnamese Communist Party head.

The leaders surveyed the functioning of their parties and governments, honored the traditional friendship between their countries and acknowledged mutual achievements in building socialism and defending national independence. They resolved to continue with meetings and pledged mutual economic, cultural, scientific and educational cooperation.

The Vietnamese leader expressed support for Korean reunification, applauded the results of the recent six-party talks and called for openings between the DPRK and other Southeast Asian nations.

Kim Jong Il will reciprocate by visiting Vietnam, according to the Vietnamese party newspaper Nhan Dan. Another top DPRK leader, Premier Kim Yong Il, will soon visit Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos.



South Africa: Dire predictions on HIV/AIDs

The UN children’s agency’s representative in South Africa warned Oct. 17 in Geneva that South Africa may be “losing the battle against HIV/AIDS.”

Macharia Kamau of UNICEF cited low treatment rates — 380,000 persons treated out of 1.58 million infected — leading to 400,000 HIV-related deaths annually and life expectancy falling from 69 in 1990 to 47 today. Some 30 percent of South Africans are infected — 14 percent of the worldwide total — and 13 percent of them are children. AIDS has orphaned 1.5 million children there, with 5 million orphans projected by 2015.

The French news agency AFP quoted Kamau as calling for expanded treatment programs and education in South Africa to erase the stigma associated with HIV-positive status. He commended Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda “where the political leadership ... has taken ownership of this issue.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @megalink.net).