Nigeria: Transnat’l plunder leaves loose ends

The government last week denied responsibility for failing to identify bribe-takers, blaming the U.S. Attorney General instead, reported.

Despite requests, facts are being withheld that entered into the trial and guilty plea last September of the former head of KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown and Root).

Jack Stanley admitted $182 million in bribes were delivered to Nigerian government officials to secure contracts to build a $6 billion natural gas facility in Rivers State. The Ossundefender and Africaloft web sites allege the officials included former presidents Obasanjo, Abacha and Abubakar. Investigations of KBR agents implicated in the scandal continue in five countries.

The Houston court assessed fines totaling $579 million against KBR and parent corporation Halliburton, then headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Sri Lanka: Noted author charges genocide

“A bloodbath on the beaches of northern Sri Lanka seems an increasingly real possibility,” writes UN Under-Secretary General Sir John Holmes. The army is pushing Tamil Tiger insurgents to the end of a peninsula inhabited by 200,000 civilians.

Renowned author Arundhati Roy writes on that “civilian areas, hospitals and shelters are being bombed,” thousands have been killed or wounded, and those escaping end up in “compulsory holding centers.” Registration of all Tamils in Colombo is required on security grounds. The purpose, she maintains, is to “dismantle any semblance of democracy in the country, and commit unspeakable crimes against the Tamil people.” “A brazen, openly racist war” is possible, Roy writes, “because of the silence that surrounds it.”

Venezuela: Pacts on oil and more

Accompanied by ministry officials, President Hugo Chavez was in Japan April 5-6 to sign energy, finance and manufacturing accords, in particular cooperation in making oil-based products, fertilizers and automobiles.

Venezuela’s state oil company and Japanese corporations will together extract and refine extra heavy Orinoco basin oil. Japanese financing will be used to fit out refineries for the task. Oil exports taken from the world’s second largest reserves will start out at 100,000 barrels per day, perhaps rising to 10 times that level, Chavez said. He told reporters, “Japan automatically assures its supply for at least 25 years.” quoted him as saying, “The center of gravity of the world is moving toward the East and toward the South.”

Russia: Workers hit the streets

Nationwide worker protests were joined last week by 800,000 unpaid civilian navy employees who threatened to strike.

Russian manufacturing dropped 13 percent in February. Projections put new car sales as falling by 25-50 percent.

The Lada automobile factory in Togliatti, widely regarded as obsolete and inefficient, is being bailed out. Yet the factory’s 104,000 assembly line workers see their jobs as secure. They are working four-day weeks and six-hour shifts, with employees taking voluntary furloughs at two-thirds pay. Suppliers for the factory account for almost 2 million additional jobs.

The New York Times business reporter quoted a factory clerk: “The factory is our wet nurse … If it stops, the whole town will be out on the streets.”

West Bank: Intimidation mounts

Retaliating for the murder of an Israeli youth, West Bank settlers backed by soldiers rampaged through the Arab village, Safa, on April 8 wounding 38 residents, according to Ma’an news.

Meanwhile, attacks and evictions were underway in East Jerusalem. An Israeli court approved the Jerusalem mayor’s order to demolish three homes situated on land deeded to their Palestinian owners since Ottoman times.

Removal of Arab homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan will free up land for almost 300 settler houses and a theme park.

Community leader Al-Ghawei refused a lawyer’s offer of a financial settlement. Inter Press Service recorded his reply: “$17 million cannot pay for my memories. I was born in this house.”

Cuba: Support reform of UN Security Council

Contributing to intergovernmental negotiations on much-sought changes in the Security Council, Cuban UN Ambassador Abelardo Moreno presented recommendations April 7 to improve Security Council integration and work methods. That body, he was quoted by Prensa Latina, “is neither transparent, nor democratic, nor efficient.”

Moreno called for a series of public and private discussions. The ambassador emphasized that the Security Council’s functioning should be adjusted to the needs and interests of underdeveloped nations. He also noted that after 60 years, it is high time to make regulations governing Security Council operations official rather than provisional.

The India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum has elaborated recommendations for comprehensive reform, while Washington has agreed only to expand permanent African representation.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney, Jr. (atwhit