European Union: Youth unemployment skyrockets

The EU statistical agency Eurostat last week reported a first quarter hike in young worker unemployment to 18.3 percent, up 3.7 percent. In all, 5 million workers in 27 EU nations aged 15-24 are without work.

Total unemployment rose 1.5 percent to 8.2 percent. Youth unemployment rose from 11 percent to 28.2 percent in Latvia, from 7.6 percent to 24.1 percent in Estonia and from 9.5 percent to 23.6 percent in Lithuania.

Discrepancies between unemployed youth and total joblessness were greatest in Italy with 24.9 percent and 7.4 percent respectively and in Spain where comparable figures were 33.6 percent, Europe’s highest and 16.5 percent. Spain’s 789,000 unemployed youth and Great Britain’s 851,000 were tops in Europe.

South Korea: Workers strike over news control

The National Union of Media Workers launched a strike July 21 protesting legislation introduced by the ruling party six months ago that would facilitate newspaper corporations moving into television broadcasting.

Critics say the rightwing government, under pretexts of job creation and market diversification, is working to keep news reporting in “safe” hands. Presently, they note, the evening television news often provides an antidote to the conservative offerings of morning newspapers. The opposition Democratic Party sees cross-ownership as potentially blocking its progressive agenda, reports Hankyoreh News.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions initiated a strike on July 22 in solidarity with media workers and in support of workers at Ssangyong Motors, two months into a plant occupation.

Occupied Territories: UN leader issues plea

Referring to Israeli West Bank settlements, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week urged “Israel to commit fully to its obligations, including to freeze settlement activity and natural growth.” Press TV noted Palestinian determination to reject peace talks while settlement activities continue.

New reports surfaced recently of Palestinian suffering at Israeli hands. On July 20, West Bank settlers burned down 350 olive trees near Burin in retaliation, according to the French news agency AFP, for removal of a “wildcat settlement.” The next day, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released a report verifying that most wastewater from Israeli West Bank and Jerusalem settlements goes untreated, threatening human health and the environment. B’Tselem cited “the rights of Palestinians to (clean) water and sanitation.”

South Africa: President confronts disappointed hopes

Protests have multiplied against lack of clean water and decent township housing. Police using rubber bullets arrested over 100 demonstrators recently. The BBC alluded to the impatience of a million people living in shacks, most without electricity or water.

“We will have to wait a little longer for a significant increase in new job creation,” new President Jacob Zuma declared last week. Yet the gap between rich and poor has widened during 15 years of African National Congress rule.

Business Day said Zuma would meet with teams working on “crisis response programs” and “take action against all who break the law.”

The ANC Youth League called for governmental response to the protests and for leaders “to visit affected communities.”

Venezuela: Poverty is down

The National Statistics Institute (INE) reported recently that poverty declined between 2002 and 2008. “Extreme poverty,” represented by 752,649 Venezuelans without income or adequate housing, fell to 11.8 percent, down from 20.2 percent. Those poor because of sporadic income fell from 43 percent to 27.5 percent. Structural poverty, marked by lack of income or adequate housing, but not both, dropped from 30.6 percent in 2002 to 23.2 percent in 2008.

INE director Elías Eljuri characterized the methodology his agency used as rigorous. Suggesting that social programs had contributed to the favorable trends, the report on Popular Tribune’s web site cited as an example children receiving meals at school, up from 300,000 a decade ago to 4.5 million children now.

Cuba: Friendshipment arrives

At a July 24 press conference in Havana, Rev. Lucius Walker, leader of the 20th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan, declared that most U.S. citizens oppose the U.S. blockade against Cuba. Accompanying Walker were 130 “solidarity ambassadors” who, according to the Granma newspaper, had worked to send 115 tons of U.S. humanitarian aid to Cuba. They purposefully defied U.S. regulations by not seeking permission to donate supplies or travel to Cuba.

Walker called upon President Obama to apply his “concept of change” to normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations, returning the Guantanamo naval base to Cuba and liberating the jailed Cuban Five prisoners.

En route to Cuba, the visitors had collected donated material at solidarity meetings in 140 U.S. cities.

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