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Over Easy

3:55 am in Culture, Economy, Energy, Environment, Government, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

(Picture courtesy of mhaithaca at flickr.com.)

In the tradition of the original Lakeside Diner, where Southern Dragon kept pups up to date on media and events outside the States, Thursday will be a glimpse into what’s going on in the world this week.

Bangladesh was horrified by the collapse of a large manufacturing building that housed scores of industries supplying clothing items to other countries.   The building had frightened workers by developing fissures, but workers had been sent back inside.

More than 1,000 people were injured when the site housing five garment factories on the outskirts of Dhaka imploded on Wednesday, allegedly after managers ignored workers’ warnings that the building had become unstable.

Flags flew at half-mast on Thursday as the shell-shocked country declared a day of mourning for the victims of the nation’s worst factory disaster, which highlighted anew safety concerns in Bangladesh’s vital garment industry.

(snip)

The disaster came less than five months after a factory fire killed 112 people and underscored the unsafe conditions in Bangladesh’s booming garment industry, the second biggest in the world.

Teachers in Mexico’s Guerrero State stormed local political offices and started fires to protest reforms legislated against claimed corruption in the educational system.

For several hours, masked protesters started fires and attacked the offices with pickaxes and sticks, spraying slogans on the walls.

The state governor has called for support from the federal government.

The reforms impose centralised teacher assessment and seek to end corrupt practices in the education system.

Those practices include the buying and selling of teaching positions.

Innovations to aid in the many afflicted areas of Pakistan are being concentrated in local assistance programs that answer needs outside influences have failed to meet.

To counter perceptions of western influence (the CIA’s connection with a vaccination scheme may have led to attacks on polio workers), the Rural Support Programmes Network and its member organisations draw funds from Pakistan’s federal and regional governments, international aid agencies, corporate sponsors and the beneficiaries.

The US government has acknowledged the difficulties in channelling aid effectively to the neediest in Pakistan and remains supportive, despite repeated attempts in Congress to slash billions from aid. But to continue the progress that is being made, everyone must chip in.

One sign that the needs of Pakistan are not being ignored is a recent decision by the European Union to allocate €42 million (Dh207m) in aid from a fund for five major global hot spots subjected to “long-enduring crises”. The EU acknowledged that “the only new crisis on this year’s list is the one caused by conflict and internal displacement in Pakistan”.

Turning from the courting of outside influences has resolved problems in areas that gain independence along with meeting local needs.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

4:52 am in Culture, Economy, Environment, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

 

Over Easy

(Picture courtesy of mhaithaca at flickr.com.)

The roundup of foreign media and news this week is headlined by the recent death of longtime U.S. bête noire Hugo Chavez.

According to Venezuela specialist George Ciccariella-Maher interviewed by FRANCE 24, the depth and scope of many Venezuelans’ grief cannot be underestimated.
“No matter what we may individually think of Hugo Chavez, the reality is he was a massively popular political leader,” he said. “[He was] someone who was able to generate a powerful, charismatic connection with the Venezuelan masses.”

As for the future of Chavez’s leftist policies, which won him the adoration of poor Venezuelans but infuriated opponents who denounced him as a dictator, much depends on Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the man he tapped to succeed him.

Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader, will probably face Henrique Capriles, governor of Miranda state, in the next election in the OPEC nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

The stakes are huge for the region, given the crucial economic aid and cheap fuel the Chavez government supplied to allies across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Authorities said the vote would be called within 30 days, as stipulated by the constitution, but did not specify the date.

The election of a new Pope evoked quarrels of U.S. cardinals’ speaking out and using social media in what is usually a highly secret process.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, was quoted as saying there were “two schools of thought” in the college of cardinals: those who felt the Roman curia would be best reformed by someone within it, and those who believed an outsider was needed. Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, was quoted as saying the cardinals wanted to be briefed on the Vatileaks scandal in order to make the right choice.

U.N. observers were taken into custody by rebel forces in Syria.  In confused fighting, the U.N. forces had come under fire.  Syria’s military demanded their release.

In the video published on the internet, the gunmen identified themselves as the “Martyrs of Yarmouk”.

They are heard saying that the UN personnel would not be released until forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from the village of Jamla in the area.

The rebels later admitted taking the monitors to try to stop the Syrian army from firing on them and civilians in the areas.

The rebels added that the UN team were their guests.

After only 500 years, Sephardic jews were invited to resume their role in Spain.   In the inquisition, they were ejected and properties confiscated; the Seville cathedral contains a work of art made from confiscated gold.

In November, Spain’s justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon announced a plan to give descendants of Spain’s original Jewish community – known as Sephardic Jews – a fast-track to a Spanish passport and Spanish citizenship.

“In the long journey Spain has undertaken to rediscover a part of itself, few occasions are as moving as today,” he said.

Anyone who could prove their Spanish Jewish origins, he said, would be given Spanish nationality.

The leading country producing maize for lands in Africa, South Africa has recently been suffering from drought that threatens its crop for this year.

Dry weather conditions have hit the main maize growing areas in South Africa, wilting the crop and dashing prospects for better yields this year.

South Africa’s provinces of Free State and North West, which together produce more than half of the country’s total maize crop, have been the hardest hit by the dry conditions in recent weeks after good rains earlier in the growing season.

The lessons of U.S. mistakes in invading Iraq have begun to show in Europe’s new approach to the region, and to its relations in the southern continent.

It has been 10 years since the US-led invasion of Iraq, which marked a turning point in the West’s so-called war on terror.

The pretext of the Iraq war was security and freedom, but the bombastic and openly pronounced objective was no less than remaking the greater Middle East region.

(snip)

And as Africa becomes the new frontline in the ‘war on terror’, have the Europeans learnt from America’s mistakes?

Shortly after sending fighter jets and troops into Mali, French President Francois Hollande said: “We will stay…for as long as it’s necessary to ensure victory over terrorism.” That is the same socialist president who recently told his people that there would be: “no men on the ground, no engagement by French troops” and that France would only provide “material support” to Mali’s armed forces.

The twists and turns of the West’s endless ‘war on terror’ continue to confound and confuse.

As Southern Dragon reminded us daily at Lakeside Diner;  Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

4:55 am in climate change, Economy, Environment, Foreign Policy, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

(Picture courtesy of mhaithaca at flickr.com.)

The foreign media and news our late friend, Southern Dragon, kept bringing to our attention has yet another scary story about water loss.   In the Middle East, whole rivers are being lost.

Pictures taken by NASA satellites reveal an alarming loss of freshwater in the Middle East.

Two important rivers are disappearing, and if they vanish millions of people will be affected.

The UN has begun promotion of solar power on the continent of Africa for a multitude of reasons that benefits occur.

Nigeria could save US$1.4 billion a year and avoid using 17.3 million barrels of crude oil if it used modern off-grid lighting solutions.

That’s one finding of a new UN study into lighting in Africa, a continent that relies heavily on kerosene, candles and batteries to light homes.

In West Africa alone, 76% of the population lacks access to electricity and spends up to 20% of the household budget on kerosene for lighting.

Not only do these practices release huge levels of carbon emissions, they also contribute to lung complaints and are huge polluters across the continent.

China’s cyberattacks gained a new level of recognition requiring U.S. response.

THE US is planning tough new laws to combat China’s rampant internet hacking, despite angry denials from Beijing that its powerful army is responsible for hundreds of covert cyber attacks.

An explosive report from Mandiant, a US internet security firm, revealed on Tuesday that China’s People’s Liberation Army operates a secret division employing thousands of people in Shanghai to break into government and corporate computer networks around the world.

It was claimed that China had hacked at least 140 organisations in the past six years, through an intricate network, to steal official secrets and data of potential rival firms and governments.

Financing micro-enterprise gains more attention and support as the need for new economic success for workers grows in urgency and importance.

A Ghanaian start-up planning to popularise crowdfunding in Africa has been selected as one of the winners of this year’s Apps4Africa competition.

SliceBiz plans to develop a service that will deliver 30-second pitches recorded by entrepreneurs to potential backers over the phone.

Never.give.up.

Over Easy

4:50 am in Culture, Environment, Foreign Policy, Government, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

Sometimes our domestic news sounds foreign, but today is a day I’ve chosen to visit foreign media and news. For Valentine’s Day something heartening would do well. A reassuring story about a reporter resolutely presenting news many of his fellows don’t want to know strikes a chord as the fact seeking congregate ever more in the remaining places truth is held in esteem, and insisted on.

In the interest of letting Israeli readers know the effects of the occupation of Palestine, a Haaretz reporter has made his emphasis the facts most of Israel’s press avoids or at least softens.

Gideon Levy is someone who evokes strong emotions from fellow Israelis.

The writer and journalist has made weekly visits, over the past three decades, to the occupied Palestinian territories, describing what he sees – plainly and without propaganda.

For some Israelis, he is seen as a brave disseminator of the truth. But many others condemn him as a propagandist for Hamas. And his columns for the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper have made him, arguably, one of the most hated men in Israel.

(snip)

Levy’s reports have told of young Palestinians gunned down by Israeli soldiers after being accused of throwing stones; the lack of retribution against soldiers who kill Palestinians in cold blood; and the plight of Palestinian farmers, who make their livelihoods from olive trees, but who have had them burned and destroyed by settlers time and time again.

Many in Israel have criticised Levy’s reporting, saying that he and his colleagues are responsible for reinforcing anti-Semitism around the world.

But others see Levy as an individual who is courageously going against the common views of the society in which he lives.

North Korea’s third nuclear test has put its few remaining allies in an awkward position.

China is likely to agree to new or tightened economic sanctions on North Korea or possibly curb its own assistance as its frustration with its ally grows, experts believe.

China summoned the North Korean ambassador and delivered a stern protest, and as after previous tests, the foreign ministry called for a calm reaction and denuclearisation talks. However, it stopped short of the harsh criticism it unleashed in 2006 when it described the North’s first nuclear test as “brazen”.

South American governments pledged to grow economies often are overriding the interests of their people to accomplish those aims, particularly with regard to mining and mineral extraction by industry. Water sources are a particular concern.

Leaders across the region, elected on promises to fuel economic growth and lift their populations out of poverty, are fast tracking water-use approvals for projects like the Conga mine. Helped by mining and agriculture exports, Brazil’s gross domestic product increased 43 percent from 2002 to 2012, after adjusting for inflation, while Chile’s economy grew 58 percent.

Peru is on target to expand 6 percent in 2013, the fastest pace in South America, driven by investments in gold, silver and copper mines.

South America has more water than any other region on earth, with 29 percent of the world’s reserves, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The rub is that the water isn’t always where the best mineral or agricultural resources are located.

South Sudan struggles to survive after achieving status as a nation independent of Sudan. Its attempts to  supply citizens of the new state with basic necessities is under constant attack.

The South Sudanese government has long accused Sudan of backing rebellions in its territory to destabilise the country after it seceded in 2011, but this is the first time Juba has linked the alleged support of rebels with its attempts to build a new oil pipeline.

“The government of Sudan is deliberately sponsoring all militia activities in this country, especially in Jonglei state,” South Sudan’s information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said.

Authoritarian governments distinguish themselves as always by inability to respect humanity.

Still we proceed; Never.give.up.

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Over Easy

4:00 am in Culture, Economy, Elections, Energy, Environment by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

(Picture courtesy of mhaithaca at flickr.com.)

The world outside the U.S., which on Thursday this post explores, has extended its reach to the skies over us, as N.Korea achieved a successful launch of a satellite that now orbits it.  Now there are reports it may return shortly and is out of control, tumbling.

According to U.S. defense officials, the object which was launched at 7.49 p.m. ET on Wednesday in opposition of international opinion has adopted an unstable trajectory and could crash land to the surface with potentially dangerous consequences.

We have little idea what the actual aims of this satellite are, as the insular regime in that country lets out little information.  Western nations had previously generally condemned the launch through the U.N. ‘and ordered the North not to conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology’.

North Korean space officials said the satellite would be used to study crops and weather patterns.

The defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said it usually took about two weeks to determine whether a satellite worked successfully after liftoff. He cited data from the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

You may want to stay somewhere that has a very solid roof overhead.

The many elements that overthrew Mubarak are now struggling to set up a regime that will not repeat the suppression they had thought to overthrow.  An upcoming vote on the constitution has produced a confrontation between secular and religious parties.

“Secularists are divided among themselves and poorly organised on the ground, and they have not developed a message with widespread popular appeal,” Marina Ottaway, a Middle East scholar at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace, wrote on Tuesday. “Under these circumstances, Islamist forces want to accelerate the return to formal democratic politics, because they can win. Secular forces cannot afford to play that game.”

Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front associated with Mohamed ElBaradei’s Constitution Party, claimed that his party had maintained offices throughout the country which were first established in 2010, when ElBaradei returned to Egypt from his job as the UN’s nuclear watchdog chief. They have been collecting signatures to petition successive governments for constitutional reforms ever since.

Putting those offices to use on a “no” campaign is another matter, one Dawoud and others in the Front have not seemed to prioritise. Their push, publicly at least, is to put enough of their supporters on the street, reject negotiations, and hope Morsi backs down.

The U.S. recognizes Syria’s opposition as the legitimate government, joining much of the rest of the world in doing so.

American recognition of the Syrian National Council will pave the way for greater non-military aid and assistance. The need for that assistance is dire. The Syrian Red Crescent estimates that some 2-1/2 million people – about 10 per cent of the country’s population – have been driven from their homes by the fighting. More than 42,000 people have died since the uprising began, and half a million have fled the country.

Threats of chemical warfare continue to pose extreme need to protect the endangered population of the country. ‘A second fear is that the regime would try to rally support by using chemical or biological weapons against Israel or another neighbouring state.’

That new Nobel prize winner, the EU, forged an agreement for central banking that would take over threatened banks, and gives the UK some voice in the matter although it is not a member.

The EU had already agreed that the ECB would act as chief supervisor of eurozone banks.

But the deal gives the ECB powers to close down eurozone banks that do not follow rules. It also paves the way for the EU’s main rescue fund to come to the direct aid of struggling banks.

(snip)

While banking union is the immediate focus, the report also proposes “contractual” arrangements between eurozone governments and the Commission, to prevent governments delaying, or reneging on, important economic reforms.

Controls would be more stringent on the less successful financial institutions in nations lacking a strong banking system.

Britain has taken a leap into the trashing of its territory by allowing fracking to proceed in Lancashire as environmentalists object.

They say fracking will generate much more opposition in the UK than it has in the US as it involves turning green fields into industrial sites.

They also worry that an abundance of domestic gas will tempt politicians to abandon targets for cutting greenhouse gases, which are rising inexorably globally to the alarm of scientists.

Lighting up the tap water should prove exciting to the farming communities there as it has in Dish, TX.  Evidence of potential the perpetrators of fracking produce has been shown to be suspect, but damages are irreversible.

This is a basic overview of those foreign events we see less of than we should in the normal news scene.   In tribute to Southern Dragon for his dedication to keeping our eyes open and minds working:

Never.give.up.