July 2008

Jul 1  In Zimbabwe, reports of action by apparently intimidated opponents of President Mugabe have not reached the world press, and "African leaders" talk about Mugabe's recent fraudulent election. In Mongolia, people riot in response to what they believe are fraudulent elections in their country. In the capital, Ulan Bator, they set fire to the ruling party's headquarters. Another group attacks a police station and fails in an attempt to confiscate weapons. The melee leaves five dead. Thousands defy a 10 pm curfew, refuse to disperse and protest through the night. Police use tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and declare a four-day emergency.

Jul 2  An editor for Zimbabwe's official daily newspaper, the Herald, writes: "...let's face it, foreigners with hidden agendas are trying strenuously to magnify the differences between the ruling and opposition parties in Zimbabwe..." He states that "Now is the time for leaders of opposition and ruling parties to wave the olive branch across the narrow divide to flag off a meeting between them to find a homegrown solution of their political conflicts."

Jul 2  In Chad, another movement for the "true Islamic faith" meets a set back. Government troops kill its leader, Ahmat Israel Bichara, and "more than sixty" of his followers.

Jul 3  Attempts at a rational debate in the US includes former NATO commander and scholar Wesley Clark on June 29 praising John McCain for his military service but also saying: "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president." A storm of words has followed this truism. Some charge Clark with trying to demean McCain's military service record. It remains unclear whether this is their disconnect or that they are arguing that any honorable military combat experience does indeed necessarily make one qualified to be president.

Jul 4  In China, an extensive government investigation has been conducted on the death of the girl over whom a reported ten thousand people rioted on June 29 in Guizhou Province. The conclusion is that the girl, Li Shufen, died from drowning, that she had had no sexual intercourse before her death and that the last the three people who had contact with her had no connections to officials. The rioting appears to have been in response to rumor: that Li Shufen had been raped and killed by the son of a local official.

Prime Minister Maliki

Prime Minister Maliki

Jul 4  Airline flights begin that connect Taiwan with five major cities in mainland China – a mark of improving relations.

Jul 7  Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator, has been calm since the one-day of rioting a week ago. There is no more government declared emergency. International observers have described the elections as fair, but the opposition party is asking for a partial recount. It is reported that of the 8,000 who protested a week ago many were young unemployed men.

Jul 7  While visiting the United Arab Emirates, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks of establishing full sovereignty for Iraq and a timetable for a withdrawal of US troops. To help Iraq's reconstruction, the United Arab Emirates has cancelled Iraq's $7 billion debt.

Jul 9  Russia threatens to react "with military-technical means" against a planned US anti-missile shield near its borders. The US has signed an agreement with the Czechs for the shield's creation and an agreement with Poland is pending.

Jul 9  Figures for life expectancy at birth in the year 2008 for the average person in nations across the world have been posted by the CIA. They show most of the world having made gains in the past year. For the average person in the entire world the figure is 66.12 years, up from 65.82 years in 2007. That's a 3.6-month gain. The Japanese lead among the major nationalities at 82.07 years. Swaziland is at the bottom at 31.99 years. Iraq is around average, at 69.62 years, up from 67.46 in 2005. The few countries that have declined are Gabon, Gambia, Jamaica, Zambia and Panama.

Jul 9  In the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson writes about new labor laws in China the benefit workers but that some US businessmen are less than enthusiastic about. He describes Canon, the printer-maker, and Hanes of underwear fame as building factories in Hanoi, where factory workers make about a quarter of what Chinese factory workers earn. He writes of capitalists increasing investments in Vietnam rather than Thailand, where wages are equivalent, because communist Vietnam offers greater stability.

Jul 10  Hurting from the high price of oil, airline executives call for limits on oil speculation.

Jul 10  Iran's ruling elite continues to talk of diplomacy, but they also want to discourage anyone who might attack their country to take seriously its military power. They have launched a number of missiles. In response, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he favors diplomatic pressure and sanctions against Iran's nuclear program but that Israel is "not afraid to take action."

Jul 10  According to offshoot faction from Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas arrests three Palestinians who fired rockets into Israel. Last month, Hamas and Israel agreed to a cease-fire.

Jul 11  In Nepal, agriculture provides the livelihood of 76 percent of the people, but plots are small and provide food for only around two months. Births in Nepal have been more than three times deaths. Food prices have risen at least 50 percent in a year. The UN believes that 2.5 million Nepalis need immediate food assistance.

Jul 12  In the US there has been a decades-old claim that "regulation is the problem and deregulation is the solution." Today we are hearing that "we are in a worldwide crisis now because of excessive deregulation." A somewhat conservative political analyst, Dick Morris, adds his voice to this point of view, complaining that bankers who are able to escape regulation by running to Britain are responsible for some of recent rise in oil prices – easily remedied, he says, by a small measure of regulation. Of course there are those who reduce the rise in oil prices to its present level to an oversimplification: purely supply and demand.

A procession for the tsar

Procession for Tsar Nicholas
an AFP photo from the BBC

King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

Jul 14  Deforestation currently accounts for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. A major report coming out of Britain by the Rights and Resources Initiative speaks of a new demand from land to grow food and fuel crops. The report's co-author says, "Arguably, we are on the verge of a last great global land grab."

Jul 15  In the US are those who want a president who never changes his mind. They call it flip-flopping, and there are those on the another side looking for a president who can absorb a ton of complex information fast and change his mind if appropriate.

Jul 16  Kings Juan Carlos of Spain and Abdullah of Saudi Arabia open a conference which brings together Muslims (Sunni and Shia ), Christians, Jews and Muslims. King Abdullah calls for tolerance and reconciliation. Al Qaeda denounces the gathering.

Jul 17  Thousands gather to mourn and commemorate the death of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, killed ninety years ago while being held captive by the Communists. The Romanov family has been canonized as saints by the Orthodox Church.

Jul 17  On Public Television's "Nightly Business Report," Barack Obama's economic policy director, Jason Furman, regarding oil says, "It is hard to explain how supply and demand have changed so much in the last six months to give us the prices we have today, and the problem is that top McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm inserted a provision in a bill in 2000 which basically took the regulators off the beat."

Jul 18  In Cuba, state owned farming has been a disappointment. To improve food production, the Cuban government is set to give more farm land to private enterprise. Farmers doing well will be able to increase their holdings by as many as 99 acres (40 hectares).

Jul 19  The interfaith conference of several hundred delegates, launched by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, ends. It stands counter to the idea of a "Clash of Civilizations." Former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, describes the conference as a "strong signal, from the top, that the true faith of Islam is about peaceful co-existence."

Jul 19  Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki speaks with candidate Barack Obama. And Maliki says, "Whoever is thinking about the shorter term [for withdrawal] is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of US troops would cause problems... As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned... Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic."

Barack ObamaJohn McCain

Jul 22  Candidate McCain complains about candidate Obama: "He said he still doesn't agree that the surge has succeeded now that everybody knows that it has succeeded." Candidate Obama says of the surge: "There is no doubt that the extraordinary work of our US forces has contributed to a lessening of the violence, just as making sure that the Sadr militia stood down or the fact that the Sunni tribes decided to flip and work with us instead of with al-Qaeda – something that we hadn't anticipated happening."

Jul 23  The third annual film festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, opens. It is to screem 70 movies, 44 of them Saudi productions.

Jul 24  National unity talks begin in Zimbabwe.

Jul 24  Farmers in Norway demonstrated against possible cuts in Norway’s high protective tariffs.

Jul 25  Legislation to increase regulation on energy futures speculation fails in the US Senate. Republicans oppose the bill because it did not include lifting prohibitions against offshore drilling for oil and shale oil development.

Jul 29  Seven-year-old World Trade Organization talks collapse – talks begun at Qatar's capital, Doha, in 2001. The talks are about more than agriculture but broke down regarding agriculture. The United States wanted access to markets in India and China for their agricultural produducts, and India and China wanted to protect their farmers with tariffs higher than is pleasing to the United States.

Jul 30  Norwegian farmers cheer the collapse of World Trade Organization talks. Norwegian industrial and fishing interests are not cheering.

Jul 31  People who believe they are wise in their knowledge of supply and demand believe that Democrats are stupid for not supporting increased oil drilling as a solution for the high cost of energy. People opposed to the oil drilling proposed by President Bush and presidential candidate John McCain say that it would be ten years before new oil would be produced by new drilling and that between now and then adequate alternatives to more oil producing should be created. They add that the greater amount of oil consumption that would accompany a greater oil supply would be harmful to the environment.

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