June 2008

Jun 2  In China the government steps up its drive to discourage smoking. Twenty-six percent of the population smokes, and smoking-related diseases kill about one million people every year. The government's Center for Disease Control and Prevention blames advertising for an increase in tobacco addiction.

Jun 2  It has been one month since the cyclone struck Burma, and foreign aid agencies complain that as many as 250,000 cyclone victims have not yet been helped.

Jun 2  In Norway, car traffic deaths have increased 50 percent so far this year. An organization dedicated to improving road safety, Trygg Trafikk, attributes the increase to speed by reckless young men.

Jun 2  John McCain denounces an unconditional summit meeting with Iran's president. He says: "Such a spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability."

Jun 3  Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responds to the accusation of Iran building a nuclear bomb. He says "No wise nation would be interested in making a nuclear weapon today. They are against rational thought." In his speech he criticizes President Bush and his advisors: "Sometimes they threaten, sometimes they order assassinations... and sometimes they ask for help – it's like mad people staggering to and fro."

Jun 3  George Soros, the billionaire investor who seems to know markets, tells the US Senate Commerce Committee that oil prices "have a strong foundation in reality" (supply and demand). He also says he believes that the doubling in the price of oil over the last year is due partly to investment institutions, such as pension funds, pumping money into indexes that track the cost of crude. He worries about an oil price bubble.

Jun 4  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a Sunni, is holding a three-day conference in Mecca. He speaks of the tolerant nature of Islam. Attending the conference, and sitting next to the king, is the former president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Shia, who asks that Muslims emphasize what they have in common.

Jun 4  In California, developers are unable to satisfy state law requiring long-term water supplies. And water shortages are impacting farming, which will contribute to rising food prices. California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, proclaims a statewide drought and orders immediate action.

Jun 6  China offers counseling and reverse sterilization by medical teams free to parents who lost their only child in last month's earthquake.

Jun 8  President Hugo Chavez urges Colombia's rebels, FARC, to end their four-decade struggle. "The guerrilla war is history," he said. "At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place."

Jun 8  Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki meets President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who pledges to help Iraq's security. Maliki is quoted as saying, "Iraq is looking forward to Iranian companies taking part in developing its infrastructure."

Jun 10  Jeffrey Stinson writes in USA Today that "Germany's economy is showing gains while the United States' has hit the skids and most of the rest of Europe sputters."

Jun 11  Cuba announces its plan for wage differentiation, overturning what has been in place in Cuba since 1959. It is hoped that it will improve production and services.

Jun 13  Hamas admits that it lied in blaming yesterday's deaths in Gaza on an Israeli air strike. It admits that the massive explosion was an accident by militants preparing to attack Israel.

Jun 13  Libya's Colonel Gaddafi calls Barack Obama "our Kenyan brother" but criticizes his pro-Israeli position on Jerusalem. Gaddafi complains that opportunism might be making Obama "more white than white people" rather than holding to solidarity with African and Arab nations.

Jun 15  President Mugabe vows not to surrender his country to his enemies for mere Xs on a ballot. Elections have been scheduled for June 27 and supporters of the opposition party are being beaten and jailed. But the UN still hopes for supervision that will produce a fair election.

Jun 17  National Geographic reports that neuroscientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have found brain formations that differ for homosexuals and heterosexuals. This suggests a genetic connection for homosexuality but not necessarily for all homosexuality.

Jun 18  Danes define as poor anyone who earns less than the equivalent of 2,320 US dollars (11,194 Danish kroner) per month. Responding to a poll, the Danes agree that one's income is below an acceptable level if he cannot afford a mobile phone, a yearly holiday abroad and a dinner out every month, and they agree that Danes must have money for internet access, a monthly visit to a movie and putting a child into organized sports. Denmark has an estimated 2007 per capita GDP of $37,400 compared to $45,800 for the US. And the average Dane is taxed around 50 percent of his income.

Jun 18  The unusually heavy rains that have also caused recent flooding in southern China have, according to Reuters News, killed at least 171 persons while 52 are missing.

Jun 18  Regarding the heavy rains and worst flooding in a decade in the Midwest, the New Orleans and Dutch examples of preparedness and infrastructure again appear. Erik Loehr, professor of civil engineering at the University of Missouri, says, "... for the most part we know how to design levees to withstand the floods. It's a matter of getting the financing to be able to support that construction ..."

Jun 19  Three opinions in the US contrary to the Dutch spirit on flooding: (1) "Water stops for no one. If it is going to smash levees, there isn't anything you can do about it." (2) "I have a great idea to cut down on the need for levees. Stop building in the middle of swamp and flood plains." (3) "Aren't you sick of working for the IRS?"

Jun 19  In a close vote, Sweden's parliament approves a plan to scan international calls, faxes and e-mails for the sake of national security. It is described as Europe's most far-reaching eavesdropping plan.

Jun 19  China announces that it is raising fuel prices in order to reduce demand and lower consumption. The announcement helps send oil prices on the world market downward $4.75 a barrel to $131. Recently, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia also announced plans to pass higher gasoline prices to its citizens, and India has announced that it will cease diesel subsidies to all commercial establishments.

Barack ObamaJohn McCain

Jun 20  Latin Americans respond with anger to a new European Union law designed to discourage more illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants could be imprisoned for 18 months before being deported. Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales and the retired Fidel Castro are among the upset.

Jun 21  A recent Gallop Poll (May 19-21) recorded 57 percent of US citizens supporting drilling for oil in off-shore and wilderness areas and 41 percent opposed. Proponents believe that drilling will increase supply, enabling people to burn more home-produced oil at a cheaper price. Some opponents deny this could happen within the coming ten years and repeat that for the sake of the environment we are supposed to burn less of it. The presidential candidates have been arguing the issue, with McCain on the side of drilling and Obama opposed.

Jun 22  At the oil summit held in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah speaks of his willingness to pump more oil, but he joins his oil minister in asserting that supply is not the problem. The king has seen the price of oil rise despite his move to put more oil on the market. He again blames soaring oil prices on speculators. He criticizes high fuel taxes and speaks of increased consumption by developing economies. And he speaks against blaming OPEC.

Jun 23  The European Union officially lifts sanctions on Cuba, a move that has been championed by Spain, which normalized relations with Cuba last year. The sanctions were created in 2003 in response to Cuba's government moving against dissidents.

Jun 23  In the US, flood experts remind us of a government program in the Mississippi Valley to create more wetlands out of flooded farmlands, to give floodwaters a place to drain. Higher levees move more water downstream and create more pressure on existing levees, and it is said that levees cannot be built high enough to escape this cycle. But not enough farmers are willing to leave any of their land as wetland.

Jun 24  Palestinian militants fire at least two rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, violating the truce that began six days ago agreed to by Israel and Hamas.

Jun 24  Frontline reports on pastoral communities with a history of living with drought now being overwhelmed by drought worse than the past. The pastoralists of Turkana, in Northwestern Kenya, are being kept alive by food aid. Turkana men are leaving the way of life that had worked for them and are joining others in growing dysfunctional slums.

Jun 25  Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry has announces that in the last six months security forces have arrest 701 persons suspected of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks on oil facilities and other vital installations. According to the Arab News, the minister described among the arrested Saudis and foreigners who "were trying to regroup and strengthen the Al-Qaeda terror network in Saudi Arabia." The minister said among those arrested "181 have been released as there was no evidence to prove their connection with terrorist groups.”

Jun 25  Tibet reopens to tourism, the first two from Sweden.

Jun 25  Malaysian authorities estimate there are 130,000 illegal immigrants in the province of Sabah – on the island of Borneo. Many of them are Filipino or Indonesian. The Malaysian government announces that it will begin deportations, including those illegals who have lived in Sabah since the 1970s.

Jun 26  In response to North Korea beginning to disable its Yongbyon nuclear facility, President Bush lifts some trade sanctions and acts to remove the country from a list of states that sponsor terrorism. Bush describes North Korea's move as one step and tells reporters that "Multilateral diplomacy is the best way to peacefully solve the nuclear issue with North Korea."

Jun 27  Some people who want to prohibit people from having guns in their home point to statistics about the frequent misuse of such guns. Those who favor guns in the home think that misuse by some should not be a reason to deny everybody freedom to possess a gun. They point to studies that show home break-ins are less frequent where guns are allowed. They are praising yesterday's landmark Supreme Court decision declaring that Washington DC's ban on guns violates “the right of law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”

Jun 29  In Wengan county in China's southern province of Guizhou, people demonstrate that they are not intimidated. Believing that the son of an official raped and killed a girl and that a cover-up is taking place, "about 10,000 people" are described as having "totally burned down the county Party office building, and burned other offices in the county government" and also "burned about 20 vehicles police cars, including police cars." (The BBC quoting an "official").

Jun 30  In Norway a man is sentenced to four years in prison for violating a law against forced marriages and for kidnapping his daughter and taking her back to Iraq.

Jun 30  India's government complains that carbon emissions per person in India is a fraction of that in rich nations and that the people of India have a right to economic and social progress. But it vows to shift from fossil to non-fossils fuels in the interest of combating climate change. (India is estimated to increase its population this year by 13 million. This will help keep its per capital carbon emissions down.)

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