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May 2008

May 2  Pakistanis are complaining of no electricity for long periods of time. They are complaining about their utility bills and about food prices that have affected their eating habits. There is concern that the judges whom Musharraf dismissed have not yet been restored. There is widespread disappointment with the new government. One Pakistani who was interviewed said that life is becoming unlivable. People are talking about emigrating.

May 2  Another exceptionally powerful wind disaster has occurred, this time a cyclone that has hit Burma.

May 3  An article in the May issue of Vanity Fair reports: "Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics --ruthless legal battles against small farmers – is its decades-long history of toxic contamination."

May 3  In Cuba, a law against owning a home computer has been lifted. In recent weeks, thousands of Cubans have been spending their savings on other previously banned goods, such as mobile telephones and DVD players.

May 4  In describing troublesome trends that distinguish the 21st century from the 20th, General Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, puts exploding populations at the top of his list.

May 7  In Lebanon, rifle and grenade fire has broken out between opponents and supporters of the Western and Saudi backed government. Opponents are largely Hezbollah supporters. Driving the opponents are protests against rising feul and food prices. The armed rising followed the pro-Western Siniora government deciding to strip Hezbollah of its private underground telecommunications system, which was crucial to Hezbollah during the war with Israel in 2006.

May 7  In an English court of law, the People's Mujahedin of Iran (Mujahedin e-Kalq) has won removal from England's list of terrorist organizations. The organization is listed as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.

May 8 In the US, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh proclaims that Barrack Obama will "lose big." Limbaugh describes himself as always right, and today he says that Obama "has shown he cannot get the votes Democrats need to win – blue-collar, working class people. He can get effete snobs, he can get wealthy academics, he can get the young, and he can get the black vote, but Democrats do not win with that."

May 8  The government of Burma states that 22,000 have died as a result of the cyclone that struck on May 2. Estimates by other observors are that the dead will rise to more than 100,000. (Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005, killed 1,836.) The cyclone has damaged much of Burma's rice growing region, putting more pressure on the food supply.

May 11  Rice production in Uganda has increased as a result of tariffs on imported rice. Rice prices in Uganda have improved, unlike elsewhere in the world. Ugandan importers have moved their investments into Ugandan rice growing.

May 12  China's worst earthquake in 32 years strikes in Sichuan Province (central China). Ten months ago, scientists warned that the region was ripe for a major quake.

May 13  Many see nothing wrong with guilt by association or don't recognize it. A version of it is employed by presidential candidate John McCain, McCain saying that Barack Obama is the favored presidential candidate of Hamas.

May 13 New figures from the CIA's World Factbook show Iraq leading India, Mongolia and Russia, among others, in "life expectancy at birth." Iraq's is 69.62 years. Russia: 65.94. Japan leads the world at 82.07. The US is listed 47th, at 78.14.

May 15  Californians and others who see marriage as an absolute are upset at what they see as a creative interpretation by the California Supreme Court. That court rules unconstitutional a ban on marriage between same sex couples. One upset Californian describes marriage as something that has existed since the "dawn of time." When people went from merely coupling to institutionalized declarations and definitions remains for many unclear.

May 15  Lizabeth Diaz reports that businesses in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico, are collapsing, that business people daily are facing "threats of extortion," that investments in industry are being scared away and that downtown Tijuana is virtually deserted. Rival gangs are warring for control of the city.

May 16  In a speech, President Bush compares negotiating with terrorists with the British and French having appeased Hitler in 1938. Confusion and upset follow from a failure to differentiate between negotiating and appeasing. One can talk or negotiate without giving the other side anything in particular or everything as the British and French did at Munich regarding Czechoslovakia. In fact, one can negotiate and give the other side nothing.

May 16  Liberals point out that President Bush has negotiated with North Korea and Libya, that Israel has negotiated with the PLO, Syria and Egypt and that the British negotiated with the IRA.

May 17  The European Union is "cracking down" on illegal immigration, trying to stop voyages of Africans reaching Europe by boat. Italy's newly elected conservative government has conducted a week-long raid that has rounded up nearly 400 suspected illegal immigrants. Italians are expressing hostility toward Romanians, who can legally migrate where they want within the EU. In Naples, people have set fire to the makeshift homes of Gypsies.

May 19  A Gallup survey estimates that in the US tolerance for divorce has risen to 70 percent, up from 67 percent in 2006. Those believing that divorce is morally wrong has declined to 22 percent.

May 21  Speaking in London, the chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, LIU Mingkang, says that "accountability and responsibility for managing risks are, and must remain, with individual financial institutions and investors." He adds that, "This needs to be firmly backed up by strengthened national regulatory and supervisory frameworks."

May 21  In Kenya, a gang goes from home to home killing ten accused of witchcraft.

May 21  Talks in Qatar result in Lebanon's Hezbollah (Party of God) having veto power in a new Lebanese cabinet of national unity. The use of arms or violence will be forbidden in settling political differences. IIn the US the Bush administration considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice approves of the talks, saying, "We view this agreement as a positive step toward resolving the current crisis."

May 22  Presidential candidate John McCain breaks with Pastor John Hagee over remarks about God and Hitler. (Opinion: Hagee, McCain and History Methodology.)

May 23  An article by Syed Rashid Husain in the Saudi newspaper Arab News describes a claim that "60 percent of today's crude oil price is pure speculation... driven by large trader banks and hedge funds." The accusation is that people trying to make money on a continuing rise in the price of oil prices are doing to oil what speculators did to the price of gold in 1979-80 and to the price of homes a few years ago. Decrease in supply, increase in demand and decline in the dollar do not add up proportional to the rise in the price of crude oil over the past few years. Today's price is more that $131 per barrel and reached a high of $135. In 2002 it was at $20. It began this year at around $100 – a more than 30 percent rise in five months.

May 23  China's People's Daily describes The Wall Street Journal Asia Edition (US), the Globe and Mail (Canada), the Guardian (U.K.) and other foreign news agencies as having lauded earthquake relief efforts in China. China has fully mobilized in response to its earthquake disasters, and, unlike Burma in response to its Cyclone disaster, China encourages efforts from individual citizens. And, in many ways, individuals have volunteered support for quake victims.

May 25  The US lands a spacecraft on Mars, its scientific instruments intact.

May 25  In Lebanon, General Michel Suleiman wins a virtually uncontested election for president, agreed to in Qatar last week as part of resolving Lebanon's recent crisis. Jim Muir reports for the BBC that "Never before has an election here produced such an eruption of jubilation among the people, across the spectrum of sect and politics."

May 26  For gasoline, Norwegians are paying what amounts to almost 11 US dollars per gallon. Some of this is a gasoline tax. Norwegians have launched an organized protest against Shell Oil and the Norwegian oil company Statoil.

May 26  According to a recently published statement by the World Health Organization, "42 percent of children under five years of age in South-East Asia and 43 percent in Africa suffer from chronic malnutrition."

May 28  In China, 67,183 are confirmed dead from the earthquake and 20,790 are still missing. Problems with insurance companies regarding damages will not be extensive. China's citizens can buy private insurance, but many look instead to government to fix things. Regarding state control, for those who lost a child in the quake China lifts its one-child policy.

May 28  In Nepal, the newly-elected parliament declares their country independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular and an inclusive democratic republic. Nepal's 240 year-old monarchy is abolished. A three-day holiday is declared. King Gyanendra is given 15 days to leave his palace.

May 29  More than 100 countries, including Britain, have approved a ban on cluster bombs. Not joining the agreement is Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and the United States.

May 30  Mexico's conservative government announces its plan to give poorer citizens 120 pesos ($11.55) a month to help them cope with rising food prices. Mexico also gives free public transportation to the poor. One-third of Mexico's population is said to be below the "poverty-line."

May 30  Per capita health care expenditure in France is about half what it is in the United States. WebMd.com reports that just 8% of the French qualify as obese compared to 33% of Americans. Snacking is blamed, which a lot of French find "distasteful." In the US, according to WebMd.com, "snacking is a $30 billion industry that has increased 33% since 1988."

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