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June 2009

Jun 2  In China, the General Motors (GM) and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) joint venture announces that sales of GM cars were a monthly record for May: 56,011 units. In the US, sales of GM cars have been falling, and GM is reconstituting itself through bankruptcy proceedings, with support from the federal government. The government is expected to acquire a temporary 60 percent stake in the company.

Jun 2  Those who make up the regime in North Korea have viewed themselves as Marxist and most progressive, but today the successor to leader Kim Jung-il has been named as his son, Kim Jong-un, 26, the third generation in a monarchy-like family dynasty. Kim Jung-il, 67, General Secretary of the Workers' (Communist) Party of Korea, appears to have played a major role in the choice of his successor, which brings to mind another Communist Party General Secretary, Joseph Stalin, who also was supposed to be part of a collective leadership but was surrounded by yes-men. It is hard to imagine, however, Stalin naming any of his sons as his successor. To the world, Communist rule in North Korea appears as bizarre if not more so than the Stalinist regime in the old Soviet Union – for various reasons. Marx, of course, would not have liked either. Many expect the regime in North Korea eventually to go the way of authoritarian monarchies and Stalinist regimes.

Jun 3  In Pakistan, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the massacre in Mumbai, India, is released from detention.

Jun 3  California's Senate narrowly passes a bill to prohibit the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic food containers. The Los Angeles Times reports that "More than 200 independent scientific studies have linked BPA to brain development problems and behavioral troubles in young children, the early onset of puberty and several types of cancer." The bill now goes to the California Assembly.

Jun 4  Obama makes a speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo that may be historic. He says that "violent extremists" had bred fear and that the "cycle of suspicion and discord must end." His speech was interrupted with applause 36 times. Among Muslims in the Middle East who are interviewed his speech is described as honest and sincere and viewed with favor.

Jun 5  As elsewhere in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia President Obama's speech appears to have widespread approval. The major thrust of Obama's speech is in accord with Saudi King Abdullah's approach to reforms and, international affairs including anti-terrorism and interfaith amity.

Jun 6  For two months in northern Peru, Indians were maintaining fuel and transport blockades to prevent drilling for oil and gas on their ancestral land. The government sent in the military to clear the blockades. Violence yesterday left at least 22 tribesmen and 11 police dead. The Indians took hostages, and a rescue effort today is described as leaving nine policemen dead and 22 others as freed.

Jun 6  In the US, "conservative" commentator Dr. Monica Crowley (she has a PhD in international relations) describes Obama's speech in Cairo to the Muslim world as insufficiently pro-American. On her website she writes, "Forget about American superiority. Now we must go through 'partnerships' and progress cannot be ours; it must be 'shared.' " She adds that Obama "wants to level America out of penance for our past 'evils.' Two hundred and twenty-three years of American exceptionalism, being erased in less than 200 days. Our enemies could not do it better."

Jun 7  On the Sunday talk shows, Obama's speech in Cairo is evaluated. Among the guests are intellectuals from the Middle East and Malaysia. The conservative George Will views the speech without hope of better relations with the Muslim world, but other panelists approve of Obama having spoken about mutual interest and mutual respect, of restoring credibility and about inclusion in solving problems. Most conclude that Obama's speech accomplished what he intended. The opinion was expressed that time will tell whether it is a turning point or just another speech.

Jun 7  In Lebanon political maturity triumphs. The pro-Western coalition wins enough seats to hold on to its majority in parliament. The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, accepts the election results and congratulates all who won seats.

Jun 9  In Pakistan another hotel is bombed, supposedly by the Taliban. It's the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar. Eleven are reported killed and at least 52 injured. Such acts are political and still pursued by the politically naive. It is one of a series of recent attacks. The world will see whether it contributes to the Taliban's taking power in Pakistan.

Jun 9  In Sweden it is alleged that "anti-fascist" leftists have initiated twenty violent attacks on centrists and rightists during parliamentary electoral campaigning. Typically, Swedes describe the attackers as imbeciles. One adds that the "true fascists" in Sweden "are them" (the violent activists).

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Jun 11  Two Kenyan human rights activists are assassinated. One of them, Oscar Kingara, recently gave the United Nations evidence of police abuses in Kenya. Kenya is reported as submerged in corruption, including the longstanding extortion racket by a sect called the Mungiki (united people), which evolved from political action in the 1980s to monetary gain. Complaints abound in Kenya that the police are a power unto themselves, corrupt and killing with impunity. Calls for the sacking of Kenya's police chief and the resignation of its attorney-general have been ignored.

Jun 13  Iran has held an election for its presidency without the freedom of press that democracy requires. The winning candidate is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured), the incumbent president. He was favored more by the poorer urban workers and rural peasants – the less educated and more fervently religious of the electorate.

Jun 16  The Copenhagen Post reports that "nearly a fifth of all residents" are making use of private health insurance, an option available to the Danes, all of whom are covered by state health care. Private insurance, the Post reports, "covered only 1.1 billion kroner of health care expenses last year, out of a total national health care bill of 90 billion kroner." In other words, the vast majority of Danes have chosen health care that they have paid for through taxation.

Jun 17 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says of President Obama’s June 4 address in Cairo: “We saw a new tone, a new language and a new spirit in the official US rhetoric. He reiterates to former President Carter that his movement accepts a Palestinian state alongside Israel with its 1967 borders with full sovereignty and Jerusalem as the new state's capital. No doubt Jerusalem will be a major point of contention in any future negotiations between Palestinians and Israel.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Jun 19  Switzerland's central bank warns that it is considering imposing constraints on the size of its biggest domestic banks – unless global policymakers can come up with a new system to deal with large banks when they fail.

Jun 19  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured), tells his followers that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election victory (62.6 percent versus 33.75 percent) was not fraudulent. Therefore, he proclaims, protests are outside the realm of legitimacy. He uses the phrase "religious democracy," although he suppresses freedom of expression and his position as Supreme Leader is not elective. As have dictators, he puts blame for any coming bloodshed not on his police or supporters but on demonstrators. In his speech he uses the word "enemies" often and "Zionist" occasionally. He speaks of Western journalists and leaders as enemies, describing them as having been stunned by "our great election victory." And now, he says, they have removed their masks.

Jun 20  The Khamenei regime tries to block news coverage of police actions against today's demonstrators – the snatching of demonstrators to be hauled away to an unknown fate, the swinging of batons and tear gas. CNN is prohibited from trying to cover the day's events in Iran, to no effect. Because of amateur video the coverage on CNN is like never before. One purpose behind the news blockade is perhaps to protect the regime's image abroad, where news blockades are associated with dictatorship.

Neda Agha Sultan

Neda, a former philosophy student, gunned down while demonstrating. She has become an icon.

Jun 20  The world was wondering whether Iranians would stay home or defy Khamenei. The answer is in. It's defiance. The world changed in 1979 with the Iranian revolution, and the breadth of today's defiance suggests that another major turn is underway, because of the courage of Iranians. One of the slogans heard from protesters is "Live or Die."

Jun 21  On his website, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says to foreign powers that "By making hasty comments, you will not have a place in the circle of the Iranian nation's friends. Therefore, I recommend you to correct your interfering positions."

Jun 21  At a memorial service for Neda, her mother does not speak the lies that Iran's ruling regime wants her to speak. Trying to defend its image, authorities have offered her substantial finanicial support if she joins the mendacity of murderers.

Jun 22  In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes that we are watching the fall of the political-religious ideology that was part of the founding of Iran's theocracy thirty years ago. Repressions might keep the Supreme Leader Khamenei's regime in power for a while, he writes, but the ideology of "divinely ordained" arbiters of both morality and politics has suffered a fatal blow an idea falling before its politics.

Jun 24  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announces on state television that, "For sure, neither the system nor the people will give in to pressures at any price." At any price as Khamenei uses it here, is outside of the politics that makes possible healthful social interaction. But Khamenei considers his position in the realm of the divine and himself as infallible, while many in the world have come to see him as morally and politically befuddled.

Jun 24  In Iraq another bombing has killed 70 or more people in a Shia community in Baghdad. The average number of daily births in Iraq is around 2,391, the average deaths 408. That is 1,983 more being born than dying. Around 60 percent of the Iraqis are Shia, so on an average day there are an additional 1,189 Shia born. No continuing daily slaughter perpetrated against the Shia of Iraq is going to reduce significantly the Shia population. Of course, those perpetrating today's bombing see neither the futility nor the barbarity of their act. They too may be focused on the divine.

Jun 26  Speaking at Friday prayers, broadcast nationally, Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, a member Iran's Assembly of Experts, says that "Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution." Speaking with disgust for the knighthood of author Salman Rushdie, Khatami has recently said that the death sentence issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini against Rushdie is still alive and cannot be changed.

Jun 27  Male fish producing eggs and deformations in new born boys, plus a statement this month by scientists belonging to the Endocrine Society should be a wake-up call writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times.

Jun 28  Manuel Zelaya has been serving a non-renewable four-year term as President of Honduras. That country's Supreme court has ruled that a referendum to make his term renewable is unconstitutional, and the court twice accused him of acting illegally. His attorney general had said he should resign. The BBC writes that he has "sacked his chief of defence staff." The heads of the army navy and air force resigned. One might expect the military to act, and it did. Today, troops arrest Zelaya and fly him in his pajamas to exile in Costa Rica. And Congress appoints its speaker, Roberto Micheletti, a member of Zelaya's Liberal Party, as the acting head of state.

Jun 30  The latest anti-Obama pessimism, including talk of debt and of coming inflation that will sap economic recovery, has contributed to the fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from a high at 9000 on June 12 to a low of almost 8200 on June 24. President Obama this past week again complained of those who say "the sky is falling." Those skeptical of Obama following his signing the stimulus bill on February 18 sent the Dow down from 7500 to below 6500 on March 9. The Dow returned to 7500 on March 26. Some Obama doubters nowadays believe the Dow will drop from 8500 to the mid-7000s again, if not to a new bottom. Or maybe the Dow will return to 9000 or higher? Stay tuned.

Jun 30  Comparing Iran and Morocco, Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post describes Morocco as having moved in the past decade from "traditional monarchy to constitutional monarchy, acquiring along the way real political parties, a relatively free press, new political leaders – the mayor of Marrakesh is a 33-year-old woman – and a set of family laws that strive to be compatible both with sharia and international conventions on human rights."

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