June 2010

Jun 2  Spain's "socialist" prime minister, Jose Zapatero, speaks of his government's intention to make it easier and cheaper for firms to both hire and fire their workers – whether or not his reform has the approval of organized labor. He sees it as vital for reform and to address Spain's 20% unemployment problem.

Jun 6  World News writes the following headline: "Gaza flotilla attack: A week that changed Middle East politics." It refers to Israel's interception of six ships in international waters on May 30. Israel considers itself at war with Hamas, believing that Hamas is at war with it. Israel believes that this gives it the right to interdict ships in international waters (as the US did in 1962 regarding Russian ships heading to Cuba with missiles). The flotilla had armed men aboard, and Israel sees the flotilla as having been organized with provocation in mind. Turkish citizens were involved, and Turkey complains. In the words of its foreign minister, "No country has the right to touch our citizens in international waters." He adds that Turkey "cannot tolerate [Israel's] blockade of Gaza."

Jun 7  Helen Thomas announces her retirement from journalism. On May 27 she said of Israel, "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine ... they should go home [to] Poland, Germany ... America and everywhere else." Everywhere else would include Egypt, Morocco and other Muslim countries in the Middle East that Jews were obliged to flee after the founding of Israel – a migration that is not about to be reversed.

Jun 8  In the Opinion section of today's Washington Post (washingpost.com), Richard Cohen begins with "Ah, another teachable moment!" With a bit of kindness toward Thomas, Cohen writes of "What Helen Thomas missed." He writes of Jews who did attempt to "go home" to Poland. "This resulted in the murder of about 1,500 of them ... by Poles, either out of sheer ethnic hatred or fear they would lose their (stolen) homes." Cohen has personal experience with postwar Poland. Some Jews went to Germany for protection. And, as an aside, Cohen writes a bit about General George S. Patton, in charge of US occupation forces. He describes Patton as "a great man on the screen, a contemptible bigot in real life."

Jun 11  Elections In the Netherlands, gives the center-right VVD party one more seat (31) than the center-left labor party. The leader of the center-right party could be the first prime minister from its "political camp," writes the BBC, since World War I. The anti-Islam party, the PVV, increased its seats in parliament from 9 to 24 – its best finish to date – and it may join the VVD in a coalition government.

Jun 12  Gangs of Kyrgyz youths have been burning and looting in Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan – the center of support for the ousted President Bakiyev, overthrown in April. The gangs have been attacking Uzbeks, a large ethnic minority in the region. The Kyrgyz government has given the order to shoot to kill. Nearly 80 are reported dead so far and about 1,000 persons wounded.

Jun 14  Kyrgyz attacks on Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, including burning their homes, are described in the NYT as resentment over Uzbek prosperity and Uzbeks as owners of many businesses (not unlike the resentment against the Chinese in the Philippines, Indonesia). Also, "ethnic Uzbeks have supported the new interim government" and Kyrgyz in the south "have remained loyal" to Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the president deposed in April.

Jun 15  Police in Delhi, India, arrest a man and his brother for the murder of the man's 19-year-old daughter and her male friend – an honor killing, that included binding the hands and feet of the two, electrocuting them and beating them with iron rods. According to police, the father was opposed to the relationship between the two because the boy was from another caste. The BBC writes that correspondents say the killings – "long a taboo subject in India – are now being reported more often."

Jun 15  Insurance companies describe as an act of God a lightning strike that burns down a 65-foot-tall statue of Jesus in front of the Solid Rock Church near Monroe, Ohio. The statue was made of fiberglass. The statue has been described as a "graven image" and to have cost $250,000.

Jun 16  Yesterday was the 56th day since British Petroleum's oil rig exploded and oil began gushing into the waters of the Mexican Gulf. President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office and said, "We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long as it takes," and he says he will make BP pay for the clean up and compensate people for the losses they have suffered. He adds that he intends "to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again" – a big promise given the frequency with which oil companies, despite their engineering expertise, have oil spills. (Note the frequency of oil spillage in Nigeria, by the Saudis and the Premex spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979. Oil extraction is a messy business.) Obama spoke for "better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling." He promoted the comprehensive energy and climate bill being considered by Congress. He said that "God is with us" and asked people to pray.

Jun 16  Most commentators at Fox News were negative about Obama's speech. Sarah Palin blamed Obama for the continuing gush of oil into the Gulf. Her questioner, Bill O'Reilly, asked her in disbelief: "You mean to tell me that his top priority is not stoping the leak?" Her answer was scattered. Charles Krauthammer called Obama a "pie in the sky" dreamer. On Larry King Live, T. Boone Pickens was not negative about Obama's speech but described as stupid the years of delay in exploiting the great abundance that the US has in natural gas.

Jun 17  With the looting and burning of homes and the attacks against Uzbeks, according to a report on the NewsHour today, there were "many cases of raped women." The "armed gangs" were described as including "disaffected young men who are easily stirred up on the idea of a grievance and of taking revenge against other groups." This was a description of Kyrgyz young men. (Every ethnic group has its primitives alongside its better people.)

Jun 22  Britain's conservative government, in power since May 11, announces that it is raising taxes in order to decisively tackle government debt. It is raising the Value Added Tax (a national sales tax) from 17.5% to 20%. Tax credits will be cut for families earning more than £40,000 per year. And the BBC reports that "child benefit and public sector pay will be frozen and 25% cut from public service spending." Labour Party leader, Harriet Harman, complains that the new budget will stifle growth and hit hardest "those who can least afford it."

Jun 22  In Bangladesh about 700 garment factories shut down after days of protests by tens of thousands of workers demanding better wages.

Jun 24  Two days ago, Mari Kiviniemi, 42, of the Center Party, became Prime Minister of Finland. Finland's head of state is also a woman, Tarja Halonen. Today, Julia Gillard, 49, became Australia's first woman Prime Minister. She describes herself as not religious, and she never married or had children. She lives with a hair dresser, Tim Mathieson, her partner since 2006. She is of the center-left Australian Labor Party. The world now has 29 female heads of state and government.

Jun 24  George Soros criticizes Angela Merkel's austerity policy, warning that it is becoming a danger for Europe and should change to a pro-growth agenda. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced plans for budget cuts amounting to 80 billion euros. Soros accuses the Germans of "dragging their neighbors into deflation, which threatens a long phase of stagnation." He says that he cannot rule out the euro's collapse.

Jun 28  The G-20 nation leaders at the summit in Toronto choose to focus on austerity and cutting deficits. President Obama favors the opposite: economic stimulation. The fear of those who believe in stimulation is a slide into what people are calling a double dip. The economist Ken Rogoff sides with deficit reduction now. The economist Paul Krugman believes that the deficit can be addressed after the economy recovers. He points to the length of the depressions that followed the panics of 1873 and 1929-31 and that both of these depressions "included periods when the economy grew." Of the G-20 summit he writes that "governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending."

Jun 30  According to the Iranian state news agency, a military court has sentenced two men to death for the killing of three protesters.

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