June 30 WORLD NOTES

Nigeria: General strike settled

A general strike that had halted most major economic activity in Nigeria was called off June 24 with labor leaders accepting a government proposal to refrain from raising fuel prices for a year, and to cut in half an earlier price hike that led to the strike.

The strike was called June 20 by the National Labor Congress (NLC) and other labor federations. The unions had accepted government promises to raise public employee pay by 15 percent, reverse tax increases, and reconsider the proposed sales of two refineries, but insisted that gasoline remain at 65 naira (51 cents) per liter instead of the recently imposed 75N price. NLC head Abdulwahed Omar called the price hike a “serious nuisance to the general public.”

Unionists see low-priced fuel as partial compensation for a dearth of public services, according to allAfrica.com. President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government, elected in April amidst vote fraud charges, depends on foreign oil sales for 90 percent of its revenues.



Palestine: Refugees still suffer

On World Refugee Day, June 20, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said 4.4 million Palestinians are still refugees nearly 60 years after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. One-third remain in camps and receive UNRWA services. Israeli hostilities and barriers, violent internal conflicts and an international boycott have recently worsened their conditions, the UN’s IRIN news agency said.

For UNRWA official Filippo Grandi, “Humanitarian access is an immediate problem in Gaza.”

Lebanon hosts 400,000 refugees victimized by legal restrictions and recent fighting in the Nahr al-Bared camp. In Syria, 460,000 Palestinians enjoy access to services and employment equal to that of citizens.

A quarter of the 800,000 Palestinians fleeing the 1948 war were displaced again by Israel’s 1967 war. UNRWA, with a $200 million deficit, has focused assistance on the twice-displaced, and takes credit for a 92.4 percent Palestinian literacy rate, significantly higher than the 67 percent for Middle Easterners elsewhere, and eradication of communicable diseases.



Australia: Military links grow with U.S., Japan

With some 100 protesters nearby, U.S.-Australian joint military exercises began on June 18 off Queensland. Washington contributed 20,000 troops, 10 ships, and 100 aircraft; Canberra 7,500 soldiers, 20 ships and 25 aircraft. We have “the same values and interests,” said a U.S. admiral quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

Thousands more protesters were expected at Shoalwater Bay for June 23 culminating demonstrations.

Australia is considering joining the Japanese-U.S. “regional security” missile defense network. Australia and Japan have already agreed on joint humanitarian and “peacekeeping” missions. Australia, with 2,000 soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, will increase troop levels to 30,500 and plans to spend $42 billion on military procurement.



Canada: Afghanistan competes as uranium supplier

Canada’s role as the world’s major source of uranium took center stage at the 9/11 Truth Conference in Vancouver June 22-23. Speakers pointed out the health risk to Canadians of depleted uranium (DU), the illegal use of DU in military target practice, and its role in causing human disease. They emphasized that under international law, DU, a weapon of mass destruction, is illegal.

Canada was identified as sending 60 percent of its uranium to the United States, with most DU used by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans being Canadian in origin. Afghanistan and Kazakhstan have recently been shown to harbor vast uranium deposits with the latter set to become the world’s top supplier by 2020, according to scoop.co.nz. In the case of Afghanistan, that may explain why the British ambassador there recently called his country’s commitment there “a marathon rather than a sprint — we should be thinking in terms of decades.”



Haiti: Drivers’ strike reflects crisis

Refusing for 48 hours to drive buses, taxis and small trucks, unionized drivers in Haiti began on June 12 what one called a “nationwide strike from the grass roots,” according to Inter Press Service. They were protesting inflated traffic fines, retroactive registration fees and six-fold increases in gasoline prices.

Almost half the drivers’ income goes for fuel. Business has also been hurt by the reduced spending power of the population due to the high gas prices.

Union spokesperson Benissoit Duclos criticized ties between Rene Preval’s government and business supporters of the 2004 coup against President Aristide.

Haiti’s participation in Petro Caribe so far offers little remedy. Under the Venezuela-engineered plan, Haiti was to have received cheap oil and transferred it at cost to oil companies. But two U.S. suppliers have refused to negotiate. So far, the government adheres to international banking and U.S. rules against subsidized fuel sales. The striking drivers have insisted that without subsidies, they cannot operate.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @megalink.net)