Argentina: U.S. military brings in contraband
The manifest didn't mention communications equipment, machine guns, rifles and narcotics, so customs officials commandeered the 1,000 cubic feet of material on board a U.S. Defense Department plane flying into Buenos Aires Feb. 10. The supplies were to be used by U.S. marines offering the police a five-week course on hostage rescue. That course was postponed last August, reports Pagina 12, on interruption of a similarly illicit shipment. This time the U.S. ambassador's insistence that one container remain sealed caused a two day airport standoff. Marines rotated the duty of sitting on the box, while the foreign minister and U.S. military personnel hovered. Once the box was opened and contraband seized, the supplies went on to the U.S. Embassy.
Italy: Berlusconi must go, say women
Less than half of Italian women are employed, while the European average is 60 percent. That, plus reduced pensions, skewed family support policies and media stereotyping of women were issues bringing over a million women into the streets of 280 cities Feb. 13. The trigger for the unprecedented outpouring was anger at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's much publicized flamboyant relations with underage sex workers, for which he will soon go on trial. Pina Nuzzo, president of the Italian Union of Women, told IPS, "The common thought is that, towards the economic crisis, dismissing a woman is less grave. For young women - those who don't take the path of sexual shortcuts - it is still hard to get a job."
Senegal: Dakar hosts World Social Forum
Ten years after the Forums began in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the World Social Forum, gathered in Dakar, Senegal, Feb. 6-11, attracting 75,000 participants from 132 countries. They attended 1,200 workshops, cultural events, seminars and panels. Bolivian President Evo Morales opened the event, calling for a "mobilization against imperialism" and denouncing privatization of basic services and natural resources. Planning had focused on "three strategic axes" - analysis of the world economic crisis, strategies for resistance and democratic alternatives. Principal "protagonists" on hand, says the TeleSur report, were "women with their organizations and networks, small farmers [fighting] against land concentration and, especially, migrants." Eyes, however, were on Egypt: "Many other African presidents today are trembling in fear on seeing what's happening there," observed Senegalese intellectual Demba Moussa Dembélé.
Global: World labor group issues jobs report
The International Labor Organization released its annual report on Global Employment Trends in late January. It reviewed employment status worldwide during the period of global recovery from economic crisis. Data from 2010 show unemployment remaining high while other indicators, among them global GDP, consumption, trade and equity markets, are improving. Worldwide unemployment at 6.2 percent exceeds the 5.6 percent level of 2007. One in five workers, 630 million in all, earn $1.25 per day or less. They include 40 million additional workers who recently entered that category due to the economic crisis. The report warns prioritization of fiscal deficit reduction over job creation could jeopardize job prospects for last year's 205 million unemployed workers.
Afghanistan: U.S. military would remain
Speaking to reporters on Feb. 8, President Hamid Karzai indicated plans were in the works for permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan, although he insisted his government and a tribal council, known as a Loya Jirga, would have the final say. Quoted by PressTV, Karzai explained, "We believe that a long-term relationship with the United States is in the interest of Afghanistan." He insisted such bases would pose no threat to neighboring countries. In mid-January, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, visiting the country with six other Republican senators, suggested long-term U.S. bases there would serve the interests of both countries. The U.S. government last year strengthened its forces in Afghanistan, but indicated the host government would assume security responsibilities beginning in 2014.
Cuba: Chinese solidarity builds
Interviewed recently on Rebelion.org, Chinese Ambassador Liu Yuquin points out that his country's commercial dealings with Cuba, second only to Venezuela's, contribute to improved living conditions there. Chinese importation of Cuban sugar, rum and bio-medical products complement Cuban purchases of cars, buses, refrigerators, electronic devices and communications products from China. Bilateral trade rose from $800 million in 2006 to $1.8 billion last year. The newly opened Gran Melía-Shanghai Hotel, in addition to plans for a hotel near the Hemingway Marina, typifies expanding joint venture projects. Chinese technical teams, already involved in modernizing Cuban telecommunications, will join in putting the new Venezuelan - Cuban undersea fiber optic cable into service. Cuba recognized the People's Republic of China in 1959, a Latin American first.