Kenya: ‘Bush seriously out of touch’

President Bush’s African visit “dramatizes that Mr. Bush, and perhaps the U.S., is seriously out of touch with what Africa thinks of its problems and how it proposes to solve them,” the Kenyan newspaper The Nation said July 14. The newspaper said the issue of trade most clearly reveals the widening gap. To U.S. ruling circles, it said, “trade means opening up African markets to U.S. goods, allowing U.S. access to African resources, especially oil, while closing the U.S. market to African products.”

But, said The Nation, “Since 70 percent of Africans rely on agriculture, what better way to help the continent fight poverty – and all its other problems – than to give its farmers a chance to trade fairly?”

“If there were any opportunities for Mr. Bush to make a difference in Africa,” The Nation concluded, “no one can accuse him of taking them.”

Korea: Solve nuke issue peacefully

The 11th Inter-Korean Ministerial Meeting held in Seoul July 10-12 reiterated that North Korea’s nuclear issue should be “peacefully solved through appropriate dialogue.” Although the two sides expressed concern over the current situation, with the South urging its counterpart to accept “multilateral dialogue” and the North maintaining that its nuclear issue is only with the U.S., they both said peace and stability should be maintained throughout the peninsula.

The delegations said the eighth round of inter-Korean separated family reunions will be held in Mount Geumgang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, around Sept. 11 – the traditional Chusok Holiday observed throughout the peninsula. They also agreed to set up a subcommittee to promote culture and social exchanges. The next economic cooperation meeting is slated for late August in Seoul, and the next ministerial meeting for mid-October in Pyongyang.

India: Bhopal victims demand trial

Under pressure from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and survivors organizations, the Indian government has called on Washington to extradite former Union Carbide chair Warren Anderson, Radio Havana Cuba said this week. Anderson is wanted in Bhopal for his primary role in the 1984 gas disaster that has caused over 20,000 deaths to date. The catastrophe, considered the world’s largest industrial disaster, has affected up to half a million people.

Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas-Affected Women Stationery Workers Association, said her organization will keep pressuring the Indian and U.S. governments until Anderson and others responsible face trial in the ongoing criminal case.

The Bhopal court declared Anderson a fugitive from justice in 1992, after he ignored a court summons and hurriedly left India. Documents found last year during a class action suit against Anderson and Union Carbide in New York showed that Anderson personally authorized the export of untested and hazardous technology to Bhopal.

Canada: Another court okays same-sex marriages

The British Colombia Court of Appeal on July 8 ordered the provincial government to allow same-sex marriages. Within an hour of the ruling, Tom Graff and Antony Porcino were the first couple to apply and receive a marriage license at the office of Vital Statistics in Vancouver.

British Colombia and Ontario are the only Canadian provinces legally allowing and recognizing gay marriages. The other eight – except for Alberta – say they will recognize a planned federal law recognizing same-sex marriages.

France: AIDS convention urges cheap drugs

The year’s largest AIDS conference, which opened July 13 in Paris, heard pleas from scientists, activists and political leaders for more funds to fight the disease, and greater access to cheap anti-retroviral drugs. Former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso urged participants to learn from his country’s program of education, expanded basic health care, and provision of drug therapy to all those infected.

“The Brazilian experience confirms that ambiguous and inconsistent messages” advocating abstinence and fidelity to solve AIDS risk generating “a misleading sense of security,” said conference chair Prof. Michel D. Kazatchkine. He said Brazil has cut its AIDS death rate in half and reduced hospitalizations by 75 percent.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela said the number of people killed by AIDS, especially in the developing world, represents a travesty of human rights.

Burundian activist Marie-Jose Mbuzenakamwe said only 1,000 of the 90,000 people in her country needing anti-AIDS drugs are getting them. She called on the G8 industrialized countries to give adequate support to the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which she said is nearly bankrupt.

International notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel
Tim Pelzer contributed to this week’s notes.