Biofuel's dirty secret
A leaked World Bank report blames 75 per cent of recent hikes in food prices on the demand for biofuels, specifically corn- and soy-based fuels in the us and Europe. The confidential report by Don Mitchell, a senior economist at the Bank, starkly contradicts the us government's claims that biofuels accounted for just 3 per cent of the increase. President Bush instead linked the high prices to increased demand in India and China, a claim Mitchell's report flatly refutes. The report was likely kept secret for political reasons, mainly to avoid embarrassing and alienating President Bush. Days after the leak, the uk transportation secretary cautioned against uncontrolled growth of fuel crops.
North Korea disarming
North Korea blew up the cooling tower at its main Yongbyon nuclear reactor on June 27, in a symbolic commitment to a September 2005, six-part disarmament deal. A day before, Pyongyang delivered a list of its nuclear activities to the United States. In response, the us removed North Korea from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, eased sanctions and sent ships of food and energy aid. The World Food Programme urged the aid deal after observing nearly 6 million North Koreans were on the verge of starvation. A week later, the North Korean foreign ministry said it would hold out on the final steps towards dismantling its nuclear weapons program me until it received all the promised aid.
Bolivia divided by gas
The leftist government of Evo Morales suffered another blow on June 23 when Tarija became the fourth Bolivian state to declare autonomy from the central government. The autonomy referendum, approved by 80 per cent of voters, grants local control of the state's abundant natural gas reserves. Morales, South America's first indigenous president, proposed redistributive policies that would shift the wealth from the country's booming natural gas industry to the long-subjugated indigenous majority in the west. Such proposals alienated the four gas-rich, mestizo states of the eastern lowlands. The recent autonomy votes pull the rug out from under Morales' redistributive plans and cement the divide between the two increasingly divergent halves of Bolivia.
Direct flights to Kenya
Kenya and the United States signed an Open Skies initiative that allows direct flights between the two countries for one year. Direct flights will boost trade in cut flowers, Kenya's most important export, as flowers can now reach the us within 24 hours of leaving the farm. Until now, almost all of the us $650 million annual earnings from the flower trade came from exports to Europe. The Open Skies agreement will also boost tourism, Kenya's largest industry. Growth in both sectors will be especially crucial as Kenya rebuilds a devastated economy after December's post-election violence.
G8 baby step on climate
At Hokkaido, Japan, g8 countries agreed to halve global carbon emissions by 2050. The g 8 goal, an improvement on last year's pledge to consider cuts, is still woefully ambiguous. The long-term goal specifies no base year for reductions and identifies no mid-term targets. The following day, leaders from China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa met with the g 8. While emerging economies agreed actions must be taken, they rejected the 2050 target, instead urging rich nations to cut emissions to 80-95 per cent of 1990 levels by mid-century. A joint statement asserted any climate change strategy must consider "historical responsibility and respective capacities."
FOOD & WATER
Indian self-sufficiency woes
Whether or not global food prices recede, India could face serious grain shortages due to years of neglecting its agricultural sector, an assocham report warned. Unless the nation increases rice yields 250%, it will become a chronic importer by 2020. And food isn't the only thing India may be running out of. A recently released study showed the government's 2007 projections overestimated future water availability by as much as 68%. According to the study by T N Narasimhan, the government failed to fully take into account water loss from evaporation and transpiration by plants of trees.
One border, two walls
|Construction continues on the border - DEFENCE LINK|
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