brad brace contemporary culture scrapbook

March 31, 2008

Climate Refugees

Filed under: General,global islands,png,thailand,weather — admin @ 5:57 am

Three thousand islanders in Papua New Guinea are making preparations to
become the world’s first “climate refugees” and evacuate their home in the
Carteret islands. The UN’s Human Rights Council says the islands are being
eroded by sea waters that are rising due to global warming. Its report
predicts that people will have to abandon the islands over the next few
years and resettle on nearby Bougainville island. The document comes as
delegates from up to 190 nations meet in Bangkok today for UN climate
change talks.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:41 am

Farmers fall prey to rice rustlers as price of staple crop rockets

Filed under: bangladesh,General,global islands,resource,thailand,weather — admin @ 5:38 am

Asian countries curb exports to avoid shortfalls as ‘perfect storm’ nearly doubles price in three months.

Knee-deep in muddy water, her face smeared with sandalwood paste and a broad-brimmed hat for protection against the broiling sun, Samniang Ketia grins broadly at her good fortune to be in the rice growing business as she replants shoots for the next harvest two months off.

The 37-year-old, who leases a small plot of land in Samblong, central Thailand, knows the price of rice has rocketed – in some cases nearly doubling in three months – and that she is about to reap the benefit when she sells what her family does not eat.

But the price rises have a downside and spawned a new phenomenon: rice rustling. One night, one of Samniang’s neighbour’s fields was stripped as it was about to be harvested. Local police have now banned harvesting machines from the roads at night while on the northern plains farmers are camping in their fields, shotguns at the ready.

“I’ve never heard of it happening before, that people have stolen rice,” said Lung Choop, 68, who grows rice on his smallholding. “But it’s happening now because rice is so expensive. I guess I’ll have to guard my own distant fields when they’re ready.”

Across Asia the suddenly stratospheric rice prices have prompted countries to ban exports amid fears that shortages could provoke food riots.

While prices of wheat, corn and other agricultural commodities have surged since the end of 2006, partly because of extra demand for biofuels to offset rising oil prices, rice held fairly steady.

However, prices for the staple food of about 2.5 billion Asian people rocketed two months ago. Thai rice, the global benchmark, which was quoted at just below $400 (£200) a tonne in January rose to $760 (£380) last week.

Aware that shortages of such a vital staple could spell trouble at home, Asian governments have moved to ensure their people get enough to eat at a price they could afford, an insurance policy which has in turn raised prices further.

Late last week, Cambodia banned all exports for two months to ensure “food security”, following the lead of Egypt, a major exporter. Vietnam, which ships 5m tonnes abroad each year, on Friday declared a 20% cut in exports.

India started the ball rolling late last year. With dwindling stocks, the large exporter introduced curbs that effectively banned exports, around 4m tonnes. Pakistan and China also introduced curbs.

Hopes that India would re-enter the market within the next few months were dashed on Thursday when it raised the minimum price for exports from $650 a tonne to $1,000, effectively maintaining the ban, which was escaped only by the foreign currency-earning premium basmati.

The Philippines is potentially among the biggest losers – with 91 million people, it cannot feed itself. After its farmers warned of a looming shortfall Manila’s fast-food outlets offered to serve “half portions” of rice to conserve stocks. The Philippines’ president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has also pleaded with Vietnam to guarantee 1.5m tonnes of rice this year.

While Indonesians took to the streets of the capital, Jakarta, in protest at rising prices even Thailand, the world’s largest exporter, is bracing itself.

The country produces 30m tonnes of rice a year, and aims to export 8.5m tonnes. Last year 9.5m tonnes was sold abroad and more may be exported this year, prompting ministers to consider curbs. “A rice shortage in the local market is very likely,” said Prasert Kosalwit, director general of the Thai government’s rice department.

Rice shortfalls were reported in southern Thailand as traders from the northern rice belt bought up stocks at inflated prices.

With global rice stocks at their lowest level since 1976, analysts expect price rises to continue until the end of next year. Some analysts predict it could hit $1,000 (£500) a tonne before farmers, spurred by the high prices, plant more crops and increase supplies.

Demand outstripped supply by nearly 2m tonnes last year. The predicted shortfall this year is more than 3m tonnes on the 424m tonnes required.

Across Asia, with its vast and growing population, there is little if any extra land to bring into production, and it may take several years for any “supply response” to materialise.

Growing urbanisation over the longer term in countries such as China and India is cited as a key factor in the shortfall, where the increasingly affluent middle classes demand more meat and dairy products, with land turned over to growing feed for livestock.

Rising wealth in Africa has also become a factor. Oil-rich Nigeria is now the largest importer in Africa, a continent which takes the lion’s share of Thai exports, about 40%. Asia soaks up 35%.

Severe weather across Asia has also damaged production. Record icy temperatures were recorded in China and Vietnam, the latter of which also suffered a pest outbreak. Bangladesh endured a devastating cyclone while Australia suffered a prolonged drought.

“It’s been described as a ‘perfect storm’ of factors that have pushed prices to their highest levels since the 1970s,” said Adam Barclay, of the International Rice Research Institute.

The World Food Programme is also alarmed. The extra cost of feeding the 28 million “poorest of the poor” spread across 14 Asian countries will cost $160m a year and it has asked three dozen donor governments for the cash, part of a $500m global appeal to offset rising food prices.

“The real danger with rising rice prices is that the ‘working poor’ will simply be pushed into the category of ‘poor’ who will look to us to feed them,” said Paul Risley, spokesman for WFP Asia. “There are hundreds of millions living at, or just below, the poverty line of $1-a-day, spending 70% of their day-labour wages on food.

“If food costs double they’ve no opportunity to increase their earnings and no alternative but to reduce what they and their families eat.”

March 29, 2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:52 am

U.N. human rights body turns to climate change

GENEVA – Climate change could erode the human rights of people living in small island states, coastal areas and parts of the world subjected to drought and floods, the U.N. Human Rights Council said on Friday.

In its first consideration of the issue, the 47-member forum endorsed a resolution stressing that global warming threatens the livelihoods and welfare of many of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The proposal from the Maldives, Comoros, Tuvalu, Micronesia and other countries called for “a detailed analytical study of the relationship between climate change and human rights”, to be conducted by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, headed by Louise Arbour.

“Until now, the global discourse on climate change has tended to focus on the physical or natural impacts of climate change,” the Maldives’ ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told the session.

“The immediate and far-reaching impact of the phenomenon on human beings around the world has been largely neglected,” he said. “It is time to redress this imbalance by highlighting the human face of climate change.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made the fight against climate change one of his top priorities, and encouraged all U.N. agencies to incorporate it into their work.

Experts say global warming could cause rising sea levels and intense storms, droughts and floods which would restrict access to housing, food and clean water for millions of people.

The Human Rights Council, which wraps up its latest four-week session in Geneva on Friday, also agreed to appoint an independent expert to assess countries’ human rights obligations linked to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Under the resolution introduced by Germany and Spain, that expert will clarify what can be done to stop discrimination in their provision.

“This issue is very important for quite a large number of people,” Doru Romulus Costea, Romania’s ambassador who serves as council president, told a news briefing.

Russia voiced concern that the council’s foray into water and sanitation issues may unduly stretch its agenda and complicate its work, and Canadian diplomat Sarah Geh stressed that setting up the post did not create a human right to water.

U.N. member countries have set a goal of halving the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services — such as toilets — by 2015.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:37 am

Nicaragua’s Soviet-Era Missiles Locked in Limbo

Filed under: General,global islands,military,nicaragua,usa — admin @ 5:34 am

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — At a secret location somewhere in Nicaragua, shoulder-fired missiles capable of taking down a jetliner lie behind heavy fencing and locked double doors.

The missiles are dangerous artifacts of another era, a time before the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union fed arms to Marxist Sandinistas then in power, and the United States surreptitiously countered by organizing and arming an anti-Sandinista force known as the contras. The bloody conflict between the Sandinistas and contras during the 1980s is long gone, but the Soviet weapons remain, locked in a kind of limbo between Nicaragua and the United States, which fears the missiles could fall into the hands of terrorists.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Sandinista rebel, has proposed exchanging the missiles for medical supplies, an offer that a U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called “unprecedented.” Paul A. Trivelli, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, immediately pronounced the offer “very good.”

But the deal hasn’t happened, and since Trivelli’s initial remark, U.S. officials have been reluctant to speak publicly on the matter. The reasons, some Nicaraguan and American observers say, are that the proposal has not been put on paper and that suspicions remain in both countries that Ortega — who frequently taunts the United States — might be luring the Bush administration into an embarrassing diplomatic trap by making a complex offer that might never come to fruition.

“Ortega’s going to go around six months to a year from now and be able to say, ‘We made this generous offer and the U.S. ambassador came out the next day and said ‘great idea,’ and what have we gotten for it?’ ” said Eduardo Gamarra, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University. “Yes, he’s playing them.”

Manuel Coronel Kautz, Nicaragua’s vice minister of foreign relations, said in an interview that “Daniel Ortega has never made a proposal that wasn’t serious.”

American officials have been pressing Nicaragua for several years to get rid of its stockpile of more than 1,000 shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles — one of the largest caches in the Western Hemisphere outside the United States. Ortega is offering to destroy 651 of his nation’s missiles, while keeping 400 that his military advisers say are necessary to maintain a balance of power with other Central American nations. Still, the destruction of more than 600 missiles would be a major coup for U.S. diplomats, and more than 22 times the number of missiles the United States helped destroy in Bolivia in 2005.

The diplomatic push to destroy Nicaraguan missiles is part of a worldwide effort that has led to the destruction of 17,000 shoulder-fired missiles in the past five years, according to State Department figures. More than 1 million of the weapons have been manufactured in countries around the world, including the United States, and while many of those have been destroyed, no one knows how many are still in circulation.

The campaign to eradicate missiles gained momentum after a 2002 attack in which two SA-7 missiles nearly struck an Israeli airliner in Mombasa, Kenya, and again after a 2003 strike on a cargo plane in Iraq that caused damage but no fatalities.

The following year the United States, concerned that the Nicaraguan missiles were vulnerable to theft, began paying to build a facility to store them. The missiles that American officials want to destroy are now kept in state-of-the-art bunkers that cost the United States $130,000 for construction and staff training, according to a State Department source. The United States also has funded weapons storage facilities in Cambodia and Bosnia, the source said.

Ortega offered to exchange missiles for medical supplies on July 31, saying “this won’t be a gift, but simply a barter with them.” Ambassador Trivelli, who declined multiple requests through a spokeswoman to be interviewed, told Nicaragua’s La Prensa newspaper that he would pass the offer along to U.S. authorities “with great pleasure.”

The offer has puzzled some in Nicaragua, particularly because Ortega has spent the ensuing weeks bashing the United States and trading broadsides with Trivelli in the Nicaraguan press. On Aug. 13, Ortega called the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks “insignificant” compared with the U.S. nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Trivelli said Ortega’s remark was “disappointing.”

Ortega lost the Nicaraguan presidency in 1990 after 11 years in office, then staged a comeback in last year’s presidential election, winning the top job in the Western Hemisphere’s second-poorest nation. Some U.S. officials believe that Ortega’s antagonistic rhetoric is an attempt to appeal to his left-leaning base and that his actions behind the scenes are much less hostile.

“This offer is an encouraging sign,” Avil Ramarez Valdivia, a former Nicaraguan defense minister who now heads an American chamber of commerce in Managua, said in an interview. “Ortega needs a justification for turning over the missiles, and the medicine deal could be it.”

A former Nicaraguan official who has been involved in past missile negotiations said the only way he could see the deal working would be if the Bush administration slipped additional money into an aid program, such as the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corp., without openly admitting a quid pro quo.

Political posturing aside, the Nicaraguan leader might have the biggest incentive to make the missile deal happen, said Roger F. Noriega, the former top Western Hemisphere official at the State Department.

“If they get into the wrong hands,” Noriega said, “he’s going to be the one held accountable.”

March 26, 2008

Filed under: General,global islands,nicaragua,wildlife — admin @ 5:16 am

Iran’s Push Into Nicaragua

Filed under: General,global islands,nicaragua,resource,usa — admin @ 5:13 am

MONKEY POINT, Nicaragua — The second military helicopter in as many days hovered over the jungle and then landed to a most unwelcome reception from several dozen angry Rama Indian and Creole villagers.

Rupert Allen Clear Duncan, a leader of some 400 Creole who live along the shoreline, confronted the foreigners dressed in suits and military uniforms that day in March and demanded to know the purpose of their aerial trespasses.

“This is our land; we have always lived here, and you don’t have our permission to be here,” Duncan spat, when refused the courtesy of an explanation.

Not until Duncan threatened to have his machete-waving followers damage the aircraft did they learn that some of the men were from the Islamic Republic of Iran and had come promising to establish a Central American foothold in the middle of their territory.

As part of a new partnership with Nicaragua’s Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, Iran and its Venezuelan allies plan to help finance a $350 million deep-water port at Monkey Point on the wild Caribbean shore, and then plow a connecting “dry canal” corridor of pipelines, rails and highways across the country to the populous Pacific Ocean. Iran recently established an embassy in Nicaragua’s capital.

In feeling threatened by Iran’s ambitions, the people of Monkey Point have powerful company. The Iranians’ arrival in Nicaragua comes as the Bush administration and some European allies hold the threat of war over Iran to force an end to its uranium enrichment program and alleged help to anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq.

What worries state department officials, former national security officials and counterterrorism researchers is that, if attacked, Iran could stage strikes on American or allied interests from Nicaragua, deploying the Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard operatives already in Latin America. Bellicose threats by Iran’s clerical leadership to hit American interests worldwide if attacked, by design or not, heighten the anxiety.

“The bottom line is if there is a confrontation with Iran, and Iran gets bombed, I have absolutely no doubt that Iran is going to lash out globally,” said John R. Schindler, a veteran former counterintelligence officer and analyst for the National Security Agency.

“The Iranians have that ability, particularly from South America. Hezbollah has fronts all over Latin America. That is not new. But it’s certainly something we’re starting to care about now.”

American policymakers already had been fretting in recent years over Tehran’s successful forging of diplomatic relations, direct air routes and embassy swaps with populist South American governments that abhor the U.S., such as President Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. But Iran’s latest move places it just a few porous borders from Texas, where illegal Nicaraguan laborers routinely travel…

Sikhs Thrive In Fiji

Filed under: fiji,General,global islands — admin @ 5:01 am

Fiji has a dedicated and thriving Sikh community. From 1900- 1930 Sikhs from Punjab came to the Fiji Islands and became involved in farming, especially the sugarcane industry. The Punjabis have established themselves irreversibly, firmly and successfully in Fiji. The colorful and distinctive culture of the Punjabis have indeed contributed to the variety and attractiveness of Fiji.

There are five Gurdwaras in different parts of Fiji. They also have one Kindergarten, three Primary schools and one Khalsa College. There are about 800 members in the Sikh community in Lakoutta and about 1,500 in Fiji.

People of Indian descent have settled in Fiji for over 130 years and now constitute over 350,000 people. Most Punjabis arrived in Fiji during early 1900’s.

In Fiji however, the earliest Indians were brought over to the Fiji islands in by the British. They were brought to the Fiji Islands by the British Raj in India under 5 year term, but when they arrived in Fiji they were forced to work do menial labour for the Europeans.

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