♦ China executes the former Head of Food Safety, Zheng Xiaoyu.  He had headed that administration from 1998 through 2005.  Inside China, babies had died from being fed nutritionally-useless adulterated powdered milk; and recent scandals concerning pet food, toothpaste, fish, and so forth had focused attention upon him, along with the discovery that 20% of China’s exports are substandard.  Most recently,China refused to import chicken from the U.S. for salmonella and illegal growth hormones.  You can call that tit-for-tat if you want, but the truth is, the U.S. does not, for the most part, manufacture healthful chicken–too many antibiotics and hormones are used, and the salmonella story crops up periodically to gross us all out.
♦ The Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility has been closed, although final steps will take another three weeks; 6200 tonnes of heavy oil delivered as part of the agreed-on compensation for the shut-down.  Another 43,800 tonnes is in the offing: the 50,000 tonnes has a total worth of USD 22 million.  Currently, the DPRK has little power going to its industry or residences; its power capacity is estimated at 7.8 million kilowatts, but has been running at about 30% of that capacity.  This fuel oil will help re-start industry in North Korea, which is on the verge of bankruptcy.
♦ A really strange world view from the DPRK revealed: Andrei Lankov discusses the mind-set, probable setting, and the authenticity of a policy speech between government officials. 

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Building a house of (radioactive) stone: Another security/public health concern in Central Asia that has not been well-addressed since the 1990’s–unsecured uranium mine debris, which is foraged for cash by the poor and sometimes, the stone used to build houses by the homeless.  NonPon discusses this using Tajikistan as an example, but this problem has also been discussed in re: Kyrgyzstan for non-proliferation reasons.  “An avenue of cooperation” that looks like a dead end.
♦ Another Ukrainian bank sold: at first, this looks like an odd insertion here, but it relates to 1. continued integration of world finance markets, as European banks look eastward for a new customer base; 2. a possible force domestically against isolationism, particularly economic isolationsism in the face of Russia’s desire to recapture influence, 3. possible support for Odessa-Brody Gdansk pipeline, which avoids Russia to get oil to Europe, and 4. possible multi-million-dollar sweetheart deals for various Ukrainian kommersant.

Latin America:
Oil pipeline bombings in Mexico; and it takes time to recover.
Mr. Fujimori still at large in Chile and un-extradited to Peru.
♦ President Lula of Brazil and the anti-corruption trials continue to prevail.
♦ Political economy: The Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) needs to be passed, and certain elements of structural reform in place, before the EU can make its own deals with CAFTA-integrated countries.  Costa Rica is seen as the leader toward integration: if they can manage to pass it, it is more likely that others in the region will. 

The Middle East:
♦ Afghanistan: The news agencies are so filled with Iraq, it’s the blogs that are doing right by Afghanistan’s news, synthesizing and evaluating it.  3 great posts:
◊The Pashtun Genocide and how to stop it at  This arresting title is accompanied by a painful summary of all the reason why civilians have died and are dying in Afghanistan, including warlordism, air strikes, and starvation. . . and has some nice references to negotiating principles that might help remedy the effects.  A good read, and
◊ Another good read that is directly related from The Strategist: How to Not Win.
◊ Third, My State Failure Blog takes on the difficulty of a literate reading of Afghanistan events on video: take the time to go through all of these syntheses: Thought-Provoking, and you’ll have a better grasp on the issues in general than before, in Afghanistan and past it.

♦ Iran is asking the Japanese to pay for oil shipments in yen, not dollars, in order to stave off possible U.S. banking barriers.
♦ Iran wants to settle nuclear-proliferation differences with IAEA and not the Security Council.  Whatever works: although, it would be nice if Iran would slow down in order to show the IAEA, the UNSC, and everyone else, that they really do want to make some agreements.  But no–still enriching.

Iraq in DC:
It appears that all the main battles were fought in DC this week,  but they were skirmishes merely.
♦ I already posted on the NYT editorial favoring a reasoned Iraq withdrawal.  Here is an answer from Ambassador Ryan Crocker, also at the NYT, who says there is much more to endure–mostly for the Iraqi people, but also for our own.  In the meantime, the White House is not sure whether to throw a bone to an increasingly mobilized Congress–or to try to sit tight until the September reports from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.
♦ The interim report delivered to Congress this week notes that the Surge is having some success marred with failure, and unfortunately presented like a scorecard–nearly 50% complete.  It means little that 8 of 18 benchmarks are met if the successes fall under the failure of the unmet criteria.  Such an observation is not a matter of taking sides, since both of them are using this silly formula.  It would be better to note that these benchmarks are so highly interrelated that it is “all or none”.
♦ President Bush spoke somewhat haltingly and with little in the way of new metaphors about the reasons we were in Iraq.   The speech again lumped all terrorists and all motives together by putting the Iraq insurgency in the same hands as the Twin Towers Massacre.  Unfortunately, this lumpenbogey is fiction.  By treating varying groups as one, we have only one main set of measures against. it.  In the meantime, al-Qaida is stronger than ever, according to a National Intelligence Estimate.
♦ The U.S. troops do not get a break.
♦ The lack of armored vehicles tied directly to single-source, poorly-fulfilled contract to Force Holdings, Inc. that were approved by high officials but protested by other high officials.  Also Armored Holdings, Inc. is cited in above article; more details on their sloppy work here, and, for contrast, AH has been awarded another contract.

Iraq in Iraq:
♦ Troops from long-suffering Turkey at the Iraq/Turkey border.
♦ The UN High Commission on Refugees estimates that 2,000 people flee Iraq daily.  If you have some, please send the UNCHR some cash.

Political Economy/Energy:
♦ On Wednesday, the Brent price was already in the USD 74 range; and it kept going up.  As of Friday, July 13th: Brent crude, USD 76.78 per barrel; West Texas intermediate, USD 73.19.  Like I said, last week: why stop at estimates of USD 80? Which makes the next two entries even more important:
♦ The search for better biofuel crops at the Energy blog.  This is about ingenuity, agriculture, economics, energy, and politics: and two different weeds.
HR 2337, the United States’ upcoming energy bill, is briefly discussed at The Oil Drum.

Political economy/World finance:
♦ The World Bank’s Private Sector Development blog posts a study on the rise of money laundering to USD 1 trillion per year.
♦ Two U.S. Senators/candidates protest China’s manipulation of currency in re: the U.S. deficit, while China worries that they’ll be burned by the U.S. junk mortgage market.

♦ Mr. bin Laden is back with a new video clip, urging yet more martyrdom.  The bounty on him is now USD 50 million. Mr. al-Zawahiri also took a turn on the camera this month, featured in a clip at the Washington Post.

I’m stopping here, but you know there’s more: