Asia-Pacific:
♦ This year alone: Floods and landslides in China have killed 411 people as of Tuesday and inflicted 4.9 billion in losses to the state, particularly in the Northern provinces.
Last week, I reported that China executed  Mr. Zheng Xiaoyu over corruption and product safety violations.  This week, the Shanxi slavery case (also reported in previous RI) has resulted in one execution and several prison terms for officials of the brickyard.
♦ China’s diplomatic forays in Oceania–for various very good reasons.  The title sums up what I think about China’s foreign policy overall: The Long Game.

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Runaway inflation: Russia’s grain and oilseed prices went up 15% in the last two weeks, thereby affecting food prices for flour and flour products, condiments, and other staples.  Overall, inflation is jumping as well, due again to agriculture–trade embargoes in produce and meat, crackdowns on illegal immigrants who sell in food markets, and so forth.  Bt it is also due to increased money supply at Central Bank, and oil wealth uninvested.
♦ Again, Khodorkovsky gets charged:this time before parole hearing.  Robert Amsterdam also features the pressure that a Big 4 accountant, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, has been receiving in regard to Yukos books, which they audited and approved for the months of Khodorkovsky’s new charges.  After intense pressure, PwC has withdrawn all its audits and evidences, leaving Mr. K in jail for sure, despite all calls to the rule of law.
♦ Death to Russian environmentalists:  100km/63 miles from Lake Baikal, a large freshwater lake, is going to be the site of a uranium enrichment facility.  Protesters, camping out near the site, since July 14, were attacked: one dead, several in serious condition.  Two bullyboys arrested . . . so far . . .

Latin America
♦ Dear U.S. citizens: it is your patriotic duty (or, at least, wise) to peruse this collection of articles at Bloggings by Boz to see how U.S. demand for drugs, the lapse of the automatic weapons law, and different gun control strategies between the U.S. and Mexico are causing murder of Mexican law enforcement officials.  Since at least the 1960’s the United States has insisted that Mexico stop drug traffic to the U.S.–and now it turns out that the U.S. is the drug-runner’s best supplier.  My fellow U.S. citizens: we could definitely be creating a failed state, right here on our border: and won’t that be great?  Maybe it’s time for U.S. citizens who want to preserve the right to bear arms to consider what kind of an arms-control regime they feel would optimize both their rights and their safety.  Because there are no rights without safety–only necessities.
♦ Also at Boz (on sidebar, so I’ll link it directly: Venezuela’s police taking a hand in facilitating cocaine traffic to Europe.  Le Monde Diplomatique has a great map of drug traffic from the Americas, circa 1998, that is beautiful and informative.
♦ Greg Weeks looks at changes to presidential term limits in Bolivia, Venezuela, and elsewhere.
♦ Brazil cuts up stiff about U.S. farm subsidies in the new U.S. Farm Bill–and rightly so. . .  Anti-CAFTA Costa Rican doctors say CAFTA will cause the Americas to cut on “the stiffs”–uh, human organ trade.  But of course not?  Ick.
♦ High oil prices are affecting Argentina’s ability to access energy–and run its industry.

Middle East:
♦ Israel frees 120 of its 256 Palestinian political prisoners–almost all members of Fatah party.  Welcome home.  Now all these people need a job, so that means economic jumpstarts–the pressure isn’t off–just different.
♦ Afghanistan:   Another week where Afghanistan’s concerns are left out in U.S. politics.  See U.S. politics, below.  But also:
Two German hostages, held since July 18, are executed by the Taliban.  Twenty South Korean hostages, who were to set up hospital services in Kandahar, are still missing.
♦ Iran: Foreign policy initiatives with allies ruled this week, with hostages second:
On Thursday, Iran’s Mr. Ahmadinejad makes a visit to Syria, trying to keep a loyal ally with new pressures on it loyal; and Iran tells Central Asian states that the U.S. is a de-stabilizing force in the region, echoing Russia.  Here is the backup article used at the post as well.
While U.S. detainees in Iran had to come on air and “confess” their treasonous activities for which they were arrested.  Iran says televised interviews reveal a plot; U.S. sources say — not.  What they apparently said would not look like conspiracy to us, but part of their customary duties, given their profession as think-tank analysts: basically, talking to people about politics and economics.  But that’s part of the cultural divide here: not to be dismissed.
♦ Iraq:  The U.S. generals ask for time to surge and surge again.

U.S. Politics: It’s all about terror, detainees, the rule of law, and lost privacy.
♦ More domestic spying?  Slate’s Fred Kaplan thinks so, based upon some carefully-worded excerpts from the newest National Intelligence Estimate (pdf, 7 pages).  I discuss the NIE in previous post.
♦ Mr. Bush gets down and gets busy on the GWOT and your dinner plate: 
◊ New Executive Order leaves out Afghanistan in financial sanctions.
◊ New Executive Order for greater food safety: another Interagency Working Group.  No doubt China will take this personally–how about Congress?
◊ New Executive Order re-enables CIA torture–but not military torture.  This will, if nothing else, continue to obstruct coordination and cooperation in Afghanistan, as many ISAF states are hesitant to cooperate on any actions that require imprisonment of potential malefactors.  Without trust, cooperation cannot be absolute.
♦ The DC Federal Appeals court orders that Guantanamo files be turned over to detainee defense lawyers.  Next: The Supreme Court.

Energy:
♦ Oil prices as of July 20, 2007: up,  another USD 4 per barrel in one week for the second week in a row.  Brent crude, USD 78.34; West Texas intermediate, USD 75.39. 
♦ The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is predicting USD 100 per barrel oil prices by next year, a figure that seems believable considering that the price is going up one to three dollars per week lately.  Goldman Sachs is predicting USD 95 per barrel oil by the end of the year.  This will undoubtedly be blamed upon OPEC supply constraints, okay, and we could equally blame high-consumption . . .but to be honest, my air conditioner is ON. (h/t Energy Blog)
♦ The National Petroleum Council (of the United States) has a new five-point strategy for energy security.  At least one comment on this post is hilarious: hundreds of experts, 18 months, and the obvious solutions–?  but you know, that’s how it works in a democracy.  A long consensus-building before action is taken and dollars committed.
♦ Nuclear power woes: post-earthquake, a Japanese nuclear plant leaks–and, —two German nuclear plants under question after one of them has an electrical fire, prompting corporate dismissals and public debates.
♦ Japan to sell 10% of its 77% stake in Westinghouse to Kazakhstan–which, since Kazakhstan has 30% of the world’s uranium reserves, is a good deal for Westinghouse.

Away from all this:
Buckingham Palace LibraryThe libraries of the successful do not include books on how to succeed, but how to think.  Amazing and wonderfully liberating, isn’t it, to read for pleasure?  Keep checking back: I’m sharing mine, a little at a time . . .

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