Saturday, April 15, 2006

international odds and ends

Did you know that in addition to Aceh (where a peace deal seems to be holding) and East Timor (which did win its independence a few years ago), there is another separatist movement in Indonesia, this time for the province of Papua, on the western half of the big island of New Guinea? Well, there is. They don't like being part of Indonesia, in part because they are mostly Christian and most of the rest of Indonesia is Muslim, and also because of human rights abuses and the sense (not entirely inaccurate) that Indonesia's rulers only care about Papua's huge gold reserves and other mineral resources, not about the Papuans. Some enterprising Papuans crossed the open water and reached Australia where they were granted political refugee status, and the Indonesians aren't happy.

Now, don't confuse Papua with Papua-New Guinea, the independent country on the eastern half of New Guinea (with some nearby islands), which has over 700 languages spoken there.

Go Away, Berlusconi
Italian leader and corporate crook Silvio Berlusconi won't go away. His party lost by 25,000 votes (out of 38 million), an Italian court has ruled that only 5000 ballots are being reviewed, so reversing his defeat is practically impossible. But he still won't concede.

One reason is probably he fears being tried anew for corruption if he no longer runs the Italian government. Berlusconi, go away.

Chad, Revolution, Corruption
By Chad, I mean the country in central Africa, not your neighbor's alcoholic cousin. Seems they have a little rebellion going on there, rebel soldiers approaching the capital. Why should we care?

Well, they are an oil producer. Yes, I know, it is shocking to imagine an oil-producing country with political instability or human rights problems. I mean, look at those paragons of good governance like Saudi Arabia and Iran and Nigeria and Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea and Texas.

But anyway, Chad has problems and now its government is threatening to cut off its oil exports unless the World Bank releases $125 million of its money that has been frozen in a dispute about how Chad spends its petrodollars. World Bank says, spend on Chad's citizens and infrastructure. Chad government prefers to spend on weapons and Mercedes-Benzes.

Chad really isn't a big enough producer that this would in itself significantly disrupt world markets. But it's interesting to watch anyway. More interesting than your neighbor's alcoholic cousin, Chad.