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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Monday, January 12

Today is Monday, Jan. 12, the 12th day of 2009. There are 353 days left in the year.
Highlights in history on this date:

1543 - England's King Henry VIII marries his sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, who outlives him.

By The Associated PressAssociated Press

1598 - Pope Clement VIII seizes Duchy of Ferrara in Italy.

1690 - Protestant forces led by William of Orange defeat the Roman Catholic army of James II at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland.

1773 - The first U.S. museum dedicated to the preservation of knowledge is established in Charleston, South Carolina.

1848 - Revolt starts in Palermo, Italy, against corruption of Bourbons.

1862 - U.S. Congress authorizes the Medal of Honor.

1879 - British-Zulu War begins in Africa.

1932 - Mrs. Hattie Caraway becomes the first elected female U.S. senator.

1945 - German forces retreat in disorder in Battle of the Bulge in Belgium during World War II.

1953 - Yugoslav National Assembly adopts new Constitution.

1958 - Soviet Union proposes zone free of nuclear weapons from Arctic Circle to Mediterranean.

1964 - Rebellion in Zanzibar, which is declared a republic, and Sultan is banished.

1967 - China's army pledges support to Mao Tse-Tung during disorder triggered by Chinese cultural revolution.

1968 - United States and Cambodia agree on policy to keep Cambodia from becoming embroiled in Vietnam War.

1970 - Breakaway Biafra surrenders, ending 32-month-old Nigerian civil war. Biafra leader General Odumegwu Ojukwu flees with family.

1976 - Coalition cabinet in Thailand collapses with resignation of Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj.

1977 - U.S. President Jimmy Carter defends Supreme Court decisions limiting government payments for poor women's abortions, saying, "There are many things in life that are not fair."

1986 - Tamil separatist guerrillas kill seven army soldiers and wound nine others in ambush in northern province of Sri Lanka.

1988 - Soldiers and Palestinian crowds disrupt United Nations official's attempts to inspect Gaza Strip's crowded refugee camps.

1990 - Romania's interim president, Ion Iliescu, announces that the Communist Party is outlawed; Russian republic president Boris Yeltsin shocks the 28th congress of the Soviet Communist Party by announcing he is resigning his party membership.

1991 - U.S. Congress grants President George H.W. Bush authority to use force to drive Iraq from Kuwait.

1992 - Algerian government cancels second round of voting in parliamentary elections that an Islamic party looks set to win. The Islamists take to arms, and tens thousands of Algerians die in the next few years.

1993 - The leader of Bosnia's Serbs accepts peace proposals for the war-shattered country, hailed as a breakthrough toward a settlement after nine months of brutal fighting; a 7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes northern Japan, killing 196 people.

1994 - President Carlos Salinas de Gortari announces a unilateral cease-fire in southern Mexico after army troops gain control of most of the region occupied by Indian rebels.

1996 - The first Russian military contingent arrives to work alongside Americans in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

1998 - Nineteen European nations sign an agreement to prohibit cloning of humans beings; in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, three young brothers who had been asleep in their beds are burned to death in a sectarian attack.

1999 - Turkey's newly elected prime minister Bulent Ecevit says he will not allow Turkish bases to be used for prolonged bombing of Iraq.

2002 - President Pervez Musharraf announces new measures to curb extremism in Pakistan and groups that exported terrorism, including bans on five militant groups, and to check militancy in the disputed Kashmir region.

2005 - A woman who spent seven years on Iran's death row is reprieved after the family of the man she killed drops its demand for her to pay with her life. The death sentence imposed on the woman, who said the man tried to rape her, had provoked an outcry among Iranian women.

2006 - Thousands of Muslims surging to complete a stoning ritual before sunset, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, stampede after some pilgrims trip over dropped luggage, causing a pileup that kills at least 360 people.

2007 - Ethiopian-backed government forces capture the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic movement in southern Somalia hours after warlords met with President Abdullahi Yusuf and promised to enlist their militiamen in the army.

2008 - Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party wins a landslide victory in legislative elections, boosting its policy of closer engagement with China.

Today's Birthdays:

Andrea Alicati, Italian author (1492-1550); Edmund Burke, Irish-born statesman (1729-1797); Hermann Goering, German Nazi leader (1893-1946); Paul Hermann Muller, Swiss chemist and Nobel laureate, discovered potency of DDT as insecticide (1899-1965); Rush Limbaugh, U.S. radio commentator (1951--); Howard Stern, U.S. radio/TV personality (1954--); Kirstie Alley, U.S. actress (1951--).

Thought for Today:

Being young is a fault which improves daily _ Swedish proverb.
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Global trends driving 'land grab' in poor nations: activists

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Resource-hungry nations are snapping up huge tracts of agricultural land in poor Asian nations, in what activists say is a "land grab" that will worsen poverty and malnutrition.

Global trends including high prices for oil and commodities, the biofuels boom, and now the sweeping downturn, are spurring import-reliant countries to take action to protect their sources of food.

China and South Korea, which are both short on arable land, and Middle Eastern nations flush with petrodollars, are driving the trend to sign up rights to swathes of territory in Asia and Africa.

"Today's food and financial crises have, in tandem, triggered a new global land grab," the Spain-based agricultural rights group Grain said in a recent report.

It said that some deals were targeted at boosting food security by producing crops that would be sent back home for consumption, while others were to establish money-making plantations like palm oil and rubber.

"As a result of both trends, fertile agricultural land is being swiftly privatised and consolidated by foreign companies in some ofthe world's poorest and hungriest countries," it said.

In one of the biggest deals, South Korea's Daewoo Logistics said in November it would invest about 6.0 billion dollars to develop 3.2 million acres (1.3 million hectares) in Madagascar -- almost half the size of Belgium.

Daewoo plans to produce four million tonnes of corn and 500,000 tonnes of palm oil a year, most of which will be shipped out of impoverished Madagascar -- where the World Food Programme still provides food relief.

"We will build everything from ports and railways to markets on a barren and untouched area," said Shin Dong-Hyun, general manager of the WFP's financing and strategic planning department.

Although commodity prices have fallen from their highs earlier this year, resource-poor and heavily populated countries are still concerned about securing long-term supplies.

Walden Bello, from Bangkok-based advocacy group Focus on the Global South, said the looming global recession is not likely to halt the trend which he fears will worsen the lot of landless peasants.

"In a situation where global agricultural production has become so volatile and unpredictable, I would not be surprised if the Middle Eastern countries that are engaged in this would continue to push on," he told AFP.

Bello said that many of the deals were struck in dysfunctional and corruption-ridden nations, and rejected claims the land being signed away is of poor quality, and that the projects will bring jobs and improve infrastructure.

"What we're talking about is private parties using state contracts to enrich themselves," he said. "It's an intersection of corrupt governments and land-hungry nations."

In Cambodia, where the WFP also supplies aid, oil-rich Kuwait in August granted a 546-million-dollar loan in return for crop production.

Undersecretary of State Suos Yara said Cambodia was also in talks with Qatar, South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia over agricultural investments including land concessions.

"If we do this work successfully, we can get at least 3.0 billion dollars from these agricultural investments," he said.

"With the (global financial) crisis, this is a chance for Cambodia to look to the future by pushing agriculture in order to attract foreign investments."

But opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said he was suspicious about why a wealthy nation like Kuwait needed to lease land to grow rice rather then just import the grain.

"Cambodian farmers need the land," he said, urging the government to limit the area under lease and ensure Cambodia was not plundered by foreign nations.

In the Philippines, another land lease hotspot, a series of high-profile deals has clashed with long-running demands for agrarian reform including land redistribution.

"It will aggravate the problem of landlessness, the insufficiency of land for Filipino peasants," said Congressman Rafael Mariano, who also heads the Peasants' Movement of the Philippines (KMP).

However the Philippine government is undeterred and during President Gloria Arroyo's visit to Qatar in December, officials opened talks over the lease of at least 100,000 hectares of agricultural land to the emirate.

Bello said he expected these sorts of deals to increase, forcing peasants from rural areas and into cities where together with the global downturn they will add to the ranks of the unemployed.

"It's particularly explosive in those countries where you have a high degree of landlessness, like the Philippines where seven out of 10 rural people do not have access to land," he said.

In the impoverished and corrupt dictatorship of Laos, some experts estimate that between two million and three million hectares have been parcelled off in a rampant and uncontrolled process that has now been suspended by the government.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has sounded alarm over the loss of land in a country where in rural areas, every second child is malnourished and access to land for foraging of natural resources is critical.

"If the environment is changed, with the trees cut and replaced with industrial crops," said FAO representative in Laos, Serge Verniau, "they can face serious danger".
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