Archive for May, 2012
Reports from Seoul say North Korea is now ready to carry out another nuclear test. Earlier satellite photographs showed stepping up of work at its Musudan-ri nuclear site.
First, the eurozone will suffer a deeper recession than forecast, coupled with substantial financial disturbances and huge political uncertainty. Second, China’s economy – the largest source of growth in global demand – is slowing sharply. Third, the US economic recovery will remain modest at best and therefore highly vulnerable to external shocks. Fourth, the Japanese recovery is at risk.
Yale Global http://bit.ly/KXmtH1
China is the world’s biggest supporter of “economic espionage”, the Pentagon says in its annual report on the Chinese military…….“Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage”
Pascale Harter introduces insight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents around the world. In this edition:
Blood and treasure in eastern Congo In recent years consumers in the West have been educated about ‘conflict diamonds’ – stones from African war zones, which have been sold to pay for arms and power. But few are aware about ‘conflict gold’ – at least for now. And of course you don’t have to be dripping in jewellery to own gold – quite a bit of it. Do you own a laptop, a mobile phone, or a digital TV? All have gold components. Tracing materials back to source isn’t easy – so how can you be sure that those components don’t come from a mine like the one Humphrey Hawksley has just visited in eastern Congo?
Two young men clamber up from inside a deep vertical mine shaft. Their faces are caked with grit. Their hands cling onto the rock face and strung their backs are heavy sacks
From far below comes the echo of hammers of the men still down there.
Espoir and Zemao are both twenty years old. They drop the sacks and collapse on the ground with a mixture of exhaustion and excitement.
Zemao is recently married, and Espoir hopes to get engaged soon.
They’re on the hunt for the big find.
Zemao thrusts his hand into his sack, brings out a chunk of rock and smashes it against the mountain side, breaking it in two. They both examine closely.
Espoir points, his face breaking into a smile. Zemao nods and brushes his finger along a yellow line that runs through the jagged surface. They stare at each other, laughing. Then they slap their hands together in the air.
“Is it gold?” I ask.
“Yes, for sure,” says Espoir.
“We don’t know. We’ll have to go down and see.”
The mine has a narrow, almost concealed entrance. As we emerge, a miner throws a stone at a young boy, about ten, sitting on top of a nearby hill. He scampers away. A group of children just below us run, too, as a stones pelt towards them.
The miners don’t want us to see the children.
We head off down a steep, precarious path. The arid, dusty landscape becomes covered in lush undergrowth. A river is at the bottom. As we approach a furtive young man in uniform, carrying a weapon, sees us and melts away behind a hut.
This is the gold mine of Nyamurhale has recently been certified as illicit – partly because of what we just saw, children work here and armed soldiers are around to pick up a cut of the profits.
Gold from mines like this is a conflict mineral – in that over the years its profits have been used to fund militia groups in wars that have killed millions.
The river area is a hive of activity. People are shouting instructions. There’s a constant banging as rocks are broken up. Water has been diverted for panners to separate off the gold.
Zemao and Espoir’s rocks are broken up, then we head down to a, muddy pool. Panners dip in a shovel and skilfully swirl water back and forth, until a man shouts: ‘Ora. Ora.’
In a crevice at the shovel’s edge is a tiny cluster of gold flakes, barely enough to cover the top of a thumb. Zemao and Espoir are beaming.
It’s not the big find, but, by their look, not bad for a day’s work.
A group of men in snappy clothes hear the shouts and come over. They carry wads of money, scales to check weight and phones for the latest prices.
These are the middle man who propel gold from here on its journey up its supply chain.
“How much is it worth?” I ask.
At this point the story becomes secretive and murky. No-one wants to say how much they pay, what they earn and how much goes for protection money and bribes.
Because this gold can no longer be legitimately sold – meaning that it immediately joins an international black market. Yet – still — it could end up in our as gold bars in bank vaults underwriting the wealth of nations, or in our wedding rings or lap tops.
The big companies say they do their best, but they can’t guarantee 100 per cent where their minerals originate.
The smuggling routes run through neighbouring countries such as Burundi and Uganda. The UN estimates that 85 per cent of Uganda’s gold could be undocumented. Much goes onto the United Arab Emirates where it’s melted down and bought often by Chinese companies that use it to make our gadgets.
About a billion dollars worth of gold a year comes from the eastern Congo arguably the most war-ravaged area in the world.
Back in the main city of Bukavu, Fidel Bafilemba, from a campaigning group the Enough Project, says even though the gold price is booming, miners are still struggling.
“Who’s making the money?” he asks.
He shows me the array of what he says are conflict minerals inside a lap top, a phone and other gadgets. He picks up a computer hard drive where gold in the socket is easily identifiable.
“The money’s not here. It all goes upstream in London and America. That’s why everyone should say ‘No’ we’re going to put an end to this. We’re going to make this business more viable. More human.”
My investigation on illegal gold trading and child labour from the Democratic Republic of Congo prompted a BBC Today Programme Thought for the Day from Rev Dr Michael Banner http://bbc.in/2OvMi
China views US strategic shift to Asia Pacific as a new Cold War alliance. The time for such alliances has past — right now Russia-China-DPRK etc Vs US, Australia, India etc.
As demand for gold booms around the world, the UN is calling for tougher measures to prevent smuggling and the exploitation of workers in unregulated mines. Much of the gold bought and sold each year cannot be properly sourced, making it difficult for even the most scrupulous of traders to avoid using conflict metals. Humphrey Hawksley reports from Nyamurhale in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Argument against reform of Britain’s House of Lords: “People are really interested in the economy and how much money they have in their pockets — they don’t worry how their Lords are elected.”
Isn’t this exactly China’s argument when it’s lectured to about democracy?
William Hague flags up new, encroaching style of warfare in Sunday Telegraph http://tgr.ph/J0Rf2h — non-state players-organised crime and cyber attacks.