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King Leopold II of Belgium hosts the Geographical Conference on West Africa at the Royal Palace in Brussels to discuss his plan to establish a Belgian colony in Central Africa. Attending the affair are a number of notable explorers and geographers. Leopold explains that his plans are “in no way motivated by selfish designs.” He speaks only of science, philanthropy, and ending the slave trade. Though the major European powers officially ended their trade in slaves from West Africa almost a half century before, it is still being practiced by the Arab and Swahili people in East Africa. By the end of the conference, a new international body named the International African Association is established to publicize and seek funds for the project. (Pakenham 1992, pp. 20-23; Hochschild 1999, pp. 37-8, 42-44)
King Leopold II of Belgium writes in a letter to his ambassador in London, “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.” (Pakenham 1992, pp. 22)
Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah spends much of his time campaigning for the political unity of black Africa. In his 1961 book, I Speak of Freedom, Nkrumah writes of the need for a united black Africa. “Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world,” he writes. However, other African governments, burdened with their own problems, are reluctant to heed his call. (Nkrumah 1961; BBC 11/4/1997; Encyclopaedia Britannica 2004)
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announces a planned meeting set for September 22, 1971 to call for a larger share of assets, profits, and management of oil companies operating in its countries. The relevant oil companies refuse its demands. OPEC specifically states in its announcement that it wants to “take immediate steps toward the implementation of the principle participation in the existing oil concessions.” (UPI 8/14/1971)
As a result of Paul Volcker’s tightening of the US money supply (see October 6, 1979), 145 developing and emerging market economies pay a total of $7.673 trillion (in current dollars) in order to service their external debts. $675 billion of this money comes from Africa, the poorest continent in the world. Despite these massive payments, the external debt held by these nations actually increases from $618 billion in 1980 to $3.150 trillion in 2006. (Nakatani and Herera 6/2007)
After fleeing Qatar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) travels the world and plans many al-Qaeda operations. He previously was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the Operation Bojinka plot. (McGirk 1/20/2003) He is apparently involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and other attacks. One US official later says, “There is a clear operational link between him and the execution of most, if not all, of the al-Qaeda plots over the past five years.” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) He lives in Prague, Czech Republic, through much of 1997. (McDermott 9/1/2002) By 1999, he is living in Germany and visiting with the hijackers there. (Risen 6/8/2002; Risen 9/22/2002) Using 60 aliases and as many passports, he travels through Europe, Africa, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and South America, personally setting up al-Qaeda cells. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; McGirk 1/20/2003)
In 1999, State Department official Witney Schneidman is collecting information on the many civil wars and conflicts raging in Africa. He notices that the name of Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, keeps popping up in many conflicts. Sometimes Bout is even supplying both sides of a civil war. In early summer 1999, an NSA official gives Schneidman a “drop dead” briefing about Bout, based mostly on communications intercepts the NSA has on him. Photos show dozens of airplanes parked in an airport in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, all of them owned by Bout. Schneidman begins mobilizing other officials. By early 2000, he and National Security Council adviser Lee Wolosky create a team to apprehend Bout. While Bout remains little known to the general public, for many US officials he becomes the most wanted criminal in the world, aside from Osama bin Laden and his top aides. National Security Council official Gayle Smith will later comment, “You want to talk about transnational threats? We had [al-Qaeda’s bombing in] East Africa, global warming, and Victor Bout.” No other arms dealer has an operation anywhere near the size of Bout’s, and his links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda are a special concern (see 1998). But Bout is not doing any business in the US and is breaking no US laws, so the team cannot gather enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for him. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke considers targeting Bout for rendition, which is a very rare practice before 9/11. But when the Bush administration takes power in early 2001, Bout is deemed a less important priority, and ultimately no effective action is taken against him prior to 9/11 (see Early 2001-September 11, 2001). (Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 1-7)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001; Wu 1/22/2001)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world…. A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001; CBS News 6/19/2003; Jackson 6/20/2003)
Farah Addo, vice president of the Confederation of African Football and president of the Somali Football Federation, alleges that the election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president in 1998 was marred by bribery. Addo tells the Daily Mail that he was offered $100,000 for his vote. He refused, but “18 African voters accepted bribes to vote for Blatter.” Addo adds that he believes that some people in Blatter’s campaign were involved in the offers, although Blatter himself was not. According to Addo, all 51 African countries initially decided to vote for Blatter’s rival, Lennart Johansson. However: “Then I received a phone call from Somalia’s ambassador to one of the Gulf states. He said: ‘I have a friend who you know who wants to offer you $100,000 to switch your vote. Half in cash and the rest in sports equipment.’ They would send the cash to me or I could go to the Gulf to collect it.” Addo further alleges: “The night before the election people were lining up in Le Meridien Hotel [in Paris] to receive money. Some told me they got $5,000 before the vote and the same the next day, after Blatter won. I made my own private investigation and found that 18 African voters accepted bribes to vote for Blatter.” Mohiadin Hassan Ali, vice president of the Somalian association, confirms the story, saying, “We accepted money to vote on behalf of Somalia FA for J.S. Blatter in the FIFA presidential election in Paris.” (CNN 2/28/2002)
The Journal of Geophysical Research publishes a study by research meteorologists Richard Wetherald and Syukuro Manabe on how global warming might impact the hydrology of different regions. According to their computer model, high latitudes would experience higher run-off rates as a result of global warming. Winters would see higher soil moisture levels than winters currently do, while summers would see lower than normal soil moisture levels. Soil moisture in lower latitudes would be lower year-round, potentially leading to the expansion of deserts. (Wetherald and Manabe 2002)
Four men attempt to carry out bomb attacks to disrupt part of London’s public transport system two weeks after the July 7, 2005 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). The attempted explosions occur around midday at Shepherd’s Bush, Warren Street, and Oval stations on London Underground, and on a bus in Shoreditch. A fifth bomber dumps his device without attempting to set it off. The target are three Tube trains and a bus, as on 7/7, but the devices fail to explode properly. The men are identified as Muktar Ibrahim, 29, Yassin Omar, 26, Ramzi Mohammed, 25, and Hussain Osman, 28. (BBC 7/11/2007) These events follow a period of high anxiety and alert for London’s citizens and emergency services alike. The four men, all originating in east Africa and arriving in Britain in the 1990s, stocked up on large quantities of hydrogen peroxide from hairdressing suppliers and used Omar’s flat in New Southgate as a bomb factory. The devices, designed to fit into rucksacks, were made of a hydrogen peroxide and chapatti flour mixture. The bombs all fail to explode properly and the four men subsequently escape. Police say that dozens of people could have been killed had the bombs detonated properly. The escape of the men sparks Britain’s largest manhunt in history. Mohammed and Ibrahim are captured a week later in west London. Omar is arrested in Birmingham, having disguised himself as a woman in a burka, while Osman is arrested in Rome and extradited to Britain. (BBC 7/10/2007) Two days later, another bomb of similar construction is found and detonated by police in Little Wormwood Scrubs, a park. Police say that it appears that the bomb was dumped there, rather than hidden. This prompts the search for a fifth suspect. (BBC 7/23/2005)
The Aerospace Industries Association, along with representatives from the Boeing Company and the Northrop Grumman Corporation, meet with researchers at the Heritage Foundation to discuss plans to relax arms exporting rules so the industry can increase its sales of weapons to foreign countries. They are drafting a new export control law that they hope Congress will take up next year. (Aerospace Industries Association 10/2006 ; Wayne 11/1/2006)
Oxfam publishes a report concluding that poor people in developing nations are dying needlessly because drug companies and the governments of certain wealthy nations are putting a higher priority on defending intellectual property rights than protecting human life. According to the report, the United States has used free-trade agreements and threats of sanctions to prevent countries from producing and distributing low-cost generic drugs in order to preserve the monopolies of large drug companies. Likewise, the drugs makers themselves are pushing countries to prevent the sale of cheaper drugs. “Pfizer is challenging the Philippines government in a bid to extend its monopoly on Norvasc, a [blood] pressure drug. Novartis is engaged in litigation in India to enforce a patent for Glivec, a cancer drug, which could save many lives if it were available at generic prices,” the Guardian reports. The Oxfam report says that efforts to block the poor’s access to affordable medicine undermines the five-year old Doha declaration, which sought to improve poor countries’ access to cheap drugs. “[R]ich countries have failed to honor their promises. Their record ranges from apathy and inaction to dogged determination to undermine the declaration’s spirit and intent. The US, at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, is uniquely guilty of seeking ever higher levels of intellectual property protection in developing countries,” the report says. (Boseley 11/14/2006; Oxfam 11/14/2006 )
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a summary of its fourth report concluding for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal.” The authors of the report also conclude that there is a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950. In its last report (see January 22, 2001), the panel made the same assessment, but with a confidence level of only 66 to 90 percent. The 20-page summary, meant for policymakers, will be followed by four technical reports that will be completed and published later in the year. The panel’s conclusions are based on “a three-year review of hundreds of studies of past climate shifts; observations of retreating ice, warming and rising seas, and other changes around the planet; and a greatly expanded suite of supercomputer simulations used to test how the earth will respond to a growing blanket of gases that hold heat in the atmosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Partial list of conclusions -
Global temperatures will increase 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere attain levels twice that of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.
Concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached a level not seen during the last 650,000 years, and the rate of increase is beginning to accelerate.
Even a moderate warming of the global climate would likely result in significant stress to ecosystems and change longstanding climate patterns that influence water supplies and agricultural production.
Sea levels will likely rise between 7 and 23 inches by 2100 and continue rising for at least the next 1,000 years.
“It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”
The panel expects that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes, while rainfall will likely decrease at lower latitudes. Semi-arid subtropical regions could see 20 percent less rain.
Oceans will absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide which will form carbonic acid, thus lowering the pH of seawater and harming certain kinds of marine life such as corals and plankton.
If the level of greenhouse gases continues to grow, average temperatures by the end of the century could reach temperature not seen since 125,000 years ago when ocean levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is currently locked in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are beginning to melt. While there is evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than current estimates predict, the climate change panel did not include this in its assessment because it is forbidden by its charter to engage in speculation. According to Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, “the speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries. It is a question of when and how much, and not if.”
The harmful consequences of global warming can be lessened if governments take prompt action.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which administers the panel along with the World Meteorological Organization, says: “In our daily lives we all respond urgently to dangers that are much less likely than climate change to affect the future of our children. Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet. The evidence is on the table.”
John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, who is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.… Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way. In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”
Richard B. Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, says: “Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work—this is real, this is real, this is real. The ball’s back in your court.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2/2/2007 ; Revkin 2/3/2007; Conner 2/3/2007)
In his first speech to the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, President Obama says all nations bear responsibility for addressing the global problems of nuclear proliferation, war, climate change, and economic crises. “We must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” Obama says. “All nations have rights and responsibilities—that’s the bargain that makes [the UN] work.” Obama acknowledges that high expectations accompanying his presidency are “not about me,” adding that when he took office at the beginning of the year: “Many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and mistrust. No world order which elevates one nation above others can succeed in tackling the world’s problems. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Obama devotes a considerable portion of his speech to discussing the challenges inherent in finding a peaceful solution to settlements in the Middle East. He calls for the resumption of Israel-Palestine negotiations “without preconditions,” and also uses his speech to indicate that the US has returned to the global arena as a team player.
Warm but Restrained Reception - Although warmly received, applause appears slightly restrained, perhaps an indication that expectations for the Obama presidency are becoming more realistic, given the global problems with which most nations now struggle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the 64th Session’s proceedings by saying, “Now is the time to put ‘united’ back into the United Nations.”
Followed by Libyan Leader - Libya’s President Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi follows Obama and speaks for over an hour, vehemently criticizing the UN’s power structure as uneven, archaic, and unjust. From a copy of the preamble to the UN Charter, al-Qadhafi reads: “It says nations are equal whether they are small or big—are we equal in the permanent seats? No, we are not equal. Do we have the rights of the veto? All nations should have an equal footing. For those who have a permanent seat, this is political feudalism. It shouldn’t be called the Security Council; it should be called the Terror Council.” Despite reigning in Libya for over 40 years, this is al-Qadhafi’s first UN General Assembly speech. (BBC 9/23/2009)
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