|Asia News Digest
UN Drug Report Shows New Drug Addiction and Transit Areas
June 24 (EIRNS)The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued the World Drug Report 2011 on June 21. The report tables mostly 2009 figures, and points out that some 12 to 21 million people used opiates worldwide; some three quarters of them used heroin. In 2009, an estimated 12-14 million global heroin users consumed some 375 metric tons of heroin. Europe and Asia remain the key global consumption markets, and they are largely supplied by Afghan opium.
The report says that in Asia, the biggest markets for heroin are China, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and India. South Asia is now an important consumption and transit point for heroin originating from Afghanistan. However, domestically produced heroin and opium is half of the consumption in India.
The report urged attention towards the growing exportation of drugs from Myanmar. While Afghanistan remains the world's top opium producer, the report notes that cultivation in Burma (Myanmar) rose by 20% in 2010, and with Afghanistan's decline, its share of global opium production has risen from 5% in 2007 to 12% last year. Most of the drugs came from, or were seized in Burma, which UNODC calls one of the primary sources of methamphetamine pills in Southeast Asia. Burma has also seen a surge in opium poppy production to make heroin, according to the agency. The international community seems to have taken its eye off the ball on drug control in Southeast Asia, said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The report indicates some new findings. For instance, the economically devastated Ireland, Iceland, and Ukraine are showing a significant rise in heroin addiction and associated deaths. These countries report heroin addiction-related deaths twice the European average, though the report cautions that many countries may be significantly underestimating the number of deaths.
Also, the sharp rise in drug addiction in Russia, attributable in part to its inundation with oil-and gas-related cash and other sources of hot money poured in by the mafia, is now getting replicated in the so-called emerging markets of India and China, and economically devastated and socially unstable states of Pakistan and Iran.
See Indepth for more on the global war over drugs and their legalization.
Will Japan Reopen Shut Nuclear Power Reactors This Summer?
June 20 (EIRNS)Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his administration will seek the understanding of local governments for resuming the operation of nuclear power plants nationwide, once their safety is guaranteed. Thirty-five of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors are shut, only four from the Fukushima accident. Most of the other were brought down, either automatically during the quake or for normal maintenance, and not restarted.
Kan, who has expressed great enthusiasm for various unworkable green energy schemes and had indicated he was working towards a non-nuclear future for Japan, has apparently shifted gears, saying that he absolutely agrees with the request Economy and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda made on June 18 that local governments should restart nuclear power plants after implementing measures to avert any serious accidents. The Japanese people have largely defied the global anti-nuclear hysteria and refuse to give up their support nuclear power.
Warnings have been coming from various industry and public sources, besides Industry Minister Kaieda, that Japanese industry could not prosper without the power from nuclear sources. Even the strongly anti-nuclear Asahi Shinbum editorialized over the weekend that Japan was not like Germany and could not import power to make up for domestic shortfalls.
Local approval for the restart of the reactors is not legally required, but is considered politically required in Japan.
Chicago Speculation Follows China Flood Damage to Crops
June 21 (EIRNS)As in many parts of the world, the weather in China has not been favorable this year. Initially there was drought in North China, the center of China's wheat belt. Rains came before crop damage had become too severe, but rumors of potential Chinese wheat purchases on the world market had already been used to drive up speculative prices in the Chicago commodities market.
Then drought conditions hit central China, especially in Hunan Province, and generally along the central reaches of the Yangtze River. The Chinese press carries photos of wilted corn and dust-swept fields.
In the beginning of June, the drought broke over a large portion of the affected region with a bangthere has been almost continually heavy rain in central China and in parts of Szechuan Province. Over 175 people have died, over 600 reservoirs are filled to overflowing in a single province, and over a million acres of farmland are under water.
Early estimates are that 20% of the vegetable crop has so far been lost, and vegetable prices have gone up about 40%. The impact on the corn crop has consequently driven up the price of pork, which jumped by 4.8% in the week ending June 19, higher than the 2008 peak.
Corn futures are rising in Chicago, as speculators savor the flood-damage news from China. Wheat and other food commodities are affected in turn.
Japanese Cabinet Member: Nationalize Nuclear Industry
June 25 (EIRNS)Tadashi Maeda, member of the Japanese Cabinet and chief of the Corporate Planning Department of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, has proposed the nationalization of all nuclear power plants in, Japan as a means to get past the current crisis and to secure the long-term viability of atomic energy.
In an interview with Asahi Shimbun, Maeda advanced two reasons for nationalization: compensation and public confidence.
Tokyo Electric Power Company is facing immense claims to compensate those displaced by the Fukushima crisis, along with the cost of controlling and cleaning up the Fukushima compound. These costs not only threaten the viability of TEPCO as a company, but the economic viability of the Japanese nuclear industry as a whole. Private companies, such as TEPCO, cannot handle single-event costs of this type, which exceed their insurance coverage, whereas a government can. Early on in the crisis, Prime Minister Naoto Kan had declared that the unprecedented March 11 earthquake and tsunami were not covered by the provision of Japanese law that limited company liability in "act of God" cases.