The Guardian 15 June, 2005

Global briefs

PALESTINE: While domestic output grew in 2004 following four years of recession in the Palestinian economy, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in a May 31 report that fewer than half the men of working age and only 10 percent of women are employed. Thus, every employed person supports six members of the total population. The report was based on missions sent to assess the situation of workers in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan.

IRAQ: Three Iraqi journalists were assassinated May 22 "in cold-blooded and ruthless executions" on the roadside south of Baghdad, the safety office of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Iraq said. After an armed group stopped the minibus in which they were travelling to Kerbala with 10 other passengers, the three were picked out when they showed their press cards. The other passengers were freed, but newspaper journalists Najem Abd Khudair and Ahmad Adam of Al Mada and trainee journalist Ali Jassem Al Rumi of Al Safeer were killed. Their murders brought to 85 the number of journalists and media staff killed in Iraq since the US invasion in March 2003.

CHINA: The government has initiated its first pilot program to send skilled medical workers to help develop medical services in rural areas. The web site said under the project, 1265 medical workers from 10 cities in Gansu province will spend at least a year working at 43 county-level and 350 township hospitals. Urban medical workers will help train their rural colleagues in treating both common diseases and ailments that are difficult to diagnose and cure. At the project’s kick-off May 16, Vice Provincial Governor Li Ying said the program also has broad implications for rural medical services throughout the country. The Gansu project is part of a national program, "10,000 physicians support rural health work," launched jointly by the Ministries of Health and Finance and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The program, funded by the central government, will ultimately involve 600 hospitals in 592 poverty-stricken counties in central and western China.

PAKISTAN: Some 55,000 workers at the Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL) walked off the job to protest against the planned privatisation of the government-run company. PTCL, the country’s most profitable public utility, is a key part of the government’s privatisation policy. The government holds 88 percent of PTCL and plans to sell a 26 percent controlling interest in the firm, in the largest business sale in Pakistan so far. "If the government sticks to its privatisation plans, we’ll shut down all the company’s operations", said Zia Uddin, leader of a nine-union alliance representing PTCL workers. A deal is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

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