The Guardian 23 February, 2005

Global briefs

MIDDLE EAST: Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has ordered the Sharon government not to seize East Jerusalem property owned by Palestinians living in the West Bank. A measure approved last summer would have let the Israeli government take over such land under the 1950 Absentee Property Law that allowed the government to seize the land of thousands of Palestinian families driven out following Israel's founding. The law theoretically applied to East Jerusalem after its annexation in 1967, but successive Israeli governments have not implemented the measure. Palestinians have been encouraged by Mazuz' decision. However, commentators are cautioning that many East Jerusalem residents will soon be affected by a ban on travelling to their jobs in Ramallah the West Bank's economic hub. "A concerted media and diplomatic campaign on the international level must be set in motion to stop efforts to turn Jerusalem into an exclusive city, where the Palestinian residents become an ever-shrinking minority with no rights and few employment prospects", the Palestinian organisation Miftah said.

GERMANY: The German Federal Labour Agency has announced that unemployment topped the 5 million mark, or 12.1 per cent, last month a level not reached since before Hitler took power in the 1930s. In the formerly socialist eastern Germany, the rate was 20.5 per cent, while in the west it was just under 10 per cent. Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroder made a pledge to cut unemployment during his 1998 election campaign. But following his 2003 re-election, he spearheaded sharp social benefit cuts and instituted compulsory municipal work programs for recipients.

SOUTH AFRICA: The trade union Solidarity is calling Telkom's agreement to a two-year moratorium on layoffs a victory not just for workers at the telecommunications giant but for all South Africa. The union said community involvement in a powerful industrial campaign won the January 31 moratorium pact between Telkom and three unions representing workers there. "Our campaign against the planned Telkom retrenchments was one of the largest labour campaigns every organised in South Africa", said Solidarity spokesperson Dirk Hermann. The campaign's next phase will focus on building new job opportunities within the company, Hermann said.

CUBA: Cuba and Venezuela will work together and with other Latin American countries to eliminate illiteracy, using Cuban methods already proven in Venezuela. Cuba's Education Minister Luis Ignacio Gomez outlined the program on February 1 to more than 5000 conference delegates from 46 nations. He also said Cuba is offering 2000 scholarships each year to young Venezuelans for advanced studies in any subject of interest to their country, including scientific research and training of physicians. Gomez spoke of the huge problems confronted by a world where over 860 million adults are submerged in ignorance, and 120 million do not attend primary school. By contrast, Cuba eliminated illiteracy 43 years ago. Now education is universal, and heads the budget for 2005.

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