24 August 2018   Leave a comment

Two days ago, US President Trump apparently watched a television news broadcast by Tucker Carlson in which he asserted that the South African government is seizing land from white farmers without compensation.  President Trump then tweeted this:

It is true that South African began a long process of buying agricultural land and redistributing it to black South Africans.  That effort was an attempt to undo the damage done during the colonial period in which the entire land area of what we now call South Africa was claimed by colonizers from the Netherlands and Great Britain with no compensation to the indigenous peoples who lived on and worked the land.  As of 2016 in an audit by the South African magazine Landbouweekblad and Agri SA, the distribution of land in South Africa is as follows:

“White farmers’ ownership of agricultural ground declined from 85.1% in 1994 (82.5 million hectares) to 73.3% in December 2016, and altogether 5 million hectares of agricultural ground was bought by black people in this period, as well as 1.7 million hectares for purposes other than agriculture. In the same period, government purchased and redistributed only 2.1 million hectares of agricultural ground.”

 

The US press questioned US State Department about the President’s tweet. The exchange shows how well informed the press was about the matter and how ill-prepared the State Department was to answer their questions:

QUESTION: Let’s start with South Africa. You will have seen, I’ll bet – hard to miss – the President’s tweet last night in which he instructed Secretary Pompeo to look into land expropriations and – from white farmers in South Africa. I’m wondering if the Secretary takes this seriously at all.

“Now, the reason I’m asking that is because I went to the Human Rights Report for South Africa, the one that the State Department puts out, and it doesn’t mention anything about this being a problem. I would think that this is the report where it would mention it. In fact, when it talks of discrimination, it says most of it is directed at blacks, and the incidence of racism that it points out are all directed at blacks as well. So does the Secretary actually intend to look into this?

“MS NAUERT: Well, I can tell you that the Secretary and the President certainly discussed it. The President asked the Secretary to look closely at the current state of action in South Africa related to land reform. This is something that has been going on for many decades, the conversation and debate about land reform there. I should mention that the expropriation of land without compensation – our position is that that would risk sending South Africa down the wrong path. We continue to encourage a peaceful and transparent public debate about what we consider to be a very important issue, and the South Africans certainly do as well.”

…..

QUESTION: So given that, according to the State Department’s own reporting that Matt mentioned, discrimination and actions against blacks in South Africa is a far, far bigger problem than this, what is the Secretary’s view on what is happening right now, and what is he going to do after the President’s tweet?

“MS NAUERT: I can just tell you that it was discussed with the President and he will focus on this issue, and I’ll leave it at that, okay.

“QUESTION: What does focus on it mean?

“MS NAUERT: Well, he will take a look at it, just as he had discussed with the President.”

Mr. Trump’s tweet, alleging “large scale killing of farmers” was completely uninformed and unnecessarily inflammatory.  The South African government denounced Mr. Trump’s allegations, according to the Guardian:

“US diplomatic representatives have also been told of Pretoria’s disappointment with “Washington’s failure to use available diplomatic channels”, a reference to Trump’s use of social media.

“A statement from the Department for International Relations said Trump’s tweet was based on ‘lobbying by certain South African lobby groups that seek to derail and frustrate the land redistribution programme’ and ‘serves only to polarise debate on this sensitive and crucial matter’.

“’The government of South Africa wishes to caution against alarmist, false, inaccurate and misinformed, as well as – in some cases – politically motivated statements that do not reflect the policies and intentions of the South African government,’ it said.”

Land Ownership in South Africa, 1994 and 2018

 

 

Yesterday, US Secretary of State Pompeo announced that he was going to go to North Korea for another set of negotiations on the process of denuclearization.  Pompeo also announced that he was appointing someone to institutionalize the negotiations between the US and North Korea since the US does not have an Ambassador in North Korea (or, as yet, even in South Korea, one of the US’s most important allies): “Pompeo said that Stephen Biegun, the vice president of international governmental affairs at Ford, would handle day-to-day talks with Pyongyang and that the two men would travel to North Korea next week to resume the negotiations.”   Today, US President Trump announced that the trip was cancelled, even as the State Department was briefing allies on the status of the negotiations.  Apparently, the President was discouraged by the lack of progress in the discussions since North Korea as insisted on formally ending the Korean War as a precondition for further discussions.  Additionally, in the tweet announcing the cancellation, the President also cited lack of support from China, reflecting the dissatisfaction between the US and China over trade negotiations which ended yesterday without any progress. According to the BBC:

“The escalating trade row between the US and China has now seen each side impose 25% tariffs on a total of $50bn of one another’s goods

“The US has threatened a third round of tariffs on an additional $200bn of Chinese goods, which could come as soon as next month. President Trump has also said he could slap tariffs on all $500bn of imports from the country.

“In his interview with Reuters, Mr Liu said: ‘China doesn’t wish to engage in a trade war, but we will resolutely respond to the unreasonable measures taken by the United States.

“‘If the United States persists with these measures, we will correspondingly take action to protect our interests.'”

Since the Singapore summit, China has been relaxing its sanctions on North Korea,

 

NASA has an extraordinary website which uses thermal imaging to detect fires on the earth’s surface.  The blog site associated with the images gives the following explanation for all the red dots on the image:

“The world is on fire. Or so it appears in this image from NASA’s Worldview. The red points overlaid on the image designate those areas that by using thermal bands detect actively burning fires. Africa seems to have the most concentrated fires. This could be due to the fact that these are most likely agricultural fires. The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality.

“Elsewhere the fires, such as in North America are wildfires for the most part.  In South America, specifically Chile has had horrendous numbers of wildfires this year.  A study conducted by Montana State University found that: “Besides low humidity, high winds and extreme temperatures—some of the same factors contributing to fires raging across the United States—central Chile is experiencing a mega drought and large portions of its diverse native forests have been converted to more flammable tree plantations, the researchers said.”  More on this study can be found here: https://phys.org/news/2018-08-massive-south-central-chile.html#jCp

“However, in Brazil the fires are both wildfires and man-made fires set to clear crop fields of detritus from the last growing season. Fires are also commonly used during Brazil’s dry period to deforest land and clear it for raising cattle or other agricultural or extraction purposes. The problem with these fires is that they grow out of control quickly due to climate issues.  Hot, dry conditions coupled with wind drive fires far from their original intended burn area.  According to the Global Fire Watch site (between 8/15 and 8/22) shows: 30,964 fire alerts.

“Australia is also where you tend to find large bushfires in its more remote areas. Hotter, drier summers in Australia will mean longer fire seasons – and urban sprawl into bushland is putting more people at risk for when those fires break out. For large areas in the north and west, bushfire season has been brought forward a whole two months to August – well into winter, which officially began 1 June.  According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (Bom), the January to July period 2018 was the warmest in NSW since 1910. As the climate continues to change and areas become hotter and drier, more and more extreme bushfires will break out across the entire Australian continent.

 

As seems to be the case in California, many of these fires are associated with climate change.  If that is the case, then it is likely that the number of fires on the planet will increase.

Posted August 24, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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