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In Brief... World News Review

by Peter Eddington and Cecil Maranville

Sino-Russian Alliance

Stratfor's organizing theme for its 1999 Annual Forecast is found in the title: "A New and Dangerous World." That concept remains valid and the fundamental trends identified within that theme remain intact. The most important trend identified in that forecast was: "Russia and China will be moving into a closer, primarily anti-American alliance in 1999." That process is well under way and is also intensifying.

A Sino-Russian alliance has not yet fully taken shape. Nevertheless, matters are rapidly moving in that direction. Therefore, it is Stratfor's view that the single most important global theme of the third quarter of 1999 will be fairly quiet, yet intense, diplomacy between Russia and China as they explore the precise meaning and implementation of their strategic relationship (Stratfor's Third Quarter Forecast, June 27, 1999).

Yeltsin Meets With Chinese Leader

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN: (AP)-President Boris Yeltsin met his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin, and the Russian leader renewed his call for the two nations to work together to build a "multi-polar world."

Yeltsin and Jiang held one-on-one talks before taking part in a five-nation summit in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. The summit was intended to improve stability along China's lengthy border with Russia and three former Soviet republics.

After tension between Moscow and Beijing during the Cold War, relations have warmed considerably in this decade, and the leaders of the two countries meet regularly.

Whenever Yeltsin meets top Chinese officials, he calls for strengthening ties as part of an effort to counterbalance U.S. clout in global affairs.

Jiang did not mention the United States by name, but he appeared to refer to Washington when he said that there was a "new display of hegemony relying on force, and it has already drawn concern on the international scene."

The five-nation summit, which included Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan and Tajikistan, was the fourth such meeting since April 1996, when the leaders first met in Shanghai, China, and agreed on a series of confidence-building measures along the border.

Future Energy Shortages Predicted

BOSTON: (CNN)-This summer's withering heat has forced some power companies to warn they are on the brink of running out of electricity. And just because it hasn't happened near you doesn't mean it won't in the future.

A recent study by New York-based Allied Business Intelligence, a technology research firm, predicts that in the next 10 years a growing strain on energy resources in the United States will lead to power shortages everywhere except Middle America-with deadly results.

"Lives are always lost during heat waves. It's the weakest, the sick, elderly," says ABI analyst Michael Kujawa. "Air conditioners will go off in some critical situations…and the numbers will go up."

A Divorce at the Click of a Mouse

Warring couples in Britain can now end their marriage quickly and cheaply-using the Internet.

For just £79.99, couples can file divorce papers with the click of a mouse-if neither partner contests the split.

In its first week, more than 300 British couples downloaded papers from the site-potentially saving hundreds or even thousands of pounds in solicitors' fees and court costs.

The petition, affidavit and decree nisi are drafted, based on answers users give to a series of questions on-line. On-line lawyers check the details and send the forms to the court.

Patricia Hardcastle, spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Church, described the service as "repellent."

"There's something very impersonal about having to do it on-line. Nobody wants to go through it, but at least we had to do everything face-to-face, which might have made people stop and think," she said.

But Richard Cohen, legal director of the Desktop Lawyer service, said: "Just because it's easy, it doesn't mean it's going to incite people to get divorced. Up till now people had to use a solicitor; we've made a daunting task a bit easier," he told The Observer (1999 Sky Online, July 29,1999).

TB Infects Third of World Population

Nearly a third of the world's population is infected with the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, according to a report published [in August], with 7.96 million new cases of the disease reported in 1997.

The study, by the World Health Organization (WHO) blamed poor control strategies for the situation, adding that more than half of the new cases reported in 1997 occurred in five Southeast Asian countries.

Control failures were also cited for high rates in sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe, along with high rates of HIV infection in some African countries where the disease has hit people whose immune systems have been weakened.

The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated that in the 212 countries monitored by WHO, 1.86 billion people, or 32 percent of the global population, now carry the bacterium that causes the disease (1999 Reuters Limited).

Drug Use Down Among Teens, Up Among Young Adults

WASHINGTON: (CNN)-Illegal drug use declined among younger teens in the United States last year, but increased slightly among young adults, according to the U.S. government's annual drug use survey.

The use of illicit drugs among 12- to 17-year-olds dropped from 11.4 percent in 1997 to 9.9 percent in 1998. However, among 18- to 25-year-olds, drug use increased from 14.7 percent to 16.1 percent during the same period.

The mixed results in the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reflect a continuing widespread drug problem, but a hopeful sign that the anti-drug message may be reaching those in their early teens.

Saddam Hussein Stepping Down?

Reports are mounting that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may be preparing to step down, thus paving the way for the removal of sanctions against Iraq. He does not particularly need to go, as he is quite effective at breaking U.N. sanctions. However, his would-be partners would prefer to do business above board, and may be urging him to retire. It's a win-win deal for all involved, from Russia to Iraq to the United States. All that remains is for Saddam to figure out how to frame retirement as his last great victory.

Diplomatic sources in Amman, Jordan, have confirmed that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has given new roles to his son, Qusay, and Iraqi Vice President Taha Yashin Ramadan. While the moves may have been made due to Izzat Ibrahim's deteriorating health, there appears to be a deeper meaning. Saddam has also replaced a number of ambassadors in an effort to present a new face to the international community. The changes are likely cosmetic, aimed at repairing Iraq's international image so that the U.N. will lift economic sanctions.

However, the sleepy little war has had a significant character change in the past few weeks. On August 19, U.S. aircraft bombed targets outside of the no-fly zones, inside the central region where Iraq retains clear sovereignty. At about the same time, the U.S. openly shifted its targeting from responsive attacks against aggressive Iraqi moves, to attacks on fuel and ammunition dumps.

About a week after that, an Agence France-Presse report out of Amman claimed that an unnamed Western diplomat had stated that the U.S. and U.K. were preparing a "large-scale" operation against Iraq. Simultaneously, Arab leaders started to condemn Saddam Hussein ostentatiously.

The Jordanians, after an opening to Saddam following the death of King Hussein, cooled their relations with Saddam. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was reported to have "washed his hands" of Iraq. Bashar al-Assad, son of the Syrian president, called Saddam a "human beast." All told, it appears that the war is shifting from its sleepy phase. The question, of course, is what it is shifting to and why it is shifting now (Stratfor.com, August 17, 26 and 30, 1999).

Bin Laden Has 20 Nuclear Bombs, Says Expert

WASHINGTON-Saudi fugitive Osama Bin Laden is believed to have up to 20 nuclear bombs and is seeking to launch a massive terrorist strike against the United States, a congressional investigator and author says.

Yosef Bodansky, a researcher of the House Task Force for Counterterrorism and author of a new book on Bin Laden, [revealed at a] a news conference…that Bin Laden has been seeking to follow up on his bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa one year ago. Echoing U.S. officials, Bodansky said Bin Laden was thwarted in plans to blow up the U.S. embassy and two consulates in India last December and January.

Bin Laden has biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and has received technical help from Iraq, Bodansky said. The nuclear weapons include suitcase bombs acquired through Chechniyan rebels (1999 World Tribune.com).

Kazakhstan Registers Seventh Case of Bubonic Plague This Year

MOSCOW-A woman in southern Kazakhstan has been hospitalized in the seventh case of bubonic plague registered this year. The 46-year-old patient was admitted to a hospital in the Kzyl-Orda… Kazakhstan's Emergency Ministry reported, according to the Interfax news agency. Earlier in the month, a 13-year-old boy died of bubonic plague in the former Soviet Central Asian republic. (1999 Nando Media).


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Origin of article "World News Review September/October 1999"
Keywords: Russia China energy shortage divorce tuberculosis Saddam Hussein Iraq Osama bin Laden 

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