The world scene: Notes & links 10/30/13

The World’s Billionaires List in Forbes

Billionaires: Decline of the West, Rise of the Rest by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh for Triple Crisis.

Forbes magazine’s annual list of the world’s billionaires indicates there are still more billionaires in the United States than in any other country, but the rest of the world is catching up.  China has the second largest number of billionaires and Russia has the third, followed by Germany, India, Brazil and Turkey.

The new list reflects the growth of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China)  relative to the United States, western Europe and Japan.   Broad and Cavanagh wrote that it also reflects growing inequality throughout the world.  The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico, has a net worth of $73 billion, equal to 6.2 percent of Mexico’s GDP.  The third richest is Amacio Ortega, the Spanish retail king, who accumulated a fortune of $57 billion in a country where a fourth of the work force are unemployed.  If you’re wondering, the world’s second richest billionaire is Bill Gates and the fourth richest is Warren Buffett.

The Most Important Labor Strike in the World Is Happening Right Now by David Callahan for Common Dreams.

Millions of workers across Indonesia are on strike, demanding a higher minimum wage (it is now about $200 a month) and a universal health plan.  This is important for U.S. workers because Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world after China, India and the United States, is a giant sweatshop which helps depress wages worldwide.

The sooner Indonesia follows the path of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and develops a sizable middle class, the better not only for Indonesia, but for the United States, because Indonesia will become more of a potential market for U.S.-made goods and less of a magnet for how-wage employers.   Labor unions historically have helped bring wage-earners into the middle class.

Will the House of Saud pivot to China? by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times

Turkey’s Choice: Chinese Missile Defense or NATO? by Semih Idiz for Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse.

The Turkish government is negotiating to obtain a missile defense system from the Chinese Precision Machinery Import and Export Company, which also supplies military technology to Syria, Iran and North Korea.  The Turks said the Chinese bid is lower and offers technology transfer withheld by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and other western bidders.  This is another example of the fact that China is now a global power, and not a regional east Asian power.

More Carbon Than Keystone: Peabody Energy and Warren Buffet Ship Coal to China by Lou DuBose for the Washington Spectator.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal mining company, and the Burlington Northern Railroad, which is owned by Warren Buffett, want to build a huge new coal terminal in Washington state to ship coal across the Pacific electric power plants in China.  The planned Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, near Bellingham, would be twice as large as any existing U.S. coal shipping terminal.

The governors of Oregon and Washington are opposed to the plan, because of the impact on the fishing grounds of the Pacific Northwest and because the burning of this coal would accelerate global warming.

New York to Create Nation’s First State-Based Strategic Gasoline Reserve by James Burgess for the Oil Drum.

This is an excellent idea.

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