Congress finally passed a bailout package on Friday. The bill, which promises up to $700 billion to purchase failing mortgages from banks, was quickly signed into law by President Bush. The vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin also garnered much attention. But will all the focus on the outcome of the bailout and the VP debate this week, you might have missed some other important developments in the world this week. Here are my top five:
1. We discussed the political transition in South Africa last week. One interesting (and critically important) result: a new health minister. The incoming heath minister, Barbara Hogan, has vowed to make fighting HIV/AIDS the ministry’s top priority. In a country where an estimated 5.6 million people are HIV positive, and more than 1,000 die from HIV/AIDS-related illness every day, the disease touches everyone. Hogan was a well-know critic of the Mbeki government’s HIV/AIDS policy, campaigning for improved access to medicines and a greater emphasis on education. Hogan was a white anti-apartheid activist who spent eight years in prison for fighting for democracy and majority rule.
2. The Bush administration notified Congress of its intention to move forward with a $6.5 billion weapons deal with Taiwan. The deal would include some of the U.S.’s most advanced weapons systems including Patriot missiles, Apache helicopters, submarine-launched Harpoon missiles, and spare parts for F-16 fighter jets. Taiwan feels the weapons are necessary to increase the island’s ability to defend itself. China views the sale as a provocation.
3. In another U.S. foreign policy development, the Senate appears likely to approve a civilian nuclear energy deal between the United States and India next week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting with Indian government officials this weekend to hammer out the deal, which could receive approval from the Senate as early as Wednesday. The deal represents a fundamental shift in U.S.-Indian relations. Because India had developed nuclear weapons outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was subject to intense trade-restrictions on nuclear-related technologies. In light of the U.S. move, Europe is making a similar policy shift.
4. In Angola, the government announced a plan to attract $6 billion in new agricultural investment over the next five years. Encouraged by high global food prices, the government of Angola hopes to diversify the country’s economy away from exclusive reliance on diamonds and oil, into new areas. The country has already attracted two new investors, Lonrho and Chiquita, both of which hope to capitalize on the new initiative. However, the United Nations has raised concerns over the risk of “food neo-colonialism” in the context of such efforts.
5. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Saturday summit intended to develop a plan to prevent a European-wide credit meltdown—similar to that which seems to be developing in the United States—ended without a specific plan on action. The summit’s outcome was undermined by competition between the German and French governments over responsibility for and the nature of a rescue package.