Japan Disaster Relief – An anonymous donor sent eight gold bars worth about $250,000 to survivors of the March 2011 tsunami in north-east Japan, which boosted disaster relief efforts in the region, the Guardian writes. The bars were delivered to a group supporting the town’s reconstruction and the head of the local fish market, notes the BBC. The gifts have lifted spirits amid complaints over the slow pace of the recovery effort in the town of Ishinomaki, where 3,000 people died and more than 40,000 buildings were destroyed, notes the Guardian.
Philippines’ s Climate Change – Typhoons in the Philippines are not only causing damage and displacement for Filipinos, but are also reflecting a rapid deterioration of climate trends in the country, reports the Guardian. An inter-governmental panel on climate change said mean temperatures in the Philippines are rising by 32.3°F (0.14°C) per decade. Despite an increase in the annual mean rainfall in the last 23 years, the severest droughts ever recorded occurred in 1991-1992 and 1997-1998, according to the daily. The head of the government’s climate change commission said the extreme weather is becoming more frequent and a drain on the country’s resources, writes the Guardian. Opinion surveys show Filipinos rated global warming as a bigger threat than rising food and fuel prices, the climate change commissioner said.
Brazil’s Housing Program – A federal housing program in Brazil has been shifting homebuilders’ interests away from the rich minority to the middle market, reports the Economist. Started in 2009, Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV; My House My Life) is funded from a workers’ compensation scheme and the federal budget. The program has helped fund housing for Brazil’s poor and middle classes, but still needs to work out how to reach its targets, said the Economist.
South Africa Party– The revered anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele has launched a new party to challenge South Africa’s ruling ANC. Agang, which means ‘Let’s Build’ in the Sependi language, will “declare war” on the “corruption, nepotism and patronage” that Ramphele feels have become endemic in South African public service, reports the AFP. The 65-year-old has an extremely strong profile in a country which is obsessed with identity politics, notes AFP, having been both romantically and politically involved with the anti-apartheid campaigner Steve Biko, who was assassinated in 1977. The ANC won 65.9% in 2009 polls, with the main opposition Democratic Alliance taking 16.7%, writes AFP.
France Budget Goals — France’s government is delaying a stated goal of reducing its budget deficit to 3% of GDP this year, citing a Europe-wide recession, reports the New York Times. Finance minister Pierre Moscovici argued that the recession in the euro zone — where growth in the last quarter was -0.6% — created an exceptional scenario, saying, “If we have a deeper recession, we’ll have an even tougher time hitting our targets. We must not add austerity to the risk of recession,” writes the daily. In a period of stagnant growth, Moscovici is under pressure from other government ministers for more spending, but he insisted that public spending must come down, with the government’s main task being to promote growth and cut unemployment, but also to get public finances under control, writes the Times.
Iran Nuclear Talks — Iran says it is seeking a “show of goodwill” from the U.S. and its allies, to recognize its nuclear “rights,” including enriching uranium, at next week’s nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Kazakhstan, notes the AP. In exchange, Tehran is willing to address Western concerns about its nuclear program. The West suspects Iran’s enrichment program could produce material for a nuclear weapon — a charge Iran steadfastly denies. Tehran rejected an offer of direct talks with Washington earlier this month, writes the AP.