January 3, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 1

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

The Bush Administration is hiring lawyers, Dubai takes heat over fears of terror exports, gays in Turkey face a new censorship battle, cigarette smokers and aluminum smelters alike are mired in a battle of the bans, and fast-food is fingered for a surge in childhood kidney stones and ballooning baby fat.

QUOTED:

“As fishermen and residents of the area, we will be ready to die for this cause.”

— A Trinidad Fishermen’s Association spokesman says plans for a huge aluminum smelter will destroy the local fishing economy (see “Alcoa’s Woes,” below).


TOP STORIES

The Bush Investigations

Ahead of an expected surge in Democratic subpoenas, the White House is hiring at least four new attorneys, the Baltimore Sun reports, including specialists in white collar and securities investigations. The Sun notes that this is a far cry from the “hiring spree” that preceded President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Republican are also launching a new PR firm to support any other officials and corporations caught up in the probe. Bush spokesman Tony Snow said the agency is “certainly independent of the White House.”

Palestine by the Numbers

The human rights group B’Tselem has tallied up the human cost of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2006. Israeli deaths by terrorism dropped to 17, including one minor and six soldiers. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinian death rate tripled to 660, of which 141 were minors, and 322 “noncombatants.”

The Independent (U.K.) reports that the Israeli government doesn’t dispute the numbers, but rather the use of the word “noncombatant.”

The Waters of Lebanon

Layers of sludge “as much as two meters thick” drift offshore of Lebanon’s capital, and citizens say decades of backed-up raw sewage have made the Beirut River smell “unbearable.”

Critics blame government apathy and incompetence, the Daily Star reports, and complain that new treatment plants are years from completion. One conservationist said U.S. funding for 42 wastewater facilities has produced only a handful that are even “partially” functional.

Sources:

“Bush is bracing for new scrutiny”
Baltimore Sun, December 26, 2006

“Palestinian death toll triples this year”
Independent (U.K.), December 30, 2006

“Untreated waste fouls Lebanese waterways”
Lebanon Daily Star, December 29, 2006


WORLD

Dubai Exports Blamed for Terror

Citing an “alarming lack of export oversight,” the U.S. accused the United Arab Emirates of giving Iran and Syria access to electronics it fears could be used by Shia militias in Iraq to make explosives.

Dubai Customs denied the charge, saying that it has been cooperating with anti-terrorism efforts, Agence France-Presse reports. The customs agency also said the United States did not share any details about suspect shipments, and that the accused company did not violate any export controls or break UAE laws.

Former Mosque to Stay Catholic

A plea to turn the Roman Catholic cathedral in Cordoba, Spain, into an ecumenical temple open to all faiths has been rejected as confusing, the BBC reports.

Originally a Moorish mosque, the cathedral is a U.N. World Heritage Site and a tourist attraction. Spain’s Islamic Board said security guards often prevent Muslims from praying there, and called for joint use to promote co-existence.

Sources:

“UAE rejects U.S. criticism on export of sensitive material”
Agence France-Presse, December 29, 2006

“Spain cathedral shuns Muslim plea”
BBC (U.K.), December 28, 2006


HUMAN RIGHTS

Gay Censorship Battles in Turkey

As its editor stands trial on morality charges, Turkey’s only gay and lesbian lifestyle magazine said in a statement that the action negates freedom of speech of all homosexuals. The magazine, published by an NGO previously threatened with closure, ran a special edition in July on pornography, Adnki.com reports.

Philippines Named “Housing Rights Violator”

Hundreds of thousands of the poorest Filipinos have been evicted or made homeless, according to Bulatlat magazine, as polluted, crowded shantytowns are privatized, occupied by troops and demolished. An activist group say the government allows “systematic” violation of housing rights across the country.

Bahrain Labor Law Ignored

Dozens of migrant workers in Bahrain have been injured or killed after being hurled from the backs of open trucks in traffic accidents, Gulf News reported. An activist says a ban on such transport practices is routinely ignored.

Sources:

“Turkey: Editor of gay magazine to stand trial”
ADNKronos International (Italy), December 27, 2006

“RP is 2006 housing rights violator”
Bulatlat (Philippines), December 31-January 6, 2007

“‘Enforce ban on firms transporting workers in open vehicles'”
Gulf News (United Arab Emirates), December 30, 2006


SMOKING BANS

Butts Out Around The World?

In Hong Kong, a longtime smoker insists his regular chess games in the park will remain tobacco-friendly, despite government promises to enforce a new ban on lighting up outdoors.

Ohio bar owners had mixed reactions, from disdainful to supportive, to a shipment of empty matchboxes listing a suicide hotline phone number, and promoting a new smoking ban there.

And in Pennsylvania, a pair of bar and cafe owners backed by R.J. Reynolds lost a lawsuit claiming a local smoking ban hurt their businesses, and violated a weaker state law. The judge suspended the ban until May, asking legislators to clarify the situation.

Sources:

“Smoker ready to defy ban in parks”
The Standard (China), December 29, 2006

“Campaign: Smoking ban not matter of life, death”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 23, 2006

“Bar, restaurant patrons can smoke till May”
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 23, 2006


ALCOA’S WOES

“We will be ready to die for this cause”

A year of “stormy protests” has caused Alcoa to scuttle a proposed $1.5 billion aluminum smelter in Trinidad, Reuters reports. New plans to build the plant further south have prompted equally fierce opposition by villagers afraid that pollution and emissions would devastate the local fishing economy.

In Texas, a labor union is feeling the effects of an air pollution lawsuit that has forced Alcoa to decommission and upgrade a power plant there.

Sources:

“Alcoa smelter gets cold shoulder in Trinidad”
Reuters, December 29, 2006

“Alcoa to shut down three units of power plant”
Temple Daily Telegram (TX), December 29, 2006


FAST-FOOD CHILDHOOD

A Plague of Baby Fat and Kidney Stones

A third of America’s three-year-olds are overweight, largely among low-income families without easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the Boston Globe reports. But the problem is deepened by sedentary lifestyles, and poor examples offered by obese adults.

Doctors say the fast-food habit may also be causing a surge in childhood kidney stones. The painful condition, usually only found in adults, is often caused by an excess of salt and lack of water, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Sources:

“Obesity battle starts young for urban poor”
Boston Globe, December 29, 2006

“For children, a painful trend”
Batimore Sun, December 29, 2006


Editors: Julia Scott and Josh Wilson

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