February 15, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 7

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

Venezuela trade unions are locked in a mafia-style bloodletting, an Orthodox Jew sues over sex-segregated buses, autism in New Jersey is twice the national average, a “day kidnapping” in the Philippines is linked to the police … and Pakistan looks for suicide bombing clues at funerals without bodies.

QUOTED:

“Most people come to the organization, but then don’t want to file a formal complaint for fear of drawing attention to themselves as homosexuals.”

— Activist Jolando Jimenez says harassment of gays by Chilean police continues almost ten years after a ban on homosexuality was lifted (see “News & Commentary,” below).


TOP STORIES

Venezuela’s Deadly Trade Union Battles

Rival trade union leaders, already divided into competing pro- and anti- Chavez camps, are killing each other in a mafia-style vendetta to claim exorbitant hiring fees paid by laborers desperate for work in Venezuela’s booming construction industry.

Jewish Women to The Back of The Bus?

Orthodox Jew Naomi Ragan of New York City is suing a Jerusalem bus company after she was harassed by ultra-conservative men for refusing to move to the back of a sex-segregated bus.

The company operates 30 such bus lines throughout the city as a concession to the powerful Haredi community, a Jewish sect known to splatter bleach on women and clothing they deem immodest, riot against gays, and prevent their wives and daughters from attending college.

Philippine Kidnapping Linked to Police, Armed Forces

The thwarted kidnapping of the head of the Philippine Tourism Authority has led to the arrest of two police officers and a member of the military. “Day kidnappings,” in which victims are released within a day after ransom is paid, are common across the country.

Sources:

“Trade union job-peddling leads to bloodshed”
Inter Press Service, February 13, 2007

“Women fight back against ultra-Orthodox Jews”
Agence France-Presse, February 9, 2007

“Barbers’ family escape kidnap try”
Inquirer.net (Philippines), February 10, 2007


AUTISM IN AMERICA

With Autism’s Spread, a Mystery and a Lawsuit

A new report finds that one in every 60 boys in New Jersey has autism — nearly twice the national rate. Youth in the study were affected regardless of race, and the trend is spread equally throughout the state.

Efforts to find suspected clusters of autism there have failed, and calls for more research are matched by a growing demand for new funding and services for children with the disorder.

In Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that babies born via Caesarian sections or in breech position do appear to have a slightly higher rate of autism.

But a chemical culprit has been harder to identify, leading to a class-action lawsuit by thousands of parents convinced that their children developed autism after receiving vaccinations containing a mercury-based preservative.

In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, researcher Arthur Caplan notes that mercury is no longer used in most vaccines, and that research has failed to correlate the chemical with a spike in autism nationwide over the last 20 years.

Sources:

“New Jersey has highest rate ever documented in U.S.”
The Record (NJ), February 9, 2007

“Study: Low birth weight, C-section risk factors in autism”
Salt Lake Tribune, February 8, 2007

“A mother’s battle against mercury”
Hernando Today (FL), February 3, 2007

“Fact: No link of vaccine, autism”
Philadelphia Inquirer, February 6, 2007


PAKISTAN

As Bombings Surge, Pakistan Tracks Funerals Without Bodies

A series of suicide attacks have killed or injured dozens of Pakistani police officers and civilians since September 2006. Residents avoid mosques, markets and public outings with their children, and say the state has “failed” to protect them, the Daily Times reports.

Looking for a break, undercover investigators are attending the funerals of young men whose bodies are absent. Their hope is to identify not just the culprits, but the groups behind the attacks.

One militant said groups opposed to President Pervez Musharraf are now joined in the goal of targeting Pakistani officials who represent “the American agenda in the Islamic world,” according to The News-International.

Sources:

“Peshawaris ‘shell shocked’, feel insecure, unprotected”
Daily Times (Pakistan), February 10, 2007

“Funerals being monitored to identify bombers”
Daily Times (Pakistan), February 9, 2007

“Suicide hits ‘response to Musharraf’s policies'”
The News-International (Pakistan), February 4, 2007


IRAQ

Militants Target Infrastructure to Exploit Oil

Attacks on Iraq’s electrical grid are causing blackouts around the country and affecting oil production, forcing the country to import fuel even as militants freely siphon petroleum from state-owned pipelines.

U.S. officials are well aware that between $20 and $30 million of crude oil is stolen every day, but seem powerless to stop it.

Mikel Morris, a Houston oil engineer working in Baghdad for the State Department, says corruption in the Iraqi Oil Ministry is rampant, and the source of most attacks on reconstruction projects and reformist Iraqi oil officials.

Morris said that one pipeline company in Southern Iraq is controlled by Shiites, and according to CBS 11 in Texas, “refused to divulge its export contracts, records of sales, or even the names of buyers”

Sources:

“Baghdad in dark as electric grid hit again”
United Press International, February 9, 2007

“CBS 11 investigates Iraqi crude oil theft”
CBS 11 (TX), February 8, 2007


NEWS & COMMENTARY

No Longer Illegal, Gays Are Still a Target in Chile

Although homosexuality was legalized in 1998, gays in Chile still suffer public harassment and, in one case, beatings and sexual assault — all by the country’s own police force.

Activists there have called for mandatory human rights training for police officers, or Carabineros, but the Santiago Times reports that officals have not welcomed the idea.

Source:

“Police abuse of gays continues in Chile”
Santiago Times, February 7, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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