Important but overlooked news from around the world.
Europe grapples with old crimes and a new economic slump, Dow Chemical’s S.E.C. fine stirs up Bhopal ghosts, inflation and dissent converge in Zimbabwe, Baghdad’s broken homes are up for grabs, Shia rivalry wags the dog, race and pollution are linked in California, Southeast Asians risk a European sea voyage with low returns … and a brownfield grows in Queens, New York.
“It is a great misunderstanding to consider anti-Semitism as racism. The Jews of Poland are racially indistinguishable from the Poles. However, the fact that they stick to their own community, their own civilization, their own separateness, results in biological differences developing.”
— Maciej Giertyc, a Polish member of the European Parliament, writing in a booklet critics say was published with E.U. funding (see “Hate Speech,” below).
Dow Fine Stirs Bhopal Ghosts
Survivors of the Bhopal chemical disaster called for a police investigation after U.S. regulators fined Dow Chemical for paying $200,000 to Indian bureaucrats to legalize a pesticide banned in the United States in 2000.
India’s Agriculture Ministry said it was “surprised” by the fines, and that it follows “strict norms” for pesticide regulation, the Financial Express reports. But activists told the Indo-Asian News Service that the bribery incident is only the “tip of the iceberg.”
Down and Out in Paris and London
Pressure is building for economic and labor reform in Europe, where one out of six citizens, especially children, are living below the poverty line, and four in ten young people are unemployed — particularly those without higher education.
Some critics say making it easier to hire and fire young people will help bring them into the job market, but just such a measure sparked huge protests in France last year, causing reformists to back down.
A Risky New Sea Route, With Low Returns
Growing numbers of Southeast Asian migrants are spending thousands of dollars flying to Addis Ababa or Dubai, and trekking across Africa to risk their lives on boats headed for the Canary Islands. Many destroy their passports to avoid being repatriated, a practice that usually sends them into the stateless limbo of refugee camps.
“Bhopal gas survivors demand action against U.S. firm”
Indo-Asian News Service, February 16, 2007
“Dow chem’s kick-back issue rocks agriculture ministry”
The Financial Express (India), February 17, 2007
“One in six Europeans living below the poverty line”
The E.U. Observer (Belgium), February 20, 2007
“Jobless youth fuel Europe’s heated debate about reform”
The Financial Times (U.K.), February 17, 2007
“Immigrants open a new path to Europe”
International Herald Tribune, February 16, 2007
Inflation, Dissent Converge
With inflation at 1,600 percent, Zimbabwe is removing subsidies on flour, maize and fuel, causing prices to as much as quintuple for staple foods and transportation.
Officials say inflation is caused by businesses that illegally increase prices set by the state, and to prevent corruption have doubled the salaries of youth militia charged with enforcing the new rules.
The new militia salaries are about 10 times the amount paid to teachers and state doctors, a sore point in a nation where leaders of the national teachers’ union were recently arrested for calling for strikes over low wages.
Robert Mugabe’s government routinely smothers dissent, last week detaining student leaders who protested a 2,000 percent fee hike, and banning an election rally by the opposition party.
“Zimbabwe: Police deny permission for Tsvangirai rally”
Business Day (South Africa), February 16, 2007
“Zimbabwe: Massive price hikes loom”
Zimbabwe Independent, February 16, 2007
“Zim militia squads pay doubles”
South African Press Association, February 13, 2007
Learn more about Zimbabwe on Newsdesk.org
Will of Allah
When the governor of Najaf called on U.S. air support for an Iraqi Army attack on a heavily fortified compound, the target was originally described as an al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni group — and then later a Shia doomsday cult — that sought to massacre Shia imams and pilgrims during a religious festival.
But the Institute for War & Peace Reporting now cites “security officials” who claim no attack on imams and pilgrims was planned, and quotes Najaf’s deputy governor as stating that regional Shia leaders simply wanted to eliminate a rival militant Shia sect.
The Broken Homes of Baghdad
Observers say Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s plan to return every Baghdad home to their original owner within 15 days, or have displaced families prove they have permission to be there, will drive another wave of refugees.
One man interviewed by the U.N. news service says his family was placed by Sunni politicians in a new home after being “purged” from his old neighborhood by the Mahdi Army.
“Shia rivalry sparked battle of Zarqa”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, February 15, 2007
“Rebel Muslims longed for doomsday / ‘Heaven’s Army’ battled near Najaf with high-tech arms”
Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2007
“New security plan could make more Iraqis homeless”
Integrated Regional Information Networks (U.N.), February 15, 2007
Scotland’s Routine Radiation Leaks
A Scottish nuclear plant operator was fined $273,000 last week for dumping solid nuclear waste in a public landfill, and for discharging contaminated water into effluent pipes that washed up on local beaches for more than 20 years.
Less than five hours after the fine was handed down, another suspected radioactive particle was found on a nearby beach, the BBC reports.
Pollution, Race Linked in SF Bay Area
A new report finds that most people living within a mile of power plants, refineries and other pollution sources in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area are ethnic minorities with higher rates of asthma and cancer, and less access to health care.
Neighborhood activists say children need to use inhalers, and told KCBS that they’re perpetually washing “black gook” and “black soot” off their windows and houses.
A Brownfield Grows in Queens
Neighbors of an old lot targeted for a $50 million low-income housing and commercial complex were never told of the site’s 70-year history of “excessive” contamination by a dry-cleaning business, the Queens Chronicle in New York reports. Studies show that pollution could have spread as much as a quarter-mile underground, within reach of a municipal well.
The developer, an influential local church, downplays the risk of toxic vapor leaks and runoff, but has applied for “brownfield” status that would both cover cleanup expenses and limit liability.
“Nuclear site operator fined 140k”
BBC (U.K.), February 15, 2007
“Low-income, minority areas bear brunt of Bay Area pollution”
ANG Newspapers, February 18, 2007
“Study claims environmental racism in Bay Area”
CBS5/KCBS (San Francisco), February 20, 2007
“Toxic site eyed for housing”
Queens Chronicle (NY), February 15, 2007
Talkin’ Crimes of Old Europe
Germany’s push for new hate-crime laws across Europe is creating fissures in the growing European Union.
Some former Soviet bloc nations want to include a provision that makes denial of Nazi and Communist war crimes equivalent.
But the measure, advanced by Estonia, Poland and Slovenia, has been criticized by a Slovakian minister who says it’s impossible to equate fascism and communism.
The E.U. Observer reports that Poles are also lobbying to ban the phrase “Polish death camps,” because, say advocates, such camps were built and operated by occupying Nazi forces.
Meanwhile, a prominent Polish politician has drawn charges of anti-semitism after claiming in a booklet that there are “biological differences” between Jews and gentiles, TheParliament.com reports.
The booklet was written by Polish E.U. minister Maciej Giertych, father of Poland’s deputy prime minister. Critics say E.U. funds were used to publish the book, and want the money returned.
“E.U. anti-hate law sparks debate on Nazi and Soviet crimes”
EUObserver (Belgium), February 16, 2007
“E.U. parliament in row over antisemitic book”
TheParliament.com (Belgium), February 16, 2007
Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson
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