February 28, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 9

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

China’s sandstorm “season” plagues Asia, California prisons get a failing grade on drug treatment, a meningitis outbreak tests vaccine supplies, Hussein’s ghost haunts the Afghan Parliament, Uganda’s rebels are on the run and crossing borders … and poverty worldwide drives a booming slave trade.

QUOTED:

“Parliament has changed to a safe haven for war criminals and human rights violators. These people are vipers in our bosom.”

— Malalai Joya, an Afghan legislator, on an amnesty bill for militants and mujahedeen, some of whom are now government officials (see “Afghan War Crimes,” below).


TOP STORIES

China Blamed for Sandstorm “Season”

Born in the widening Gobi Desert, driven by overgrazing and deforestation, and soaking up the carcinogens and pollutants of China’s industrial districts, the toxic sandstorms of China have grown from a bothersome four days annually in the 1980s to a 17-day “season” that kills hundreds and sickens millions in Japan and the Koreas each year.

Faced with bad press and anger from its neighbors, China has promised a “sandstorm-free” Olympics in 2008, and according to the Scotsman is replanting eroded areas.

California Prison Drug Program Condemned

California’s Inspector General Matt Cate aid the state’s prison drug treatment programs are a “total failure,” the Los Angeles Times reports, costing taxpayers $1 billion since 1989, and even increasing recidivism.

Cate said treatment programs were frequently disrupted by lockdowns and lack of counseling. He also said prison officials spent more than $8 million on progress reports they ignored, and that California’s Legislature twice expanded the programs without verifying their effectiveness.

Vaccine Shortage Spurs Meningitis Fears

Schools, dance halls and churches have been closed as a rare meningitis strain spreads through Uganda’s West Nile region, killing 110 people and affecting 2,923 others. Outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan have spurred fears of an epidemic; vaccine supplies are limited to 300,000 doses, with no additional stocks currently in production worldwide.

Sources:

“12-day toxic sandstorm the price of Chinese growth for South Korea”
The Scotsman (U.K.), February 23, 2007

“California prison drug treatment called waste of money”
Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2007

“Meningitis kills 110”
The New Vision (Uganda), February 23, 2007


AFGHAN WAR CRIMES

Hussein’s Ghost Haunts Afghan Parliament

A bill that would grant amnesty to warlords and militants, including government officials accused by human rights groups of war crimes, is advancing through Afghanistan’s legislature.

The Telegraph reports that 25,000 former militants came to Kabul for a peaceful demonstration in support of the amnesty call, which the newspaper says was “triggered” by the execution of Saddam Hussein.

But more than two decades of invasion, jihad and civil war have taken their toll. According to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, some members of Parliament walked out to protest the vote, and citizens on the street are in a similar mood.

“Parliament is a shelter for criminals,” a Kabul shopkeeper told the IWPR. “They are granting forgiveness for themselves.”

Sources:

“Afghans in no mood to forgive killers”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, February 20, 2007

“Warlords rally to demand Afghan amnesty”
Telegraph (U.K.), February 25, 2007


NO PEACE FOR UGANDA

A Rebellion on the Run, Crossing Borders

Decades of conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army have taken thousands of lives in Uganda. More than two million people have been pushed from their homes, and peace talks have stalled on rebel fears that mediators are biased.

Now, after being flushed out of bases in southern Sudan, the remaining LRA militants have broken the terms of a cease-fire, and are crossing the border to join forces with the Central African Republic’s local rebel militia, the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy.

Sources:

“As peace talks stall, displaced Ugandans yearn for home”
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, February 23, 2007

“‘Ugandan rebels flee to CAR'”
South African Press Association, February 20, 2007

“Uganda: ‘A war against children”
Newsdesk.org news analysis, April 1, 2005


HUMAN TRAFFICKING

On Poverty’s Coattails, Slavery Thrives

Impoverished girls from Eastern Europe and Africa are prime targets for pimps and smugglers. As many as 5,000 youth have been sold into prostitution and literal domestic slavery in the United Kingdom, according to a new study.

In India, participants in the Global March Against Child Labor decried what they say is a $32 billion worldwide industry that mostly preys upon women and children.

And Reuters reports that Myanmar, a police state that formerly branded emigrant laborers “traitors,” has established new rules protecting them after 66 Myanmar citizens were rescued from a Thai factory where some were imprisoned for seven years.

Sources:

“‘Human trafficking is a $32 bn worldwide business'”
Indo-Asian News Service, February 24, 2007

“Sex traffic: Danielle was 15 when she was sold into slavery in the U.K.”
Independent (U.K), February 25, 2007

“5,000 child sex slaves in U.K.”
Independent (U.K), February 25, 2007

“Myanmar admits migrants abused”
Reuters, February 22, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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