March 8, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 10

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

Libraries are under the gun in Oregon, top secret documents blew the NSA’s cover, the FCC payola payoff may be a mixed blessing, fish stocks decline as profits hit new heights, Putin’s popularity is unchecked by deaths, extremism gains new footholds worldwide … and religious minorities are outnumbered but united in Germany and Pakistan.

QUOTED:

“The Women’s Protection Bill has focused attention on the issue. Women have become the target because it’s a victory for women.”

— Kamila Hyat of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, on rising violence against women there. (See “Extremism,” below.)


TOP STORIES

Closing the Books in Oregon

All 15 of the public libraries serving Jackson County, Ore., are scheduled to close after Congress failed to reauthorize a $400 million subsidy for rural economies. The libraries were recently rebuilt or remodeled, and residents blame the pending closures on local mismanagement, the declining timber industry, and indifference on Capitol Hill.

Secret Wiretap Snafu Blew NSA’s Cover

Experts are watching a $1 million lawsuit against the government, filed by an attorney who was accidentally given a top secret document tracking his phone conversations with an Arab charity. The suit is unique because it is the only one, out of more than 50, with proof of government spying on U.S. citizens. Wired News reports that the Washington Post had been given a copy of the document, but turned it over to the FBI without covering the story.

Payola Payoff’s Mixed Blessing For Indie Music

A $12.5 million settlement for accusations of payola against CBS Radio, Clear Channel and others has independent music producers hopeful for new exposure. But an agreement to ensure thousands of hours of air time for small labels is strictly voluntary, and not covered by the FCC settlement.

Sources:

“Largest library closure in U.S. looms / Federal funding dries up, leaving 15 branches in Oregon county on brink”
San Francisco Chronicle, March 4, 2007

“Top secret: We’re Wiretapping you”
Wired.com March 5, 2007

“FCC payola probe boosts indie music”
Hollywood Reporter, March 6, 2007


THE OCEANS

Record Earnings From Endangered Ocean Harvest

The fishing industry brought in a record $71.5 billion last year, most of it from ocean fisheries that lack ecological oversight.

Now, a new report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization finds that 25 percent of ocean fisheries are virtually depleted, and 52 percent “fully exploited.”

This comes on the heels of a study last year that predicted a complete collapse of ocean fisheries worldwide by 2050 without reform of fishing practices and curtailing pollution.

Fish Farmer Magazine reports that with the record harvest, wild fisheries have “levelled off” even as aquaculture becomes the “world’s fastest growing food production sector.”

Sources:

“Record high for global seafood trade”
Fish Farmer Magazine, March 5, 2007

“Ocean fisheries maxed out”
Inter Press Service, March 5, 2007


PUTIN

Death and Repression Stalk a President’s Critics

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings top 70 percent, and most citizens say that they’ll vote for whomever he chooses as a successor after his last constitutional term in office.

This, along with Putin’s intolerance of dissent and the ongoing, unsolved and usually fatal attacks on his critics, have cemented fears of resurgent authoritarianism.

The Telegraph reports on two recent incidents: the shooting of a “vocal” critic of Putin in Maryland in an apparent robbery, and the death of a journalist in Russia after he fell from the fourth floor of his apartment building.

The mayor of the Arkhangelsk, the sole contender so far in next year’s presidential elections, said that since declaring his candidacy he has come under police investigation, and expects to be jailed despite testimony in his favor.

Bloomberg reports that pro-Kremlim parties are expected to sweep regional elections later this month, since the reformist Yablinko Party and the pro-business Union of Rightist Forces have both been barred.

And in Moscow last weekend, one of the largest pro-democracy rallies in years was violently broken up by riot police.

Sources:

“Are Putin’s agents behind shooting?”
The Telegraph (U.K.), March 7, 2007

“I am victim of dirty tricks, says man who aims to replace Putin”
The Telegraph (U.K.), March 3, 2007

“Putin Squeezes Opposition as 2008 Presidential Election Looms”
Bloomberg, March 8, 2007

“Kasparov says violently dispersed weekend protest showed Russians overcoming their fear”
Associated Press, March 5, 2007


EXTREMISM

Intolerance Seeks, and Gains, New Footholds

Extremists worldwide are harnessing unemployment, social unrest, gender conflict and simple bigotry to advance their crusades.

In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen — an accused racist who calls for an end to immigration and tax cuts for native French only — may again be set to upset the presidential elections. Though he has not yet declared his candidacy, his support in the polls is greater than ever.

Hungary, shocked by riots last year after its socialist president confirmed that he had lied during the election, faces renewed violence with an attack on a police station, and mobilization of “skinheads and football hooligans” in advance of its March 15 independence holiday, Inter Press Service reports.

In Pakistan, a woman social welfare minister was shot to death in front of a crowd by an unrepentant religious fanatic. According to the Christian Science Monitor, attacks on women, particularly those working in government and education, are on the rise there.

And the Associated Press reports that some officials in the western United States, afraid of being targeted by a growing white supremacist prison gang known for identity theft, are going to court to remove their names from public records.

Sources:

“Extremist Le Pen strikes chord in France, again”
Deutsche Welle, March 5, 2007

“Something’s Rotten in the State of Hungary”
Inter Press Service, February 27, 2007

“Violent debate on women’s rights in Pakistan”
Christian Science Monitor, March 6, 2007

“White Supremacist gang gains clout”
Associated Press, March 5, 2007


RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

Outnumbered, But United, in Germany and Pakistan

The more than three million Muslims living in Germany are on the brink of overcoming ethnic and religious differences to form a new advocacy group that would give them, for the first time ever, a “united voice,” Deutsche Welle reports.

In Pakistan, one of the heartlands of Islam, Hindus are taking similar steps, forming the Sindh Minority Alliance in the face of “growing incidents of kidnapping, extortion and other torture cases,” the Times of India reports.

Sources:

“German Muslims want unified voice”
Deutsche Welle, March 5, 2007

“Pakistani Hindus form party in Sindh”
The Times of India, March 5, 2007


Editor: Josh Wilson

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