March 29, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 13

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

Tainted blood fuels Kazakhstan’s HIV scandal, Iraqi widows seek to become al Qaeda suicide bombers, a refugee in limbo may lose his American home, gender bias drives an abortion boom in India, critics take aim at Rwanda’s genocide trials … and GM short- circuits the buzz about its new electric car.

QUOTED:

“It is easy to accuse the tribunal of one-sided justice.”

— Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch says Rwanda’s genocide trials are deliberately avoiding a hard look at the ruling party and its president (see “RWANDA,” below).


TOP STORIES

Blood Transfusions Behind Kazakh HIV Scandal

Doctors at a state-run Kazakh hospital are on trial for allegedly approving transfusions using illicit blood infected with HIV. Eight young children died of AIDS-related illnesses and 102 were infected with HIV through blood transfusions in a scandal that brought down the country’s health minister.

The children’s families now face a societal stigma against HIV-infected patients, and many Kazakhs now no longer trust the medical system, reports Transitions Online.

Widowed by War, Iraqi Women Seek Martyrdom

Iraqi widows who have lost their entire families to the U.S. occupation “surrender easily to the pressure” to become suicide bombers, a local women’s advocate told the U.N. news service. An al-Qaeda spokesman said the women “look for our help” to become martyrs. Others struggle with unemployment, rape, and lack the means to resettle elsewhere.

Iraqi Refugee in Limbo

A 76-year-old Iraqi refugee and his family have been in the United States since 1998 waiting to become citizens, but now may lose their home due to an indefinite delay in their FBI background check.

Officials say it has nothing to do with ethnicity, but critics insist similar applications that were approved in as little as a day prior to September 11 now face frequent delays.

Sources:

“Bad blood”
Transitions Online (Czech Republic), March 22, 2007

“U.S. killings drive Iraqi women to become suicide bombers”
IRIN (United Nations), March 24, 2007

“Iraqi political refugee sees his income shrink while citizenship bid is on hold”
NorthJersey.com, March 23, 2007


INDIA

Gender Bias Drives Abortion Boom

Up to a million Indian mothers illegally abort their female fetuses every year in India, and police are discovering the remains in toilets or gutters. Effects on the sex ratio have been dire, with 817 females to every 1,000 males in Punjab.

The procedure has become a moneymaker for thousands of private doctors, who allegedly use ultrasounds to determine the sex of the child and encourage women to abort if it is a girl.

Officials are trying to educate people about the issue, and gain control of private hospitals and clinics where such procedures are performed.

Sources:

“Foeticide issue continues to rock Rajasthan”
Indo Asian News Service, March 23, 2007

“A cry to save the girl child”
Indo Asian News Service, March 20, 2007


RWANDA

Legacy of a Genocide

Rwanda’s genocide ended 13 years ago, but some Hutus still target Tutsi survivors with “arson, stone throwing, uprooting of crops and threats,” according to a mayor who recently presided over a ceremony to bury the remains of 554 victims.

A human rights expert also says the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has failed to fulfill its mandate by neglecting to investigate Rwanda’s Tutsi president, Paul Kagame, for the killing of “hundreds of thousands” by his forces as they battled for control of the country in 1994.

Western nations would rather have Kagame in power to maintain stability in the region — or so the theory goes.

Andre Ntagerura and Emmanuel Bagambiki, both acquitted of charges in the genocide, remain trapped in Tanzania for fear of retribution elsewhere in Africa, and have been barred by Belgium and Holland from visiting their families there.

Sources:

“‘One-sided justice’ at Rwanda genocide court, expert witness says”
Deutsche Presse Agentur, March 18, 2007

“Free Rwanda genocide suspects wait in limbo”
Deutsche Presse Agentur, March 21, 2007

“Rwanda: 554 genocide remains accorded decent burial”
The New Times (Rwanda), March 24, 2007


THE ELECTRIC CAR

GM, Ford Pay the Price for Hype

GM is trying to lower expectations that their much-anticipated plug-in electric car, the Volt, will reach consumers soon.

A prototype was unveiled at an automotive show in January, but the real deal depends on a breakthrough in battery technology that may take years to achieve, despite the infusion of millions of dollars in federal research funding.

Critics say that GM overhyped the Volt, creating more skepticism about electric cars. Ford also took a PR drubbing when it recently backed out of a promise to build 250,000 plug-in hybrids by 2010, according to the Detroit News.

Environmentalists hope a commercially viable battery-powered car, capable of traveling 40 miles before recharging, will take the edge off rising corn prices as demand for ethanol spikes across the country.

But other eco-minded experts say a plug-in car could, ironically, fuel demand for coal-burning power plants.

Sources:

“GM tries to unplug Volt hype”
Detroit News, March 23, 2007

“Spartan cars could ease ethanol’s corn price boost”
Reuters, March 21, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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