News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 14

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

The TSA's safety net has gaping holes, Jordan grapples with a flood of Iraqi refugees, abortion is an open secret in Mexico, Pakistan's Talibanization proceeds (but not so smoothly), U.S. weapons are favored by Mexican drug cartels, rumors of missiles fly over Iran ... and Feinstein denies a conflict of interest.

QUOTED:

"It's truly absurd that a person can get together 50 to 100 high- powered arms, grenade launchers, fragmentation grenades, and can transport this cargo to our country."

-- Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora says violent drug cartels arm themselves with weapons made and purchased in the United States (see "Mexico,' below).


TOP STORIES

TSA: Holes in the Safety Net?

The Transportation Safety Administration's covert "Red Team" was able to sneak 90 percent of its simulated explosives and chemical weapons past security at Denver International Airport. Alarms went off, but screeners did not pat down undercover agents or check their baggage.

Similar lapses turned up in 15 other U.S. airports in 2006, where screeners missed 90 percent of all fake weapons and explosives carried by government safety testers.

Iraqi Refugees Test Jordan's Limits

Jordanians are struggling to accommodate an influx of 750,000 Iraqis fleeing unrelenting violence at home. Many find jobs in the black market, and work long hours for low pay to avoid deportation, officials say, driving down wages and sending home prices skyward.

In Mexico, Abortion Is An Open Secret

For right price, any woman can get an abortion in Mexico, regardless of the fact that the procedure is not legal. Clinics, many of which are in middle-class neighborhoods, advertise openly and promise hygienic services. But women without the means turn to cheaper alternatives that lead to sometimes fatal complications.

Sources:

"Undercover agents slip bombs past DIA screeners"
9News.com (CO), March 29, 2007

"Iraq-Jordan: Iraqis cause black market for jobs"
IRIN (U.N.), March 29, 2007

"Clinics offer abortions in plain sight"
El Universal (Mexico), March 3, 2007


PAKISTAN

Talibanization: Strides and Stumbles

Fundamentalists blew up six music and video shops in the past month in northwestern Pakistan, an area bordering Afghanistan that experts say the Taliban have colonized.

In Islamabad, an army of female religious students have also been attacking music and video stores, and kidnapped three women they say were running a brothel. The students also held two policemen hostage until the government released two imprisoned teachers who work at a banned seminary.

A crackdown on jihad-preaching seminaries has faltered because of the religious right's influence over the Musharraf government, which hasn't even been able to prevent foreign students from illegally enrolling in the schools.

In the North West Frontier Province, Afghan and Pakistani Talibs have established a parallel government with "Sharia courts, police forces, tax collectors and public offices," Al-Ahram Weekly reports.

But a takeover by extremists is not a given. The Taliban has so far failed to stem fighting between Islamist militants and native Pakistanis at the Afghan border.

More than 250 foreign al Qaeda fighters and their local allies have been killed by tribesmen since mid-March, the Associated Press reports.

Sources:

"Pakistan authorities give in to madarsa students, release teachers"
Press Trust of India, March 29, 2007

"'No more music in this town'"
Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt), March 29, 2007

"Pakistani Taliban blow up video shops"
Agence France-Presse, March 30, 2007

"Efforts to reform seminaries 'in a shambles'"
Reuters, March 30, 2007

"Clashes in Pakistan kill 60 near border"
Associated Press, April 4, 2007


MEXICO

Mexico Corruption, U.S. Weapons Deepen Drug War Toll

President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs will fail unless the United States cracks down on arms sales to drug smugglers, Mexican officials say.

Not only do drug cartels get the majority of their weapons from U.S. dealers -- they also net between $10 and $30 billion a year in sales to American drug users. That cash buys more arms used to attack Mexican police and politicians, the Associated Press reports.

Calderon's drug fight is also complicated by corrupt officials.

Last week, an American jury convicted Ricardo Gonzalez Camacho, a Mexican police officer, of smuggling 55 pounds of cocaine into the United States.

And in Veracruz, a video confession by two gunmen captured and later executed by an opposing cartel revealed a web of murder and complicity between drug syndicates and their allies in the police and Army.

The gunmen also said they took money from journalists seeking "news protection," El Universal reports.

Sources:

"Mexico's attorney general calls on U.S. to stop guns, drug money"
Associated Press, March 29, 2007

"Mexican cop is guilty of drug smuggling"
Express-News (TX), March 29, 2007

"Cartel gunmen reveal links to cops, reporters"
El Universal (Mexico), March 30, 2007


IRAN

Rumors of Missiles Fly in April

Newspaper Web sites around the world are rife with rumors of new aggression in the Persian Gulf.

Russia's national news agency say U.S. military exercises in there are not just a show of strength, but also a warmup for an April 6 attack on Iranian nuclear sites, and that U.S. naval forces in the Gulf match levels prior to the Iraq invasion.

The Israeli Web site DEBKA quotes "Arab sources" who say that Bahrain is being used as a staging ground for Patriot anti- missile units, hotels there are filling up with U.S. military personnel, reporters are arriving in "packs," and that American businesses are being advised to leave the country.

Some rumors claim that the attack will be a joint operation with Israel, and will also target Syria and Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said no such plans are in the works.

Sources:

Google News Keyphrase Search: "Iran Attack"

"U.S. to attack Iran by end of April: Report"
The Times of India, April 4, 2007

"U.S. ready to strike Iran in early April - intelligence source"
RIA Novosti (Russia), March 30, 2007

"U.S. financial sources in Bahrain report American investors in Bahrain advised to pack up business operations and leave"
DEBKA (Israel), March 30, 2007

"Israel nixes Iran attack reports"
JTA.org, April 2, 2006


NEWS & PERSPECTIVE

Conflict of Interest Claims Follow Feinstein

Senator Dianne Feinstein has resigned as chair of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee, where she served from 2001 to 2005.

California's Metroactive newspaper claims she resigned after it revealed that she awarded billions of dollars in construction projects to two defense contractors owned by her husband, Richard C. Blum.

Feinstein has profited directly from large investments in the companies, the newspaper reports, and did not recuse herself from discussions of company contract bids despite being warned by a top legal adviser of possible conflicts of interest.

Sources:

"Feinstein Resigns"
Metroactive (CA), March 21-27, 2007

"Senator Feinstein's Iraq Conflict"
Metroactive (CA), January 24-30, 2007

"Feinstein's Office Denies Conflict of Interest Charges"
CyberCast News Service, April 4, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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