May 10, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 19

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“The Syrians are saying that we have 450,000 Palestinians already, since 1948 and 1967, and that is enough.”

— U.N. spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes (see “The Palestinians,” below)


*Top Stories*
Iraqi Sunnis have a new enemy: Al Qaeda
Sharia law imposed on Nigeria school dress codes
India welcomes illegal toxic waste

*Crime & Punishment*
Packed into prisons, with no relief in sight

*Genetic Engineering*
Biotech plants, and controversy, take root

*The Palestinians*
There’s no place like home


Iraqi Sunnis Have a New Enemy: Al Qaeda

Following ongoing violence against civilians, Sunni tribes in the Anbar province of Iraq are joining forces to combat al Qaeda militants, re-open local courts and boost political participation. This includes forming a new political party, called Iraq Awakening, which has its first convention this month.

The Sunni alliance, which includes former insurgents, also formed the Salvation Council, which uses U.S. funds to train soldiers and rebuild medical centers and schools. But resentment over U.S. forces presence in Iraq may undermine the alliance long-term.

Sharia Law Imposed on Nigeria School Dress Code

All 2,000 private schools in the Nigerian state of Kano must now enforce a strict Islamic uniform whether students are Muslim or Christian, according to authorities tasked with imposing Sharia law. All state schools in Nigeria already use the Islamic dress code.

India a Target For Japan’s Toxic Trash

India has illegally imported thousands of tons of hazardous chemicals from Japan, including DDT and PCBs, for “recycling,” the Indo-Asian News Service reports. Now activists say a new trade pact, negotiated in secret, will bring even more Japanese waste and medical refuse into India’s shipyards, despite laws prohibiting such imports.


“Sunni join forces against Al-Qaeda”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, May 4, 2007

“Nigerian province extends Islamic dress code to all schools”
Agence France-Presse, May 5, 2007

“Treaty with Japan may legalize dumping toxic waste in India”
Indo-Asian News Service, May 8, 2007


Packed Into Prisons, With No Relief in Sight

Crowded jails from the Mexican border to North Carolina have prisoners packed into cells, sleeping in day rooms and struggling with overflowing sewers and waste water.

There’s plenty of money in Arizona for boosted border patrols, which capture more illegal immigrants who are then charged with felonies.

But the Christian Science Monitor reports that funding is in short supply for overwhelmed courts and jails along the border.

The federal caseload in Arizona increased 94 percent between 1996 and 2006 — so many new cases that attorneys are forced to spend less time on each suspect.

In the Navajo Nation, most lawbreakers never do time in local jails, which are overcrowded and plagued by sewage overflows.

Inmates are sometimes sent to state prisons in Arizona and New Mexico, which are also too full to take them long-term.

Tribal officials say federal funding is scarce and only covers staffing, not construction or repair costs.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, where jails are over capacity and in decline, county officials are trying to build a new facility, but don’t know how to pay for it.

Some favor asking voters for a bond measure, while others believe funding should go to services that would divert the mentally ill from prison and put some inmates under house arrest.

In the meantime, prisoners are crowded into cells, and frequently turn to beatings and fights to resolve disputes.


“U.S. border crackdown jams federal courts”
Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 2007

“Navajo Nation struggles to house inmates”
Associated Press, May 6, 2007

“Bursting at the seams”
News-Record (NC), May 6, 2007


Biotech Plants, and Controversy, Take Root

The United States, Canada and Europe are grappling with standards for genetically modified plants, which promise economic and health benefits along with irreversible ecological damage.

In San Francisco, a federal judge issued the first-ever ban on growing Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa after tests showed it was contaminating non-genetically engineered crops — something FDA officials did not consider when approving the product.

In Canada, the government has supported the nascent “biopharming” industry, which engineers plants to produce pharmaceutical ingredients, CanWest News Service reports.

But that support has been limited to research, and officials have prohibited the outdoor cultivation or import of modified plants and seeds, to the frustration of the industry there.

Taxpayer-funded research produced safflowers with seeds that can be used to make insulin and heart-disease medications.

Another type of safflower produces a growth hormone used in aqua- culture; 200 tons of the seed intended for a Canadian fish farm had to be grown in Chile due to the ban, and are now sitting on a ship that has been barred from docking in Vancouver.

In Europe, officials declined to ban U.S. crop imports after Greenpeace discovered two kinds of unauthorized biotech corn in a U.S. shipment to the Netherlands.

E.U. officials said it was up to the Dutch to prevent the import of illegal crops.

The incident was the fourth time in two years GM crops have been found on the cusp of illegally entering the E.U. market.


“GM seed stranded at Chilean seaport”
CanWest News Service, April 29, 2007

“Judge extends ban on planting genetically engineered alfalfa”
San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 2007

“Greenpeace says it found illegal GM corn in U.S. shipment”
Associated Press, May 2, 2007


There’s No Place Like Home

Underfunded, living in illegal camps and turned away from Arab and Israeli borders — the lot of the Palestinian grows ever more dire.

In the Palestinian territories, a Western aid boycott against the Hamas government has led to a strike last week by tens of thousands of government workers who haven’t been fully paid since the Islamists came to power.

In Syria, Palestinians refugees from Iraq have been held at the border in a camp with only one doctor, and little shelter from winter floods and summer heat.

Other refugees from Iraq are permitted free entry to Syria, but the U.N. news service reports that Syrians feel they already have “enough” Palestinians.

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees make up some 10 percent of the population, and about a quarter-million live in unregistered camps.

Some have been there since 1948, but they are considered foreigners, and are prohibited from working in dozens of professions.

Environmental, medical, educational and other services are provided by a nonprofit agency supported by international charities, rather than the Lebanese government.


“Palestinians refugees despair after year marooned between Iraq and Syria”
IRIN (United Nations), May 3, 2007

“Palestinian workers strike over half pay”
Reuters May 3, 2007

“Refugees learn to substitute government”
Inter Press Service, May 2, 2007

Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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