May 23, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 21

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“The dish’s installer is very nice and gives a 40 percent discount for clients who have to replace a seized dish. My mother says she can’t live without satellite television and she is right, our channels are boring and pious.”

— Mariam, a 30-year-old Iranian clerk, on a vigorous but unpopular morals crackdown in her country (see “Iran,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Transplant tourism fuels China’s live organ harvest
Saddam’s Kurdish spies in the spotlight
U.S. Sadr plot led to disaster

*Iran*
Vice squad targets women on bicycles

*Media*
Newspapers sell the farm, give up the goat

*Public Health*
Lupus linked to petroleum exposure


TOP STORIES

Transplant Tourism Fuels China’s Live Organ Harvest

Activists say the surge of kidneys and other organs available for transplant in China is no accident: they’re being harvested from living Falun Gong members imprisoned by the military, and then sold to desperate Western patients on long waiting lists back home.

Now Canadian doctors are calling for a ban on visiting doctors from China until the practice is forsworn, and warn transplant tourists that their new lease on life comes at a deadly price.

Saddam’s Kurdish Spies in the Spotlight

Allegations that 300 Kurds from several political parties were double agents for Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government are shaking up the Kurdish establishment. Two newspapers made the allegations based on documents looted from Hussein’s intelligence service; some parties are offering amnesty to the accused, or say that the spying was sanctioned.

The Kurdish public is in a less charitable mood, calling for trials for suspected collaborators. An investigating council has been formed, but has no powers of prosecution.

U.S. Sadr Plot Led to Disaster

Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr turned against the United States once and for all in August 2004, when U.S. forces laid seige to his brother’s house after inviting him there to finalize peace talks.

Iraq’s National Security Adviser Dr. Mowaffaq Rubai’e claims he was used by the U.S. to lure Sadr to the house; but the cleric escaped, scuttling the peace plan, entrenching his anti-Americanism, and emboldening the Mahdi Army, which then took over Baghdad and many Shia cities across Iraq, the Independent reports.

Sources:

“China kills to harvest organs: MDs”
National Post (Canada), May 18, 2007

“More alleged Kurdish spies exposed”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, May 11, 2007

“Exclusive: Secret U.S. plot to kill Al-Sadr”
Independent (U.K.), May 21, 2007


IRAN

Vice Squad Targets Women on Bicycles

Thousands of women have been cited and hundreds will stand trial for not complying with the Iranian government’s new rules on stricter Islamic dress, listening to Western music and even walking a dog in public, which officials consider impure.

The new rules, introduced for “the country’s moral health,” also include a ban on satellite dishes, co-ed Internet cafes, and any public establishment with darkened windows that prevent officials from peering in, according to ADNKronos.

Iranian clergy are also designing a new bicycle for women that has a cabin to cover half of a woman’s body.

Officials consider women’s body movements on a bicycle to be “provocative” to men, as are female athletes — who must compete wearing scarves and gowns.

The news site reports that most people have not changed their habits, appearing to follow the rules while keeping their dogs and satellite dishes.

But protests followed a series of arrests at the country’s top university, where students are accused of collaborating with foreign powers and banned from political activity.

Sources:

“Iran: society ignores the government’s touted moralization campaign”
ADNKronos, May 18, 2007

“Iran: men and women to be separated in internet cafes”
ADNKronos, May 18, 2007

“Iran plans women’s bicycles”
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, May 19, 2007


MEDIA

Newspapers Sell the Farm, Give up the Goat

Across the country, falling newspaper circulation and the flight of ad dollars to the Web have caused publishers to fire employees, sell their buildings and outsource their ad and subscription departments to India.

The San Jose Mercury News is the latest to do so; it follows other newspapers across the country, including the Columbus Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times.

Ad production isn’t the only job papers are outsourcing. Columnists and reporters across the country were shocked when a news site in Pasadena hired two reporters to cover the news from their computers in India.

But the editor says it’s the start of a new trend and a way to save money.

In the Bay Area, the MediaNews Group’s efforts to cut costs have seen two papers yanked from their historic locations at the center of their communities.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel will shut down its 15-year-old press and have printing operations to San Jose, putting 40 pressmen, some of whom have been there for decades, out of work.

The Sentinel’s historic building in downtown Santa Cruz is now for sale, and the editorial staff may leave the city altogether.

And last week the iconic Oakland Tribune Tower was vacated by its staff, which will relocate to a shiny office complex off the highway and decidedly out of downtown.

Sources:

“Outsourcing of city reporting: Will it become a trend?”
Indo-Asian News Service, May 17, 2007

“History of Sentinel press comes to an end”
The Santa Cruz Sentinel, April 29, 2007

“Journalists nostalgic as the Trib exits Tower”
San Francisco Chronicle, May 18, 2007

“San Jose daily to outsource ad production”
Newspapers & Technology, May 2007


PUBLIC HEALTH

Lupus Linked to Petroleum Exposure

Scientists in Boston and New Mexico have shown that exposure to petroleum is linked to the deadly auto-immune disease lupus.

The illness is already known to have genetic origins — African- American women are nine times more likely to get it.

But reports show the environment plays a role, especially in two black neighborhoods in Boston. Residents of Roxbury and Mattapan live near gasoline stations or sites near petroleum-product dumping groups, and have the highest rate of lupus in the region.

Another study of people living in a housing development in Hobbs, New Mexico, built on the site of a former oil-field dump, detected an incidence of Lupus at 30 to 99 times higher than estimates for the general population.

Scientists found high levels of mercury and a petroleum hydrocarbon called pristane in residents’ bloodstreams; both chemicals are known to cause lupus in animals.

Sources:

“Study: Roxbury, Mattapan have higher levels of lupus”
Boston Globe, May 17, 2007

“Lupus cluster at oilfield points finger at pollution”
New Scientist, May 11, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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