May 30, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 22

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“If I had my way, the DNA we now take from newborn babies to check for genetic disorders would be added to the national database in the national interest.”

— Brian Mackenzie, a peer in the House of Lords, on security concerns in the United Kingdom (see “Homeland Security,” below.)

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Mexico’s “Sahara” only growing
Protestors in a G8 warm-up bring riot police
Pope acknowledges colonial woes

*Pakistan*
Fears of Islamism Grow as Democracy Retreats

*Nigeria*
An election gives, and takes

*Homeland Security*
Disaster “contingencies” provoke privacy fears and follies


TOP STORIES

Mexico’s “Sahara” Only Growing

Chicken and dairy moguls, a Coca-Cola plant and clearcutting are turning turning arid but habitable land in northern Mexico into desert at a rate of 150,000 hectares each year. The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports that dozens of villages and indigenous tribes are threatened, even as developers turn to the Cuatro Cienegas biosphere, “Mexico’s Galapagos,” for more water.

Protestors in a G8 Warmup Bring Riot Police

Hamburg’s session of the Asia-Europe Meeting addressed Darfur, nuclear proliferation and climate change, setting the stage for next week’s G8 meeting in the Baltic town of Heiligendamm. The Hamburg meeting also saw throngs of protestors come out for their own “warm up” for the G8, which is expected to draw as many as 100,000 dissidents from June 6-8.

Pope Acknowledges Colonial Woes

The Los Angeles Times reports that Pope Benedict XVI is back- pedaling — but not apologizing — for claiming that the conversion of South American Indians to Christianity did not involve the “imposition of a foreign culture.”

Speaking in Rome, Benedict later affirmed “sufferings and injustices” had occurred, but didn’t detract from the achievements of missionaries during the colonial era.

Sources:

“An American Sahara / Mexico is milking its northern deserts dry”
SFBG.com, May 15, 2007

“Leftists Target EU-Asia Meeting in Preparation for G8 Demos”
Deutsche Welle, May 28, 2007

“Asia-Europe Meeting Serves to Flesh Out G8 Priorities”
Deutsche Welle, May 29, 2007

“Pope recognizes colonial injustices”
Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2007


PAKISTAN

Fears of Islamism Grow as Democracy Retreats

Even as President Pervez Musharraf’s dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry continue to shake up Pakistan, Islamists along the fractious border with Afghanistan are extending their territory and evading government efforts to bring them to heel.

In Lahore on May 6, tens of thousands turned out to greet Chaudry, who critics say was ousted for refusing to support Musharraf’s bid to extend his military rule.

But bloody street fighting erupted in Karachi six days later in advance of Chaudry’s speech before the Karachi Bar Association, taking the lives of 48 opposition party members.

Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif claimed that the killings were “masterminded” by Musharraf and his allies in the Muttahida Quami Movement, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

Egypt’s Al Ahram Weekly says that the MQM is the party of ethnic north Indians who immigrated to Karachi after 1947, and were involved with “communal wars” there that left “thousands” dead in the 1980s.

The newspaper quotes experts who say MQM involvement in the killings in Karachi threatens to revive violent ethnic politics even as Musharraf deepens undemocratic rule.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that while most Pakistanis are “liberal,” they lack effective leadership and economic support, enabling Islamists to put down roots.

The Taliban and al Qaeda are leveraging high unemployment to create alliances further into the country.

According to the Monitor, police are ready to go after Islamists “anytime,” but are unable to take action due to the stress of dealing with the grassroots protests that followed Chaudry’s dismissal.

An op-ed from the libertarian Independent Institute in California predicts that U.S. support for Musharraf will result in an Iranian-style revolution in Pakistan, resulting in the world’s first nuclear-armed Islamist state.

Sources:

“Ousted PM says Musharraf ‘masterminded’ Karachi killings”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, May 29, 2007

“Musharraf all alone”
Al Ahram Weekly, May 24, 2007

“Pakistan losing territory to radicals”
Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 2007

“Pakistan Is Going Down the Road of the Shah’s Iran”
The Independent Institute, May 29, 2007


NIGERIA

An Election Gives, and Takes

Labor unions across Nigeria went on a two-day strike in protest of the recent presidential election, which was condemned by observers as “massively rigged.”

The BBC reports that results were announced even for regions where no voting took place.

On the heels of the inauguration, which was boycotted by seven outgoing state governers and the former vice president, the government announced a windfall of more than $700 million in crude oil profits.

The funding is to be distributed to incoming federal, state and local administrations around the nation.

The new president called for an end to oil-related strife in the immpoverished Niger River Delta region, where kidnappings and violence are on the rise.

in the latest such indident, militants threatened to kill seven hostage oil workers — three Americans and four British — if a prominent activist is not freed.

Sources:

“Nigeria strike over ‘flawed’ poll”
BBC, May 28, 2007

“Nigeria: Atiku, 7 Govs Shun Inauguration”
Vanguard (Lagos), May 30, 2007

“Nigeria: Excess Crude – New Govs to Enjoy N98bn”
This Day (Lagos), May 28, 2007

“Nigeria: Dokubo – Militants Give FG Ultimatum”
Daily Champion (Lagos), May 28, 2007


HOMELAND SECURITY

Disaster “Contingencies” Provoke Privacy Fears and Follies

Even as President George W. Bush authorized a controversial plan to centralize government powers in the White House following any large-scale national disaster, a closed group of government officials and scholars drew up “contingencies” for dealing with nuclear terrorism in the United States.

“The Day After,” a meeting hosted by the Preventive Defense Project, was staged behind closed doors in Washington, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The group addressed a variety of issues, including health and shelter concerns, as well as the imposition of martial law and the eventual restoration of civil liberties.

Terrorism fears turned inward in Alabama, where the state’s Homeland Security office was found to host a Web site that listed anti-war and gay rights activists among possible terror suspects.

The site was taken down following protests.

In Washington, the National Security Agency has come under fire for an internal report that described organizational disarray and a lack of accountability.

Congressional, military and intelligence leaders said they had not known about the report until after the Baltimore Sun obtained portions it.

In the United Kingdom, a push for increased police powers to stop and question individuals, and expanded DNA tracking even for minor offenders, has deepened fears of a “surveillance society” and its abuses.

Wired News reports that after one Bangladeshi-born professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey was mistakenly listed on a “do not fly” list, he opted to put his entire life and daily itinerary online.

Hasan Elahi posts his travel schedule, credit card transactions, thousands of pictures and GPS tracking data online, as part of an “audacious art project” that he says also keeps him out of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Sources:

“Contingencies for nuclear terrorist attack / Government working up plan to prevent chaos in wake of bombing of major city”
San Francisco Chronicle, May 11, 2007

“National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive”
The White House, May 9, 2007

“Alabama terrorism website is pulled amid outcry / Antiwar, gay-rights and other activist groups were listed on the site”
Associated Press, May 28, 2007

“NSA leaders pressed to explain report faulting agency culture / Congress, Pentagon, intelligence director want to know about flaws”
Baltimore Sun, May 17, 2007

“Minister’s plan for new stop-and-question powers takes senior officers by surprise”
The Guardian, May 28, 2007

“Civil rights fears over DNA file for everyone”
The Observer (U.K.), May 27, 2007

“The Visible Man: An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online”
Wired.com, May 22, 2007


Editors: Josh Wilson

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