July 4, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 27

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“Our goal is to help the Philippines. Killing the JI, that’s our mission.”

— U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating, on military cooperation with the Philippines (see “War & Terrorism,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Photo-free NYC
Backlash brewing in Mogadishu
Poverty is a plague for Africa’s children

*Labor & Economy*
Minimum wage remains elusive

*Petroleum Politics*
Russia’s thirst for Oil

*War & Terrorism*
Al Qaeda spreads


TOP STORIES

Photo-Free NYC

A post-9/11 requirement that tourists and other casual photographers get a permit before taking pictures in New York City has the ACLU claiming a First Amendment violation.

The city’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcast proposed the new rules, which would “require City-issued permits and proof of insurance for any person using a handheld camera in any public area in a group of two or more and using the camera for more than thirty minutes,” according to the North Country Gazette.

The rules are expected to affect tourists more than any other group, as they tend to gather at places like Ground Zero with their cameras for long periods of time.

Backlash Brewing in Mogadishu

Mogadishu’s transitional government, backed by Ethiopian troops, is credited with pushing out the hard-line Union of Islamic Courts. But residents say the new mayor’s harsh tactics have made life even more unbearable than before.

More than 1,500 government critics have been detained, many without charges, the Los Angeles Times reports, while longtime “squatters shopkeepers” have been violently evicted, and the streets clear for fear of muggings after 5 p.m., despite house-to-house searches and the destruction of thousands of weapons.

This is seen as creating sympathy for the Islamists, but Mogadishu mayor Mohammed Dheere, a militia leader credited with reducing crime in his home city of Jawhar, denies that his tactics are creating terrorists.

His citywide disarmament program, backed by a 1,200-member police force, is meant to enforce “law and order,” he told the Times.

Poverty is a Plague for Africa’s Children

A gangrenous affliction of the face called noma is surging among impoverished, malnourished children in West Africa, and now appears to infecting HIV-positive adults as well.

Aid workers told the U.N. news agency that the disease is not transmitted, and could be prevented with improved nutrition and improved living conditions. Niger and Burkina Faso, the centers of the African surge, have the world’s highest rates of underweight and undernourished children.

The disease, which is not yet taught in medical schools, rots facial tissue, causing the skin to scab off all the way to the jaw. Health workers are only now beginning to recognize the symptoms; survivors are disfigured for the rest of their lives.

Sources:

“NYC would require permit for casual photography”
North Country Gazette (NY), June 28, 2007

“Somalia’s rough tactics seen backfiring”
Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2007

“Children made faceless by a disease of neglect”
IRIN (UN), July 27, 2007 * CAUTION — DISTURBING IMAGES *


LABOR & ECONOMY

Minimum Wage An Elusive Promise

South Africa introduced its first-ever minimum wage July 1 in a bid to improve the state of its hospitality industry, and public image, ahead of its turn as World Cup host in 2010.

Currently, most restaurants employ “casual workers” who often earn nothing more than tips.

BuaNews — a government agency — said the move was to “avoid being embarrassed before international visitors,” and that improved working conditions would be a boon for he whole industry.

But even having a minimum wage law on the books doesn’t mean it will be enforced.

In the United States, a study has found that thousands of New York City service-industry workers aren’t earning minimum wage or overtime pay, although the law requires it.

And an effort to overturn a federal labor law that views home-care health workers as equivalent to babysitters was turned back by the Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling.

The judges said that either Congress or the Labor Department would have to take up the issue at the legislative level.

The suit was originally brought by 73-year-old Evelyn Coke, a health care worker was privately employed for 20 years in home care.

The city and the home-care industry opposed her plea, claiming it would cause health care expenses to rise.

Sources:

“South Africa: Hospitality industries to benefit from new wage law”
BuaNews (South Africa), June 29, 2007

“Minimum-wage appeal denied”
Los Angeles Times/Associated Press, June 12, 2007

“Low-wage work can be nasty, brutish, ignored”
CityLimits.org, June 25, 2007


PETROLEUM POLITICS

Russia’s Thirst for Oil

Russia has been single-minded in ensuring its hegemony over oil rights and delivery throughout Eastern Europe, and now seeks to edge out its American competitors in providing oil to Western Europe as well, say analysts.

Vladimir Putin shocked observers by announcing a plan to annex a 460,000 square mile chunk of oil-rich Arctic last week.

Russian scientists claim there is evidence showing that its northern Arctic region is connected to the North Pole by an underwater shelf.

Critics counter that Canada could make the same claim — and besides which, nobody owns the North Pole.

Putin also met with the leaders of eight Balkan countries to persuade them to back his new Italy-backed venture to build a gas pipeline under the Black sea from Russia to Bulgaria, saying it would benefit all of Europe.

Greece wants to take part in the project as a major oil port.

But Romania backed a Western pipeline that would transport gas from Central Asia and Iran and reduce dependence on Russian oil.

The E.U. has opposed Russia’s pipeline project, along with countries like Poland, who fear they would be bypassed in the supply chain.

Russia’s oil company, Gazprom, has clashed with Ukrainian officials over a stalled pipeline extension Ukraine hopes to complete, part of a vital distribution network to Europe that would ensure Ukraine’s oil security from price disputes with Russia.

Russia wants rights to the project, prompting the Ukrainian parliament to pass a law forbidding the transfer of ownership to another country.

Sources:

“Kremlin lays claim to huge chunk of oil-rich North Pole”
Guardian (U.K.), June 28, 2007

“Trust Russia on energy, Putin tells Balkan countries”
AFX News, June 24, 2007

“Greece to join South Stream gas pipeline project linking Russia with European customers”
Associated Press, June 26, 2007

“Russia/Ukraine: Pipeline conflict resurfaces”
RFE/RL, June 28, 2007


WAR & TERRORISM

Al Qaeda Spreads

Even as Al Qaeda sympathizers in the United Kingdom make headlines, the terrorist group has seen affiliates taking root in other countries.

In Algeria, officers arrested 13 minors, some as young as 12, and dismantled a terrorist training camp near Algiers in early June.

The young soldiers were members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, an outlawed group that calls itself the “North African branch” of Al Qaeda.

The Salafist Group has also come to Spain, where officials arrested two suspected members last week and alleged they were recruiting fighters to be trained in camps as far away as Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in Algeria in April, saying its goal was to end the Spanish occupation of the municipalities of Ceuta and Melilla.

In the Philippines, the U.S. Navy promised to help the Armed Forces there to fight the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group, which has spread throughout Southeast Asia.

U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating said he is finalizing a five-year plan with the Philippine military that focuses on intelligence and surveillance, All Headline News reports.

Sources:

“Algeria arrests minors at suspected Qaeda-linked training camp”
Agence France-Presse, June 10, 2007

“Spain arrests two Moroccan Al Qaeda suspects”
Agence France-Presse, June 26, 2007

“U.S. vows to aid Philippines in neutralizing al-Qaeda-linked group”
All-Headline News (U.S.), June 27, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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