August 8, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 32

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

*Top Stories*

“More than anything, this was a kidnapping. With it, the government is sending a political message: ‘Don’t protest.'”

— Julio Cesar Portillo, husband of Marta Lorena Araujo, who was arrested for terrorism after blockading a water-privatization conference in El Salvador (see “Water,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Young immigrants take a hard road north
Cargo security plan comes under fire
Green mandate sparks E.U. lawsuit

*Pollution & Health*
Back to the beach, with feces

*Water*
Buy me a river: Water privatization pushes forward

*Middle East*
Hezbollah: Talkin’ war and peace in Lebanon


TOP STORIES

Young Immigrants Take a Hard Road North

A growing number of youth and children throughout Central America are migrating on their own to Mexico and the United States, doing odd jobs and pickup work along the way.

The Christian Science Monitor reports the number of migrant children increased from 3,000 in 2004 to 5,000 last year; many are repatriated, but often set out again, following parents and siblings who have already headed north.

No social services exist to serve these “little kangaroos,” who face extortion, violence and muggings as they travel, and are treated with suspicion by locals who feel they sow violence.

Cargo Security Plan Comes Under Fire

European shipping experts questioned a new U.S. security bill requiring all incoming shipping containers to be screened for explosives and other dangerous material.

Detractors point out that the United States already has a screening team in place at major world ports to check suspicious cargo. They also note that the new rules would benefit countries wealthy enough to afford the new screening technology, but would cut out other trade partners.

A European Union official went so far as to condemn the effort last Thursday, saying the new requirements would “disrupt trade without diminishing the terrorist threat,” according to Reuters.

Green Mandate Sparks E.U. Lawsuit

Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Estonia are suing the European Union after it tightened carbon quotas in response to complaints that it was too generous in permitting emissions.

To meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, the multinational body has committed to cutting carbons emissions by 20 percent by the end of the next decade.

But E.U. officials have avoided discussing burden-sharing among poorer states, who insist that meeting the targets will reduce their competitiveness.

Sources:

“In Central America, child migrants now face perils alone”
Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2007

“U.S. security law could hit poor countries”
Reuters, August 5, 2007

“Latvia becomes sixth country to fight EU emissions caps”
EUObserver, August 1, 2007


POLLUTION & HEALTH

Back to the Beach, With Feces

With the heat of summer comes dangerous and often unexplained contamination of U.S. beaches by E.coli and fecal coliform.

In California, a San Mateo County agency recently received a grant to discover what’s creating E.coli pollution at several harborside beaches on the Pacific.

The San Mateo County Times reports that seagull waste, a leaky sewer line and urban runoff are all candidates, and officials say people won’t keep off the beaches in spite of warning signs.

The Bennington Banner reports that the shores of Vermont’s Lake Shaftsbury are closed to swimmers after officials discovered “shockingly high” levels of E.coli contamination.

Locals hypothesize that geese are the problem, but deterring them could be complicated. One idea would involve getting barking dogs to run along beaches all day.

Geese may also be the culprits at Virginia’s Lake Montclair, where high E.coli readings have put three beaches off-limits.

But some residents say geese are a problem everywhere, but just one lake has problems.

A California study has shown that enclosed beaches on lakes and oceans are likely to build up contamination over time due to a lack of open currents.

Sources:

“County probes bacteria at beaches”
InsideBayArea (CA), August 1, 2007

“Shaftsbury E. coli count is ‘shocking'”
Bennington Banner (VT), July 28, 2007

“Bacteria force beach closing”
Potomac News, August 4, 2007


WATER

Buy Me a River: Water Privatization Pushes Forward

Efforts to privatize water services throughout the world are facing determined grassroots opposition on several fronts, while other countries are preparing to sell their water supply to private companies with little resistance.

Fourteen activists in El Salvador have been arrested on charges of terrorism for demonstrating against a World Bank-backed plan to hand government water management over to private firms through local concessions for up to 50 years.

Activists argue that the state-run water service, mired as it is in corruption and bribery scandals, is the best alternative to layoffs and higher rates that would come with privatization.

They have already seen the alternative, having fought for the state to take over water services after a private firm simply stopped providing a local community with running water.

In southern Chile, activists are worried about the future of Patagonia’s waterways after the government approved a $4 billion hydroelectric dam project, backed by two corporations, that would flood wilderness and cut down protected forest land.

But that deal is nothing compared to what they anticipate from energy giant Sur Electricidad y Energia S.A., which recently filed for water rights in no fewer than 14 rivers.

Activists want the government to take a stand and consider energy alternatives to hydroelectric dams like solar and wind power.

Anti-privatization activists won a major battle in Stockton, Calif., last week, when the City Council reversed its appeal of a court ruling against a firm that had handles the city’s water services since 2003.

The judge rules that the city should have considered the poor environmental record of water giant OMI-Thames Water before approving it.

Opponents also claimed the city had failed to oversee the company’s performance since awarding it the 20-year contract.

Turkey, faced with drought and delayed construction of dams for irrigation, has decided to sell rights to up to 13 rivers, including the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Private investors will build irrigation dams and sell the water to customers for an estimated $3.1 billion profit.

The state will own the irrigation dams and the companies will own the rivers for a period of 49 years, according to the Turkish Daily News.

In South Korea, private companies in South Korea will be invited to bid for the first time on municipal water supply and wastewater treatment systems next year.

The government-run systems are currently split into 164 local municipalities, a system which officials say is inefficient and has prevented infrastructure improvements.

Social activists question whether the plan, which will raise water fees, is in the best interests of South Korea’s rural poor.

Sources:

“Chile dam opponents: the looting of Patagonia has begun”
Santiago Times (Chile), July 22, 2007

“Privatizing water and the criminalization of protest”
NACLA News (New York), July 24, 2007

“$600M water deal runs dry”
Stockton Record (CA), July 18, 2007

“Rivers to be privatized as a solution to water crisis”
Turkish Daily News, August 1, 2007

“Government to privatize water supply”
The Hankyoreh (South Korea), Jul 16, 2007


MIDDLE EAST

Hezbollah: Talkin’ War and Peace in Lebanon

Lebanon’s conflict-driven internal politics and Hezbollah’s relationship with its neighbor, Israel, are having an effect on the entire region.

Hezbollah leader General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called for a government of “cooperation and unity” even as he critiqued the U.S.-backed government of Fouad Siniora, Agence France- Presse reports.

Siniora has refused to give the opposition party veto power in the cabinet and has lost six ministers this year, prompting much controversy and upheaval.

Nasrallah is angry with the United States, which recently announced it would freeze the assets of anyone it perceived as undermining Siniora’s government.

Speaking to the Lebanese people, he said Hezbollah supported a “peaceful, civilian and civilized” campaign, and promised not to turn its considerable arsenal of weapons on any other Lebanese faction.

Israel, however, may not be so lucky.

Hezbollah has boasted that its rockets can now hit Tel Aviv from Lebanon, and Israeli soldiers patrolling the border say it is only a matter of time before Hezbollah strikes again.

The organization is known to receive its weapons from Iran and Syria.

According to the Daily Star of Lebanon, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement last week expressing “grave concern” over the breach of an arms embargo between Lebanon and Syria, as well as Israel’s incursions into Lebanese airspace.

Iran, too, is reportedly sealing a multi-billion-dollar arms purchase from Russia, according to Flightglobal.com.

Worried about losing control in the region, the United States has taken matters into its own hands with a series of massive arms deals aimed at buying loyalty from key allies in the Middle East.

The proposal would see $30 billion worth of arms go to Israel, $13 billion for Egypt, and $20 billion given to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states over the next few years.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the arms deals were crucial to counter the “negative influence” of Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda.

Sources:

“Hezbollah ready for a settlement”
Agence France-Presse, August 5, 2007

“Waiting at the border: Israel girds for attack”
Toronto Star, August 4, 2007

“Security Council adopts statement on Lebanon”
Daily Star (Lebanon), August 4, 2007

“U.S. to arm Mid East allies in response to Iran Sukhoi threat”
Flight International, August 3, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Will Crain, Josh Wilson

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