November 28, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 48

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“The Chinese government is closely monitoring and is intensifying repair work, and I think we can avoid losses as far as possible.”

— Wang Xiaofeng on landslides and pollution around China’s largest hydroelectric project (see “Three Gorges Dam,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Japan to expand atomic bomb victim standards
Kosovo threatens unilateral independence
Tear gas for ethnic protest in Malaysia

*Three Gorges Dam*
Cracks at the seams? China bolsters Three Gorges

*Kenya*
Sex on the beach or birds in hand? Kenya’s tourist trap


TOP STORIES

* Japan to Expand Atomic Bomb Victim Definition

More than 50 years after the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a string of court losses has forced Japan’s government to create a new standard that will recognize 20,000 new victims of diseases and health problems related to the blasts.

The Kyodo news wire notes that nine kinds of diseases, including cancer and leukemia, will be recognized among the 250,000 registered bomb survivors in Japan. Under current standards, roughly 2,200 are recognized as victims.

The new standards will open the door for anyone who was within four kilometers of the blasts, or visited ground zero within 100 hours of the attacks.

Source:

“New standard aims to certify more people as A-bomb disease sufferers”
Kyodo/Associated Press, November 27, 2007

* Kosovo Threatens Unilateral Independence

Ethnic Albanian negotiators rejected a proposal for increased autonomy for their home province of Kosovo, and threatened a unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia if no deal is struck by a December 10 U.N. deadline.

According to Agence France-Presse, the deal would have ensured self-governance in all of Kosovo’s economic, legal and “daily” affairs, while Serbia would retain possession of the province, as well as control over foreign policy and border security.

The region has been administered by the United Nations and Nato since 1999, following military intervention in a bloody conflict between Albanian separatists and Serbian security forces.

The United States and some E.U. nations said they would back independence for Kosovo, but Serbia, with the support of Russia, is steadfast in its opposition, and has called for further talks.

Source:

“Deadlock in Kosovo talks”
Agence France-Presse/Sapa, November 27, 2007

* Tear Gas for Ethnic Protest in Malaysia

Riot police greeted thousands of minority protestors in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, turning back their calls for increased social benefits with water cannons and tear gas.

The protestors, primarily Tamils, seek business licenses, access to scholarships and “other privileges reserved exclusively for native Maylays,” reports Asia Times Online.

Tamil activists also sought reparations from the United Kingdom for relocating their ancestors to Malaysia as indentured laborers 150 years ago, according to the Web site.

The protestors represent a Hindu minority that makes up roughly eight percent of the population in the majority Muslim nation

Economic programs established in the 1970s have created a burgeoning middle class, but one that is limited to the Malay majority.

With general elections coming up in early 2008, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim blamed the incumbent government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi for widening ethnic divisions, and said he would overturn discriminatory legislation if elected.

Source:

“Ethnic edge to Malaysian rally politics”
Asia Times Online, November 27, 2007


THREE GORGES DAM

* Cracks at the Seams? China Bolsters Three Gorges

Everything about the Three Gorges Dam seems larger than life.

It was built at a cost of $15.6 billion, caused the relocation of 1.2 million people, and has 19 hydropower generators that are expected by 2009 to produce 84.7 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year.

And now, with increasing reports of landslides and environmental problems around the dam, thoughts of a larger-than-life disaster have come to the fore.

China’s project director for the dam, Wang Xiaofeng, said in a press conference that the current environmental problems caused by the dam have been anticipated and planned for.

But concerns persist about a variety of issues, including water pollution, and the safety of the dam’s structure and surrounding landscape

According to the International Herald Tribune, the latest press conference contrasts with a forum in the city of Wuhan in September in which state officials warned of “catastrophe” if environmental issues were not addressed.

Agence France-Presse reports that since then, China’s government-controlled press has produced “virtually only good news” about the dam.

This was borne out at the most recent press conference. Even while acknowledging problems, Wang took a positive approach, reasserting the environmental benefits of hydropower over fossil fuels, and citing improved flood control along the Yangtze River.

Officials at the earlier conference said that erosion and the sheer weight of the water itself has spurred landslides all around the structure.

Critics said a recent landslide that killed 31 bus passengers people was caused by the dam, though the government has not confirmed this.

According to the Tribune report, scientists say the high water levels put pressure on landforms surrounding the dam, seeping into rock, and causing “some, if not all, of the recent geological activity in the region.”

Sources:

“China vigorously defends Three Gorges Dam project”
International Herald Tribune, November 27, 2007

“China seeks to quell fears over Three Gorges Dam disasters”
Agence France-Presse, November 27, 2007

“China Three Gorges Dam Spending Reaches $15.6 Billion”
Bloomberg, November 27, 2007


KENYA

* Kenya’s Tourist Trap: Sex on the Beach and Birds in Hand

Miles of shoreline, coastal forests, mountains, plains and the continent-spanning Great Rift Valley all make Kenya a world-class tourist destination.

But the complications of this burgeoning trade are abundant.

Kenya’s beach towns, notorious for an illicit sex industry involving thousands of regional girls and boys, now have a new wrinkle to consider — older caucasian women seeking uncomplicated dalliances with young African men.

Critics say the practice revives a colonial past of white women “serviced” by “black minions,” reports the Mail & Guardian of South Africa, and also note the health risks of casual encounters in a nation with a high incidence of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

One British woman told the newspaper that the “social arrangement” is nothing more than a role reversal on older men wining and dining younger women, though a hotel manager said the liaisons, while legal, are “unwholesome.”

No less morally complex is Kenya’s eco-tourism dilemma, in which preservation and development are at stark odds.

According to The Nation, Kenyans are beginning to recognize the huge profits nations such as South Africa are reaping from bird tourism — even as they note that Kenya is home to more than a thousand bird species, making it, potentially, one of the continent’s premiere birdwatching destinations.

Nairobi alone has recorded over 600 species, more than any other capital city in the world.

But mining, clearcutting and the illegal timber trade, irrigation and overgrazing are all cutting into bird habitat.

The “million-dollar question,” as the newspaper phrases it, is whether Kenya can decrease these impacts and still boost its ecotourism sector.

Sources:

“Older white women join Kenya’s sex tourists”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), November 28, 2007

“Turning to birds to boost revenue”
Daily Nation (Kenya), November 28, 2007


DEDICATION

* George “Vernon” Porter, 1941-2007

This edition of News You Might Have Missed is dedicated to the memory of George “Vernon” Porter of Soldotna, Alaska, by his son, Virgil Ward Porter.

Obituary, Nov. 4, 2007


Editor: Josh Wilson

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