February 6, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 6

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“I’ve never seen such a lackluster campaign. It’s really clear that people don’t trust the elections.”

— Journalist Zahid Hussain on Pakistan’s upcoming February 18 vote (see “Top Stories,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Death after pepper spray raises questions
Sea cow stymies Navy’s Okinawa plan
Specter of fraud haunts Pakistan election

*Environment*
The melting mountains

*Democracy*
Russia sends opposition to psych wards


TOP STORIES

* Death After Pepper Spray Raises Questions

A mentally ill man died not long after being pepper sprayed, the New Zealand Herald reported, prompting criticism of a “cavalier approach to using incapacitating weapons.”

Henry Bailey was confronted by police responding to an emergency call by his roommate, who said that Bailey had assaulted him.

The New Zealand Herald reports that Bailey fought briefly with the officers, who tried to handcuff him, then carried out a threat to use pepper spray to subdue him.

A neighbor said Bailey, who was in his 40s, had been released from mental health services about a year ago, and was well- behaved.

Bailey is the fourth mentally ill person to die following pepper- spray use in New Zealand in nine years, though the spray itself was not always blamed for those deaths.

A mental health executive said there was little research about the use of pepper spray — and also Tasers — on mentally ill people, and one doctor said he was concerned about whether “protocols for the use of pepper spray” were followed with Bailey.

Source:

“Pepper-spray death brings research call”
New Zealand Herald, February 8, 2008

* Sea Cow Stymies Navy’s Okinawa Plan

The endangered dugong, a type of “sea cow” similar to Florida’s manatee, threatens to put the brakes on a huge military construction project in Japan.

A federal court in San Francisco ruled that Navy plans to build a new base in Okinawa would violate the National Historic Preservation Act by threatening dugong habitat.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that protecting the dugong could cut into related construction and service jobs, exacting a steep economic toll on economically depressed northern Okinawa.

U.S. military facilities in Okinawa have a long and controversial history, with resentment lingering over the rape of a schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995.

Plans for the new base were approved in the late 1990s, following Tokyo’s commitment of more than $900 million in tax breaks and stimulus programs for Okinawa.

Critics told the Monitor that the Japanese government shouldn’t link “economic assistance” to Okinawan support for the Navy plan.

Source:

“Ruling to protect dugong could put Northern Okinawa aid at risk”
Christian Science Monitor, February 5, 2008

* Specter of Fraud Haunts Pakistan Election

The majority of Pakistan’s voters expect the upcoming February 18 election to be rigged, reports McClatchy Newspapers.

Doubts are widespread, with only 15 percent of voters expecting the poll to be fair.

Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, told reporters that he expects the election to be a “farce,” but predicted extremely low results for Pervez Musharraf, his longtime rival and the military-backed incumbent.

Musharraf, meanwhile, insisted that the elections would be fair, but said that there would be problems if political parties don’t accept the outcome.

Although analysts predict a strong “sympathy vote” for the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, campaigning has been low-key due to fears of political violence and terrorism.

Journalist Zahid Hussain told McClatchy that Sharif is more concerned with harnessing negative public reaction following the election, to create conditions that could force Musharraf from office and spur a new vote in the next year.

Source:

“Political gloom surrounds Pakistan as vote nears”
McClatchy Newspapers, February 5, 2008


ENVIRONMENT

* The Melting Mountains

The Arctic ice caps and Antarctic glaciers are well-known barometers of global warming, but melting masses of ice in the Himalayas are in perhaps even more danger.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper flew a plane over Nepal’s Himalayan glaciers, and found that the ice there is retreating more rapidly than scientists expected.

In some places, mountain lakes have grown so large they threaten to burst their banks –- which could lead to massive flooding in the heavily populated areas downstream.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed Sherpa man as saying, “Year by year, the snow-white part of the mountains becomes smaller while whole mountains darken.”

Nearly half the world’s population depends on water that originates in the Himalayas.

Last month, Nepal’s Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala asked for Japan’s help in saving the Himalayan glaciers.

“Scientists from Japan and Nepal should work together to work out preventive measures,” he told the newspaper.

— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Global warming continues to thaw Himalayan glaciers at frightening speed”
The Asahi Shimbun, January 10, 2008

“Nepal wants help from Japan to save glaciers”
The Asahi Shimbun, December 6, 2007


DEMOCRACY

* Russia Sends Opposition To Psych Wards

A Russian opposition activist was forced into a mental hospital in one of many signs of the Russian government’s crackdown ahead of elections next month.

Roman Nikolaichik, a 27-year-old lawyer and member of Garry Kasparov’s Other Russia Coalition, was detained by authorities on Friday, questioned about his political activities and sent to a psychiatric hospital, the Moscow Times reported.

Human rights groups have documented several similar incidents in recent years:

– Andrei Novikov, a reporter for a news service connected to the Chechen separatist government, spent nine months in a psychiatric hospital before being released in December.

– Larisa Arap, a journalist and Other Russia member, was confined to a mental clinic for six weeks last summer.

– Another journalist and member of Other Russia was granted political asylum in Ukraine after allegedly being persecuted by police for his coverage of local corruption. Alexander Kosvintsev said that authorities had harassed him before, but after he rose in the ranks of Kasparov’s party, they had begun to use “physical intimidation” against him.

— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Ukraine Grants Kemerovo Reporter Asylum”
Moscow Times, February 5, 2008

“Opposition Activist Put in Mental Ward”
Moscow Times, February 5, 2008


Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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