Important but overlooked news from around the world.
“The police chief has asked us to stop so we are stopping, but remain peaceful, because soon we will be running this country.”
— Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim, who was drummed out of power 10 years ago, speaking at a rally to mark his political return (see “Malaysia,” below).
King Tobacco, Balkan crime lord
Cultivating change in Lebannon
Israel: Homelessness spikes for girls
Not your father’s hate groups
A political resurrection Malaysia
* King Tobacco, Balkan Crime Lord
Cigarette counterfeiting and smuggling in the Balkans is one of the primary drivers of crime and corruption in the region, according to a coalition of investigative reporting projects.
Bosnia-Herzegovina alone is estimated to lose $200 million each year in tax revenue from tobacco smuggling, a sum that could approach billions worldwide.
The Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project, with bureaus and partners in Sarajevo, Albania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and else- where, has assembled a massive investigative package on tobacco smuggling, and particularly the involvement of government officials in the region.
High prices and taxes on tobacco in the West are driving the smuggling boom, with a packet of cigarettes purchased in Ukraine for less than a euro selling for seven euros in London.
Extortion, murder are common, and a variety of dubious and notorious public figures are implicated, according to the report.
These include the leaders of an irish Republican Army offshoot, who critics say are buying “prime” land on the Bulgarian coast using smuggling proceeds; the brother of Romania’s Transport Minister, who controls a chain of “lucrative” duty free shops that police say are hubs for laundering and smuggling cigarettes; family members of the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in prison while on trial for war crimes; and officials in Ukraine, Moldova, Montenegro and elsewhere.
The problem is so bad that the smuggling industry has grown into the “fourth or fifth largest competitor” to Phillip Morris International, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies.
Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project, February 2008
* Cultivating Change in Lebanon
Caught between warring militias and Israeli reprisal, Lebanon’s farmers have a hardscrabble life that is only exacerbated by the threat of unexploded munitions littering the fields, forests and mountain slopes.
Radio Netherlands reports that support for rural communities is “scant,” and blamed a “clannish and corrupt” government of elites for their plight.
Enter Rami Zurayk, a professor at the American University in Beirut, whose small aid group Land and People provides technical assistance, marketing support and more to rural communities in need.
This includes programs to shift from chemical fertilizers to banana-leaf compost, and financial aid to purchase a mechanical shredder vital for the composting process.
Land and People also helped a women’s baking cooperative market its goods, and supports soapmaking operations using wild berries in the bombed-out village of Ayta al Shaab.
Zurayk says the point is to “change the way trade operates in the world” — and to develop trade not just between nations, but also between people.
“Lebanon – small steps to change the world”
Radio Netherlands, March 19, 2008
* Israel: Homelessness Spikes for Girls
The percentage of homeless teenage girls in Israel jumped from 15 to 25 percent last year, driven by the social stresses of immigration and family discord, the Jerusalem Post reports.
The problem includes not just homeless youth, but also teens who “loiter” on the streets, many of whom are from immigrant families whose parents work multiple jobs and are rarely home.
Left in charge of their younger siblings by absent parents, the teens take their brothers and sisters with them onto the streets in search of food and other necessities.
Some girls, in need of shelter, may opt to go home with an adult male, trading sex for a roof over their heads.
One critic said that 99 percent of young homeless females in Israel eventually find their way into the sex industry.
“Number of homeless female teenagers soar”
Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2008
* Not Your Father’s Hate Groups
A national survey has found the number of active hate groups in the United States has increased by 48 percent since 2000.
But the study by Alabama’s Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t count just the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi groups and other usual suspects; it also counts anti-immigration groups and the black nationalist Nation of Islam.
“You might be surprised at which group in Greenville is listed as among the 888 hate groups in America,” reads the headline on a story from the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Miss.
The only listed group that is active in the area is the Nation of Islam.
Elsewhere, the report listed an anti-immigration group in Framingham, Mass., that has lashed out against immigrants from Brazil.
Joe Rizoli, of Concerned Friends for Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement, denied that his organization he co-founded is a hate group.
The Boston Globe quoted Rizoli as saying, “What makes a hate group. We hate illegal immigration and people who break the law. The Brazilians are upset because we’ve exposed their crooked ways.”
The Denver Post reported that Colorado Bureau of Investigation figures showing a rise in hate crimes against Latinos.
The article also referred to a racist attack last month against a Latino man in Louisville, Col.
But the newspaper also quoted a police chief as saying most crime “remains still white-on-white crime and Hispanic-on-Hispanic. Regardless of anyone’s feelings over the immigration issue, it hasn’t translated into crime.”
“HATE: You might be surprised at which group in Greenville is listed as among the 888 hate groups in America”
Delta Democrat Times (Greenville, Miss.), April 13, 2008
“Antihate report lists Framingham group” Boston Globe, April 13, 2008
“Reports of hate crime climbing”
Denver Post, April 11, 2008
“Intelligence Report: The Year in Hate”
Southern Poverty Law Center, 2008
* A Political Resurrection in Malaysia
Almost 10 years after he was driven out of office by a bizarre series of corruption and sodomy charges, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim returned to politics this week with a big rally and big plans.
Anwar, who like many Malaysians goes by his given name, celebrated the expiration of a five-year ban on political activity with a midnight rally in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.
According to the New Straits Times, 10,000 people showed up to the unauthorized rally Monday night before it was shut down by police.
According to Australia’s ABC Online, Anwar dispersed the crowd by saying, “The police chief has asked us to stop so we are stopping, but remain peaceful, because soon we will be running this country.”
Anwar also officially requested that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi open an investigation into alleged abuses of power by the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir, Anwar’s political enemy, ruled Malaysia for 22 years before stepping down in 2003.
Anwar’s return comes at a fateful time for the Southeast Asian nation, where the ruling Basiran Nasional coalition suffered humiliating losses in recent elections.
Anwar has said he has the votes to form a new ruling coalition with his People’s Pact group of opposition parties, but will wait to make sure he has “a comfortable majority” before acting, according to India’s The Hindu.
Critics say that Anwar is trying to get members of parliament to switch parties, a move which, according to the Star newspaper, at least one Malaysian politician called “destabilizing the government.”
One prominent Malaysian figure was skeptical of Anwar’s renewed power and influence.
Former Prime Minister Mahathir told the New Straits Times, “Well, Haaretz (Israeli newspaper) thinks he is going to be the prime minister. It is the only paper in the world which thinks he is going to be the prime minister … he is the prime minister that the Israelis will vote for.”
“Anwar is back”
Bangkok Post, April 14, 2008
“Anwar Ibrahim returns to Malaysian politics”
ABC Online, April 14, 2008
“Big crowd welcomes Anwar’s return to electoral politics”
New Straits Times (Malaysia), April 14
“Anwar as PM? Only if the Israelis vote him” New Straits Times (Malaysia), April 14, 2008
“Time not on Anwar’s side”
The Star (Malaysia), April 14, 2008
“Ongkili: Anwar wants to destabilise Govt” The Star (Malaysia), April 15, 2008
“Anwar ‘ready’ to form government”
The Hindu (India), April 15, 2008
Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain
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