May 22, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 21

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“A lot of people are very angry at the situation in Burma but they won’t come out. They won’t speak to the radio, they won’t come in front of the TV because of the fear of repercussions and their family left behind.”

— Dr. Kyaw Myint Malia of the Burmese Friendship Association on children of the Myanmar junta who are studying in Australia (see “Burma/Myanmar,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Politics*
Household-name Republican fighting for her political life

*Burma/Myanmar*
Australian press points to children of Burmese junta

*War & Peace*
Gathering around cluster bombs


POLITICS

* Household-Name Republican Fighting for Her Political Life

With congressional elections coming up this fall, many Republican incumbents are looking vulnerable even in states where their party previously seemed to have a lock on the vote.

Perhaps the most surprising of these is North Carolina, where polls show that the well-known Elizabeth Dole is virtually tied with her Democratic challenger, North Carolina State Sen. Kay Hagan.

According to North Carolina’s WRAL, a poll of 500 likely voters earlier this month found Hagan with 48 percent support and Dole with 47.

Just a month earlier, before primary elections, a similar poll had found Dole ahead of Hagan by 13 points.

The race will mark the first time in North Carolina that two women have competed as party nominees for a U.S. Senate seat, according to the New Burn Sun Journal.

Dole is the wife of former Sen. Bob Dole, and has long been a political figure in her own right.

She served as a Cabinet member in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and as head of the American Red Cross, and she briefly ran for president in the run-up to the 2000 elections.

When she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, she took over the seat vacated by arch-conservative Jesse Helms upon his retirement.

The Democratic-leaning Web site GoBlueRidge quoted Hagan as saying about her opponent: “She is well-known. She does have 94 percent name recognition. But as I go across the state and tell people I’m running against her, they obviously know her, but then they look at me and they say, ‘I can’t tell you one thing that she’s done for North Carolina.’”

Hagan was first elected to the North Carolina state senate in 1998.

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Poll: Dole, Hagan in virtual tie in Senate race”
WRAL.com, May 11, 2008

“Hagan-Dole Senate race a first for North Carolina”
New Burn Sun Journal, May 7, 2008

“Hagan’s not afraid of Dole”
GoBlueridge.Net, May 7, 2008


BURMA/MYANMAR

* Australian Press Points to Children of Burmese Junta

Since Cyclone Nargis ravaged Burma earlier this month, the military junta that rules the nation has been roundly condemned for its handling of the emergency, but Australian newspapers took an unusual tack; several publications revealed that children of Burmese military leaders are residing in Australia as students.

Some newspapers went so far as to publish the names of some of these students.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, privacy laws prevent Australian universities from commenting to the press about individual students, but the Herald, along with the Age and other publications, found other sources who identified the Burmese students.

The number is apparently small; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation cites an activist who says there are about eight such students in the country, compared to about 10,000 ordinary Burmese also in residence there.

The ABC notes that there are strict limits on money transfers into Australia from members of the Burmese junta.

The Age quoted Alison Vicary, an editor at the publication Burma Economic Watch, as saying: “Those now living and being educated in Australia have obtained wealth while materially impoverishing and severely circumscribing the freedom of the majority of their fellow citizens.”

The ABC quoted Dr. Kyaw Myint Malia of the Burmese Friendship Association as saying that Burmese expatriates won’t name the students for fear that the junta will retaliate against relatives back in Burma.

“A lot of people are very angry at the situation in Burma but they won’t come out,” Malia said. “They won’t speak to the radio, they won’t come in front of the TV because of the fear of repercussions and their family left behind.”

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer told the Age that he had not thought of deporting the children of the Burma leadership, but said, “It would certainly be a way of targeting the regime.”

As minister, Downer did deport children of the controversial regime in Zimbabwe who were studying in Australia.

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Burma rulers’ children in Australia”
The Age, May 19, 2008

“Burmese community ‘too scared’ to name junta students”
ABConline (Australia), May 19, 2008

“Children of Burma junta studying here”
Sydney Morning Herald, May 19, 2008

“Junta’s children free to study”
The Age, May 20, 2008


WAR & PEACE

* A Gathering Around Cluster Bombs

Activists and diplomats from around the world are in Dublin, Ireland, this week to try to establish a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, which they say pose unacceptable risks to civilians.

The United Nations and over 100 countries have pledged their support to the ban, according to news reports, as did Pope Benedict XVI.

The BBC quoted the pontiff as saying, “It is necessary to heal the errors of the past and avoid them happening again in the future. I pray for the victims of the cluster munitions, for their families and for those who will join the conference too, wishing that it will be successful.”

Opposing the ban are some of the world’s leading manufacturers and users of cluster bombs, the United States, Russia, China and Britain.

Cluster munitions scatter thousands of small bombs over a large area.

If some of the bombs fail to explode upon first impact, they can remain in civilian areas, where they may be picked up or accidentally set off.

“Because they are inherently inaccurate and often malfunction, they are particularly indiscriminate and unreliable,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the conference in a video statement, according to Reuters.

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Forum seeks to ban cluster bombs”
BBC News, May 19, 2008

“UN calls for cluster bomb ban at global gathering”
Reuters Africa, May 20, 2008


Editors: Will Crain

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