News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 14

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“Some people in the west think they own us or have the authority over us. That is why some judge sits in Spain and indicts Kagame. He has no jurisdiction over us, over Rwanda. If I met him today I would tell him to go to hell.”

— Rwandan President Paul Kagame, on his indictment over the death of four Spanish medical workers in his country between 1992 and 2005 (see “Top Stories,” below).


*Top Stories*
Australian Left ponders uranium
“Avoidable” Gaza deaths follow medical travel bans
Rwandan president disputes Spanish indictments

“The Great Firewall” let’s down its guard

Windmills and foul air in Navajo Nation


* Australia’s Left Ponders Uranium

Firmly established in power, Australia’s Labor Party has opted to reinvigorate a plan from the previous government to expand uranium mining.

According to The Age, Labor’s resources minister, Martin Ferguson, is an “enthusiastic” advocate of the industry, and has reconvened the Uranium Industry Framework, an advisory board appointed by the government of former Prime Minister John Howard of the conservative Liberal Party.

Among other things, the advisory panel will undertake a publicity campaign, funded by the uranium industry,to address public concerns about the health and safety issues of mining uranium.

The panel also has proposed a number of new regulations to improve training and safety, as well as the “economic fortunes” of indigenous communities and mine owners.

The Labor Party overcame strong opposition to narrowly overturn a ban on developing new mines, but opted to leave state-level bans in place in Queensland and Western Australia.

Ferguson, who backs nuclear power as a means of cutting greenhouse emissions, reportedly said that the two states, which both have substantial uranium resources, will “get in line” and eventually drop the bans on their own.


“Labor resurrects Howard’s uranium plan”
The Age, April 2, 2008

* “Avoidable” Gaza Deaths Follow Medical Travel Bans

The World Health Organization said preventable deaths almost doubled in the Gaza Strip between 2006 and 2007, following the Hamas takeover and a corresponding ban by Israel on most cross-border travel.

The number of travel permits denied to sick Gazans seeking medical care in Israel more than quadrupled, from 8.5 percent in December 2006 to 36 percent one year later.

Israel said it was concerned about suicide bombers using health issues as a cover story, while critics said the policy amounts to collective punishment of the Palestinian population for rocket launches against Israel by Hamas militants.

Medical care in Palestinian territories is in decline due to shortages in equipment, pharmaceuticals and trained personnel.

An Israeli defense official told Reuters that tight control of Gaza’s borders has not caused unnecessary deaths, but a WHO spokesman said 100 Gazan patients have died since June after being denied travel permits.


Sick Gazans die in “‘avoidable tragedies'”
Reuters, April 1, 2008

* Rwandan President Disputes Spanish Indictments

A Spanish judge has issued indictments against 40 Rwandan Army officers — and the nation’s president, Paul Kagame — over the slaying of four Spaniards working for Doctors Without Borders between 1990 and 2002.

Kagame was the commanding officer for all 40 officers, and the general of the ultimately victorious rebel forces during Rwanda’s civil war and culminating genocide.

Speaking a news conference, Kagame angrily declared that the indictments “mean nothing,” and said the judge, Fernando Andreou Merelles of the Spanish Central Instruction Court, should “go to hell.”


“Rwanda: Kagame Tells Spanish Judge ‘Go to Hell’ Over Summons”
The Nation (Kenya), April 2, 2008


* ‘The Great Firewall’ Lets Down its Guard

While China, confronted with violence in Tibet, was shutting down some parts of the Internet, it opened access to one long-unavailable site.

The BBC reported last week that, after years of being blocked by Chinese authorities, its English language news Web site was suddenly available to the Chinese public.

Under a policy that has been called the “Great Firewall of China,” the communist government routinely blocks foreign news sites and other sites that it deems objectionable.

China has never openly stated that it was interfering with access to the BBC, but the news site reported that it had been unavailable in China for years until recently.

The BBC’s Chinese-language site remained blocked in most of China when the English site reported the news.

But later in the week, a blogger for CNet reported that the Chinese-language BBC was at least partly available in the eastern city of Xi’an.

Once the English-language became available, the site posted comments from readers in China.

Many of them were apparently from British expatriates living in China who were delighted to see the site available: “I can’t believe I’m reading this article!” read one.

Other comments were attributed to Chinese nationals who derided Western reporting on the Tibetan unrest as biased.

And still others were attributed to Chinese nationals who were angry at their government.

One such comment read: “If I were to hop over to Hong Kong, the connection to BBC works immediately like a breeze and it felt like I just got out of a prison. I am almost so used to the ‘imprisonment’ that I am somewhat surprised I can actually get BBC news now. Talk about basic human rights.”

On the same day that the BBC was reporting its triumph, another English language news site was reporting that it had been blocked.

The First Post reported that China had blocked its story on a Chinese Olympic badminton coach who had admitted to fixing matches at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Gently poking fun at the BBC, a First Post editorial said, “Allowing surfers free and unfettered access to stories about Britain’s declining economy, the extravagance of our expenses-happy politicians and our luxury car brand fire sales is one thing; the real test will come when the BBC dares question the ethics of Chinese badminton.”

–Will Crain/


“BBC website ‘unblocked in China'”
BBC, March 25, 2008

“Readers from China react to BBC access”
BBC, March 25, 2008

“Great Firewall gives and takes away”
The First Post, March 27

“China to Chinese: you may now access the BBC”
Times Online, March 25, 2008

“In one city, even BBC’s Chinese site is now available”
CNet, March 29, 2008


* Windmills and Foul Air in Navajo Nation

To much environmentalist acclaim, the Navajo Nation has announced plans to create a new wind-power plant on a reservation in Arizona.

But Navajo leadership is still trying to win approval for a coal-fired power plant that environmentalists have bitterly opposed.

The wind project, a joint venture with Boston’s Citizens Energy Corp., would produce 500 megawatts of power and provide jobs and up to $100 million in revenue for the Navajo Nation.

Plans call for hundreds of windmills reaching as high as 400 feet, the Arizona Republic reported.

In an interview with Reuters, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley also discussed his continuing attempts to develop a $3 billion, 1,500-megawatt coal-burning plant on Navajo land.

“It’s all about putting food on the table, putting shoes on little feet,” he told the wire service.

While the Navajo Nation is a sovereign entity, it must get approval for the plant from the United States.

The plan has been opposed by environmental groups and many Navajo Nation residents — some Navajo activists have blockaded roads leading to the proposed site of the plant.

A coal plant already operating on Navajo land has been blamed for giving the area some of the dirtiest air in the state.

Additional controversy is brewing over efforts to mine uranium on the reservation, which the tribe has previously banned.

–Will Crain/


“Navajo Nation to develop 500 MW of wind power”
Reuters, March 27, 2008

“Citizens and the Nation”
Grist, March 28, 2008

“Navajos set to tap power of the wind”
Arizona Republic, March 28, 2008

“Navajo Nation Signs Agreement with Boston-Based Firm to Coordinate Development of Wind-Power Projects on Navajo Lands”, March 31, 2008

“Navajo Nation struggles to build coal plant”
Reuters, March 28, 2008

Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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