News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 23

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“This is not a good place to do interviews. In a disaster like this, there will be a lot of opinions. The government will solve their problems.”

— A Chinese official on protests by the parents of earthquake victims who blame shoddy school construction for the deaths of their children (see “Top Stories,” below).


*Top Stories*
A merrie olde credit crisis
Earthquake parents protest China schools collapse
Local music thrills to new community radio station

*Culture Clash*
Less than virginal, a French-Muslim marriage goes awry

Will pond scum save the planet?


* A Merrie Olde Credit Crisis

Aftershocks from the mortgage and credit crises are rattling nerves around the world — particularly in England’s banking and lending sector.

The Telegraph reports that investors have pulled more than 2.77 billion pounds (approximately $5 billion) from the British lender Bradford & Bingly, following the revelation of a cash crunch resulting from declines in its mortgage business.

Faced with a shortfall from low-rate mortgages, the bank had apparently been hoping for an upturn in mortgage lending at higher prices.

Other banks may face a similar threat, one analyst said, describing the situation as a “mortgage market contagion” that could spread throughout the system.


“U.K. bank shares fall as investors bail out”
The Telegraph, June 3, 2008

* Earthquake Parents Protest China Schools Collapse

About 100 parents of children killed in schools by China’s recent earthquake have been turned back from a protest at a court in the Sichuan province.

Approximately 7,000 schools collapsed in the 7.9 magnitude temblor, The Guardian reports, and in some cases were the only buildings to crumble in a given district.

Some of the protesting parents called for a lawsuit, and angry questions about inadequate construction and corruption persist.

Chinese officials, however, ordered news media to soften any criticism of school construction.

Journalists were “dragged away” from the protest, and Zao Ming, an official in China’s foreign affairs office told The Guardian, “This is not a good place to do interviews. In a disaster like this, there will be a lot of opinions. The government will solve their problems.”


“Police break up protest by parents of China earthquake victims”
The Guardian (U.K.), June 3, 2008

* Local Music Thrills to New Community Radio

A new, noncommercial FM radio station — one of the first to be approved nationwide in 15 years — is coming to Portland, Oregon.

The Oregonian reports that MetroEast Community Media in Portland successfully petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for the license during an unusual weeklong application period last October.

The licenses were only accepted if it could be proved that the new station wouldn’t interfere with signals from existing broadcasters.

The idea of a new, commercial-free FM radio station in a heavily commercialized market drew a broad variety of supporters, such as the local cable access service, and the local Musician’s Union chapter.

Together, the coalition raised about $250,000 for building the new station — and local musicians are thrilled.

“The whole city could use it,” Vursatyl, a member of the notable hip-hop outfit Lifesavas, told The Oregonian. “It would do a lot for the music community.”


“Tune in soon for local musicians on the FM dial”
The Oregonian, May 29, 2008


* Less than Virginal, a French-Muslim Marriage Goes Awry

France has been rocked in the past week by news that a court allowed a Muslim groom to annul his marriage because he found out on his wedding night that his bride was not a virgin.

The wedding took place two years ago and the annulment was granted last month, but once the story was revealed in a legal journal it caught fire with the media.

Many French politicians and activists have strongly condemned the state’s recognition of the annulment.

The Socialist Party’s Segolene Royal called the decision by a high court in the northern city of Lille “a step backwards for the emancipation of women and the right that they won to dispose freely of their bodies,” according to the Times of London.

Dounia Bouzar, an anthropologist and expert on Muslims in Europe, told the International Herald Tribune, “It’s a victory for fundamentalists and a victory for those who look at Islam as an archaic religion that treats women badly.”

“It amounts to legalizing the repudiation of wives who aren’t virgins,” said activist Sihem Habchi, according to the Irish Times.

The newspaper reported that the marriage in question was between a 30-year-old French convert to Islam and a 20-year-old Muslim woman in Roubaix.

Their names were not revealed in the press.

Before marrying, she had told her fiance that she was a virgin.

But on their wedding night, she revealed to him that she had had sex before.

Some reports offered the lurid details of wedding guests waiting in a hotel lobby while the groom came downstairs, distraught over not having a bloodied sheet to show them as a sign of his bride’s “purity.”

A lawyer in the case, Xavier Labbee, told the Times of London that the decision was not an attack on female sexuality: “Quite simply it is about a lie,” the paper quoted him as saying. “Religion did not motivate the decision … but it is true that religious convictions played a role.”

The Times of London also quoted Justice Minister Rachida Dati as saying: “Annulling a marriage is a way of protecting the person who perhaps wants to undo a marriage. I think this young girl wanted … to separate quite quickly. The law is there to protect vulnerable people.”

–Will Crain/


“French outrage at annulment because bride was not virgin”
Irish Times, May 31, 2008

“Outrage as French judge annuls Muslim marriage over bride’s virginity lie”
Times of London, May 31, 2008

“French marriage dissolved because the bride was not a virgin”
Times of London, June 1, 2008

“French Parties Criticize Marriage Nullified by False Virgin”
Bloomberg News, May 30, 2008

“Law and religion clash in France”
International Herald Tribune, June 2, 2008


* Will Pond Scum Save the Planet?

With corn-based fuels being blamed for the global food crisis, biofuel supporters are looking for non-food crops to be the next energy source.

This includes algae, a plant that few people would rather see on their plates instead of in their gas tanks.

According to Biomass magazine, a commercial wild algae harvesting operation is now under way in New Zealand ponds, with the slimy stuff going toward the production of so-called biocrude.

Barrie Leay, one of the founders of Aquaflow Bionomic Corp. Ltd., would not give the magazine details of his company’s technology, but said, “The processes we have worked through are evolutionary — not revolutionary — to get to this scale over the past two-and-a-half years. It’s been a slow, gentle accumulation of knowledge to get us to this point.”

Some analysts are skeptical about algae power.

In a article soliciting opinions on biofuels from experts in different fields, Dr. Richard Pike of Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry wrote: “Algae would have significantly high yields. But then again, I don’t think enough people have gone through what might happen if that were pursued. You have to ask how it would affect marine life.”

But algae fuels can work.

This week, the automotive Web site Jalopnik posted a story about a group of Chicago high school students who converted a 1982 Volkswagen van to run on a combination of vegetable oil and algae biodiesel and drove it to an environmental fair at the Sears Tower.

The students from Al Raby School for Community and Environment and their teacher, David Levine, grew the algae in their classroom and refined it into fuel.

–Will Crain/


“Aquaflow Bionomic harvests first wild algae”
Biomass magazine, June 2008

“Biofuels: What do the experts think?”, June 2, 2008

“Sears Tower Or Bust: My Algae-Powered Car Adventure” Jalopnik, June 2, 2008

Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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