News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 26

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“A common refrain in the messages we have received from members since the Web site was shut down is: ‘I love my country but my country doesn’t love me.'”

— Lu Jun Lu runs a Chinese Web site for people with hepatitis that was shut down by the government over protest concerns (see “China,” below).


*Top Stories*
Medical bills spur India suicide plan
Pumped up for public water
For forests under fire, a slight return

A million mutinies now

*Carbon Tax*
Canada in heated debate over global warming tax


* Medical Bills Spur India Suicide Plan

A woman stricken with kidney disease and her husband have petitioned a municipal official in Kolkart, India to allow them to commit suicide.

The Times of India reported that Swapna Das and husband Biswanath Das wrote to the district magistrate asking permission to die together because of health care costs they find staggering.

She is on dialysis, which costs 6,000 rupees or U.S.$138, and cannot afford a kidney replacement. Their neighbors financially support them.

Biswanath said they wrote to the chief minister and prime minister to no avail.

Swapna then proposed euthanasia.

“I won’t let her do it all alone and have decided to accompany her on her last journey,” he told the newspaper.

District magistrate Prava Mishrat said he is aware of their circumstances and will send a team to assess their situation.

–T.J. Johnston/


“Couple seeks permission to die”
Times of India, July 1, 2008

* Pumped Up for Public Water

The tide may be turning for water privatization.

Water supplies have already fallen out of private hands in developing nations such as Mali, Uruguay and Bolivia — and now the French are following suit.

Paris has pushed the trend forward by announcing that its water will go public for the first time in over a century, starting on Jan. 1, 2010.

The move follows similar measures enacted in over 40 other French communities in the last decade.

Privatized water services in the French capital will end when the city terminates its contract with Suez and Veolia, two of the world’s largest water companies.

At issue are increased prices and decreased service, as well as corrupt business practices that eventually saw the jailing of both corporate executives and government officials in Grenoble’s water district.

Suez was also ordered to repay Grenoble in 1999 for overcharging. In 2002, water there reverted to local control.

Suez and Veolia also run privatized water services in Argentina, Bolivia, Eastern Europe and the Philippines.

–T.J. Johnston/


“Is Water Privatization Trend Ending?”
Inter Press Service, June 30, 2008

* For Forests Under Fire, a Slight Return

Forests are disappearing from the Amazon to Afghanistan, but the rate has slowed, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

A new study by the United Nations found that the world has a net loss of 7.3 million forest hectares annually — down from 8.9 million per year during the 1990s.

Although forest regeneration has slowed the rate of loss, the causes of deforestation are varied.

The problem of clearcutting for cattle grazing in the Amazon rainforest has been well documented, but oil production is also an issue that threatens trees in Africa’s Congo River Basin.

Palm oil production is accelerating deforestation in Indonesia, while Afghan forests are falling to war and drought.

Fewer trees mean more greenhouse gas emissions, with severe potential impacts in the developing world that are spurring action by world leaders.

Britain and Norway are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to promote reforestation in the Congo Basin, while the U.N. Environmental Program is tackling the problem with a massive campaign that aims to plant seven billion new trees worldwide.

–T.J. Johnston/


“Is there hope for the world’s vanishing forests?”
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, June 25, 2008


* China: A Million Mutinies Now

After years of brutally suppressing dissent, China has in recent months faced violent public unrest in a number of different cities and over a wide range of issues, from the government’s handling of the Sichuan earthquake to calls for Tibetan independence to a government crackdown on an Internet health forum.

With the world’s attention on the country for this summer’s Beijing Olympics, the anti-government violence tests the Communist Party’s leadership and ability in unprecedented ways.

Thousands rioted in southwest China last week, setting fire to police stations, cars and government buildings, after the death of a teenage girl.

According to news reports, authorities listed the death as a suicide, but the girl’s family accused police of raping and murdering her.

Citing Reuters, the BBC quoted an unnamed official in Guizhou province as saying, “About 10,000 people rushed to the site and totally burned down the county party office building, and burned other offices in the county government.”

Also last week, China re-opened Tibet to foreign visitors for the first time since protests shook Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, this spring.

Meanwhile, protests have continued over the government’s handling of the May 12 Sichuan. blogger Paul Mason listed four reports of ongoing clashes between the police and citizens, as bereaved family members try to hold memorial services at the sites of schools that collapsed in the quake.

Beijing faced protests on another front after the government shut down a popular online forum for carriers of Hepatitis B.

The Financial Times reported that some members of the site’s community were planning protests to coincide with the Olympics later this summer.

The newspaper quoted the Web site organizer, Lu Jun Lu, as saying: “A common refrain in the messages we have received from members since the Web site was shut down is: ‘I love my country but my country doesn’t love me.'”

–Will Crain/


“Tibetan Tourism Resumes After Chinese Ban”
ABC News, June 25, 2008

“Chinese riots over girl’s death”
BBC, June 29, 2008

“China’s quake unrest continues”, June 27, 2008

“Group warns China on website shutdown”
Financial Times, June 25, 2008


* Canada In Heated Debate Over Global Warming Tax

Environmentalists have long proposed taxing carbon emissions as a way of combating global warming — but if a new Canadian law is any indication, implementing such a tax won’t be easy in the United States.

The carbon tax, which so far is levied only in British Columbia, had not even gone into effect yet last month when politicians from other provinces began saying it would fail, and drag the whole country down with it.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the tax, which was put forward by Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion, will hurt Western Canada and “screw” the rest of the country too, according to Canwest News Service.

Both parties are accusing the other of fanning the flames of controversy over the tax for political advantage.

“This is the most cynical, bloody minded kind of regionally divisive politics imaginable that they’re playing,” Calgary legislator Jason Kenney told Canwest.

So far, British Columbia is the only province to adopt the tax, which works on a scale of 10 Canadian dollars per ton of carbon emissions, and is scheduled to rise to 30 dollars per ton by 2012.

That would mean a rise in gasoline prices of about 2.4 Canadian cents per liter (or less than 2 U.S. cents per gallon) by 2012, according to CTV.

The furor over the tax has pitted not only Conservatives against Liberals and vice versa, but also the eastern half of the country against the west, as Dion prepares to take the tax to Alberta and other provinces.

And it’s not just politicians who are upset about the tax.

A report on the CTV Web site quoted British Columbia residents who were upset about paying more at the gas pump.

“The government should look at themselves first before they look at tackling little guys like me,” the Web site quoted motorist Trish O’Brien as saying. “I do what I can. I recycle everything that’s not nailed down. I drive a small car and take the bus when I can, and I walk.”

The tax went into effect Tuesday, which was the Canada Day holiday.

–Will Crain/


“Carbon tax goes into effect in B.C. on Canada Day”
CTV, June 30, 2008

“Clouds over Western horizon”
The Gazette, June 30, 2008

Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain. Intern: T.J. Johnston

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