News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 32

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“We don’t want to sew, we don’t want to knit, we don’t want to cook.”

— Argentine sex worker Elena Reynaga says HIV programs shouldn’t preach morality, but simply educate (see “Top Stories,” below).


*Top Stories*
Women claim space at AIDS conference
How green is my Wal-Mart?
Salmon lose at California logging board

Immigrants seek assimilation under the surgeon’s knife
Olympic terror fears spur west China crackdown

World forests face multiple threats
Save the (native) humans


* Women Claim Space at AIDS Conference

Circumcision, female condoms and sex work grabbed attention at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City last week.

Researchers at the conference said circumcision in African men can minimize rates of HIV transmission by up to 60 percent, the United Nations news service reported.

But despite assurances that women’s infection rates will concurrently decline, Marge Berer, editor of Reproductive Health Matters, was skeptical.

“From a public health perspective, we are told that 60 percent protection [for circumcised men] is far better than nothing,” Berer said. “But is male circumcision good enough for women?”

HIV prevention efforts are also hampered by the high cost of the female condom — 18 times that of its male counterpart — and outreach programs that target sex workers but neglected married women.

A former nurse from Papua New Guinea told the conference that ignorance about AIDS and medical incompetence took the lives of her two children — as well as the ability to have more.

Maura Elaripe said that she received no counseling after she was diagnosed with HIV in 1997, her children died from improper treatment unrelated to HIV, and she was “forced” into sterilization by her doctors.

As the first woman in her country to disclose her HIV-positive status, she strives to educate women.

“I totally regret (sterilization) because I didn’t have information about my right as an HIV-positive woman to sexual and reproductive health,” Elaripe said.

Elsewhere at the conference, sex-trade professionals demanded attention to their working conditions.

Argentine sex worker Elena Reynaga argued that the emphasis on morality in HIV programs alienates women who voluntarily go into prostitution.

“We don’t want to sew, we don’t want to knit, we don’t want to cook,” Reynaga said, but simply go to work without risk of injury or infection.

–T.J. Johnston/


“The female condom – the step-child in HIV prevention”
IRIN Plus News, August 7, 2008

“Male circumcision — a gamble for women?”
IRIN Plus News, August 8, 2008

“Stiletto heels and sewing machines”
IRIN Plus News, August 8, 2008

“Maura Elaripe: ‘I was forced to go through sterilisation and up to now I regret it'”
IRIN Plus News, August 2008

* How Green is My Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart may be investing in environmental initiatives to become recognized as a “green” company, but it has also been lobbying against clarification of the carbon-offset standards published in the Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides.”

The FTC guidelines are used to determine what products and services a company can label environmentally friendly.

The FTC hopes to clarify what companies can say about carbon offsets and renewable-energy credits, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The credit system enables companies, and their customers, to “offset” their own globe-warming carbon dioxide emissions by support projects that reduce emissions by the same amount.

Several certification agencies offer these credits, but currently there are no uniform standards that define the offsets clearly.

Wal-Mart wants to keep it that way, arguing that flexibility is a reasonable approach.

Wal-Mart Watch, a group critical of the chain, says resistance to stronger guidelines is antithetical to the retail giant’s green initiatives.

–Julia Hengst/


“Why is Wal-Mart lobbying against carbon-offset guidelines?”
The Christian Science Monitor, August 7, 2009

* Timber Trumps Salmon in California

Coho salmon, whose numbers have dropped 73 percent in California coastal habitat in the past year, may face an uncertain future following the state’s rejection of a habitat-protection plan.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the California Board of Forestry ruled 6-3 against a petition by an activist coalition to protect salmon streams from the effects of logging.

The ruling puts the board in conflict with federal fishing regulators, who said logging limitations would improve salmon habitat, and that the state board’s current regulations actually harm the fish.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has suspended all salmon fishing on the coast for the first time in history, in response to some of the lowest numbers of California salmon ever recorded.

A petition by the Sierra Club, California Trout and other advocacy groups sought to mandate coastal stream protections on private land — a plan that the forestry board rejected, citing lack of evidence that logging was at fault.

The board did suggest new stream protections last year, but only if the state Department of Fish and Game ruled that logging would kill salmon.

The department never issued the ruling, prompting advocates to petition the board to take action independently.

Coho salmon are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and both the fisheries service and the petitioners’ attorney said that extinction of certain coho populations is a possibility.

The board — which is appointed by the governor and “weighted” in the logging industry’s favor — said evidence was lacking that the decline was caused by the health of inland streams, rather than oceanic conditions.

At least one board member also commented on the “huge financial hardship” protective regulations would cause to land owners and the logging industry.

–Lauren Riggs/


“California officials reject emergency salmon protection petition”
McClatchy Newspapers, August 7, 2008


* Immigrants Seek Assimilation under the Surgeon’s Knife

Plastic surgery that alters ethnic features to align with Western beauty conventions is on the rise, according to new reports.

Madrid’s El Pais newspaper reports that more immigrants to Spain are undergoing cosmetic surgery than ever before.

South Americans there show the most willingness to go under the knife and erase features common to their ethnic roots.

Rhinoplasty is the most common procedures, although chin implants are also popular for Central American women with rounder faces.

The newspaper also noted that specialized clinics in the United States and Australia are opening to meet demand by Chinese and Japanese immigrants for rounder eyes and creased lids.

Eye surgeries are popular gifts to Asian-descended children after graduation, similar to gifts of breast augmentation for young women in some social circles.

Recent data show this trend is not isolated among newly arrived, or first-generation immigrants.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, almost a quarter of cosmetic plastic surgeries in the United States — more than 2.6 million — targeted ethnic features in 2007, an increase of 13 percent from 2006.

Since 2000, plastic surgery has increased 173 percent among Hispanics, 129 percent for African Americans and 246 percent in Asian Americans.

Common procedures include nose jobs, liposuction, breast augmentation and breast reduction.

–Lauren Riggs/

“Immigration: Spain: At The Surgeon’s To Smooth Features”
El Pais, August 4, 2008

“Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Procedures for Ethnic Patients Up 13 Percent in 2007”
Articlesphere, June 6, 2006

* Olympic Terror Fears Spur West China Crackdown

China’s western Xinjiang province is still simmering with violence and repression, as the government cracks down on Uighur rebels seeking to capitalize on the Beijing Olympics.

Critics, however, say that the threat has been exaggerated to justify harsher security measures.

Last week, a coordinated series of bombings targeted a dozen public buildings, leaving as many as eight dead, and prompting a complete lockdown of Kuqa City, home to 400,000 people.

Businesses have been shuttered there, and travel restricted.

The week before, two Muslim jihadists drove a truck into a group of security forces out jogging, killing 16 people and injuring 16 more, the China Post reported.

It was the deadliest attack against Chinese security personnel in a decade, and comes amid a spike in anti-government and Olympic-related violence and threats.

Authorities announced they had discovered a number of plans to kidnap athletes and bomb buses and an airplane — but critics say the threat is overblown, and a U.S.-based Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, told The Guardian that China’s crackdown is “heavy handed.”

Xinjiang is home to 8.3 million ethnic Muslim Uighurs, and an Islamic separatist movement that seeks to establish the region as East Turkistan, reports the Times of India.

Separatism there has popular support: Two different Uighur republics briefly existed in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when China was weakened by civil war and the Japanese invasion.

–John Hornberg/


“Eight dead after bombings in western China mars Olympic opening weekend”
The Guardian, August 10, 2008

“China insists Olympics are safe despite weekend violence”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, August 11, 2008

“Police attacked in China’s Muslim northwest”
Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2008

“China says security tight despite numerous threats to Beijing Olympics”
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 28, 2008

“Dozens of attacks leave 8 dead in west China”
Times of India, August 11, 2008

“Renewed bomb attacks kill five in China”
Times of London, August 10, 2008

“Police kill 5 suspects after bombings in outlying Chinese province during Olympics”
China Post, August 10, 2008


* World Forests Face Multiple Threats

It’s hardly news that forests the world over are in danger from logging, human encroachment and other threats, but news stories in recent weeks have pointed to new developments — and partial solutions to the problem.

The forests of England are facing their worst crisis since the last Ice Age, according to the London Telegraph, with native species threatened by invaders, development and climate change.

Dr. Keith Kirby, a woodland scientist with the group Natural England, told the newspaper: “Climate change will have a (big) impact over the next five decades. Our woods will change. Many species will cope with some warming but there is uncertainty about what happens with extreme events such as droughts and storms, which we expect to become more frequent.”

But the news is not all bad for British forests.

London’s Sunday Times reported that, in conjunction with The Woodland Trust, it is helping to plant the largest new continuous native forest in the nation.

They are currently working toward securing 850 acres in Hertfordshire, an area that already contain 44 acres of ancient forest.

The project will plant 600,000 new trees in the region, even though it is one of the most densely populated areas in the country.

Despite this conservationist trend, European Union nations are still major importers of illegal timber, according to ClimateChangeCorp, a London-based environmental news Web site for businesses.

Europe spent $17 billion on illegally logged timber in 2007, with the United Kingdom as the largest customer.

The harvest comes mostly from tropical nations in Africa and Asia, and is imported under a loophole that exempts wood products — such as plywood or paper — from international treaties protecting endangered tree species.

And to the list of threats faced by, here’s a new one: snakes.

The Washington Post reported that the trees of the U.S.-administered Pacific island of Guam are being destroyed — indirectly — by the brown tree snake.

The nonnative reptile was already a symbol of the dangers of introduced species after it was blamed for the extinction of nearly all the native birds on the island.

According to biologist Haldre Rogers, the snakes’ devastating effects on the island’s birds has also impacted trees, which rely on birds to spread seeds.

Because so few birds are left on Guam, the trees’ reproductive cycle is seriously compromised.

“Unfortunately, Guam is a laboratory of sorts for what happens when an invasive species brings major change,” the Post quoted Rogers as saying. “You can’t really see it yet, but it appears that the indirect consequences for the forest can be as important as the direct consequences we saw on the bird population.”

–Will Crain/


“Enchanting forest”
Times of London, August 10, 2008

“Traditional forests endangered by climate change and disease”
Telegraph (UK), August 3, 2008

“Snake’s Impact on Guam Appears to Extend to Flora”
Washington Post, August 11, 2008

“Illegal timber: Europe’s doors still wide open”, August 7, 2008

* Save the (Native) Humans

Last Saturday marked the U.N. International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples — and international media took little notice.

Yet a few stories emerged from advocacy sources that tell of threatened natives cultures around the globe.

The Pan American Health Organization, in a statement on its Web site, chided mass media for its extensive coverage of endangered animals such as the polar bear, while continuing to neglect the stories of indigenous people, such as the Zapara of Ecuador and Peru.

That said, the World Wildlife Fund, better known for working to help endangered animals, put out a call last week for “Saving Sumatra’s Endangered Peoples.”

On the WWF’s Web site, the organization called attention to the plight of the Orang Rimba people, a nomadic culture that has lived for centuries in the Indonesian island’s forests.

While the Orang Rimba live mostly in protected state lands, illegal logging has threatened the forests they depend on for their survival.

The WWF quoted an Orang Rimba man as saying that a logging company had kicked them out of their traditional home.

“We can no longer live in our own forest because the (company) forbids us to use or plant it,” Bujang Rancak told the organization.

Yet advocacy on behalf of embattled native peoples can be hazardous.

In Guatemala, an indigenous people’s leader in was reportedly slain in the town of Colotenango, according to Free Speech Radio News.

Antonio Morales, an activist with both Mayan and labor groups, was beaten and hacked to death after fighting against large-scale mining operations in his community.

And the threats to indigenous people do not all involve the developing world.

An advocacy group called the Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization reminded visitors to its Web site that the United States and Canada have both been found guilty by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of failing to safeguard the human rights of their own indigenous peoples.

–Will Crain/


“Saving Sumatra’s Endangered Peoples”
World Wildlife Fund, August 7, 2008

“PAHO: We can avoid the extinction of another endangered heritage”
Pan American Health Organization, August 7, 2008

“Indigenous Peoples: US and Canada Guilty of Human Rights Abuses”
Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, August 11, 2008

“Indigenous Leader Murdered In Guatemala Ahead of International Day of the World’s Indigenous People”
Free Speech Radio News, August 8, 2008

Editors: Will Crain, Josh Wilson
Intern: Julia Hengst, John Hornberg, T.J. Johnston, Lauren Riggs

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