News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 37

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

*This Week*

– “Transition towns” tackle climate change

– U.K. takes cue from U.S. sex offender law

– Slight freedoms for Suu Kyi

– ‘Fair trade’ cola gains ground in Europe

– Zimbabwe comments deepen on


* “Transition Towns” Tackle Climate Change

Transition towns — part of a grassroots movement to help communities adopt carbon-neutral lifestyles — are slowly spreading from England, where they number in the scores, to America, New Zealand and elsewhere.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the “transition movement” helps equip communities with tools for living in a world of climate change and declining oil reserves.

The concept was born three years ago when permaculture professor Rob Hopkins and his students came up with a plan for community-wide sustainable living in his hometown of Totnes, United Kingdom.

Since then more than 100 communities worldwide have joined in, three of which are in the United States: Boulder, Co., and Sandpoint and Ketchum, Idaho.

A few of the towns in England even use their own currency, the article reports.

Practical elements of the a transition town include planting community food gardens, reducing long-distance transportation, business waste exchanges, learning how to repair old items rather than throw them away, and switching to renewable energy sources.

–Julia Hengst/


“Communities plan for a low-energy future”
The Christian Science Monitor, September 11, 2008

* U.K. Takes Cue from U.S. Sex Offender Law

Four communities in England will start running background checks on possible sex offenders, similar to “Megan’s Law” in the U.S.

The BBC reports that Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire, Cleveland and Hampshire will initiate one-year pilot programs allowing parents, guardians and caretakers to learn from police about any histories of abuse for people who have access to their children.

The program was inspired by the murder of Sarah Payne, an eight- year-old who was kidnapped and killed by a convicted sex offender in 2000.

Under the program, police must provide a background check between 24 hours and 10 days, depending on the urgency of the request, and will refer cases to other law enforcement agencies if prior convictions are discovered.

If a convicted offender is found to be no longer a risk, authorities have the option to not disclose prior abuses.

Only people directly responsible for a child may access such information and they are prohibited from spreading it around.

But child protection experts wonder the new law would lead to vigilantism and drive offenders underground.

“Megan’s Law” requires publication of an offender’s whereabouts in a database.

Sara Payne, the mother of Sarah Payne, told the BBC the pilots are only a “first step” in protecting children.

–T.J. Johnston/


“Sex offender alerts plan launched”
BBC News, September 15, 2008

“Will sex offender pilots work?”
BBC News, September 14, 2008

“Parents get new sex crime checks”
BBC News, February 17, 2008

* Slight Freedoms for Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s military junta recently gave the imprisoned opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi access to letters from her family and some international news magazines.

According to the International Herald Tribune, for the past three weeks Suu Kyi has refused food deliveries to the villa where she is under house arrest, leading to speculation she may have mounted a hunger strike.

Her National League for Democracy — which won a landslide election in 1990 but was shut out of power by the military junta — said she rejected the food “to denounce her continuing detention, which is unfair under the law.”

Suu Kyi, who has spent 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest, will be allowed to receive mail from her two sons and to read magazines like Newsweek and Time.

The junta will also loosen limitations placed on Suu Kyi’s daughter and housekeeper, the article said.

–Julia Hengst/


“Myanmar loosens some strictures on Aung San Suu Kyi”
International Herald Tribune, September 14, 2008

* ‘Fair Trade’ Cola Gains Ground in Europe

A British cola called Ubuntu is said to be the first of its kind to follow “fair trade” practices, including ecological sustainability, equal market prices and improved work conditions for bottom-rung producers and laborers.

Africa’s Business Daily reports that the soft drink, named after a Bantu word meaning “humanity,” has had success in cafes, shops and grocery stores throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.

“Our mission is to propel fair trade into iconic and mainstream markets,” said co-founder Miranda Walker.

The fair trade label, often found on basic commodities like tea and coffee, has become increasingly popular in recent years and appeals to consumers who want to buy ethically — something seven out of ten Europeans say is important to them at least part of the time.

Ubuntu Trading Company will use fair trade sugar sourced from Africa, and says it plans to invest some of its profits back into sugar-producing communities.

If the company does well, according to the report, it hopes to find a source for fair trade caffeine from Africa.

–Julia Hengst/


“New fairtrade cola takes on the world’s top brands”
Business Daily Africa, June 18, 2008

* Zimbabwe Comments Deepen on

An item on about Zimbabwe has become a magnet for diverse commentary on the political crisis there. New entries turn up daily, long after the original article was posted:


Editors: Josh Wilson
Interns: Julia Hengst, T.J. Johnston

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