The retrofitting of suburbia

“We tend to think that downtowns should be dynamic, and we expect that. But we seem to have an expectation that the suburbs should somehow remain frozen in whatever adolescent form they were first given birth to. It’s time to let them grow up.”

Khatami’s Losing Hand

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami announced he will not run for president in the 2009 election, despite his popularity as a reformist candidate, following a scandal over an incident in Italy when he shook hands with a woman. Such handshakes are generally forbidden under Islam except for between family members. Khatami denied the incident took place even as a video circulated on YouTube. Radical clerics have circulated a petition calling for Khatami to be defrocked, and posters of Khatami have been defaced. Supporters see his decision to not run as capitulation to extremists.

Buy Me a River: Water Privatization Pushes Forward

Efforts to privatize water services throughout the world are facing determined grassroots opposition on several fronts, while other countries are preparing to sell their water supply to private companies with little resistance. Fourteen activists in El Salvador have been arrested on charges of terrorism for demonstrating against a World Bank-backed plan to hand government water management over to private firms through local concessions for up to 50 years. Activists argue that the state-run water service, mired as it is in corruption and bribery scandals, is the best alternative to layoffs and higher rates that would come with privatization. They have already seen the alternative, having fought for the state to take over water services after a private firm simply stopped providing a local community with running water. In southern Chile, activists are worried about the future of Patagonia’s waterways after the government approved a $4 billion hydroelectric dam project, backed by two corporations, that would flood wilderness and cut down protected forest land.

Back to the Beach, With Feces

With the heat of summer comes dangerous and often unexplained contamination of U.S. beaches by E.coli and fecal coliform. In California, a San Mateo County agency recently received a grant to discover what’s creating E.coli pollution at several harborside beaches on the Pacific. Seagull waste, a leaky sewer line and urban runoff are all candidates, and according to The San Mateo County Times, people won’t keep off the beaches in spite of warning signs. The Bennington Banner reports that the shores of Vermont’s Lake Shaftsbury are closed to swimmers after officials discovered “shockingly high” levels of E.coli contamination. Locals hypothesize that geese are the problem, but deterring them could be complicated.

Green Mandate Sparks E.U. Lawsuit

Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Estonia are suing the European Union after it tightened carbon quotas in response to complaints that it was too generous in permitting emissions. To meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, the multinational body has committed to cutting carbons emissions by 20 percent by the end of the next decade. But E.U. officials have avoided discussing burden-sharing among poorer states, who insist that meeting the targets will reduce their competitiveness. Sources:
“Latvia becomes sixth country to fight EU emissions caps”
EUObserver, August 1, 2007

Young Immigrants Take a Hard Road North

A growing number of youth and children throughout Central America are migrating on their own to Mexico and the United States, doing odd jobs and pickup work along the way. The Christian Science Monitor reports the number of migrant children increased from 3,000 in 2004 to 5,000 last year; many are repatriated, but often set out again, following parents and siblings who have already headed north. No social services exist to serve these “little kangaroos,” who face extortion, violence and muggings as they travel, and are treated with suspicion by locals who feel they sow violence. Sources:
“In Central America, child migrants now face perils alone”
Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2007