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5/8/2007

10 Tourists Robbed at Xunantunich

Filed under: belize,global islands — admin @ 6:29 am

10 tourists were robbed this morning at the Xunantunich Mayan Site outside of San Jose Succotz. It happened at 9:30 as tour guide Hector Bol were leading his guests down from the main temple.

A lone gunman with a shotgun was waiting for them and forced them at gunpoint to another area of the site where three more bandits all armed with machetes were waiting. They then robbed the tourists of jewelry, cash and cameras.

In response, Police and BDF have beefed up patrols in the area and are seeking the assistance of Guatemalan police.

5/7/2007

For workers in Nicaragua, deadly mysteries

Filed under: corporate-greed,disease/health,global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 6:07 am

LA ISLA, Nicaragua — Ursula Tobal knows the names of almost all the 20 widows who live on this tiny islet between two narrow streams, and almost all the orphaned children who play in the dusty fields.

The 40-year-old Tobal became a widow herself in late 2005 when her husband, Luis Abraham Martínez, a cane cutter at the nearby San Antonio sugar mill, died of the same disease that has earned this islet the nickname of Island of the Widows.

”My life has been very hard,” said Tobal, who was left with 10 children and a social security payment of $74 a month. ‘There have been times when I’ve had to put my children to bed telling them, `If you sleep, you won’t feel hungry.’ ”

The widows are just part of the human tragedy being wreaked in the Chichigalpa region of northwestern Nicaragua by chronic renal insufficiency (CRI), an illness whose cause remains a mystery.

Nearly 2,000 current and former employees of two nearby sugar mills in the surrounding Chichigalpa region now suffer from CRI, according to Nicaraguan government figures. A workers group puts the death toll at more than 560 employees of one of the mills alone over about 30 years.

There is broad agreement that the region has an unusually high number of reported CRI cases. But both the government and the mills acknowledge that no study has ever pointed to the reasons behind the high incidence of CRI in the region. Maybe it’s in the genes, one mill doctor says, or in the heavy metals spewed by the nearby San Cristóbal volcano.

But to many people in this area, the cause is in the chemicals used in sugar-cane fields at the San Antonio and Monte Rosa mills, which produce most of Nicaragua’s sugar exported to the United States. The mills flatly deny that they are responsible, and workers who have sued the mills have presented no scientific evidence.

Whatever the cause or causes of the CRI, Chichigalpa, a town of about 62,000 people some 75 miles northwest of Managua, and neighboring villages like La Isla, had the air of a doomed region during a visit last month by El Nuevo Herald.

La Isla, a hamlet of about 80 mud and sometimes brick houses, has 20 widows, said resident and widow Marta Yesca. The district that encompasses La Isla, Guanacastal Sur, has 63 widows and about 300 houses.

MOBILITY LOST

Former mill and sugar-cane-field workers, dismissed when their kidneys showed signs of failing, now walk the streets aimlessly or sit on stools outside their homes. They cannot work, because they become exhausted within minutes.

”His agony was awful,” Tobal said of her husband. “He couldn’t walk. That sickness takes away people’s strength, affects their eyesight, bursts their innards, mouths and skin, and they vomit blood.”

All the victims can do is take calcium tablets to compensate for the loss of that element as a result of the kidney malfunction, and slow their deterioration.

But in the end, they can no longer stand, and they just lie in bed. Their bodies are swollen, their breathing labored. They sip Gatorade to keep hydrated. And they wait for death.

The figure of 2,000 people afflicted with CRI comes from Dr. Edwin Reyes, a kidney specialist with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health and an authority on CRI who has been watching the Chichigalpa situation for the last 10 years. When he began to count CRI cases in Chichigalpa in 2004, he said, there were 800.

The national government now runs a special CRI unit at the Julio Durán Zamora Health Center, a government clinic in the town of Chichigalpa.

But Reyes conceded that neither the government nor the mills have carried out any studies on the causes of CRI. Asked why, he simply said, “I don’t understand why not.”

The number of victims is so high that three years ago, local residents pressured Nicaragua’s national legislature to pass a law defining CRI as an ”occupational disease” — allowing its victims to collect government disability payments.

Many of the affected people worked for San Antonio, a 117-year-old mill that produces 80 percent of Nicaragua’s sugar exports to the United States. It is owned by the Pellas family, the country’s richest. The family also owns BAC Credomatic Network, a financial network that includes the BAC Florida Bank in Coral Gables.

Alvaro Bermúdez, managing director of the San Antonio mill, said the company has done everything possible to investigate the causes of CRI. It offered to cooperate with the Nicaraguan government over the past decade to investigate the causes, but ”nothing came out of it,” he said.

AN ISSUE OF FAULT

San Antonio also contacted foreign universities to help with the scientific research, Bermúdez said. But the universities require Nicaraguan government support for such studies, and authorities in Managua have not cooperated because of what Bermúdez called official bureaucracy.

”There is a real problem, there is a real epidemic, there is a disease that is very sad and very difficult, and there is a company that wants to help,” Bermúdez said. “But it turns out that . . . now people say the company may be at fault. Then we won’t solve this, because the company is not at fault.”

San Antonio nevertheless should have some responsibilities, said Juan Salgado, who worked for the mill for 31 years, now suffers from CRI, and heads the Chichigalpa Pro-life Association, a group of former mill employees who have sued for indemnification. He said San Antonio began required testing of its workers in the late 1990s and dismisses any who show signs of kidney malfunction.

”We worked for them our whole lives, and they threw us out on the street when they discovered we were sick — the way the Romans did with their slaves after they were no longer useful,” Salgado said.

But the problem is not just unemployment. It’s the possibility of death.

At least 563 people who worked at San Antonio have died of kidney disease since 1978, according to María Eugenia Cantillano of the Global Nica Foundation, a group created to defend workers’ rights throughout Nicaragua. Her records included dozens of death certificates listing the cause of death as “chronic renal insufficiency.”

Dr. Alejandro Marín, director of a hospital run by San Antonio for workers and relatives, told El Nuevo Herald that 200 current employees have been found to have abnormally high levels of creatinine in their blood — a substance that signals kidney malfunction. He acknowledged that the company dismisses workers who come down with CRI, saying they are no longer strong enough to work. The company does not pay them for disability, he said, but they qualify for government aid.

About 1,100 workers filed three lawsuits over the last two years against the two mills, alleging negligent use of chemicals in the cane fields. Those lawsuits have not reached the stage where evidence has to be submitted.

In another lawsuit filed earlier by about 1,100 workers, the San Antonio mill agreed to an out-of-court settlement in which the company denied any responsibility for CRI but agreed to make ”humanitarian payments” totaling more than $2 million to victims.

Adrián Mesa, the lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in the earlier cases, said the lawsuits reached a point where the plaintiffs could not prove that the chemicals were the cause of the disease, and the mills could not prove the opposite.

”We said, let’s not talk about who is guilty. Let’s look at this as a humanitarian issue, because what our clients need is money to cope with their disease,” Mesa said.

Sacarías Chávez, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the more recent lawsuits, alleged in court papers that CRI is caused ”by being in contact — directly or indirectly and without any protection — with chemical agents” used in the cane fields. But the lawsuit cites no scientific evidence for that link.

A list of eight chemicals identified by a San Antonio legal advisor and workers was sent by El Nuevo Herald to Chen-sheng Lu, a professor at the Environmental and Occupational Health Department of the Public Health School at Emory University in Atlanta.

”None of the herbicides that are being used by the sugar-cane farmers would raise any red flag for health effects that the farmers are experiencing,” Lu wrote in an e-mailed reply. He speculated, however, that perhaps CRI might be the result of the “interaction of different herbicides.”

Bermúdez, the San Antonio director, noted that while it’s easy to assume a link between CRI and the mill because most of the workers affected worked for the mill, in fact most of the region’s residents work or worked for the mills — one of the few sources of jobs in this region.

”Everyone who gets sick has in some way been linked to the San Antonio mill, not because we are the causers of the illness but because we’re in the area where the problem exists,” Bermúdez said.

Felix Celaya Rivas, a physician who works at San Antonio’s hospital, argued that while both men and women work at the mill and the cane fields, few women have been stricken with CRI.

Celaya also said CRI has been reported in other parts of Nicaragua not related to sugar-cane fields.

Reyes, the government’s kidney specialist, said high incidences of CRI have also been found in three other sugar mills around Nicaragua, as well as some nonsugar agricultural areas. He added that smaller outbreaks of CRI have been reported among sugar-industry workers in neighboring El Salvador.

Celaya, in an interview with El Nuevo Herald, raised several other possibilities for the cause of CRI.

The indigenous people of Central America — most Central Americans are descended from a mix of indigenous people and Europeans — might have a genetic vulnerability to kidney disease, Reyes said.

The metals that spew from the volcanoes, homemade alcohol or malnutrition also could cause CRI, he added.

While the cause of CRI remains a mystery, its impact on the people around Chichigalpa has been harsh.

In the town of Chichigalpa, Hermógenes Martínez — father of eight, evangelical pastor and San Antonio employee for decades — died last month of CRI.

He had been one of the CRI victims who received humanitarian aid from San Antonio — about $850, the equivalent of 16 months of the minimum monthly salary as set by the government at the time of the payment. Cane cutters make an average of about $1.80 a day.

Martínez’s widow, Cándida Reyes, said two of their children now have CRI: Henry, 34, and Liliana, 35. Her younger brother, who also worked for the mill, died of CRI, and another brother is in a wheelchair with CRI. Four other half-siblings also have the disease, she added.

The situation is pretty much the same at the Monte Rosa mill, where about 300 former workers who claim they were fired after company-required blood tests showed that their kidneys were failing have been protesting near the mill’s main gate for months to demand indemnification.

The mill was bought in 2000 by Pantaleón, a powerful Guatemalan business group.

When Verónica Medrano, one of the women who hope to get compensation, became a widow four years ago, she was left with a shack and 11 children. Her husband, Juan Senón Bartodano, a cane cutter at Monte Rosa, was felled by kidney disease and received no indemnification, she said.

In La Isla, Ursula Tobal’s son Nelson Moisés Martínez said that he began to cut cane at 14, and started to feel sick at 20. Now 24, he says his last checkup showed a creatinine level nearly eight times higher than normal.

He would like to work to help his widowed mother, he says, but he can’t. He cracked a morbid joke about the guanacaste trees that cover the Chichigalpa cemetery.

”If I work, I die more quickly,” he said, laughing a bit. “I’ll go faster to the guanacastes .”

•••

Finding Plaintiffs Lawyers Committed Fraud, Judge Dismisses Tort Cases Against Dole and Dow Chemical

At the hearing Thursday, Judge Chaney dismissed from the bench two tort cases against Dole and Dow Chemical, ruling that Los Angeles plaintiffs lawyer Juan Dominguez and co-counsel in Nicaragua committed a “fraud on the court” and a “blatant extortion” of the defendants. In the hottest water is Dominguez, counsel to thousands of Nicaraguan men who won judgments against Dole Foods in Nicaraguan courts after claiming they were made sterile by the chemical DBCP, which is used on banana plantations.

After several days of testimony on defense allegations of Dominguez’s misconduct, Chaney tossed the tort cases before her. “I find that there is and was a pervasive conspiracy to defraud American and Nicaraguan courts, to defraud the defendants, to extort money from not just these defendants — but all manufacturers of DBCP and all growers or operators of plantations in Nicaragua between 1970 and 1980,” she said from the bench. Her ruling puts in doubt $2 billion in pending judgments Dominguez won in dozens of similar suits. Chaney also said she would refer the matter to state bar associations and to prosecutorial agencies. (Chaney specifically exonerated the Sacramento firm of Miller, Axline & Sawyer, which is also plaintiffs counsel on the case, saying she did not suspect its lawyers of participating in the fraud scheme.) Dominguez couldn’t be reached for comment.

Dole’s lead lawyer, said that in 25 years of practicing law, he’d never seen anything like the conduct of Dominguez and the other plaintiffs lawyers. They offered a $20,000 bounty in Nicaragua for information about witnesses, and saw to it that Dole investigators were subject to intimidation by police and other officials. The court testimony that led to Chaney’s ruling detailed how a group of Nicaraguan lawyers, in apparent collusion with local officials, judges and lab technicians, rounded up 10,000 men whom they coached to claim sterility — and to blame that sterility on Dole’s chemicals. In fact, many of the men had never worked for Dole, and many weren’t sterile. Some even had multiple children. “There [are] massive amounts of evidence demonstrating the recruiting and training of fraudulent plaintiffs to bring cases in both the Nicaraguan and U.S. courts,” Chaney wrote.

•••

Dole has already lost similar lawsuits and been ordered to pay millions of dollars to DBCP victims, but the latest move could help the company on appeal, as well as thwarting lawsuits that are still pending. “We think this is critical evidence that should have a devastating effect on any efforts to enforce any Nicaraguan judgments in the United States,” Dole attorney Scott Edelman said.

Some background on the case:

DBCP was banned in the United States in 1977 after workers in California started getting sick, but Standard Fruit (which later became Dole) continued using the product in Latin America and the Caribbean, where no such laws existed.

This worried Dow Chemical, which tried to stop selling it, but Standard Fruit threatened to sue for breach of contract. Dow agreed to continue shipments only after Standard Fruit agreed to indemnify Dow in the case of any lawsuits. When the lawsuits came up in the 1990’s, however, it seems Dow jumped back to arguing that there was no proof DBCP was dangerous.

The original round of lawsuits were possibly brought by actual former banana workers who actually suffered from sterility and other problems, or whose children actually had birth defects. Dole, Dow and Shell blocked those suits on grounds that the United States was not the proper place to try them, since the alleged crimes occurred in Nicaragua and other countries. Conveniently, none of these countries had the legal infrastructure to try foreign corporations.

Until Nicaragua passed Law 364 in 2001, specifically designed for those affected by DBCP. Then when a group of alleged victims there won a $490 million settlement, Dole, Dow and Shell changed their tune and argued that Nicaragua had an inadequate legal system so the case needed to be tried in the United States.

By that time, word had gotten around Nicaragua that this could be a lucrative deal for those without ethics, and the number of former banana workers in the country mysteriously started to grow.

In the end, that may work out quite nicely for Dole. The cases recently thrown out represented only a small portion of the thousands of claims against Dole, all of which could now be in jeopardy. “This court questions the authenticity and reliability of any documents that come from Nicaragua,” Chaney said. “I can’t believe in lab reports, work certificates, medical reports — what is there for me to believe? Nothing.”

5/6/2007

UAE Government To Compensate Bangladesh's Children Used As Camel Jockeys

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:33 am

Dhaka, Bangladesh – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has decided to compensate the Bangladeshi children used as camel jockeys in their country. The children, some as young as 4-years-old were taken from Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries to serve as riders on camels during races. It was a sport suited for adult riders but dangerous for the often terrified youngsters who were forced to ride atop galloping camels.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was singed to this effect between Bangladesh and the UAE governments on April 25, according to an official statement distributed in the capital, Dhaka on Saturday.

Bangladesh Home Secretary Abdul Karim and the Home Secretary of UAE signed the MoU on behalf of their respective sides.

Under the MoU, Bangladeshi children who were used as camel jockeys and who were injured from Jan. 1, 1993 to the subsequent period will be compensated $1,000 each.

The amount of compensation may be extended up to $5,000 for the injured children used as camel jockeys, the statement adds.

A total of 200 such children have already returned to Bangladesh and the UAE government provided around $1,500 to each of them for their rehabilitation.

UAE Government To Compensate Bangladesh’s Children Used As Camel Jockeys

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:33 am

Dhaka, Bangladesh – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has decided to compensate the Bangladeshi children used as camel jockeys in their country. The children, some as young as 4-years-old were taken from Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries to serve as riders on camels during races. It was a sport suited for adult riders but dangerous for the often terrified youngsters who were forced to ride atop galloping camels.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was singed to this effect between Bangladesh and the UAE governments on April 25, according to an official statement distributed in the capital, Dhaka on Saturday.

Bangladesh Home Secretary Abdul Karim and the Home Secretary of UAE signed the MoU on behalf of their respective sides.

Under the MoU, Bangladeshi children who were used as camel jockeys and who were injured from Jan. 1, 1993 to the subsequent period will be compensated $1,000 each.

The amount of compensation may be extended up to $5,000 for the injured children used as camel jockeys, the statement adds.

A total of 200 such children have already returned to Bangladesh and the UAE government provided around $1,500 to each of them for their rehabilitation.

Nicaragua Gets to Roots of Hunger

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 6:27 am

Managuam — The Zero Hunger program, whose aim is to benefit about 75,000 rural families in five years, starts Saturday in a distant northern community of Nicaragua.

President Daniel Ortega is expected to go to Raiti, on the banks of Coco River near the border with Honduras, to open the Sandinista government project.

According to promoters, this is an integral program for families to produce their own food.

It envisages the delivery of a productive food bonus of $2,000, which includes a pregnant cow and sow, species of fowl, seeds, fruit trees, agricultural and other supplies.

The aim is that the family is capable of producing milk, meat, eggs, grains and other

5/5/2007

UK arms sales to Sri Lanka match tsunami aid

Filed under: global islands,sri lanka — admin @ 7:56 am

Britain licensed £7 million worth of weapons and military equipment for export to Sri Lanka this year alone, it was revealed during a debate in Parliament Wednesday. The sum matches the amount of British aid provided in the wake of December 2004 tsunami. On Thursday the UK government said it was holding back half its £3 million annual aid allocation for this year citing British concerns over human rights in Sri Lanka.

Heavy Rains Kill 15 In Sri Lanka

Filed under: global islands,sri lanka — admin @ 7:29 am

Colombo, Sri Lanka – A total of 15 people were killed over the last two days due to heavy rains in the island nation of Sri Lanka. Inconsistent rains lashed the capital Colombo and two provinces causing flooding and landslides in some areas.

Ten people were killed on Friday and five others on Thursday, the officials confirmed. Of the 15 people killed, four are from the capital Colombo and 11 from Southern Province and other parts of Western Province.

According to reports, nonstop torrential rains on Friday morning lashed Western and Southern Sri Lanka, and at least 6,400 people are believed to have been left homeless so far. Officials can offer little relief, and experts say the rains will continue.

Drowning and electrocuting due to power lines being brought down by heavy rains and gutsy winds caused most of the deaths, the officials note.

Meanwhile, the government took special measures to help the displaced through district-government agents and the village officials locally known as Grama Sevaka Niladharis.

5/4/2007

Why Nicaragua's Caged Bird Sings

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 5:43 am

In most democracies, Arnoldo Alemán wouldn’t seem like a viable presidential candidate. In fact, the former president of Nicaragua might not even pass the basic sniff test. Past scandals? Yes, Alemán has a few. In fact, he’s currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for embezzling and laundering some $100 million from the coffers of the second poorest nation in the hemisphere. Transparency International awarded him the dubious distinction of including him in its list of the World’s Ten Most Corrupt leaders of all time. (To his credit, he only ranked ninth, ahead of former Philippine President Joseph Estrada, who stole a paltry $80 million.).
Popularity? Not really; Alemán consistently polls as the least popular public figure in Nicaragua.
Clean bill of health? Not exactly. At 61, Alemán is obese and reportedly in frail health, suffering from ten different chronic illnesses.
But none of that seems to deter Alemán’s revived presidential ambitions, nor does he appear too concerned about the legal provision that prevents prison inmates from running for office. Instead, Alemán is out on the road campaigning in old form, with more optimism than Orphan Annie, more money than Daddy Warbucks, more jolliness than Santa Clause and a political charisma that — pound for pound — rivals Bill Clinton. And in Nicaragua, that combination trumps reality.
To see Alemán out on the campaign trail, kissing old women on the forehead, mussing the hair of young boys, giving thunderous speeches and blowing his signature two-handed kiss with a Cheshire Cat smile, it’s easy to forget that he is, technically, still a prisoner. Alemán, too, has a hard time remembering.
“I have never felt like a prisoner and I never will,” Alemán bellowed during a recent campaign stop in Granada.
Alemán’s self-confidence is stroked by a posse of yes-men who refer to him as their “maximum leader,” but his insurance is rooted in a secretive power-sharing pact he forged in 2001 with the nation’s leading powerbroker, President Daniel Ortega, in which the leaders agreed to divvy up power in state institutions.
In March, Alemán’s already loose conditions of house arrest were further relaxed to allow him the freedom to travel the country. And now that President Ortega needs opposition support for his government’s agenda, Alemán, who controls the second biggest legislative bloc in the National Assembly, is cashing in a few more chips. On April 19, Sandinista and Liberal lawmakers combined to pass a law reducing the prison term for money laundering to five years, which Alemán conveniently will complete next December.
Oh yeah, and the law is retroactive, meaning Alemán could now finish his soft sentence 15 years ahead of schedule and run for President in 2011. Free at Last! Free at Last!
But the hawkish Alemán, who speaks wistfully of the repressive days of the Somoza dictatorship (which Ortega overthrew as leader of the Sandinista insurgents), was never a typical prisoner. He has spent more of his jail sentence in a hospital bed recovering from a minor finger surgery (three months to be exact) than he spent behind bars. And now that full freedom appears to be just around the corner, he has valiantly cast aside concerns for his own health for the good of his party’s.
“Seeing the landscape of my country is better than any aspirin or pills,” Alemán said. “Seeing the clear eyes and holding the calloused hands of the hardworking farmers is what gives me health. So why do I need medicine?” (A calloused handshake is not exactly a typical treatment for diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.)
Alemán, despite his millions, comes from a humble background. And he has nothing but disdain for the right-wing reform efforts of Liberal dissident Eduardo Montealegre, a Harvard-educated, U.S.-backed former banker who he refers to as “the rat.”
“When you let the cat loose it eats the rats, and this cat is going to travel all over the country,” Alemán said. Ortega must be silently nodding in approval as he watches his opposition claw at each other — the same situation that helped him into the presidency last year.
But, Alemán warns Ortega, once he disposes of Montealegre he will be setting his sights on the presidency, which could lead to a rematch of the 1996 election when Alemán beat Ortega. “Don’t get too happy in power. There’s no debt that goes unpaid and no soup that doesn’t get cold. We will return to power!”

Why Nicaragua’s Caged Bird Sings

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 5:43 am

In most democracies, Arnoldo Alemán wouldn’t seem like a viable presidential candidate. In fact, the former president of Nicaragua might not even pass the basic sniff test. Past scandals? Yes, Alemán has a few. In fact, he’s currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for embezzling and laundering some $100 million from the coffers of the second poorest nation in the hemisphere. Transparency International awarded him the dubious distinction of including him in its list of the World’s Ten Most Corrupt leaders of all time. (To his credit, he only ranked ninth, ahead of former Philippine President Joseph Estrada, who stole a paltry $80 million.).
Popularity? Not really; Alemán consistently polls as the least popular public figure in Nicaragua.
Clean bill of health? Not exactly. At 61, Alemán is obese and reportedly in frail health, suffering from ten different chronic illnesses.
But none of that seems to deter Alemán’s revived presidential ambitions, nor does he appear too concerned about the legal provision that prevents prison inmates from running for office. Instead, Alemán is out on the road campaigning in old form, with more optimism than Orphan Annie, more money than Daddy Warbucks, more jolliness than Santa Clause and a political charisma that — pound for pound — rivals Bill Clinton. And in Nicaragua, that combination trumps reality.
To see Alemán out on the campaign trail, kissing old women on the forehead, mussing the hair of young boys, giving thunderous speeches and blowing his signature two-handed kiss with a Cheshire Cat smile, it’s easy to forget that he is, technically, still a prisoner. Alemán, too, has a hard time remembering.
“I have never felt like a prisoner and I never will,” Alemán bellowed during a recent campaign stop in Granada.
Alemán’s self-confidence is stroked by a posse of yes-men who refer to him as their “maximum leader,” but his insurance is rooted in a secretive power-sharing pact he forged in 2001 with the nation’s leading powerbroker, President Daniel Ortega, in which the leaders agreed to divvy up power in state institutions.
In March, Alemán’s already loose conditions of house arrest were further relaxed to allow him the freedom to travel the country. And now that President Ortega needs opposition support for his government’s agenda, Alemán, who controls the second biggest legislative bloc in the National Assembly, is cashing in a few more chips. On April 19, Sandinista and Liberal lawmakers combined to pass a law reducing the prison term for money laundering to five years, which Alemán conveniently will complete next December.
Oh yeah, and the law is retroactive, meaning Alemán could now finish his soft sentence 15 years ahead of schedule and run for President in 2011. Free at Last! Free at Last!
But the hawkish Alemán, who speaks wistfully of the repressive days of the Somoza dictatorship (which Ortega overthrew as leader of the Sandinista insurgents), was never a typical prisoner. He has spent more of his jail sentence in a hospital bed recovering from a minor finger surgery (three months to be exact) than he spent behind bars. And now that full freedom appears to be just around the corner, he has valiantly cast aside concerns for his own health for the good of his party’s.
“Seeing the landscape of my country is better than any aspirin or pills,” Alemán said. “Seeing the clear eyes and holding the calloused hands of the hardworking farmers is what gives me health. So why do I need medicine?” (A calloused handshake is not exactly a typical treatment for diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.)
Alemán, despite his millions, comes from a humble background. And he has nothing but disdain for the right-wing reform efforts of Liberal dissident Eduardo Montealegre, a Harvard-educated, U.S.-backed former banker who he refers to as “the rat.”
“When you let the cat loose it eats the rats, and this cat is going to travel all over the country,” Alemán said. Ortega must be silently nodding in approval as he watches his opposition claw at each other — the same situation that helped him into the presidency last year.
But, Alemán warns Ortega, once he disposes of Montealegre he will be setting his sights on the presidency, which could lead to a rematch of the 1996 election when Alemán beat Ortega. “Don’t get too happy in power. There’s no debt that goes unpaid and no soup that doesn’t get cold. We will return to power!”

5/3/2007

More than 100 journalists killed worldwide in 2006

Filed under: General,global islands — admin @ 6:50 am

More than 100 members of the media were killed worldwide in 2006, making it the bloodiest year on record for journalism, the head of the United Nations cultural organization said Wednesday. In a statement ahead of World Press Freedom Day May 3, UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura called on the world to ‘commemorate media professionals who have lost their lives and honour those who bring us information despite danger and risk.’

5/2/2007

Bombs hit three Bangladesh stations

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:52 am

Several small bombs have exploded at three railway stations in Bangladesh slightly injuring one person.
 
The bombs detonated at stations in Dhaka, the capital, in Sylhet, the country’s northern city and in Chittagong, the southeastern port, at about 7.30am local time (0130 GMT) on Tuesday.

Officials found metal plates, signed by “Zadid [new] al-Qaeda,” at two of the stations.
 
“The bombs were kept in cotton sacks, along with the metal sheets. They exploded before anyone detected them,” Abu Zafar Alam, a police inspector at Kamalapur, Bangladesh’s largest railway terminal, said.

The only person injuried was a rickshaw-puller who tried to open one of the sacks, causing it to explode.
 
Motive unclear
 
The metal plates referred to an attack on the minority Ahmadiyas – a Muslim sect frequently targeted by radical groups within the majority Sunni Muslim community.
 
Ahmadiyas differ from mainstream Islam by not believing that Mohammad was the last prophet.
 
The messages also issued threats against Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Bangladesh.
 
“If Hazrat [Prophet] Mohammad is not declared the superman of the world by May 10, all non-governmental organisations will be blown up,” the slogans on the metal sheets read in the Bengali language.
 
Police did not immediately confirm who were behind the blasts and no arrests have been made.
 
“We are investigating whether it is a new group [responsible for the bomb attacks],” said Nur Mohammed, national police chief.

Police said security across the country had been tightened after the bomb blasts.
 
In August 2005, three people were killed in a series of bomb blasts in towns and cities across Bangladesh organised by Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a banned group seeking the imposition of strict Islamic law.
 
Further bomb attacks by Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, another banned group, were staged through the rest of 2005, killing at least 30 people.
 
Six leaders from the two organisations were hanged in March after being convicted of the murder of two judges who died in the bomb attacks.
 
A state of emergency in Bangladesh has been in effect since January, when political violence forced the army-backed interim government to suspend a national election.

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