brad brace

9/30/2008

Coastguard rescues 229 Africans off Canary Islands

Filed under: canary islands,global islands,intra-national — admin @ 5:38 pm

Coastguards have rescued 229 Africans trying to reach the Canary Islands by boat, the biggest group intercepted in a single vessel off the Spanish archipelago, a government official said Tuesday.

Coastguards found the 30-metre (100-foot) fishing boat late Monday about 100 km (60 miles) south of Gran Canaria and took the would-be immigrants to the port of Los Cristianos in Tenerife, arriving just after midnight.

All the Africans were male, including at least 20 children, a spokeswoman for Spain’s emergency services said.

“Such a large fishing boat could not have set off from the shore directly into the sea,” Juan Antonio Corujo of the Spanish Red Cross told national radio.

“This boat must have been loaded from a pier or probably smaller boats took people to the boat once it was at sea.”

The Red Cross treated the boat’s occupants in Tenerife and five were taken to health centres for treatment for dehydration and hypothermia.

Tuesday, a second boat carrying almost 100 people washed up on the beach of Pozo Izquierdo on Gran Canaria, where residents, emergency services and the Red Cross gave assistance to the occupants.

Dozens of Africans have died in the past few months trying to take advantage of calmer summer weather to make the journey to the Canary Islands and the Spanish mainland to find jobs in Europe.

Tens of thousands have reached Spanish shores in recent years, prompting Spain’s Socialist government to toughen its line on illegal immigration.

Thousands more are believed to have drowned or died of thirst or exposure in the attempt.

According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, between January and August the number of illegal immigrants reaching the Spanish coast by boat fell 8 percent compared with a year earlier and was down 64 percent on 2006.

•••

After the 229 arrivals in Tenerife on Monday on what the media is now calling a ‘supercayuco’ boat, yesterday saw the arrival of another 100 immigrants. This time they are all Moroccan males and in good health. They arrived at the port of Pozo Izquierdo in Santa Lucía de Tirajana, on Gran Canaria yesterday afternoon and now face identification and repatriation.

The leader of the Red Cross rescue groups on the Canaries, Juan Antonio Corujo, said that they had never seen so many immigrants packed onto one boat as the 229 which arrived on Monday. The so-called super-Cayuco boat was 30 metres long.

Murder Capitals of the World

Filed under: General,png,rampage,usa — admin @ 5:20 am

Caracas, Venezuela
Population: 3.2 million
Murder rate: 130 per 100,000 residents (official)
What’s happening: The capital of Chávez country, Caracas has become far more dangerous in recent years than any South American city, even beating out the once notorious Bogotá. What’s worse, the city’s official homicide statistics likely fall short of the mark because they omit prison-related murders as well as deaths that the state never gets around to properly “categorizing.” The numbers also don’t count those who died while “resisting arrest,” suggesting that Caracas’s cops—already known for their brutality against student protesters—might be cooking the books. Many have pointed the finger at El Presidente, whose government has failed to tackle the country’s rising rates of violent crime. In fact, since Chávez took over in 1998, Venezuela’s official homicide rate has climbed 67 percent—mostly due to increased drug and gang violence. Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, who recently resigned as interior minister, claimed in July that homicide has dropped 27 percent since January—but experts say he’s just playing with numbers. As for Caracas, some speculate that its murder rate is closer to 160 per 100,000.

Cape Town, South Africa
Population: 3.5 million
Murder rate: 62 per 100,000 inhabitants
What’s happening: A European bastion in the heart of turbulent South Africa, picturesque Cape Town nonetheless has the country’s highest murder rate. The city’s homicides usually take place in suburban townships rather than in the more upscale urban areas where tourists visit. According to the South African Police Service, most of the Cape Town area’s violent crimes happen between people who know one another, including a horrific case last year in which four males doused a female friend in gasoline and lit her on fire. Occurring just outside city limits, the incident apparently happened after the assailants had taken hard drugs, the use of which has risen along with Cape Town’s violent crime rate. The whopping 12.7 percent rise in the city’s murder rate from 2006 to 2007 certainly has local politicians worried, especially as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup. The government has hired more police officers to prepare for the tournament, which could help cut crime in soccer-fan hot spots. But until better efforts are made to police Cape Town’s poverty-stricken townships, it’s unlikely that the murder rate—an average of 5.9 per day—will see any major drop.

New Orleans, United States
Population: 220,614 to 312,000 (2007); estimates vary due to displacement of people after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Murder rate: Estimates range from 67 (New Orleans Police Department) to 95 (Federal Bureau of Investigation) per 100,000
What’s happening: With its grinding poverty, an inadequate school system, a prevalence of public housing, and a high incarceration rate, the Big Easy has long been plagued with a high rate of violent crime. Katrina didn’t help. Since the hurricane struck in 2005, drug dealers have been fighting over a smaller group of users, leading to many killings. On just one four-block stretch of Josephine Street, in the city center, four people were murdered in 2007 and 15 people shot, including a double homicide on Christmas day. A precise murder rate is hard to pinpoint because the population is swelling quickly, approaching its pre-Katrina numbers. Whether you use New Orleans’s own figures or the FBI’s, however, the city remains the most deadly in the United States, easily surpassing Detroit and Baltimore with 46 and 45 murders per 100,000 people, respectively.

Moscow, Russia
Population: 10.4 million
Murder rate: 9.6 per 100,000 (estimate)
What’s happening: Moscow’s murder rate is nothing compared with that of Caracas or Cape Town, but the city still ranks way above other major European capitals. London, Paris, Rome, and Madrid, for instance, all had rates below 2 murders per 100,000 in 2006. The Russian capital’s homicide rate is down 15 percent this year from last, but the recent surge in hate crimes—including the deadly beating of a Tajik carpenter by a gang of youths on Valentine’s Day—suggests that the lull might be temporary. Sixty ethnically motivated killings have already happened this year, part of a sixfold increase in hate crimes committed in the city during 2007. Several of the murders have been attributed to ultranationalist skinhead groups like the “Spas,” who killed 11 people in a 2006 bombing of a multiethnic market in northern Moscow. The Russian government has finally stepped up to combat the problem, assisting migrant groups and cracking down on street gangs. Still, the continued rise in extremist attacks is worrisome. And along with migrants, journalists and other high-profile people in Moscow might also want to be a little wary in Russia—62 contract murders took place in the country in 2005, according to official statistics.

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Population: 254,200 (2000 census)
Murder rate: 54 per 100,000 (2004 official figure)
What’s happening: The capital of island country Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby might seem like a surprising addition to this list. But its high violent crime rates, along with high levels of police corruption and gang activity, helped earn the city the dubious title of “worst city” in a 2004 Economist Intelligence Unit survey. With gangs called “raskols” controlling the city centers and unemployment rates hovering around 80 percent, it’s easy to see how Port Moresby beat out the 130 other survey contenders. Port Moresby’s police don’t seem to be helping the crime situation—last November, five officers were charged with offenses ranging from murder to rape. And in August, the city’s police barracks were put on a three-month curfew due to a recent slew of bank heists reportedly planned inside the stations by officers and their co-conspirators. Rising tensions between Chinese migrants and native Papua New Guineans are also cause for alarm, as are reports of increased activity of organized Chinese crime syndicates.

NZ official: Melanesian states still suffering

Corruption, disease and poverty threaten the futures of Melanesian countries that are home to 85 percent of Pacific Islands people, a top New Zealand official said Tuesday.

The populations of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are rising at a pace that is outstripping economic growth, Pacific Island Affairs Minister Winnie Laban said at the opening of a symposium on Melanesia in the New Zealand capital, Wellington.

The countries also suffer from youth unemployment, law-and-order “problems,” and adverse effects of global warming, Laban said. All these conditions together represent a “toxic mix” undermining growth and stability in these countries, she said.

“In combination, these factors pose clear and present danger to the ability of states in the region to provide for their people and ensure national viability,” Laban said at the event, sponsored by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation.

HIV, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are a brake on the region’s potential, while education trends are also troubling, she said.

Four years of communal fighting in the Solomon Islands have left education services “in tatters,” with only 70 percent of children able to access limited education, Laban said.

“To be blunt, corruption seems endemic and undermines governance at almost every turn,” she said.

Melanesian countries play a major role in the Pacific tuna fishery, currently worth around US$3 billion a year. But overfishing of a number of tuna species means reductions in catches are urgently required to preserve the industry’s sustainability, she said.

Laban praised Melanesian countries New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands for maintaining a unified front in pressuring Fiji’s military government to honor its pledge to hold elections by March 2009.

Melanesian leaders last month joined other Pacific Islands’ Forum states in expressing disappointment at Fiji’s delays in restoring a democratic government.

NZ official: Melanesian states still suffering

Corruption, disease and poverty threaten the futures of Melanesian countries that are home to 85 percent of Pacific Islands people, a top New Zealand official said Tuesday.

The populations of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are rising at a pace that is outstripping economic growth, Pacific Island Affairs Minister Winnie Laban said at the opening of a symposium on Melanesia in the New Zealand capital, Wellington.

The countries also suffer from youth unemployment, law-and-order “problems,” and adverse effects of global warming, Laban said. All these conditions together represent a “toxic mix” undermining growth and stability in these countries, she said.

“In combination, these factors pose clear and present danger to the ability of states in the region to provide for their people and ensure national viability,” Laban said at the event, sponsored by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation.

HIV, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are a brake on the region’s potential, while education trends are also troubling, she said.

Four years of communal fighting in the Solomon Islands have left education services “in tatters,” with only 70 percent of children able to access limited education, Laban said.

“To be blunt, corruption seems endemic and undermines governance at almost every turn,” she said.

Melanesian countries play a major role in the Pacific tuna fishery, currently worth around US$3 billion a year. But overfishing of a number of tuna species means reductions in catches are urgently required to preserve the industry’s sustainability, she said.

Laban praised Melanesian countries New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands for maintaining a unified front in pressuring Fiji’s military government to honor its pledge to hold elections by March 2009.

Melanesian leaders last month joined other Pacific Islands’ Forum states in expressing disappointment at Fiji’s delays in restoring a democratic government.

9/29/2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:03 pm

Small Island States and Global Challenges

Filed under: cuba,global islands,png,resource,solomon islands,tuvalu,vanuatu — admin @ 4:32 pm

In the era of neoliberal globalization, the large centers of World power, headed by the United States and Europe, often forget the needs and problems of the small island states, whose physical existence is threatened by phenomenons for which they are not responsible.

These small and vulnerable islands, from the Caribbean or South Pacific for example, are seriously threatened by global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, and problems of development, scarce energy resources or food crises.

It is no secret that these groups of States suffer from geographic isolation, communications and transportation problems.

Even between themselves they are separated by thousands of kilometers, making contacts difficult.

But without a doubt, the main challenge for these small territories are climate changes, as they are more susceptible to suffering the consequences derived from global warming, among them the alarming rise of sea level.

Archipelagos like Kiribati and Tuvalu run the risk of disappearing in the near future if the pace of the rise of sea level continues.

Cuba is also not exempt from these dangers, like the recent devastation inflicted by two hurricanes.

This is why it is necessary for an exchange of information and cooperation among the group of small nations to help each other in facing the challenges of nature and the environment.

On the other hand, Cuba, lacking financial resources and economically blockaded by the US government, has international recognition for its vocation to internationalism and solidarity not to contribute leftovers, but shares what it has, mainly its well prepared human capital encouraged throughout the last 50 years.

An example of these fraternal ties is the creation of a School of Medicine in the western province of Pinar del Rio for the training of 400 students from the South Pacific, of which 64 have already enrolled (25 from the Solomon Islands, 20 from Kiribati, 2 from Nauru and 17 from Vanuatu).

Also, Cuban medical brigades are offering their services in Kiribati, the Solomon and Vanuatu Islands, through the General Health Program, while details are being ironed out for the implementation of health cooperation with Tuvalu, Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

An exemplary cooperation, which is a clear revelation, without conditions and on an equal basis.

Drinking at the Public Fountain

Filed under: corporate-greed,government,resource,usa — admin @ 3:43 am

The New Corporate Threat to Our Water Supplies
http://waterconsciousness.com/

In the last few years, the world’s largest financial institutions and pension funds, from Goldman Sachs to Australia’s Macquarie Bank, have figured out that old, trustworthy utilities and infrastructure could become reliable cash cows — supporting the financial system’s speculative junk derivatives with the real concrete of highways, water utilities, airports, harbors, and transit systems.

The spiraling collapse of the financial system may only intensify the quest for private investments in what is now the public sector. This flipping of public assets could be the next big phase of privatization, and it could happen even under an Obama administration, as local and state governments, starved during Bush’s two terms in office, look to bail out on public assets, employees, and responsibilities. The Republican record of neglect of basic infrastructure reads like a police blotter: levees in New Orleans, a major bridge in Minneapolis, a collapsing power grid, bursting water mains, and outdated sewage treatment plants.

Billions in private assets are now parked in “infrastructure funds” waiting for the crisis to mature and the right public assets to buy on the cheap. The first harbingers of a potential fire sale are already on the horizon. The City of Chicago has leased its major highway and Indiana its toll road. Private companies are managing major ports and bidding for control of local water systems across the country. Government jobs are also up for sale. For the first time in American history, the federal government employs more contract workers than regular employees.

This radical shift to the private sector could become one of history’s largest transfers of ownership, control, and wealth from the public trust to the private till. But more is at stake. The concept of democracy itself is being challenged by multinational corporations that see Americans not as citizens, but as customers, and government not as something of, by, and for the people, but as a market to be entered for profit.

How the Water Revolt Began

And a huge market it is. About 85% of Americans receive their water from public utility departments, making water infrastructure, worth trillions of dollars, a prime target for privatization. To drive their agenda, water industry lobbyists have consistently opposed federal aid for public water agencies, hoping that federal cutbacks would drive market expansion. So far, the strategy has worked. In 1978, just before the Reagan-era starvation diet began, federal funding covered 78% of the cost for new water infrastructure. By 2007, it covered just 3%.

As a result, local and state governments are desperately trying to figure out how to make up the difference without politically unpopular rate increases. A growing number of mayors and governors, Republicans and Democrats, are turning to the industry’s designated solution: privatization.

Providing clean, accessible, affordable water is not only the most basic of all government services, but throughout history, control of water has defined the power structure of societies. If we lose control of our water, what do we, as citizens, really control?

The danger is that most citizens don’t even know there’s a problem. Water systems are generally underground and out of sight. Most of us don’t think about our water until the tap runs dry or we flush and it doesn’t go away. That indifference could cost us dearly, but privatization is not yet destiny.

A citizens’ water revolt has been slowly spreading across the United States. The revolt is not made up of “the usual suspects,” has no focused ideology, and isn’t the stuff of headlines. It often starts as a “not-in-my-backyard” movement but quickly expands to encompass issues of global economic justice.

9/28/2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 1:15 pm

When land came up from the sea

Filed under: azores,global islands — admin @ 12:29 pm

It was not a way of life native-born Americans would recognize, though it is remembered by a number of people who lived in the Azores Islands in the days before the Internet, before television, in the days when there were not even that many radios in the village of Capelo, a farming and whaling community on the Azorean island of Faial.

The residents of Faial did many of the things we do. They worked in stores or for the government, but a number of them did things not too many in Massachusetts do. They kept cattle, driving them to market on foot.

They hunted whales, too, from open boats, the harpooner standing in the bow, ready to plunge his lance into the huge beast. In earlier times, sure-handed and sharp-eyed Faialense men found their way to New Bedford, where their harpoon skills were welcome. Faial is a small island, 107 square miles, but not unlovely. The Portuguese poet Raul Brandao called it Ilha Azul, the “blue island,” because of the hydrangeas that cover the island in the summer.

On Sept. 27, 1957, life on Faial changed in an eruption that would scatter Faial’s people across the globe. On that day an undersea volcano erupted, sending ash hundreds of feet into the sky, burying and collapsing houses in the village of Capelo and ruining farmland. The eruption lasted a year, from September 27, 1957 until October 24, 1958.

Volcanic activity was nothing new to the islanders. The Azores are a volcanic chain of islands. There are places in the islands where people lower clay pots full of food into cracks in the earth, where the food will be cooked by the escaping steam. There is an inactive volcano on Faial, its crater filled with water. There is a volcano on the Azorean island of Pico.

Miraculously, no one died in the 1957 eruption, even as the volcano rose from the sea, creating new land and obliterating the island’s port, forcing whalers to seek other work. The United States, already home to Portuguese Americans, stepped in with the 1958 Azorean Refugee Act. That law made more visas available for Azoreans. In the 20 years between 1960 and 1980, 175,000 Azoreans — a third of the islands’ population — left their islands for America. They flooded into Southeastern Massachusetts, taking factory work. They bought dairy farms in California, another destination for Azoreans.

Today, 50 years after land came up from the sea, the far-flung sons and daughters of Faial remember.

The World's 10 Most Wanted White-Collar Fugitives

Filed under: corporate-greed,usa — admin @ 8:32 am

It didn’t take long for the feds to get their hands on Samuel Israel III after he faked his death on the Bear Mountain Bridge just north of New York City. Israel, a former hedge fund manager sentenced to 20 years in prison for defrauding $400 million from investors, just walked into a Southwick, Mass., police station in July after a month on the run. Other white-collar thieves have proved much harder to catch.

White-collar crime is serious business, and some fraudsters are able to elude facing the consequences of their actions. Commodities trader Marc Rich fled the U.S. for Switzerland in the 1980s to avoid tax evasion charges and an allegation of illegally doing business with Iran. He will never be brought to justice after securing a pardon from President Bill Clinton.

Robert Vesco bounced around Latin America for more than 30 years, managing to evade, among other things, U.S. securities charges for stealing $200 million. He did get imprisoned in Cuba in 1996 and is believed to have died there last year.

Now a new breed of financial fugitives is on the run, epitomized by Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the stock scammer who is currently living well in Namibia. Many white-collar fugitives, like Russian Boris Berezovsky, are controversial because the charges against them are believed by some to be driven more by politics than anything else. Either way, financial fugitives can live free and prosper if they are smart, like Ghaith Pharaon, the wealthy Saudi wanted by the FBI for 17 years.

“These individuals show high intelligence and tend to put together very complex schemes,” says Sharon Ormsby, the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ financial crimes section chief. “They understand international markets–some have multiple passports–and are familiar with the laws.”

Pharaon was indicted for fraud charges by the U.S. government in 1991 for his alleged role in the mammoth collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. A large shareholder of BCCI, Pharaon was accused of being a frontman for unlawful purchases of American banks. The Federal Reserve fined Pharaon $37 million for his role in secretly taking over banks, and the Harvard University graduate lost his legal challenge of that fine.

Still, Pharaon has had little trouble operating his business empire, which includes a luxury resort hotel in Jordan and the Attock Group, made up of refinery and cement companies in Pakistan. Attock Refinery was even able to snag an $80 million contract from the U.S. government, ABC News reported in June.

The members of our list of white-collar fugitives have followed different paths. Chinese financial fugitives have made a bee-line for Canada, taking advantage of liberal entry rules and refugee laws. Lai Changxing is wanted in China for allegedly masterminding a $6 billion fraud, while Chinese banker Gao Shan is on the hook for allegedly embezzling $150 million. Both men are living relatively unencumbered lives in the Vancouver area.

London also seems to be a destination of choice; it’s currently home to Berezovsky and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who recently fled to avoid accusations of financial crimes back home. American telemarketing scammer James Eberhart is just sailing round the world in his boat.

Forbes.com consulted with law enforcement agencies to identify the top 10 most wanted white-collar fugitives, who are listed in no significant order.

Distinguishing white-collar criminals from organized criminals remains challenging 69 years after sociologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term “white-collar crime.” But we tried to stick to Sutherland’s definition of “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” All of the Forbes.com top 10 white-collar fugitives are criminally indicted, convicted or have arrest warrants outstanding–and are wanted by a national government.

http://www.forbes.com/2008/08/27/legal-crime-fbi-biz-cz_nv_0827fugitives_slide_2.html?thisspeed=25000

The World’s 10 Most Wanted White-Collar Fugitives

Filed under: corporate-greed,usa — admin @ 8:32 am

It didn’t take long for the feds to get their hands on Samuel Israel III after he faked his death on the Bear Mountain Bridge just north of New York City. Israel, a former hedge fund manager sentenced to 20 years in prison for defrauding $400 million from investors, just walked into a Southwick, Mass., police station in July after a month on the run. Other white-collar thieves have proved much harder to catch.

White-collar crime is serious business, and some fraudsters are able to elude facing the consequences of their actions. Commodities trader Marc Rich fled the U.S. for Switzerland in the 1980s to avoid tax evasion charges and an allegation of illegally doing business with Iran. He will never be brought to justice after securing a pardon from President Bill Clinton.

Robert Vesco bounced around Latin America for more than 30 years, managing to evade, among other things, U.S. securities charges for stealing $200 million. He did get imprisoned in Cuba in 1996 and is believed to have died there last year.

Now a new breed of financial fugitives is on the run, epitomized by Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the stock scammer who is currently living well in Namibia. Many white-collar fugitives, like Russian Boris Berezovsky, are controversial because the charges against them are believed by some to be driven more by politics than anything else. Either way, financial fugitives can live free and prosper if they are smart, like Ghaith Pharaon, the wealthy Saudi wanted by the FBI for 17 years.

“These individuals show high intelligence and tend to put together very complex schemes,” says Sharon Ormsby, the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ financial crimes section chief. “They understand international markets–some have multiple passports–and are familiar with the laws.”

Pharaon was indicted for fraud charges by the U.S. government in 1991 for his alleged role in the mammoth collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. A large shareholder of BCCI, Pharaon was accused of being a frontman for unlawful purchases of American banks. The Federal Reserve fined Pharaon $37 million for his role in secretly taking over banks, and the Harvard University graduate lost his legal challenge of that fine.

Still, Pharaon has had little trouble operating his business empire, which includes a luxury resort hotel in Jordan and the Attock Group, made up of refinery and cement companies in Pakistan. Attock Refinery was even able to snag an $80 million contract from the U.S. government, ABC News reported in June.

The members of our list of white-collar fugitives have followed different paths. Chinese financial fugitives have made a bee-line for Canada, taking advantage of liberal entry rules and refugee laws. Lai Changxing is wanted in China for allegedly masterminding a $6 billion fraud, while Chinese banker Gao Shan is on the hook for allegedly embezzling $150 million. Both men are living relatively unencumbered lives in the Vancouver area.

London also seems to be a destination of choice; it’s currently home to Berezovsky and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who recently fled to avoid accusations of financial crimes back home. American telemarketing scammer James Eberhart is just sailing round the world in his boat.

Forbes.com consulted with law enforcement agencies to identify the top 10 most wanted white-collar fugitives, who are listed in no significant order.

Distinguishing white-collar criminals from organized criminals remains challenging 69 years after sociologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term “white-collar crime.” But we tried to stick to Sutherland’s definition of “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” All of the Forbes.com top 10 white-collar fugitives are criminally indicted, convicted or have arrest warrants outstanding–and are wanted by a national government.

http://www.forbes.com/2008/08/27/legal-crime-fbi-biz-cz_nv_0827fugitives_slide_2.html?thisspeed=25000

Throwing acid to settle scores on the rise in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh — admin @ 6:15 am

Nasima, 35, received serious burn injuries earlier this month as men threw acid on her after she refused to withdraw a court case against those who had allegedly raped her 11-year mentally challenged daughter. ‘What is more brutal for a mother than to receive acid burns instead of justice?’ asks the doctor treating her.

The incidence of men throwing acid on women due to a dispute, rejection of a marriage proposal or being jilted in love is again on the rise in Bangladesh, after a brief lull.

The Burns Unit of the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) received 13 cases this month while 35 cases were received between June and September. The number was eight during the same four months last year.

The burns unit never got this many patients in such a short span, The Daily Star said after speaking to the hospital authorities and the NGOs dealing with this problem that has hit headlines here.

It has also caused concern at home and abroad, especially among women’s organisations.

According to an Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) report, there were 116 acid-throwing cases from January through August in 2007. The number stood at 125 in the corresponding period this year.

The report highlighted the case of Nasima, 35, who received serious burn injuries earlier this month after she refused to withdraw a court case against men who raped her 11-year mentally challenged daughter two years ago.

‘Aziz and his associates, who raped my 11-year-old daughter, threw acid on me because I did not agree to withdraw the rape case on their orders,’ she said from her bed at the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit of Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH).

‘What is more brutal for a mother than to receive acid burns instead of justice?’ asked Samantalal Sen, project director of the burns unit.

Most of the current patients at the burns unit are victims of social violence stemming from disputes over property, failure to pay dowry or refusal of love or marriage proposals.

The incidence of acid violence went down after the enactment of the Acid Crime Control Act and Acid Control Act of 2002. But the situation began worsening again in the past two years.

‘The main reason for the increase is availability of acid,’ said Sen.

People are required to show medical prescriptions to buy narcotic like pethidine, but there is no such thing when it comes to buying acids, adding to their criminal use, he added.

According to the police headquarters, 1,428 cases were filed with acid crime control tribunals from 2002 to 2007. Only 254 people have so far been convicted in 190 of the cases.

Of them, 11 were sentenced to death and 89 got life sentences while 329 accused were acquitted.

But no government or NGO officials could say how many of the death sentences were carried out or how many of the other convicts are doing their time in jail.

‘We don’t know how many of the criminals are being punished. The cases were filed with different courts, we don’t have any nationwide figures,’ Humayun Kabir, additional inspector general (crime 3), said.

Advocate Salma Ali of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) said: ‘The poor rate of convictions gets in the way of keeping individuals from committing the heinous crime.’

‘Poor investigation on the part of police and out-of-court settlement are to blame for this,’ she said.

As the criminals are often influential people, they pile pressure on the victims’ families to withdraw cases.

At the same time, the police cannot gather evidence properly as relatives get busy with treating the victims and there is delay in filing cases, destroying vital evidence, experts said.

Parul, 36, was burnt eight years ago when her husband threw acid on her. The acid burnt her entire face, throat and neck while her ears simply melted away. She underwent several plastic and reconstructive surgeries at the DMCH.

Her mother filed a case one and a half months later. ‘My mother was busy with my treatment,’ Parul said.

The almost blind Parul now begs on the streets while her husband Abul remains at large.

‘I’ve been suffering without committing any crime. But the man who did this to me went scot-free,’ she said.

Experts say the government has got to enforce the law strictly and ensure a tough monitoring system to stop misuse of acids, and add that the law must not provide for bail.

Campaign against acid violence needs to be strengthened at the same time, they said.

9/26/2008

Pirates hijack ship off Kenya coast in a Multipolar World

Somali pirates on Thursday afternoon seized a ship carrying more than 30 military tanks in a dramatic hijacking that sent ripples in the maritime industry.

The Ukrainian vessel flying the flag of Belize was expected to dock in Mombasa Friday morning with its cargo that was believed destined to Southern Sudan according to maritime sources.

The ship was on its last two of a 10-day voyage and was hijacked between Kismayu and Mombasa, Seafarers Assistance Programme Coordinator Mr Andrew Mwangura said.

“The ship, whose design is that of a vehicle carrier, had 17 crew members and 38 military tanks on board,” he said on the phone adding: “This was to be the third ship to dock in Mombasa with military equipment from Ukraine.”

Mr Mwangura said that although the destination of the tanks was not immediately known, they were likely destined to Southern Sudan where the previous ones had been delivered.

Somali waters are considered the most dangerous in the world, with each militia group controlling their own sections of the ocean.

Ships carrying food aid to the war ravaged country have to be escorted by navy war ships, with the most recent being Canadian Navy which ends its escort mission on September 27.

News agency reports quoting Ukraine’s foreign ministry, had earlier reported that the ship was carrying T-72 tanks and had a crew of 21 on board. The captain contacted the ship’s owner by telephone and reported that armed men were boarding, shortly before losing communications.

The country has not had an effective national government for 17 years, leading to a collapse of law and order both on land and at sea.

Multipolar World

The international financial crisis has suddenly accelerated a tendency that has been manifest since the United States’ first setbacks in Iraq: American hegemony, and, one should say, Western hegemony, which seemed to settle over the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Communist system at the end of the 1980s-beginning of the 1990s, has seen its heyday.

Already since the beginning of the 21st century, Western claims to impose a Western conception of human rights and to promote democracy as the best guarantor of security and prosperity have been challenged. The so-called emerging states, notably in Asia, preach another kind of modernization. The poor countries commonly called “third world countries” during the Cold War, denounced the unkept promises of development aid. As it benefited from the economic globalization it sought to insert itself into, China, joined by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, challenged Western pretensions to fixing the rules of the game.

The United Nations General Assembly, before which Nicolas Sarkozy spoke Tuesday, September 23, emphasized the birth of this multipolar world. It’s what French diplomacy has advocated for decades. However, contrary to what was imagined, multipolarity is not presenting itself as an orderly construction based on several power centers maintaining well-codified relations among themselves.

The multipolar world that is brewing is, quite the contrary, disorganized, almost anarchic. No organizing principle seems to preside over its constitution. Russia may well attempt to find new allies in Latin America, China and Africa against the United States; their interests diverge when Russia changes borders in the Caucasus by force. Both have reasons to rejoice over the decline of the American ex-“hyperpower,” but, in fact, their dependence on the global economy makes them as much victims as beneficiaries of the international financial crisis.

Everyone, or almost everyone, demands new rules. Nonetheless, before new equilibria emerge from the present disorder, it would be wise to expect some dangerous squalls.

Secret tank deal shows poor priorities

A secret tank deal by Kenya’s Army would have gone unnoticed if Somali pirates hadn’t hijacked a Ukrainian ship ferrying the 33 tanks to the port of Mombasa.

The Russian built T-72 tank can run on three types of fuel: diesel, benzene and kerosene.

Its not clear when the Department of Defence placed an order for T-72 tanks from Russia. The Army has not explained how much it spent on the equipment, neither has it explained the role of the 33 tanks in Kenya’s security strategy.

Apart from tanks, Somali pirates found tons of ammunition and auxiliary equipment within the ship, which they have threatened to offload for use in their country’s civil war. The pirates are demanding US$35 million in ransom before they release the vessel and its cargo.

Typical of most African governments, Kenya’s leaders are spending billions of dollars on security while ordinary people die of hunger, disease and poor shelter. Kenya ranks at the bottom of international social and economic indicators.

A growing population is putting pressure on neglected infrastructure. Public hospitals lack drugs as thousands of Kenyans perish each year on a road network broken to the point of tatters. Kenyan cities are going without fresh water due to lack of investment in water production.

The capital city of Nairobi is getting less water today than it was receiving a decade ago after a colonial era dam collapsed at Sasumua. The port city of Mombasa gets water from a supply system built by the British when the town’s population was less than a third of current figures.

Lack of investment in electricity production has made Kenya’s electricity tariffs the highest in Africa. Industries suffer from constant power blackouts which have undermined economic growth, leading to massive losses and job cuts.

Agricultural production in Kenya is far below demand. The country is producing less coffee, maize, tea, wheat, millet and everything else compared to twenty years ago. Sugar milling companies in Western Kenya, stuck with 19th century technology, are creaking out low quality sugar in significantly less quantities than when Kenya was a British colony.

Amidst all these, the Kenyan government has seen it fit to invest billions of shillings in military equipment. As stated earlier, if it wasn’t for Somali pirates, majority of Kenyans would never have known that tanks were about to get imported into the country. But, lack of priority in government procurement appears to be the norm these days.

Its been announced that Kenya will spend about $23 million in the purchase of second-hand fighter jets from the Kingdom of Jordan. The F-5 fighter that the Kenyan Airforce is so fond of went out of production in 1989, meaning that the jets Kenya is buying are at least 19 years old. Kenya will also pay Jordan to train its pilots in using the junk aircraft.

Meanwhile, other branches of the security forces are on a shopping bonanza. Regular and Administration police have enhanced their recruitment drives to boost numbers. They are receiving modern equipment, weapons, 4-wheel drive trucks, uniforms and riot gear. Considering the conduct of police during the post-election violence, its obvious that this enhanced expenditure is not for the benefit of ordinary men and women.

The Kenya Police has just finished rehabilitating giant Russian-built helicopters fitted with night-vision equipment, gun detectors and communications technology. The helicopters will carry a team of quick response officers assisted by highly trained dogs.

Just this week, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights – a government body – blamed police for the execution of 500 Kikuyu youth and the disappearance of scores of others. According to survivors, the dead and the disappeared were all abducted by people identifying themselves as police officers. A man whose dramatic arrest in Nairobi was shown on the front page of the Daily Nation, was later found dead in the city mortuary.

For most Kenyans, the acquisition of helicopters, night vision equipment and vicious dogs can only portend doom as far as personal freedoms are concerned.

By purchasing bigger weapons to arm a greater number of police and soldiers, the Kenyan government is treading a path set by authorities in situations of high wealth inequality. Kenya is among the top three most unequal societies on earth.

On one hand there is an extremely wealthy minority whose standard of living can comfortably secure them a place among the world’s rich and famous. On the opposite extreme is a majority of people without access to adequate food, housing, health care and education. These are people whose future is so bleak that the only options are crime, prostitution, alcoholism and violence.

Amidst this depressing scenario, authorities seek to preserve the status quo by unleashing greater surveillance of the disadvantaged majority. The objective is to make life safer and easier for the rich minority.

The fruits of economic growth are used to buy guns instead of building roads. Public funds are used to buy tanks instead of medicines for government hospitals. In an unequal society, the government will find it better to employ soldiers and police rather than employing doctors and teachers. Instead of facilitating constructive engagement between the rich and the poor, the system is designed to keep them apart.

Such trends have happened elsewhere and Kenya is blindly going down the same path. Unfortunately, that particular path usually ends up in self-destruction, for the human spirit cannot tolerate oppression forever.

Police ‘executed suspects’

Filed under: kenya,police — admin @ 5:14 am

Secret police killings of more than 500 youths were sanctioned by the Government, a new report claims.

The murders were carried out by special execution squads and were part of the crackdown on Mungiki. They were authorised by the top “political leadership” and the police command, says the report.

But while providing graphic details on the alleged executions by police, the report offers very little evidence that the killings were sanctioned at top levels of government.

The watchdog claims to have recorded evidence from some police officers who claimed they were ordered to take part in the killings but said that part of their report cannot be released until the officers’ safety is guaranteed.

The officers were said to be seeking guarantees of safety under the Witness Protection Act. They are said to have named senior officers who gave the execution orders.

Besides shooting their victims, the police are said to have strangled, drowned, bludgeoned and mutilated some of their targets.

And the squads of ruthless killers formed to carry out the killings are still active, according to the report, by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Names of victims, the dates on which they were killed and places where their bodies were dumped are all detailed.

The watchdog also gives accounts from witnesses including details of how and where the victims were seized, the names of the police officers involved and the registration numbers of the vehicles they used.

The rights group also claims police deployed to the special murder squads took advantage of the shoot-to-kill policy to set up an extortion cartel in which families of youths arrested were forced to pay hefty amounts of money to have them freed.

Witness accounts show the rogue officers demanded between Sh10,000 and Sh1 million to free a suspect, otherwise he was killed. Kwekwe Squad, a crack unit formed last year to hunt Mungiki sect members, is accused of being at the forefront of the killings.
Months after the squad was formed, the report says, other teams, including regular and Administration Police officers were involved. But the police on Tuesday officially denied that they had anything to do with the killings. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said: “It’s impossible for police to engage in those activities. Those are not actions that may hold anybody responsible here at Kenya Police.”

The shocking new claims were revealed by KNCHR vice-chairman Hassan Omar and the watchdog’s principal human rights officer Victor Kamau. “It’s unacceptable to kill citizens in utter disregard of the rule of law. The attorney-general must rule that all these murders and extra-judicial killings are investigated and perpetrators prosecuted,” said Mr Omar.
According to the report, the last execution, allegedly by the police, was on July 7 and several other youths are reported to have disappeared as late as last month.

9/25/2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:08 am

Russia to modernize Nicaraguan military’s arsenal

Filed under: military,nicaragua — admin @ 4:25 am

Russia’s ambassador to Managua said Wednesday that his country will replace the Nicaraguan army’s aging weaponry.

Ambassador Igor S. Kondrashev said there are no plans, however, to expand the Central American country’s military arsenal.

Nicaragua acquired most of its arms and military equipment from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, when the leftist Sandinista government was fighting U.S.-backed rebels. The army has insisted it needs new helicopters and Navy ships to patrol Caribbean waters, where there is a boundary dispute with Colombia.

Kondrashev made the comments in an interview with Canal 8 TV station, but he did not say if Russia would ask for financial compensation or would simply replace the equipment as a gift to Nicaragua — which was one of the first nations to support Russia in its war against Georgia.

Kondrashev applauded President Daniel Ortega’s government for formally recognizing the independence of the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Sept. 5.

Kondrashev also did not say the plans included replacement of Nicaragua’s shoulder-fired SAM-7 missiles. The United States has been trying to negotiate destruction of those weapons to keep them from landing in terrorists’ hands.

Last year, Ortega promised to destroy more than 650 of Nicaragua’s remaining 1,051 Soviet-made missiles in exchange for hospital equipment and medicine from the United States.

Russia also has been building military ties with Ortega’s ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Kondrashev said a group of Russian experts would visit Nicaragua next month to identify other potential joint projects, including petroleum exploration in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean and the construction of roads and bridges.

Corruption Index 2008

Filed under: corporate-greed,government,wealth — admin @ 3:52 am

“Persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster”

“Against a backdrop of continued corporate scandal, wealthy countries backsliding too.”

With countries such as Somalia and Iraq among those showing the highest levels of perceived corruption, Transparency International’s (TI) 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), launched today, highlights the fatal link between poverty, failed institutions and graft. But other notable backsliders in the 2008 CPI indicate that the strength of oversight mechanisms is also at risk among the wealthiest.

“In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. “The continuing high levels of corruption and poverty plaguing many of the world’s societies amount to an ongoing humanitarian disaster and cannot be tolerated. But even in more privileged countries, with enforcement disturbingly uneven, a tougher approach to tackling corruption is needed.”

The 2008 Results

The Transparency International CPI measures the perceived levels of public-sector corruption in a given country and is a composite index, drawing on different expert and business surveys. The 2008 CPI scores 180 countries (the same number as the 2007 CPI) on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to ten (highly clean).

Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden share the highest score at 9.3, followed immediately by Singapore at 9.2. Bringing up the rear is Somalia at 1.0, slightly trailing Iraq and Myanmar at 1.3 and Haiti at 1.4.

While score changes in the Index are not rapid, statistically significant changes are evident in certain countries from the high to the low end of the CPI. Looking at source surveys included in both the 2007 and 2008 Index, significant declines can be seen in the scores of Bulgaria, Burundi, Maldives, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Similarly, statistically significant improvements over the last year can be identified in Albania, Cyprus, Georgia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, South Korea, Tonga and Turkey.

Strengthening oversight and accountability

Whether in high or low-income countries, the challenge of reigning in corruption requires functioning societal and governmental institutions. Poorer countries are often plagued by corrupt judiciaries and ineffective parliamentary oversight. Wealthy countries, on the other hand, show evidence of insufficient regulation of the private sector, in terms of addressing overseas bribery by their countries, and weak oversight of financial institutions and transactions.

“Stemming corruption requires strong oversight through parliaments, law enforcement, independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Labelle. “When these institutions are weak, corruption spirals out of control with horrendous consequences for ordinary people, and for justice and equality in societies more broadly.”

Global fight against poverty in the balance

In low-income countries, rampant corruption jeopardises the global fight against poverty, threatening to derail the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to TI’s 2008 Global Corruption Report, unchecked levels of corruption would add US $50 billion (€35 billion) – or nearly half of annual global aid outlays – to the cost of achieving the MDG on water and sanitation.

Not only does this call for a redoubling of efforts in low-income countries, where the welfare of significant portions of the population hangs in the balance, it also calls for a more focussed and coordinated approach by the global donor community to ensure development assistance is designed to strengthen institutions of governance and oversight in recipient countries, and that aid flows themselves are fortified against abuse and graft.

This is the message that TI will be sending to the member states of the UN General Assembly as they prepare to take stock on progress in reaching the MDGs on 25 September, and ahead of the UN conference on Financing for Development, in Doha, Qatar, where commitments on funding aid will be taken

Prof. Johann Graf Lambsdorff of the University of Passau, who carries out the Index for TI, underscored the disastrous effects of corruption and gains from fighting it, saying, “Evidence suggests that an improvement in the CPI by one point [on a 10-point scale] increases capital inflows by 0.5 per cent of a country’s gross domestic product and average incomes by as much as 4 per cent.”

Corporate bribery and double standards

The weakening performance of some wealthy exporting countries, with notable European decliners in the 2008 CPI, casts a further critical light on government commitment to reign in the questionable methods of their companies in acquiring and managing overseas business, in addition to domestic concerns about issues such as the role of money in politics. The continuing emergence of foreign bribery scandals indicates a broader failure by the world’s wealthiest countries to live up to the promise of mutual accountability in the fight against corruption.

“This sort of double standard is unacceptable and disregards international legal standards,” said Labelle. “Beyond its corrosive effects on the rule of law and public confidence, this lack of resolution undermines the credibility of the wealthiest nations in calling for greater action to fight corruption by low-income countries.” The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which criminalises overseas bribery by OECD-based companies, has been in effect since 1999, but application remains uneven.

Regulation, though, is just half the battle. Real change can only come from an internalised commitment by businesses of all sizes, and in developing as well as developed countries, to real improvement in anti-corruption practices.

Fighting corruption: A social compact

Across the globe, stronger institutions of oversight, firm legal frameworks and more vigilant regulation will ensure lower levels of corruption, allowing more meaningful participation for all people in their societies, stronger development outcomes and a better quality of life for marginalised communities.

9/24/2008

Finnish gunman planned rampage for six years

Filed under: rampage — admin @ 12:56 pm

The student gunman who shot and killed 10 people at a Finnish college on Tuesday planned such a rampage as far back as 2002, drawing inspiration from such events as the U.S. Columbine massacre, police said.

“There was a note found at his home saying ‘I have always wanted to murder as many people as possible’,” the National Bureau of Investigation’s Jari Neulaniemi told a news conference on Wednesday.

Matti Saari, 22, killed nine fellow students — eight female and one male — and one male staff member at a travel and hospitality college a day after being interviewed by police about online videos of himself at a gun range.

The shooting in the town of Kauhajoki in western Finland was a fresh shock for the Nordic country, still reeling from a similar massacre last November.

Then, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen shot eight people dead before killing himself — an act that like Saari’s was telegraphed by menacing video clips on YouTube. Like Auvinen, Saari turned his gun on himself and died later in hospital of a head wound.

“He seems to be a young man with two faces — a silent boy at school, but he led another life in his hostel apartment with the laptop,” said Tapio Varmola, principal of Seinajoki University of Applied Sciences which runs the Kauhajoki college where Saari was a student.

Varmola said he did not know Saari personally but was in the building when screams began from the floor below. He said students, staff and family members who met on Wednesday in Kauhajoki were still shaken and depressed.

The students were in a room taking an exam when Saari opened fire with a Walther .22 handgun. He also shot at police and rescue services personnel, but police did not return fire.

All but one victim were so badly burnt in fires set by Saari that police said they would have to rely on DNA testing and dental records for final identification of the bodies.

MOURNING THE DEAD

Flags flew at half staff across Finland on Wednesday as the country asked itself tough questions about the Internet and private gun ownership.

Media focussed on the parallels between Jokela and Kauhajoki, including boastful Internet videos and the same calibre handgun.

Saari listed on the Web two favourite videos about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in the United States where two students murdered 12 other pupils and a teacher before killing themselves. In one of his Internet clips, he points to the camera, says “You will die next,” and fires four rapid shots.

9/22/2008

The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia

Filed under: disease/health,trobriand islands — admin @ 4:29 am

The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia is a 1929 book by anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski. It contains ethnographic data that proves that the Freudian Oedipus complex is not universal.

This important work is his second in the trilogy on the Trobriander, with the other two being Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922), and Coral Gardens and Their Magic (1935).

The work is impressive for people from Western culture, because in Trobriander the sexuality belongs to the everyday life of humans. Thus for example so mentioned youth clubs are at the disposal to the young people, where they can try their sexuality out easily. This is promoted by the entire community and regarded as important step for growth. Malinowski compares its observations with Sigmund Freud’s claims on the development of sexuality.

In the preface Malinowski says that sexuality “dominates in fact almost every aspect of culture”.

Malinowski gives a detailed description of the social organization of the sexuality, i.e. social rites, partner choice, etc., “tracing the Trobriand life-cycle from birth through puberty, marriage, and death”.

Children don’t stand a system of “domestic coercion” or “regular discipline”, they “enjoy considerable freedom and independence”. The idea of a child being “beaten or otherwise punished in cold blood” by a parent, is viewed as unnatural and immoral, and when proposed by westerners (like the anthropologist), is “rejected with resentment”. Things are asked “as from one equal to another; a simple command, implying the expectation of natural obedience is never heard from parent to child in the Trobriands.” The event of a person getting angry and striking another person “in an outburst of rage” sometimes happens, and as often from parent to child as from child to parent.

In further chapters, the parent-child relationship of the Trobrianders is described with details of their complex matrilineal relationship structure, in which the biological parentage is ignored.

Two-headed baby born in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh,disease/health,india — admin @ 4:18 am

A baby boy with two heads was born by Caesarean section at a clinic in Keshobpur, 135 km from the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, on Monday, according to media reports Thursday.

The baby, weighed 5.5 kilograms, was named Kiron, and was moved to a larger hospital in nearby Jessore city.

Kiron was placed under police protection because hospital officials felt that the baby and his mother, 22, were at risk from the anxious crowd of 150,000 that had gathered to see him, gynaecologist Mohamad Abdul Bari said Wednesday.

“He has one stomach and he is eating normally with his two mouths. He has one genital organ and a full set of limbs,” Bari said.

“He was born from one embryo but there was a developmental anomaly.” Bari said.

Babies born with physical abnormalities in Bangladesh and India are often hailed as living gods. An eight-limbed girl named Lakshmi born in India last October was believed by villagers to be a reincarnation of the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth.

The daily newspaper Samakal said many well-wishers had left money for the baby’s family.

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