brad brace

5/13/2013

MAHANSEN

Filed under: bangladesh,burma,disaster,india,weather — admin @ 5:57 am

Cyclone Mahansen continues to be only forecasted to become a equivalent of a weak typhoon before landfall in Bangladesh on Thursday. To many around the world and especially first world countries this sounds like a gentle breeze to ride out in the coming days.

Yet many of those living in low lying areas in Myanmar this storm is a very real and serious threat. Nearly 130,000 people are living in makeshift camps near the coastal plains of the country after fleeing violence between clashes Buddhist and Muslims in western portions of the country. These cyclonecamps are not made to withstand cyclone, even a weak one. And this pending storms brings the threat of a disaster if it is to hit of these refugee camps as a Severe Cyclonic System.

At this time the worst of the storm is forecasted to stay west but with the pending track still uncertain. Even if the was to miss the refugee camps a heavy rainfall would still bring harsh conditions for those who make the area home. We hope for the safety of those ahead of the storm.

It would be easy to say this area is used to deadly storms. In 2008 the country suffered 180,000 casualties when a cyclone hit the Irrawaddy River delta. In 1991 a cyclone hit a little farther north in Bangledesh resulting in the deaths of 350,000 people.

5/10/2013

Filed under: bangladesh,burma,india,weather — admin @ 4:49 am

11/9/2009

AN ELDERLY BRITISH BANGLADESHI BORDER GUARD SEIZES NEW NICARAGUAN CURRENCY DEPICTING CHINA COCAINE CLIMATE CYCLONE CHANGED COUPLE, AS SOUTHWEST CARIBBEAN SAUDI LANKAN OVERTURNED TANKER TAX CHEATS VENEZUELAN ROBBERY REFUGEES — PNG COSTA EUCALYPTUS DEGLUPTA RICAN WOMEN, BANGLADESH 'DEMON WORSHIPPER MATUTO` PAINTINGS FEAR MUHAMMAD YAMAHA MYANMAR MAY ATTACK THEIR SWINE COCOA POD BORER FORBIDDEN FLU FOOD VOUCHERS FOR FOUR MOTOR RIOT CITIES, OPIUM SEASON ISLANDS IN KENYAN LASHES SLUM TIGHT PANTS KILLING 330,000 INDIAN SNACKS, 22 PAKISTAN POUNDS, 510 KILOS OF AMAZONIAN BEACHGOERS — CALLS FOR 350 AWAKENING TROPICAL DIVALI DEPRESSIONS, READIES FLOOD-TOLERANT CORRUPTION AND OUTBOARD TORTURE IMMIGRATION SONGS

Bangladesh, which is currently engaged in a dispute with Myanmar over
border fencing, fears that Yangon may attack its St. Martin’s Island in the
Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), which guards the land border, has
identified the St Martin’s Island as the “probable main target” of Myanmar
and has asked the government to immediately strengthen its defence by
constructing aircraft landing zones and concrete bunkers. This is contained
in a “strategic proposal” that came in the wake of constant military
build-up and intimidation by Myanmar. The St Martin’s Island, the only
coral island of the country and the main attraction for local and foreign
tourists for its panoramic beauty and pristine marine life, is under the
jurisdiction of the Bangladesh Coastguards. The island, which is located in
a mineral rich region in the Bay of Bengal, is 8 km west of Myanmar coast.
The BDR has submitted its proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the
Prime Minister’s Office, the navy and air force headquarters and the
director general of Coastguards. It has also urged the government to
increase defence capability of land and sea borders to “repulse any
possible aggression by the neighbouring country”.

China has started the relocation of 330,000 residents to make way for a
canal bringing water from the south to the north of the country, in China’s
second-largest resettlement scheme. Families from Henan and Hubei provinces
are being moved to make way for a canal which will run from the Yangtze
River to Beijing. They are being moved to newly-built villages and will
receive an annual subsidy of around 88 US dollars. The scheme is part of an
expansion of the Danjiangkou reservoir. The government says it hopes to
have water flowing from the Yangtze and its tributaries to the arid north
part of the country by 2014. Around 1.3 million people have already been
relocated to make way for the Three Gorges Dam, which was completed last
year.

A high-profile coalition of artists — including the members of Pearl Jam,
R.E.M. and the Roots — demanded that the government release the names of
all the songs that were blasted since 2002 at prisoners for hours, even
days, on end, to try to coerce cooperation or as a method of punishment.
Dozens of musicians endorsed a Freedom of Information Act request filed by
the National Security Archive, a Washington-based independent research
institute, seeking the declassification of all records related to the use
of music in interrogation practices. The artists also launched a formal
protest of the use of music in conjunction with torture. “I think every
musician should be involved,” said Rosanne Cash. “It seems so obvious.
Music should never be used as torture.” The singer-songwriter (and daughter
of Johnny Cash) said she reacted with “absolute disgust” when she heard of
the practice. “It’s beyond the pale. It’s hard to even think about.” Other
musicians, including Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Tom Morello,
formerly of the band Rage Against the Machine, also expressed outrage. “The
fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens
me,” Morello said in a statement. “We need to end torture and close
Guantanamo now.”

Approximately 57 small islands scattered around southern Trenggalek
regency, East Java, are still unnamed. Their natural potentials have not
been identified as well. The islands are scattered, starting from Panggul
water to Prigi, Watulimo sub district. The small islands could yet be used
maximally. The procedure of island identification and the mapping of
natural potentials of the 57 islands are also very complicated. Permission
from the Local Affairs Department and recommendations from the provincial
government is required. Also, because island naming is overseen by the
international law, PBB must also approve it. Another challenge in the
identification of the islands is the different perceptions between
Trenggalek local government and Tulungagung regional government on some of
the islands located in the borderline between the two regions. The
anonymous islands have a considerable amount of swallow nests. Due to the
absence of budget to optimize the resources, the swallow nests are
reportedly often stolen.

Many “matuto” paintings, as a kind of scratches from the pre-historic rock
arts, were found in a number of villages which belong to Kaimana District,
Provinice of Papua Barat. Matuto is a shape of a half-man lizard and
believed as the ancestor of heroes. A lot of matuto paintings were found at
niche surfaces made as canvas for the artists of the pre-historic time in
several archaeological sites. Matuto motif belongs to an anthropomorphic
group with religious meaning representing the people`s ancestors living in
Kaimana in the pre-historic time. Besides matuto, the anthropomorphic group
also includes a palm-print motif which means a protective power to prevent
from evil things, and a human motif. Matuto paintings were found in the
sites of Omborecena, Memnemba, Memnemnambe and Tumberawasi located in
Maimai village. Whereas in Namatota village, matuto paintings were also
found in the sites of Werfora I, Werfora II, Werfora III and Werfora IV.
The other pre-historic paintings which were scratched at the niche surfaces
are in the motifs of lizard, fish, tortoise, crocodile, cuscus, snake, bird
and sea horse which belong to the fauna group. In the geometrical motif,
there are the pictures of sun, direction mark, rectangular and circle. The
pictures of man`s cultural objects include those on the shapes of boat,
boomerang, spear, rock axe, sago hammer and mask. Pre-historic men
scratched paintings on niche surfaces with natural color substance and
their works were called rock arts which served as media to express ideas or
thoughts concerning certain events. These archaeological relics are sort of
civilization from the ancestor`s community in Papua, and have enriched the
national culture.

A new World Food Programme (WFP) pilot project plans to use text messages
on mobile phones to distribute food vouchers to Iraqi refugees in Syria.
The United Nations announced the scheme this week and said it will target
1,000 Iraqi refugee families living in Damascus. Families will be provided
with a special SIM card to receive a 22 US dollar voucher every two months,
which can be exchanged for rice, wheat flour, lentils, chickpeas, oil,
canned fish, cheese and eggs at selected shops. The WFP explained that all
the 130,000 Iraqi refugees currently receiving food aid in Syria already
have mobile phones. The project will initially run for four months, but
might be extended depending on its success.

Members of the protective services routinely muzzle sweep each other, along
with civilians. One IATF officer shot himself in the toe while on patrol in
a densely populated area of the capital city. These armed persons are a
potential menace. Another member of the public was ‘accidentally’ shot by a
cop while holding his five-year-old daughter on the roadside, while waiting
to cross the street. This occurred at a busy intersection, at Charlotte and
Duke Streets, in Port of Spain. Criminals arriving by, and leaving in small
fishing boats, have been targeting sea-bathers at Chagville Beach in
Chaguaramas. What makes this particularly frustrating is that this beach is
across the street from the TT Defense Force Headquarters. The TTDF has a
proud history of serving this nation, so it’s ironic that these violent
crimes occur within line-of-sight of their HQ. One may argue that the
classical role of a defence force is not law enforcement. True; but if that
is the case in our country, then why do we have police/army “joint
patrols”? Surely TTDF Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Edmund Dillon is
taking this as a personal assault on the reputation of the TTDF. After all,
one of it’s stated responsibilities is, “cooperate with and assist the
civil power in maintaining law and order.” Additionally, every Chief of
Defence Staff has included these words (in one form or another) in their
speeches: “The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force is fully prepared to
defend the sovereign good of our nation from all enemies, foreign or
domestic.” How about starting with enemies across the street? The primary
agency charged with the responsibility of policing the Western peninsula is
the Chaguaramas Development Authority Police. Inspector Abdul Singh, the
highest ranking officer of the CDA police, has many challenges, including
acute shortages of personnel, arms, ammunition and vehicles.

In Ecuador, the Shuar are blocking highways to defend their hunting
grounds. In Chile, the Mapuche are occupying ranches to pressure for land,
schools and clinics. In Bolivia, a new constitution gives the country’s 36
indigenous peoples the right to self-rule. All over Latin America, and
especially in the Andes, a political awakening is emboldening Indians who
have lived mostly as second-class citizens since the Spanish conquest. Much
of it is the result of better education and communication, especially as
the Internet allows native leaders in far-flung villages to share ideas and
strategies across international boundaries. But much is born of necessity:
Latin American nations are embarking on an unprecedented resource hunt,
moving in on land that Indians consider their own — and whose pristine
character is key to their survival. “The Indian movement has arisen because
the government doesn’t respect our territories, our resources, our Amazon,”
says Romulo Acachu, president of the Shuar people, flanked by warriors
carrying wooden spears and with black warpaint smeared on their faces. A
month ago, the Shuar put up barbed-wire roadblocks on highway bridges in
Ecuador’s southeastern jungles to protest legislation that would allow
mines on Indian lands without their prior consent, and put water under
state control. An Indian schoolteacher was killed in a battle with riot
police. “If there are 1,000 dead they will be good deaths,” says another
Shuar leader, Rafael Pandam. The Shuar won, at least this round. A week
after the killing, President Rafael Correa received about 100 Indian
leaders at the presidential palace and agreed to reconsider the laws.
Correa had earlier called the Indians “infantile” for their insistence on
being consulted over mining concessions. But he didn’t need to be reminded
that natives — a third of the population — have become an indispensible
constituent and helped topple an Ecuadorean government in 2000.

Mouth-watering Indian snacks like the spicy chaat, masala dosas and chicken
rolls are increasingly becoming popular in Bangladesh where the taste for
western fast food has been holding sway till now. A number of trendy
restaurants in metropolis Dhaka and other cities are now introducing the
snacks in their menu in a bid to attract not only the local food buffs but
international visitors as well. “No longer satisfied with hamburgers, hot
dogs and fries, Bangladeshi eating out habits, never to be left behind, has
also caught on to the trend. Indian items are fast replacing the European
menu as the favoured grab-and-go food of choice, not just because of the
taste but its healthier make-up, and has spread around the world. Popular
restaurants like ‘Dhaba’ are now selling chaat items like bhel puri and the
golgappa. It also has dahi papri, papri chaat, aloo chaat and aloo tikki.
These mouth-watering treats are all served up to you with a smile.

The Weather Office has warned the country to prepare for the cyclone season
in coming months. In a media advisory, the office said the tropical cyclone
season is between November and April. However, the month of January has
been predicted as the peak month for cyclone to hit. Cyclone can also occur
during other months before November and after April however, with lower
risks. On average, one or two cyclone forms in Solomon Islands each year.
Although, El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a significant contributor
to the year to year variability in tropical cyclone activity in the South
Pacific Ocean, it does not have great influence on the cyclone frequency
occurring here. With the typical El Nino conditions continue to persist in
the Tropical Pacific the outlook for Tropical Cyclone activity in the
Solomon Islands during November 2009 to April 2010 is likely to be average
due to the weak El Nino condition. In light of a likely cyclone occurrence,
local communities have been reminded to remain alert and prepared for any
cyclone hit during this season.

Bangladesh is set to officially release three flood-tolerant rice varieties
that would help farmers prevent up to a million tonnes of annual crop loss
caused by flash floods. These rice varieties with submergence-tolerant
gene, known as Sub1, can withstand two weeks of complete submergence. The
Seed Certification Agency has been asked to release the three
submergence-tolerant varieties, Swarna-Sub1, BR-11-Sub1, and
BR-11-Recombinant-Sub1. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the
project. The flood-tolerant versions of the high-yielding varieties (HYVs),
popular with farmers and consumers, that are grown over huge areas across
Bangladesh are effectively identical to their susceptible counterparts but
those recover after severe flooding to yield well. The Sub1 varieties
withstood submergence quite well during this year’s flash floods in
Jamalpur’s Dewanganj, Kurigram’s Kachir Char, Mymensingh’s Dhobaura and
Sylhet’s Golapganj. The Sub1 varieties have been tested in six BRRI fields
and nine farmers’ fields over the last couple of years and all results show
positive signs.

Trinidad and Tobago joined millions of Hindus around the world to celebrate
Divali, also known as Diwali, Deepavali or Dipavali. Thousands of Hindus
and non-Hindus lined their homes and streets with deyas, a clay vessel
holding coconut oil and a wick. The illuminated streets, a reminder of why
Divali is called the festival of lights, are reminiscent of good triumphing
over evil. The deya is also meant to raise awareness in the believer of his
or her own inner light. The streets of many parts of Trinidad and Tobago
where Hindus make up the majority were beautifully lit. Curved bamboo
strips, walls and fences were used as stands for the deyas. A growing trend
in Trinidad and Tobago is also to see non-Hindus lighting deyas and placing
them on their walls and banisters. Roti shops, caterers and other places
selling Indo-Caribbean food also report a sharp incline in sales around
this time, as enthusiasm about local Indian food spurts, primarily among
persons without home access to the popular dishes. On these islands where
many celebrate everything, every last trimester the local celebratory
spirit ascends. The muslim celebration Eid-ul-Fitr, the Hindu festival
Divali, and the Christian season of Christmas often ensue in rapid
succession. Many who put up lights for Divali will leave up their electric
lights until the end of Christmas and the start of Carnival. In some
regards, it could be argued that the cultural calendar of Trinidad and
Tobago begins with either Eid or Divali – whichever comes first – because
thereafter one season flows into the next. As a result, ethnic groups in
Trinidad and Tobago demonstrate high levels of religious tolerance,
cultural cohabitation and racial harmony. The world should take note.

The recent conflict in the Pakistani region of South Waziristan has already
displaced at least 160,000 people and could rise to 260,000 in the next few
weeks. Local aid workers have registered 160,000 people in six IDP camps
around Dera Ismail Khan, a town on the southern fringe of the tribal area.
They expect a further 100,000 people to arrive in the next few weeks. The
total would amount to just over half of the area’s 500,000 population.
Fighting in South Waziristan has escalated since the government launched a
renewed military offensive against the Taliban. The move follows attacks by
Taliban militants across Pakistan that left at least 175 dead, including a
suicide bomb that exploded at Islamabad University, killing four people.

The musicians’ announcement was coordinated with the recent call by
veterans and retired Army generals to shut Guantanamo. It is part of a
renewed effort to pressure President Obama to keep his promise to close the
prison in Cuba in his first year in office. A White House spokesman said
music is no longer used as an instrument of torture, part of a shift in
policy on interrogations that Obama made on his second full day in office.
The president also formed an interagency group, called High-Value Detainee
Interrogation Group, to examine the techniques used during questioning, but
a White House spokesman said that the new group has yet to be fully
constituted. “The president banned the use of ‘enhanced interrogation
techniques,’ and issued an executive order that established that
interrogations must be consistent with the techniques in the Army Field
Manual and the Geneva Conventions,” a White House official said. “Sound at
a certain level creates sensory overload and breaks down subjectivity and
can bring about a regression to infantile behavior. Its effectiveness
depends on the constancy of the sound, not the qualities of the music.
Played at a certain volume, it simply prevents people from thinking.

The CIA Playlist includes:

AC/DC Aerosmith Barney theme song (By Bob Singleton) The Bee Gees Britney
Spears Bruce Springsteen Christina Aguilera David Gray Deicide Don McClean
Dope Dr. Dre Drowning Pool Eminem Hed P.E. James Taylor Limp Bizkit Marilyn
Manson Matchbox Twenty Meatloaf Meow mix jingle Metallica Neil Diamond Nine
Inch Nails Pink Prince Queen Rage against the Machine Red Hot Chili Peppers
Redman Saliva Sesame street theme music (By Christopher Cerf) Stanley
Brothers The Star Spangled Banner Tupac Shakur

Pins Depicting Muhammad Picture Circulating: The pins also incribe an
Arabian writing that reads ‘Prophet Muhammad SAW’. After receiving report
on the circulation of the pins, East Makassar police immediately arrest the
pin owners. According to East Makassar Police Head, his team has caught two
owners of the Prophet pin. “They are Bahanda, the resident of Samata sub
district, Gowa regency, and Anto, the resident of Tonro, Makassar.” From
Bahanda’s house, the police confiscated 5 pins and stickers with the
drawing of Prophet Muhammad printed on. The police also seized a laptop.
“Currently, the focus of the investigation is the ownership of the pins
which have been circulating in Makassar during the past two days. The two
suspects are still undergoing inquisitions at the police headquarters. “For
now, no charges have been laid, including the accusation of religion
outrage.”

The figures by the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) reveals that more
Nicaraguan men are more likely to marry Costa Rican women than Nicaraguan
women to marry Costa Rican men when the arrive in Costa Rica, with a total
of 12.515 Nicaraguan men marrying “ticas”, while only 934 Nicaraguan women
married “ticos” between 1950 and 2009. Nicaraguan men arrive in Costa Rica
single and without commitment, while the women leave behind children and a
significant other which to stay faithful to. Perhaps the reason is that
more Nicaraguan men come to Costa Rican than Nicaraguan women, explaining
the difference in the numbers. The man is looking to settle here, is more
irresponsible and not attached to theri children back in Nicaragua. The
woman are transitory, leaving children and partner behind with an eye to
returning. They marry for increased sexual potency, protection from
immigration and to have a Costa Rican child. One man said Costa Rican women
are pretty, while other say they don’t like Costa Rican woman because they
are “too liberal”, “like to go out a lot” and “are bossy”.

For the second year in a row, world grain production rose, with farmers
producing some 2.3 billion tons. The record harvest was up more than 7
percent and caps a decade in which only half the years registered gains.
Today, only 150 crops are cultivated, a sharp drop from the 10,000 used
over time, and three grains–maize, rice, and wheat–combined with potatoes
provide more than 50 percent of human energy needs.

At least two people died and 100 people were injured when Bangladesh police
fired rubber bullets at thousands of garment factory workers rioting over
unpaid wages. The two people were killed after around 15,000 workers began
hurling stones and rocks, prompting officers to retaliate, in the worst
industrial violence to shake Bangladesh as it struggles to cope with the
fallout from the global recession. The protesters, who worked for
Bangladeshi-owned Nippon Garments, were demanding three months’ back pay
from owners who had shut down the factory, blaming a lack of orders. The
law-enforcers had to fire rubber bullets from shotguns to disperse the
workers who hurled stones and bricks at the cops; two people had died. At
least 100 workers and a number of cops were hurt in the clashes in the
Tongi Industrial Area, 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Dhaka. Nine of the
injured were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital « with wounds
caused by live ammunition and some are in serious condition. The cops said
they used only rubber bullets to quell the unrest. The angry workers became
unruly and violent this morning. They threw up barricades on the roads and
suddenly attacked police. The workers also damaged vehicles, torching some,
and blockaded road links between Bangladesh’s northern districts and Dhaka.
The clashes were the most severe since the global downturn began to affect
Bangladeshi apparel factories, which accounted for 80 percent of the
country’s 15.56 billion dollars worth of exports in the last financial
year. Some 50,000 workers protesting wage cuts and unpaid salaries clashed
with police, leaving scores injured. The global slowdown had forced many
factories in the country to lay off workers or shut down. Western retailers
who are our top buyers have cut orders and squeezed prices. The big
factories have somehow coped, but most of the small- and medium-sized
factories are facing very tough times. Overseas shipments fell by three
percent. Unions said factories have cut wages to compete for orders with
other apparel-producers, such as Vietnam, China and India.The owners of
Nippon Garments were due to pay the wages and had asked employees to
collect their money. But they shut down the factory in the night and sent
police to guard the factory. The workers became angry when they saw the
owners had left without paying the salaries. Forty percent of Bangladesh’s
industrial workforce is employed in the garment sector.

Indians make up one in 10 of Latin America’s half-billion inhabitants. In
some parts of the Andes and Guatemala, they are far more numerous. Yet they
remain much poorer and less educated than the general population. About 80
percent live on less than $2 a day — a poverty rate double that of the
general population — while some 40 percent lack access to health care. The
threats to Indian land have grown in recent years. With shrinking global
oil reserves and growing demands for minerals and timber, oil and mining
concerns are joining loggers in encroaching on traditional Indian lands.
Indians have been progressively losing control and ownership of natural
resources on their lands. The situation isn’t very encouraging. Hence the
revolt rippling up and down the Andes. In Peru, south of the Shuar’s lands,
the government has divided more than 70 percent of the Amazon into oil
exploration blocks and has begun selling concessions. Fearing contamination
of their hunting and fishing grounds, Indians last year began mounting
sporadic road and river blockades. Riot police opened fire on Indians at a
road blockade outside the town of Bagua, where jungle meets Andean
foothills. At least 33 people were killed, most of them police. The Indians
were unapologetic for resisting. “Almost everything we have comes from the
jungle,” says one of the protesters, a wiry elementary school teacher from
the Awajun tribe named Gabriel Apikai. “The leaves, and wood and vines with
which we build our homes. The water from the streams. The animals we eat.
That is why we are so worried.” Farther south along the world’s longest
mountain chain, Chilean police are protecting 34 ranches and logging
compounds that Mapuche Indians have targeted for occupations or sabotage.
The Mapuche, who dominated Chile before the Spanish conquest, now account
for less than 10 percent of its people and hold some 5 percent of its land
— among the least fertile. Mapuche activists agitating for title to more
lands and greater access to education and health care stepped up civil
disobedience this year. Riot police mounting an eviction killed one
Mapuche, and eight were injured. “If the government and the political class
doesn’t listen to our demands the situation will get a lot more difficult,”
Mapuche leader Jose Santos Millao said. He rejects as a “smoke screen”
President’s creation of an Indian Affairs Ministry.

The crime upsurge cannot be ignored despite the absolutely gracious
approach of the British couple who sent a letter of assurance to the
Minister of Tourism and to the THA about their undying love and affection
for the island and its people even after the vicious attack they suffered.
The killing and burying of a German, whose body was found in a shallow
grave, is the latest setback. Bringing the number of murders on the island
to 11, this latest incident also flies in the face of the attempts by the
police to demonstrate that they have the situation well under control.
After every such major crime, the police pledge to take stronger measures,
to increase patrols and to maintain a more visible presence in what they
themselves identify as vulnerable areas. The discovery of the body of the
German at what was his home in Bacolet Crescent does indeed present a new
feature to the murder picture in Tobago. It suggests that criminals are
employing even more grisly methods of perpetrating these offences, further
fouling the environment in which all concerned must respond. Sensing that
he was indeed in some danger, with death threats having been issued to him,
the man was reportedly in the process of making arrangements to leave
Tobago for good. That he was a German-the nationality that has had such a
long and deeply ingrained association with Tobago-is bound to send further
shock waves through that community many of whom have shared their hitherto
wonderful experiences with others who have been making regular trips to
Tobago. Much work is going to be needed to continue the repair job on the
island’s image occasioned by this and the other serious offences. But the
multiplier effect of another gruesome incident such as this on the island’s
profile cannot be underestimated, no matter what the manner of the media
coverage may be, no matter what means may be employed to colour the
presentation.

Try telling Brother Jerry Smith that the recession in America has ended. As
scores of people queued up at the soup kitchen which the Capuchin friar
helps run in Detroit, the celebrations on Wall Street in New York seemed
from another world. The hungry and needy come from miles around to get a
free healthy meal. Though the East Detroit neighbourhood the soup kitchen
serves has had it tough for decades, the recession has seen almost any hope
for anyone getting a job evaporate. Neither is there any sign that jobs
might come back soon. Some in the past have had jobs here, but now there is
nothing available to people. Nothing at all. The hungry, the homeless and
the poor crowded around tables. Many were by themselves, but some were
families with young children. None had jobs. Indeed, the soup kitchen
itself is now starting to dip into its savings to cope with a drying up of
desperately needed donations. This is an area where times are so tough that
the soup kitchen is a major employer for the neighbourhood, keeping its own
staff out of poverty. Officially, America is on the up. The economy grew by
3.5% in the past quarter. On Wall Street, stocks are rising again. The
banks – rescued wholesale by taxpayers’ money last year – are posting
billions of dollars of profits. Thousands of bankers and financiers are
wetting their lips at the prospect of enormous bonuses, often matching or
exceeding those of pre-crash times. The financial sector is lobbying
successfully to fight government attempts to regulate it. The wealthy are
beginning to snap up property again, pushing prices up. In New York’s
fashionable West Village a senior banker recently splurged $10m on a single
apartment, sending shivers of delight through the city’s property brokers.
But for tens of millions of Americans such things seem irrelevant. Across
the country lay-offs are continuing. Indeed, jobless rates are expected to
rise. Unemployment in America stands at 9.8%. But that headline figure,
massaged by bureaucrats, does not include many categories of the jobless.
Another, broader official measure, which includes those such as the
long-term jobless who have given up job-seeking and workers who can only
find piecemeal part-time work, tells another story. That figure stands at
17%.

Darshona Sub1 at Darshona remained unharmed despite being completely
submerged for nine to 16 days this year. 65 percent of farmers cultivate
BR-11 during aman season, which is susceptible to flash floods or rainwater
over 10 days. So the Sub1 varieties now hold the potential to become a good
replacement for BR-11. There are four different Sub1 varieties, IR-64-
Sub1, Samba Mahsuri-Sub1, BR-11-Sub1, and Swarna-Sub1, at the Darshona
trial site. Of these four, the former two are relatively shorter-duration
rice while the later two takes a long time to harvest. The new varieties
were made possible following the identification of a single gene that is
responsible for most of the submergence tolerance. The gene is found in a
low-yielding traditional Indian rice variety known to withstand floods. The
potential for impact is huge. In Bangladesh, for example, 20 percent of the
rice land is flood prone and the country typically suffers several major
floods each year. Submergence-tolerant varieties could make major inroads
into Bangladesh’s annual rice shortfall and substantially reduce its import
needs. As water inundates rice fields, Sub1 gene helps rice plants remain
‘metabolically inert’ for up to two weeks; thereby, keeping the plants
unaffected. But if the water remain stagnant for a longer duration, it will
not be possible for the crop to withstand.” Farmers would be benefited if
the submergence tolerant rice varieties are released soon. The Philippines
released its first submergence-tolerant rice variety, Submarino 1,
recently.

They form the single biggest mass of refugees today, and they face an
uncertain fate as a factor in a geopolitical game involving two Asian
giants and allied players. For the about 400,000 fugitives from tiny Sri
Lanka’s Tamil-speaking areas of less than 18,000 square kilometers
together, the outlook has only become more unsettling. The tide of Tamil
refugees from the island-state’s northern and eastern provinces represents
a twin issue. About 100,000 of them are inmates of rather inhospitable
refugee camps in India’s southern State of Tamilnadu. They have been
languishing there for varying lengths of time, with the influx starting way
back in 1984. The population in the camps includes a generation of Sri
Lankan Tamils who have known no home but India but are not made to feel
quite at home in the country. The rest – as many as 300,000 – have been
held in camps behind barbed wires as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in
the war-ravaged parts of Sri Lanka since Colombo declared total victory
over Tamil rebels seeking a separate state. The inmates have been told to
be prepared to stay put for a period of one to three years. The population
of these camps consists of divided families, with mothers looking for
separated children and women for lost husbands. The plight of these
uprooted people of both categories poses a humanitarian problem of huge
proportions. That, however, would not appear to be how it is viewed in
quarters which matter in India and could make a difference in the
increasing distress of the displaced. New Delhi is under pressure to look
upon the tragedy, if not as a trump card, at least as a useful lever in the
Indian Ocean region where its influence is seen to be under threat from
China with Pakistan in tow. The debate rages in the media over the role
India should play in this perspective, even as the refugees await an
aggravation of their conditions in the camps. The north-eastern monsoon,
which brings most of the rains for this region for about three months until
December, is round the corner. The wet season threatens to prove a time of
terrible woes, particularly for the IDPs in their tarpaulin tents in
overcrowded camps. Unless people are moved from these areas, … an
inundation of water … will make it impossible to live…. The latrines
will overflow, water supplies will be unusable and access by wheeled
vehicles impossible. It will be pretty unbearable. More intolerable to some
security analysts will be India’s failure to use this fresh opportunity to
counter the influence of China and allies allowed to grow in its own
backyard over the past two decades. India has had its share of refugee
problems, but the spillover from Sri Lanka’s civil war falls into a special
category. The most politicized of the problems has been Bangladeshi
immigrants, estimated at 10 million (against the country’s population of
about 1.15 billion). India’s far right has always called them
“infiltrators” and sought to fuel pseudo-religious hatred against them as
Islamist fifth columnists. But this has remained an internal political
issue, with rather poor returns for its inventors.

The Seventh Summit of the ALBA, the Venezuela-led trade and economic bloc,
ended with a decision to implement a single currency for transactions among
member states. The leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Vincent
and the Grenadines were among those who approved the Single Regional
Payment Compensation System (SUCRE). A multidisciplinary team from the ALBA
nations will begin technical operations for its implementation. However, it
is not yet clear how the introduction of the SUCRE will impact the
governments in St John’s, Roseau and Kingstown, since all three are members
of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union that uses the EC dollar as its
common currency. The meeting also signed a special resolution condemning
the Honduras coup. The text demands the immediate reinstatement of Jose
Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup. Zelaya sneaked back into
the Central American country and has been holding negotiations with the
newly-installed government on the way forward. Antigua and Barbuda,
Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines are the only Caribbean Community
countries that are also members the bloc that was formed in 2004 as an
alternative proposal to the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Actions and events are planned in every Pacific Island nation for the 350
International Day of Climate Action. In the last 24 hours, events from the
Federated States of Micronesia and Kiribati have been registered with
www.350.org, completing the entire list of Pacific countries. Pacific
communities, many of whom are already affected by climate change, are
uniting to create actions that will raise awareness of impacts in the
Pacific. Each country’s call for action on climate change will be broadcast
through a global network, including on a huge screen in Times Square, New
York. In Kiribati, the 350 action involves over 2000 students and the
President, Anote Tong, in a beach clean up. In FSM, 350 coconut trees are
being planted after a celebration of the use of coconuts in traditional
society. Inhabitants of Cartaret Island will be some of the first people in
the world to be displaced by climate change. The 350 action will be located
at their proposed relocation site to highlight the massive implications of
climate change on their future. Cartaret Islanders will be transported by
boat in a flotilla to the relocation site where church gongs will ring 350
times and 350 mangrove seedlings will be planted. There will also be live
contemporary and traditional song and dance performances. Many of the
Pacific events involve peoples aggregating in traditional dress, and
performances of traditional song and dance. In Fiji, the Econesians are
staging a giant procession in Suva with song, dance, poetry and
entertainment. The Pacific Council of Churches is organising lalis
(traditional wooden gongs) 350 times to show their support for a safe
climate future. In the Solomon Islands a public march will culminate with
traditional Kastom dance and music in the ‘Cultural Village’. Traditional
song and dance will also be a major part of events in Papua New Guinea.

Ten men who belonged to the same soccer team were slain execution-style
after being abducted in a crime that could be the work of warring factions
in neighboring Colombia. Venezuelan troops stepped up security patrols in
the area near the Colombian border after the bodies of 10 men, most of them
Colombians, were found in multiple spots in western Tachira state. The
victims were among a group of 12 men who were kidnapped from a field where
they were playing soccer. The victims’ relatives reported the abduction of
10 Colombians, a Peruvian and a Venezuelan. The kidnappers, described as
armed men dressed in black, were thought to have called out the names of
the team’s members one by one before taking them away in vehicles. The
killings occurred near a porous border where Colombian rebels, paramilitary
fighters and drug smugglers are often able to move about with ease.
Venezuelan officials also have struggled in recent years with frequent
kidnappings and murders blamed on common criminals in various parts of the
country. The motive behind the latest slayings remains unclear. The single
known survivor, 19-year-old Manuel Cortez of Colombia, was shot in the
neck, said Orlando Lopez, one of his brothers. Lopez said that his brother
didn’t know his abductors. “They had them tied up for 14 days in the sun,”
Lopez said. “They tied them up to some trees, with chains on their necks
and with their hands locked up.” Lopez said his brother recalled the men
saying the hostages “didn’t have anything to do with it but that they were
going to kill them because they had seen their faces.” As for Cortez, “they
put him on his knees and they shot him,” Lopez said by phone from the
military hospital in Caracas where his brother was moved after being afraid
for his safety at a hospital in San Cristobal in the border region. A
stranger arrived at the first hospital asking to see Cortez and was
detained by authorities, Lopez said. “We don’t know what group” was behind
the killings, Lopez said. A list of names released by Venezuelan
authorities showed the victims ranged in age from 17 to 38, and several
were from the Colombian town of Bucaramanga, about 90 kilometers (55 miles)
from the border. Investigators suspect the bloodshed may be tied to a
confrontation between irregular groups as part of the Colombian conflict.
Venezuelan troops in the area had been ordered to “act forcefully” against
any armed Colombian group. Colombian officials in the past have accused
Venezuela of allowing leftist rebels to take refuge across the border.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe condemned the killings and said they “show
that terrorism is international, that it has no borders.” He offered help
in the investigation and expressed confidence Venezuelan authorities will
act promptly to “take those terrorists to jail.” Relations have been tense
recently between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Uribe’s U.S.-allied
government. Colombian officials have been critical of Venezuela’s efforts
to police its territory and reduce the flow of Colombian cocaine. Venezuela
charges Colombia and the U.S. are trying to use the drug issue to unfairly
discredit Chavez’s government.

A demon worshipper killed four members of his family before killing himself
on remote Misima Island in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay province. Milne Bay
police described the gruesome murder-suicide on October 10 as a massacre on
Misima, an island 200km east of mainland PNG. The killer was said to be a
demon worshipper who believed in a black Jesus and worshipped on
mountaintops before dawn. Rodney Sinod, from Eaus village on the south
coast of Misima Island, had on numerous occasions told his family that he
was going to kill them so the world would be free. Police reports indicated
that on the fateful morning, after his usual worship on a mountain, Sinod
returned to the family home and, without warning, attacked his father with
an axe. The victim, who was feeding chickens outside, died instantly. Sinod
then ran past his shocked mother into the house where his niece and nephew,
aged two and five years, were playing and killed them with the axe, before
mowing down his sister-in-law. Sinod later turned on his 17-year-old niece,
who had just finished grade 10 at Misima High School a day earlier and had
come home to spend the holidays with her family. Sinod chopped off part of
the teenagers lower left hand with the axe and struck her on the head. The
girl survived the attack and is recovering from her wounds at the Misima
district hospital. Sinod then ran to a mountain where he stabbed himself in
the chest with a knife.At least six villages were engaged in such
activities and reported that even a police officer had established a church
on the island with similar beliefs. Bizarre cults spring up frequently in
PNG. Police in Morobe province were hunting a cult leader who was coercing
followers to take part in public sex with promises of a bumper banana
harvest.

The Government Accountability Office likes to point its finger at
Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands for sheltering tax cheats. But according
to the U.K.-based Tax Justice Network, the United States is the biggest tax
shelter of ’em all, thanks to the great state of Delaware. Delaware, says
the Tax Justice Network, is “the most secretive financial jurisdiction in
the world.” That’s based on an analysis of 60 financial jurisdictions
according to level of secrecy and cooperation with foreign tax authorities.
Luxembourg comes in second, followed by the Switzerland, the Cayman
Islands, and the United Kingdom. Here are some fun facts about Delaware: *
According to the Delaware Secretary of State’s office their operating
budget was $12 million in 2007 and they made $24 million in the fees for
expedited incorporation filings alone. * There are currently some 695,000
active entities registered in Delaware, including 50 percent of the
corporations publically traded on the U.S. stock exchange. * New business
formations in Delaware are currently running at about 130,000 per annum. *
The growth of private individual deposits by non-residents was most robust
in the United States outranking other popular financial jurisdictions such
as the Cayman Islands, United Kingdom, and Luxembourg with total
non-resident deposits equalling $2.6 trillion in 2007. Nicole Tichon of
U.S. PIRG, probably the foremost homegrown tax-haven basher, said the
United States needs to get its tax act together. “If the U.S. wants to be
taken seriously by the international community and try to get their
cooperation, then we’ve got to crack down on what’s going on here at home.
We can’t have it both ways,” said Tichon. “Bank secrecy breeds the same
problems, the same criminal behavior, and puts up the same roadblocks to
law enforcement regardless of where it occurs. As long as the U.S.
government looks the other way, it diminishes our credibility on this
issue.” The Obama administration talked a good game at first about clamping
down on U.S. corporations that abuse tax shelters, but the administration
has since waffled.

Streaks of brilliant colors — red, purple, yellow, blue, green — are
splashed across the trunk of this eucalyptus, which also goes by the name
of rainbow eucalyptus. The Mindanao gum is one of the few non-Australian
eucalypti. It is native to tropical rainforests in the Philippines,
Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and named for the Philippine island of
Mindanao. As such it likes regular water and cannot take drought. That and
the usual eucalyptus ills make it unlikely for it to be planted much
anymore, but its colorful decorations make it a prized specimen where it
does occur. Gum The tree is grown in tropical areas for pulpwood production
for paper and harvested at an early age. Sometimes it is allowed to develop
for construction lumber, but the wood is only moderately strong and not
durable. The Mindanao gum is a fast-growing, rather open, erect evergreen
tree that may reach a height of 75 to 200 feet and a width of 30 to 75
feet. The smooth bark peels off to display the bright colors underneath.
The oval, 6-inch-by-3-inch leaves are bright green. They contain only a
little aromatic oil. The tree may bloom when it is 2 years old. Flowers are
clustered together and not very conspicuous. When in bud the white to pale
yellow stamens that give blooming flowers a fluffy look are hidden in a
covered cap, known as an operculum. The stamens push this cap off at
flowering. The genus name, based on the Greek eu kalyptos, or well-covered,
refers to this hidden quality. Woody cone-shaped capsules appear after
flowering. The Mindanao gum will take a wide variety of soils, but likes
full sun. It is frost hardy down to 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Just like other
eucalyptus trees, it is susceptible to aphid-like psyllids and borers. The
genus Eucalyptus was named by the 18th century French botanist Charles
Louis l’Heritier. The tree is part of the myrtle family, or Myrtaceae.

Nowhere is Indian power so evident as Bolivia, which elected its first
indigenous president, Evo Morales, in 2005. Morales dissolved the Ministry
of Indigenous Affairs and Original Peoples, calling it racist in a country
where more than three in five people are aboriginals. Voters approved a
constitution that creates a “plurinational” state and accords Bolivia’s
natives sovereign status. Time-worn models of aboriginal government,
community justice and even traditional healing are now legally on equal
footing with modern law and science. In the capital of La Paz, “cholitas” —
Indian women in traditional bowler hats and embroidered shawls — now
regularly anchor TV newscasts. “Miss Cholita” beauty pageants are in vogue
and native hip-hop stars headline at nightclubs. At the presidential
palace, Morales — a former Aymara coca farmer who knew hunger as a child —
makes a point of lunching periodically with the lowliest of palace guards.
Morales is ensuring that profits from natural gas and mineral extraction
are distributed equitably and that water — whose privatization in the city
of Cochabamba spurred an uprising in 2000 — is never again privatized. He’s
also pushing to make electrical utilities public. Morales has founded three
indigenous universities, formalized quotas for Indians in the military and
created a special school for aspiring diplomats with native backgrounds.
And he is promoting a campaign to demand that all public servants be fluent
in at least one native tongue. “There is no way to return to the past,”
says Waskar Ari, an Aymara who changed his name to Juan in the 1970s so he
would be accepted to a private high school in La Paz. Now a University of
Nebraska professor, Ari likens his country’s “rebirth” to the casting off
of apartheid on another continent two decades ago. “Finally,” he says
proudly, “Bolivia is no longer the South Africa of Latin America.”

The warlords that the USA champions in Afghanistan are as venal, as opposed
to the rights of women and basic democratic freedoms, and as heavily
involved in opium trafficking as the Taliban. The moral lines we draw
between us and our adversaries are fictional. The uplifting narratives used
to justify the war in Afghanistan are pathetic attempts to redeem acts of
senseless brutality. War cannot be waged to instill any virtue, including
democracy or the liberation of women. War always empowers those who have a
penchant for violence and access to weapons. War turns the moral order
upside down and abolishes all discussions of human rights. War banishes the
just and the decent to the margins of society. And the weapons of war do
not separate the innocent and the damned. An aerial drone is our version of
an improvised explosive device. An iron fragmentation bomb is our answer to
a suicide bomb. A burst from a belt-fed machine gun causes the same terror
and bloodshed among civilians no matter who pulls the trigger. We need to
tear the mask off of the fundamentalist warlords who after the tragedy of
9/11 replaced the Taliban. They used the mask of democracy to take power.
They continue this deception. These warlords are mentally the same as the
Taliban. The only change is physical. These warlords during the civil war
in Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 killed 65,000 innocent people. They have
committed human rights violations, like the Taliban, against women and many
others. In eight years less than 2,000 Talib have been killed and more than
8,000 innocent civilians has been killed. We believe that this is not war
on terror. This is war on innocent civilians. Look at the massacres carried
out by NATO forces in Afghanistan. Look what they did in the Farah
province, where more than 150 civilians were killed, most of them women and
children. They used white phosphorus and cluster bombs. The United States
and NATO eight years ago occupied Afghanistan under the banner of woman’s
rights and democracy. They put into power men who are photocopies of the
Taliban. Afghanistan’s boom in the trade in opium, used to produce heroin,
over the past eight years of occupation has funneled hundreds of millions
of dollars to the Taliban, al-Qaida, local warlords, criminal gangs,
kidnappers, private armies, drug traffickers and many of the senior figures
in the government of Hamid Karzai. The brother of President Karzai, Ahmed
Wali Karzai, has been collecting money from the CIA although he is a major
player in the illegal opium business. Afghanistan produces 92 percent of
the world’s opium in a trade that is worth some $65 billion. This opium
feeds some 15 million addicts worldwide and kills around 100,000 people
annually. These fatalities should be added to the rolls of war dead.

Added to that shocking statistic are the millions of Americans who remain
at risk of foreclosure. In many parts of the country repossessions are
still rising or spreading to areas that have escaped so far. In the months
to come, no matter what happens on the booming stock market, hundreds of
thousands of Americans are likely to lose their homes. For them the
recession is far from over. It rages on like a forest fire, burning through
jobs, savings and homes. It will serve to exacerbate a long-term trend
towards deepening inequality in America. Real wages in the US stagnated in
the 1970s and have barely risen since, despite rising living costs. The gap
between the average American worker and high-paid chief executives has
widened and widened. The richest 1% of Americans have more financial wealth
than the bottom 95%. It seems the American hope of a steady job, producing
rising income and a home in the suburbs, has evaporated for many. A
generation of aspiring middle-class homeowners have been wiped out by the
recession. Poor people just don’t have the political clout to lobby and get
what they need in the way Wall Street does. There is little doubt that
Detroit is ground zero for the parts of America that are still suffering.
The city that was once one of the wealthiest in America is a decrepit,
often surreal landscape of urban decline. It was once one of the greatest
cities in the world. The birthplace of the American car industry, it
boasted factories that at one time produced cars shipped over the globe.
Its downtown was studded with architectural gems, and by the 1950s it
boasted the highest median income and highest rate of home ownership of any
major American city. Culturally it gave birth to Motown Records, named in
homage to Detroit’s status as “Motor City”. Decades of white flight,
coupled with the collapse of its manufacturing base, especially in its
world-famous auto industry, have brought the city to its knees. Half a
century ago it was still dubbed the “arsenal of democracy” and boasted
almost two million citizens, making it the fourth-largest in America. Now
that number has shrunk to 900,000. Its once proud suburbs now contain row
after row of burnt-out houses. Empty factories and apartment buildings
haunt the landscape, stripped bare by scavengers. Now almost a third of
Detroit – covering a swath of land the size of San Francisco – has been
abandoned. Tall grasses, shrubs and urban farms have sprung up in what were
once stalwart working-class suburbs. Even downtown, one ruined skyscraper
sprouts a pair of trees growing from the rubble. The city has a shocking
jobless rate of 29%. The average house price in Detroit is only $7,500,
with many homes available for only a few hundred dollars. Not that anyone
is buying. At a recent auction of 9,000 confiscated city houses, only a
fifth found buyers.

A tropical depression has formed in the southwestern Caribbean, prompting
storm warnings for the coast of Nicaragua and two Colombian islands. The
National Hurricane Center in Miami said the 11th tropical depression of the
season formed Wednesday morning. It had maximum sustained winds near 35 mph
(55 kph) and is expected to strengthen into a tropical storm later in the
day or Wednesday night. The depression’s center is about 125 miles (200
kilometers) east-southeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua. It is moving toward
the northwest near 8 mph (13 kph). Colombia issued tropical storm warnings
for the islands of San Andres and Providencia.

China figured once in the issue of Tibetan refugees, too, but it bears no
comparison to the problem of their Sri Lankan counterparts. The island’s
refugees enjoy a measure of ethnic solidarity in Tamilnadu, and their cause
has a certain constituency there. The State’s ruling party, the Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam (Party for Dravidian Progress) or the DMK, cannot ignore
the issue. And the DMK is an important part of Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh’s coalition in New Delhi, headed by his Congress Party. Pressures of
local politics have prompted the DMK-led State government recently to press
for citizenship for the refugees in the camps under its less-than-adequate
care. The demand has elicited opposition charges that it is designed to
help the Sri Lankan government by keeping the refugees from returning to
their homeland. New Delhi has not yet revealed its response to the demand.
Nor is it known whether it is listening to lectures from experts about the
role it should play in postwar Sri Lanka. The time has come for India to
once again play an activist role … India should assume the leadership
role in helping Sri Lanka in its relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction
tasks. India has “strategic interest” in the island. The Sri Lankan
Government has been cultivating China and Pakistan to keep India in check.
It has good political and economic relations with China. It has invited
China to construct a modern port in Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka. It
has invited the Chinese to help it in gas exploration in areas which are
closet to India. Similarly, there is a growing military-military
relationship between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which worries India. The
strategic conflict in Sri Lanka is part of a wider power struggle in South
Asia. China has developed strategic assets like the Gwadar port in
Pakistan, besides the Hambantota port. Sri Lanka sits next to shipping
lanes that feed 80 percent of China’s and 65 percent of India’s oil needs.

The Spanish Civil Guard seized 510 kilos of cocaine hidden in the engine
room of a tanker from Venezuela when it was in the north-east port of
Tarragona. The tanker, whose registration was not identified, had sailed
mid-September from Maracaibo (Venezuela) for Egypt but had to stop at
Tarragona to enable the captain to be permuted. The route of the tanker
aroused the suspicions of police, who then decided to conduct an
inspection. The 510 kilograms of cocaine were hidden in a room which
communicated with the axle of the rudder which was reached from inside the
boat through a small hatch or by the sea. An organized group of drug
traffickers, aboard a zodiac and equipped with diving suits, had brought
the 14 bales of drugs from the sea in this inaccessible cache and had to
recover them by the same method on arrival of the tanker. Spain is one of
the gateways to the European drugs problem in Europe, whether of hashish
from North Africa, or Latin American cocaine.

Customs agents have seized 22 pounds of opium after two packages at an
Oakland delivery facility from Thailand aroused the suspicions of agents.
After a closer search, the drugs were found wrapped in plastic and
concealed inside the false walls of large musical drums. The shipment was
bound for a location somewhere in Northern California before it was
intercepted. Opium is made from poppies. It contains morphine, which can be
used to make heroine. Authorities say the drug is often linked with gang
activity.

A female journalist in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 60 lashes over a
TV show in which a Saudi man described his extra-marital sex life. The
programme, made by Lebanese satellite network LBC, caused a huge scandal in
conservative Saudi Arabia when it was shown several months ago. The
journalist is one of two female LBC employees who have been arrested. Mazen
Abdul Jawad, the Saudi man who talked about how he picked up Saudi women
for sex, has already been jailed. The original programme was part of a
series called Red Lines, made by the popular LBC network. It examined
taboos in the Arab world. Unmarried sex in Saudi Arabia amongst Saudis –
rather than expatriates – is one of the biggest. Mazen Abdul Jawad provoked
outrage by describing his techniques for meeting and having sex with Saudi
women. He tearfully apologised but was jailed for five years and sentenced
to 1,000 lashes. Three of his friends who appeared on the show got two
years each. Mr Abdul Jawad blamed LBC producers for tricking him. The
station’s offices in Saudi Arabia were closed down and two of its producers
– both female – put on trial. LBC has made no comment about the cases. It
has long been attacked by Saudi religious leaders for being at the
forefront of Arab satellite stations broadcasting programmes into the
kingdom featuring scantily clad Arab singers and actresses. Ironically,
however, LBC is part-owned by the Saudi media mogul and billionaire Prince
Alwaleed bin Talal.

Muslim women would be banned from wearing tight pants in a devoutly Islamic
district of Indonesia’s Aceh province under proposed regulations to take
effect Jan. 1. It is the latest effort to promote strict moral values in
the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, where most of the roughly
200 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith. Any Muslim
caught violating the dress code, which also prohibits shorts for men, will
be told to put on government-issued full-length skirts or loose pants.
Patrolling Shariah, or Islamic police, will determine if clothing violates
the dress code. Wearing tight jeans exposes their bodies, which is strictly
banned under Islam. Civil servants are told to go beyond the rules and
refuse government services to women wearing the banned clothing. Islamic
law is not enforced across the vast island nation. But bans on drinking
alcohol, gambling and kissing in public, among other activities, have been
enforced by some more conservative local governments in recent years.
Opinion polls show that a majority of Indonesians oppose the restrictions
on dress and behavior that are being pushed by a small fringe of hardliners
in the secular democracy. Aceh, a semiautonomous region, made news when its
provincial parliament passed a Shariah law making adultery punishable by
stoning to death. It also imposed prison sentences and public lashings
against homosexuals and pedophiles. Rights groups say the law violates
international treaties and the Indonesian constitution.

Here are the Countries who HIDE 100% from the TAX Collectors Exactly what
you would think was true!

Jurisdiction HIDING SCORE
Switzerland 100
Malaysia (Labuan) 100
Barbados 100
Bahamas 100
Vanuatu 100
Belize 100
Dominica* 100
Brunei* 100
Turks & Caicos Islands* 100
St Lucia* 100
Samoa* 100
St Vincent & Grenadines* 100
Seychelles* 100

Second Tier of Hidden From Tax Collectors (Range from 90% to 96%)
Also Secondary Sort on Financial Secrecy Index Value

Mauritius 96
USA (Delaware) 92
Cayman Islands 92
Bermuda 92
Bahrain 92
British Virgin Islands 92
Portugal (Madeira) 92
Panama 92
United Arab Emirates (Dubai) 92
Costa Rica 92
Antigua & Barbuda* 92
Gibraltar* 92
St Kitts & Nevis* 92
Cook Islands* 92
Nauru* 92
Marshall Islands* 92
US Virgin Islands* 92
Grenada* 92
Austria 91
Lebanon 91
Israel 90
Liberia* 90

Tax is the foundation of good government and a key to the wealth or poverty
of nations. Yet it is under attack. These places allow big companies and
wealthy individuals to benefit from the onshore benefits of tax – like good
infrastructure, education and the rule of law – while using the offshore
world to escape their responsibilities to pay for it. The rest of us
shoulder the burden. Tax havens offer not only low or zero taxes, but
something broader. What they do is to provide facilities for people or
entities to get around the rules, laws and regulations of other
jurisdictions, using secrecy as their prime tool. We therefore often prefer
the term “secrecy jurisdiction” instead of the more popular “tax haven.”
The corrupted international infrastructure allowing élites to escape tax
and regulation is also widely used by criminals and terrorists. As a
result, tax havens are heightening inequality and poverty, corroding
democracy, distorting markets, undermining financial and other regulation
and curbing economic growth, accelerating capital flight from poor
countries, and promoting corruption and crime around the world. The
offshore system is a blind spot in international economics and in our
understanding of the world. The issues are multi-faceted, and tax havens
are steeped in secrecy and complexity – which helps explain why so few
people have woken up to the scandal of offshore, and why civil society has
been almost silent on international taxation for so long. We seek to supply
expertise and analysis to help open tax havens up to proper scrutiny at
last, and to make the issues understandable by all.

An awareness campaign on the cocoa pod borer (Conopomorpha cramerella) has
begun. Cocoa pod borer is a cocoa pest, which can cause extensive damage to
cocoa pods and thus destroying the cocoa industry and is now present in
neighboring Bougainville. As such the cocoa industry is under serious
threat, in that currently, frequent movement of people to and from the
boarder is not controlled and there is a high possibility that this pest
can be easily spread to the nearest Islands of Choiseul or the Shortlands
through infected cocoa pods or other infected planting materials from
Bougainville. Since cocoa is an important commodity in the Solomon Islands,
the Government will try to implement the awareness program as quickly as
possible to help prevent the pest to come into the country through the
common border between PNG and Solomon Islands. Cocoa has earned the country
$71 million in 2008 with a total of 4,000 tons and about $60 (CEMA Report
2009) million actually goes back to the cocoa producers and that’s why
cocoa is important to the SI economy. The MAL staff led by Quarantine
officers will soon be deployed to Choiseul and Western Provinces to carry
out an extensive surveillance on all cocoa projects to find out whether the
pest is here already or not. The public has been clearly advised not to
bring cocoa pods or any plant parts from Bougainville as is also a
Quarantine regulation to be adhered to.

The legal groundwork for the empowerment drive by Latin America’s Indians
was crowned by a U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Though nonbinding, it endorses native peoples’ right to their own
institutions and traditional lands. It has been almost universally embraced
by Latin American governments. It has also helped Indians win some major
legal victories. * The Supreme Court of Belize ruled in favor of Mayan
communities that challenged the government’s right to lease their lands to
logging interests. * A similar ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights on behalf of the forest-dwelling Saramaka maroons in Suriname
reinforced that indigenous groups must give consent to major development
projects. * Nicaragua’s government finally granted collective land titles
to the Mayagna people, complying with a landmark ruling by the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights that it had no right to sell logging
concessions on Indian land. * Colombia’s Constitutional Court deemed more
than 1 million indigenous people “in danger of cultural and physical
extermination” and told the government to protect them. * Brazil’s Supreme
Court ordered rice farmers to leave the long-disputed Raposa Serra do Sol
reservation — 4.2 million acres (1.7 million hectares) inhabited by 18,000
Indians in the Amazon’s northernmost reaches.

Despite the legal rulings, Indians remain second-class citizens. Only one
indigenous representative has ever been elected to the national congress in
Brazil. Indians, occupy vast areas of the Amazon though they account for
less than 5 percent of the population. In Guatemala, where nearly half the
population is of Mayan descent, not a single Indian has ever made it to
national office. Educational disadvantages perpetuate the inequity. In
Guatemala, three in four indigenous people are illiterate. In Mexico, where
6 percent of the population is illiterate, 22 percent of adult Indians are.
Even in Bolivia, only 55 percent of indigenous children finish primary
school, compared to 81 percent of other children.

The drug trade has permitted the Taliban to thrive and expand despite the
presence of 100,000 NATO troops. The Taliban’s direct involvement in the
opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming
technologically more complex and increasingly widespread. The Taliban
earned $90 million to $160 million a year from taxing the production and
smuggling of opium and heroin, as much as double the amount it earned
annually while it was in power nearly a decade ago. The Afghan-Pakistani
border is the world’s largest free trade zone in anything and everything
that is illicit, an area blighted by drugs, weapons and illegal
immigration. The “perfect storm of drugs and terrorism” may be on the move
along drug trafficking routes through Central Asia. Profits made from opium
are being pumped into militant groups in Central Asia and “a big part of
the region could be engulfed in large-scale terrorism, endangering its
massive energy resources. Afghanistan, after eight years of occupation, has
become a world center for drugs. The drug lords are the only ones with
power. How can you expect these people to stop the planting of opium and
halt the drug trade? How is it that the Taliban when they were in power
destroyed the opium production and a superpower not only cannot destroy the
opium production but allows it to increase? And while all this goes on,
those who support the war talk to you about women’s rights. We do not have
human rights now in most provinces. It is as easy to kill a woman in my
country as it is to kill a bird. In some big cities like Kabul some women
have access to jobs and education, but in most of the country the situation
for women is hell. Rape, kidnapping and domestic violence are increasing.
These fundamentalists during the so-called free elections made a misogynist
law against Shia women in Afghanistan. This law has even been signed by
Hamid Karzai. All these crimes are happening under the name of democracy.”
Thousands of Afghan civilians have died from insurgent and foreign military
violence. And American and NATO forces are responsible for almost half the
civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have
also died from displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical
treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war. Karzai and his
rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has withdrawn from the runoff election, will
do nothing to halt the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco-state.
NATO, by choosing sides in a battle between two corrupt and brutal
opponents, has lost all its legitimacy in the country.

The city has become such a byword for decline that Time magazine recently
bought a house and set up a reporting team there to cover the city’s
struggles for a year. There has been no shortage of grim news for Time’s
new “Assignment Detroit” bureau to get their teeth into. Recently a
semi-riot broke out when the city government offered help in paying utility
bills. Need was so great that thousands of people turned up for a few
application forms. In the end police had to control the crowd, which
included the sick and the elderly, some in wheelchairs. At the same time
national headlines were created after bodies began piling up at the city’s
mortuary. Family members, suffering under the recession, could no longer
afford to pay for funerals. Incredibly, despite such need, things are
getting worse as the impact of the recession has bitten deeply into the
city’s already catastrophic finances. Detroit is now $300m in debt and is
cutting many of its beleaguered services, such as transport and street
lighting. As the number of bus routes shrivels and street lights are cut
off, it is the poorest who suffer. People like TJ Taylor. He is disabled
and cannot work. He relies on public transport. It has been cut, so now he
must walk. But the lights are literally going out in some places, making
already dangerous streets even more threatening. “I just avoid those areas
that are not lit. I pity for the poor people who live in them,” he said.
The brutal truth, some experts say, is that Detroit is being left behind –
and it is not alone. In cities across America a collapsed manufacturing
base has been further damaged by the recession and has led to conditions of
dire unemployment and the creation of an underclass. There is a grim roll
call of cities across America where decline is hitting hard and where the
official end of the recession will make little difference. Names such as
Flint, Youngstown, Buffalo, Binghamton, Newton. Feldman sees a relentless
decline for working-class Americans all the way from Iowa to New York. He
sees the impact in his own family, as his retired parents-in-law have
difficulties with their gutted pension fund and his disabled son stares at
cuts to his benefits. The economic changes going on, he believes, are a
profound de-industrialisation with which America is failing to come to
terms. “We are going to have to face the end of the industrial age,” he
said. “This didn’t just happen lately either. It’s been happening here in
Detroit since the 1980s. Detroit just got it first, but it could happen
anywhere now.”

A judicial council in Belize has thrown out the convictions of three men
serving life sentences for allegedly bludgeoning a fisherman to death.
Sixty-two-year-old Justo Jairo Perez was killed in San Pedro on Ambergris
Caye seven years ago. Francis Eiley, Ernest Savery and Lenton Polonio were
convicted two years later but always maintained their innocence. The
London-based Death Penalty Project represented the men in their appeal. It
said in a statement that they do not face further legal action and will now
go free. The group said the council ruled the conviction was based on
uncorroborated evidence from a single man, who was discovered at the murder
scene with bloody clothing and later turned state’s witness.

Beijing provided Colombo not only the weapon systems that decisively tilted
the military balance in its favor, but also the diplomatic cover to
prosecute the war in defiance of international calls to cease offensive
operations to help stanch rising civilian casualties. Through such support,
China has succeeded in extending its strategic reach to a critically
located country in India’s backyard that sits astride vital sea-lanes of
communication in the Indian Ocean region.” Chellaney also wants India to
intervene in the issue of refugee rehabilitation. This is linked to the
larger strategic objective of replacing China in Colombo’s affections. If
the end influences the means, the refugees must realistically curtail their
expectations of India’s intervention on their behalf. A delegation of
Indian members of Parliament asked for an early release of the refugees
from the camp so that they can return home. Earlier, Colombo had argued
that it needed to screen the IDPs to “weed out” former Tamil militants.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, however, reportedly told the delegation that
the inmates could not be released before the entire region was de-mined.
According to official figures, 10,593 people had returned to their homes
and another 22,668 had been released from the camps. The vast majority,
thus, continues to live in conditions of internment. Hope for the refugees
has not been heightened, meanwhile, with the announcement that Sri Lanka
will hold both its presidential and parliamentary elections two years ahead
of schedule. The president is taking the plunge to cash in politically on
the military victory over the Tamil rebels. Rajapaksa hopes to reap a
two-thirds parliamentary majority that would enable him to change the
country’s constitution. The speculation is that the statute will be amended
to give him more than two successive presidential terms. Few expect him to
undertake the exercise in order to make Sri Lanka more federal and find a
political solution to the ethnic problem. Fewer still expect his electoral
victory to spell early relief for the refugees.

Prisoners at a Papua New Guinea jail attempted to escape because they were
not fed for two consecutive days. Prison guards successfully stopped the
487 prisoners from escaping. The prison break would have been the country’s
biggest mass break-out in history. The Baisu prison, located near Mount
Hagen in the Western Highland Province of Papua New Guinea, only has
capacity for 300 inmates, yet it holds 800 inmates. A warder stated that
the prison is extremely overcrowded and the facilities are “rundown.” The
800 inmates were starving and left without food because a contract with the
prison’s food suppliers had expired. The chief superintendent of Baisu jail
explained that the prisoners had nothing to eat since Sunday because of a
dispute between rival food suppliers over the contract with the prison. As
a result of the lack of food, three of the inmates fell ill. Fellow inmates
were furious and demanded that the ill inmates be taken to the hospital.
Soon after, 487 of the prisoners attempted to escape the prison. The
inmates were able to get pass three layers of fencing. Many of the watch
towers at the prison had been pulled down because they were rotten and in
extremely poor condition. Thus, the prisoners were able to pass the fencing
more easily. The prison guards had to fire shots at the escapees to stop
them, but no one was killed. This incident would not have happened had the
ongoing ration problem been resolved. The police commissioner has asked the
former contractor to return to feed the inmates, and will continue to
supply food until the dispute over the contract is resolved. A
representative of the prisoners stated that the next time the prisoners
“were made to go hungry, they would simply walk out and risk being shot
dead.” The representative further stated that “while they were lawbreakers,
they had a right under the law to be fed.”

Nearly 5,000 people have died from swine flu infections since the A(H1N1)
virus was uncovered. The death toll marked an increase of about 265 over
the 4,735 deaths reported a week ago. Most of the fatal cases — 3,539 —
have been recorded in North and South America. Iceland, Sudan, and Trinidad
and Tobago reported their first fatal cases over the past week. Mongolia,
Rwanda, and Sao Tome and Principe also recorded pandemic influenza cases
for the first time, as the virus continued to spread. However, A(H1N1)
influenza was declining in tropical areas of the world, with the exception
of Cuba and Colombia. There was also no significant pandemic related
activity in temperate areas of the southern hemisphere, the WHO said.
Meanwhile respiratory disease activity continues to spread and increase in
intensity in the northern hemisphere, mainly in North America.

Two people died and 15 others were seriously wounded after machete-wielding
rioters broke into violence over ethnic tensions in Nairobi’s largest slum.
The violence began after a dozen youths from the Nubian ethnic group were
hired to demolish trading stalls in the Kibera slum on behalf of a church
that believed the stalls were blocking its path. Later, Luhya tribesmen and
traders retaliated by hacking to death a Nubian man in his mid-20s. Nubian
youths then attacked people indiscriminately despite pleas from religious
leaders for calm. A second person was killed. Four victims of machete
violence had been brought to clinics. Several shacks were set on fire.
Nubians and Luhya have clashed before. Paramilitary police were patrolling
the slum, but officials feared the violence could flare into a larger
conflict.

The fight against tax havens is one of the great challenges of our age. Our
approach challenges basic tenets of traditional economic theory and opens
new fields of analysis on a diverse array of important issues such as
foreign aid, capital flight, corruption, climate change, corporate
responsibility, political governance, hedge funds, inequality, morality –
and much more. How big is the problem, and what is its nature? Assets held
offshore, beyond the reach of effective taxation, are equal to about a
third of total global assets. Over half of all world trade passes through
tax havens. Developing countries lose revenues far greater than annual aid
flows. The amount of funds held offshore by individuals is about $11.5
trillion – with a resulting annual loss of tax revenue on the income from
these assets of about 250 billion dollars. This is five times what the
World Bank estimated in 2002 was needed to address the UN Millenium
Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015. This much money could
also pay to transform the world’s energy infrastructure to tackle climate
change. In 2007 the World Bank has endorsed estimates by Global Financial
Integrity (GFI) that the cross-border flow of the global proceeds from
criminal activities, corruption, and tax evasion at US$1-1.6 trillion per
year, half from developing and transitional economies. The annual
cross-border flows from developing countries alone amounts to approximately
US$850 billion – US$1.1 trillion per year. Offshore finance is not only
based in islands and small states: `offshore’ has become an insidious
growth within the entire global system of finance. The largest financial
centres such as London and New York, and countries like Switzerland and
Singapore, offer secrecy and other special advantages to attract foreign
capital flows. As corrupt dictators and other élites strip their countries’
financial assets and relocate them to these financial centres, developing
countries’ economies are deprived of local investment capital and their
governments are denied desperately needed tax revenues. This helps capital
flow not from capital-rich countries to poor ones, as traditional economic
theories might predict, but, perversely, in the other direction. Countries
that lose tax revenues become more dependent on foreign aid. Sub-Saharan
Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world in the sense that
external assets, measured by the stock of capital flight, exceed external
liabilities, as measured by the stock of external debt. The difference is
that while the assets are in private hands, the liabilities are the public
debts of African governments and their people. Globalisation and
international trade and finance have got a bad name of late. Each brings
opportunities, and risks. We must now start to address seriously what may
be the biggest risk of all: tax abuse, and tax havens and everything they
stand for.

In eastern Bolivia — where the United Nations says several thousand Guarani
Indians, including children, work as virtual slaves on large estates —
Morales has promised autonomy. But the area’s elite, Morales’ fiercest
opponents, won’t let that happen without a fight. Obtaining autonomy should
be less contentious for Indians in western highlands towns like Jesus de
Machaca, in part because the land in question yields so little. Jesus de
Machaca is a hardscrabble farming town near Lake Titicaca that is more than
96 percent Aymara Indian. It is among 12 Bolivian municipalities, mostly
Aymara and Quechua, whose inhabitants will vote on becoming autonomous.
Under self-rule, they would legalize governing practices that precede the
Inca empire. Local leaders called mallkus are democratically elected by
their communities in public votes, then choose senior town officials. Terms
in office are restricted to a year. The system is closer to socialism than
capitalism. Deputy mayor Braulio Cusi says autonomy will hugely benefit a
community where nearly all the 13,700 residents live in adobe brick homes
and use cow manure as cooking fuel, where most homes lack running water and
babies are born at home because there’s no hospital or clinic. “Dairy
cooperatives, cheese processing. There will be jobs,” says Cusi, who slings
a white leather whip over his poncho as a symbol of authority. He envisions
a slaughterhouse, and hopes to attract a veterinarian. The town’s more than
900 square kilometers (350 square miles) are devoted mostly to cattle,
llamas and sheep grazing, potatoes and quinoa. Purchased in the 16th and
17th century by natives who refused to become tenant farmers, they are
communally owned but parceled out. Selling to outsiders is prohibited.
Jesus de Machaca took its first step toward autonomy when it became an
independent municipality. It later elected its first mayor, also a mallku.
The national government more than doubled the town’s budget. More than 70
percent of homes now have electricity — up from one in ten in — and
construction just ended on a three-story municipal building with parquet
floors and oak doors. The town is even building a soccer stadium — with
astroturf, one councilman proudly notes. “Before, we were forgotten,” Cusi
says after watching the Wiphala banner of the Andes’ indigenous peoples
raised up a flagpole in the shadow of an imposing Spanish colonial church.
“Now we’re going to define, in our way, how we live — according to our own
customs and practices.” U.N. Declaration on Indigenous Rights:
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html

Karzi’s government is filled with “glaring corruption and unabashed graft.”
Karzi is a president whose confidants and chief advisers comprise drug
lords and war crimes villains who mock our own rule of law and
counter-narcotics effort. Where do you think the $36 billion of money
poured into country by the international community have gone? This money
went into the pockets of the drug lords and the warlords. There are 18
million people in Afghanistan who live on less than $2 a day while these
warlords get rich. The Taliban and warlords together contribute to this
fascism while the occupation forces are bombing and killing innocent
civilians. When we do not have security how can we even talk about human
rights or women’s rights? This election under the shade of Afghan
war-lordism, drug-lordism, corruption and occupation forces has no
legitimacy at all. The result will be like the same donkey but with new
saddles. It is not important who is voting. It is important who is
counting. And this is the problem. Many of those who go with the Taliban do
not support the Taliban, but they are fed up with these warlords and this
injustice and they go with the Taliban to take revenge. Most of the people
are against the Taliban and the warlords, which is why millions did not
take part in this tragic drama of an election. The U.S. wastes taxpayers’
money and the blood of their soldiers by supporting such a mafia corrupt
system of Hamid Karzai,” said Joya, who changes houses in Kabul frequently
because of the numerous death threats made against her. “Eight years is
long enough to learn about Karzai and Abdullah. They chained my country to
the center of drugs. If Obama was really honest he would support the
democratic-minded people of my country. He is going to start war in
Pakistan by attacking in the border area of Pakistan. More civilians have
been killed in the Obama period than even during the criminal Bush.” “My
people are sandwiched between two powerful enemies,” she lamented. “The
occupation forces from the sky bomb and kill innocent civilians. On the
ground, Taliban and these warlords deliver fascism. As NATO kills more
civilians the resistance to the foreign troops increases. If the U.S.
government and NATO do not leave voluntarily my people will give to them
the same lesson they gave to Russia and to the English who three times
tried to occupy Afghanistan. It is easier for us to fight against one enemy
rather than two.”

The busy highway of Eight Mile Road marks the border between the city of
Detroit and its suburbs. On one side stretches the city proper with its
mainly black population; on the other stretches the progressively more
wealthy and more white suburbs of Oakland County. But this recession has
reached out to those suburbs, too. Repossessions have spread like a rash
down the streets of Oakland’s communities. Joblessness has climbed, spurred
by yet another round of mass lay-offs in the auto industry. The real impact
of the recession will continue to be felt in those suburbs for years to
come. For decades they stood as a bulwark against the poverty of the city,
ringing it like a doughnut of prosperity, with decrepit inner Detroit as
the hole at its centre. Now home losses and job cuts are hitting the middle
classes hard. Recovery is going to take a generation. The doughnut itself
is sick now. But what do you think that means for the poor people who live
in the hole? That picture is borne out by the recent actions of Gleaners
Community Food Bank. The venerable Detroit institution has long sent out
parcels of food, clothing and furniture all over the city. But now it is
doing so to the suburbs as well, sometimes to people who only a year or so
ago had been donors to the charity but now face food shortage themselves.
Gleaners has delivered a staggering 14,000 tonnes of food in the past 12
months alone. Standing in a huge warehouse full of pallets of potatoes,
cereals, tinned fruit and other vitals, Gleaners’ president, summed up the
situation bluntly: “People who used to support this programme now need it
themselves. The recession hit them so quickly they just became
overwhelmed.”

The Yanomami live in the border region between Venezuela and Brazil. Swine
flu has killed seven members of this endangered Amazonian tribe. Several
hundred members of the Yanomami tribe in Venezuela could be infected. An
outbreak among the isolated tribes of the Amazon could spread among the
indigenous population very quickly and kill many, campaigners fear. It may
already be happening among the Yanomami in the border region between
Venezuela and Brazil. The situation is “critical” and Venezuela and Brazil
must take immediate action to halt the epidemic. An estimated 32,000
Yanomami Indians remain, living in communities up to 400. Venezuelan
Yanomami live in a 8.2 million hectare (20.2 million acre) forest reserve.
Thousands of illegal gold miners have infiltrated the reserve. They also
need to radically improve the Yanomami’s access to healthcare; swine flu
was the suspected cause of the deaths of a pregnant woman and three small
children. The Yanomami have been hurt by epidemics in the past,
particularly when influenza and malaria were brought by miners in the
1980s. As much as a fifth of the community was killed during that period
and that the Yanomami population has fallen to about 32,000.

An elderly British couple was stabbed to death in a robbery while
vacationing in Kenya. Tony Joel, 70, was stabbed 17 times and his
67-year-old wife, Rita, 11 times. The couple from Southend, Essex were
killed while staying in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. A police investigation
was launched following the deaths. A source close to the investigation said
two people had been arrested as a result.

Hello, I Live In Tobago And Would Like To Be An Agent For Yamaha Outboard
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start up that business. Thank you

In Detroit many people see the only signs of recovery as coming from
themselves. As city government retreats and as cuts bite deep, some of
those left in the city have not waited for help. Take the case of Mark
Covington. He was born and raised in Detroit and still lives only a few
yards from the house where he grew up in one of the city’s toughest
neighbourhoods. Laid off from his job as an environmental engineer,
Covington found himself with nothing to do. So he set about cleaning up his
long-suffering Georgia Street neighbourhood. He cleared the rubble where a
bakery had once stood and planted a garden. He grew broccoli, strawberries,
garlic and other vegetables. Soon he had planted two other gardens on other
ruined lots. He invited his neighbours to pick the crops for free, to help
put food on their plates. Friends then built an outdoor screen of
white-painted boards to show local children a movie each Saturday night and
keep them off the streets. He helped organise local patrols so that
abandoned homes would not be burnt down. He did all this for free. All the
while he still looked desperately for a job and found nothing. Yet Georgia
Street improved. Local youths, practised in vandalism and the destruction
of abandoned buildings, have not touched his gardens. People flock to the
movie nights, harvest dinners and street parties Covington holds. Inspired,
he scraped together enough cash to buy a derelict shop and an abandoned
house opposite his first garden. He wants to reopen the shop and turn the
house into a community centre for children. To do it, he needs a grant. Or
a cheap bank loan. Or a job. But for people like Covington the grants have
dried up, the banks are not lending, and no one is hiring. There is no help
for him. It is hard not to compare Covington’s struggle for cash to the
vast bailout of America’s financial industry. “We just can’t get a loan to
help us out. The banks are not lending,” he said. On an unseasonal warm day
last week, he stood in his urban garden, tending his crops, and gazed
wistfully at the abandoned buildings that he now owns but cannot yet turn
into something good for his neighbourhood. He does not seem bitter. But he
does wonder why it seems so easy in modern America for those who already
have a lot to get much more, while those who have least are forgotten. “It
makes me wonder how they do it. And where is that money coming from?” he
asked.

The Parliamentary Bipartisan Committee investigating the anti-Asian rioting
in Papua New Guinea is allegedly shocked at reports of corruption and
bribery in the Foreign Affairs and Immigration Department. Senior
immigration officials told the committee that officers receive bribes and
are involved in other corrupt practices to allow foreigners into Papua New
Guinea. Several officers have been penalised for being involved in such
illegal activities. The committee was told more than 15,000 foreigners are
estimated to be living illegally in PNG and the immigration department
lacks the funding, staffing and technology to be able to deal with them.
The committee will travel around the country for the next two weeks
gathering public feedback and then present its findings to Parliament.

6/6/2009

INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE AID RISING, BUT EXTREME POVERTY DESTROYS CASH SCAM, LOOTING, KWASO, TARGETING CHINESE WITH OPERATION HIGH VISIBILITY AND 13FT CROCODILE WITH NEW INFLUX OF MYANMAR MUSLIMS AND PAPUA PRISONERS' WATER MARK LAW AMID CORAL TRIANGLE FISH POISONING

The National Council of Women in Papua New Guinea says people of all ages
are dying from starvation, despite the government’s comments that nobody is
lacking food or water.

A haul of skulls and other body parts has been linked to five shipping
containers on the sea bed off the southern Chon Buri province.

A central bank worker in the Solomon Islands may have netted millions of
dollars by depositing old currency notes he was responsible for destroying
into his own bank account. Philip Bobongi was to destroy old and dirty
banknotes but instead had used them to fill his own accounts and accumulate
property and other assets.

A huge crocodile responsible for the deaths of at least seven people has
been caught and put on display on the front of a car in a small Papua New
Guinea town.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police have warned they will be targeting the
illegal trade and drinking of kwaso as well as people going armed in public
without lawful cause.

Bangladesh stepped up vigilance at its border with Myanmar after a fresh
influx of Rohingya Muslims was reported.

US-based Human Rights Watch called on Indonesia to look into the reported
torture and abuse of prisoners in a jail in the province of Papua. Human
Rights Watch singled out brutality by prison guards at the state jail in
Abepura, near the Papua capital of Jayapura.

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare stated that people in Papua New Guinea
are not short of food or water. The President of the National Council of
Women Scholla Kakas disagrees, saying Catholic Bishops, who work closely
with the community have spoken of how people are actually dying from
starvation. “This is spreading all over the country where there is urban
drift from the rural villages into the urban areas into the towns of Papua
New Guinea. And what is happening in Port Moresby is true; there are people
dying of poverty.”

Some believe the containers hold the bodies of pro-democracy protesters
killed by the army in 1992. Police have said that their divers will examine
them. Rumours have suggested that the bodies were scattered by aircraft
over the jungle or buried at a remote army camp. According to the official
tally, 52 people died when troops opened fire on protesters in Bangkok
during “Black May” in 1992. But victims’ groups say that 357 people are
still missing.

Although police were unable to determine how much had been stolen, the scam
occurred over three years and the total could amount to millions of
dollars. Police also seized cash from the home of Mr Bobongi, who has been
charged with larceny, false pretences and money laundering.

The astonishing ‘trophy’, secured to the vehicle by ropes, was driven
through the town of Madang after it was caught by a team of local youths.
But while the bizarre trip around the town, amid a carnival atmosphere, was
intended to put at ease locals who feared more attacks, the warning went
out that the croc’s mate was still at large.

The commissioner said Operation High Visibility will run again this
weekend. “This operation will feature traffic management, foot and mobile
patrols with a strong focus on black market outlets in Central Honiara,
Point Cruz, the Ba’hai and White River areas. General duties officers and
supporting personnel from other Police units will continue to routinely
target disorderly and criminal behaviour, drinking in public and illegal
trading in kwaso.”

Rohingya refugees have presented problems for several other countries in
the region in recent months, with reports of Thailand putting those who
come by boat back to sea, and others reaching Malaysia and Indonesia and
trying to work illegally. Local residents and media said about 1,000
Rohingya Muslims entered Bangladesh in just the past three days, alleging
increased persecution by Myanmar’s military junta.

“How can the government turn a blind eye to beatings and torture in one of
its prisons? Jakarta needs to put an end to this disgraceful behavior,
punish those responsible and start keeping a close eye on what is happening
there.” Reports of more than two dozen cases of beatings and physical abuse
since Anthonius Ayorbaba, became the prison warden.

The government should send out officers to investigate people’s living
conditions and confirm for themselves that people really are starving to
death. The land below high and low water mark are the beaches or
foreshores, reefs and seabed. “This area of land is significant because it
is where many developments like wharfs and tourist facilities are taking
place.”

“Seventeen years on no significant progress has been made in searching for
the people reported missing,” The military government responsible was
forced to step down but the issue of the killings remains extremely
sensitive in Thailand because they were never fully investigated. “The
person who ordered the mass killing has not been punished, nor have the
others involved … who are still living a happy life, playing golf,
sipping wine and making comments to the media.”

The case was uncovered after central bank workers noticed that large
numbers of old notes were still in circulation. Police are applying to the
courts to freeze Mr Bobongi’s bank accounts and seize several vehicles and
properties. Chinese nationals in Papua New Guinea have been subjected to
attacks and protests for a third straight day, leading police to use tear
gas against rioters.

It is known that seven people have been killed by the 13ft captured croc
but there are fears there were other victims who have vanished from their
villages without trace. The latest victim was a 17-year-old girl who was
grabbed by the crocodile from the banks of the Gum River. Her body was
never found. Fearing that the attacks would continue unless the man-eater
was captured, Madang businessman Samuel Aloi called together a group of
youths whose families had learned the art of capturing crocodiles from
earlier generations.

Police officers will also be checking people they suspect to have concealed
weapons and identifying if they are going armed in public without lawful
cause. “Under existing Statute Law, officers of the RSIPF already have the
right to confiscate weapons from people and seize on suspicion on unlawful
activity, at any time. This is not a new power, our officers will simply be
reinforcing their focus on street crime.”

“They forced us from our homes and threatened to treat us even worse if we
go back,” said Syed Alam, who crossed the Naf river on the border in a
small boat with five family members. “The eviction of Muslims in Rakhine
state … increased in recent weeks after the (Myanmar) military started
clearing space to build an army garrison.” Rakhine borders Bangladesh’s
Cox’s Bazar district. Alam said about 120 families were evicted from his
village, and more were being forced out. “I chose to leave my country as a
last resort.”

The government should replace the prison administration, open the
penitentiary to international monitoring and set up an independent team to
probe the reports of abuse in Abepura prison, which currently has about 230
prisoners, including more than a dozen incarcerated because of their
political activities. Human Rights Watch cited cases that included the
alleged beatings of prisoners for trivial offenses often with the offending
prison guards in a drunken stupor and sometimes leading to serious
injuries.

“Equally because of the significance of this area of land, it is one of the
most contested lands among people. The law that applies to this area of
land is not clear. The ownership and other rights that the people and the
Government may have over this area of land is not clear.”

Relatives presented a letter to the prime minister, who has promised to
investigate. “We ask that the government act quickly on this for the sake
of clarity, We don’t hope for much apart from claiming the bones of our
relatives.” The fishermen have reportedly been making their grisly haul for
several years but were initially reluctant to report it for fear that
organised criminals were involved.

Chinese-owned stores were ransacked in the capital Port Moresby and then in
PNG’s second largest city, Lae. Police intervened in another anti-Chinese
protest in Port Moresby, using tear gas to disperse a riot in a popular
market directed at Chinese businesses. Chinese nationals and businesses in
Port Moresby have beefed up security, some hiring off-duty police as
guards, while many have shut their shops as advised by their embassy. The
trouble in the capital began when an anti-Chinese march attended by 100
people ended in violence and looting.

The team of young men attached a large piece of lamb to a hook and hung it
about 2ft above the surface of the river. Then they lay in wait. At 5am the
crocodile suddenly leapt from the water to grab the meat  – and was snared
on the large hook. The youths hauled it to shore where they managed to kill
it, before it was tied to a four-wheel-drive vehicle. “We decided to put it
on display to show everyone that this big crocodile which has killed so
many people has finally been caught,’ said Mr Aloi as he posed for
photographs with the trophy. It’s a very unusual icon to have on the front
of my car, but I wanted the whole town to see it.”

“Weapons are any item capable of causing injury to another person and
include any small knives, bush knives, clubs, firearms or explosive.
Wrecking implements, screwdriver, iron bars, stones and timber qualify as a
weapon if misused on another.” The punishment for going armed in public – a
misdemeanour offence – was up to the courts but generally fines or prison
terms up to 2 years can apply depending on the circumstances. Long jail
terms apply when serious assaults are proven by the courts.

Bangladeshi officials said some of the Rohingyas stated they feared torture
as they supported the democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi, charged with
allegedly harbouring a U.S. citizen in her home while under house arrest.
Bangladesh and Myanmar share a 320 km (200 mile) border, partly demarcated
by the Naf, with frontier guards on both sides keeping an eye on illegal
immigration. Yet the flow of Myanmar refugees has been unabated. The army
had pushed back nearly 300 new entrant Rohingyas recently, increasing
vigilance at the border to prevent the influx of Rohingyas.”

Although the country has the 1995 Law on Rehabilitation, setting out
procedures for prisoners to complain about mistreatment in prison, efforts
to lodge complaints so far have been fruitless and Ayorbaba has been
unwilling to address any abuse complaints. Prisoners and their relatives
often reported incidents of abuse by guards to the Ministry of Justice and
Human Rights, but no action was ever taken. Prisoners say they have stopped
reporting abuses because they lack faith in the system and because they
fear retribution.

Laws introduced and court decisions made before and after independence have
not clarified the position. Neighbouring countries in the region have
diverse laws relating to this area of land. In Samoa this area of land
belongs to the Government. In Vanuatu this area of land is customary land.
In some countries of the region like Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and New Zealand
this area of land belongs to the Government except where customary rights
can be proved to have existed.

Although there are about five containers on the sea bed, they may simply
have fallen off a passing ship. “We have the same curiosity. Why doesn’t
somebody open up these containers and do away with this myth?”  The
director of the National Forensic Science Institute, has been ordered to
investigate but required official clearance before beginning her work.

The Port Moresby police chief has been criticised for allowing the protest
to go ahead, blamed the violence on hooligans. “It was just hooligans
taking advantage of the situation with an emotional build-up. There is
nothing to worry about, as we will continue our patrols and increase
presence on the streets.” In Lae, on the northwest coast, hundreds of men
attacked Chinese nationals and their small businesses across the city.
There were unconfirmed reports of one death and serious injuries to several
looters.

‘We’re planning to operate on it to check for the remains of the young girl
who was killed recently, but we’ll also be sending tissue samples to
Australia for DNA testing in the hope of determining how many other people
it has eaten over the years.’ Mr Aloi said that the crocodile had been seen
in various parts of the Madang waterfront in recent times but no-one had
been able to catch it. ‘This one’s a female and we know that the “husband”
is still at large. We’ve got a warning out to people to remain vigilant and
not to rest on their laurels just because this one’s been caught.’

“Police seek the public’s cooperation and understanding in these random
searches for weapons and enquiries. We are trying to reduce the risk of
drunken fights turning into fatalities. If someone has fair cause to be
carrying a bush knife around town and are not intending harm to others,
they have nothing to fear from police. If you are out to cause trouble,
that’s another matter.”

The Rohingyas might be trying to use the recent turmoil in Myanmar over Suu
Kyi’s trial as a pretext to leave. More than 21,000 Rohingyas have been
living in two Cox’s Bazar camps, run by the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees, since early 1992, when some 250,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh.

“The Indonesian government needs to replace the Abepura prison management.
But this is not just a failure of one prison warden. It’s a failure of
Jakarta to set proper standards and enforce them.” Access to Papua has been
strictly limited. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also ordered the
International Committee of the Red Cross to close its field office in
Jayapura. The ICRC ran sanitation projects in Papua and also visited
detainees, including political prisoners, in Abepura prison.

The review will consider how the law could deal with the competing rights
of land owners and the public benefits that any sustainable development
will bring to the people. The Commission encourages people, offices, and
institutions to make submissions or have their say on how the law should
change to deal with this area of land.

Australia’s foreign aid program will focus on health, education and food
security in the region to alleviate the “enormous human cost” of the global
financial crisis. The Government affirmed it would raise aid levels to 0.5
per cent of gross national income by 2015-16, though next year’s rise will
be minuscule, from 0.33 to 0.34 per cent – amounting to spending of $3.8
billion. These levels keep Australia in the bottom half of aid donors among
developed countries and fall far short of a long-held promise to raise aid
to 0.7 per cent of GNI.

Unnamed youths involved in the Lae attacks complained Asian small-business
owners were “ripping us off”. “Who is allowing these Asians to come into
our country and own small businesses which should be owned by Papua New
Guineans? They are ripping us off and investing their money in their
country.” Earlier in the week, PNG workers clashed with management at the
Chinese-run Ramu nickel mine in Madang Province, on the northeast coast,
after a tractor injured a worker. PNG’s Chinese community began with
immigration in the late 19th century, but local resentment has grown as an
influx of “new Chinese” have slowly taken over small businesses like trade
stores and food shops in the past 15 years. Many in PNG feel squeezed out
and complain about working for ruthless Chinese bosses who impose tough
conditions. Allegations of a rise in Chinese organised crime and corruption
involving PNG officials has also added to community anger. It is estimated
the Chinese population in PNG now outnumbers Australians by more than two
to one.

Scientists have come up with a theory that attributes the historic
migrations of the Polynesians from the Cook islands to New Zealand, Easter
Island and Hawaii in the 11th to 15th centuries, to fish poisoning. Based
on archeological evidence, paleoclimatic data and modern reports of
ciguatera poisoning, some theorize that ciguatera outbreaks were linked to
climate and that the consequent outbreaks prompted historical migrations of
Polynesians.

Threatening violence, challenging another person to a fight, fighting in a
public place, and going armed in public are all existing offences under the
Penal Code of the Solomon Islands. The Police officers would continue to
work closely with government and community leaders to reduce kwaso-related
crime in Honiara and other communities. “Recent stabbings at the weekend
are not an indication that crime is one the rise in the Solomon Islands.
Statistics on reported crime to the RSIPF actually show a significant drop,
with crime down 20% across the Solomon Islands.”

The Rohingyas allege persecution by the military in what was then Burma,
but the UNHCR managed to send most of them back within a short time. The
rest refused to return and the U.N. agency says they cannot force anyone to
go back against their will. Cox’s Bazar officials say more then 200,000
Rohingyas live outside the camps, mixing with local Muslims who have an
almost common language. Muslims are a minority in Myanmar, where most of
the population is Buddhist.

Human Rights Watch said that international monitors such as the ICRC and
independent human rights groups should be able to visit prisoners in
Abepura to investigate reports of abuse. Papua has seen a low-level
separatist movement since the 1960s but pro-independence sentiments have
been on the rise in the face of perceived injustice in the economy and
alleged abuses by security forces in their drive to rid the province of
separatism. The UN special rapporteur for torture visited Indonesia and
found that police used torture as a “routine practice in Jakarta and other
metropolitan areas of Java.”

About 100 million people living on Australia’s doorstep could be forced to
leave their homeland due to climate change this century. Australia will
have a key role in avoiding ecological and humanitarian disaster in what is
called the Coral Triangle – the marine area including Indonesia, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.
Failure to take effective action on climate change will diminish the food
supply drawn from the area’s coasts by up to 80 per cent.

The federal budget paper on aid, A Good International Citizen, said the
economic slowdown would reverse a four-year reduction in the number of
people living in extreme poverty. An extra 90 million people – including 62
million in Asia – are expected to live in extreme poverty this year.
Countries that will receive the largest aid allocations are Indonesia ($453
million), Papua New Guinea ($414 million) and the Solomon Islands ($246
million). The Pacific will surpass East Asia as the biggest regional
recipient as the Rudd Government focuses on assisting the neighbourhood and
preventing an outbreak of failing island states.

The Indigenous Resistance dub attitude can be, by turns, either a
burn-down-Babylon fiery dub or a self-reflexive, meditative dub. The label
releases Bogota’s DJ Rodrigo’s new take on crucial tracks from the IR
archive in two formats; the full 48 minute head-tripping mix and as
individual tracks-all available through iTunes and Believe digital of
France.

Ciguatera poisoning is a food-borne disease that can come from eating
large, carnivorous reef fish, and causes vomiting, headaches, and a burning
sensation upon contact with cold surfaces. It is known that the historic
populations of Cook Islanders was heavily reliant on fish as a source of
protein, and the scientists suggest that once their fish resources became
inedible, voyaging became a necessity. Modern Cook Islanders, though
surrounded by an ocean teeming with fish, don’t eat fish as a regular part
of their diet but instead eat processed, imported foods. In the late 1990s,
lower-income families who could not afford processed foods emigrated to New
Zealand and Australia. Past migrations had similar roots. The heightened
voyaging from A.D. 1000 to 1450 in eastern Polynesia was likely prompted by
ciguatera fish poisoning. There were few options but to leave once the
staple diet of an island nation became poisonous. This approach brings us a
step closer to solving the mysteries of ciguatera and the storied
Polynesian native migrations. It will lead to better forecasting and
planning for ciguatera outbreaks.

Under the worst-case scenario the ecology of the region would be destroyed
by rises in ocean temperature, acidity and sea level. Poverty increases,
food security plummets, economies suffer and coastal people migrate
increasingly to urban areas. Tens of millions of people are forced to move
from rural and coastal settings due to loss of homes, food resources and
income, putting pressure on regional cities and surrounding developed
nations such as Australia and New Zealand. Even under a best-case scenario,
the region will lose coral and have to deal with higher seas, more frequent
storms, droughts and less food from coastal fisheries. Large cuts in
greenhouse emissions and international financial support for the region’s
environment are needed. It is in Australia’s interest to invest early to
help avoid the worst-case scenario.

Woven throughout this new mix you will hear indigenous voices and chants
collected by Indigenous Resistance from all over the world: the Malaitai
from Solomon Islands, the Krikati indians from Brasil, traditional Cree
chants from Turtle Island, traditional instruments from Sosolakam and
Solomon Islands embedded into tracks recorded in Jamaica, the U.K, Germany,
Solomon Islands, Sosolakam, Brasil, Colombia, Cuba & Turtle Island. IR’s
eclectic production techniques pulls together producers with different
styles and methods to create their releases. This is especially evident on
the full IR18 where DJ Rodrigo deftly maneuvers successfully through the
many genres, which include: Drum N Bass, Jungle, Detroit Techno, Electro,
Big Beat, Dub, Reggae, House and the multi-ethnic stew (breakbeat, dub,
dancehall, ragga) of Dr Das and Asian Dub Foundation (which some pile
together into the term of World Beat) and the punk and hardcore sound of
knob-twirler extraordinaire, Ramjac. As a matter of course, IR travels the
globe working with pockets of Indigenous Resistance in the Fourth World to
get their messages out from behind the propaganda machines that deny them
the freedom of the press. Through free releases and downloads, and funded
by sales of albums through CD Baby, iTunes and Believe Digital, IR has set
up a campaign to send these tracks back into the indigenous communities as
well as back out to the world to fall on sympathetic ears. IR utilizes any
means necessary to get the music and messages heard passed the restrictive
regimes that keep the indigenous down and disenfranchised.

$464 million will be spent over the next four years on food security to
alleviate the impact of shortages, volatile prices, increased consumption,
climate change and the use of crops to produce bio-fuels. Programs will
focus on helping communities to improve their farming and fisheries
management. The biggest boost is to education, which will receive $690
million this year and focus on improving participation rates and teaching
quality. The Government will also extend links between aid and the
performance of partner countries.

Four looters were shot as Papua New Guinean (PNG) police was on high alert
to clamp down on the Anti-Asia sentiment across the country. Since the
weekend, four men were shot as police tried to stop the ongoing violence
directed at Asian-run stores in the Highlands region. One Southern
Highlands man was shot in Mount Hagen. Another Southern Highlander, who was
shot by police, could lose one of his legs after being smashed by a bullet.
Police in Goroka shot a 20-year-old man who was also likely to lose a leg,
as police tried to control thousands of people that went on a rampage and
looted several shops in the town. In Lae, one man was shot in the leg by
police. Police in the Highlands have gone on full alert, keeping
surveillance over Goroka, Mount Hagen, Kainantu and Wabag as hundreds of
people converged in the region and broke into shops operated by families of
Korean and Chinese origins. Most Asian-run shops remained closed in the
Highlands with armed security guards. Meanwhile, trouble makers on streets
attempted to loot those shops again.

4/25/2009

SOLOMON TSUNAMI SOMALI PIRATES’ LONE GUNMAN LEAVES 13 DEAD IN LAWLESS PAPUA BEGGARS’ LONGEST CROP WAR

Papua was on high alert as a range of incidents, including attacks on
police stations, claimed 11 lives to mar voting day in the country’s
easternmost province, still plagued by separatist threats.

Kenya, with nearly a quarter of its 38 million people facing severe hunger,
is now reporting a rapid spread of diseases affecting the country’s vital
wheat and banana crops. The crisis is being exacerbated by plummeting
public confidence in the country’s year-old coalition government.

To wage today’s battles against pirates who took control of 42 ships and
captured 815 sailors last year, the Royal Navy is combining machines and
methods forged during the Cold War with centuries-old naval warfare skills.
The Royal Navy is also hitting back at pirates by using some of the
pirates’ own tricks.

A lone gunman shot and killed at least 13 people in a “premeditated” attack
at an immigrant centre in upstate New York, before turning his weapon on
himself. The gunman first used his car to barricade the back door of the
American Civic Association in Binghamton, 140 miles north of New York City.

The South Asian nation of Bangladesh wants to do something about the
increasing number of beggars migrating into its cities from the
countryside. Legislation has been approved that could send many of the
country’s most destitute to jail for openly asking for charity. Some aid
agencies are skeptical this approach will solve the problem.

Mobile-phone users in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nakuru will be able to
access Google Maps and search up-to-date online maps, look up businesses,
advertise free via Google Maps Local Business Centre, create their own maps
and even check locations while on the move.

It began with British betrayal after the Second World War and has
stubbornly outlived every other conflict. But now, as it marks its diamond
jubilee, the world’s longest-running war is nearing its endgame. The
guerrilla army of the Karen ethnic group, which has been fighting since
1949 for independence from Burma, is facing the greatest crisis in its
history. If Karen resistance collapses, as some believe is likely, it will
be a triumph for the Burmese junta as it consolidates its hold on power.

The incident is, by Port Moresby standards, neither here nor there. Coming
off an overpass and you notice people scattering in light rain. Blocking
traffic is an urban response-style light police truck, with a two-sided
troop seat in the back. A woman is running, followed by two police. One of
the officers punches her hard in the face, then she doubles over from what
appears to be a truncheon in the guts.

Now tsunamis won’t be able to catch you unaware, thanks to a mathematics
formula worked out by scientists that will give advance warnings and an
idea of their destructive might.

The incidents, however, did not prevent most Papuans from voting on
election day. According to National Police data, 75 percent of Papuans
voted at more than 6,000 polling stations across the province. The polls
had to be delayed in Yahukimo and Paniaki, with bad weather obstructing the
delivery of polling material to the two regencies.

Recent reports from Kenya’s breadbasket region of the Rift Valley have
confirmed what the country can ill-afford – the spread of a deadly strain
of a parasitic fungus called stem rust that is threatening to wipe out the
country’s wheat fields.

Most of the other warships deployed to fight pirates in the region are
concentrated north of Somalia, close to the Suez Canal, through which 10
percent of the world’s sea trade passes. Northumberland was the first
warship on the scene from a new European Union task force, charged with
patrolling the southern flank of the 2-million-square-mile piracy zone,
near Mombasa. It was here that pirates scored their biggest victory seizing
the supertanker Sirius Star, laden with $100 million in crude oil.

He calmly walked into the front of the building armed with two pistols and
began shooting, killing one receptionist and wounding another. Moments
later he marched into a nearby classroom and began spraying bullets into
people reportedly undergoing citizenship tests.

Ragged beggars are a common sight on the streets of Dhaka and other cities
in Bangladesh. The government wants to make their presence a rarity, if not
eliminate it totally. To that end, a new law curtailing begging in the open
and on crowded streets will be strictly enforced. Violators will face up to
three months in jail.

Google has maps for Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, but the level of detail is
not what it is for Kenya. “Google Maps is not just searchable digitized
maps helping you to find a local place, service or product. Our goal is to
make information with a geographical dimension available to everyone and to
allow users to update the maps and develop.”

After a three-year offensive by the junta, the Karen National Liberation
Army (KNLA) has been forced into increasingly small pockets of resistance.
Deprived of funds and equipment, it is able to do little more than slow the
advance of the Burmese Army as it lays waste to hundreds of villages,
driving thousands of terrified civilians before it.

We go through a roundabout and come back. The woman is running now, arms
crazy above her head as the police truck pursues her over gutters. Soon
after, we find the woman and a group of her friends standing by the
roadside, panting and bleeding heavily. One man has a deep gash running
across his left cheek. The bashed woman is half-laughing, half-crying. They
are drunk on “steam”, the local metho-rated liquor cooked in secret stills,
flavoured with orange cordial and sold dirt cheap in the markets.

The research, led by a maths professor, was prompted by the 2004
post-Christmas tsunami that devastated coastal communities in Indonesia,
Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. In this instance, an earthquake in the ocean
depths triggered a long surface wave which resulted in six massive wave
fronts, one after the other.

The disruptions began when homemade bombs exploded under a bridge on the
border between Papua and Papua New Guinea. No one was killed, but police
found two unexploded bombs while sweeping the area. Unknown assailants
stabbed five ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers in Wamena, leaving four of them
dead and one in critical condition. A fuel storage tank at a state oil
company depot in Biak exploded during refilling, instantly killing a
bystander.

The strain was first detected in East Africa a decade ago. But it has
spread to other wheat producing areas in the world, largely because poor
farmers here have not been able to afford the fungicide needed to combat
the problem. “It started spreading very fast. We have it in Kenya. We have
it in Ethiopia, spreading toward the north [to] Egypt and it probably
reached India. It is a serious concern. Stem rust, of course, is
controllable with chemicals, but it is damn expensive. The only solution is
to bring in new varieties that are resistant to stem rust. We are at a
quite advanced stage.”

Somali sea bandits hijacked more than 40 large vessels last year, ransoming
about 30 of them for a million U.S. dollars or more. Sirius Star was
released in January after an estimated $3 million ransom was paid, but the
other ships, and about 200 crew, remain in pirates’ hands. The rise in
piracy, and consequent rise in the cost of shipping insurance, drove up the
cost of shipping petroleum, electronics and food.

In seconds, a dozen people were dead, another five were wounded, and more
than 30 had fled amid pandemonium. The gunman, believed to be a 42-year-old
Vietnamese American from nearby Johnson City, had recently lost his job
with IBM in his home town. “It was premeditated,” said the Binghamton
police chief. “The suspect had put a car against the back door blocking any
exit for victims.”

Parliament approved a bill cracking down on beggars and it will take about
a month to draft guidelines on how authorities will enforce the new law.
They note that some beggars seek pity by pretending to be ill or displaying
a disability. Sympathizers say most of those in such a condition on the
streets really have no alternative.

“We believe more accurate, representative local information can greatly
improve the breadth of information available about a given area, and in
turn can help efforts to bolster tourism and business investment.” Google
Maps is available in 23 African countries, but the company is providing
more detailed maps that go beyond the capital cities and include other
aspects of life. The company will divulge more information once the team
finalizes its plans.

Most serious of all, the Karen leadership is losing the support of
neighbouring Thailand, where it was formerly able to organise, arm and –
when necessary – retreat. Trapped between the Burmese Army to the west and
an increasingly unfriendly Thailand to the east, with hundreds of thousands
of their people in wretched refugee camps, the Karen are experiencing a
humanitarian and military catastrophe.

The man with the cut face is leaning through the window, spraying bloody
protestations of innocence. Asked why they didn’t just run away, all they
can repeat is: “It wasn’t our fault; we didn’t do anything.” Papua New
Guineans will stand before they fall. “The trouble is, they are Goilala,
which means they probably did do something, anything from holding up a car
to illegally selling betel nut by the side of the road.”

Of these waves it was the third and largest one that caused the most
devastation, hitting the beaches with terrifying speed. Reaching a height
of 20 metres or 65 feet, it hefted a train from its tracks as it travelled
along the Sri Lankan coastline, killing almost 1,000 people.

Police security posts at the Skaw Wutung border between Indonesia and Papua
New Guinea were attacked by unknown gunmen, with no casualties reported.
About 50 men armed with homemade bombs, spears, cleavers, bows and
cassowary bones attacked the Abepura Police station in Jayapura. The police
shot into the crowd, killing one attacker and injuring eight others.

In Kenya, most of the fields affected by the stem rust strain belong to
small-scale farmers, who grow 20 percent of the wheat consumed annually.
Although maize is the staple among most Kenyans, wheat flour has grown
crucial to the country’s overall food supply. Drought and post-election
violence in maize-producing areas of the country prevented many farmers
from planting crops. Domestic maize production was so poor, the government
had to begin importing corn to help feed some 10 million Kenyans facing
starvation.

To beat pirates in potentially violent showdowns, the Navy has adopted the
pirates’ tactics of using “mother ships” carrying fast boats to spring on
opponents. In the early days of Somali piracy, pirates ranged only a few
miles from their hometowns and threatened just a few thousand square miles
of ocean. The reason was simple: Most pirates were former fishermen and had
only the tools of a typical fishermen. Their personal firearms and their
small, motor-propelled wooden fishing boats, called skiffs. The skiffs were
too slow and too flimsy to catch anything but the most rickety of vessels.

The surviving receptionist, lying bleeding on the floor, alerted police
with her mobile phone and survived the ordeal. “After he shot her she
pretended she was dead. As he exited down the hallway she crawled
underneath the desk and sometime after that she called us.” Some of those
fleeing hid in the basement. More than a dozen hid in a cupboard. At least
five were wounded.

The Bangladesh Finance Ministry says it wants to emulate some neighboring
countries that have implemented plans to rehabilitate urban beggars by
providing them with employment training programs. Imprisonment and brief
training schemes will not solve the problem.

The company has boosted the popularity of the maps by including content
from local celebrities such as Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize winner),
Julie Gichuru (TV presenter), Churchill (comedian) and Humphrey Kayange
(Kenya Rugby 7’s team captain). Google Maps will help create a greater
understanding of the socio-economic situation in different regions.

“The military situation is as bad as it’s been at any time in the past 60
years. The Karen have less territory, fewer soldiers and fewer resources to
sustain resistance. The Burmese have them more and more surrounded, and
their backs are up against the wall.” A Karen leader on the Thai border
said that the KNLA and Burmese Army were fighting near the town of
Kawkareik, close to the Thai border. All year there have been reports of
Karen villagers being driven into the jungle by marauding soldiers.

Goilala are conspicuously short street dwellers originally from the Central
Province. They are branded Moresby’s most prolific troublemakers, first
suspects in any crime. Programs to rid PNG’s capital of crime are earnestly
afoot. It won’t be easy because criminal behaviour is not confined to
street people. Moresby’s police wield a brutal form of shoot-first,
ask-later justice, and some people see PNG’s politicians as notorious
pork-barrellers. When street people are asked to clean up their act, they
ask: What about them?

If we could understand more about how these long waves behave we could
predict where they might hit and how devastating they might be. The number
and height of the tsunami waves hitting the shoreline depends critically on
the shape of the initial surface wave in deep water.

At daybreak, the rector’s building at Cendrawasih University – about 5
kilometers from the Abepura Police station – was set ablaze by unknown
people. The fire razed important documents and badly damaged one of the
building’s three floors, but claimed no casualties. All the incidents,
except the explosion at the Pertamina depot, were intended to disrupt the
elections in Papua. The depot explosion was simply an accident.

Meanwhile, residents in western Kenya’s Nyanza province, hit hard by last
year’s poor maize harvest, are now reporting the outbreak of a disease that
is destroying banana trees there. Many Kenyans rely on bananas to
supplement their diets. But the once-plentiful fruit is prematurely
ripening and rotting on trees infected with a disease called banana
bacterial wilt. On some plantations, yield losses of 90 percent are being
reported.

Then the pirates innovated. They began capturing trawlers and small
freighters for use as motherships. When about a dozen armed Somalis
intercepted a ship, the pirates had no interest in its cargo. Instead, they
commandeered the harmless-looking freighter to launch their next attack. It
was more than three months before the pirates released the ship and her
crew.

Police arrived within two minutes and surrounded the centre, deploying FBI
hostage negotiators and a heavily armed Swat team. They established mobile
phone contact with 27 survivors barricaded in the basement and relayed
instructions about how to block the door against their attacker.

Every day thousands of beggars are coming to Dhaka city and other cities.
So it is not the solution by putting them in jail for three months or a
rehabilitation center for one month, two months. It is not the solution.
The government should focus on creating jobs in rural areas to stem the
internal migration by the poor into the cities.

One local company, KenyaBuzz, a community events, business and tourism
site, is already making use of the Google Maps API (application programming
interface), on its Web site. “Google Maps serves as a great platform
helping to provide accurate, comprehensive, location-based information for
our audience.”

“It’s a cat-and-mouse kind of struggle. The Burmese burn down villages and
relocate the people close to their own camps.” The Karen conflict has its
origins in the Second World War, when many Karen fought alongside the
British Army against the invading Japanese. The seven million Karen were
promised their own state by the British but when independence came in 1948
the promise was forgotten. A year later, in January 1949, the Karen began
the armed struggle that has continued ever since.

Trust between the citizens of PNG and the authorities is broken. That
explains why almost half of Australia’s annual $358 million in aid to PNG
goes to improving law and justice. Reinstating trust is crucial. Yumi
Lukautum Moresby (“You, me, look out for Moresby”) is making a difference
by building a bridge between the people of the notorious crime-breeding
urban settlements – in which there is no electricity, no toilets, and a few
shared taps for up to 5000 people – and the authorities.

From this it is possible to work out whether a ‘trough’ or a ‘peak’ is the
leading wave. In the case of a trough then the familiar sight of the tide
suddenly going out is the precursor to an approaching tsunami.

The Vice President said he had received a report from Papua Police
indicating efforts and a conspiracy to disrupt the elections. But the
National Police chief said the attack on the Abepura Police station had
nothing to do with the polls, adding it was a random attack aimed at
undermining security officers.

Wheat and banana farmers say they need the government to urgently release
funds to help fight the diseases threatening to impoverish them and to
leave east Africa’s largest economy in even greater need of food aid.
Middle-class workers say they, too, are struggling to put food on the table
because of persistent high inflation, mostly due to rising food costs.

It appears the killer turned one of his guns on himself. Police took nearly
an hour to search the building, amid concerns there may have been more than
one gunman, and then had to persuade 27 immigrants that it was safe to
leave the basement. A total of 37 people were hidden in various sections of
the building. The American Civic Association is a charity that helps
immigrants with naturalisation applications.

It is believed that several hundred thousand Bangladeshis live off begging.
A survey several years ago in relatively prosperous Dhaka found that the
average beggar there managed to collect about $1.5 a day. Approximately 40
percent of Bangladeshis get by on less than $1 per day.

The tourism sector, which has faced a slump because of the worldwide
economic crisis, is also looking to Google Maps for a boost. “Adding
tourism locations on Google Maps creates a free marketing channel and will
drive more people to our Web site and ultimately to the tourist locations.”

In the early decades of the war, the KNU dominated the Irrawaddy Delta,
close to the former Burmese capital Rangoon, as well as areas north of the
city and all of Kayin State. But in the 1990s an increasingly well-armed
Burmese Army made steady gains and in 1995 the KNU was driven out of its
capital, Manerplaw. Buddhists in the Christian-dominated KNU broke away to
form the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which now fights alongside
the Burmese Army. Formerly, the KNU had operated as a quasi-government,
providing schools and clinics and receiving income from tax, as well as
from a profitable trade through Thailand in timber, gold, zinc and
antimony.

Overcrowded Moresby routinely features in top 10 lists of the world’s most
dangerous cities. These rankings are decided by business or travel
magazines, which see Moresby through the prism of tourists or expats, who
live safely guarded in hotels or behind razor wire with all-night security
guards. The real test should be whether Moresby is safe for locals.

‘If a peak is the leading wave, there is no warning except a
fast-approaching wall of water. Potentially this could provide vital
information for areas facing an impending disaster.’

“This was purely an act of violence committed by armed guerillas.” Police
have named six people as suspects in the attack and are questioning eight
others as witnesses.

The country’s growing crisis comes on the heels of allegations that top
politicians on both sides of the coalition government have been involved in
scandals aimed at enriching themselves at the expense of Kenyan taxpayers.

Warships assigned to piracy patrols rarely engage pirates on their own.
They deploy specialized search-and-seizure teams, which consist of marines
armed with rifles and machine guns, traveling in raider craft.

Two women and a man suffering gunshot wounds were being treated at Wilson
Medical Centre in nearby Johnson City. Binghamton, a quiet university town
with a population of 47,000, is the home of IBM and has a low crime rate,
enjoying the nickname Parlour Town for the handsome front parlours of its
elegant villas.

An official report from the Commission of Inquiry into the Solomon Islands
riots found there was no conspiracy behind the violence, blaming police
incompetence instead. Riots erupted after Snyder Rini was elected prime
minister by legislators. Dozens of Chinese-owned businesses were looted and
burned in the riots. Chinese businesses were targeted at least partly
because of allegations they had helped fund the unpopular Mr. Rini to bribe
legislators for support. The damage was estimated at $180 million Solomon
Island dollars but a commission warned that compensation would only trigger
more anger against the Chinese community.

Google is also working with local software developers by providing APIs for
Google Maps to help programmers, Web masters and designers to incorporate
the functionality of Google Maps on their sites and develop new services
based on local information.

The loss of territory brought a loss of funds, which made it harder to arm
and equip itself. The KNU claims to have 10,000 soldiers, including village
militia men, but the number of active fighters is probably between 3,000
and 5,000.

It is women who suffer most. Domestic and sexual violence is described by
Amnesty International as endemic. Women fear reporting domestic violence
partly because of their husbands, partly because police have a reputation
for raping female complainants.

Later the same day, a small aircraft operated by a local airline crashed in
Wamena, killing all six crew on board. The cause of the crash is currently
being investigated.

An opinion poll was released showing that 70 percent of Kenyans believe
that the coalition government, formed to help the country heal from the
ethnic bloodletting that followed the disputed presidential elections, has
achieved nothing since it took power.

A naval engagement with pirates often begins with a commercial ship
reporting an attack, using a radio frequency set aside for emergency calls.
Other times, a maritime patrol plane, usually flying from Djibouti, spots a
potential mothership or pirate skiff, identifiable not by its appearance,
but by its vector. A trawler speeding away from Somalia, toward a
slow-moving tanker ship, just might have hostile intentions.

President Barack Obama said last night: “Michelle and I were shocked and
deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence. Our thoughts
and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of
Binghamton.”

The Royal Solomon Islands Police had failed to do its duty in containing
the violence. There was confusion between local police and Regional
Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) police, who have access to
superior resources. RAMSI police and Solomon Islands police were not clear
on who was to take responsibility for containing the violence. It
catalogued a series of failures by the police that resulted in a security
breakdown, including a lack of credible intelligence information,
equipment, and organizational ability.

The KNU suffered another blow when its respected and charismatic leader,
Pado Mahn Shar, was assassinated at his home in Thailand by unidentified
gunmen. Among many Karen there was a suspicion that the ease with which the
killers escaped, and the failure to apprehend them, reflected a cooling of
the welcome afforded by Thailand. Last month Karen military commanders were
ordered out of Thailand and back across the border. This probably reflects
the Thai Government’s increasing dependence on Burma for raw materials and
energy – the two governments are jointly planning ambitious hydroelectric
dams along the Salween River which forms part of their border.

Chamber of Commerce members are encouraged to give street people jobs. They
go through short skills courses and are placed with companies for work
experience. AusAid, pays the wages. “Some are the kids straight out of jail
and we’re always up-front with employers. But it doesn’t seem to bother
many of them. Last year we found 70 per cent of them were retained.”

Naval commanders, in touch with each other by phone, e-mail and satellite
network, sort through the roster of warships in the region to figure out
who might respond fastest. They call this “deconfliction.” When the
responding ship is close enough, it launches a helicopter to scout ahead
and confirm that the suspect seafarers are indeed armed, while preparing to
lower the boarding teams’ boats into the water.

The New York State governor called it a “senseless killing”, adding: “When
are we going to be able to curb the kind of violence that is so fraught and
so rapid? We all have a profound sadness.”

A spokesperson from the RAMSI police force in the Solomon Islands says the
policing problems in the report have been fixed. The Assistant
Commissioner, Commander of the Participating Police Force in RAMSI says his
officers acted professionally and properly in discharging their
responsibility. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has improved their
capacity to deal with riots, has more trained officers and equipment, and
has developed a call out system.

The border is a valuable conduit not only for the Karen but for Burmese
struggling to overthrow the military dictatorship. After the junta cracked
down on large pro-democracy demonstrations of monks and activists, many of
them escaped into Thailand.

Measures such as this are making Moresby safer. “We definitely think so.
There are perceptions and everyone’s got them. But right now as we drive
through one of the roughest areas of Port Moresby, Kaugere, and we don’t
see any rocks coming towards us. A safe place is good for all of us. It’s
incumbent upon us to get involved.”

The ship’s presence alone was often enough to prevent pirate attacks.
Beyond that, the helicopter might deter pirates simply by “flying close to
demonstrate the aircraft’s machine gun and giving the pirates warning of
their serious intentions.”

The attack is the third massacre in the US in a month. A gunman in Alabama
killed ten people and then himself. Another lone gunman killed eight in a
North Carolina nursing home.

“It’s a crucial route for information. If that’s closed down the whole
country will become much more isolated.” The United Nations has ruled that
the continued detention by Burma of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi violates domestic and international laws. The latest one-year detention
period of Ms Suu Kyi, who has spent 13 of the past 19 years under house
arrest, expires in May.

YLM (Yumi Lukautim Mosbi) hunts corporate sponsorship, runs awareness
campaigns, gets kids playing sport and works with government. It has
organised a toll-free number to evacuate women and children from violent
situations using a private security company. In PNG, people can’t rely on
police to respond to 000. In Australia, this would be seen as a spectacular
failure by police. Two private companies, Protect Security and phone
company Digicel, donated the service, so we are not interested in exploring
the point. In PNG, do it however you can.

If the pirates persist, the boarding teams deploy, flanking the pirates’
boats to approach from both sides, moving fast with weapons at the ready.
If the pirates lay down their weapons, they are taken into custody without
a shot fired. If they shoot, the boarding teams fire back, then climb
aboard.

Not all art is strictly about the aesthetic, some pieces provide an
important function in the community like the large black and white
photographs installed this week on rooftops across Kibera, Kenya. The
intimate photos, taken by photographer JR, act as a second roof, protecting
the village’s delicate structures from water damage, a vital job in one of
Africa’s worst slums.

Everyone is saying Moresby is safer than five years ago, but you’ll still
hit the accelerator hard through the several well-known trouble spots. One
explanation for the lessening crime rate is that so many leading criminals
– they don’t much call them raskols these days, it’s seen as too cute – are
dead.

3/31/2009

PRISON JUMPING SPIDERS BANKRUPT STRANGLED PARADISE WAR APPAREL AID AMID INDEPENDENT CYCLONED TREE PLANTATIONS

South Asia’s export based apparel industry is reeling under the impact of
the global recession as demand for clothing from Western countries slows
down. The industry is one of the biggest employers in this region.

Burmese people beg for food in the rain as aid begins to arrive following
cyclone Nargis. International aid for cyclone victims in Burma was
deliberately blocked by the military regime.

One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole
or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008.

Police found the body of a strangled woman in a suitcase dumped at
Bangladesh’s Zia International Airport. Security officials alerted customs
and police after the suitcase was found on a trolley outside the airport’s
departure door late yesterday.

It began with British betrayal after the Second World War and has
stubbornly outlived every other conflict. But now, as it marks it diamond
jubilee, the world’s longest-running war is nearing its endgame. The
guerrilla army of the Karen ethnic group, which has been fighting since
1949 for independence from Burma, is facing the greatest crisis in its
history. If Karen resistance collapses, as some believe is likely, it will
be a triumph for the Burmese junta as it consolidates its hold on power.

A British man is allegedly killed by thieves in a raid on his yacht during
a boating holiday off the southern coast. Malcolm Robertson and his wife
Linda were sailing their boat off the coast of southern Thailand when he
was allegedly beaten with a hammer and thrown overboard by a group of men
trying to steal a dinghy.

The Seychelles, the idyllic archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast
of Africa, is best known as an island paradise playground for celebrities,
royalty and the ultra-wealthy. These days, it’s better known for something
else: bankruptcy.

The junta’s wilful disregard for the welfare of the 3.4 million survivors
of cyclone Nargis – which struck the Irrawaddy delta last May, killing
140,000 people – and a host of other abuses amount to crimes against
humanity under international law. The storm surge coupled with intense
winds swept away homes, fields, livestock and rice stores, leaving little
or nothing for survivors. But the military regime, which was at the time
preparing for a national referendum on its plans to hold elections in 2010,
insisted it could cope with the disaster despite its scale and shunned most
international relief for weeks.

Criminal correction spending is outpacing budget growth in education,
transportation and public assistance, based on state and federal data. Only
Medicaid spending grew faster than state corrections spending, which
quadrupled in the past two decades. The increases in the number of people
in some form of correctional control occurred as crime rates declined by
about 25 percent in the past two decades.

Customs officials scanned the luggage and found the body of a 35-year-old
woman dumped inside. She was strangled by a rope. She is a married woman
with two children and her husband lives in Malaysia.

After a three-year offensive by the junta, the Karen National Liberation
Army (KNLA) has been forced into increasingly small pockets of resistance.
Deprived of funds and equipment, it is able to do little more than slow the
advance of the Burmese Army as it lays waste to hundreds of villages,
driving thousands of terrified civilians before it.

Executions around the world increased by more than 90 per cent last year.
2,390 people were executed last year. China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the
United States were responsible for 93 per cent of the executions. China had
the highest figures, carrying out 72 per cent of all executions. Fifty-nine
countries retain the death penalty worldwide but only 25 of them carried
out executions in 2008. In Europe only Belarus carried out the death
sentence. Africa, Botswana and Sudan were the only countries to have
carried out executions. The fact that fewer countries carried out
executions shows we may slowly be moving toward a world that is free of the
death penalty.

The tiny country’s debt burden may be tiny compared to Iceland, which
needed a $2.1 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund last
fall, but the Seychelles’ problems illustrate the degree to which the
global economic crisis has leveled some economies altogether. And because
of its small size, with just 87,000 people, the Seychelles now has the
unenviable stature of being perhaps the most indebted country in the world.
Public and private debt totals $800 million – roughly the size of the
country’s entire economy.

For the last three years, 40-year-old Phekan sewed buttons on cotton shirts
in a small factory in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi earning about
$100 a month. But she lost her job earlier this month after the European
retailer buying the shirts slashed orders. Phekan is worried how she will
continue to live in the city while searching for another job. Phekan says
her landlord will demand rent on the first of the month, and she does not
know how she will pay the money.

The Burmese army obstructed private cyclone relief efforts even among its
own concerned citizens, setting up checkpoints and arresting some of those
trying to provide help. Supplies of overseas relief materials that were
eventually allowed into Burma were confiscated by the military and sold in
markets, the packaging easily identifiable.

As US states face huge budget shortfalls, prisons, which hold 1.5 million
adults, are driving the spending increases. States have shown a preference
for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in
community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders
to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that
states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with
$1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite
more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged. As
states trim services like education and health care, prison budgets are
growing. Those priorities are misguided.

Three new case studies and a video have been released on the impacts of
monoculture tree plantations on women in Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and
Brazil. These tree plantations provide rubber for car and bus tires, palm
oil for processed foods and pulp for toilet paper – all items being used in
the west. They are also destroying local communities.

Most serious of all, the Karen leadership is losing the support of
neighbouring Thailand, where it was formerly able to organise, arm and –
when necessary – retreat. Trapped between the Burmese Army to the west and
an increasingly unfriendly Thailand to the east, with hundreds of thousands
of their people in wretched refugee camps, the Karen are experiencing a
humanitarian and military catastrophe.

Conservationists searching through the undergrowth of a remote mountain
region have identified up to 50 new species of jumping spiders. Medical
science could benefit from the discoveries through the study of the
chemicals contained in their venoms. Insights into how to develop vision
for robots and how to miniaturise could also be made by the study of the
jumping spider eyes.

Last year, as tourism and fishing revenue began slowing, the Seychelles
defaulted on a $230 million, euro-denominated bond that had been arranged
by Lehman Brothers before its own bankruptcy. The IMF came in in November
with a two-year, $26 million rescue package, and the country has since
taken a series of emergency steps: It laid off 12.5% of government workers
(1,800 people), floated its currency (the Seychelles rupee, which has
fallen from eight to the U.S. dollar to 16, effectively doubling the prices
of imports), lifted foreign exchange controls and agreed to sell state
assets.

Bigger manufacturers are able to absorb the impact of the slowdown, but
many smaller units are badly hit. “The bigger people, because economies of
scale and cost pressures are important, are still going to grow, but it is
small companies which don’t have economies of scale, they might go out of
business.”

The researchers were repeatedly told that surviving men, women and even
children were used as forced labour on reconstruction projects for the
military. “[The army] did not help us, they threatened us,” said one
survivor from the town of Labutta. “Everyone in the village was required to
work for five days, morning and evening without compensation. Children were
required to work too. A boy got injured on his leg and got a fever. After
two or three days he was taken to [Rangoon], but after a few days he died.”

States are looking to make cuts that will have long-term harmful effects.
Corrections is one area they can cut and still have good or better outcomes
than what they are doing now. Focusing on probation and parole could reduce
recidivism and keep crime rates low in the long run. But tougher penalties
for crimes had driven the crime rate down in the first place. One of the
reasons crime rates may be so low is because we changed our federal and
state systems in the past two decades to make sure that people who commit
crimes, especially violent crimes, actually have to serve significant
sentences.

In the case of Nigeria, in 2007, the French tire maker Michelin came in to
the Iguóbazuwa Forest Reserve, a biologically diverse region supplying food
for around 20,000 people. Michelin bulldozed the forest and local farm
lands to convert them into rubber plantations. Women living there lost
their subsistence farms and the local forest which provided medicinal herbs
and plants.

The military situation is as bad as it’s been at any time in the past 60
years. The Karen have less territory, fewer soldiers and fewer resources to
sustain resistance. The Burmese have them more and more surrounded, and
their backs are up against the wall. A Karen leader on the Thai border said
that the KNLA and Burmese Army were fighting near the town of Kawkareik,
close to the Thai border. All year there have been reports of Karen
villagers being driven into the jungle by marauding soldiers.

Along with spiders, which can leap 30 times their own body length,
researchers discovered three previously unknown frogs, two plants and a
stripy gecko. The great age of discovery isn’t over by far. Spider venom
has evolved for millions of years to affect the neurological systems of the
spider’s insect prey and each species of spider gives us another
opportunity to find medically-useful chemicals.

The IMF has given a thumbs-up to the initial progress, but it warned that
the economy would contract 9.5% this year. The government of Australia is
sending tax experts to help overhaul the revenue collection system and
audit local companies. Now the Seychelles is negotiating with the
governments of Britain, France and other Western countries including the
U.S. – the so-called Paris Club – to reschedule $250 million in debt it
owes them. It is asking for 50% of it to be forgiven – a rate it hopes its
commercial creditors will then apply to its remaining $550 million
outstanding.

The industry is impacted slightly less in India, where strong domestic
consumption is providing a market for manufacturers. But the export
dependant industries in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have been impacted more
severely by shrinking retail sales in the West. An estimated 25 percent of
orders have been cancelled by Western buyers.

The Burmese regime’s response to the disaster violated humanitarian relief
norms and legal frameworks for relief efforts. The systematic abuses may
amount to crimes against humanity under international law through the
creation of conditions where basic survival needs of people are not met,
intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to
mental or physical health.

Over all, two-thirds of offenders, or about 5.1 million people in 2008,
were on probation or parole. The study found that states were not
increasing their spending for community supervision in proportion to their
growing caseloads. About $9 out of $10 spent on corrections goes to prison
financing (that includes money spent to house 780,000 people in local
jails). One in 11 African-Americans, or 9.2 percent, are under correctional
control, compared with one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent) and one in 45 whites
(2.2 percent). Only one out of 89 women is behind bars or monitored,
compared with one out of 18 men.

In Papua New Guinea, monoculture oil palm plantations provide palm oil
which is used to produce soap, cosmetics, processed foods and agrofuels for
the European Union (EU) and other western countries. These plantations,
however, also destroy forests, biodiversity, and local community
livelihoods. Small farmers were promised the opportunity to benefit
financially from the palm plantations and have been using much of their
land for palm oil production, depleting the soil, but earning less than was
promised. Women living near these plantations don’t have enough arable land
to farm and are exposed to toxic pesticides. “Health is a very big concern
in our place right now we breathe in the chemicals… I’m pretty sure we are
inhaling dangerous substances and definitely are dying every minute. Some
women had babies who developed asthma when they were just one or two months
old.” said a woman from the community of Saga.

It’s a cat-and-mouse kind of struggle. The Burmese burn down villages and
relocate the people close to their own camps. The Karen conflict has its
origins in the Second World War, when many Karen fought alongside the
British Army against the invading Japanese. The seven million Karen were
promised their own state by the British but when independence came in 1948
the promise was forgotten. A year later, in January 1949, the Karen began
the armed struggle that has continued ever since.

Jumping spiders with their remarkably miniaturized yet acute eyes could
help us understand how to push the limits of vision. In addition to filling
in the gaps in our planet’s natural history, exploring spider biodiversity
and evolution could potentially inform fields as diverse as medicine and
robotics. Jumping spiders have better vision than other types of spider and
two of their eight eyes are especially well developed for high resolution
vision. In effect, they have evolved a design that has deconstructed the
eyeball and put it together, with modifications, section by section in
miniature. The retina of the spiders could be of particular interest
because instead of the three-dimensional hemisphere in the human eyeball it
has developed like a flat scanner.

“We borrowed more than we can repay. This was wholly irresponsible.”

Heavily reliant on tourism, the Seychelles is desperately searching for
ways to raise capital – at a time when tourism is forecast to drop
precipitously this year. The country has already seen a drop of 15% in
visitor arrivals from the start of 2009; tourism revenue for the year could
drop by some 25% more as a result of the global recession.

The industry was hoping to exceed last year’s exports which totaled over
$10 billion, but is unlikely to meet the target. “The export goal initial
in this year was $13 billion, and we are little scared whether we will be
able to achieve that goal. Buyers are delaying the goods because of falling
demand. We are struggling for survival in these bad days.”

Georgia had 1 in 13 adults under some form of punishment; Idaho, 1 in 18;
the District of Columbia, 1 in 21; Texas, 1 in 22; Massachusetts, 1 in 24;
and Ohio, 1 in 25.

In Brazil, Eucalyptus plantations provide pulp for paper that is used for
toilet and facial tissue, as well as other disposable paper products in the
west. These Eucalyptus plantations, push out local agriculture, deplete the
soil and are water-use intensive, devastating local flora and fauna. One
woman, anonymously interviewed in Southern Brazil, explains that “the
companies only give work to men. The few jobs they give to women are the
ones that pay the least.” Even in the case of men, the companies tend to
hire workers from outside the region, and this influx of strangers
invariably leads to a rise in sexual harassment cases.

In the early decades of the war, the KNU dominated the Irrawaddy Delta,
close to the former Burmese capital Rangoon, as well as areas north of the
city and all of Kayin State. But in the 1990s an increasingly well-armed
Burmese Army made steady gains and in 1995 the KNU was driven out of its
capital, Manerplaw. At this time, Buddhists in the Christian-dominated KNU
broke away to form the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which now
fights alongside the Burmese Army. Formerly, the KNU had operated as a
quasi-government, providing schools and clinics and receiving income from
tax, as well as from a profitable trade through Thailand in timber, gold,
zinc and antimony. The loss of territory brought a loss of funds, which
made it harder to arm and equip itself. The KNU claims to have 10,000
soldiers, including village militia men, but the number of active fighters
is probably between 3,000 and 5,000.

The 30 to 50 new species of jumping spiders were spotted and caught during
a survey of a region of Papua New Guinea. Among the new spiders were types
that came from particularly unusual evolutionary branches and zoologists
hope that these will offer new clues into how jumping spiders evolved, a
question that remains a puzzle. There are 5,000 species of jumping spider
yet to be discovered around the world. They evolved much more recently that
other spiders.

Seychelles officials have another idea though: to promote the country’s
longstanding virtue of being an off-shore business haven, with no corporate
tax, no minimum capital requirements, only one shareholder or director
required, and an annual licensing fee of just $100. It also hopes to grow
revenue from fishing licenses in its territorial waters, and soon it will
present a proposal to the United Nations to expand its exclusive rights to
the surrounding seabed, potentially increasing prospects of revenue from
underwater minerals, oil and gas.

The textile and garment factories in the region provide jobs to tens of
millions of people, especially women, and are the biggest employers in the
region after agriculture.

States started spending more on prisons in the 1980s during the last big
crime wave. Basically, when we made these investments, public safety and
crime was the No. 1 concern of voters, so politicians were passing all
kinds of laws to increase sentences. Now, crime is down, but we’re living
with that legacy: the bricks and mortar and the politicians who feel like
they have to talk tough every time they talk about crime.

The impacts of these monoculture plantations are not gender neutral. As
much attention should be placed on gender equality in the nations supplying
the raw materials to support the western lifestyle as they do within their
own borders. They argue that consumers need to understand the impacts of
their consumption on both environmental and social justice, and consider
reducing consumption rates. At the same time, benefitting countries must
push for policies and protections for the environment and the people that
live there. The current monoculture plantation system is not
environmentally or socially sustainable.

Last year the KNU suffered another blow when its respected and charismatic
leader, Pado Mahn Shar, was assassinated at his home in Thailand by
unidentified gunmen. Among many Karen there was a suspicion that the ease
with which the killers escaped, and the failure to apprehend them,
reflected a cooling of the welcome afforded by Thailand. Last month Karen
military commanders were ordered out of Thailand and back across the
border. This probably reflects the Thai Government’s increasing dependence
on Burma for raw materials and energy – the two governments are jointly
planning ambitious hydroelectric dams along the Salween River which forms
part of their border.

Instead of building webs or responding to the motion of prey they have
learnt to distinguish between different animals and their attack techniques
depends on what they are tackling. Instead of sitting at the centre of a
web, jumping spiders found a new way to make a living by wandering around
their habitat and pouncing – like cats – on their prey. Some of them are so
cute. There is a whole lot of beauty in these small spiders if we look
closely enough.

And hopes for expanding tourism remain high. In addition to the usual
roster of luxury-seeking royals and high-spending celebs, the middle-tier
traveler is now being heartily courted, too. The government in early March
announced an “Affordable Seychelles” campaign – what would have until
recently been an oxymoron – with the motto: “Once-in-a-lifetime vacation at
a once-in-a-lifetime price,” based on lower prices caused by the halving in
value of the currency.

The border is a valuable conduit not only for the Karen but for Burmese
struggling to overthrow the military dictatorship. After the junta cracked
down on large pro-democracy demonstrations of monks and activists in 2007,
many of them escaped into Thailand.

2/15/2009

CLIMATE CHARMERS CANED MONSTER’S TAIL

Climate change is not only occurring, it is accelerating. Deforestation
accounts for almost 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. One idea is to reduce
this figure by giving forests a monetary value based on their capacity to
store carbon and thus reduce greenhouse gases. This may eventually lead to
developed countries paying developing ones to reduce emissions caused by
deforestation and forest degradation.

The snake charming ban has stripped 800,000 members of Bengal’s Bedia
community, who have worked as snake-charmers for generations, of their only
source of income, while an estimated 20,000 are serving jail terms for
defying the ban.

The world must do more to confront the largely unstudied and neglected
phenomenon of people-trafficking. So little is known about the problem,
that no estimate can be given of the number affected. There is lack of a
common understanding of what human trafficking is, and whom it affects.

For generations, the ethnic Muslim Rohingya have endured persecution by the
ruling junta of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. The plight of
the Rohingya, descendants of Arab traders from the 7th century, gained
international attention after five boatloads of haggard migrants were found
in the waters around Indonesia and the Andaman Islands.

The Tanzania Teachers’ Union is taking legal action after 19 primary school
teachers were given the cane. The teachers were caned by a police officer
in front of their pupils after an investigation into poor exam results at
three schools.

“Unless a mechanism is put into place that makes forests worth more alive
than dead, deforestation will continue until the world’s tropical forests
are completely destroyed. In the absence of large-scale incentives for
conservation, an enormous number of the world’s species of plants and
animals and the resource base of millions of indigenous peoples and forest
communities will ultimately go up in smoke.”

The Bedia community is nomadic and regards snake-charming as its
birthright. The ban has severely affected 100,000 families in West Bengal’s
Cooch Behar, Murshidabad and Malda districts.

The most commonly used term for the problem – “people-trafficking” – itself
emphasises the transaction aspects of the crime, rather than the day-to-day
experience of modern enslavement. And it suggests the trafficking
phenomenon is little understood in all its forms from child soldiering to
sweatshop labour, domestic servitude, and even entire villages in bondage.

But unlike the Kurds or the Palestinians, no one has championed the cause
of the Rohingya. Most countries, from Saudi Arabia to Malaysia, see them as
little more than a source of cheap labor for the dirtiest and most
dangerous jobs. “The Rohingya are probably the most friendless people in
the world. They just have no one advocating for them at all. Hardly any of
them have legal status anywhere in the world.”

The report blamed teachers for being late or not showing up for work and
not teaching the official syllabus. One of the caned teachers, Ativus
Leonard, 33, said he was now too ashamed to meet his pupils.

Political and financial support could be provided to indigenous peoples if
governments decide that local forestry practices contribute to storing
carbon. “If instituted in a manner consistent with indigenous interests,
reduced deforestation could help to protect the biodiversity of plants and
animals, help to secure indigenous lands and livelihoods, and provide for
the ongoing culture and community of indigenous and forest-dwelling
peoples.”

Now they have set up a union and campaign group to lobby for an exemption
from the ban and state support for retraining. They say that if the state
continues to deny them their traditional source of income it should fund
them to set up snake farms so they can earn a living.

Statistics suggest that sexual exploitation is the most common form of
human trafficking (at 79%, followed by forced labour at 18%). This itself
may be an “optical illusion”, because “sexual exploitation is highly
visible in cities or along highways while forced labour is hidden. We only
see the monster’s tail.”

There are an estimated 750,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar’s mountainous
northern state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh. Thousands flee every
year, trying to escape a life of abuse that was codified in 1982 with a law
that virtually bars them from becoming citizens. Myanmar’s military
government has repeatedly denied abusing the Rohingya, though Amnesty
International said the junta has described them as less than human. Rights
groups have documented widespread abuses, including forced labor, land
seizures and rape.

But indigenous peoples and other observers have also expressed concern
about possible negative impacts. If forests are given monetary value, many
fear that – where land tenure rights are unclear and decision-making
remains top-down – new conflicts could arise among indigenous and local
communities and between them and the state.

The union, the Bedia Federation of India, says if the government cannot
lift the ban on snake-charming shows, then it should help them start up
snake farms where they could use their expertise to develop anti-venenes.

“How many hundreds of thousands of victims are slaving away in sweat shops,
fields, mines, factories, or trapped in domestic servitude? Their numbers
will surely swell as the economic crisis deepens the pool of potential
victims and increases demand for cheap goods and services.”

“It was like living in hell,” said Mohamad Zagit, who left after soldiers
confiscated his family’s rice farm and then threw him in jail for praying
at a local mosque. The 23-year-old spoke from his hospital bed in Thailand,
where he had been detained after fleeing Myanmar.

“We have no rights,” said Muhamad Shafirullah, who was among 200 migrants
rescued by the Indonesian navy. He recalled how he was jailed in Myanmar,
his family’s land stolen and a cousin dragged into the jungle and shot
dead. “They rape and kill our women. We can’t practice our religion. We
aren’t allowed to travel from village to village … It’s almost
impossible, even, to get married or go to school.”

Mechanisms might exclude local populations from implementation and
benefit-sharing processes, and possibly even expel them from their own
territories: “The increased monetary value placed on standing forest
resources and new forest growth, opens the door for corruption in countries
where this is already rife in the forest sector. Centralized planning where
the national government creates plans, receives payments and disburses the
new funds only adds to the marginalisation of forest people.”

“Having lived with the reptiles since childhood, the snake-charmers know
only one vocation, that is handling snakes and holding public shows, but
strong measures adopted by police and forest department for the last decade
or so have put them in a difficult situation.”

Another little-understood aspect of human-trafficking is that female
offenders have a more prominent role in people-trafficking than in any
other crime, with women accounting for more than 60% of convictions in
Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Twice since the 1970s, waves of attacks by the military and Buddhist
villagers forced hundred of thousands of Rohingya to flee over the border
to Bangladesh, a Muslim country whose people speak a similar language. Many
have since been repatriated, but 200,000 still work there as illegal
migrants and another 28,000 live in squalid refugee camps.

These concerns are reinforced by the difficulties experienced by indigenous
peoples in accessing international climate change debates. Indigenous
peoples were shocked to see that references to their rights were removed.

He said hundreds of thousands of Bedia will protest in Calcutta at what
will be the world’s largest-ever gathering of snake-charmers.

Most countries’ conviction rates rarely exceed 1.5 per 100,000 people –
“below the level normally recorded for rare crimes… and proportionately
much lower than the estimated number of victims”.

Violence against Rohingya women is common, and they face the threat of
prison because of their illegal status. Thousands of Rohingya have taken to
the seas from Bangladesh in search of better jobs, but ended up drowning or
at the mercy of traffickers. For years, the Rohingya traveled to the Middle
East for work, with nearly a half million ending up in Saudi Arabia.

There is also growing concern that indigenous peoples and local communities
are “unlikely to benefit if: they do not own their lands; there is no
culture of free, prior and informed consent; their identities are not
recognised; or they have no space to participate in political processes.”

It is sick that we should even need to write a report about slavery in the
21st Century. “My 14 children rely on me. They have no safety, no food,
nothing,” said Mohamad Salim, a 35-year-old, bearded fisherman who also was
detained and hospitalized in Thailand and begged to be allowed to continue
onto Malaysia. “What will they eat? How will they live if I don’t find
work?” he said, his voice trembling.

CLIMATE CHARMERS CANED MONSTER'S TAIL

Climate change is not only occurring, it is accelerating. Deforestation
accounts for almost 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. One idea is to reduce
this figure by giving forests a monetary value based on their capacity to
store carbon and thus reduce greenhouse gases. This may eventually lead to
developed countries paying developing ones to reduce emissions caused by
deforestation and forest degradation.

The snake charming ban has stripped 800,000 members of Bengal’s Bedia
community, who have worked as snake-charmers for generations, of their only
source of income, while an estimated 20,000 are serving jail terms for
defying the ban.

The world must do more to confront the largely unstudied and neglected
phenomenon of people-trafficking. So little is known about the problem,
that no estimate can be given of the number affected. There is lack of a
common understanding of what human trafficking is, and whom it affects.

For generations, the ethnic Muslim Rohingya have endured persecution by the
ruling junta of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. The plight of
the Rohingya, descendants of Arab traders from the 7th century, gained
international attention after five boatloads of haggard migrants were found
in the waters around Indonesia and the Andaman Islands.

The Tanzania Teachers’ Union is taking legal action after 19 primary school
teachers were given the cane. The teachers were caned by a police officer
in front of their pupils after an investigation into poor exam results at
three schools.

“Unless a mechanism is put into place that makes forests worth more alive
than dead, deforestation will continue until the world’s tropical forests
are completely destroyed. In the absence of large-scale incentives for
conservation, an enormous number of the world’s species of plants and
animals and the resource base of millions of indigenous peoples and forest
communities will ultimately go up in smoke.”

The Bedia community is nomadic and regards snake-charming as its
birthright. The ban has severely affected 100,000 families in West Bengal’s
Cooch Behar, Murshidabad and Malda districts.

The most commonly used term for the problem – “people-trafficking” – itself
emphasises the transaction aspects of the crime, rather than the day-to-day
experience of modern enslavement. And it suggests the trafficking
phenomenon is little understood in all its forms from child soldiering to
sweatshop labour, domestic servitude, and even entire villages in bondage.

But unlike the Kurds or the Palestinians, no one has championed the cause
of the Rohingya. Most countries, from Saudi Arabia to Malaysia, see them as
little more than a source of cheap labor for the dirtiest and most
dangerous jobs. “The Rohingya are probably the most friendless people in
the world. They just have no one advocating for them at all. Hardly any of
them have legal status anywhere in the world.”

The report blamed teachers for being late or not showing up for work and
not teaching the official syllabus. One of the caned teachers, Ativus
Leonard, 33, said he was now too ashamed to meet his pupils.

Political and financial support could be provided to indigenous peoples if
governments decide that local forestry practices contribute to storing
carbon. “If instituted in a manner consistent with indigenous interests,
reduced deforestation could help to protect the biodiversity of plants and
animals, help to secure indigenous lands and livelihoods, and provide for
the ongoing culture and community of indigenous and forest-dwelling
peoples.”

Now they have set up a union and campaign group to lobby for an exemption
from the ban and state support for retraining. They say that if the state
continues to deny them their traditional source of income it should fund
them to set up snake farms so they can earn a living.

Statistics suggest that sexual exploitation is the most common form of
human trafficking (at 79%, followed by forced labour at 18%). This itself
may be an “optical illusion”, because “sexual exploitation is highly
visible in cities or along highways while forced labour is hidden. We only
see the monster’s tail.”

There are an estimated 750,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar’s mountainous
northern state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh. Thousands flee every
year, trying to escape a life of abuse that was codified in 1982 with a law
that virtually bars them from becoming citizens. Myanmar’s military
government has repeatedly denied abusing the Rohingya, though Amnesty
International said the junta has described them as less than human. Rights
groups have documented widespread abuses, including forced labor, land
seizures and rape.

But indigenous peoples and other observers have also expressed concern
about possible negative impacts. If forests are given monetary value, many
fear that – where land tenure rights are unclear and decision-making
remains top-down – new conflicts could arise among indigenous and local
communities and between them and the state.

The union, the Bedia Federation of India, says if the government cannot
lift the ban on snake-charming shows, then it should help them start up
snake farms where they could use their expertise to develop anti-venenes.

“How many hundreds of thousands of victims are slaving away in sweat shops,
fields, mines, factories, or trapped in domestic servitude? Their numbers
will surely swell as the economic crisis deepens the pool of potential
victims and increases demand for cheap goods and services.”

“It was like living in hell,” said Mohamad Zagit, who left after soldiers
confiscated his family’s rice farm and then threw him in jail for praying
at a local mosque. The 23-year-old spoke from his hospital bed in Thailand,
where he had been detained after fleeing Myanmar.

“We have no rights,” said Muhamad Shafirullah, who was among 200 migrants
rescued by the Indonesian navy. He recalled how he was jailed in Myanmar,
his family’s land stolen and a cousin dragged into the jungle and shot
dead. “They rape and kill our women. We can’t practice our religion. We
aren’t allowed to travel from village to village … It’s almost
impossible, even, to get married or go to school.”

Mechanisms might exclude local populations from implementation and
benefit-sharing processes, and possibly even expel them from their own
territories: “The increased monetary value placed on standing forest
resources and new forest growth, opens the door for corruption in countries
where this is already rife in the forest sector. Centralized planning where
the national government creates plans, receives payments and disburses the
new funds only adds to the marginalisation of forest people.”

“Having lived with the reptiles since childhood, the snake-charmers know
only one vocation, that is handling snakes and holding public shows, but
strong measures adopted by police and forest department for the last decade
or so have put them in a difficult situation.”

Another little-understood aspect of human-trafficking is that female
offenders have a more prominent role in people-trafficking than in any
other crime, with women accounting for more than 60% of convictions in
Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Twice since the 1970s, waves of attacks by the military and Buddhist
villagers forced hundred of thousands of Rohingya to flee over the border
to Bangladesh, a Muslim country whose people speak a similar language. Many
have since been repatriated, but 200,000 still work there as illegal
migrants and another 28,000 live in squalid refugee camps.

These concerns are reinforced by the difficulties experienced by indigenous
peoples in accessing international climate change debates. Indigenous
peoples were shocked to see that references to their rights were removed.

He said hundreds of thousands of Bedia will protest in Calcutta at what
will be the world’s largest-ever gathering of snake-charmers.

Most countries’ conviction rates rarely exceed 1.5 per 100,000 people –
“below the level normally recorded for rare crimes… and proportionately
much lower than the estimated number of victims”.

Violence against Rohingya women is common, and they face the threat of
prison because of their illegal status. Thousands of Rohingya have taken to
the seas from Bangladesh in search of better jobs, but ended up drowning or
at the mercy of traffickers. For years, the Rohingya traveled to the Middle
East for work, with nearly a half million ending up in Saudi Arabia.

There is also growing concern that indigenous peoples and local communities
are “unlikely to benefit if: they do not own their lands; there is no
culture of free, prior and informed consent; their identities are not
recognised; or they have no space to participate in political processes.”

It is sick that we should even need to write a report about slavery in the
21st Century. “My 14 children rely on me. They have no safety, no food,
nothing,” said Mohamad Salim, a 35-year-old, bearded fisherman who also was
detained and hospitalized in Thailand and begged to be allowed to continue
onto Malaysia. “What will they eat? How will they live if I don’t find
work?” he said, his voice trembling.

2/9/2009

FLOODED POPPIES MINIMIZE SECURITY DROUGHT CRISIS

The Solomon Islands declared a national disaster after torrential rain and
flooding in the South Pacific nation killed eight people and left another
13 missing, destroying homes and bridges.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
is reporting that populations in large areas of Kenya and the Horn of
Africa are now facing an exceptional humanitarian crisis that requires
urgent food assistance. The combined effect of high worldwide food prices
and a crippling drought are seriously jeopardizing the lives, livelihoods,
and dignity of up to 20 million people in rural and urban communities.

Opium poppy cultivation inched up by 3 percent last year in Myanmar,
according to a United Nations report, the second consecutive annual
increase that appears to signal a reversal of years of declining opium
production in the so-called Golden Triangle.

Indonesian security forces attacked a group of one hundred tribal people
who were peacefully protesting about delays to local elections in Nabire,
West Papua.

“Containment of the problem is under threat. Opium prices are rising in
this region. It’s going to be an incentive for farmers to plant more.”

Twelve communities on the Solomons’ main island of Guadalcanal had been
assessed as disaster-hit and appealed for international assistance.
Australia and France have already promised emergency aid.

Papua New Guinea’s law and order problem is set to get worse if a
recommendation to increase the national minimum wage is approved by the
government.

The Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and
Myanmar meet, once produced two-thirds of the world’s opium, most of it
refined into heroin. But pressure by the Chinese government to eradicate
opium in Myanmar helped lead to steep declines, with a low point of 21,500
hectares, or 53,000 acres, of poppies planted in Myanmar in 2006. Since
then, opium cultivation has bounced back by around 33 percent, to 28,500
hectares last year.

For the past 17 years Papua New Guinea’s lowest income earners, like
security guards, have brought home just $US13 a week. Government plans to
increase that to $US43 has business owners worried.

When police began attacking the crowd, the demonstrators called for Mr
Yones Douw, a respected human rights worker, to document the violence. When
Mr Douw arrived, the police attacked him – witnesses said he was kicked,
beaten on the side the head and punched in the face before being arrested,
along with seven protesters. The police also beat other protestors, and
fired rubber bullets into the crowd. Five people were seriously wounded,
and many others received minor bullet wounds.

Since December, flooding has also hit the Pacific island nations of Fiji,
Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, with tens of
thousands of islanders abandoning homes.

UN officials warn that the global economic crisis may fuel an increase in
poppy production because falling prices for other crops may persuade
farmers to switch to opium. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said corn
prices had fallen by half over the past year. The price of opium, by
contrast, has increased 26 percent in Laos and 15 percent in Myanmar over
the same period.

Heavy rain and flooding on Guadalcanal and nearby Savo Island has caused
widespread damage and forced the evacuation of more than 70 villagers to
the capital Honiara.

The PNG Manufacturers Council said the economy cannot accommodate a higher
salary. “It’s not the fact that the private sector doesn’t want to pay, its
whether the economy can accommodate that high level of salary.”

“In Kenya 80 percent of the territory is affected, with the northern and
lower eastern Kenya the most affected. We’re talking of a target population
of 1.6 million for the Red Crescent.”

Farmers in the isolated highlands of the Golden Triangle are also hampered
by bad roads and difficulties getting their crops to market. They often
find that small parcels of opium are easier to carry across the rough
terrain.

The Solomon Islands Red Cross had sent emergency staff and volunteers to
distribute relief supplies to communities in West Guadalcanal and Longu, in
the island’s east. The Solomon Islands is a nation of about 500,000 mainly
Melanesian people, spread across hundreds of islands, which gained
independence from Britain in 1978.

The global economic crisis is only just starting to short-change Papua New
Guinea, with the wage set to further undermine the local economy. “We
become less competitive, our prices go up and we don’t sell any goods.” It
could lead to thousands of workers being laid off, adding to the country’s
already high unemployment and crime rates.

Other areas are Djibouti with 50 thousand people in dire need. Ethiopia is
affected with an estimated 5 million need of food. The Red Cross is moving
in to start assisting the first 150 thousand people. The Red Cross and the
Red Crescent are also active in southern Somalia, as well as Somaliland and
Puntland.

Although opium is still grown in parts of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, UN
officials say that about 94 percent of the region’s opium comes from
Myanmar. Most of the Golden Triangle heroin is sold within the region, but
small amounts also reach the United States and Australia. Recent seizures
of heroin thought to come from the Golden Triangle have been made on the
Thai resort island of Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon, Myanmar’s
commercial capital.

“The key issue for PNG is more people working and that basically improves
the lifestyle of people and that without a doubt helps law and order
because when people can put food on the table there is harmony, you take
that opportunity away and you have unrest. Or, employers could head to the
labour black market, choosing instead to pay workers their current wage
under the table.”

Eyewitnesses say that a range of security forces were involved in the
attack, including Brimob, Indonesia’s notorious para-military police, plus
soldiers and Indonesia’s Intelligence Service.

The alarming spread of HIV by heroin users in southern China several years
ago persuaded the Chinese authorities to crack down on opium and heroin
trafficking. Western intelligence officials say Chinese spies are active in
anti-narcotics operations in Myanmar, especially in northern areas where
central government control is weak. “There’s strong collaboration with
Chinese intelligence.”

Last month 11 Fijians died and more than 9,000 people were forced into
evacuation centres after the worst floods in decades. Sugar is Fiji’s
second major industry following tourism and sugar farms in the west have
been devastated by the flooding, with damages estimated to be in the tens
of millions of dollars.

The UN report on opium poppy cultivation is based on surveys taken from
helicopters and on the ground. The United States relies more heavily on
satellite images to calculate opium cultivation, and its reports are
sometimes at odds with those of the United Nations. The UN report did not
cover methamphetamine production and distribution, which among some
criminal syndicates has displaced opium and heroin in the region.

“We have launched an appeal seeking 95 million dollars, now we have
received only 6 percent in the two months since we launched and this is not
enough to run an operation.”

In Thailand, methamphetamines remain a problem but longstanding efforts by
the royal family to substitute opium production with vegetables, coffee and
macadamia nuts have virtually wiped out opium production among the northern
hill tribes.

Floods ravaging northern Australia have washed crocodiles onto the streets,
where one was hit by a car. More than 60 per cent of the vast northeastern
state of Queensland has been declared a disaster area, and flooding after
two recent cyclones has affected almost 3,000 homes. The army has been
called in to help with rescue and recovery efforts, while three reports of
large crocodiles washed up from flooded rivers have come in from homes in
the Gulf of Carpentaria region.

The incident fuels concerns that repression and violence against the Papuan
people is increasing.

“Many employers are doing the right thing, but there are many unscrupulous
employers who will exploit their workers to gain maximum profit out of the
cheap labour.”

Afghanistan remains the world’s premier source of opium, producing more
than 90 percent of global supply. Afghan soil is also remarkably more
fertile than the rocky, unirrigated opium fields in the Golden Triangle.
The UN estimates in its 2008 report that one hectare of land yielded an
average of 14.4 kilograms, or 31.7 pounds, of opium in Myanmar but 48.8
kilograms in Afghanistan.

“The damage bill is estimated at $76 million and growing. But we won’t
really know the full extent of the damage until the water subsides, so that
figure could double, it could treble.” It was the worst flooding seen in 30
years. Fresh food supplies were flown into the westerly townships of
Normanton and Karumba, which had been cut off by flood waters. The flooding
comes amid a heatwave over in south-eastern Australia.

The situation has been exacerbated by the global and financial crisis.
However a small fraction of the billions of dollars being spent by
governments to bail out banks and financial institutions could help save
millions of lives in the Horn of Africa.

The death toll in Australia’s worst-ever bushfires has risen to 128 people,
as hundreds more flood community shelters after losing everything they own.
The state government in Victoria, where the fires have raged since
Saturday, is being advised to prepare for 230 fatalities. Police confirmed
128 deaths from the fires, many which officials suspect were deliberately
lit.

1/20/2009

MIGRANTS ADRIFT WITH POWERFUL QUAKES SEIZING KILINOCHCHI KINGDOM

A series of powerful earthquakes killed at least four people and injured
dozens more in remote eastern Indonesia, cutting power lines and destroying
buildings.

The loss of Kilinochchi, its capital, is a major blow to the Tamil Tiger
movement fighting for autonomy in the Sinhalese-dominated country. But the
army’s success in capturing the town does not mark the death of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Thailand’s new prime minister was under pressure to answer allegations that
hundreds of Burmese and Bangladeshi migrants were set adrift at sea with
little food and water by the armed forces.

One of the quakes — a 7.3-magnitude tremor — sent small tsunamis into
Japan’s southeastern coast, but there were no reports of damage there and
no tsunami in Indonesia’s impoverished Papua area.

Kilinochchi was the LTTE’s political headquarters, strung out on the main
tarmac road from Colombo to Jaffna. The government could always strike it
at will by air, as it did when aircraft bombed the offices of SP
Thamilselvan, the man with whom foreign diplomats as well as the government
had frequently negotiated.

Abhisit Vejjajiva met with officials from the country’s human rights
commission amid claims that up to 1,000 migrants, mostly from the Rohingya
ethnic minority from western Burma, were towed out to sea and abandoned on
boats without engines. At least 300 remain unaccounted for. Human rights
groups allege four migrants were thrown into the sea to encourage others to
climb aboard the vessels.

The first 7.6-magnitude quake struck on land about 85 miles (135
kilometers) from Manokwari, Papua, at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers),
the U.S. Geological Agency said. It was followed by 10 aftershocks.

By advancing into the town by land the army has forced any remaining LTTE
politicians to withdraw altogether. But the movement’s military HQ and its
logistical bases are hidden well to the east near its coastal stronghold of
Mullaitivu. The whereabouts of the Tiger’s ruthless leader, Velupillai
Prabhakaran, has never been clear.

Vejjajiva stressed the alleged abuse of the migrants ran counter to
government policy, and that the military had confirmed to him that it
respected all migrants.

At least four people died in Papua, and the airport runway nearest the
epicenter was cracked, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters.
Commercial flights to the area were canceled.

Seizing Kilinochchi was done at a fearful human cost. Comparisons with Gaza
are not amiss, down to the censorship that prevented journalists entering
the area while the fighting was underway. Several days of unopposed
airstrikes and artillery fire killed civilians as well as Tiger militants,
and forced tens of thousands of families to flee into the jungle en masse.
Hundreds of troops have died on both sides in the offensive, which has
taken months to reach its goal.

However, Thailand’s foreign ministry has launched an inquiry into the
damning allegations that the navy and the army had imprisoned and
mistreated the migrants on the southern Thai island of Koh Sai Daeng before
abandoning them to die in the Indian Ocean.

“I’ve instructed emergency steps be taken to help our brothers and to
restore power and other vital utilities,” he said without commenting on how
widespread the damage might be.

Among the dead was a 10-year-old girl whose head was crushed, said local
hospital director Hengky Tewu.

If the survivors’ tales prove correct the expulsions are a reversal of a
policy Thailand followed for years, allowing the impoverished and stateless
Muslim Rohingya to land on their way to Malaysia. Many were said to have
been turned over to human traffickers.

“We have our ambulances picking up two more,” he said. Another 19 patients
at the hospital were treated for broken bones, cuts, crushed fingers and
other injuries.

Like Gaza too, this is asymmetrical warfare and the Tigers were quick to
take the shine off the government’s victory by sending a suicide bomber
into the heart of Colombo to kill two airmen at the air force headquarters.
This has always been the Tiger tactic in extremis, and they will probably
revert to more of it in the aftermath of losing Kilinochchi.

Indian authorities on the Andaman Islands say they have rescued 446
refugees lately.

Papua police chief Maj. Gen. Bagus Ekodanto said he received reports that a
hotel and rice warehouse had been “destroyed,” but he did not know if
anyone had died. A search for possible victims was under way.

Several stories of the Mutiara Hotel in the main city Manokwari collapsed,
said Ina, a nurse at a navy hospital treating 20 quake patients. Like many
Indonesians she goes by a single name.

In one incident, the Thai navy allegedly set adrift an open-topped,
engineless barge loaded with 412 people. Those aboard had just four barrels
of water and two sacks of rice.

Meanwhile, the government hopes to move on to capturing the Elephant Pass,
the last Tiger bastion on the road to Jaffna. If it falls, this will make
it easier to re-supply the island’s second largest town, which at the
moment has to get its provisions by sea and air. The army boasts of seizing
the ultimate prize, Mullaitivu.

Electricity was cut off and people in the coastal city of 167,000 fled
their homes in the dark fearing a tsunami, said Hasim Rumatiga, a local
health official. The Indonesian Meteorology and Seismology Agency issued a
tsunami alert, but it was revoked within an hour after it was determined
the epicenter of the main quake was on land.

After they drifted at sea for 15 days, the Indian coastguard rescued 107
people near the Andaman Islands, where they are being held in camps. But up
to 300 are missing after they tried to swim ashore.

Capturing it would certainly weaken the Tigers severely. But guerrilla
movements have the capacity to go underground and reemerge, as long as they
remain popular in their own communities. The government calls the LTTE
terrorists, and they have been designated as such by the European Union.
But the EU also recognises that they speak for many, if not most, Sri
Lankan Tamils in denouncing the discrimination that Tamils suffer on the
multiethnic and multicultural island. The Tamil diaspora is unlikely to end
its funding for the Tigers any time soon.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said tsunamis of 4 inches (10 centimeters) to
16 inches (40 centimeters) in height splashed ashore in towns along the
coast. It also warned that bigger tsunamis were possible later.

In another incident just before new year, three overcrowded fishing boats
loaded with 580 Burmese migrants were intercepted off the Thai coast, but
were towed back out to sea after their engines had been removed, according
to minority rights group the Arakan Project.

The damage in Indonesia was still be being assessed.

Sri Lanka needs a just political settlement. There is no military solution.
Yesterday’s army success is producing a triumphalist mood in Colombo, and
President Mahinda Rajapakse, who already holds the portfolios of defence,
finance and nation-building, has just made himself minister of the media as
well – an apparent sign that he wants even tighter control over the
country’s reporters. Sinhalese politicians will be in no mood for
concessions for many months to come. Sri Lanka faces a grim new year.

Two of the boats reached the shore; one with 152 people aboard landed on
the Andaman Islands while another reached Aceh in Indonesia. One boat is
missing. Another boatload of 46 migrants arrived on Thailand’s southern
coast was seized by the military along with the occupants.

“My son’s head was wounded when a cabinet fell on him,” said Ferry Dau, a
father of two who said the walls in his house were cracked. “It was very
strong and scary. The power and phones went dead after the utility lines
fell down.”

A Thai court sentenced Mr. Nicolaides, an Australian, to three years in
jail for offending the monarchy, a criminal offense in the Kingdom of
Thailand. He had pleaded guilty, earning a sentence at the lower end of the
prescribed range for lèse-majesté.

Rahmat Priyono, a supervisor at the National Earthquake Center, said there
was no immediate information on casualties or damage. “But since the
epicenters were on land, they have a potential to cause significant
damage.”

The Rohingya are stateless and mostly have no rights in Burma, where they
are at the mercy of the military junta that curtails their movement while
using them as forced labor.

Quakes centered onshore pose little tsunami threat to Indonesia itself, but
those close to the coast can still churn up large waves emanating out to
other countries like Japan.

The crime was committed in a single paragraph in “Verisimilitude,” a 2005
novel set in Thailand that is salted with social commentary. At the
sentencing, the judge read out the offending section to the court, which
was packed with foreign reporters. The judge said the author had insulted
the king and crown prince in the passage.

Relief agency World Vision Indonesia was flying in 2,000 emergency
provision kits, including canned food, blankets and basic medical supplies,
said spokeswoman Katarina Hardono.

Papua is the Indonesian portion of New Guinea island, located about 1,830
miles (2,955 kilometers) east of the capital Jakarta. It is among the
nation’s least developed areas, and a low-level insurgency has simmered in
the resource-rich region for years. It is off limits to foreign reporters.

Indonesia straddles a chain of fault lines and volcanoes known as the
Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to seismic activity. A huge quake off
western Indonesia caused the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed about
230,000 people, more than half of them on the western Indonesian island of
Sumatra.

8/28/2008

Adrift at Sea

Filed under: burma,global islands,png — admin @ 4:36 am

Tual has become an ‘Island of the Damned’ for the runaway Burmese fishermen
Hundreds of “undocumented” Burmese fishermen – perhaps up to 2,000 men – have been abandoned on the remote Indonesian island of Tual, west of Papua New Guinea.

Compelled by poverty to leave their military-ruled homeland for “illegal” work in the Thai fishing fleet, the seafarers have escaped brutal working conditions and even murder on the high seas.

Some have been on Tual so long that they have married local women and have families.

Others, say reliable sources, have gone feral, scavenging the island’s forested interior and clearing smallholdings to feed themselves.

Forgotten by the world, for Burmese fishermen Tual has become an “Island of the Damned”.

6/5/2008

Human trafficking list

Fiji and Papua New Guinea have been added to a United States blacklist of countries trafficking in people.

The Tier Three blacklist is contained in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report.

The report analyses efforts in 170 countries to combat trafficking for forced labour, prostitution, military service and other purposes.

Pacific correspondent, Campbell Cooney, says the report claims Fiji is a source country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation, and a destination for women from China and India for forced labour and exploitation.

It also claims Papua New Guinea is the destination for women and children from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and China for sexual exploitation in cities, towns and isolated logging and mining camps.

Remaining on the Tier Three list are Sudan, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Burma and Cuba, while Malaysia and Bahrain have been removed.

In introducing the report, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said human trafficking deprives people of their human rights and dignity, and “bankrolls the growth of organised crime”.

“The petty tyrants who exploit their labourers rarely receive serious punishment,” she said.

“We and our allies must remember that a robust law enforcement response is essential.”

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has allocated $US2.5 million for the elimination of child labour in Papua New Guinea.

The National newspaper reports the funding is part of a 36-month program that also covers Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

PNG acting deputy secretary for Labour and Industrial Relations, Martin Kase, says the program will help determine the extent of child labour in the country.

He says current data is inadequate.

5/16/2008

Artist tragically denied support and pay for 35 years!

Filed under: art,burma,china,corporate-greed,General,government,human rights — admin @ 6:34 am

Regime-Quakes in Burma and China

When news arrived of the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan, my mind
turned to Zheng Sun Man, an up-and-coming security executive I met on
a recent trip to China. Zheng heads Aebell Electrical Technology, a
Guangzhou-based company that makes surveillance cameras and public
address systems and sells them to the government.

Zheng, a 28-year-old MBA with a text-messaging addiction, was
determined to persuade me that his cameras and speakers are not being
used against pro-democracy activists or factory organizers. They are
for managing natural disasters, Zheng explained, pointing to the
freak snowstorms before Lunar New Year. During the crisis, the
government was able use the feed from the railway cameras to
communicate how to deal with the situation and organize an
evacuation. We saw how the central government can command from the
north emergencies in the south.

Of course, surveillance cameras have other uses too like helping to
make Most Wanted posters of Tibetan activists. But Zheng did have a
point: nothing terrifies a repressive regime quite like a natural
disaster. Authoritarian states rule by fear and by projecting an aura
of total control. When they suddenly seem short-staffed, absent or
disorganized, their subjects can become dangerously emboldened. Its
something to keep in mind as two of the most repressive regimes on
the planetChina and Burmastruggle to respond to devastating
disasters: the Sichuan earthquake and Cyclone Nargis. In both cases,
the disasters have exposed grave political weaknesses within the
regimesand both crises have the potential to ignite levels of public
rage that would be difficult to control.

When China is busily building itself up, creating jobs and new
wealth, residents tend to stay quiet about what they all know:
developers regularly cut corners and flout safety codes, while local
officials are bribed not to notice. But when China comes tumbling
downincluding at least eight schools in the earthquake zone the
truth has a way of escaping from the rubble. Look at all the
buildings around. They were the same height but why did the school
fall down? a distraught relative in Juyuan demanded of a foreign
reporter. Its because the contractors want to make a profit from
our children. A mother in Dujiangyan told The Guardian, Chinese
officials are too corrupt and bad%.They have money for prostitutes
and second wives but they dont have money for our children.

That the Olympic stadiums were built to withstand powerful quakes is
suddenly of little comfort. When I was in China, it was hard to find
anyone willing to criticize the Olympic spending spree. Now posts on
mainstream web portals are calling the torch relay wasteful and its
continuation in the midst of so much suffering inhuman.

None of this compares with the rage boiling over in Burma, where
cyclone survivors have badly beaten at least one local official,
furious at his failure to distribute aid. Simon Billenness, co-chair
of the board of directors of U.S. Campaign for Burma, told me, This
is Katrina times a thousand. I dont see how it couldnt lead to
political unrest.

The unrest of greatest concern to the regime is not coming from
regular civilians but from inside the military a fact that explains
some of the juntas more erratic behavior. For instance, we know that
the Burmese junta has been taking credit for supplies sent by foreign
countries. Now it turns out that it have been taking more than
creditin some cases it has been taking the aid. According to a
report in Asia Times, the regime has been hijacking food shipments
and distributing them among its 400,000 soldiers. The reason speaks
to the deep threat the disaster poses. The generals, it seems, are
haunted by an almost pathological fear of a split inside their own
ranks%if soldiers are not given priority in aid distribution and are
unable to feed themselves, the possibility of mutiny rises. Mark
Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, confirms that before the
cyclone, the military was already coping with a wave of desertions.

This relatively small-scale theft of food is fortifying the junta for
its much larger heistthe one taking place via the constitutional
referendum the generals have insisted on holding, come hell and high
water. Enticed by high commodity prices, Burmas generals have been
gorging off the countrys natural abundance, stripping it of gems,
timber, rice and oil. As profitable as this arrangement is, junta
leader Gen. Than Shwe knows he cannot resist the calls for democracy
indefinitely.

Taking a page out of the playbook of Chilean dictator Augusto
Pinochet, the generals have drafted a Constitution that allows for
future elections but attempts to guarantee that no government will
ever have the power to prosecute them for their crimes or take back
their ill-gotten wealth. As Farmaner puts it, after elections the
junta leaders are going to be wearing suits instead of boots. Much
of the voting has already taken place but in cyclone ravaged
districts, the referendum has been delayed until May 24. Aung Din,
executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, told me that the
military has stooped to using aid to extort votes. Rainy season is
coming, he told me, and people need to repair their roofs. When
they go to purchase the materials, which are very limited, they are
told they can only have them if they agree to vote for the
constitution in an advance ballot.

The cyclone, meanwhile, has presented the junta with one last, vast
business opportunity: by blocking aid from reaching the highly
fertile Irrawaddy delta, hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Karen
rice farmers are being sentenced to death. According to Farmaner,
that land can be handed over to the generals business cronies
(shades of the beachfront land grabs in Sri Lanka and Thailand after
the Asian tsunami). This isnt incompetence, or even madness, as many
have claimed. Its laissez-faire ethnic cleansing.

If the Burmese junta avoids mutiny and achieves these goals, it will
be thanks largely to China, which has vigorously blocked all attempts
at the United Nations for humanitarian intervention in Burma. Inside
China, where the central government is going to great lengths to show
itself as compassionate, news of this complicity could prove
explosive.

Will Chinas citizens receive this news? They just might. Beijing
has, up to now, displayed an awesome determination to censor and
monitor all forms of communication. But in the wake of the quake, the
notorious Great Firewall censoring the Internet is failing badly.
Blogs are going wild, and even state reporters are insisting on
reporting the news.

This may be the greatest threat that natural disasters pose to
contemporary repressive regimes. For Chinas rulers, nothing has been
more crucial to maintaining power than the ability to control what
people see and hear. If they lose that, neither surveillance cameras
nor loudspeakers will be able to help them.

5/6/2008

Nargis cyclone claims 15,000… 100,000

Filed under: burma,General,global islands,government,military,weather — admin @ 6:32 am

Burma’s government said today that at least 15,000 people are dead and 30,000 missing after Tropical Cyclone Nargis hit the country on Saturday. The storm, which struck the capital Yangon and the rice-growing Irrawaddy delta, triggered a tidal wave killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The country’s isolated military junta have allowed in aid agencies to help distribute vital supplies. The UN is discussing how to supply more aid…

Myanmar Holds Election Amid Stench of Death
Ruling Junta Keeps Political Process Going Despite Scores of Dead and Dying

In Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta, old men lie under crushed tin roofs, flies covering their faces. Nobody has come to help them exactly one week after Cyclone Nagris arrived. Dead bodies litter the sides of rivers, bloated from neglect. The stench of death overwhelms towns.

But 70 miles to the north, in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, two young women smile and dance on state television, a glitzy promotional campaign for a referendum that proceeded today despite the 1.5 million to 2 million Burmese who have no water, food or shelter.

“Let’s go vote … with sincere thoughts for happy days,” the dancers sing, neglecting to mention the fact that for more than 12 million Burmese conditions are so bad the vote could not proceed where they live.

Myanmar’s ruling generals today appeared more interested in promoting the vote that will entrench their rule than they were in the hundreds of thousands of their people who are drinking coconut milk because they have no clean water, who are sleeping under the stars because they have no homes, who haven’t had electricity since the storm hit.

The United Nations today increased its estimates of the number of dead and the number of people who urgently need aid, saying that anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 people have died from the storm. “And that’s not counting any future casualties,” Richard Horsey, the spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian affairs office in Bangkok, said.

“It’s a major disaster, and relief is not getting there fast enough,” Horsey said. Fewer than 500,000 people have received aid, less than a third of the number who need it, he said.

“It’s a race against time,” Horsey said. “There is a huge risk that diarrheal disease, cholera and so on could start to spread, because there is a lack of clean drinking water, a lack of sanitation facilities. This could be a huge problem and it could lead to a second phase which could be as deadly as the cyclone.”

And yet the generals who run Myanmar spent the day posing for cameras, handing out boxes of aid stamped with their names on it and promoting a “yes” vote in the referendum.

Burmese citizens live in fear of a police state, and most of those brave enough to speak to reporters said they had voted yes, meaning they had voted to allot one out of every four parliamentary seats to the military, allow the president to hand over all power to the military in a state of emergency and ban Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the country’s pro-democracy movement, from public office.

“I voted yes. It was what I was asked to do,” 57-year-old U Kyaing said in Hlegu, 30 miles from Yangon.

Aye Aye Mar, a 36-year-old homemaker, was asked by a reporter if she thought anyone would vote no. Her eyes darted around to see if anyone was watching, and then she whispered, “One vote of ‘No’ will not make a difference.”

Then she raised her voice: “I’m saying ‘Yes’ to the constitution.”

There are some signs that aid into the country is slowly increasing.

The United Nations launched its first emergency appeal for the cyclone’s survivors, asking for $187 million.

The International Committee of the Red Cross sent its first shipment into Myanmar, an aid flight with 31 tons of pumps, generators, water tanks and medicine.

And today, the U.N.’s refugee agency delivered its first supplies into the country, via a border crossing in Mae Sot, Thailand. Two trucks full of mostly tents and some relief supplies will take almost a week to get to Rangon, the U.N. said today.

But there are still thousands of aid workers who have not been given visas to enter the country. The Myanmar government has suggested international organizations deliver aid without accompanying workers. But aid groups point out that the devastation is too vast for a government to handle.

TV images taken at the Yangon airport show workers hand-carrying relief supplies off of the few planes that have been allowed to land, a process far too slow for the Burmese in desperate need.

“The country, the areas which were struck by the cyclone, should get the foreign aid,” one villager said in English, his voice rising in anger.

“The aid workers in the country are saying this is just overwhelming,” Horsey said. “The scale of this in comparison to what people are able to do is just overwhelming.”

It is overwhelming local aid workers in towns such as Myaung Mya, where 10,000 survivors have arrived since the storm hit. They sleep next to each other on bare floors, no fires to keep the mosquitoes away.

“How many more days are we going to be able to feed them? People here can barely afford to feed themselves,” one local businessman said.

Shopkeepers are closing before dusk, fearing looters.

“These people have nothing left to lose,” the businessman said. “Maybe they will just go for it.”

4/10/2008

Thai police find 54 dead Burmese workers in lorry

Filed under: burma,global islands,government,human rights,thailand — admin @ 6:51 am

Fifty-four illegal Burmese migrants who were being smuggled by traffickers in southern Thailand suffocated in the sweltering confines of a tiny seafood container lorry today after the air-conditioning system failed.

Some of the 67 survivors told how they were just 30 minutes into their journey to the resort island of Phuket, where they hoped to find work, when conditions became unbearably stifling.

But the driver warned those trying to alert him by banging on the container’s walls and calling him on his mobile phone to be quiet for fear of tipping off the police as they passed through check-points along the route.

He turned on the air-conditioning, but it failed and went off after a few minutes. When the driver finally stopped on a quiet road running along the Andaman Sea 90 minutes later, many of the migrants, mostly women, had already collapsed. After discovering the horrific scene, he ran away.

“I thought everyone was going to die,” said survivor, Saw Win, 30. “I thought I was going to die. If the truck had driven for 30 minutes more, I would have died for sure.”

It underscored the plight of Burmese migrants fleeing conflict and economic collapse in their homeland who flood into Thailand across the porous border desperately seeking work.

As many as 150,000 languish in refugee camps along the border. But another 1.5 million live and work in Thailand, often in the seafood processing, fishing and construction industries that Thais shun.

Just 482,925 have managed to secure work permits leaving at least a million working illegally, vulnerable to abuse from corrupt officials and exploited by unscrupulous employers. They are forced to work for as little as £1.15 a day, half what a Thai worker could expect.

The 121 migrants who found themselves crammed in the seafood container left Song Island in Burma last night for the short sea crossing by fishing boat, landing near Ranong.

They paid the traffickers £82 each to transport them to Phuket to work as day labourers, but were so tightly packed into the truck there was standing-room only in the air-tight container measuring just six metres long and 2.2 metres wide.

“It was hot when the truck started moving,” one 40-year-old survivor explained from his bed in Ranong hospital, where another 20 were treated. “We asked the driver to turn the air-conditioner on. The heat made me pass out and the next thing I knew I was in hospital.”

Police Colonel Kraithong Chanthongbai said: “The people said they tried to bang on the walls of the container to tell the driver they were dying, but he told them to shut up as police would hear them when they crossed through check-points inside Thailand.”

When police reached the scene in the early hours of this morning, tipped off by local villagers, they found 54 of the migrants already dead. Officers were seen lifting the bodies of the 37 women and 17 men, dressed in little more than T-shirts and shorts, from the truck’s rear where only rags of discarded clothing remained.

The bodies were taken to a shed where they were laid out in rows on plastic sheets. Police said they would be buried in temporary graves so that relatives could reclaim them in the future.

Tonight just two survivors remained in hospital while the other 65 were being detained by police who said they were likely to be deported as illegal immigrants.

Police were searching for the driver. The owner of the truck, part of the Rung Thip company’s fleet, was detained for questioning despite claiming to have no knowledge of the human cargo.

“We believe this must be part of a smuggling racket which has to be tracked down,” said Col Kraithong. “The large number of illegals represents a very brazen act.”

11/27/2007

Search for 50 passengers called off after people-smuggling boat sinks off Bangladesh

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh authorities called of searches at sea Monday for about 50 passengers missing from a people-smuggling boat that sank off the southern coast near Myanmar waters, killing at least five people, police said.

The wooden fishing boat went down Sunday near Saint Martin’s island, about 120 kilometers south of the coastal resort town of Cox’s Bazar, said local police officer Mohammad Jasimuddin, who had been coordinating the rescue effort.

Survivors said the boat was carrying more than 100 people, Jasimuddin said. Five bodies have been recovered so far, Jasimuddin said.

He said about 50 people were still unaccounted for, and that about 50 others swam ashore or were rescued by fishing boats.

One survivor, Hashem Mollah, told police that he and his cousin had each paid 20,000 takas (US$298) to a trafficking syndicate to carry them to Thailand, from where they had planned to travel to Malaysia for better jobs, Jasimuddin said.

The Bangladeshi villager said he swam for nearly three hours to shore after the overcrowded boat sank in deep seas. Many others did not make it, he said.

Jasimuddin said police were trying to find the traffickers, based on information from survivors.

Searches for the missing by police and coast guard speed boats were called off late Monday, he said. However, he said rescuers were still looking out for any more bodies or survivors along the shoreline.

Jasimuddin said the passengers were poor Bangladeshi villagers, and Myanmar refugees from camps at Cox’s Bazar, 300 kilometers south of the national capital, Dhaka.

Several thousand Myanmar refugees, mostly Muslims known as Rohingyas, have fled to Bangladesh over the years, claiming persecution by Myanmar’s military junta and economic hardships.

In the last three months, police and the coast guard have arrested about 500 people – Bangladeshis and Myanmar refugees – in the same waters, mainly on human trafficking or illegal entry charges.

Boat and ship accidents are common in Bangladesh, a delta nation with about 250 rivers. They are often blamed on poor navigation, unfit vessels and lax enforcement of safety regulations.

10/20/2007

Women Send Panties to Myanmar in Protest

Filed under: burma,General,government,media,thailand — admin @ 5:37 am

BANGKOK, Thailand — Women in several countries have begun sending their panties to Myanmar embassies in a culturally insulting gesture of protest against the recent brutal crackdown there, a campaign supporter said Friday.

“It’s an extremely strong message in Burmese and in all Southeast Asian culture,” said Liz Hilton, who supports an activist group that launched the “Panties for Peace” drive earlier this week.

The group, Lanna Action for Burma, says the country’s superstitious generals, especially junta leader Gen. Than Shwe, also believe that contact with women’s underwear saps them of power.

To widespread international condemnation, the military in Myanmar, also known as Burma, crushed mass anti-regime demonstrations recently and continues to hunt down and imprison those who took part.

Hilton said women in Thailand, Australia, Singapore, England and other European countries have started sending or delivering their underwear to Myanmar missions following informal coordination among activist organizations and individuals.

“You can post, deliver or fling your panties at the closest Burmese Embassy any day from today. Send early, send often!” the Lanna Action for Burma Web site urges.

“So far we have had no response from Burmese officials,” Hilton said.
On the Net:

* http://lannaactionforumburma.blogspot.com

10/8/2007

Myanmar’s rubies; bloody colour, bloody business

BANGKOK – The gem merchants of Bangkok display their glistening wares proudly; diamonds from Africa, sapphires from Sri Lanka and rubies, of course, from Myanmar.

The red stones from the country formerly known as Burma are prized for their purity and hue. But they have a sinister flaw.

The country’s military rulers rely on sales of precious stones such as sapphires, pearls and jade to fund their regime. Rubies are probably the biggest earner; more than 90 percent of the world’s rubies come from Myanmar.

International outrage over the generals’ brutal crackdown on pro-democracy rallies encouraged the European Union this week to consider a trade ban on Myanmar’s gemstones, a leading export earner in the impoverished country.

There is also pressure in Washington to close a loophole on existing U.S. sanctions which allows in most of its precious stones.

But in neighbouring Thailand, where the majority of Myanmar’s gems are bought and sold, the stone merchants have yet to be put off business with the junta.

“People are unhappy about what’s going on but they are not angry enough to stop buying rubies,” said Pornchai Chuenchomlada, president of the Thai Gem and Jewellery Traders Association.

“If they killed a lot of people like they did in 1988 we might consider banning their products,” said Pornchai, adding that he personally bought little from Myanmar on moral grounds.

Official media say 10 people were killed when soldiers fired on protesters, including Buddhist monks, in downtown Yangon last week, but the real toll is thought to be much higher.

The junta killed an estimated 3,000 people during the last major uprising in 1988.

VALLEY OF RUBIES

Myanmar’s generals are estimated to have earned around $750 million since they began holding official gem and jade sales in 1964. A far bigger number of precious stones are smuggled over the border into Thailand and China.

The official expositions, held twice a year in the tropical heat of Yangon, are increasingly popular. More Chinese bidders are attending, attracted by slabs of jade.

The state holds a majority stake in all mining operations in Myanmar, including the “Valley of Rubies”, the mountainous Mogok area, 200 km north of Mandalay, famed for its rare pigeon’s blood rubies and blue sapphires worth tens of thousands of dollars apiece.

Conditions in the mines, off-limits to outsiders, are reported to be horrendous.

Debbie Stothard of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma said her organisation had reports of mining operators hooking employees on drugs to improve productivity. Needles are shared, raising the risk of HIV infection, she said.

“Heroin is given to people at the end of the working day as a reward,” said Stothard. “Young people go off to the mines with big hopes and dreams and they come back to die.”

“These rubies are red with the blood of young people.”

REVULSION

Couples buying engagement rings often now ask where the diamonds come from since last year’s Hollywood film “Blood Diamond” raised awareness about gems which finance conflicts.

But even during the late 1990s, when war was still raging in Sierra Leone, where the film was based, only between 4 percent and 15 percent of the world’s diamonds were estimated to have come from conflict zones.

Brian Leber, a third generation jeweller from the U.S. state of Illinois, decided years ago to stop buying Myanmar gems.

“I think it’s more important to sleep at night,” said the 41-year-old who founded The Jewellers’ Burma Relief Project, an organisation that supports humanitarian projects in the country.

Although the United States imposed a ban on imports of Myanmar gems in 2003, a customs loophole allows in stones cut or polished elsewhere. As Myanmar exports virtually all its gems uncut, this interpretation rendered the ban useless.

Leber is hopeful last week’s brutal crackdown will convince U.S. lawmakers to close this loophole. He would like to see consumers shun all gems from Myanmar, whatever their cachet, until the generals are gone.

“For the time being, Burmese gems should not be something to be proud of. They should be an object of revulsion.”

In Bangkok, some dealers have stopped handling stones from Myanmar and they are angry that colleagues haven’t followed suit.

“This is a Buddhist country. I was expecting the price of rubies to drop dramatically after they shot at the monks, but I’m beginning to think these people are hypocrites,” said one Bangkok-based jeweller, who declined to be named.

“It’s the only country where you can get really top quality rubies, but I stopped dealing in them. I don’t want to be part of a nation’s misery.”

“If someone asks for a ruby now I show them a nice pink sapphire.”

Myanmar's rubies; bloody colour, bloody business

BANGKOK – The gem merchants of Bangkok display their glistening wares proudly; diamonds from Africa, sapphires from Sri Lanka and rubies, of course, from Myanmar.

The red stones from the country formerly known as Burma are prized for their purity and hue. But they have a sinister flaw.

The country’s military rulers rely on sales of precious stones such as sapphires, pearls and jade to fund their regime. Rubies are probably the biggest earner; more than 90 percent of the world’s rubies come from Myanmar.

International outrage over the generals’ brutal crackdown on pro-democracy rallies encouraged the European Union this week to consider a trade ban on Myanmar’s gemstones, a leading export earner in the impoverished country.

There is also pressure in Washington to close a loophole on existing U.S. sanctions which allows in most of its precious stones.

But in neighbouring Thailand, where the majority of Myanmar’s gems are bought and sold, the stone merchants have yet to be put off business with the junta.

“People are unhappy about what’s going on but they are not angry enough to stop buying rubies,” said Pornchai Chuenchomlada, president of the Thai Gem and Jewellery Traders Association.

“If they killed a lot of people like they did in 1988 we might consider banning their products,” said Pornchai, adding that he personally bought little from Myanmar on moral grounds.

Official media say 10 people were killed when soldiers fired on protesters, including Buddhist monks, in downtown Yangon last week, but the real toll is thought to be much higher.

The junta killed an estimated 3,000 people during the last major uprising in 1988.

VALLEY OF RUBIES

Myanmar’s generals are estimated to have earned around $750 million since they began holding official gem and jade sales in 1964. A far bigger number of precious stones are smuggled over the border into Thailand and China.

The official expositions, held twice a year in the tropical heat of Yangon, are increasingly popular. More Chinese bidders are attending, attracted by slabs of jade.

The state holds a majority stake in all mining operations in Myanmar, including the “Valley of Rubies”, the mountainous Mogok area, 200 km north of Mandalay, famed for its rare pigeon’s blood rubies and blue sapphires worth tens of thousands of dollars apiece.

Conditions in the mines, off-limits to outsiders, are reported to be horrendous.

Debbie Stothard of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma said her organisation had reports of mining operators hooking employees on drugs to improve productivity. Needles are shared, raising the risk of HIV infection, she said.

“Heroin is given to people at the end of the working day as a reward,” said Stothard. “Young people go off to the mines with big hopes and dreams and they come back to die.”

“These rubies are red with the blood of young people.”

REVULSION

Couples buying engagement rings often now ask where the diamonds come from since last year’s Hollywood film “Blood Diamond” raised awareness about gems which finance conflicts.

But even during the late 1990s, when war was still raging in Sierra Leone, where the film was based, only between 4 percent and 15 percent of the world’s diamonds were estimated to have come from conflict zones.

Brian Leber, a third generation jeweller from the U.S. state of Illinois, decided years ago to stop buying Myanmar gems.

“I think it’s more important to sleep at night,” said the 41-year-old who founded The Jewellers’ Burma Relief Project, an organisation that supports humanitarian projects in the country.

Although the United States imposed a ban on imports of Myanmar gems in 2003, a customs loophole allows in stones cut or polished elsewhere. As Myanmar exports virtually all its gems uncut, this interpretation rendered the ban useless.

Leber is hopeful last week’s brutal crackdown will convince U.S. lawmakers to close this loophole. He would like to see consumers shun all gems from Myanmar, whatever their cachet, until the generals are gone.

“For the time being, Burmese gems should not be something to be proud of. They should be an object of revulsion.”

In Bangkok, some dealers have stopped handling stones from Myanmar and they are angry that colleagues haven’t followed suit.

“This is a Buddhist country. I was expecting the price of rubies to drop dramatically after they shot at the monks, but I’m beginning to think these people are hypocrites,” said one Bangkok-based jeweller, who declined to be named.

“It’s the only country where you can get really top quality rubies, but I stopped dealing in them. I don’t want to be part of a nation’s misery.”

“If someone asks for a ruby now I show them a nice pink sapphire.”

10/1/2007

Myanmar: Internet link remains shut

Filed under: burma,General,global islands,media,military — admin @ 5:27 am

Yangon – Myanmar’s main Internet link remained shut for a third straight day on Sunday, as the ruling regime tried to curb the flow of information on a bloody crackdown against protesters.

“I tried on Sunday morning again but it’s failed again. I haven’t been able to check my email since Friday,” said one Yangon resident.

Internet cafes in Yangon also remained closed. Over the past week, tech-savvy citizens used the cybercafes to transmit pictures and video clips of the regime’s clampdown taken on mobile phones and digital cameras.

“People inside Myanmar can’t send emails or news to outside organisations,” said Kho Win Aung from activist group Shwe Gas Movement.

“So they are losing their chance to express what’s happening in Myanmar,” the Thailand-based activist told reporters in Bangkok.

The government cracked down on protesters last week, killing at least 13 people and injuring hundreds more, in a campaign that has also intensified pressure on media operating in the country.

In the main city of Yangon, soldiers shot dead a Japanese video-journalist Thursday and beat people found with cell phones or cameras, witnesses said.

Myanmar’s military rulers always keep a tight grip on information, heavily censoring newspapers, blocking much of the Internet and rarely allowing foreign journalists into the country.

Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders said that by cutting Internet access, the regime was trying to operate “behind closed doors”.

It has condemned Myanmar as a “paradise for censors” and listed the country as one of the world’s most restrictive for press freedoms.

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