Sunday, February 27, 2005

Health: Deaths Outnumber Births As Aids Ravages Southern Africa

The HIV/AIDS epidemic, which continues to devastate mostly the world's poorer nations, has increased the rate of mortality and slowed population growth, according to a new U.N. report released Thursday.

"As a consequence, population growth in the region is expected to stall between 2005 and 2020," says the study titled "World Population Prospects: the 2004 Revision".

In Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland, population is projected to decrease as deaths outnumber births.

Link to

Chavez Accusses US of Considering Assassination

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced that the U.S. government is preparing "new aggressions" against him and against the Venezuelan people. "Before the world, before our people, before the Latin American people, and before the people of North America, for whom we have respect, I accuse the government of the United States of continuing their aggressions against Venezuela," he said during his weekly live TV show.

Link to Scoop Independent News.

UPDATE 'Landowners ordered nun shot'

A group of Brazilian landowners may have pooled $US19,000 ($24,000) for the murder of a US-born environmentalist nun who helped poor farmers defend their lands.

Link to The Australian.

Activist nun slain in the Amazon

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- With the help of two murder suspects and a witness, police re-enacted the killing of Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old American nun authorities believe was shot because of her work defending rain forest communities.

Link to CNN.

The Marketplace Report: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Costs Money

Hundreds of personnel have left or been forced out of the U.S. military because of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy first instituted by former President Clinton a decade ago. A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds the loss of key military personnel has cost the U.S. armed forces nearly $200 million. John Dimsdale of Marketplace reports.

Link to audio on NPR.

No German Flowers for Bush

This time George Bush is not visiting Berlin. His last visit here in 2002 resulted in an unfriendly demonstration of close to 100,000 people from all over Germany. Although he was carefully kept away from the crowds (on Berlin’s famous Unter den Linden boulevard) he certainly heard about it.

That is why he chose Mainz this time. Mainz, a small city on the Rhine river with about 300,000 people, has a big advantage: it is across the river from Wiesbaden, right in the middle of a concentration of US troops. They can provide as friendly and safe a backdrop for Bush as they did yesterday for Laura Bush, who carefully chose the US Army high school as a venue.

But Bush and his backers, American and German, want to play it very safe, and this has become a nightmare for the people of Mainz. All air traffic to the nearby Frankfurt airport is being suspended for part of the day (today, Wednesday). Boat traffic on the Rhine will be suspended despite all economic losses involved. The autobahns surrounding the city and connecting it with the airport will all be closed to traffic.

Link to Common Dreams News Center.

No Child Left Behind law blasted by states

Concluding a yearlong study on the effectiveness of President Bush's education law, No Child Left Behind, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers drawn from many states yesterday pronounced it flawed.

The panel characterized the program as a convoluted and unconstitutional education reform initiative that has usurped state and local control of public schools.

The report, based on hearings in six cities, praised the law's goal of ending the gap in scholastic achievement between white and minority students. But most of the 77-page report, which the Education Department rebutted, was devoted to a detailed inventory and discussion of the program's flaws.

Link to Seattle Post Intelligencer.

President's Uncle Bucky emerges as a big winner from Iraq war

The Iraq war has produced many winners and many losers. And one small but significant winner is a certain William "Bucky" Bush, brother of one president and uncle to the current occupant of the White House.

Link to The Independent UK.

Wal-Mart's Profits: Nearly $20,000 (Per Minute, That Is)

Wal-Mart's Profits:

Nearly $20,000

(Per Minute, That Is)

Say what you will about Wal-Mart - and critics say plenty, about its wages, its working conditions and its bulldozer impact on smaller "old economy" stores unlucky enough to lie in its path - but it has created an astounding money machine.

Link to The New York Times (free registration required).

Developer Drops Plan for City's First Wal-Mart

Whatever eventually rises on this site in Rego Park, Queens, the city's first Wal-Mart will not be part of it.
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Whatever eventually rises on this site in Rego Park, Queens, the city's first Wal-Mart will not be part of it.

Facing intense opposition, a large real estate developer has dropped its plans to include a Wal-Mart store in a Queens shopping complex, thwarting Wal-Mart's plan to open its first store in New York City, city officials and real estate executives said yesterday.

Link to The New York Times (free registration required).

Analysis: Transatlantic tensions remain

Anti-Bush demonstration
Bush is less popular in Europe than at home...

George W Bush's visit to Europe to "extend the hand of friendship" has provoked a generally sceptical response in the French press, despite the welcome it has received from diplomats and politicians in France.

Link to BBC News.

The Gloves are Off: The European Press on Bush's Visit

Bush has arrived. The plain-spoken US President flew into Brussels on Sunday, the first stop on a five-day fence-mending trip though Europe that will take him to Germany and Slovakia as well. The European press has plenty to say about the latest battlefront in the American charm offensive.

Link to Der Spiegel.

Egypt leader allows opposition on ballot

In a surprise and dramatic reversal, President Hosni Mubarak took a first significant step Saturday toward democratic reform in the world's most populous Arab country, ordering the constitution changed to allow presidential challengers on the ballot this fall.

An open election has long been a demand of the opposition but was repeatedly rejected by the ruling party, with Mubarak only last month dismissing calls for reform as "futile."

Link to China Daily.

Transplant tourists flock to Pakistan, where poverty and lack of regulation fuel trade in human organs

Skint, depressed and with moneylenders banging on his door, Muhammad Iqbal decided four months ago to transform his fortunes by selling his last valuable possession - a kidney. The labourer went to the motorway that runs past his one-room house and took a bus to Rawalpindi, the home of Pakistan's powerful military. He checked into a hospital, took a series of tests and, after two days, went under the scalpel.

Link to Guardin UK.

Botswana holds beauty pageant to choose miss HIV

There is a cat walk banquet, hordes of journalists, traditional dancing and time-consuming hair styling -- but at Botswana's beauty pageant every competitor must be HIV positive.

At a palm tree-studded resort and conference centre in the capital Gaborone, 12 girls are competing this weekend for the title "Miss HIV Stigma Free".

Link to Rueters AlterNet.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

New Hope for Justice! Haitian women sue Toto Constant for rape and Torture

CJA served Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant with a lawsuit accusing him of responsibility for torture, crimes against humanity and the systematic use of violence against women, including rape, for the purpose of terrorizing the Haitian population during that country’s brutal military regime in the early 1990s.

Link to the Center for Justice and Accountability.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

19 - No work, no pay on EDSA holiday

It's no work, no pay on February 25, the 19th anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power Revolution, for workers in the private sector, the Department of Labor and Employment said Friday.

According to Memorandum Circular No. 1 issued by Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, "no work, no pay policy shall apply unless there is a favorable company policy, practice, or collective bargaining agreement (CBA) granting payment on a special day even if the day is unworked."

Link to

GMA calls for new revolution against corruption in country

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday called for a new revolution against deep-seated corruption which, she said, continues to derail economic growth and further sink the country in poverty.

Link to Manila Bulletin.

Mark leads kabalens in remembering People Power

Some 5,000 Kapampangans joined Governor Mark T. Lapid and other provincial officials Tuesday in commemorating the People Power uprising in Edsa.

"We support GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) vs corruption!," read streamers, placed in buses, which trooped to Edsa to join the whole nation and its leaders in "praying for peace" throughout the country.

Link to Sun-Star Pampanga.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Red guerrillas in Phillipines perform gay marriage

DARE to struggle, dare to win ... as married gays. After raiding a few Army camps, two communist guerrillas hid in a forest gorge and fell in love.


That was three years ago. On Friday, under a romantic drizzle in a muddy clearing in Compostela Valley province in Mindanao, Ka Andres and Ka Jose exchanged vows in a heavily guarded ceremony before local villagers, friends from the city and their comrades in arms.

They are considered the first homosexual couple in the New People's Army (NPA) who were wed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Link to Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Frank Rich: The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show'

THE prayers of those hoping that real television news might take its cues from Jon Stewart were finally answered on Feb. 9, 2005. A real newsman borrowed a technique from fake news to deliver real news about fake news in prime time.

Let me explain.

On "Countdown," a nightly news hour on MSNBC, the anchor, Keith Olbermann, led off with a classic "Daily Show"-style bit: a rapid-fire montage of sharply edited video bites illustrating the apparent idiocy of those in Washington. In this case, the eight clips stretched over a year in the White House briefing room - from February 2004 to late last month - and all featured a reporter named "Jeff." In most of them, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, says "Go ahead, Jeff," and "Jeff" responds with a softball question intended not to elicit information but to boost President Bush and smear his political opponents. In the last clip, "Jeff" is quizzing the president himself, in his first post-inaugural press conference of Jan. 26. Referring to Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, "Jeff" asks, "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

If we did not live in a time when the news culture itself is divorced from reality, the story might end there: "Jeff," you'd assume, was a lapdog reporter from a legitimate, if right-wing, news organization like Fox, and you'd get some predictable yuks from watching a compressed video anthology of his kissing up to power. But as Mr. Olbermann explained, "Jeff Gannon," the star of the montage, was a newsman no more real than a "Senior White House Correspondent" like Stephen Colbert on "The Daily Show" and he worked for a news organization no more real than The Onion. Yet the video broadcast by Mr. Olbermann was not fake. "Jeff" was in the real White House, and he did have those exchanges with the real Mr. McClellan and the real Mr. Bush.

Link to The New York Times (free registration required).

Friday, February 18, 2005

'06 elections pose trouble, Goss warns

CIA Director Porter Goss said Wednesday that a series of upcoming elections in countries such as Colombia, Haiti and Venezuela are a potential cause of instability in the region.

Testifying before the Senate on the security threats facing the United States, Goss noted that Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela will hold presidential elections in 2006, an unusual concentration of electoral events.

Link to Miami Herald (free registration required)

Army Destroyed Mock Execution Pictures

Pictures of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with hooded and bound detainees during mock executions were destroyed after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq to avoid another public outrage, Army documents released Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union show.

Link to ABC News

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Annan Urges Security Council to Take Action Against Killings, Displacement in Darfur, Sudan

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying the evidence pointed to crimes committed by the Sudanese Government, militia and rebel forces, today urged the Security Council to act urgently to stop further death and suffering in the strife-torn Darfur region and "to do justice for those whom we are already too late to save."

Link to

On Maneuvers With the Army's Game Squad

"The whole idea is for the designers to get a feel of what it's like to be with soldiers, what they do for a living, what it sounds like, what it feels like, even what it smells like," said Col. Casey Wardynski, who dreamed up America's Army as the director of the Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis, at West Point. "You can't put a lot of that into the game, but the experience helps make the game more realistic."

The Army has no detailed figures on the game's success in encouraging young men and women to enlist, but a 2003 survey indicated that the game, which costs the Pentagon about $6 million a year, is more effective at delivering the Army's messages to young people than the hundreds of millions of dollars a year the Army spends on advertising, Colonel Wardynski said.

Just about every Army recruiting station stocks copies of the game, and some recruiters are organizing America's Army tournaments. The game's latest update, to be released online shortly, is called Firefight. The focus of the update is adding administrative tools to streamline online tournament play.


The emphasis on technical minutiae is all part of what Mr. Chambers called the game's mandate to "strategically communicate the Army's values to the American public."

In the game, if players try to run off on their own rather than work with their team, they will almost surely lose. If players consistently kill civilians or their own teammates, they end up in Leavenworth.

"We don't expect that a young person is going to play the game and run out and join the Army," Mr. Chambers said. "That was never the point. We want the game to help us form a more long-term connection with the young person."

Link to Circuits, in The New York Times (free registration required).

Historic Kyoto treaty to save world from warming takes effect without US

- The Kyoto Protocol, the landmark treaty requiring cuts in gas emissions which cause global warming, took effect with the support of 141 nations but a boycott by the biggest polluter, the United States.

Link to Turkish Press.

Kyoto pact commences

KYOTO, Japan (CP) - The Kyoto global warming pact went into force Wednesday, seven years after it was negotiated, imposing limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases scientists blame for rising world temperatures, melting glaciers and rising oceans.

Link to Cnews

Ghana: West Africa: HIV And Family Planning Should Be Better Integrated - Health Authorities

Health Authorities from 15 West African countries are meeting in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, to see how family planning and HIV/ AIDS interventions can be more closely integrated for greater impact.

"Both Family Planning and HIV/AIDS share the same clientele by affecting the same reproductive age group except in a few cases," Dr Wilfred Ochan of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)'s Africa Division and a Conference Facilitator told IRIN.

Link to

Report Critises Govt Policy On Refugees

The Refugee Law Project (RLP) has launched a new report critical of the government's continued practice of looking after refugees in under-serviced camps.

The organisation's Research/Advocacy Officer, Mr Moses Chrispus Okello, said encampment of Sudanese and Congolese refugees restricts their movement and undermines their ability to fully exploit their potential for economic emancipation.

Link to

Rights: World Still Blind to Genocide, Warns Former UN Officer

Ten years after Western nations silently watched the senseless murder of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda's genocide, the international community is going "the same route" in Sudan, warns Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, former Force Commander of the U.N.'s mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR.)

Link to

Ghana: Gas Prices to Rise Due to IMF/World Bank Agreement

MONTHS AFTER President John Agyekum KufLinkuor had personally brought his huge personal influence to bear on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to allow for a short postponement of the date for the implementation of fuel price rationalizing agreement, the commitment by Kufuor for 15th February, has arrived.

Link to

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

NAACP Spars with IRS over Tax Status

The NAACP refuses a request by the IRS to turn over information related to a speech given last July by the civil-rights group's chairman Julian Bond. The IRS says Bond violated the NAACP's tax status by delivering the speech, which was critical of President Bush.

Link to audio of Julian Bond on NPR.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Elliott Abrams to lead democracy efforts worldwide

Elliott Abrams, a key figure in the Iran-Contra affair, has been promoted to deputy national security advisor, with a special emphasis on promoting democracy. Washington Post story here (requires free registration.)

Beyond The Headlines: The Top Ten Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2004

Medicins Sans Frontiers releases its 7th annual report through its U.S. web site. The top ten are:

*Intense Grief and Fear in Northern Uganda
*No End in Sight to Devastating Conflict in Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC)
*Civilians Caught in Colombia's Crossfire
*Tuberculosis Spiraling Out of Control
*Somalia Shattered By Anarchy and Chaos
*The Trauma of Ongoing War in Chechnya
*User-Fee System Excludes Burundi's Poorest From Basic
Health Care
*North Koreans Endure Massive Deprivation and Repression
*Constant Threat of Hunger and Disease in Ethiopia
*The War is Over, But Liberians Still Live in Crisis

Link to articles.

AlterNet: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2003

Since 2004's "winners" excluded the prior years Top Ten....

Expanding the boundaries of corporate malfeasance to new lows of dirty dealing, these ten companies are the worst offenders in a year that saw a lot of offenses.

2003 was not a year of garden variety corporate wrongdoing. No, the sheer variety, reach and intricacy of corporate schemes, scandal and crimes were spellbinding. Not an easy year to pick the 10 worst companies, for sure.

Link to Alternet.

AlterNet: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2004

The year's most egregious price gougers, polluters, union-busters, dictator-coddlers, fraudsters, poisoners, deceivers and general miscreants.

It is never easy choosing the 10 Worst Corporations of the Year – there are always more deserving nominees than we can possibly recognize. One of the greatest challenges facing the judges is the directive not to select repeat recipients from last year's 10 Worst designation.

Link to AlterNet.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Northern Irish peace process threatened

After being accused by Ireland's prime minister, Bertie Ahern, of being involved in a £26.5m bank robbery, the IRA has withdrawn its offer to decomission.