brad brace contemporary culture scrapbook

September 30, 2008

Coastguard rescues 229 Africans off Canary Islands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Murder Capitals of the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

NZ official: Melanesian states still suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 29, 2008

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

Small Island States and Global Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drinking at the Public Fountain

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

The New Corporate Threat to Our Water Supplies

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

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

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

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

How the Water Revolt Began

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

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2008

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

When land came up from the sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The World’s 10 Most Wanted White-Collar Fugitives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London also seems to be a destination of choice; it’s currently home to Berezovsky and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who recently fled to avoid accusations of financial crimes back home. American telemarketing scammer James Eberhart is just sailing round the world in his boat. consulted with law enforcement agencies to identify the top 10 most wanted white-collar fugitives, who are listed in no significant order.

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

Throwing acid to settle scores on the rise in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh — admin @ 6:15 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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