Archive for March, 2012

31/03/2012

Any Hope for Burma?

Human Wrongs Watch

Yangon, (IRIN*) – As millions of Burmese go to the polls on 1 April, expectations are high for real change. Across this Southeast Asian nation and abroad there is an unprecedented sense of hope not seen in decades following a wave of political reforms now described by Myanmar’s own government as “irreversible”.

**Temples at Mrauk U. Photo by Jmhullot | Wikimedia Commons

But taking this impoverished nation out of international isolation won’t be easy. In recent years, the country has made front-page headlines across the globe in times of crisis, including the failed Saffron Revolution – the demonstrations by Buddhist monks in 2007 that were brutally suppressed – and the devastating impact of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, when more than 140,000 people lost their lives and over two million people were affected.

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30/03/2012

Mongolia: Could Mining Threaten Tourism Potential?

30/03/2012

Spain: Millions Join General Strike against New Labour Laws

Human Wrongs Watch

By Vicky Short  (WSWS*) 30 March – Yesterday’s [29 March] general strike against new labour laws imposed by the right-wing Popular Party government was backed by millions.

Credit:UGT

The two main union federations, the Socialist Party (PSOE)-aligned General Workers Union (Union General de Trabajadores, UGT), and the Communist Party (PCE)-led Workers Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) estimated that the stoppages were supported by 77-80 percent of the workforce.

Many more people, unemployed, school children, housewives and students used it as a vehicle to protest government cuts and austerity measures.

Mass stoppages took place in industry, transport and services. The walkout hit road, rail and air service with barely any domestic or European flights in operation.

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30/03/2012

One Million Syrians in Need of Humanitarian Assistance

Human Wrongs Watch

With 22,8 million inhabitants, at least one million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the findings of a government-led assessment mission jointly carried out with the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). 

A young Syrian refugee with his brother in Jordan. The boys fled Syria with their parents. Photo: UNHCR/S. Malkawi

Those in need include people directly affected by the ongoing violence, such as the injured and internally displaced persons, and those of have lost access to essential services and host families, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a summary of the assessment, according to a UN report released on 29 March.
Priority needs identified in the assessment include protection, food, medical assistance, non-food items, such as beddings and household essentials, and education.

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29/03/2012

Afghanistan: 400 Women, Girls Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes’

Human Wrongs Watch

Kabul (HRW*) – The Afghan government should release the approximately 400 women and girls imprisoned in Afghanistan for “moral crimes,” Human Rights Watch said in a new report released on 28 March. The United States and other donor countries should press the Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai to end the wrongful imprisonment of women and girls who are crime victims rather than criminals.

**Art work on a rock of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl on the cover of the 1985 National Geographic Magazine. Author: Jef Poskanzer

The 120-page report, “‘I Had to Run Away’: Women and Girls Imprisoned for ‘Moral Crimes’ in Afghanistan, is based on 58 interviews conducted in three prisons and three juvenile detention facilities with women and girls accused of “moral crimes.”

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29/03/2012

53 Reactors Down, 1 to Go: Japan May Have a Nuclear-free Summer

Human Wrongs Watch

By Justin McKeating* –  Greenpeace – Japan is almost completely free of nuclear power now, after the shutdown on March 26, 2012 of the Number 6 reactor at the country’s Kashiwasaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. No nuclear reactors are now operational on the Japanese mainland.

Image: Greenpeace

When scheduled maintenance closes the Number 3 Tomari reactor on the island of Hokkaido on May 5 2012, all of Japan’s 54 reactors will be out of action. The country will be nuclear-free for the first time since 1966.

This is very encouraging news. And the impact on daily life for the people of Japan has been invisible. The Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano has said there will be no restrictions on electricity use or any repeat of the rolling blackouts that happened last summer in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The power companies are cautiously optimistic as well. Asking people to use their energy efficiently, Tokyo Electric Power said in a statement, “for the electricity supply and demand in the foreseeable future, we expect to maintain stable supply.”

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29/03/2012

European Football Clubs to Take to Field for Sahel

Human Wrongs Watch

Rome – As part of a United Nations initiative to fight hunger, football stars from 300 European professional clubs will this weekend take to the field to help raise awareness of the need for urgent action to avert a humanitarian disaster in the Sahel region of Africa, the UN reports.

Credit:UN

Starting on Saturday, European professional clubs will play a series of matches over four days in various cities, from Glasgow in Scotland to Novosibirsk in Russia, to raise awareness among football enthusiasts about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Sahel.

“We need public support for food crises like this one. No one knows like footballers how crucial it is to have the stadium on your side to win the match,” said a UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Spanish football player Raúl González Blanco.

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29/03/2012

“A Matter of Life or Death for 15 Millions in Drought-prone Sahel”

Human Wrongs Watch

The food and nutrition crisis facing countries in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate despite commendable early response efforts by governments and international aid agencies, a senior United Nations official said.

Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano
“We are in a race against time and some of the harshest climatic conditions on the planet,” said on 28 March the Director of Operations at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, after returning from a week-long mission to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
“This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded,” he added. “It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink.”
29/03/2012

North Sea — Gas Leak Threatens Disaster

Human Wrongs Watch

By Robert Stevens – WSWS – The gas leak at the Total oil conglomerate Elgin platform in the North Sea threatens an environmental disaster.

The platform is around 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland. The leak was first detected at 12.15 p.m. on Sunday  [25 March], after which Total evacuated all 238 workers. Although not classified as a deepwater well, the Elgin drilling rig is still very deep with gas being extracted at a depth of 6,000 meters, nearly four miles into the sea bed.

A flare is still alight on the main platform.

David Hainsworth, the health, safety and environment manager for Total E&P UK, speculated that the leak could have occurred as the result of Total engineers pumping in mud to piping on a gas reservoir that had been plugged about a year ago. He said, “We believe the leak is coming out of the outer casing of the well.”

Although the leak was discovered on Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t until 11 a.m. on Monday [26 March] that an exclusion zone around the rig was set up. Ships are excluded within two miles of the site and aircraft no nearer than three miles if they fly lower than 4,000 feet. This affects helicopters but not commercial aircraft.

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26/03/2012

Hana Shalabi: Medical Urgency and Spiritual Defiance

Human Wrongs Watch

By Richard Falk* – TRANSCEND  – The respected human rights NGOs, Addameer-Palestine and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have expressed their deep concern for the mortal danger facing Hana Shalabi who continues her historic hunger strike to protest abuse that she experienced and her objections to the Israeli practice of prolonged detention without charges, without trial.

**Demonstrating for releasing Hana Shalabi

There are reported to be currently as many as 24 other Palestinians in administrative detention that have declared their own hunger strike in solidarity with Hana Shalabi’s protest.

There are signs of growing expressions of global awareness and solidarity, including a vigil in Trafalgar Square on 23 March at 6:30 pm and Day of Action in Glascow, Scotland on the following day. There are new allegations that even in her present circumstances of clinging to life, she has been abused by prison authorities, and her family has been denied visitation rights.

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