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December 7, 2008

Irish pork recalled

Ireland has issued a massive pork recall after test results showed that the pork products may have been tainted with a potentially cancer-causing chemical. According to the Associated Press, health officials took a precautionary move and warned approximately 25 countries not to consume any pork product produced in Ireland since Sept. 1. It was discovered that dioxins had been in the pigs' feed.

Ireland's Food Safety Authority said the dioxin made its way into the pork after the pig feed was tainted with industrial oil. Only 10 percent of the countries pork products were affected, however, this was processed and mixed with other meats, and caused for widespread contamination.

According to the BBC, tests showed that some pork products contained up to 200 times more dioxins than the normal limit.

However, the UK's Food Standards Agency said it didn't believe that its consumers faced any "significant risk" at this point in time, citing that the health risk was extremely low, and that a person would have to consume a large amount of the dioxins in order to see any visible effect.

Farmers, according to the Associated Press, are calling this whole ordeal a nightmare, especially in this economy. Ireland's pig industry brings in approximately 450 million euro, or $570 each year.

Irish farms produce more than 3 million pigs a year. Half of these are consumed within Ireland, but is also heavily exported to neighboring countries and grocery stores and processed meats throughout much of Europe and Asia.

"We're actually reeling in shock at the moment at the scale of this disaster," Tim Cullinan, an official with the Irish Farmers Association and a pig farmer, told Irish state radio RTE. "It couldn't have come at worse time, the weeks leading up to Christmas. ... It's a nightmare, to be honest," he said. (AP)


November 30, 2008

Zimbabwe government sued over cholera outbreak

A group of Zimbabweans are taking a government department to court for failing to provide proper health care and clean water for its citizens.

According to Zimbabwe health officials, 425 people have died of cholera since the country's epidemic broke out in September. More than 11,000 people have been affected, and health officials are worried this will worsen with the upcoming rainy season. (Associated Press)

According to CNN, a group of citizens filed an application on Friday in the High Court. They are suing the government-run Zimbabwe National Water Authority. This organization is responsible for supplying water to the country.

According to CNN, this is the worst humanitarian crisis the country has experienced since it attained independence from Great Britain 28 years ago.

Medical professionals are blaming the cholera epidemic on the lack of clean water in many parts of the country. Some areas require its residents to get water from shallow wells or contaminated rivers. (CNN)

According to the Associated Press, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights has accused the government of trying to downplay the impact of the outbreak.


The AP additionally reported that cholera has spread into South Africa, prompting international health agencies to launch emergency relief efforts to prevent it from becoming a pandemic.

CNN reported the economic meltdown of Zimbabwe has had a large impact on the country's current predicament.

Zimbabwe used to boast one of Africa's most vibrant economies; it is now in a state of collapse.

Hyperinflation, mass unemployment and commodity shortages are just a few of the country's other problems, and all factor into the country's inability to import adequate chemicals to treat drinking water.

November 23, 2008

South African teen faces life in prison for racist murders

A white South African has been convicted of killing four black people, in a shooting spree in January. A judge sentenced 19-year-old Johan Nel to four life terms in jail.

According to CNN, Nel also targeted 11 others when he committed the crimes early this year. He was 18 at the time.

Nel will also be sentenced to 68 years for 11 counts of attempted murder, five years for possessing a firearm without a license, and three years for possessing ammunition, also without a license.

Frikke Pretorius, Nel's attorney, said Nel killed a mother and her infant, a 70-year-old man, and a 10-year old boy. Witnesses of the shootings claimed Nel was screaming out racist terms as he was shooting. Nel pled guilty to the crimes.

The BBC additionally reported that the killings prompted many protests, including those from South Africa's white population threatening to kill Judge Ronald Hendricks if he sentenced Nel to life in prison.

November 16, 2008

Japan enters recession

Japan, the world's second largest economy after the United States, is in a recession. According to MarketWatch.com, this is the first time Japan has been in a recession since 2001.

Declining overseas demand, according to Market Watch, accounted for a considerable percentage of Japan's fall in the rate of its gross domestic product growth. As other countries face similar financial issues, Japan's automobile and electronics markets are being affected, reported the Associated Press.

However, Glenn Maguire, an Asia-Pacific economist with Societe Generale in Hong Kong, said that Japan's improved employment policies, limited financial leverage, and generally lean industrial sector all are factors that will help cushion Japan's economy in its fall.

In an effort to help Japan's ill economy, Prime Minister Taro Aso has unveiled two economic stimulus packages since taking office in September. This includes his latest proposal of a 27 trillion-yen ($275.7 billion) package that involves expanded credits for small businesses and a total of 2 trillion-yen ($20.4 billion) in cash disbursements to households.

Japan's banks have joined central banks around the world in bringing down borrowing costs. The Bank of Japan, for instance, cut its key interest rate for the first time in more than seven years.

November 9, 2008

Haiti school collapses

A three-story school in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti collapsed Friday morning during a celebration of the school's birthday. According to CNN.com, the accident left 84 dead, and 150 injured. It is unknown exactly how many people remain trapped among the rubble.

On Sunday, relatives of those trapped within the College La Promesse Evangelique picked at the ruins with shovels and picks in hopes of rescuing their loved ones. They were eventually pushed away by police, who cited safety concerns. CNN.com reported that U.S. and French rescue teams were fearful that the vibrations from power generators would cause the concrete at the site to shake loose, and cause more casualties.

Approximately 700 people were at the scene when the school collapsed, however, another source claimed there were as few as 250, meaning that the actual number of those trapped is only a portion of the estimated 100-200.

Officials said that most of the students ranged from ages 10-20, however, some of the students were much younger than that. Since the accident, 4 children have been rescued.

Fortin Augustin, the school's owner turned himself in, and was questioned by authorities on Sunday. According to The Straits Times, Augustin has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Haiti's president ,Rene Preval, has visited the school three times since its collapse. He told the Straits Times that poor construction and a lack of steel reinforcements were likely to be the cause of the collapse, and warned that structures throughout Haiti run a similar risk.

November 2, 2008

Indonesia passes anti-porn bill

A controversial and long-debated anti-porn bill was passed on Thursday by Indonesia's parliament.

According to the BBC, Islamic parties said the law was necessary, in order to protect women and children, and to support Indonesian societal morals. The law would ban images, gestures, or talk considered to be pornographic.

The opposition argues that the law violates both personal and cultural freedoms. Additionally, many are questioning the interpretation and implementation of the new law.

ABC News reports that violation of the law would result in up to 12 years in prison or up to $750,000 in fines.

Critics also do not appreciate a provision in the bill that allows the general public to participate in preventing the spread of obscenity.

"We're worried it will be used by hard-liners who say they want to control morality," Baby Jim Aditya, a women's rights activist, told Associated Press news agency. (BBC)

October 26, 2008

Iranian president ill with exhaustion

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is suffering from exhaustion, but reports of his illness have stirred speculation as to if he will be running for presidency next June, reported the The Los Angeles Times.

A close associate said the president became sick because of overworking, and exhaustion.

"Every human being can face exhaustion under such a workload," lawmaker Mohammed Ismail Kowsari, an ally of Ahmadinejad, said in the interview with the LA Times. "The president will eventually get well and continue his job."

Ahmadinejad missed a few public appearances last week. He however told a reporter in a televised report Sunday night that he was not ill.

The president's absences have prompted rumors that Ahmadinejad is on his way out. But Ahmadinejad's close allies said his critics are trying to use what they say is a routine illness for political advantage.

Esmail Kowsari, a member of Iran's parliament, called this "psychological warfare" aimed at creating division among fundamentalists who make up Ahmadinejad's political base. (CNN)


October 19, 2008

Taliban militants seige bus; dozens feared dead

Taliban militants hijacked a bus in southern Afghanistan on Thursday and executed at least 2 dozen passengers after accusing them of being soldiers in civilian clothing.

General Matiullah Qati, the police chief of Kandahar Province, where the attack occurred, said to theInternational Herald Tribune that all six of the bodies they have retrieved so far have been beheaded and mutilated. There are reports of at least 24 others, but they have yet to be found, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Many of the passengers were women and children. The incident, according to the Los Angeles Times proved the dangers of traveling in the Afghan countryside.

Authorities said the passengers were traveling in a two-bus convoy, in order to increase their safety. An earlier bus managed to speed away from militants who had set up a checkpoint, however, the second bus, which held about 50 people, was not as lucky.

The Los Angeles Times reported that violence has hit an all-time high level since the conflict began. While combatants have made up the majority of those killed, civilian deaths this year have been estimated to be more than 1300 by the United Nations.

October 12, 2008

Suspected US missile strike kills 4 in Pakistan

A suspected US missile strike killed four people and injured two others in a Pakistani tribal area late Saturday. The region was seen as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, according to Yahoo! News.

Security officials said that a similar suspected US missile strike occurred in the same area on Thursday, and killed nine people, including six Arab militants. (Yahoo! News)

Missile strikes targeting Pakistani militants in the area in recent weeks have been blamed on the US. According to CNN, the United States is the only country that the capability to launch missiles from remote controlled drones in the area. Pakistan does not own missile-equipped drones.

CNN additionally reported that the US accused extremists for "using the area as a staging ground to attack US forces and their allies in Afghanistan."


October 5, 2008

Spanish police arrest 121 in child porn sting

The Spanish police have arrested 121 people in the country's biggest operation against child pornography on the internet. Millions of computer files were seized in a series of nationwide raids that involved eight-hundred police officers and more than 200 homes.

According to CNN, police are still investigating 96 others.

The BBCreported that Enrique Rodriguez, from the police's Technological Investigation Brigade, told Spanish radio that the network was enormous, involving 18,000 IP addresses across the world, including 1,600 in Spain.

According to the BBC, 1,200 people have been arrested for child pornography in Spain in the past five years.

Two of the people arrested photographed their nephews, who were under 10 years of age, according to Manuel Vazquez. Vazquez, is the national police chief of the technology investigative brigade.

The suspects have all been charged with distributing pornographic material. If they are convicted, they can face up to eight years of prison.


September 28, 2008

At least 52 die fleeing Somali

At least 52 Somalis died when the boat smuggling them across to Yemen broke down and left them without food or water for 18 days, U.N. officials said Sunday.

Those that survived ranged in age from 2 to 40. Their boat drifted into Yemeni coastal waters and they were rescued by coastal guardsmen.

According to UPI.com,the Somali refugees were fleeing Somalia because of drought, unemployment and other insecurities in their war-torn nation. Each passenger paid between $70 and $100 to board the ship.

The boat left Somalia in early September with more than 120 people on board. The engine stopped after only a few hours.

According to CNN, 38 men and 10 women died during the 18 days the boat was drifting along the Gulf of Aden. Survivors said their bodies were thrown overboard. The other four that were accounted for died after being hospitalized.

This year, more than 31 thousand people have traveled to Yemen through smuggler's boats. More than 228 Somalis and Ethiopians have died, and 262 are still missing. (CNN)

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees believes that this large number may be because of displacements in Somalia, new smuggling routes across the gulf, and the belief that there is less surveillance during the holy month of Ramadan.

September 21, 2008

Crying over tainted milk

Bloomberg.com reported that four children in China have died and over 12,000 hospitalized after consuming milk tainted with melamine, a chemical used in making plastics, flame retardants and fertilizers. The number of children hospitalized has risen almost ten-fold since the China Daily's initial reports on Monday.

Melamine, according to health experts, can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure. It is strictly forbidden as a food additive. However, the China Daily reported that the chemical cleverly is able to fool quality checks, making the milk seem like it has a higher protein value than it really does.

Two brothers who sold the fresh milk used to produce the contaminated baby formula were arrested on Monday. The brothers said they knowingly added the chemical to recover from losses when a factory rejected earlier milk shipments, the China Daily reported. The brothers are charged with producing and selling toxic and hazardous food. If found guilty, the brothers could face a death sentence, the newspaper said.

Since Friday, melamine was found in milk produced by three of China's largest dairy producers, prompting stores such as Starbucks to pull milk products off their shelves, reported ABC News. While it was only powdered baby formula that was thought to have been contaminated, liquid milk, and dairy products including yogurt, have also been taken off of shelves.

ABC News reported China's product safety watchdog as having said that all batches of contaminated dairy products were being recalled in an effort to "severely punish those who are responsible."

Authorities in the United States have inspected more than 1,000 retail markets, but have not found any tainted dairy products.

September 13, 2008

Break in attempt at presidential candidate's grandma's

In Kenya, U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama has gained popularity similar to that of any international movie celebrity or rock star. In his late father's hometown of Kogelo, buses with the Illinois senator on them or street merchants vending shirts bearing his image are not a rare sight to see.

However, the downside to all this fame became apparent to Obama's Kenyan relatives this past Thursday, when his grandma's house was the site of an attempted break in, reported CNN.

According to Said Obama, the candidate's uncle, the thieves did not manage to get into the house of grandmother Sarah Obama. Nothing was stolen, and no one was harmed.

"I just spoke to Sarah, and she's OK," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "The police have been there since yesterday, and we're not worried. Everything is fine." (CNN)

Said stated that the burglars used a ladder on Wednesday morning to get onto the roof of the house, only to find all of the doors locked. According to IOL, a South African news site, a solar panel located on the roof of the home is what caught the thieves' eyes.

"These are just people ... who think that Obama has been sending me a lot of money," said Sarah, the 85-year-old step-grandmother.

The family, according to MSNBC,has tried their best to keep a low profile.

Local police promised to keep watch over the Kenyan family, adding that they might also assign a unit to specifically guard the Obamas.