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March 2007





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Pakistan Blog



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Nepal: Can Peace Hold?

Peru: Life Under a Toxic Cloud



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Nepal: Can Peace Hold?

Female Maoist soldier outside camp.

Former soldier, Teevrata Singh, 22, left her impoverished village three years ago to fight the Maosist cause.

We've spent five hours on the road from Kathmandu. The car is belching out thick smoke as it wobbles along the deeply rutted roads. The mercury has dropped dramatically, and fog is adding to the precariousness of the journey.

We're on our way to a remote hamlet in western Nepal in the district of Nawalparasi to spend time at a camp run by the country's Maoist rebels. Emerging from the shadows of their long, clandestine existence, Nepal's rebels are now in the process of laying down arms under U.N. supervision, officially calling an end to their decade-long revolution.

As we near our destination, the countryside is increasingly beautiful. Old wooden houses rise above vast tracts of maize in mid-bloom; little children wave at us as we pass by. In the distance, a red flag flies from the top of a watchtower, and a gun barrel darts out from a foxhole as we approach the camp.

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Peru: Life Under a Toxic Cloud

Smelter plant shrouded in gas emmissions.

According to the Blacksmith Institute, La Oroya is one of the world's 10 worst pollution sites. Contaminants include lead, arsenic, cadmium and sulfur dioxide.

Unless you're really hungry or really need to go to the bathroom, La Oroya is the sort of place place you rush through.

You've broken free of Lima's gridlock, labored up the Andean foothills, played chicken with cargo trucks, crept over the frigid pass at Ticlio (elevation 15,807 feet), then descended past a series of gloomy mining settlements and lagoons. An hour ahead lay picturesque mountain villages, and beyond them the green fringe of the upper Amazon. But in La Oroya the Central Highway is swarming with vans, all blowing their horns. A freight train rolls across the road, halting traffic. Queasy from the altitude, you look out the window at the ramshackle factory buildings, at the maze of dark and noisy streets, at the shanties climbing bare white hills, and the last thing you want to do is stop and linger.

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