Noam Chomsky asks Iran to release detained hikers

In July 2009, Iranian border guards arrested three American civilians who were on an overnight backpacking trip on the Iraq/Iran border and charged them with espionage. One of the three, Sarah Shourd, was released on Sept. 14.

Today, American academic Noam Chomsky posted an online video in which he implored the Iranian government to release the remaining two, Shourd’s fiance Shane Bauer and their friend, Josh Fattal.


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Amputees in a country without paved roads or sidewalks

by Brent Renaud

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the earthquake in Haiti. My brother Craig and I had been in Port-au-Prince the previous November reporting for The New York Times; when the earthquake hit we rushed back down. In the two weeks after the disaster, we were shocked to see how many young kids were having limbs amputated in make-shift hospitals. Haitian buildings were not made to withstand an earthquake and they collapsed at an astonishing rate; because kids are so small and resilient many of them survived the impact, but with severe crush wounds. We decided to follow two of these kids for a story that will appear on Need to Know this Friday, January 14.

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Pakistan’s paradox

By Ayesha Nasir

Supporters of Pakistani religious party Sunni Tehreek chant slogans in favor of accused assassin Mumtaz Qadri outside an anti-terrorist court in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on January 6, 2011. Photo: AP/B.K.Bangash

What struck me as particularly disturbing was that a day after roses and tulips were laid on the grave of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, his assassin was welcomed with rose petals and slogans of Allah-o-Akbar  or “Allah is great” at an anti-terrorist court in Rawalpindi.

The murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, was a member of the elite police force employed to protect Taseer from terrorists. But minutes after the terrorist within him riddled the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) governor’s body with 26 bullets, he surrendered with a smug grin and an explanation: Qadri assassinated Taseer because the governor had spoken out against the blasphemy law, which makes it illegal to speak ill of Islam (punishment can range from fines to death), and raised his voice in defense of a poor Christian mother of four, sentenced to death, who he believed had been wrongly accused of dishonoring Prophet Muhammed.

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Report criticizes Haiti recovery commission led by Bill Clinton

A resettlement camp at Corail Cesselesse, Haiti. Photo: Jane Beelsey/Oxfam

World leaders and officials in Haiti have made little progress on critical reconstruction projects there, nearly one year after a devastating earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and left another million homeless, a leading international charity said on Thursday.

“The humanitarian response that has taken place over the past 12 months has saved countless lives by providing water, sanitation, shelter, food aid, and other vital assistance to millions of people,” the charity, Oxfam International, said in a report. “Yet, as Haiti approaches the first anniversary of the earthquake, neither the Haitian state nor the international community is making significant progress in reconstruction.”

The report found that dysfunctional governance, legal hurdles and a lack of long-term strategic planning on the part of Haitian officials has hobbled the recovery effort and delayed basic reconstruction projects. A mere five percent of the rubble from the earthquake has been cleared, Oxfam officials said, and only 15 percent of the necessary housing has been built. Nearly a million Haitians remain in poorly constructed tent cities or scattered among the ruins, leaving them vulnerable to weather and disease.

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WikiLeaks cable reveals new details of Gaza embargo

A Palestinian worker rests at a United Nations food aid distribution center in Shati refugee camp, Gaza City. Photo: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa

As part of their embargo of the Gaza strip in 2008, Israeli officials told American diplomats “on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge,” according to a secret diplomatic cable sent to Washington by U.S. officials in Tel Aviv.

The leaked cabled, obtained by WikiLeaks and posted on the website of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday, was held up by Middle East activists and bloggers as evidence of a coordinated attempt by the Israeli government to starve the territory, which is governed by the Islamist organization Hamas, without regard for the human rights of Gaza’s citizens. Some scholars even argued that the embargo, which has been eased but remains in effect, violates the Geneva Convention.

American diplomats wrote in the cable, headlined “Cashless in Gaza,” that Israeli officials “intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.” Juan Cole, a Middle East scholar and professor of history at the University of Michigan, noted on his blog Informed Consent that 55 percent of Palestinians in Gaza remain “food-insecure,” and cited a two-year study by the medical journal “The Lancet” that found that 10 percent of children in the territory show signs of stunting from malnutrition. “I’d call that a humanitarian crisis,” Cole added.

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Viewer response: How the international community fights piracy

In response to our recent segments on piracy in Somalia, several viewers have asked us what, if any, action the international community is taking to combat piracy.

International bodies such as the European Union and United Nations have already taken collective action to patrol the waters along Somalia’s coast and authorize military action to protect civilian and commercial vessels from pirates. In January 2008, for example, the U.N. Security Council authorized countries whose ships have been targeted by pirates, such as France and the United States, to sail into Somalia’s territorial waters and militarily confront pirates there. And in December 2008, the U.N. expanded its authorization to include acts of military force against Somali pirates by land and air.

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Déjà vu in Juarez, Mexico

People clean a blood-stained patio at a home in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Saturday Oct. 23, 2010. At least 13 young people were shot dead in an attack on this house during a 15-year-old boy's birthday party. Photo: AP/Raymundo Ruiz

When we visited Villas de Salvarcar this past spring for our report on the enduring violence in Juarez, we found a neighborhood slowly putting its heart back together. On a block where 15 young people were massacred at a birthday party last January, federal law enforcement stood guard and social workers dispatched from Mexico City worked with local children to address the trauma. When we asked about the slain children, relatives emerged clutching photographs, and mothers stood in all their bravery to tell us who their children were, laying out scholastic awards and leaning on each other for support. President Felipe Calderon’s administration vowed “never again” and pledged new funding to improve law enforcement and build infrastructure projects.

And yet it did happen again, in almost exactly the same way, in Horizones Sur, a working class neighborhood not far from Villas de Salvarcar. Late last month, gunmen stormed into a birthday party spanning two yards, killing 13 young people and injuring 20 others. According to the Associated Press, most of the victims were high school students.
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Exiled: Burma’s Defenders

Burmese Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves to a crowd of supporters outside her house in Rangoon on Sunday November 26, 1995. Photo: AP/Richard Vogel

Updated Nov. 13, 2010 | Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. Watch BBC video of her release here.

Burma is preparing for the possible release of its revered democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, this Saturday. The Thailand-based exile magazine The Irawaddy reported that 1,000 supporters convened at the Yangon headquarters of Suu Kyi’s now disbanded party, the National League for Democracy, to await the end of her sentence this Saturday at 7 p.m. Suu Kyi has been confined for a total of 15 years since 1989.
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Google maps a new world order

Updated | Nov. 6, 2010, 7:00 p.m.: Search Engine Land is reporting that the U.S. is to blame for the boundary error. In a blog post regarding the border dispute, Google says, “The U.S. Department of State has provided a corrected version and we are now working to update our maps.”

Following CEO Eric Schmidt’s recent foray into foreign affairs, Google now finds itself at the center of a brewing international incident between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Google Maps 2010

A Nicaraguan commander, Eden Pastora, recently ventured into the Costa Rican territory bordering the San Juan River and ordered his troops to replace the Costa Rican flag with a Nicaraguan one. As startling as this maneuver was, what has really unsettled observers is the unwitting cause for Pastora’s misguided adventure: Google Maps. Pastora recently told La Nación, a Costa Rican newspaper,

See the satellite photo on Google and there you see the border. In the last 3,000 meters the two sides are from Nicaragua. (Translation via Search Engine Land)

It’s important to note that both countries’ official maps show this tract of land as belonging to Costa Rica.
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