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International News: Sept. 27

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Issue: 8 Section: International News Topics: AIDS

September 27, 2003

International News: Sept. 27

African AIDS Crisis Linked to Globalization

Recent weeks have seen an escalation of urgent calls to deal with the African AIDS crisis. In a recent speech in Nairobi, Canadian United Nations special envoy Stephen Lewis pointed out that only 1 percent of the millions of Africans suffering from AIDS have access to even minimal medication. Lewis harshly critized rich western countries, calling the failure to provide minimal levels of aid "the grotesque obscenity of the modern world."

A paramilitary group in Colombia. The country is one of the principle recipients of US military aid. photo: Colombia Journal
"We can find over $200 billion to fight a war on terrorism? And we can't find the money to provide the antiretroviral treatment for all of those who need such treatment in Africa?"

In the months after George W. Bush famously pledged $15 billion in AIDS relief in his State of the Union speech, the proposed level of AIDS funding the 2004 budget has fallen to $2 billion--only $500,000 more than the aid pledged before the speech. Former South African president Nelson Mandela warned that the AIDS crisis threatens to wipe out all social progress made in Africa in the past decades. He said that a "social revolution" similar to that against apartheid was required to deal with the problem.

In Pretoria, South African Human Sciences Research Council labour expert Jocelyn Vass said that the global AIDS crisis is at its worst in the same places that have been negatively effected by globalization.

She said that HIV prevalence "reflects inequalities in social structure", which is why it is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, India and China." Vass also said that there was an "interdependency" between the response of the corporate sector to globalization and its response to AIDS. In both cases, she said, corporations responded by trying to limit the effect on profits by changing employment contracts, relocating to other countries, and slashing benefits.

The negative effects of globalization fall disproportionately on young adults, who also happened to be the most likely to be experimenting sexually, Vass explained. "Choices under these circumstances are extremely limited," she said, arguing that health educators' efforts to change sexual behaviour would have little effect if people could not even afford contraceptives. Major structural inequalities would have to be addressed before health education initiatives could work properly, she added. (News24, Washington Post, IOL, Toronto Star)

» News 24 (South Africa): Globalisation key to Aids

» IOL: Aids will wipe out all our gains: Mandela

» Toronto Star: AIDS help for Africa 'grotesque'

» Washington Post: Bono Recounts 'Row' With President Over AIDS Funds

* * *

Romanian Plasma Blobs May Expand Meaning of Life

Blobs of gaseous plasma created by Romanian physicists can grow, communicate, and replicate. The results of the research may call into question some basic assumptions about life on earth... and elsewhere. While most biologists believe that living cells arose from complex chemical processes lasting millions of years, the Romanian experiments show that given the right conditions, chemicals can self-organize into complex structures similar to cells in seconds. Other physicists are skeptical, but the most profound effect of the research may be on how we look for life elsewhere in the universe. "The cell-like spheres we describe could be at the origin of other forms of life we have not yet considered," said one researcher, implying that constraining the search for extraterrestrial life to other earth-like systems may be too limiting.

» New Scientist: Plasma blobs hint at new form of life

Australia Seeking a Nuclear Arsenal?

Recent changes to Australia's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Safeguards Act have renewed questions about the country's non-nuclear status. Sydney's Herald Sun compared the "anti-whistleblower" legislation to the laws used by Israel to jail former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu for 18 years. He was imprisoned for revealing details of Israel's secret nuclear weapons program. The legislation is part of overall tightened security at the government's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, which is developing technology that scientists say could be used for civil purposes, or as a part of an effort to make a bomb.

Richard Broinowski, former ambassador and author of Fact or Fission: the truth about Australia's nuclear ambitions, said that the secrecy surrounding the facility was "suspicious" and added, "there are people in the Australian Government who would like to have the option of developing our technology to the stage where we could produce weapons if we needed to. I'm sure of that."

Government officials called the suggestion that Australia was working on weapons technology "ridiculous", and said that the new legislation was to prevent information from falling into terrorist hands.

* * *

Latinos Disproportionately Represented on Front Lines: Study

A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that while Latinos make up nine and a half percent of the US armed forces, they are overrepresented in the most dangerous combat assignments, and make up over 17.5 percent of soldiers serving on front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study also found a casualty rate of 13 percent for people of Hispanic origin serving in Iraq.

Many Latinos serving in Iraq are not US citizens. The Pentagon has set up programs to help new recruits speed up their citizenship applications, and critics have accused the government of taking advantage of the newly strict application process to provide cannon fodder. The government has denied targeting Latinos with the program, though one army recruiter noted a direct connection between the number of Latino applicants and the appearance of the citizenship program.

Jose Gutierrez, one of the first US soldiers to die in Iraq, was a Guatemalan citizen. (Inter Press Service)

» Inter Press Service: Hispanic Soldiers Die in Greater Numbers in Iraq

Amanpour, Rather: US Media "Muzzled"

With Iraq fading slowing from the headlines, several high-profile journalists have expressed concern with media coverage of the Iraq war. "I think the press was muzzled [in the runup to war in Iraq], and I think the press self-muzzled," said CNN war correspondent Christiane Amanpour. "There are horrors that were completely left out of this war," said MSNBC war correspondent Ashleigh Banfield. CBS anchor Dan Rather expressed similar sentiments in the aftermath of the Afghanistan war: "one finds oneself saying, 'I know the right question, but you know what? This is not exactly the right time to ask it'".

A quick survey conducted by the magazine Editor and Publisher found that American newspapers largely ignored George W. Bush's admission that there is "no evidence that Hussein was involved with the September 11 attacks". According to the magazine, "of America's 12 highest circulation daily papers, only the LA Times, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News ran anything about it on the front page. In The New York Times, the story was relegated to page 22. USA Today: page 16."

» Niagara Falls Reporter: Media Ignores Bush Admission that Saddam not Involved in Sept. 11

» Alternet: MSNBC's Banfield Slams War Coverage

* * *

Sharp Increase in US Military Aid to Latin America

A new report released by three Washington foreign policy groups shows the US military aid to Latin American countries has almost tripled in the last five years, while economic and social aid has generall declined.

The report also complained that information about military aid is increasingly difficult to obtain, due to "systematic" efforts by the Bush administration to repeal measures that require reporting.

» Oneworld.net: Sharp Increase in U.S. Military Aid to Latin America

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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