Wednesday, October 04, 2006

News of the World: Smoke in SE Asia, Shelter still needed in Pakistan, Boobies!

Haze Shrouds Parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia says Stephanie Phang in an article for Bloomberg:

Smoke from forest fires in Malaysia and Indonesia cloud the region annually during the dry season from around July to October as farmers clear land for cultivation by setting fire to trees and bushes. The worst occurred in 1997 and 1998, causing economic losses of almost $9 billion in Southeast Asia as travelers shunned the region and health-care costs increased.

The haze has covered about 556,000 square kilometers of land in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia, delaying flights and forcing people to don masks, the Jakarta Post reported on its Web site today. The government has banned the practice of clearing land by burning brush, although it has largely failed to enforce this measure, the report said.

More Indonesia news: Voice of America has a story on the acquittal of the pilot accused of murdering Indonesia's top human rights activist Munir:

The Indonesian Supreme Court has thrown out a guilty verdict against an airline pilot in the murder of the country's top human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib. At one point, Indonesia's state intelligence agency was also implicated in the murder.

Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto is escorted by police officers
Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a pilot with Indonesia's national airline, had been convicted of ordering two flight attendants to put arsenic in Munir Said Thalib's orange juice in September 2004, while on a Garuda Airlines flight bound for Amsterdam.

The state news agency, Antara, said the Supreme Court quashed that verdict Wednesday, because the prosecutors had failed to present any witnesses who actually saw Pollycarpus give the poison to Munir.

A lawyer for Pollycarpus, Adnan Wirawan, says he is happy the Supreme Court has acquitted his client.

"He is released from being accused as the murderer of Mr. Munir, to poison Mr. Munir - he is free from that," he said.

Munir, 38 at the time of his death, was a vocal critic of Indonesian strongman Suharto, and he continued to fight for democracy and human rights after the fall of Suharto in 1998. He also repeatedly accused the military of violating human rights, and of involvement in drug smuggling and illegal logging.

A government-sanctioned fact-finding team investigating Munir's murder concluded in 2005 that the State Intelligence Agency, or B.I.N., was involved in the plot, and said it suspected a connection between B.I.N. and Pollycarpus.

But in the trial court, prosecutors never mentioned the alleged links between Pollycarpus and B.I.N. They suggested instead that the pilot acted only with the help of the two Garuda crew members, and said Pollycarpus killed Munir because he did not like his politics.

The fact-finding team was officially disbanded in June of 2005, and its report was never fully released to the public.

A staffer at the World Bank in Aceh is beginning to learn Bahasa Indonesia. They really should be finding more people who already know the language, the culture, and the place, and are ready to learn Bahasa Aceh...

Violence in Poso, Sulawesi continued after the execution of three Christian militia members.

An Oxfam press release published on details the needs of the survivors of last year's major earthquake in Pakistan as they face their second winter without permanent shelter:

One year on from the Pakistan earthquake on 8 October 2005, over 1.8 million people face a second winter in makeshift shelters and tents, warns aid agency Oxfam International in a report published today.

Much has been achieved in the aftermath of the earthquake and a second humanitarian crisis amid sub-zero temperatures was averted last winter.

However, the scale of the catastrophe, difficult mountainous terrain, poor infrastructure, extreme weather conditions, problems with disseminating public information, as well as gaps in support for some vulnerable groups, have hindered the pace of reconstruction. As a result, many are still at risk with snow already falling in one of the highest regions in the world.

According to the Pakistan authorities, only 17 per cent of the 450,000 affected households have begun building permanent homes. Oxfam estimates at least 80 per cent of the remaining families, equivalent to 1.8 million people, are still living in temporary shelters with the rest staying with friends and relatives. Over 40,000 people are known to be in tents in official camps. Thousands of others are believed to be in unofficial camps and tents close to their home villages.

A recent Oxfam survey of 17 earthquake-hit villages found that virtually all those who were living in tents lacked adequate protection against winter weather. Oxfam believes up to 60,000 people could be forced to move from their mountain villages because of harsh winter conditions and would need accommodation in camps. Thousands of others in remote rural areas also remain at risk because routes to access vital supplies of food, fuel and medicine are often blocked by winter snow and landslides.

"With snow already falling, this winter seems to have arrived early. Besides materials that will strengthen their homes against the harsh conditions, people in temporary shelter in rural and mountain areas need sustained access to safe heating and other essential items," says Andrew Hewett, Executive Director of Oxfam Australia...

If you have made it this far through the (some what discouraging) news of the day, you deserve pictures of boobies. Yet even the boobies are threatened, by breast cancer... but if you donate $50 to the Fifth Annual Blogger Boobie-Thon, you get to look at lots and lots of uncensored, user submitted images of blogger's breasts. Otherwise, you can get a free peek at hundreds of the lovely orbs, but the nipples are covered (by bras, hands, and $50 dollar bills), to protect the nipple-fearing eyes of the Republicans, members of the party of Congressman-Pageboy love. I'll eventually do a post on Mark Foley and the ridiculousness of the strategy of restricting (and other social networking sites) in fedrally-funded libraries and schools, while still letting Foley have access to minor children in the Congressional page program after red flags about his behavior had been raised.

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