May 9, 2013
Egypt NGO Law — The U.N. human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has warned that Egypt’s new civil society law betrays the ideals of the 2011 revolution and risks turning the country into an authoritarian state, notes Reuters. The draft law, supported by the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), imposes funding restrictions on non-governmental organizations and requires advance permission for many activities, which critics see as a threat to freedom of assembly. “This current draft law… risks placing civil society under the thumb of security ministries which have a history of abusing human rights and an interest in minimizing scrutiny,” said Pillay. The FJP has said “the bill is still under discussion and that it will give NGOs freedom and meet the needs of society,” according to Reuters.
Cholera Epidemic — Haiti’s cholera victims have threatened to sue the U.N. after accusing it of negligently allowing peacekeepers to pollute the country’s water with cholera, reports the BBC. The country’s cholera outbreak began in 2010 near a camp for U.N. peacekeepers, taking the lives of around 8,000 people and infecting hundreds of thousands. U.N. cholera expert Danielle Lantagne told the BBC it was “most likely” that the epidemic began in the camp housing soldiers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic. Available evidence suggests that Nepalese peacekeepers inadvertently spread cholera into the main waterway of Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries. Lawyers of the victims said the U.N. broke international law and gave the organization a 60-day deadline to start talks on billions of dollars worth of compensation. The U.N. has insisted that it is immune from compensation claims and legal proceedings.
Gender Segregation — The New York Times reports that the Israeli government is trying to end gender segregation in public spaces. Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein advised ministers across the government to issue guidelines, which are likely to be adopted in the coming weeks, to immediately end gender segregation in public areas. “The sweeping ruling comes after several years of mounting tension and legal battles over the treatment of women in Israel’s public sphere, particularly the requirement that they sit in the back on bus lines through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, which set off civil disobedience campaigns involving many Jews from overseas,” writes theTimes. Observers said ultra-Orthodox Jews will see the move as an attack on their way of life.
Kurdish Fighters Withdrawal – A senior Turkish politician said that Kurdish separatist fighters are beginning to withdraw from Turkey – possibly spelling the end of a 30-year ethnic conflict that has killed over 40,000 people, reports the Guardian. A group of fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (known as the PKK, a group seeking greater autonomy for the Kurdish region and full democratic rights for Kurds, thought to make up 20% of the population in Turkey) is retreating towards northern Iraq, claims Gultan Kisanak, joint leader of Turkey’s Peace and Democracy party, following a PKK announcement on Tuesday that 2,000 rebels would leave Turkey over a period of five months. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that retreating PKK fighters will not be harmed, but should lay down their weapons as soon as possible. But in April, rebel leader Murat Karayilan warned that the PKK would not put down their weapons before withdrawing, and would retaliate if its forces were attacked while retreating, writes the Guardian.
Philippines Growth – The President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, said the country needs to act to dispel its image of “the sick man of Asia,” reports Bloomberg. The Philippines is Asia’s fastest-growing economy after China, expanding 6.6% last year. But despite the growth rate and a shrinking budget deficit earning the country a ratings upgrade, the Philippines has one of the highest unemployment rates in Asia-Pacific, and poverty levels have not changed since before Aquino took office in 2010. Speaking in an interview Wednesday, Aquino stressed the need to step up the fight against the country’s notorious corruption and also to reduce the number of Filipinos traveling abroad to work, in order to prove that the country’s recent economic success is not simply a “temporary aberration,” writes Bloomberg.
Nigeria’s Taste for Champagne – The growth in Nigeria’s consumption of champagne is second only to that of France, and higher than China’s, according to figures from research company Euromonitor, reports the Guardian. The country’s growing elite, fueled by the oil and movie industries, are spending $50 million a year on champagne, a figure that is expected to rise to $105 million by 2017. The figures represent a trend of lavish spending among wealthy Nigerians, with tourists from that nation becoming the fourth-biggest foreign spenders in the U.K., according to figures released last year. But, in a country where 63% of people live on less than $1 a day, the champagne figures have left a bitter taste in the mouths of some commentators: an editorial in local newspaper the Daily Trust said the figures represented a “profligacy that is offensive, if not obscene,” writes the Guardian.
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