Friday, July 8, 2011

A strange juxtaposition

Isn't this a strange juxtaposition of news stories? It was on the World News page of the Daily Telegraph (UK) online edition.

So on the one hand, the UN is very aggrieved that the US state of Texas would proceed with the execution of a Mexican national without taking into account that he did not have consular assistance at trial. The US Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay because US law does not recognize the lack of consular assistance as the basis for a Federal appeal.

Not that this was anything other than a stalling tactic. The condemned killer, Humberto Leal, tortured and murdered a 16-year-old girl: the physical evidence conclusively disproved his version of the events.

At the same time that the UN is deploring the execution of a particularly vicious rapist-murderer, its "peacekeeping" mission in Sudan stood idly by as Sudanese government forces attacked and murdered civilians:

Hundreds of people gathered outside a UN base for safety after Sudan's armed forces moved to crush a fresh rebellion by opposition militia in the town of Kadugli in the country's southeast.

They were refused entry to the fortified compound and instead camped outside its barbed wire perimeter with little shelter, food or water.

Reverend Barnaba Ibrahim said soldiers arrived in the middle of the night and dragged men accused of being rebel sympathisers away to be killed.

The allegations, supported by other reports from the area, again call into question the ability of the £650 million-a-year UN mission in Sudan to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians.

"I was just hiding, lying down pretending to be asleep, and they took the man next to me and beat him to death with sticks, five metres from the walls of the UN base," Rev Ibrahim said in Juba, capital of South Sudan, where he has fled for safety.

"Two other men were taken the same night. They were screaming and protesting.

The next day, we found their bodies nearby and they had been shot." Rev Barnaba, an Anglican pastor from Kadugli, said that "there is no way the peacekeepers did not know what was happening".

"There are armed guards all around that place, even at night," he said, still wearing the white shirt and grey slacks he fled in, a month ago.

"The peacekeepers are supposed to be there to protect us. They did nothing. This happened more than the one time I witnessed." Anderson Yacoub, who works with the Anglican diocese of Kadugli, said colleagues sleeping outside the same UN base, at Shaahir on the city's outskirts, had reported similar stories.

"There were other people who fled into the mountains, even though that seemed more dangerous, and they survived," he said, also in Juba.

"Those others who went seeking refuge at the UN, they were the ones who died." The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has been plagued by allegations that it has repeatedly failed to carry out its central mandate to protect civilians, by force if necessary.

The UN protests that an American state executes a brutal killer, while the force it deploys with the mandate to stop brutal killers from brutally killing civilians simply stands by as those brutal killer brutally kill civilians. It seems to me that the UN as an organization is culpable in the deaths of the Sudanese who believed its promises of safety and protection, especially since those people flocked to the UN compound precisely because of those promises and were thus nicely arranged in a compact group for the murderers to slaughter.

And note that the UN donor countries pay $1 billion a year to have UN peacekeepers sit on their thumbs and watch civilians be murdered. I would rather have my taxes go to the costs of executing more Humberto Leals rather than to subsidizing the incompetence and cowardice of so-called "peacekeepers" whose presence actually facilitates the killing they were sent to prevent.

Clean water for the Third World: the problem isn't money

From Fast Company, a report on SODIS: solar disinfection of water.

Today, at least 5 million people in about 30 countries disinfect their drinking water daily with SODIS, and 750,000 more join the ranks each year. SODIS works by exposing contaminated water to the sun's UV rays, destroying the genetic material and cellular structure of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. PET plastic bottles work best, as they're both durable and allow much of the UV radiation to pass through them. Bottled water is left outside for at least six hours (or 48 hours if it's cloudy), and then stored for future use. Since both polluted water and plastic bottles are abundant in many developing countries, SODIS is catching on and cutting the incidence of diarrhea by more than 85% in some places.

The problem of finding safe water to drink affects a lot more than 5,000,000 people: the article puts the number at 1,200,000,000. Annually, 1.8 million children die of diarrhea related to contaminated water.

So why isn't a cheap, practical and effective solution not an instant success? Heierli rephrased the question in a more telling way in his report: "Why is it so hard to get safe water to the poor--and so profitable to sell it to the rich?"

Basically, it's a marketing problem. Even in places where SODIS training is readily available, only about half of the households trained in the technique actually adopt it. SODIS training cannot be stopped after the first year of promotion. "People need reminders to form solid habits," says Meierhofer. They also need to be convinced of its value: Families capable of spending the modest time and money for SODIS often prioritize other things (such as buying soft drinks).

Let that sink in for a minute. Families capable of making a tiny investment in time and money to save their children from a horrific slow death "often prioritize other things".

Are children so disposable in those societies that a few thousand more or fewer dying is of no consequence? Do parents in those societies place such little value on their children?

Is this the reason that the Third World remains poor and sick -- that it is unwilling to make a sufficient effort to build an infrastructure for its future if that takes away from current consumption?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

US Intelligence Agencies warn of implanted bombs inside terrorists

I guess they finally got around to watching The Dark Knight:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. government has warned domestic and international airlines that some terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into humans to carry out attacks, The Associated Press has learned.

There is no intelligence pointing to a specific plot, but the U.S. shared its concerns last week with executives at domestic and international carriers.

People traveling to the U.S. from overseas may experience additional screening at airports because of the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

My prediction: a pregnant woman delivers by C-section and has the empty space in her abdomen replaced with a chemical pack. After some weeks of healing, she's given the catalyst in liquid form disguised as injectable insulin and sent onto a plane.

Midflight, she goes into the lavatory to "take her insulin," injects it into her belly into the chemical pack, and....

(H/T Hot Air.)

UPDATE: Thanks, Ace, for linking this in the Headlines at Ace Of Spades HQ. And welcome, M&Ms!