MASSACRE CHARGES DROPPED
Human rights advocates are outraged that the Philippine government has dropped charges against two members of a powerful clan accused of planning a November 2009 massacre in which 57 people were killed. Officials claim the two men were not present during the attack. Members of the prosecution panel protested the decision, saying physical presence is not required for a conspiracy indictment. Victims’ relatives accused outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of clearing the men because they are longtime political allies and could deliver votes for her party in the May election. Human Rights Watch called on presidential candidates to make ending impunity for politically motivated killings central to their platforms.
ERUPTION IN KYRGYZSTAN
After spending a winter suffering from energy blackouts — followed by a 400 percent rise in heating costs — frustrated protesters in Kyrgyzstan attacked government offices April 7. Within a week, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev resigned and the new administration abolished the rate increases. News of the pending uprising was repressed when several independent TV, print and online media outlets were raided for insulting Bakiyev and for using pirated software. TV workers said police in one raid were joined by a man representing Microsoft, who previously worked for the company. The U.S. has supported Bakiyev despite his record of corruption and human rights abuses. It recently tripled the fees it pays to lease space in the former Soviet republic for a military base key to ferrying troops and supplies to Afghanistan.
Would you believe a report that McDonald’s had to halt its food composting plan — the largest in the world — after scientists confirmed its food would not break down for a thousand years? Many people fell for this story on the eco-news website, grist.org, which later admitted the post was an April Fool’s joke. But the report was based on a real experiment by Joann Bruso, host of babybites.info, who bought a Happy Meal and placed it on her shelf for one year. After 12 months, she said the burger and fries had no mold, odor or decomposition — and she had photos to prove it. McDonald’s tried to dismiss Bruso’s claim as an “urban legend,” and still plans to put green composting bins in its 31,000 restaurants around the world to collect 1.5 billion tons of food waste.
LEGAL LAND GRABS?
Many transnational companies that lease land to grow food for export in countries like Keyna often agree to projects that benefit local communities. But the terms are agreed to behind closed doors and “environmental costs are usually overlooked: the loss of water, species diversity and ecosystems that are essential for food security,” Jonathan Davies of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature told the Inter Press Service. He said many investment treaties prohibit “performance requirements” that preserve the environment or limit exports. “It is therefore essential that any government contemplating entering into a major agricultural deal do a careful assessment of the legal implications,” said Mark Halle, director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.