Monthly Archives: April 2009
This report illustrates why those with access to safe drinking water shouldn’t take it for granted:
Vietnam is a nation crisscrossed by rivers and streams and has one of the longest coastlines in the world: Water is everywhere, yet there is hardly a safe drop to drink, with even much of the bottled water contaminated.
Tran Van Nhi, a scientist at the Vietnam Institute of Biotechnology, told IRIN Hanoi’s water was heavily contaminated with ammonia: “It is 6-18 times higher than the allowed level.”
A small amount of ammonia is not toxic but when it reacts with certain other substances, it can convert to a carcinogen, according to Nhi and other scientists. Nhi also found arsenic levels two to three times higher than acceptable World Health Organization standards.
Most residents boil drinking water as a matter of course, even though high temperatures do not remove arsenic or dangerous heavy metals. …
In June 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 20,000 people living in Vietnam die each year from contaminated water and poor sanitation.
For much more on the topic, read Water, Sanitation and Hygiene from the WHO.
More fallout from the torture memos:
An Austrian newspaper quotes the U.N.’s top torture investigator as saying President Barack Obama’s decision not to prosecute CIA operatives who used questionable interrogation practices violates international law.
Manfred Nowak is quoted in Der Standard as saying the United States has committed itself under the U.N. Convention against Torture to make torture a crime and to prosecute those suspected of engaging in it.
The release of the torture memos has resulted in an explosion of online commentary. The memos have been met with appropriate outrage, expressed with passion and eloquence, and the issue that Nowak addresses, namely whether or not to prosecute those who engaged in these terrible acts, is generating a plethora of arguments for and against.
There are those who contend that hard-nosed realism warrants the radical excesses of the Bush years and that to deal with the threat of global terrorism, “extra-legal” measures are required.
That argument fails for one fundamental reason: throughout history, moral power inexorably trumps brute force. On the core question of what makes America stronger and safer, upholding the highest ethical standards, adhering to the rule of law, respecting human rights, will always be the more effective and more just course of action.
Last night, Ashton Kutcher beat out CNN to become the first Twitter user to reach one million followers. At stake was a pledge from the winner to donate 10,000 anti-malaria bednets through Malaria No More.
United Nations Foundation founder Ted Turner is quite pleased with the outcome. Here is Ted Turner’s statement:
I salute both Ashton Kutcher and CNN for causing a buzz about malaria, a leading killer of children and refugees in Africa.
Now, I challenge them to get those Twitter followers to double their pledge by joining Nothing But Nets. How does 100,000 people sound?
One of the reasons I started CNN was to open people’s eyes to the news of the world. Bringing people together and helping them understand each other was a big first step, but now we can also get them to do something.
It’s great that one million people used Twitter to get behind Ashton Kutcher, but imagine if those same people did something to directly improve the world today. I can tell you an easy action that you can do right now, and it only costs $10.
The United Nations Foundation created the Nothing But Nets campaign to offer individuals – from 5-year olds, to CEOS, to professional athletes – the opportunity to send a net and save a life. In just two years, more than 100,000 people have helped us raise $26 million and distribute two million nets. Just think how many lives one million people could save.
World Malaria Day – April 25 – is right around the corner. The malaria community is working together to send as many nets as we can to protect families. There’s no better time to join us in sending nets and saving lives. Visit www.UNFoundation.org/NothingButNets to send a net and save a life.
*Note: UN Dispatch enjoys the sponsorship of the United Nations Foundation. Follow us on Twitter.
Dispatch blogger on all things green, Congressional, logic-defying, outrageous, and/or French, Kenny “the Blogsoe” Bledsoe is leaving the UN Foundation mothership as of this afternoon. We wish him the best, and toast (with fine French wine…or maybe a Miller Lite) his witty and intelligent contributions.
His personal rantings can be found here.
(image of Kenny wandering the office with two monkeys, as per usual)
Today the EPA has submitted a proposed finding suggesting that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare, an action that could trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act. The EPA’s “rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride” that lead to these proposals followed a 2007 order by the U.S. Supreme Court to do so. The next step before the findings are finalized is a 60-day public comment period.
A separate process is necessary to propose specific steps to regulate GHGs under the Act. Both EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Obama have said that they prefer to address the issue through Congressional action.
Interestingly, the review also noted:
disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources
as well as that…
climate change also has serious national security implications. Consistent with this proposed finding, in 2007, 11 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a report from the Center for a New American Security stating that climate change “presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” Escalating violence in destabilized regions can be incited and fomented by an increasing scarcity of resources – including water. This lack of resources, driven by climate change patterns, then drives massive migration to more stabilized regions of the world.
But, none of this should come as any surprise. The UN’s IPCC has been saying this for quite a while.
Ban Ki Moon’s Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar is in Sri Lanka today in an effort to free tens of thousands of civilians trapped between Sri Lankan military forces and the LTTE (AKA Tamil Tiger) militia. Their situation is becoming more grave by the day. For the past three months the Sri Lankan government has engaged in a military campaign against the Tamil separatists, believing that this offensive can deliver the once and final blow to the Tamil Tigers 25 year violent insurgency. However, in prosecuting this campaign the Sri Lankan military has not exactly adhered to the highest standards of international humanitarian law. According to a document leaked to the AP, the United Nations puts the civilian death toll at around 4,500 with 12,000 civilians wounded. Five children a day are dying from starvation and diarrhea.
At the moment, the LTTE is backed into a small territory on the north east of the island. So too are thousands of ethnic-Tamil civilians, many of whom the UN believes the Tamil Tigers are using as human shields. This has not deterred the Sri Lankan military from using artillery to shell civilian populated areas, including so called “safe-zones.”
The Sri Lankan government has prevented the press from entering the war zone since the start of the offensive. So, via The Lede, the video below is a rare glimpse of what life is like for civilians caught in the cross-fire. Warning: the images are very disturbing.
So what is to be done? For starters, I’d like to see the Security Council call for a ceasefire. The brutal Tamil Tiger milita may very well be on the ropes, but that does not justify counterinsurgency methods that do not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. It’s time for the Security Council step up. Thousands of lives hang in the balance.
UPDATE: Apparently upset that top UN humanitarian official John Holmes concluded that the LTTE were using civilians as human shields, Tamilnet suggests that the the UN and the international communtity are supporting the Sri Lankan onslaught. In fact, the United Nations and the United States have called for a ceasefire.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.