Haiti cholera victims threaten UN: Victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti have given the United Nations a 60 day deadline to start talks about compensation or face legal action. The victims, including the families of 8,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of people who have fallen sick, accuse the UN of allowing soldiers to pollute Haiti’s water supply with cholera.
10 May 2013
The cholera epidemic began in Haiti near a camp for UN soldiers where there were leaking sewage pipes. Some human waste was also dumped outside the camp near a river. One of the UN’s own experts on cholera, Danielle Lantagne, told the BBC it was “most likely” the disease originated in the UN camp. It housed UN soldiers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic.
The UN rejected an earlier call for compensation in this unprecedented case against the world body, saying it was immune from such claims. But the victims’ lawyers say the UN is breaking international law. If mediation talks don’t begin within 60 days, the lawyers say, they’ll open legal proceedings in New York with claims totalling many billions of dollars.
The lawyers say they’ll file claims for $100,000 for the families of those who have lost a loved one and $50,000 for every one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fallen sick. The UN has said very little on the matter, apart from to insist it is immune from legal proceedings. At the same time, it may also be true that the United Nations simply doesn’t know what to do in the face of what could have been a series of catastrophic and deadly errors. In private, UN officials say they’re facing a moral crisis. Now they may be about to confront a very public legal battle as well.
Switzerland limits immigration: Switzerland is to restrict immigration from European Union member states. It will introduce new quotas and limit long-term work permits available to EU citizens. Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, some EU officials have already criticised the move.
26 April 2013
Switzerland’s high salaries, low unemployment, and stable currency are a magnet to Eurozone countries. Since the Swiss agreed to free movement of people, immigration from EU members has risen sharply, especially from Spain and Portugal, where unemployment is at crisis levels.
In Switzerland, there is tension. The right wing People’s Party claims Swiss jobseekers are losing out; the Green Party says immigration is putting too much pressure on housing and public transport. Now the Swiss government has called a halt: being outside the EU means Switzerland has some flexibility, and from next month permanent work permits for EU citizens will be strictly limited.
Brussels has reacted angrily: EU officials have always told Switzerland it cannot cherry pick only those parts of European policy it likes best. Now, it’s possible other deals the Swiss really need with Europe, on trade perhaps, could be in danger. Meanwhile, sceptical members of the European Union, like Britain, where many would like a less rigid relationship with the EU, will be watching Switzerland’s move with interest.
Chinese earthquake rescue: China is continuing a massive rescue operation in Sichuan province, with thousands of workers, after a powerful earthquake on Saturday.
22 April 2013
Rescue teams had already reached the remote villages in mountainous Baoxing County on foot, but landslides were blocking access to aid trucks and preventing some of the casualties from being brought out.
Now state media is reporting that a path has been cleared, although, in heavy fog, and with regular aftershocks, the going is slow.
Even in the more accessible areas of neighbouring Lushan county the aid effort has been hampered by congestion on the single road in, and some of those who’ve been made homeless are complaining that they’ve not yet received food or water.
Although on the same fault line, this earthquake was much less powerful than the one that struck Sichuan Province in 2008, and the death toll is not expected to rise significantly.
Once again though it is the poor who have borne the brunt of the disaster, with the biggest killer not the earthquake itself, but poorly constructed houses.
Texas blast investigation: The authorities in the town of West in Texas are continuing to investigate what caused the blast at a fertiliser factory, which is now known to have killed 14 people and injured dozens more. The area surrounding the plant is still sealed off by police.
19 April 2013
With the search and rescue operation now winding down, the authorities in West are focussing on ensuring there are no hazardous chemicals remaining on the site, which could be a threat to the public.
They are also trying to establish exactly what caused the fire and the explosion that followed it. There is little left of the factory or dozens of houses that bore the brunt of the blast.
Police are expected to start allowing residents back into the restricted area in the next 24 hours so people can see what’s left of their homes and possessions.
Ex-Prime Minister Thatcher dies: Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died.
8 April 2013
The former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher has died at the age of 87 following a stroke.
Her spokesman Lord Bell said: “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning.”
Baroness Thatcher, who was was the leader of the British Conservative Party, served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990.
She was the first woman to hold the post.
Baroness Thatcher, who was born Margaret Roberts, became the Conservative MP for Finchley in north London in 1959. She retired from the House of Commons in 1992.
She won general elections in 1979, 1983 and 1987.
Baroness Thatcher’s government privatised several state-owned industries. She was also in power when the UK went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in 1982.
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