Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Living in fear: Tanzania's albinos

Disturbing story from the BBC this ...

Twenty-five people with albinism have been murdered in Tanzania since March, a BBC investigation has found.

Albinos are targeted for body parts that are used in witchcraft, and killings continue despite government efforts to stamp out the grisly practice, the BBC's Karen Allen says.

Once, albinos used to seek shelter from the sun. Now they have gone into hiding simply to survive, after a series of killings linked to witchcraft.

In Tanzania, 25 albinos have been killed in the past year.

The latest victim was a seven-month-old baby. He was mutilated on the orders of a witchdoctor peddling the belief that potions made from an albino's legs, hair, hands, and blood can make a person rich.

Sorcery and the occult maintain a strong foothold in this part of the world, especially in the remote rural areas around the fishing and mining regions of Mwanza, on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Nobody seems to know why the killings are happening now, but Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is now putting pressure on the police to identify where albinos live and offer them protection.

This is not an easy task when BBC investigations suggest that some police are being "bought off" in order to look away when such appalling crimes are committed.

read the full story

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In isolated Belarus, Jews' fate hangs in the balance

Inconspicuous in this Soviet-built capital, a few disheveled memorial stones testify to a once rich Jewish culture that activists fear now risks extinction. From the artist Marc Chagall to Israel's president, Shimon Peres, some Jews born in the lands that now make up Belarus have gone on to great things.

But activist Yakov Basin is more inclined to despair as he contemplates the latest damage to a battered memorial erected in 1993 to German Jews brought to Minsk for extermination in World War II. It is not only the swastikas drawn on the memorial stones to Jews from Bremen, Dusseldorf and Hamburg, he says. What preoccupies him is the cumulative damage to this former centre of Jewish culture, which started with the closure of synagogues in the first decades of the Soviet Union, stepped up with the Holocaust in World War II and continues today under President Alexander Lukashenko.

"Why doesn't the prosecutor open a case into anti-Semitic publications or the vandalising of memorials?" demanded Basin. "Our encyclopedia is virtually silent on the Holocaust and there's hardly a word on it in our textbooks," said Basin, co-leader of a union of Jewish organisations in Belarus. In office for 14 years, Belarus' authoritarian leader has a way of courting controversy. While taking a positive view of Soviet history and revelling in military parades marking the defeat of Nazi Germany, he has also praised Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, befriended Iran's anti-Semitic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and recently attracted criticism from Israel for an alleged anti-Semitic comment.

read full story up at AFP.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Novelist prisoner wants to rewrite rule

Inmate says officials have told him he violates policy of no business behind bars.

By Titan Barksdale
(Raleigh) News & Observer

Victor Martin has been writing since he was a child, but he didn't realize it could be a career until he became a convict.

A few years ago, Martin became a published author, writing four novels while lying in his bunk in a state prison in Elizabeth City.

His books, which feature a high-rolling criminal named Unique and are available on Amazon.com, have a following among readers of what is known as “urban fiction,” a popular literary genre characterized by explicit tales of inner-city crime life.

But now Martin says prison officials are shutting him down, saying his novels violate a policy that bars inmates from conducting business behind bars. Prison officials say the policy is in place to protect prison safety.

Martin, a 32-year-old habitual felon with several theft-related convictions, says the policy violates his right to free speech.

Martin's attorneys are challenging the policy, which they say prison officials have used to claim Martin's manuscripts and discipline him for writing.

Read the full story up at the Charlotte Observer.