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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bangladeshi Garment Factory Collapses

An eight-story building in a suburb of Bagladesh’s capital Dhaka collapsed this morning, and at least 87 are known to have perished. Hundreds more were injured as they escaped the garment factory. Mohammad Asaduzzaman, an area police officer, said that a crack was detected on Tuesday, but factory owners ignored warnings forbid worker entry into the building. This collapse is one of a number of catastrophes that have affected the massive garment industry. Last November, 112 workers were killed in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory, and in 2005, another building in the same area collapsed killing dozens. Safety issues are rampant, and disregard for the country’s 3.6 million garment workers is commonplace; according to Nurul Islam, an injured employee at the factory, “none of us wanted to enter the building. Our bosses forced us.” Unions are unheard of in Bangladesh, where the average garment industry wage is $37 a month, and labor organizers like Aminul Islam, whose murder is still unsolved, are often harassed and arrested.

South African Teachers Go on Strike

Fifteen thousand teachers took to the streets in South Africa today to protest the continued employment of education minister Angie Motshekga and director general Bobby Soobrayanhas. Schools all over Pretoria were closed, and children were asked to return home. Officials of the South African Teachers Union (Sadtu) say Motshekga and Soobrayanhas reneged on a signed agreement with the South African teachers that was slated to increase pay for grading ‘Matric papers’, the exams required for graduation from secondary school. Motshekga’s office has indicated that there are no funds to pay the increased wages, but Tseliso Ledimo, the secretary of Sadtu rebuffed this claim. “The question is when Bobby signed didn’t they know they don’t have funds?” he said. “That’s why we’re saying Bobby is incompetent. You can’t sign such an agreement and then turn around and say you don’t have funds. You must be sure of what you are signing.” Sadtu officials have informed South African President Jacob Zuma that if their demands for the termination of Motshekga and her director are not met within 21 days, 70 percent of the nation’s teachers will walk off the job.

Ancient Minaret Destroyed in Syria

The Umayyad Mosque’s minaret was reduced to rubble this week during intense fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo. The 12th Century mosque is central to the walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Seljuk-era minaret itself had been standing since 1090. Rebels claim the government fired upon it with tanks, while the government claims that al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra blew up the Sunni mosque as they were forced to retreat from the area. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova was deeply distressed by the news, saying she deplored the continuing destruction of rare and authentic Arab architecture. “Destroying the inheritance of the past, which is the legacy for future generations, serves no purpose except that of deepening hatred and despair and it further weaken the foundations for cohesion of Syrian society,” she said. The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Aleppo, had already suffered significant damage from heavy fighting for control of Aleppo last October. Director-General Bokova also issued a statement reminding all parties of the country’s obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which Syria is a signatory. Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, all six of Syria’s UNESCO World Heritage sites have seen significant damage.

Bill Gates Ask Islamic Leaders for Assistance in Eradicating Polio

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is in Abu Dhabi today at the Global Vaccine Summit to push for total eradication of the polio virus. Gates’ plan would cost $5.5-billion over six years, but the virus, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of victims, is on the brink of extinction. As Gates said in an op-ed on tuesday, “winning the polio fight will have important consequences beyond ridding the world of this ancient, crippling disease. If we succeed in eradicating polio, we will prove that setting big goals leads to big victories..” The summit will focus on increasing Islamic participation; Dr. Chris Elias, president of global development for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “Islamic leadership as a critical part of this final stage of polio eradication.” Islam is the predominant religion where Polio is still active in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Nine people administering polio vaccines in Nigeria were shot dead in February, likely over rumors that the vaccine causes AIDS, or that the vaccinators were spies. The Gates Foundation hopes that with greater interest from Islamic governments and civil society such rumors will desist.

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