Woman Rescued from Bangladeshi Collapse As Death Toll Surpasses 1,000
Early this morning Reshma Begum was rescued from the rubble of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh which collapsed 17 days ago. “She had been rescued and taken to a military hospital,” said Bangladesh’s army spokesman Shahinul Islam. Jamal Sheikh, a rescue worker, had been searching for one last sign of survivors before bulldozers were scheduled to begin clearing the rubble, when he heard a voice shouted for help. Rescuers worked for an hour with handsaws to clear a means to extract her. Onlookers burst into cheers as the woman was given an oxygen mask and taken via stretcher to a nearby ambulance. The death toll in the garment factory collapse has risen to over 1,000 today, officials say this number may still rise as efforts to clear the rubble begin. Most of the deceased have been women, many young teenagers though it is illegal to hire garment workers under the age of 14 in Bangladesh.
HPV Vaccine Discounted for Poor Countries
The two companies that produced the vaccines against cervical cancer announced yesterday that they will cut their prices in the world’s poorest countries to less than $5 per dose, making it possible for hundreds of millions of women to be protected against the fatal cancer from a young age. Due modern medicine, specifically the Papanicolaou test, lethal cevical cancer is almost unknown in richer countries, but nearly a quarter of a million women die each year in places where Pap smears are impractical and the vaccine too costly. The low price will initially apply to a few million doses for trial projects in Kenya, Ghana, Laos, and Madagascar, but the chief executive of the GAVI Alliance Dr. Seth Berkley, said he hoped that by 2020, tens of millions of women in 40 countries would receive the vaccine at this new price or less. The vaccine, which protects against those strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, costs about $130 in the U.S. but has been available to some countries for as low as $13 per dose. Though many global health agencies greeted the news with enthusiasm, Kate Elder, a vaccines policy specialist for Doctors Without Borders said the vaccine should be free. She wonders, “why are the pharmaceutical companies still making profits off the backs of the poorest countries?”
Qatada Agrees to Leave U.K. Voluntarily
Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, né Omar Mohammed Othman, has agreed to voluntarily return to Jordan to stand trial. The imam, once called “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe” by a Spanish judge, has been in the U.K. resisting British attempts at deportation and Jordanian repatriation for nearly 8 years. Jordan convicted Qatada in his absence of encouraging militants there who planned bomb attacks in 1999 and 2000, but under a 2005 agreement he will be retried if he eventually returns. British officials have been hitherto unable to deport Qatada because of court fears that he’d be tortured. The British government recently signed a treaty with the Hashemite Kingdom that expressly assures the U.K. that he will not be tortured. “If and when the Jordanian parliament ratifies that treaty, Mr. Othman will voluntarily return to Jordan,” said his lawyer Edward Fitzgerald. Though Qatada has never been charged with an offense in the U.K. he was arrested in 2001 has been subject to strict security conditions including a 16-hour curfew and a ban on using any telecommunications equipment. He is currently in jail for violating those conditions.
Former Dictator of Guatemala Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity
Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt has been found guilty today after a year long trial. The comer General, who had been a member of parliament until last year and thus immune from prosecution, was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for drawing up a counterinsurgency plan during his year and a half reign that killed at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group. In an hour long speech before the court yesterday, Ríos Montt said, “I never authorized, I never signed, I never proposed, I never ordered an attack against any race, against any ethnic group. I never did it, and of everything that has been said here, there has never been any evidence of my participation.” But prosecutors brought military experts who explained Guatemala’s rigid chain of command made it impossible for the general to be unaware. Witnesses testified that the Guatemalan army command considered the Ixil to be subversive, believing that the natives fed and supported guerrillas who had set up operations high in the mountains. The 83 year-old Ríos Montt has been sentenced to 50 years in prison. This is the first time that a head of state has ever been tried for genocide by his country’s own judicial system. The court will discuss reparations for the victims of Ríos Montt’s crimes on Monday.
Weekend Read: The Thin Red Line
U.S. President Barack Obama has been reluctant to directly intervene in the Syrian civil war, but calls for action have been mounting. Dexter Filkins explains Obama’s precarious position in The New Yorker.