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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cameroonian Human Rights Activist Murdered

Earlier this week, friends of Eric Ohena Lembembe, director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, found his tortured body in his home, two days after he went missing. Lembembe was perhaps most prominently known as the co-author of a March report detailing civil rights abuses inherent in the enforcement of Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality law. The country is not alone in having such laws, but does prosecute more people under them than nearly any other country in the world.

Yves Yomb, leader of Alternatives-Cameroon, credits Lembembe as the first activist in the country to mobilize following an uptick in such prosecutions eight years ago, and said his death is “a big loss for our community, and we are a bit scared about what can happen to us.”

Earlier this month, Lembembe spoke out against a rash of break-ins targeting human right organizations. “There is no doubt: anti-gay thugs are targeting those who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Lembembe continued, “Unfortunately, a climate of hatred and bigotry in Cameroon, which extends to high levels in government, reassures homophobes that they can get away with these crimes.”

Indian School Children Poisoned

Twenty-two children are dead, and two score more are ill, after eating phosphorus-tainted food at a school in Dharmasati Gandaman, India. At least one of the 47 ill children reports extensive vomiting, and there are fears the death toll may yet rise.

The food was a part of the Mid-Day Meal, the world’s largest school lunch program, which serves 1.2 million schools and nearly 120 million children nationwide every school day. Founded in 1925 in what is now Chennai, to combat illiteracy and malnutrition, the program has had stellar results in many population centers, but a study three years ago suggested children in Bihar were unhappy with the quality of the meals served.

Chevron to Exploit Vaca Muerta

Despite several protests, the state-controlled Argentine oil company, YPF has signed a contract with Chevron to allow the latter to invest more than $1 billion on developing Vaca Muerta shale oil deposits. This is the first foreign energy deal since President Cristina Fernandez nationalized YPF last year. Fernandez issued two executive orders this week to convince the California-based oil corporation to agree, after five years, any foreign company that invests a billion dollars or more will be able to export up to 20 percent of their crude and natural gas without paying taxes, and will also be exempt from the currency controls that have dampened the enthusiasm of many foreign company.

The Argentine President’s decrees drew protest outside of YPF’s headquarters yesterday. Lefxaru Nahuel, spokesperson for the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquen, voiced specific concerns given Chevron’s spotty environmental record, “We want them to show us the environmental impact studies for this non-conventional exploitation in the region and to explain why they made deals with companies like Chevron behind our backs.”

DPRK Demands Release of Ship, Crew, and Cargo

North Korea has demanded the release of the Chong Chon Gang, a ship currently being held in Panama due the discovery of undeclared weapons systems among the cargo. According to the North Korean Foreign Ministry, “the Panamanian investigation authorities rashly attacked and detained the captain and crewmen of the ship on the plea of ‘drug investigation’ and searched its cargo but did not discover any drug.” When Panamanian authorities searched the ship earlier this week, instead of drugs they found 10,000 pounds of brown sugar and what appeared to be Soviet-era missile radar systems.

Cuba claimed ownership of what it called “obsolete defensive weapons”, yesterday which it insisted were being sent to North Korea for repair. According to IHS Janes, “the system could either be being sent to North Korea for an upgrade before returning to Cuba, perhaps in a barter exchange for sugar. Alternatively, it is possible that it is being sent to North Korea to augment its air defense capabilities.”

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