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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trends Show a Reduction in Female Genital Cutting

UNICEF has released a new study suggesting that the practice of female genital cutting has decreased significantly in Africa. Globally at least 125 million women and girls have undergone the procedure, but in countries like Egypt, where 91 percent of women 15 to 49 have undergone the practice, a large majority of young women oppose it. “The fact that young women are against the practice in places like Egypt gives us hope that they will be able to stop the cutting of their daughters,” said lead author of the report, Claudia Cappa, “We need to create conditions so they can act on their beliefs.”

Still, the practice shows few signs of ending outright. In many countries female genital cutting remains the norm, and few people believe it ought to cease. In Somalia, where there is no effective central government and no public efforts to curb the long-standing cultural rite, roughly 98 percent of women have undergone the procedure, with 63 percent of those women having gone though a more severe form known as pharaonic circumcision or infibulation. Less than a third of women there expressed doubts about the procedure.

Gunmen Fire on Community Self-Defense Group

Five people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a community vigilante defense group in Los Reyes, Mexico. Previously the group had accused local police of having links to organized crime, and had asked the mayor to call for federal support in securing their town. According to Alejandro Arellano, the state prosecutor of Michoacan, yesterday, 300 masked people arrived at the town hall to announce that they’d be policing their own town. Three gunmen in SUVs then opened fire on the crowd, killing an off duty police officer, three members of the vigilante group, and a passerby. Eight others were wounded, two remain in critical condition.

Earlier this year vigilante groups from the same state clashed with the Knights Templar cartel in a series of battles that have continued since. Michoacan’s forests and mountains are used by drug traffickers to grow marijuana and produce synthetic drugs. The state is also part of the Pacific smuggling corridor. Despite encouraging figures released by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, violence is still rampant.

Myanmar to Release Political Prisoners

The government of Myanmar has announced that it will release 73 political prisoners shortly as part of an effort to meet President Thein Sein’s recent commitment to free all such prisoners by the end of the year. Previously, the military junta governing Myanmar had categorically denied detaining anyone for political reasons. But the current president set up the Committee to Scrutinize Remaining Political Prisoners, a 19-member committee comprised of 10 former political prisoners, six people appointed by the government and three mediators.

According to Hla Maung Shwe, one of the mediators on the committee, “the total number of remaining political prisoners has now dropped to lower than 100 for the first time in many years.”

American Arrested in China over Drug Bribes

Police in China have arrested an unnamed U.S. citizen in connection with a corruption scandal involving the pharmacological industry. GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have been accused by the Chinese government of funneling nearly $500 million to facilitate bribes for doctors and hospitals. GSK’s head of emerging markets, Abbas Hussain, affirmed as much, saying, “Certain senior executives of GSK China, who know our systems well, appear to have acted outside of our processes and controls, which breaches Chinese law.”

Last week, a British risk consultant for GSK, and several Chinese employees of AstraZeneca were detained. China’s health ministry also announced in a report that at least 39 hospital staff would be punished for taking bribes from drug companies. “The vice chairman of the hospital’s trade union and two people in charge of the two pharmaceutical companies involved have had their cases transferred to judicial organs, while nine doctors who directly received kickbacks were dismissed, suspended or had their licenses revoked.”

China has been taking strict action against corruption in the health industry since the beginning of this millennia. In 2007, chief drug regulator Zheng Xiaoyu was executed for bribery and approving sub-standard medicines.

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