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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Peruvian Doctors on Strike While Swine Flu Swells

Roughly 8,500 public doctors in Peru remain on strike, 24 hours after they joined an ongoing national health worker’s strike. Though the health worker’s strike is perhaps the most serious, it is not the first such strike Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has had to deal with in his short two years in office. In fact, according to the Peruvian public defender’s office, there have been at least 223 “conflicts” this year; most of them over labor rights or environmental concerns. Humala has also faced a number defections from his cabinet over his support for the development of gas harvesting fields in the Amazon Basin.

Meanwhile the Peruvian Health Ministry announced that there have been nearly 50 deaths in over 700 cases of Novel Influenza A (H1N1) this month. Despite massive efforts at achieving herd immunization in South America, Swine Flu has remained a threat since its pandemic level outbreak in 2009. A/H1N1 claimed the lives of 17 people in Venezuela earlier this year.

Silver Fire Rages

Fire officials in Southern California have said that about 1,500 people have fled the still untamed Silver Fire near Banning, California. More than a thousand firefighters are on the scene of the blaze, which has torched 6,000 acres since yesterday afternoon. Four fighters have been injured as well as a civilian who was evacuated by helicopter after suffering burns from “head to toe”. At press time the fire was 10 percent contained.

The area was the site of the 2006 Esperanza arson fire, which saw five U.S. Forest Service Firefighters killed. Highway 243, which has been shut down due to the Silver Fire, is named the Esperanza Firefighters Memorial Highway.

Maduro Wins Victory in Court

The Venezuelan Supreme Court has rejected challenges to the election victory of President Nicolás Maduro and fined Henrique Capriles $1,698 for insulting government authority for those challenges. The court also asked that Capriles be investigated criminally for his insults. The opposition leader took to Twitter to denounce the decision, saying “They do us an honor. We have unmasked these institutions and the people will make them change!”

Venezuelan authorities also ordered the arrest of Oscar Lopez, the chief of staff to Capriles in the Miranda state governor’s office. Maduro announced yesterday that his government had “captured a chief of the corruption and of the mafias of the Venezuelan right.” Lopez’s arrest will be the latest in a string of efforts to stifle Maduro’s detractors: since the April election, a number of media personnel have been prosecuted and elected members of the National Assembly have narrowly avoided attempts at stripping their immunity from prosecution. Maduro denies persecuting his enemies, saying that each case against opposition members is based on “serious investigations, with evidence.”

Ivory Godfather Arrested in Togo

Emile N’Bouke faces a year in Togo prison after his arrest this week on suspicion of trafficking animal ivory. Authorities discovered over 1,500 pounds of animal tusks in his possession, but N’Bouke claims he had been working with the Togolese government to identify the “real ivory traffickers”. “During our last meeting three or four weeks ago, I informed the authorities that most people who work in ivory and who traffic ivory without the right papers are Guineans,” he said. Togo’s Environment Minister Dede Ekoue said N’Bouke’s claim is false. In fact, according to Ofir Drori, founder of the anti-poaching group Last Great Ape Organization, N’Bouke “is the godfather of ivory trafficking in Togo.”

Drori’s work has suggested N’Bouke was central to the illegal trade, “every ivory trafficker we were trying to investigate was leading us back to him.” N’Bouke admits that he began trading in ivory five years before the 1989 international ban, but claims to have complied with the ban since.

Minister Ekoue is determined to end the ivory trade in her country, “This activity can no longer prosper because the Togolese government is committed to discouraging further action from criminals who use our territory as a platform.” Togo is the main transit point for ivory bound for Asia and other markets, as its capital city Lome is west Africa’s only natural deep water port. Just this week, Hong Kong officials discovered a cache of ivory from Nigeria , worth nearly $5m, hidden in a container packed in Togo.

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