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Friday, September 13, 2013

Malawi Sells Presidential Jet

The south African country of Malawi has sold the presidential jet to stave off malnutrition for its 17 million residents. The country, which has a nominal GDP of roughly $4.2 billion dollars, less than one sixth the GDP of Vermont, was once a net exporter of corn, but recent droughts have brought worries over food security to the fore. According to Nations Msowoya, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, Malawi will use $15m from the sale of the country’s presidential jet to feed the poor and grow crops to fight malnutrition. “It was a collective government decision that the money realized from the sale of the jet will be used to purchase maize locally and some for legume production,” said Msowoya. The jet was purchased by President Joyce Banda’s predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, who claimed the plane was a status symbol for the poor country. Since Banda’s accession to the presidency, her administration has courted a number of foreign aid development projects and introduced myriad cost cutting measures, including slashing her own salary by 30 percent.

Another Fire at a Russian Hospital

Thirty-seven people were killed by a pre-dawn fire at the Oksochi psychiatric hospital in Luka, 137 miles from Saint Petersburg, Russia. The building, a single floor wood-and-concrete building, housed roughly 60 patients, including some who had amputated legs or were bed-bound. At least one of the victims of the blaze was nurse who succumbed while ushering others to safety.

This building was at high risk of fire. The administration had been told by the law enforcement authorities to remedy numerous violations in fire safety by August 1,” said the head of oversight at the emergencies ministry, Yury Deshyovykh. “But this was not done.” Earlier this year, a psychiatric hospital near Moskow claimed the lives of 38 people, most of which were sedated or trapped behind barred windows. Yuri Savenko president of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia deplored the conditions of the nation’s mental health infrastructure, noting a third of the buildings at such facilities had been declared unfit for use since 2000. “Their condition is pathetic. It’s inevitable that such things will occur increasingly often.”

California Legislature Passes Immigrant Driver’s License Bill

The California Legislature reached a deal late yesterday to pass AB 60, a bill which will allow immigrants in the U.S. illegally to obtain California driver’s licenses. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill eminently, he expects this new law will “enable millions to get to work safely and legally.” The bill requires a special mark and notation on the licenses, the initials DP (driver’s privilege) instead of DL (driver’s license). The notation would say the document “does not establish eligibility for employment or public benefit.” “In a perfect world we would have no mark on our driver’s license,” said state Senator Ricardo Lara. But, he added, “there are hard-working immigrants who need a driver’s licenses to do the basic things many of us take for granted.”

Ruling Expected in Garcia Bar Admission

The State of California awaits a ruling on the case of Sergio Garcia’s admission to the state bar. Garcia earned his law degree and passed the state bar test, but federal law prohibits the use of public funds to license undocumented immigrants. It is unclear as to whether or not this applies to professional licensing like in the fields of law or medicine. A number of organizations and even the State’s supreme court justices have shown they would be amenable to Garcia’s admission.

Somalian Deportations

Amnesty International released a report this month denouncing the forced eviction of thousands of homeless people from shanty towns in Mogadishu, Somalia. Roughly 370,000 people, having fled from famine, dearth, violence, and drought, had found temporary homes in the ad hoc refugees camps. But the nominal government views the camps as an obstacle to the redevelopment of the Somali capital. “The government has the right to reclaim land and buildings belonging to its former institutions, so that it can offer the public service that is needed,” said Mogadishu local government spokesman Mohammed Yusuf to the BBC. “For that purpose, we move out people living on such lands or in those buildings… We tell them to put the national interest before the individual interest.”

The Amnesty report agrees to a point, saying the “relocation plan could have been a positive development” had the government respected “the security, fundamental rights and basic needs” of the refugees. Instead the “inherently flawed” plan “seems to have resulted in large-scale human rights abuses and forced evictions“.

Weekend Read: The Child Exchange

An American couple, unable to care for the child they adopted from Liberia, went online looking for a solution to their woes. They found it, perhaps all too readily. Megan Twohey illuminates the market for unwanted adopted children in “The Child Exchange” for Reuters Investigates.

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