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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria a Growing Threat

A report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study estimated that every year at least 2 million Americans fall ill with an antibiotic-resistant infection and that 23,000 will die from one. The number of deaths is substantially lower than previous estimates because the CDC did not include cases in which someone had an drug-resistant infection but didn’t necessarily die from it.

If America doesn’t act quickly, the nation faces “potentially catastrophic consequences,” including some infections could becoming effectively untreatable. Overuse of antibiotics is a strong factor contributing to the rise of ‘superbugs,’ the CDC believes over half of those prescribed are either unnecessary or used incorrectly. It is not clear to what extent industrialized farming has contributed to this phenomenon, but up 80% of all antibiotics in theUS are used on farm animals.

In 2007, the CDC reported that 100,000 Americans each year fall sick from infections contracted in hospitals, many of which were drug-resistant. Such infections may account for as much as $20 billion in extra healthcare costs.

Widest US Employment Gap Recorded

While median household income did not fall and poverty rates did not rise for the first time in 5 years, 46.5 million Americans still live in poverty (a record 15% of the population) and the typical US family is making less than it did in 1989.

The director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University said, “This was no ‘equal opportunity’ recession or an ‘equal opportunity’ recovery. One part of America is in depression, while another part is in full employment.” The employment gap between the rich and poor is at its widest since officials began tracking the data a decade ago. This is in large part because lower-wage jobs made up only 21% of those lost due to the recession, but 58% of those gained during the ‘recovery;’ middle-income jobs comprised 60% of those lost and only 22% of those regained. As a result, middle-income workers are increasingly being pushed into lower-income jobs, displacing the low-skilled workers who usually hold them.

In less depressing news, the Obama administration announced today that it was extending minimum wage and overtime protection to 2 million home care workers.

African Union to Debate Leaving the International Criminal Court

In an upcoming summit, members of the African Union will discuss the possibility of exiting the ICC, spurred by the current trial of Kenya’s deputy president at The Hague. If a “summit-level” recommendation is made in solidarity with Kenya’s leaders, the 34 African signatories of the Rome Statute, which created the court, could be compelled to quit.  Kenya’s parliament recently voted to withdraw from the ICC, which Amnesty International warns could “set a dangerous precedent for the future of justice in Africa.”

African leaders have strongly criticized the ICC for disproportionately targeting Africans, though to be fair, the ICC has only ever indicted Africans.

Colombia “Chronically Failed” to Help Reclaim Stolen Land

A 2011 Colombian law to restore millions of acres of stolen and abandoned land to those displaced by the country’s 50-year-old civil war is being derailed by threats, intimidations and assassinations. Colombia currently has the worst internal refugee problem in the Western Hemisphere, with an estimated 4.5 million people having been forced from their land, largely by far-right militias working for ranchers and agro-businessmen.  Around 23,000 square miles of land have been illegally seized, the size of Maryland and Massachusetts combined.

Human Rights Watch said that those attempting to recover their land under the law were often met with killings, death threats, or renewed forced displacement. Fewer than 1% of criminal investigations into forced displacements have yielded convictions, and at least 21 claimants have been killed since 2008.

Senior Islamist Politician Sentenced to Death in Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court rejected Abdul Kader Mullah’s appeal against his jail term today and instead sentenced him to death. Abdul Kader Mullah had been convicted of crimes against humanity during Bangladesh’s war of independence with Pakistan. He had been sentenced to life in prison, which sparked widespread protests – his supporters said the charges were politically motivated, while his opponents demanded the death penalty.

The country then passed a new law allowing the state to appeal any verdict reached by the war crimes tribunal, so Mullah’s appeal against his conviction happened alongside the government’s appeal for a tougher sentence.  After the verdict was announced, clashes between Jamaat-e-Islami supporters and police broke out. This is the first in a series of appeals against convictions that have been handed down by the tribunal in recent months, causing widespread unrest. More violence is expected in the coming weeks.


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