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Friday, November 8, 2013

Brutal People Trafficking across Mediterranean on the Rise

The smuggling of drugs, weapons and people across the Mediterranean is surging, sadly fueled by the chaotic fallout of the hopeful ‘Arab Spring.’ More than 32,000 migrants from African and the Middle East have arrived in India and Malta this year, often smuggled in by brutal criminal gangs. Due to the region’s instability – and Libya’s in particular – the conditions for migrants could get even worse.

Survivors of the October shipwreck that killed 366 migrants off the coast of Lampedusa describe being kidnapped as they walked across the Sahara to Libya. They were imprisoned in a single room for two weeks, tortured, raped, and forced to pay $3,300 each for their freedom. Italian police have detained a Somali gang leader – alleged to be the organizer – after survivors attacked and tried to lynch him.

Regulations to Require Mental Health Coverage

The Obama administration will issue regulations today that will require insurers to cover care for mental health and addictions as they do physical illnesses. This means insurers won’t be able to charge higher co-payments or deductibles and they won’t be able to limit the duration of care. Mental health and addiction treatments in the US are so prohibitively expensive that over half of the almost 30 million Americans who didn’t pursue treatment for their mental illness said that high costs were their primary barrier to care.

The White House also sees improving and expanding mental healthcare in the US as a chief component of its efforts to reduce gun violence and mass killings.

Egypt Sets Election Timetable

Egypt’s foreign minister announced a loose schedule for parliamentary and presidential elections today, saying parliamentary elections would be held in February or March, with presidential polls in the early summer. Most hearteningly, the currently-banned political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood would be allowed to participate.

Because the new constitution is still unfinished and unratified, however, it is unclear who would be allowed to run for office. Given this confusion, some have suggested that candidates compete as individuals rather than as representatives of a given political party.

Anti-Semitism in Europe Getting Worse

Almost exactly 75 years after Kristallnacht, a survey conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) suggests that anti-Semitism has gotten worse across Europe over the past five years. Over three quarters of almost 6,000 Jews questioned across eight countries thought it had worsened. Almost one third had considered emigrating because of safety concerns, with that number soaring to almost half of interviewees in Hungary, France and Belgium. One in five respondents had personally experienced an anti-Semitic insult and/or physical attack in the past year.

Fighting the Cartel in Michoacan

Locals in six municipalities of Tierra Caliente (originally so-called for its weather, now for its criminal activity) have said that they are free of the brutal Knights Templar cartel eight months after forming self-defense groups. After cartel agents allegedly attacked electrical sub-stations in 14 towns and cities on October 27, leaving 400,000 without electricity, the Mexican government began working with the defense-group leaders.

Unfortunately, the cartel remains powerful in other parts of Michoacan, as evidenced by the recent murder of a small-town regional mayor who had gone on a hunger strike to denounce extortion and draw attention to the complicity between local police and criminals.

Weekend Read: The A-Team Killings

Last spring, the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were found outside a U.S. Special Forces base – was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war? Via Rolling Stone.

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