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Trafficking fears as Haiti children go missing
United Nations officials say children have gone missing from hospitals in Haiti since the devastating January 12 earthquake, raising fears of trafficking for adoption abroad.
“We have documented around 15 cases of children disappearing from hospitals and not with their own family at the time,” said UNICEF advisor Jean Luc Legrand.

“UNICEF has been working in Haiti for many years and we knew the problem with the trade of children in Haiti that existed already beforehand.
“Unfortunately, many of these trade networks have links with the international adoption market.”
The agency said it had warned countries during the past week not to step up adoptions from Haiti in the immediate wake of the quake.

However, several are fast-tracking adoption procedures already under way, including Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.
Legrand said the situation was similar to the aftermath of the tsunami in Asia five years ago.

Trafficking networks were springing into action immediately after the disaster and taking advantage of the weakness of local authorities and relief coordination “to kidnap children and get them out of the country”.
(ABC online)


Haiti – From the frying pan into the fire

By Thanapathi
Haiti was a country already in trouble before the recent devastating earthquake struck. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere with a per capita income of less than US$ 800. Unlike impoverished African nations Haiti is embarrassingly close to enormous wealth. A few hundred kilometres across the Caribbean Sea is the United States, the richest country in the world. This proximity has been both a blessing and curse for this nation of 9 million. Due to its proximity, for centuries the US has interfered in the affairs of Haiti and, at least, in an indirect way contributed to its current impoverished status. Also the possibility of millions of Haitians coming to America as economic refugees had compelled the US to at least try and make this a working State which could sustain its population.

The dynamics of Haiti changed within a matter of seconds when its capital Port-Au-Prince was struck by a 7.4 magnitude quake last week. As many as 200,000 people have died according to the government, and roughly one million have been made homeless. Much of Haiti’s infrastructure is in ruins and the world’s international aid community is bracing itself for a recovery that will take years and cost billions of dollars.

US $ 1 million loss
Although exact numbers are not known, Haiti’s Chamber of Commerce estimates that total losses from the earthquake could reach US $1 billion. President Rene Preval’s administration is working with the United Nations Development Programme and other aid groups to restore electricity and telecommunications, reopen banks, businesses and money-transfer houses, and to provide at least low-paying jobs to Haitians desperate for income. To completely rebuild, the dirt-poor nation will need years or decades - and billions of dollars in international aid. Dominican President Leonel Fernandez has said Haiti would need $10 billion over five years. At the moment the remittances of Haitians living abroad keep the county afloat. Totalling $1.5 billion a year, remittances are the chief source of income in a country where more than 70 percent are unemployed and 90 percent live in poverty.

A nearly-failed state
Before the quake, more than half of all Haitians lived on less than $US1 ($1.10) a day. Lawlessness was rampant, and Transparency International last year rated Haiti 168th of 180 nations on its corruption perception index. Two coups and ongoing political turmoil have long deterred investors, and last year’s devastating hurricanes wrought havoc. But a few more optimistic analysts say stability had begun to be felt under the current President, Rene Preval. Even so, Haiti was widely regarded as a nearly-failed state.

History has never been kind to this tiny nation. Historians estimate that at the time of Christopher Columbus’s first visit to the Americas, the island of Hispaniola, which comprises both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was inhabited by some eight million Taino Indians. There is not one single Taino alive today, thanks to the efforts of France, Spain and others who wiped them out as though they were annoying insects. France colonised what is now Haiti in the early 1700s. By 1789, Haiti supplied three-fourths of the world’s sugar. The French accomplished this feat by importing 29,000 African slaves every year, one-third of whom died within three years of their arrival. In 1794, a slave uprising began.

Second independent state republic
Haiti overthrew French domination in 1804 to become the second independent republic in the Americas after the U.S. (Haiti’s military victory inspired Napoleon to sell Louisiana to the United States). It later served as a base for South American leader Simón Bolívar, providing material and logistical support in the southern city of Jacmel for his campaign to liberate the Southern Hemisphere from Spanish rule.
Haiti’s sorry history of American occupation; brutal dictatorial and military rule has marred its relations with its giant neighbour. Therefore, even at this time of turmoil the growing US military deployment in Haiti is provoking mixed feelings. Yet in its most desperate time of need the Americans have shown that they are capable of enormous generosity towards a tiny nation. Donations have been pouring in from private citizens, corporates and the Government of the US. President Barack Obama promised 100 million dollars for immediate relief and endorsed his immediate predecessors as UN special envoys for the island nation to tackle the relief efforts.

Helping on a recovery path
When Haiti was gripped by crisis in 1994, President Bill Clinton sent troops to restore its exiled president to power, organised a $2.6-billion international rescue programme and declared the island nation a top priority of his administration. Now Clinton has teamed up with former President George W. Bush on a fundraising programme, they say, is aimed both at helping Haiti recover from the January 12 earthquake and finally putting the battered country on a path to prosperity.

The effort also could help make up for the failings of U.S. policies over 16 years that have been fitful and, even by sympathetic assessments, made only modest progress.
President Clinton acted in the same capacity after the Asian tsunami alongside senior President George Bush. In that effort, the two presidents visited Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the disaster and helped to galvanize donations from all over the world for the recovery. Many believe their experience can help eradicate grievous errors that were found in the tsunami recovery as a result of the overwhelming world support: such as the oversupply of donated fishing boats to tsunami-affected Sri Lanka.

Just as the many games played by world super powers and colonialists had resulted in the poverty and destitution of Haiti in their hour of need it is these same forces that can help this tiny nation to recover. At least after this disaster the world would rethink its approach towards Haiti and help the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere lose that unsavoury title. If that is not to be, the earth quake will be a bigger tragedy than merely the obvious cost of life and property.


‘Bomb detector’ maker Jim McCormick arrested

BBC News - The director of a company which sold a bomb-detecting device to 20 countries, including Iraq, has been arrested.
ATSC’s Jim McCormick, 53, was detained on Friday on suspicion of fraud by misrepresentation, Avon and Somerset police said. He has since been bailed.

It comes after a BBC investigation alleged the ADE-651 did not work.
Earlier, the British government announced a ban on the export of the device to Iraq and Afghanistan, where British forces are serving.
McCormick has said the device, sold from offices in rural Somerset, used special electronic cards slotted into it to detect explosives.

But a BBC Newsnight investigation reported that a computer laboratory said the card it examined contained only a tag used by shops to prevent theft.
There are concerns the detectors have failed to stop bomb attacks which have killed hundreds of people.
The device consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. It does not operate by battery, instead promotional material says it is powered only by the user’s static electricity.

The ADE-651 has been sold to a range of Middle Eastern countries and as far afield as Bangkok.
The Iraqi government has spent US$85m (£52m) on the hand-held detectors, now used at most checkpoints in Baghdad.

It is understood Iraq paid about US$40,000 for each device. No Western government uses them.
The BBC has learned the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered an investigation into the bomb detectors, expected to report shortly.
The government ban, brought in by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, starts next week. - (BBC news)

India sees terrorism threats

(Wall street jounal) India put its security apparatus on high alert following intelligence reports of two possible assaults in the air - one from a plane hijacking, the other from paragliders, officials said.
Also Friday, the U.K. raised its terrorist-threat level to severe from substantial, but declined to say why it was doing so.

Indian Officials said the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind both threats. The group was responsible for the November 2008 terrorist siege in Mumbai.
On Friday, the home ministry, which is in charge of internal security, issued a security alert to all airports and airlines following an intelligence notification of a plot to hijack a plane.

“We have reliable information of a planned plane hijack by terrorists. We have advised the civil aviation ministry to take necessary steps,” said Omkar Kedia, a home ministry spokesman.
Airport security was tightened following the warning. Sky marshals were deployed on certain flights and passengers were being subject to more intense security screening, he said.

Later Friday, U.K. Bansal, an official at the home ministry, said: “We have intelligence reports that LeT has purchased 50 paragliding kits from Europe with an intention to launch attacks on India.” No other details were available.
India celebrates one of its biggest holidays of the year, Republic Day, on Tuesday.


Indefinite Guantanamo detention plans condemned

(BBC News) - The American Civil Liberties Union has criticised a recommendation that 47 Guantanamo Bay inmates should be held indefinitely without trial.
Justice department officials said the men were too dangerous to release, but could not be tried as evidence against them would not stand up in a US court.
ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said their detention would reduce the camp’s closure to a “symbolic gesture”.
The White House said the president did not have to accept the recommendation.
It came as the deadline President Barack Obama had set himself on his second day in office for closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay passed.
Earlier on Friday, officials said a task force led by the justice department had recommended that while 35 detainees could be prosecuted through trials or military tribunals, 110 could be released either now or at a later date.


Scores more bodies recovered after Nigerian clashes

AFP - Volunteers recovered scores more bodies in Nigeria’s troubled central Plateau state Friday as the death toll from inter-religious clashes rose and the army was ordered to step up security.

Christian and Muslim leaders said the four days of fighting, which left hundreds dead, had reopened “festering wounds and unresolved grievances” and posed a challenge to the country’s dominant faiths.

“This tragic event certainly challenges us all to address the deep hurts, festering wounds and unresolved grievances ...from earlier episodes,” said Catholic Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Abubakar Saad, the Sultan of Sokoto, in a joint statement.

“Our problems are self-inflicted and are well within our control,” they said.
Christian and Muslim leaders in Plateau State said previously the unrest owed more to the failure of political leaders to address ethnic differences than to inter-faith rivalries.

The bodies recovered Friday were picked up from streets, houses and water wells in Kuru Karama, a village some 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of state capital Jos, the epicentre of the clashes.
Many of the victims had been thrown into wells in the outlying village, the leader of a Muslim aid team said.