c o n t e n t s
- ONGOING CONFLICTS
- HUMAN RIGHTS
- U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
- U.S. POPULATION ISSUES
- U.S. NUCLEAR ISSUES
Hostilities began in the spring of 1978 when Marxist conspirators overthrew the Afghan president and war broke out when the Soviets invaded in December 1979. (The U.S. spent more than $5 billion supporting the anti-Soviet forces.) The Soviets withdrew in the spring of 1989. The puppet Communist government that remained fell in April 92 giving way to a new civil war between rival Muslim groups
The population of Afghanistan was 15.5 million in the last census before the Communist takeover. At least 1 million have been killed and 2 million displaced from their homes to other towns and cities of Afghanistan. 6 million others have been driven across the borders to Pakistan and Iran. Less than half the refugees have returned since the end of Communist rule in 1992. About 2 million others, according to international relief agencies, have been permanently disabled.
In January 1995, an Islamic militia, known as Taliban, apparently supported by Pakistan, appeared, and by March 1995 controlled about half the country.
The siege of Kabul (pop. 1.2 million) began in Jan 94 by Taliban forces, mostly Sunni Pushtuns, the majority ethnic group that has traditionally provided Afghanistan's rulers. The Kabul government is dominated by pro-Iranian Shi'ite, ethnic Tajiks, a minority in Afghanistan. The civilian toll in Kabul has been estimated at least 25,000 by the International Committee of the Red Cross and at least 45,000 by the government. In comparison, 10,000 to 15,000 people are said to have died during the 40 months of Serbian bombing of Sarajevo that ended in the fall of 1995.
A relief effort by the United States Agency for International Development ended in 1994 and American aid channeled through the United Nations and other relief groups has fallen to between $40 million and $60 million a year. (NYT, 16 Oct. 95 and 5 February 1996, John Burns).
Iran fears that the Taliban wish to establish a base for anti-Iranian operations from Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia and the United States are also backing the Taliban forces because they want to contain Kabul government of President Rabbani (IPS, November 95).
Main Arms Suppliers: Pakistan, USA, USSR
During the war, an estimated 2.4 million Bosnians were forced from their homes; virtually none have returned. Neither the major foreign peacekeeping authorities nor Bosnian officials have been able to solve the problem. The issue is explosive, say NATO and UN officials.
Crowds of Serbs moved on Muslims trying to reach the town of Bosan Novi and Doboj in Bosnian Serb territory and Croats were attacked by Serbs near Modrika.
"Most of the houses to which refugees want to return are now occupied by refugees of another ethnic group. They feel they will be displaced if the refugees return and -- because they are not being allowed to return to their homes either -- they will have no place to live."
The military regime in Burma, known as SLORC, is in business with Unocal gas and oil company and stands to make $400 million annually beginning in 1998 in profits from the pipeline.
(Documentary by International Dispatch, 1996; and letter by Tyler R. Giannini, Co-Director, EarthRights International, in In These Times, 13 May 1996).
The low-level civil war began in 1993 when Tutsi soldiers assassinated Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu and the country's first democratically elected president after he threatened to bring an end to 30 year s of Tutsi domination. 50,000 died in 1993 alone. Since 1993, 250,000 Burundians, mostly Hutu have escaped into Zaire and Tanzania, adding to nearly 2 million Rwandan refugees. In January 1995, 20,0 00 Rwandan Hutu managed to flee the Burundian fighting to the Tanzania border. There are an additional 130,000 Rwandan Hutu still in Burundi (Time Magazine, Andrew Purvis, 2.5.96).
According to a NYT story by James C. McKinley Jr. (2.7.96) there are 1.7 million Rwandan Hutu refugees in 59 camps in Tanzania, Zaire and Burundi.
Fierce clashes between the Burundi army and Hutu rebels erupted in December 1995 in the capital, Bujumbura. Amnesty International believes that attacks by Tutsi dominated security forces in the capital are aimed at ridding Bujumbura of Hutu. In addition, armed Hutu groups are responding by killing ethnic Tutsi.
According to Amnesty International (AI) there are about 1,000 casualties per month; and there have been more than 1,300 dead since the start of November 1995. AI believes that there are unreported massacres in the inaccessible provinces of Bubanza and Cititoke where fighting has intensified during 1995 (12.20.95). The Hutu president of the Hutu majority country is Sylvestre Ntibantunganya. Main arms supplier: USSR
Indian government vs. Muslim separatist rebel groups who use various methods in order to gain their aims, which range from gaining the referendum on autonomy which was promised as far back as 1950, limited autonomy in confederation with India, a completely independent Kashmir (Islamic or secular) or merger with Pakistan.
Some of these groups are sponsored by Pakistan, some by Iran or the Gulf states and others seem to be made up largely of displaced ex-Mujahadeen from the Afghanistan/ Pakistan border areas.
One of these groups, a very minor one called Al-Faran, gained much publicity in 1995 due to its taking of Western hostages. (According to an unconfirmed report in the New York Times (5.16.96) the group killed their remaining four hostages) Other groups, such as the largest one JKLF - Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, are engaged in regular full scale actions against Indian army formations and seem to enjoy wide popular support among the Kashmiris.
Some observers have argued that the best ally of the central government are the various groups themselves, as much of their energy seems to be expended in fighting each other. (Michael Strutt, special to DESIP)
Fighting re-erupted towards the end of 1995 between the forces of Charles Taylor and Mr. Kroma, the leader of another faction.
As 1996 began, dozens of people were killed in the worst fighting since the August cease-fire. The clashes have sent 80,000 people fleeing into Tubmanborg. Liberia's diamond-rich northwestern region is controlled by rebels of the ethnic Krahn branch of the United Liberation Movement called Ulimo-J, led by General Roosevelt Johnson. Members of the 7,000 troop peacekeepers of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecomog) have been taken hostage by rebel forces. They were spread out across Liberia to prepare for the disarmament of 60,000 combatants, a key component of the cease-fire (AP, in NYT, 1.4.96). from a NYT report by Howard W. French (2.1.96) "After Years of War, a Lawless Liberia" "The arrival of a regional peacekeeping force [in 1991?] dominated by Nigeria, and the later deployment of hundreds of United Nations officials here, from military observers to relief experts, did no thing to reduce corruption.
"West African peacekeepers, unsatisfied with hefty cuts they took on all rebel sold goods moving through the country's ports, were soon stripping the country of everything from railroad stock to street lamps. And United Nations workers here say unscrupulous United Nations officials have been making a killing on everything from real estate deals to procurement kickbacks...."
"A recent outbreak of serious fighting between one armed group, the Ulimo-J militia, and the West African peacekeepers appears to be driven by diverging interest over the question of who controls luc rative illicit diamond mining in an area just north of the capital."
from a NYT report: 24 April 96 by Howard W. French Headline: "In a Calm of Sorts, Liberians Ventured Out in Shattered Capital"
Pullquote: "Boy soldiers roam Monrovia feeling empowered"
"... Monrovia today is a place where zones of influence of rival warlords come dangerously close and unpredictably into contact...It was far too early to say whether any of the many players in this c ountry's crisis possesses a big enough stick to impose a sturdy peace....
"Tens of thousands of Monrovians have fled for refuge in outlying areas like Bushrod Island, to the houses of friends and relatives, in open lots and near makeshift international feeding centers...
Food shortage: Jailee Quiee, a 40 year old `block leader' said: "It's been a week since anyone around here has had any rice."
Casualties of recent fighting: City officials have estimated that at least 200 people, mostly civilians, have been killed here since the fighting broke out two weeks ago.
Thousands of tons of donated wheat and oil are available at Monrovia's docks, but UN officials said food aid was held up this morning by fighters of the United Liberation Movement, an ally of Mr. Taylor's force. "The scene was a repetition of what has happened here hundreds of times since the fighting began, as teen-age warriors rob ordinary citizens of their food at gunpoint, often shooting those who complain too much."
Population 1995: 1.23 billion; 55 ethnic minorities; Population growth reduction campaign began in the 70s. In 1970 the fertility rate (the number of children born per number of women of reproductive age) was 5.8. By 1980 the rate had dropped to 2.85. And since 1992, it has continued to fall to an estimated 2.0.
65% (800 million) of the Chinese are under the age of 35 and the population increases at the rate of 13 million people a year.
Population aging. According to some forecasts, in 40 years there may be more persons over the age of 65 in China than in all the developed countries combined. How will the Chinese deal with this ever-increasing number of older persons, while the number of working-age people is dropping proportionally?
China's single child policy leads to gender imbalance. There is a lack of almost 50 million women.
"Grain production has stagnated at 445 million tons while demand is skyrocketing as the Chinese population grows, has increased wealth, and seeks improved diets. Once a grain exporter (8 million ton s in 1992), China has had to import 16 million tons annually since 1994. This change is all the more alarming because soil erosion -- due in part to increased deforestation which, since 1949, has stripped one-third of the country's forests and woodlands -- and the thrust toward urbanization have swallowed up 12 million square kilometers of arable land in the past 50 years. Combined with demographic growth, this represent a 50 percent reduction in available farmland for every inhabitant! The return to private land ownership has also had negative effects, as millions of peasants were no longer needed to work the farmlands. One hundred fifty million jobless peasants have already fled to the cities, despite very strict measures to control migration between provinces."
According to estimates by social workers and government officials, more than a million girls and boys aged 17 and younger are engaged in prostitution in Asia. Rising economic development and the fear of AIDS which is driving customers to younger boys and girls are aggravating the problem.
AIDS is spreading rapidly in the area. India had its first AIDS case in 1986, yet already some 1.6 million Indians are infected with HIV. Thailand has 800,000 cases; Myanmar (Burma) where condoms are banned has 400,000 cases. In Cambodia, 39% of prostitutes are infected with HIV.
According to a column by Ellen Goodman reprinted from the Boston Globe in Liberal Opinion Week (30 October 95), Female Genital Mutilation is increasingly becoming a phenomenon in immigrant communitie s in the United States. Estimates of cases range from the hundreds to the thousands. Only three states, New York, Minnesota and North Dakota have made FGM on minors a felony while it is illegal in England, Sweden and much of Europe.
Estimates are that somewhere between 100 million and 130 million women worldwide undergo the practice. It is the fate of nearly every woman and girl in Somalia, 90 percent of the females in Ethiopia and half in Egypt [some estimates put the figure for Egyptian women as high as 90% --ed.]
The Pacific Northwest encompasses most of BC, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, southeastern Alaska, northwestern California, and western Montana.
In a striking illustration of the increase in two-wheel drive roads in the Kootenay Mountains in BC, an accompanying map shows that in 1952, about 80% of the mountains were unmarked; while in 1986 more than 85% of the same area was covered by such roads.
In Oregon, Washington and western Montana, roads have surpassed streams as a defining feature of the landscape. Roads built for logging as well as driving threaten the Northwest's natural heritage, "from ceders to salmon, salamanders to grizzly bears. Roads harm the environment by degrading and polluting nearby streams, dividing wildlife habitats into small fragments, and spreading exotic species...
"Impervious surfaces like pavement collect and concentrate water and toxins. Because water runs immediately off pavement rather than soaking into the ground, roads often lower groundwater tables and destabilize nearby waterways...Studies in the Seattle area show [a decline in] stream channel stability, fish habitat quality, and salmon and amphibian populations if even 10-15 percent of a watershed is covered by impervious surfaces...
"Heavy metals and hydrocarbons emitted or leaked from cars -- along with road salt and roadside herbicides -- run off roads and into adjacent waterways...Roads built for logging degrade forests befor e any trees are cut. Erosion and sedimentation, often in massive landslides, are inescapable by-products of road building in steep terrain; sedimentation is particularly harmful to salmon. In Idaho and Oregon, forest roads have caused erosion at least 100 times greater than natural rates. Even as roads block the movement of many native species, they open remote areas to hunters, exotic weeds, a nd diseases. Port Orford cedar, a highly prized tree found only in southwestern Oregon and northwestern California, is endangered by a root-rot fungus that is spread along logging roads."
"Following Israel's lead, Gingrich has become one of the most vocal and hysterical critics of Iran. He has called it `a permanent, long-term threat to civilized life on this planet ... a terrorist s tate ... committed to defeating the West in any way it can'... [H]e has warned Americans that Iran's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction could enable it `to annihilate Tel Aviv and in the long run to annihilate Chicago or Atlanta.'"
U.S. population increases by about 3 million every year.
Present U.S. growth rate = 1.1%. At this rate our population will double in 64 years.
To accommodate growth, we pave over an area the size of Delaware every year. Every person adds an extra acre of land for urbanization and road-building.
In 1993, more than 53 million U.S. residents drank contaminated water.
The U.S. fertility rate in 1995 was 2.08 which is approximately replacement level, but up from 1.7 in 1976. Also, the percentage of unintended pregnancies increased from 29% in 1970 to 33% in 1990.
Immigration is the largest contributor to population growth accounting for more than 50% when the higher fertility rates of immigrants are taken into account. We currently admit about 800,000 legal immigrants a year.
Dr. George Borjas of Harvard University estimates that immigration costs U.S. workers $133 billion annually, mainly in lost job opportunities and depressed wages. Dr. Donald Huddle of Rice Universit y calculates the cost of immigration in 1994 at a net $52 billion to U.S. taxpayers, after subtracting the taxes paid by immigrants, with that amount slated to increase to an average of $81 billion a nnually by 2004 unless immigration is substantially reduced.
California is considering reversing its 1972 ban on
hunting cougars. California's population growth,
increasing from 10 million in 1950 to 32 million in 1996,
has resulted in development in prime co ugar habitat, which
has driven the cougars out of the mountains and into
U.S. NUCLEAR ISSUES
"The Colorado River and its tributaries are fast becoming some of the most threatened waterways of America, as great amounts of radioactive wastes escape regularly into the Colorado River system.
"Uranium mill tailings make up the largest volume of radioactive waste in the country. For decades, thousands of these mill tailings have been abandoned in our canyons. Piles of waste lie along the Colorado River, beneath the waters of Lake Powell, and on the upper reaches of their tributary streams.
"Radiation from Uravan, an old tailings site in Colorado, is still leaking, like a giant sieve, throughout the subsoil into the San Miguel River. These nuclear wastes then flow into the Dolores and then the Colorado River. The Atlas milling site downstream is also leaching its destructive waste into the Colorado, directly affecting both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks....The Colorado Heal th Department issued a permit to Umetco Minerals for a new tailings pile to be sited over the old dumping ground at Uravan.
"Utah was not consulted, even though the wastes would flow down the rivers into Utah, Arizona, and then into California..."
Fertility rate: 6.7 (children per woman)
Life expectancy at birth: 52
Medical staff: One doctor for 14,286 people; one nurse for 1,351 people.
30 million have no access to health services, 24 million no access to safe water and 31 million no access to sanitation