World notes: Jan. 26

Belgium: European Roma suffer persecution

Elly de Groen-Kouwenhoven, member of the European Parliament (EP), charged Jan. 16 that the European Commission has failed the Roma people by failing to implement anti-discrimination measures passed in April 2005.

IPS news agency noted an earlier ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against separate schools for Roma children in the Czech Republic. “It is common practice to characterize Roma children as mentally disabled,” declared Viktória Mohácsi, a Roma EP member. “The life expectancy of Roma is 15 years below the European average,” she added.

A Hungarian Roma Rights Center charges that job discrimination is “endemic and blatant.” In Italy accusations of murder against a Roma man led last year to a decree allowing for collective expulsions. Concerned EP legislators say designation as a “transnational group” may eventually ease discrimination.





Nigeria: Pfizer charged in ‘illegal’ drug trial

A judge in Kano state has ordered three local Pfizer officials arrested for refusing to appear at hearings related to a trial against Pfizer Corporation.

Pfizer allegedly killed 11 children in 1996 and disabled scores more in Kano during trials of Trovan, an experimental anti-meningitis drug. The state is claiming $2 billion in damages and the national government is claiming $6 billion more.

The judicial proceedings, which include criminal charges, began when the government released a report that had been delayed for five years, condemning “an illegal trial of an unregistered drug,” and according to Reuters, a “clear case of exploitation of the ignorant.”

In 2006, the pharmaceutical giant took 22.8 percent of its $48.4 billion yearly income as profit.



Haiti: Alerts issued for activists

Amnesty International has issued three alerts so far this month on behalf of human rights advocates abducted or threatened in Haiti.

The whereabouts of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, seized last July, is unknown. Wilson Mesilien, his successor as head of the September 30 Foundation, has gone into hiding. Bruner Estern, coordinator of the Grand Ravine Community Council, was slain on September 21, 2006.

Former colleagues Franztco Joseph and Yveson Piton receive death threats. Journalist Guyler C. Delva had to flee to Miami three months ago.

The Haiti Information Project reported on a Jan. 11 demonstration in Cité Soleil protesting U.S. bankrolling of Haiti’s new police force with $40 million. “Our country is now being run almost completely by the U.S. government,” declared one demonstrator.





India & China meet in Beijing

Three days of meetings in Beijing this month between Chinese and Indian leaders resounded with predictions that the world’s “fastest growing developing economies” may end up powerful enough to support the global economy despite slowdowns elsewhere. Also discussed were climate change, Islamic fundamentalism, and risks posed by an unstable Pakistan.

Territorial disputes unresolved 46 years after a brief war between the two nations have prompted military buildups and damped down bilateral investments, even though Chinese-Indian trade has doubled over two years. India’s U.S. sponsored alliance with Australia and Japan worries China, according to some reports. China is also said to be concerned about a U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, not yet finalized, that would provide India with access to U.S. nuclear technology.





Iran: Negotiations, not war

With President Bush in the Middle East in January to recruit an anti-Iran coalition, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), went to Tehran to gather data for an IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program due in March.

ElBaradei’s intention, explained a spokesperson, is to “turn the problem into a normal issue.” He will be returning with ample informational material, according to campaigniran.org. A high Iranian official described Iranian-IAEA relations as having entered a “new phase,” especially after a U.S. national intelligence estimate in November “eliminated the element of urgency from the Iranian file.” U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is apparently impressed: “Iran and Saudi Arabia can turn into a proper model for the rest of the Islamic world,” declared Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @roadrunner.com)