Two months removed from the fury that was Cyclone Nargis, many displaced people remain without aid due to limits on outside help from Myanmar's paranoid military government. The Group of Eight wealthy nations released a statement June 27 pressing the Burmese junta to lift all remaining restrictions on relief workers. Some international agencies believe the government's policies have contributed to the disaster's death toll, which now stands near 140,000.
But Burmese officials defend their actions: "The government is building permanent houses for victims whose houses were totally destroyed," says Deputy Foreign Minister U Kyaw Thu, adding that the greatest priority now is on reopening hospitals and schools. Myanmar's military has relented from its initial isolationist approach in allowing several hundred foreign relief experts into the country and supply-laden helicopters into regions inaccessible by land.
Still, aid agencies like World Vision and Samaritan's Purse report that remote areas of the Irrawaddy Delta remain difficult to access. Thankfully, the resourcefulness of local populations appears to have prevented the worst-case scenario of widespread malnutrition and waterborne diseases, which many relief experts predicted.
Chris Northey, emergency team leader for the aid group CARE, reports that "local communities and the survivors are actually a part of the relief response." World Vision's Dean Hirsch also has witnessed such self-reliance: "People who had lost everything were using bamboo to bridge across flooded paths and roads. The resilience of the people stands out-they are looking for what they can [do] to start rebuilding their lives and communities."
Police in Chula Vista, Calif., on June 19 arrested and jailed abortionist Bertha Pinedo Bugarin. Nine former patients testified that Bugarin, who does not hold a medical license, told them she was a doctor and then botched their abortions. One patient had to be hospitalized for life-threatening complications, another had to have a second abortion, and a third gave birth to a premature baby who died three hours later. Charged with grand theft and practicing medicine without a license, the 48-year-old abortionist could draw nine years in federal prison. Bugarin, who faces similar charges in Los Angeles, at one time ran a chain of six abortion clinics in low-income Hispanic neighborhoods in California. "This defendant preyed on women in the Hispanic community," said Bonnie Dumanis, the San Diego district attorney who brought charges in the case. "By passing herself off as a doctor, she put these women's lives in serious danger."
"Sex trafficking of children remains one of the most violent and unforgivable crimes in this country," FBI director Robert Mueller said June 25, announcing the arrests of 345 people-including 21 children and 290 adult prostitutes-as part of a federal sting in 16 cities called "Operation Cross Country." Since 2003 federal agents have rescued over 400 children authorities call "thrown-aways"-kids whose families have shunned them or deserted them and who have been forced into prostitution.
The cities targeted in the latest sting include Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Reno, Sacramento, Tampa, and others.
There are now more modern-day slaves taken into the United States annually than were shipped to colonial America in the 19th century, author E. Benjamin Skinner told WORLD. They can be purchased in Haiti for $50 today compared to the 1850 market, "when a slave in the American South would cost between $30-40,000."
A Pakistani district court judge sentenced to death on June 18 Shafiq Latif, a Muslim accused of ripping pages from the Quran and throwing them in a trash can in 2006. Christian groups were closely watching the case brought under Pakistan's Blasphemy Act, normally used against minorities and often over trivial disputes.
A news item in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper noted that "banners and posters welcoming the verdict were displayed at different places in the district," but the case, which also includes a fine of about $8,000, can be appealed.
How does a congregation of 30 people show it has a heart the size of Texas? By donating 18,000 pounds of freshly grown produce to area food pantries. Through a program originally aimed at ensuring its survival, tiny Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Pleasant Grove, Texas, has given the equivalent of 72,000 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables to the needy since 2003. Under the program, area residents-some homeschoolers, some retirees-rent and work garden plots on the church's 4-acre property for $30 a month. In return, they agree to donate 10 percent of their harvest to charity, and to help tend six plots whose yield goes entirely to charity. Vestry member and garden coordinator Becky Smith told the Dallas Morning News, "We're a little-bitty church but doing a pretty good ministry."
As flood recovery efforts grind on in Iowa, reports of people who lost everything continue to surface. But Charles and Rosemary Harvey of Cedar Rapids lost two everythings. Lilly Printing, their family business on 2nd Avenue, is a waterlogged wreck. Fifteen blocks away, their home is also under water. The Harveys, an older Christian couple known for loving their neighbors, are among a growing list of "friends and co-workers who lost homes and businesses," said Cedar Rapids resident Karla Underwood. "My list is getting longer and longer."
Underwood, who works for General Mills, is a volunteer with Serve the City, a coalition of 37 evangelical congregations and seven para-church ministries that is coordinating volunteer efforts in the area. Volunteers do everything from clearing debris to diapering infants at a pair of free church-run daycare centers. That helps parents coping with the logistics of loss.
Underwood said the scene in Cedar Rapids, now reeking of mildew and piled high with junk, is both overwhelming and hopeful: "We see pictures all the time of horrible things that take place in other parts of the world, but to be in it and smell it and be part of it is a totally different experience."
The long and occasionally dramatic fight of cyclist Floyd Landis appears over. A three-person panel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a previous panel's ruling that Landis used performance-enhancing substances to capture the 2006 Tour de France crown. The U.S. rider is the first Tour champion to have his title stripped for a doping violation. Tests revealed that Landis used synthetic testosterone to fuel his most unlikely comeback victory.
The panel's decision vindicates the two-year ban from cycling placed on Landis in early 2007 and makes the 32-year-old's future in the sport uncertain.
Sudan then and now
Eight years ago when WORLD did its first cover story from South Sudan, tens of thousands of war victims were on the run from their villages, gathering in makeshift camps where parents watched their children die as 30,000 tons of U.S. grain sat in Port Sudan, blocked by the Islamic government and complicit UN agents. The young girl we photographed for that June 10, 2000, cover died about 24 hours later.
Hardship is by no means over in South Sudan, but a three-year-old peace agreement has eased everyday security and living conditions-so much that 80,000 Sudanese in the South plan to return to their homes this year.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) took only hours after the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms to launch five initial lawsuits attempting to strike down handgun bans in cities across the nation with ordinances similar to the one struck down by the high court in Washington, D.C.
In a move meant to encourage Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program, President George W. Bush has removed North Korea from the U.S. blacklist of terrorism sponsors and lifted trade sanctions that prevented the country from securing low-interest loans from international banks. The softened stance toward a nation once dubbed part of the world's "Axis of Evil" stems from North Korea's apparent cooperation in providing detailed records of its plutonium production to Chinese officials.
Bush called the development "the first step" in getting the totalitarian regime to give up its nuclear weapons. "I'm under no illusions," he said. "This isn't the end of the process. It is the beginning of the process." Bush added that the lifted sanctions will not significantly lessen the financial isolation of North Korea, which "will remain one of the most heavily sanctioned nations in the world." For example, international penalties for human-rights violations and nuclear proliferation activities remain in place.
Critics wonder whether the Bush administration's action is justified given that Pyongyang has lied about its nuclear program before, and this accounting skips detailed information on uranium enrichment. The 60-page document also provides no answers as to North Korea's alleged involvement in the construction of a Syrian nuclear reactor, which Israeli jets bombed last September.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton called Bush's decision "very unfortunate" and told ABC News that North Korea's "record of deception and duplicity over the years is such that any deal with them would have to have extensive verification mechanisms, and we don't really have that here." The United States will seek to verify the information in the report over the next month and could rescind its removal of sanctions. But Bolton is sharply critical of his former boss: "I think really it's the beginning of the Obama presidency, or maybe it's the continuation of the Clinton presidency, certainly not the Bush presidency that I remember."