Santosh Verma, a veteran news photographer whose work has been published by The New York Times, Bloomberg, and WORLD, rushed to the scene after hearing "a huge bomb blast" near his home in Mumbai July 13. "I pushed against the tide of humanity rushing out from the scene and saw something I have never seen in my whole life-a whole mass of bodies, completely maimed, dismembered, one dead and another trying to use his cell phone to call for help," he told WORLD later.
Verma was an early witness to a triple bomb attack that killed at least 17 and wounded more than 130 (other estimates said 21 and over 40 were killed). For Mumbai, India's largest city and its financial hub, it was the third major terrorist attack on the city in five years.
Verma said when he heard one of the bombs-apparently hidden beneath an umbrella between two motorcycles-he knew that terrorists had once again picked a time, rush hour, to maximize casualties: The streets were their most crowded with commuters heading home, buying food from roadside vendors, or taking tea just before sundown. The bomb near Mumbai's Opera House exploded in an area of diamond merchants, prominent and well-to-do targets.
Verma's images show the horror of what have become commonplace attacks: men just seconds earlier in suits and white business shirts nearly naked, their clothing shredded down to their underwear by the force of the explosion; severed limbs, stray shoes, busted tires, and crushed vehicles mingled in a bloody street.
Abuse of charity
Illinois in July informed Catholic Charities-which handles 20 percent of the state's foster care and adoption cases-that the state was cutting its foster care contracts with the organization as a result of a new same-sex civil unions law that went into effect June 1. Catholic Charities, an arm of the Catholic Church, provides foster care and adoptions only to heterosexual married couples. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services informed Catholic Charities of the contract terminations in a letter, noting, "[Y]our agency has made it clear that it does not intend to comply with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act." Catholic Charities from several major Illinois dioceses had already filed a preemptive lawsuit claiming specific legal protections for religious adoption agencies. A few days after the letter's arrival, a county judge issued a temporary injunction against the state, preserving the contracts of the major dioceses until another hearing in mid-August. If the state succeeds in ending the contracts, Catholic Charities will need to find foster care providers (likely non-faith-based) to take over the cases of some 2,000 children under the group's care.
Nigeria's greater danger
A peaceful July 10 church meeting turned deadly at All Christian Fellowship Mission in Suleja, Nigeria, when a bomb ripped through the church building after a Sunday morning worship service: The blast killed at least three churchgoers and critically injured seven. Church member Blessing Uwagbuwa described the scene after fleeing with his wife and child: "I couldn't hear anything, and I was just seeing red."
Post-election violence has grown increasingly worse in the largest West African nation, split evenly between Muslims and Christians. Muslims rioted after the April election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, and killed hundreds. Boko Haram, an Islamist terror group seeking to establish Islamic rule in northern Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for much of the violence-six bombings in June and July alone- including at a police headquarters and a crowded outdoor market.
Churches may grow more vulnerable as police tighten security in urban areas. Stuart Windsor of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said if Boko Haram sees churches as soft targets, "Christians are in greater danger than ever."
Though International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) reported a $16 million drop in total funding last year-an 11 percent decrease-UN agencies increased funding to the organization-by 34 percent.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) gave IPPF $1.6 million-up from $1.3 million in 2009 and $783,000 in 2008-after President Barack Obama resumed contributions in 2009 cut by the Bush administration. A new UN agency, UN Women, gave IPPF $331,000. UNAIDS gave IPPF $112,000, and the UN Foundation provided $30,000. The World Health Organization gave $50,000 and partnered with IPPF to do abortion clinic seminars on "safe abortion care."
Last year Canada cut its $5 million in contributions to IPPF. But even with the overall loss of funds, IPPF reported providing a record number of "abortion-related services," totaling over 1.4 million.
Expensive stem cells
After proponents of embryonic stem-cell research pleaded with California voters to approve a $3 billion ballot measure to establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 2004, the agency's latest figures may raise hackles: The group announced it would pay Los Angeles investment banker Jonathan Thomas $400,000 to serve as the board's part-time chairman. That pushes the combined annual salaries of the agency's top two officials to nearly $1 million. Opponents of embryonic stem-cell research may find the fulsome salary ammunition for their case that the industry doesn't need government funding to survive. But the California foundation said it does need more public funds-and plans to ask the state's voters to approve another $3 billion within the next few years.
The first six months of 2011 were the deadliest for civilians in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001, the UN said in a report released July 14. The country saw 1,462 civilian deaths from January to June-a 15 percent increase on the same period last year. Roadside bombs, Taliban forces, and other militants are responsible for nearly all the uptick, but more Afghans also died from NATO-led air strikes than a year ago.
The report followed the July 12 assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the younger half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai (below). Considered Karzai's envoy and powerbroker in volatile Kandahar, once a Taliban stronghold, Ahmed Wali was killed by a close associate of the Karzai family, and the Taliban claimed responsibility. On July 14 a bomb blast during a memorial service in his honor left five dead and 15 wounded.
Circle of aid
The Horn of Africa's worst drought in 60 years has spurred Somalia's militants to drastic action: allowing foreigners and infidels to help. Leaders of the Islamist al-Shabab, an insurgent movement that controls large sections of Somalia, banned foreign aid groups in 2009, saying the groups were anti-Muslim. (Some agencies continued small operations in areas outside the group's control.) But a worsening drought has deepened the catastrophic conditions in war-torn Somalia: The UN estimates nearly a quarter of the nation's population has fled the country seeking food and water.
At least 1,400 Somali refugees are arriving in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp each day, and 110,000 Somalis have packed remote camps in southeastern Ethiopia. Nine million Africans need assistance across the drought-stricken region. The most vulnerable: malnourished children unable to withstand the grueling treks to refugee camps. Aid workers say throngs of Somali children have died of starvation, yet delivering aid inside Somalia could prove dangerous and dubious: A UN report last year estimated that corrupt contractors diverted as much as half of the food flowing into the country through the UN's World Food Program. Where did it go? The study found that at least some went to groups like al-Shabab-those now asking for more food aid to flow into the country.
"Thank you & goodbye," read the July 10 News of the World front page after owner Rupert Murdoch shuttered the 168-year-old British tabloid over ongoing allegations its journalists illegally hacked phones and made payments to police. But controversy over the controversial news outlet may not go away so fast. After authorities arrested former editor Andy Coulson July 8 on charges relating to the illegal activity, Prime Minister David Cameron, who in 2007 hired Coulson as his director of communications, faced mounting questions over what he knew about Coulson's involvement in the hacking scandal. On July 11 a group of shareholders in Murdoch's News Corp., which purchased the paper in 1969 (and also owns The Wall Street Journal), filed an amended lawsuit accusing Murdoch of "complete failure" to oversee the paper and its journalists.
World food prices approached record levels in June, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The main driver: the price of sugar, which rose 14 percent in just one month following weather-related production slowdowns in Brazil. Offsetting declines in prices for cereals and oils kept the FAO's Food Price Index from topping a record high hit in February. Overall, the June index was up 39 percent from a year earlier-and while world cereal prices dropped slightly, they remain 71 percent higher than a year ago.