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Camp crisis

And more news briefs

Issue: "Syria's pain," Sept. 8, 2012

For refugees living in South Sudanese camps, a heavy rainy season has brought a deluge of misery. The UN estimates at least 160,000 refugees have fled bombing campaigns in northern Sudan since last year, and many have settled in camps just over the border in South Sudan.

WORLD reported on harsh conditions for some 20,000 refugees living in the Yida camp this spring (see "In the shadow of war," May 5, 2012). Since that report, the refugee population in Yida has more than doubled to nearly 55,000. Aid workers say bombing campaigns in the nearby Nuba Mountains are driving hundreds to the camp each day.

Heavy rains have restricted aid flow to the area, which was already running disastrously low on food and supplies. The World Food Program airdropped 32 metric tons of food to camps across the region in August, but the need continues to grow.

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Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders reports that child mortality rates have raced past emergency levels: An average of five children die every day in Yida from illnesses like diarrhea and infections.

The medical aid agency is one of several groups, including the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, working to offer aid in the camp. UN spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the rising mortality rates and escalating number of refugees make the work an urgent task: "This is a race against time."

Help now wanted

Thousands of Iranian earthquake victims looked for help from an unexpected source in mid-August: outside countries. Two days after denying that the nation needed help after a pair of earthquakes killed 300 and injured more than 3,000 on Aug. 12, Iranian officials reversed course. "We would welcome help by any country," said parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

The 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes left some 50,000 Iranians homeless in the country's rural northwestern region, and caused an estimated $600 million in damage. Iran sits on seismic fault lines that have led to far worse damage: A 2003 quake in the southeast killed some 26,000 people.

It wasn't immediately clear which countries Iran would ask for help. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the country hadn't accepted an American offer to help, but "our offer stands on the table."

Power grab

How much power does newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi aim to amass? The Muslim Brotherhood stalwart offered a clear answer on Aug. 12: more than Hosni Mubarak-Egypt's former dictator.

After a militant attack killed 16 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula on Aug. 5, Morsi used the moment to overhaul the military and the government: The president ordered the retirement of the military's defense minister and chief of staff, and installed officials expected to support his agenda.

Morsi also issued a constitutional declaration that gives him more power than Mubarak held during his 29-year authoritarian rule: The leader gains nearly complete control of both the executive and legislative branches until the next parliamentary elections, and asserts authority to appoint the writers of Egypt's new constitution. A week earlier, Muslim Brotherhood members of parliament appointed 50 new editors of state-owned publications.

Officials in the Obama administration downplayed the power grab that gives Morsi and the Brotherhood dramatic control over the country's military, laws, constitution, media, and foreign policy. Experts and writers in independent Egyptian newspapers were less optimistic. "We are now rid of a state run by the military," wrote columnist Mohammed Amin. "What is left for us to do is rid ourselves from the state of the Brotherhood."

Making it legal?

Thousands of illegal immigrants lined up with paperwork at workshops set up by immigration advocates around the country on Aug. 15, the first day the federal government would accept applications for a deferred deportation program created by President Obama. The new program implements many of the immigration policies Democrats have failed to pass through congressional legislation called the Dream Act. Obama in June bypassed Congress by issuing an executive order that accomplished many of the Democrats' immigration goals without a vote on Capitol Hill.

Illegal immigrants ages 15 to 31 who were brought to the United States as children are now eligible for temporary residency and work status if they have lived here continuously for five years or more. To qualify for the two-year deferment, applicants also cannot have serious criminal convictions and must be in school or have earned a high-school diploma or its equivalent. Officials estimate that about 1.7 million immigrants, or 15 percent of the nation's illegal immigrant population, are eligible for the program.

The move by the Obama administration comes as Obama is trying to shore up the growing Hispanic voting bloc ahead of this November's election. But not all states are complying fully with Obama's amnesty effort: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, on Aug. 15 issued an executive order of her own that prevents immigrants who are given the reprieve from getting public benefits or obtaining driver's licenses. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, also a Republican, announced a similar policy on Aug. 17: "President Obama's deferred action program to issue employment authorization documents to illegal immigrants does not make them legal citizens."

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