Pesticide poisoned French paradise islands in Caribbean

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GETTY IMAGES
Image captionBananas are a big export industry for Martinique and nearly all are shipped to France.

The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique thrive on their image as idyllic sun, sea and sand destinations for tourists.

But few visitors are aware that these lush, tropical islands have a chronic pollution problem.

A pesticide linked to cancer – chlordecone – was sprayed on banana crops on the islands for two decades and now nearly all the adult local residents have traces of it in their blood.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an “environmental scandal” and said the state “must take responsibility”. He visited Martinique last year and was briefed on the crisis on the islands, known in France as the Antilles.

The French parliament is holding a public inquiry which will report its findings in December.

“We found anger and anxiety in the Antilles – the population feel abandoned by the republic,” said Guadeloupe MP Justine Benin, who is in charge of the inquiry’s report.

“They are resilient people, they’ve been hit by hurricanes before, but their trust needs to be restored,” she told the BBC.

Large tracts of soil are contaminated, as are rivers and coastal waters. The authorities are trying to keep the chemical out of the food chain, but it is difficult, as much produce comes from smallholders, often sold at the roadside.

Drinking water is considered safe, as carbon filters are used to remove contaminants.

In the US a factory producing chlordecone – sold commercially as kepone – was shut down in 1975 after workers fell seriously ill there. But Antilles banana growers continued to use the pesticide.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50144261

Severe flooding in south of France leaves three dead

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At least three people have died after floods hit the south of France, France’s Interior Ministry confirmed.

About 2,000 firefighters and rescue workers were deployed to the region, where rivers burst their banks, blocked roads and caused significant damage.

It is not known if a 68-year-old woman who was swept away from her home in Béziers is among the fatalities.

Flash floods also devastated parts of northern Italy and Spain this week, where three others died.

In a statement, the French interior ministry said the heavy rain was now moving down towards northern Corsica.

“Over the past three days, particularly severe storms have hit the south of France, causing three deaths and serious damage to the region,” the French Interior Ministry said in a statement.

“The rain continues and is now affecting the eastern coast of Haute-Corse. Everyone must remain vigilant.”

The town of Béziers saw 198mm (nearly 8in) of rain – or about two months’ average rainfall – in just six hours on Wednesday morning.

According to local media, the woman who was swept away by the floods in the town was found unconscious in a vineyard, about 100m (330ft) away. She was then taken by helicopter to hospital in Montpellier.

Dramatic images posted on social media showed cars submerged as the waters of the River Orb rose to dangerous levels.

In Hérault, forecasters said 240mm of rain fell in a 24-hour period – a 50-year record. Local prefect Jacques Witkowski told reporters that shelter had been given to more than 1,000 people whose homes had been flooded.

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50169525

Nigeria’s ‘torture houses’ masquerading as Koranic schools

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Police say the victims in Daura were subjected to “inhumane and degrading treatment”

The private Islamic boarding school in Daura, northern Nigeria, was not somewhere you would want a child to stay for more than a few minutes, let alone months or years.

The Koranic and Rehabilitation Centre was one of series of institutions raided over the past month where parents have been sending troublesome children and young men who may be addicted to drugs or have committed petty crimes. But the raids have revealed them to be more akin to “torture houses”, officials say.

The centre in Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown, was made up of two main buildings, one clean and well-built where children were taught the Koran.

Across the road was the centre’s accommodation – a run-down single-storey compound, made up of five or six dark cells with barred windows and doors around a courtyard.

The air was stuffy and nauseating. Former students told us that up to 40 people were kept in chains in each 7-sq-m (75-sq-ft) cell.

Filthy clothes and bedding littered the floor. Those who lived there were often forced to urinate and defecate with their chains on – in the same place they ate and slept.

They would be regularly taken out for beatings or to be raped by the staff.

“It was hell on earth,” said Rabiu Umar, a former detainee at the centre.

Sixty-seven boys and men were freed from the facility. Police said there were 300 people on the school register, but many of them had escaped following a riot the previous weekend.

Over the past month about 600 people have been found to be living in such horrifying conditions: chained, starved and abused.

The first discovery was in late September in the Rigasa neighbourhood of Kaduna city in the north-west. Following a tip-off from a relative, the police found nearly 500 people, including children, detained in appalling conditions.

Videos showed rescued students looking dazed, their legs shackled and their bodies covered in blisters.

Some of them were pictured dangling from the ceiling. Others had their hands or feet chained to car wheel rims.

Hafsat Baba, Kaduna state’s commissioner of human services and social development, told the BBC at the time the authorities planned to identify all facilities of this type and close them down.

She added that they would prosecute the owners of centres “found to be torturing children or holding people in these kind of horrific situations”.

Ten days ago, for the first time women were also amongst those rescued – from another institution in Kaduna.

This is unusual, according to Ms Baba, who added that these institutions seldom admit both sexes.

As the raids continue and more details emerge, they have been met with public outrage, but these institutions were no secret.

Jaafar Jaafar, from online media platform the Daily Nigerian, says people who live there have always known.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50167453

Florida bishops ask governor to stay planned execution

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James Dailey. Credit: Florida Dept of Corrections.

.- The Catholic bishops of Florida have called on Governor Ron DeSantis to halt the scheduled execution of James Dailey, who is on death row for murder in a controversial case from nearly 35 years ago.

The bishops leading the seven dioceses of Florida signed a joint letter Oct. 21. While they noted their objections to any use of the death penalty in the state, they said Dailey’s case is “especially alarming” because of the evidence of innocence surrounding him.

“There is strong evidence that James Dailey’s death sentence was yet another failure of justice,” the bishops said. “Another man, Jack Pearcy, has signed a sworn affidavit that he, and he alone, was responsible for the tragic death of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio.”

Dailey, a 73-year-old veteran, is scheduled to be executed Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio, whose body was found repeatedly stabbed and drowned near St. Petersburg.

There is no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony connecting Dailey to the murder, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Rather, Dailey’s housemate and co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, accused him of taking part in the crime. Pearcy is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.

Inmates at the prison where Dailey was being held were interviewed, initially yielding no results. A few days later, however, three inmates said they had heard Dailey make incriminating statements. The inmates received reduced charges in return for the information, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. One of the inmates was known as a prolific informant, giving testimony over the years that has sent four men to death row and being convicted himself of more than 20 crimes of deception.

Pearcy has acknowledged at least four times that Dailey was innocent of the crime, Dailey’s lawyers maintain, including in a 2017 affidavit, signed by Pearcy, which said, “James Dailey was not present when Shelly Boggio was killed. I alone am responsible for Shelly Boggio’s death.”

However, in January 2018, Pearcy took the witness stand and was questioned about the affidavit. He said some of the statements in it were untrue. When pressed further about which statements, he invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer.

Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Dailey’s appeal, which argued that new evidence discrediting the jail informant testimony against Dailey should be permitted to be introduced. The court said Dailey should have raised this objection earlier. It ruled that all of his “newly discovered evidence claims were either correctly rejected as untimely or based on inadmissible evidence.”

The bishops of Florida voiced concern over the state’s high number of executions – and exonerations.

“Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations,” they noted. “Florida makes more mistakes than any other state in sentencing innocent people to death.”

Dailey would be the 100th execution in Florida since the state revived the death penalty in 1976.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/florida-bishops-ask-governor-to-stay-planned-execution-52181

Gonzaga, Catholic Charities team up to offer immigration legal assistance

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Credit: Diego G Diaz/Shutterstock.

.- Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane is partnering with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington to offer immigration legal assistance to low-income individuals, as well as training in immigration law for students.

Second- and third-year law students under faculty supervision will assist clients pro bono in the “Catholic Charities Immigration Clinic at Gonzaga Law School” starting this fall.

“We’re viewing this almost like a joint venture between the two of us,” Jacob Rooksby, dean of Gonzaga Law School, told CNA.

“The attorney in charge has a vast network through her time at Catholic Charities. We envision the students and the attorney going on-site to different areas of the state to provide walk-up assistance, and that’s going to start as we get further into the project,” Rooksby said.

The law school has several pro bono clinics already, including Indian Law, Elder Law, and Business Law. The students will work with Megan Case, an attorney who formerly worked with Catholic Charities.

Case told CNA that the center has a significant caseload at the moment, mostly on family reunification cases, whereby legal immigrants can petition for other family members to come and join them in the United States.

The center will also work with individuals seeking asylum. Additionally, they have an immigration court hearing scheduled for January in a deportation case.

Case noted that immigration law is one of the broadest and most complicated areas of U.S. law. She said during her time at Catholic Charities, she oversaw a number of naturalization cases, family reunification cases, and green cards, among others. They also helped individuals who qualified for victim-based visas.

She noted that the center assists both documented and undocumented individuals.

“There’s definitely a need for attorneys to assist people in these types of cases, and there’s a lot of work,” Case told CNA.

Rooksby said there is already student interest and client need for the program.

“As a Jesuit institution, I think we’re taking seriously the Catholic Church’s position on immigration as being one of the signature issues of our time,” he said. “So we see this as very consistent with our mission…the need is already there.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/gonzaga-catholic-charities-team-up-to-offer-immigration-legal-assistance-38220

Catholic snakebite clinic in India saves thousands of lives each year

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Sister Philomena Guria, RNDM, treats a snake bite patient. Photo courtesy of the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions.

.- In most religious orders’ novitiate year, prospective sisters study and pray. Sister Crescencia Sun, however, had another habit to acquire: killing venomous snakes.

In rural Bihar, about 4,500 people die of venomous snake bites each year. When the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions arrived in the Indian state in the 1990s to educate young girls, the sisters realized that God was calling them to another mission – a medical snakebite clinic.

“Initially, we didn’t have in mind to open the snakebite clinic, but because the people, so many of them suffered from snakebites and … many people were dying, we trained our sisters to learn this because they are nurses already,” Sister Crescencia Sun told CNA.

During the hot summer, the sisters treat 40-50 patients per day at their snakebite clinic, saving the lives of thousands of snakebite victims each year.

“In this place, many people are bitten by snakes … such as cobra, vipers, russell vipers, and krait to name a few,” Sr. Sun shared at the “Women on the Frontlines” symposium in Rome Oct. 16.

The symposium – hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See – highlighted religious sisters’ work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

“Women religious are among the most effective and vital partners we have on the frontlines in fragile communities around the world,” Callista Gingrich, US ambassador to the Holy See, said at the symposium.

“Women religious are often the last beacons of hope for millions of people who otherwise would not have a voice. They serve the displaced and the desperate, frequently at the risk of personal harm, in places where governments have failed and humanitarian organizations struggle to operate,” Gingrich said.

Sister Sun told CNA that, at first, she found the work at the snakebite clinic to be very emotionally draining.

“The first three months that I stayed there, I saw very many people dying of snake bites. I was very sad, and I said: ‘Maybe this is not the mission for me,’” Sun shared.

“But, you know, when you see the people keep coming, then you get the courage, and I prayed to God everyday ‘Lord, if this is what you want me to do, you are the one to give me the courage and the strength,’” she said.

Apart from treatment, the sisters work in preventative education, explaining to people in the surrounding villages the danger and how to protect themselves from the snakes.

“Hindus worship snakes, so they do not kill them, even when they become victims of snakebites. So during summer, we work 24/7 day and night,” she said.

Because of poverty, many of the patients they see live in huts made of bamboo and grass with a type of mud floor that can attract venomous creatures, particularly in the summer and rainy seasons.

“We have many stories of people telling us that when they get up in the morning, they just put their foot down from their bed and that is where they were bitten by a snake,” Sun said.

To keep themselves safe, the sisters have also trained dogs to detect the presence of snakes.

“I was very much afraid of snakes. But, being in Bangalore for my novitiate, training to become a religious, in that area we also have plenty of snakes and cobras. That is where I learned how to deal and even have killed a number of snakes, so when I came here, that was a kind of preparation for me,” she said.

In 2018, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Our Lady of the Missions treated more than 6,000 snakebite patients at their snakebite clinic in Kanti, Bihar.

“I believe that God uses us religious as instruments and miracles take place because God heals,” Sister Sun said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-snakebite-clinic-in-india-saves-thousands-of-lives-each-year-47768

In face of California fire, LA archdiocese expands fund for victims

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Saddleridge Fire, Los Angeles County. Credit: Morphius Film / Shutterstock.

Los Angeles, Calif., (CNA).- As a large fire continues to burn in southern California, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has expanded one of its support funds for the victims of fires in the area.

The Saddleridge fire, which began about 30 miles from LA, began last Thursday night and quickly forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire was 45% contained, the LA Fire Department said. It has burned more than 8,000 acres, damaging or destroying at least 75 buildings.

In an Oct. 12 press release, the Archdiocese of LA announced the expansion of a special fund set aside for the 2017-2018 Thomas fire, which took two lives and destroyed 1,063 structures. The program offers support through the arhciodese’s parishes and schools.

“This fund was expanded to include those affected by devastating fires since the Thomas Fire and is now expanding to include those affected by the current fires in the San Fernando Valley and throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties,” reads the press release.

“Those in need of immediate temporary shelter, food or assistance, can contact the pastor of their nearest parish for help.”

The Saddleridge fire began in Sylmar, a neighborhood in San Fernando Valley, at around 9 p.m. on Thursday. By 7:30 the next morning, the fire spread over 7.3 square miles, jumping over two expressways: the 210 Freeway and the 5 Freeway.

An estimated 1,000 firefighters have been assigned to help combat the fire.

According to LAFD arson investigators, the fire originated in a 50- by 70-foot area below a high voltage transmission tower. Although the cause of the fire is still being investigated, NBC reported, Southern California Edison electric company said their system was “impacted near the reported time of the fire.”

Several other fires are also burning in the region, with at least three total deaths reported so far.

So far in 2019, more than 5,800 fires have been recorded in California, burning some 160,000 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Last year marked the most destructive wildfire season on record in the state, with more than 8,500 fired burning a total of nearly 1.9 million acres.

In the Oct. 12 press release, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles encouraged Catholics to pray for those affected by the fire and for the first responders.

“Please join me in praying for our brothers and sisters caught in the Saddleridge fires and fires throughout Southern California,” said Gomez.

“We pray for the families who have lost their homes and those who have been evacuated, and all those who are still in danger. We pray especially for firefighters, police and others working to keep people safe and put these fires out. May Our Blessed Mary be close to all of them.”

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/in-face-of-california-fire-la-archdiocese-expands-fund-for-victims-94314