Category: International Written by Associated Press
LIFE ON THE STREETS—In this photo taken Nov. 22, 2012, an alleged crack addict checks an out-of-commission laptop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
by Juliana Barbassa
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)—Bobo has a method: Cocaine gets him through the day, when he cruises with a wheelbarrow around a slum on Rio’s west side, sorting through trash for recyclables to sell. At night, he turns the day's profit into crack.
“Sometimes I don’t sleep at all; I’m up 24 hours,” says Bobo, a former soldier who doesn't use his given name for safety reasons. “I work to support my addiction, but I only use crack at night. That drug takes my mind away. I lose all notion of what I’m doing.”
Bobo says balancing crack with cocaine keeps him working and sane. On the shantytown’s streets, life can be hell: Addicts unable to strike Bobo's precarious balance use crack day and night, begging, stealing, prostituting themselves, and picking through trash to make enough for the next hit. For them, there’s no going home, no job, nothing but the drug.
With a boom in crack use over the past decade, Brazilian authorities are struggling to stop the drug's spread, sparking a debate over the legality and efficiency of forcibly interning users. Brazil today is the world's largest consumer of both cocaine and its crack derivative, according to the Federal University of Sao Paolo. About 6 million adults, or 3 percent of Brazilians, have tried cocaine in some form.
Rio de Janeiro has taken the lead in trying to help the burgeoning number of users with an approach that city leaders call proactive, but critics pan as unnecessarily aggressive. As of May 2011, users living in the streets have been scooped up in pre-dawn raids by teams led by the city's welfare department in conjunction with police and health care workers. By Dec. 5, 582 people had been picked up, including 734 children.
The sight is gut-wrenching. While some people go meekly, many fight, cry, scream out in desperation in their altered states. Once they’re gone, their ratty mattresses, pans, sweaters and few other possessions are swept up by a garbage removal company.
Adults can't be forced to stay in treatment, and most leave the shelters within three days. But children are kept in treatment against their will or returned to parents if they have a family. In December, 119 children were being held in specialized treatment units.
Demand for crack has boomed in recent years and open-air “cracolandias,” or “crack lands,” popped up in the urban centers of Rio and Sao Paulo, with hundreds of users gathering to smoke the drug. The federal government announced in early 2012 that more than $2 billion would be spent to fight the epidemic, allotting money to train health care workers, buy thousands of hospital and shelter beds, and create transitional centers for recovering users.
Mobile street units stationed near cracolandias are among the most important and visible aspects of the government’s approach. The units, housed in metal containers, bring doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers to the areas where users concentrate. Slowly, by offering health care and other help, the units’ workers gain the trust of users and refer them to treatment centers.
Studies suggest the approach can work: 47 percent of the crack users surveyed in Sao Paulo said they'd welcome treatment, according to the Federal University of Sao Paulo study.
Ethel Vieira, a psychologist on the raid team, thinks their persistence is paying off.
“Initially, they’d run away, react aggressively, throw rocks,” she said of users. “Now most of them understand our intention is to help, to give them a chance to leave the street and to connect with the public health network.”
Human rights groups object to the forced commitment of children, saying treatment delivered against the will of patients is ineffective. They also oppose the sweeps, which they describe as violent.
“There are legal procedures that must be followed and that are not being followed. This goes against the law and is unconstitutional,” Margarida Pressburguer, head of the Human Rights Commission for Brazil's Association of Attorneys, said during a debate last year.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes suggested in October that the city would start forcing adults into treatment. “A crack addict isn’t capable of making decisions,” Paes said from the Jacarezinho shantytown in the week after police stormed the area and seized control of what was then Rio's largest cracolandia.
The Rio state Attorney General’s Office responded by telling city officials “the compulsory removal of adults living in the streets has no legal foundation.” It said adults can be committed only when they become a danger to themselves or others and outpatient treatment options have run out.
“They give us a place to sleep, food, clothes, everything,” said Bobo. “I’ve been picked up by the city and I liked it. They are doing this for our good.”
But even as Bobo endorsed the city's approach, a friend was stepping over to the drug stand for more cocaine. Bobo asked for $5 worth of drugs—cocaine for now, crack for later. Then he rolled up a bill and dumped a small mound of white powder in his palm for snorting.
With a nose full of cocaine, he set off, ready for another day.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 10:32
Category: International Written by Christopher Torchia Associated Press Writer
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's president says a dog should not be man's best friend.
President Jacob Zuma made critical remarks about pet care that touch on sensitive race relations in South Africa, which was dominated by Whites until apartheid was dismantled almost two decades ago, The Star newspaper reported Dec. 27.
The newspaper cited Zuma as saying in a speech Dec. 26 that the idea of having a pet is part of "White culture" and that people should focus on family welfare.
The president's office sought to clarify his remarks, saying he was encouraging "the previously oppressed African majority" to uphold its own culture. It also suggested the way in which the comments were reported, rather than the comments themselves, was divisive.
The president's remarks triggered a flurry of retorts from animal lovers on Twitter and other social media.
"Will I become 'more African' if I kick my dog, President Zuma," one person commented tartly.
Another lamented: "He keeps on dividing this country."
And another humorist wrote: "Well, that pretty much rules out that photo opportunity with Zuma, the Obamas, & their pet dog, Bo, in the White House."
The backdrop to the dog debate is the legacy of Western colonialism in Africa, as well as the bitter struggle against apartheid in South Africa that culminated in the first democratic elections in 1994. Poverty and economic imbalances remain a source of deep strain in the nation of 50 million.
During his speech to an appreciative crowd in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma's home province, the president said people who love dogs more than people have a "lack of humanity" and that some people are trying in vain to "emulate Whiteness," The Star reported.
"Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair, you will never be White," he reportedly said.
In a statement, the South African presidency said Zuma was trying to "decolonize the African mind post-liberation" and enable people to take pride in their heritage and not feel pressure to adopt customs of minority cultures. Animals can be cared for, was the message, but not at the expense of people.
It said he gave examples of people loving animals more than other human beings — letting a dog sit in the cab of a truck while a worker has to sit in the back in the rain, or rushing an animal to the veterinarian while ignoring sick relatives or workers.
Zuma has often said he seeks to protect South Africa's diversity and unify its disparate groups, but he has occasionally stirred controversy. In 2006, as deputy president, he said same-sex marriages, which are today protected under South African law, were "a disgrace to the nation and to God."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 January 2013 14:33
Category: International Written by ETECH
For New Pittsburgh Courier
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN)—Some 80 years after its first launch, the iconic board game of Monopoly has finally released its first African city edition.
A Lagos-themed version of the popular real estate game was unveiled earlier this week, making Nigeria's bustling economic capital the first city in the continent to have a dedicated Monopoly edition.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 December 2012 08:59
Category: International Written by Christopher Torchia, Associated Press Writer
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former South African President Nelson Mandela was released Wednesday from the hospital after being treated for a lung infection and having gallstones removed, a government spokesman said.
The 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon will continue to receive medical care at home.
Mandela had been in the hospital since Dec. 8. In recent days, officials have said he was improving and in good spirits, but doctors have taken extraordinary care with his health because of his age.
Mandela was released Wednesday evening and will receive "home-based high care" at his residence in the Johannesburg neighborhood of Houghton until he fully recovers, said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj.
"We thank the public and the media for the good wishes and for according Madiba and the family the necessary privacy," said Maharaj in a statement, using Mandela's clan name, a term of affection. The statement requested that Mandela's privacy continue to be respected "in order to allow for the best possible conditions for full recovery."
David Phetoe, a resident of the Johannesburg township of Soweto, reacted with joy when he heard that Mandela was no longer in a hospital.
"It's not always the case, when people offer great expectations, that those expectations are fulfilled," he said. "In this case, we say in the same tone, in the Christmas mood and in the Christmas season, let him stick around for a while!"
Mandela is revered around the world as a symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation, his legacy forged in the fight against apartheid, the system of white minority rule that imprisoned him for 27 years.
The Nobel laureate served one five-year term as president after South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. Although the country today struggles with poverty and inequality, Mandela is widely credited with helping to avert race-driven chaos as South Africa emerged from apartheid.
South African President Jacob Zuma was among those who joined Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, and other family members in wishing a Merry Christmas to Mandela at his hospital bedside in Pretoria, the South African capital.
"I think he is an icon of hope and we are very excited" that Mandela is out of the hospital, said Sipho Sibiko, a Soweto resident. "I personally know that he is one of the people that inspired me. He inspires a lot of people and we are excited that he has been released. We wish him many more joyous years and good health."
(Thomas Phakane contributed to this report.)
Last Updated on Friday, 28 December 2012 11:28
Category: International Written by Associated Press
by Ben McConville and Jill Lawless
Associated Press Writers
DUNBLANE, Scotland (AP) — If there's anywhere that understands the pain of Newtown, it's Dunblane, the town whose grief became a catalyst for changes to Britain's gun laws.
In March 1996, a 43-year-old man named Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school in this central Scotland town of 8,000 people and shot to death 16 kindergarten-age children and their teacher with four legally held handguns. In the weeks that followed, people in the town formed the Snowdrop campaign — named for the first flower of spring — to press for a ban on handguns. Within weeks, it had collected 750,000 signatures. By the next year, the ban had become law.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 December 2012 08:59
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