Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, judges whose deaths at the hand of Italy's mafia spurred passage of what is possibly the world's toughest asset seizure law. / CORIERRE DELLA SERA.
Casal di Principe, a small hamlet 12 miles north of Naples, lies in a corner of Italy known, sadly, more for organized crime than for the delicious mozzarella goat cheese it exports worldwide.
But Casal di Principe is also on the front lines of a growing battle over a law aimed at ending the mafia’s stranglehold over the country. The law—unmatched anywhere else in the world–takes asset forfeiture one better: it hands over properties seized from the mafia to civic groups, many of them dedicated to the mafia’s eradication.
In recent months, the mafia has begun striking back with fury at the seized properties it had once owned. It has vandalized buildings and equipment, set fire to them and threatened their new owners, who are putting these assets to more productive uses.
“We are at war,” said Valerio Taglione, the regional coordinator of Libera, a nationwide non-profit network of 1,200 associations, civic groups and schools dedicated to fighting the mafia. “It is a war between two opposite cultures.” [Full Article]
Mexican authorities fired 10 percent of the federal police force in 2010, in an effort to clean house. / REUTERS
México City – Javier Treviño-Rangel, a doctoral candidate in sociology, landed at Benito Juárez Airport here after five years in London, and found himself greeted by an old friend he had hoped never to see again: corruption.
No sooner had the 33-year-old scholar retrieved his luggage than he felt “back in the country where surrealism is real life.” A set of lights controlled whether his bags would sail past a luggage inspection or not. He would push a button: if it flashed green, he’d be free to go; if red, an official would rummage through his suitcases.
“The perfect metaphor for the rule of law in Mexico: it is determined by the Wheel of Fortune!” Treviño-Rangel said, still fuming at the memory. [Full Article]
Whiteclay, Nebraska. Population 14, exists only to sell alcohol to Native Americans already reeling from its damage. / Photo by Stephanie Woodard
In Nebraska, some liquor stores sell booze to minors and manage to hang onto their licenses, according to Nebraska Liquor Control Commission data. That’s as long as the stores are doing business in Whiteclay, Nebraska, located about 250 feet south of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The reservation, almost all of which lies just over the border in South Dakota, is officially dry, with consumption, possession and sales of alcohol banned. Meanwhile, tribal members, including youngsters caught in a recent police sting, make up almost the entire customer base of Whiteclay’s four liquor stores, which sell the equivalent of 4.9 million cans of beer annually out of ramshackle buildings lining a two-lane prairie road. With no white settlements for miles around, and a population of 14, not counting the drunks passed out in the streets, the town appears to exist primarily to get liquor onto the dry reservation. [Full Article]
Nepalese army prepares for Army Day celebration in Kathmandu Monday. But officials sent troops off to Sudan with substandard equipment, in the country's largest corruption scandal ever to be prosecuted. / REUTERS
Kathmandu, Nepal — When Nepal sent peacekeepers into the conflict-torn region of Darfur in 2007, it was walking into trouble in a way that it did not anticipate. Millions of dollars that Nepal had earmarked to purchase military equipment were instead embezzled, while the armored personal carriers it ordered to protect its soldiers in Sudan turned out to be substandard and obsolete.
In a courtroom in Kathmandu, the “Sudan Scam,’’ a saga of greed and corruption that has gripped the nation, is having its first encounter with accountability. A special court has convicted three former chiefs of the Nepal police and two arms suppliers – including a Briton – in the case and slapped them with tall fines and potential jail terms.
It is one of the largest corruption cases to be brought in a country that has a history of failing to prosecute cases of high-ranking official suspected of corruption. In many ways, it may be a landmark moment, and the first of its kind for a court, Nepal’s Special Court, that looks exclusively into corruption cases. [Full Article]
A crop duster spraying for weeds. Photo Courtesy of Roger Smith
BLACHLY, Ore. — Dan and Maya Gee left the congestion and pollution of Chicago, hungering for a cleaner life. They began an organic farming operation in the Oregon Coast Range, an area west of Eugene noted for its spectacular beauty and rugged mountains, towering Douglas fir and Sitka spruce.
The couple fell in love with what they thought was pristine countryside, far removed from pollution and industry. They built a home combining handcrafted artistry and untreated natural building materials. In this temperate climate, they work outside almost year-round.
But over the last half-dozen years, the Gees and their neighbors in the Triangle Lake area, fellow urban transplants, say they have all developed chronic health problems. Unexplained bouts of vomiting, severe headaches, respiratory problems, joint pain and extreme muscle weakness have affected everyone. The women’s menstrual periods have become erratic.
For years, they suspected herbicides were to blame. Big lumber companies apply the chemicals by helicopter and ground applicators on clear-cut timberland over the mountainsides, often spraying right up to their property lines. Helicopter blades create enough air turbulence to blow a chemical fog over nearby property. One farmer lost his entire fruit orchard. Another lost hundreds of blueberry bushes. Day Owen, a neighbor of the Gees in the Triangle Lake area, said a ground applicator sprayed pesticides right up to the grounds of the Triangle Lake School, 60 feet from classroom windows.
And for years, state health and environmental agencies have dismissed residents’ concerns as groundless, saying there is no evidence linking these herbicide applications to health problems. [Full Article]