Sunday, February 10, 2008


Because I look at things here through African lenses, it seems like people smoke a lot here. It is not like China or Japan or Russia or the US, maybe. But it seems a lot. I think it’s part of the development perhaps (maybe someone can explore that theory). I’ve read that it came to Europe after 1492 when Columbus brought some of it back on his ships from the New World. And since then it’s grown like wildfires. It’s, of course, the leading cause of preventable death (though people who fight every disease seem to find something their disease leads in). But it’s true. And this is worldwide. We lost 100 million in the 20th century and may lose 1 billion people this century, according to WHO (and the Economist).

California’s bans have been copied by –I was going to say 22 states, but it’s more than that. And City of New York has similar bans. Ireland banned it from all work places in ’94 and France’s cafes are smoke free, too.

WHO has 6 things it wants countries to do to curb smoking. And the strange thing is that some of these are proven to work though many places don’t use them.

1) “improve the quality of data on tobacco use”

2) Impose bans like in Ireland

3) Increase efforts to induce and help smokers quit

4) Large huge pictorial campaign warnings on cigarette packs

5) Complete ban on marketing (proven to work in 5% of world’s population that’s tried it; WHO says partial bans on advertising don’t work, I agree)

6) Higher taxes

So it’s strange. When I see it here, it always looks like a European thing to me. But I have to remember it originally came from the Americas. I don’t know where before that or if they started it. Over 150 countries have adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which encourages countries to take on a range of preventative measures. You’ll notice 4-6 focus on keeping people from ever getting started while 1-3 are for those who already started. It seems like it’s growing here. I don’t know. I probably need more time to tell.

One thing that is already evident is that the world is in a prosecuting frenzy with world leaders with crimes against humanity. It’s like it wasn’t done so much before, and then it somewhat erupted after Britain ruled in 1999 that some crimes can receive no immunity (referring to Pinochet, Chilean ex-leader/dictator). He was rushed back to Chile due to health and died in 2006 before facing trial (Milosevic (Serbia) also escaped jail by dying and General Suharto of Indonesia was rushed to the hospital in the middle of legal proceedings against him; he’s 86). We now have 10 or more guys currently going through trials in their own country’s courts, or international tribunals (like the Hague).

So Charles Taylor (you probably here about him now) is facing trial at the Hague right now; he’s a former head of Liberia (11 counts of war crimes in the 90’s during civil wars in Sierra Leone an Liberia). Fujimori (ex-pres Peru), after 6 years in jail for power abuse, is on trial for crimes against humanity—no, it’s human rights violation. Samphan, former Cambodian president from 1976-19679 is in jail waiting to go ahead against the Hague. They are going to try a lot of his group for war crimes.

Suriname – Desi Bouterse (former dictator) being tried for execution of 15 political opponents in 82

Uruguay – Juan Bordeberry being tried for those “disapperances” and murders in the 70’s (I’m sure you heard of it—desaparecidos at least with other places)

It’s also interesting because sometimes a country is unable or unwilling to try a citizen or former leader. In those cases international courts will step in, but even other countries have stepped in to prosecute crimes of leaders of other countries against other citizens. Some call it universal jurisdiction. Britain did it with Pinochet. And Belgium was going to do it to Habre (ex-president of Chad, crimes against humanity) before that shamed the African Union to pressure Senegal to do it. So he’ll be tried before a special court in Dakar. Look at Noriega. He just finished a 17 year sentence in the US for smuggling drugs. Now France sentenced him to 10 years (with him absent from the proceedings) and they want him now (for money-laundering). He’s trying to get around extradition, but Florida said yes to extradition (or a Florida judge’s gave a sentence of no for protecting and harbouring him)

Even Maria Peron (you know her) is waiting to hear about Argentina’s extradition requests for the killings of many left-wing militants by government “execution squads.”

But some countries are not granting extradition. Guatemala is protecting Spain’s Efrain Montt (Guatemalan dictator being charged on genocide). Get this. Mexico let a former pres (Echeverria) off the hook for killings of student protestors in 1968 because of statute of limitations. Wow. Most places don’t have a statute of limitations on war crimes or crimes against humanity by heads of state.

I thought it funny that Qaddafi (I see his name spelled so many ways) of Libya, said that now any head of state can face the same thing. He was implying that no one was safe. Strange comment if you haven’t done anything.

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