Tajikistan facing famine, says International Red Cross
GENEVA - Successive crop failures have left 1 million people in Tajikistan in need of urgent food aid, the International Red Cross said yesterday.
"We have seen children digging among rat holes in wheat fields, searching for grain hoarded by the rodents for the winter," said Roger Bracke, a Red Cross official who recently headed a mission to Tajikistan.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that the crisis was caused by a shortfall of grain, caused by two years of drought and worsened by a dilapidated irrigation system.
According to the federation, an acute food shortage last year had already forced some people in this poorest of former Soviet republics to sell whatever they could to buy food - including the doors, windows and roofs of their houses.
The federation appealed for $4 million to provide people with food to see them through the winter, as well as winter shoes and clothing for 65,000 schoolchildren.
"Last year, we appealed for help for Tajikistan. But the response by international donors was grossly inadequate, and people suffered," said Dr. Djura Inomzoda, president of the Tajikistan Red Crescent. "Today people are living with their backs to the wall. We can stop this suffering. And we must."
Campaign aims to close achievement gap between students
WASHINGTON - Civil rights activists and corporate sponsors launched a national campaign yesterday to close the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white peers by getting parents more involved in their children's education.
The "Success in School Equals Success in Life" campaign was developed, in part, because black and Hispanic students have scored lower on national math tests than white students for the past decade, according to a recent study.
The three-year campaign, sponsored by the People for the American Way Foundation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Eastman Kodak Company and The Advertising Council, will focus on activities designed to mobilize parents and communities to strengthen their public schools.
"This campaign is motherhood, fatherhood, apple pie and the Constitution," said Daniel Carp, chairman of Kodak.
Kodak, which is donating $1.2 million to the campaign, is developing a volunteer program to connect its employees to classrooms via the Internet. Carp said employees would also be encouraged to increase their involvement in schools in their communities.
"Public education, I believe, is the most important institution," Carp said. "If we leave behind a segment of our community, all we are doing is putting ourselves at a disadvantage."
Texas family urges jury to make Bridgestone/Firestone pay penalties
McALLEN, Texas - Lawyers for a Texas family told a jury yesterday that Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. lied about the safety of its tires and should pay a heavy financial penalty.
"They don't have any morality. They have no shame," lawyer Tab Turner said in closing arguments in a $1 billion lawsuit. "This is the day the American people can stand up and tell Firestone we're not going to take it."
The lawsuit was brought on by Dr. Joel Rodriguez, a physician from the South Texas town of Pharr, whose wife, Marisa, 39, was left brain-damaged and paralyzed last year after a rollover crash of a Ford Explorer with Firestone tires.
More than 200 deaths and 800 injuries in the United States have been blamed on Explorers rolling over after the tread on a Firestone peeled away. This is the first such lawsuit to go trial.
Stricken border-crosser found dead, another shot by mistake
TUCSON - An illegal immigrant was found dead after companions sought Border Patrol for him, and another border-crosser was shot Monday when an agent mistook a flashlight for a weapon, authorities said.
The Border Patrol said a man whose companions knew him only as Juan from the Mexican state of Michoacan apparently collapsed late Sunday near Palominas, a community on Arizona State Highway 92 about five miles west of the border town of Nacos.
By the time his companions were able to get Border Patrol help, the man had died, agency spokesman Rob Daniels said Monday.
Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Department, said the Mexican Consul was contacted and that an autopsy would be performed.
The others were returned to Mexico. They told authorities they had crossed into Arizona on Saturday.
County authorities identified the man as Jorge Montez Montejano, 29, of Purepero, Michoacan. Preliminary autopsy results indicated he died of heat exposure possibly exacerbated by his weight of 250 to 300 pounds.
According to Daniels and the Pima County Sheriff's Office, the separate shooting incident occurred early Monday. A Border Patrol agent was conducting a follow-up investigation after the arrest of a driver who had acknowledged he was to pick up some illegal immigrants.
An agent drove the vehicle to the designated area in place of the driver who had been taken into custody. When the agent gave the intended signal, two men walked out of the brush and toward the car.
The agent saw a shiny object in one man's hand and, thinking it was a weapon, fired one shot that hit the man in the chest, Daniels said.
Authorities said the wounded man was hospitalized but was expected to survive.