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Daily Archives: August 20, 2008

Zambian president dies in Paris

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has died in the Percy Military Hospital in Paris after being hospitalised there for more than a month, Vice President Rupiah Banda said yesterday.
Banda said on television that Mwanawasa died at 10:30 am (1730 Macau time) yesterday.
Banda appealed to his fellow citizens to remain calm and announced that Zambia will observe a seven-day mourning period from yesterday.
Mwanawasa, who would turn 60 in several months, suffered a stroke on June 29 in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, where he was to attend the African Union summit.
He was admitted into Sharm-el-Sheik International Hospital and transferred on July 1 to the Percy Military Hospital in Paris.
The president's condition suddenly worsened Sunday night, Banda said Monday.
According to the Zambian Constitution, a presidential election is to be called within 90 days if the president dies in office. 

‘Toxic Tour’ takes in Los Angeles’ dirty little secrets

by Rob Woollard

Whether you want to see the multi-million dollar home of a Hollywood celebrity or the scene of an infamous crime, Los Angeles has a guided tour to suit almost every taste.
But away from the well-worn tourist routes of Beverly Hills and Hollywood, Robert Cabrales is preparing to take a bus-load of sightseers on a journey that he says aims to expose the city's "dirty little secrets".
Organised by the advocacy group Communities for a Better Environment (CBECAL), the "Toxic Tour" takes eco-tourists through the sights and smells of some of Los Angeles' most notorious environmental black spots.
"The purpose is mainly to let people know that there is something going on here, which is the dirty little secrets that pretty much most people don't know about," Cabrales says. "When we talk about tourism and people coming over to visit Los Angeles they're not going to see the nasty parts."
Launched in 2007, the tour departs several times a month, ferrying anyone from environmentally conscious tourists to schoolchildren, activists and even government officials.
Cabrales said the tour aims to shine a light on the "environmental injustices" of Los Angeles, where residents in poorer neighbourhoods live in close proximity to heavy industry.
Among the tour's stops are the former site of "La Montana" — a vast mountain of concrete rubble left over from the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake that for several years was deposited next to a strip of family homes.
It was nearly a decade before the rubble mountain — blamed for worsening air quality and a spike in respiratory illnesses in the adjacent neighbourhood — was removed, and only then after a city council member called on to inspect the site had suffered a severe asthma attack and a collapsed lung as a result.

Their backyard was an oil refinery
Cabrales says Huntington Park is known as "Asthma Town" because of its high asthma rates amongst children.
He says the community suffers because it is surrounded on three sides by the Vernon, which is almost exclusively an industrial district.
One of the tour's most striking stops is the Suva Elementary School in the Bell Gardens neighbourhood, scene of a public health scandal caused by pollution from nearby chrome plating facilities.
From 1987 to 1988, seven out of 11 students at Suva who became pregnant miscarried, and of the seven miscarriages, four involved deformed foetuses.
Worried by the rash of failed pregnancies, school officials began conducting their own inquiries and discovered that the high rates of miscarriage and cancer were mirrored in the broader community.
An air monitor later revealed high levels of hexavalent chromium in the atmosphere, which was later linked to chrome plating facilities — one of which had a smoke stack pointing directly at the school's playground.
Elsewhere on the tour, the bus stops in a quiet residential road which could be anywhere in America, if it wasn't for the metal towers and columns of a vast oil refinery just over the fence at the end of the street.
For tour group member Patrick Becknell, a 23-year-old Los Angeles musician, the stop is the most startling aspect of the tour.
"The juxtaposition of an oil refinery and a neighbourhood was the biggest eye-opener for me," Becknell said. "Just knowing that their backyard was literally an oil refinery. It's inspiring and awing at the same time.
"If your average tourist or Los Angeles resident saw what we saw I think they'd have more of an appreciation, and also of what organised community action can do."