The news today
Burma holds first elections in 20 yearsBurma is ruled by a harsh military junta, who took power in a coup. They have outlawed many political parties and undermined student organisations. Entry into the country is severely restricted. The elections held today are reported to have passed without incidence, but voting irregularities have become apparent. Many people were forced to vote in advance rather than at the polling stations and several major opposition parties have boycotted the elections. Officials from these parties have said that pro-military supporters were told they had to vote or risk losing their jobs. Even if these claims are false, it is very unlikely that the elections will change how the country is run.
Haiti cholera outbreak worsens
Hurricane Tomas, which hit Haiti on 6th November, has caused flooding in the south of the island, which has increased the spread of the stagnant water which is the source of the disease. Those living in tents due to January’s devastating earthquake are at particular risk both from the hurricane and from cholera. The country is still without clean water and rebuilding is yet to start. The government needs another $19 million just to cover the immediate need for humanitarian aid, and no figure has been put on the medical and clean up operations. Today the death toll from the outbreak exceeded 500 and 1.3 million people are still living in temporary camps with no sanitation. There is not much hope for the country which is now battling three humanitarian disasters.
Jobless forced into work
Anyone classified as long-term unemployed and receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, who is thought by the Department of Work and Pensions to need ‘experience of the habits and routines of working life’, could be forced to work 30 hours a week or risk loosing their Jobseeker’s Allowance. The proposals come as the UK government aims to cut the nation’s deficit. The work would be mostly community or charity based, which the government hopes will help these sectors deal with cuts. The UK has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Europe, with one in five people who could work claiming benefits.