In Manila, a dozen families build shanties beneath a flat concrete bridge that spans fetid waters streaming through the sprawling slums.
by Lee Sinco
The international community has been crying foul since May 2009 when it became apparent that the local Chinese government had acted on plans to tear down much of Kashgar's historic old quarter.
by Ryan Pyle
A recent U.N. report described 2009 as the deadliest year in terms of civilian casualties in Afghanistan since the start of the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in the country.
by Paula Bronstein


For December we have Lee Sinco's dispatch on his work in the Philippines and Indonesia, Ryan Pyle on the demolition of the old city in Kashgar by the Chinese government, and Paula Bronstein looks at the effects of war wounds on Afghan women.

Lee Sinco ponders a changing world: the new realities of newspaper cost-cutting as well as the reality created by a combination of global warming, poverty and urbanization.

These days when Sinco takes a trip for the Los Angeles Times to cover international stories, he travels to several destinations on a shortened timetable in each trip. He's adapting to the new scheduling while he receives word that longtime newspaper people are being let go.

In the Philippines the ocean temperature has risen a couple of degrees. That doesn't sound like much but it's enough to drive fish like the tuna to go deeper or migrate farther north – making it very hard for island people to feed their families. Around the bigger cities rapid urbanization accompanied by spreading shantytowns along the shore have added to the heavily polluted water—water that is used by the poor, making sickness inevitable.

In China, Ryan Pyle reports on the ongoing destruction and building in Kashgar. The 2,000-year-old city is positioned at the place where the north and south Silk Roads met. The UK's Guardian newspaper online quoted architect and historian George Mitchell, Aug. 8, 2009, as saying the old section of the city is "the best preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in Central Asia." This quarter of the city is largely inhabited by the Turkic Muslim Uighurs. A Time.com article called "Tearing Down Old Kashgar – Another Blow to the Uighurs" (7/29/09) states, "This is the Uighurs' Jerusalem," says Henryk Szadziewski of the Washington-based Uyghur [sic] Human Rights Project. "By destroying it, you rip the soul out of a people."

This Chinese frontier region of Xinjiang was recently in the news because of inter-ethnic riots between the native Uighurs and the Han Chinese. While Kashgar is over 500 miles away from the scene of the clashes, the past problems make any project moving Uighurs from the old quarter a sensitive matter. All this is part of a Chinese stimulus package to replace the old houses with steel-reinforced dwellings.

Paula Bronstein recently returned from Afghanistan and tells the story of women who have been maimed as a result of the fighting between American troops and the Taliban. Her images are tough to look at but bring home the daunting actuality of the lives of women. Not only have they lost limbs or been badly burned, they are now not marriageable—the only future planned for them. In a world dominated by the Taliban it's not hard to imagine how impossible their lives have become – not able to venture outside the home without a male adult, no education and possibly resented as a burden.

Marianne Fulton
Dispatches Editor

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