Some news and an afternoon open thread.
The Chicago Tribune reports Blacks hit hard in drug sentencing, study finds. “African-Americans in Cook County were imprisoned for drug offenses at 58 times the rate of white people-the seventh-worst racial disparity among large counties nationwide, according to a new report. The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank advocating alternatives to prison for social problems, was set to release a study Tuesday detailing the different treatment white and black drug offenders receive under the criminal justice system. The institute found that nationwide, African-Americans are imprisoned for drugs at 10 times the rate of white people.”
According to McClatchy Newspapers, Iraqis in Syria face food shortages. “Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria face a bleak winter, with rising fuel costs that could leave many without enough money for food, the director of the World Food Program said… About a third of Iraqi respondents in a recent United Nations study said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children. Nearly 60 percent said that they’re buying cheaper, less nutritious food to cope with a dramatic increase in prices. With the weather turning colder and heating prices rising, humanitarian workers predict more Iraqis will go hungry in order to keep up with rent and utilities.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports Red Crescent says 25,000 Iraqi refugees have returned. “At least 25,000 Iraqi refugees have returned to their beleaguered homeland from Syria since mid-September, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by the Iraqi Red Crescent. The figure represents a fraction of the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis who fled to Syria in recent years to escape the sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing in Iraq… The refugees are finding an altered landscape, with neighborhoods largely ethnically homogenous, reshaped by sectarian strife. Unemployment also hovers at roughly 40 percent, and corruption is rampant, with many people paying bribes to obtain jobs.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports from the IPCC conference that the US still all talk at Bali, and no steps on climate. “The US has failed to offer any hope it will embrace binding targets to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, on the first day of the United Nations climate conference in Bali. But its negotiators are promising to be ‘very open and flexible’ in the talks aimed at a new global agreement to slow down dangerous climate change.” As Spiegel reported yesterday, the Bush administration is determined to obstruct any possible progress out of Bali.
The Guardian reports Honey ‘beats cough medicine’. “A clinical trial has found that honey is more effective at soothing a sore throat than a common active ingredient in children’s cough medicines. Honey has been used for centuries to relieve a tickly throat and scientists now believe it may be effective because it has constituents that kill microbes and acts as an antioxidant. That means it might prevent damage inside cells from chemical byproducts of their activity. The study compared buckwheat honey with dextromethorphan, an ingredient in a range of branded medicines.”