Best reads of February

March 2, 2009

Exotic animals trapped in net of Mexican drug trade - From the live snakes that smugglers stuff with packets of cocaine to the white tigers drug lords keep as exotic pets, rare animals are being increasingly sucked into Mexico’s deadly narcotics trade.

End of an era for the Amazon’s turbulent priests - They avoid taking buses, make sure friends know their schedules, and rarely go out when it’s dark. For the three foreign-born Roman Catholic bishops under death threat in Brazil’s northeastern state of Para, speaking out against social ills that plague this often-lawless area at the Amazon River’s mouth has come at a price.

West risks repeating Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan - The foreign warplanes swooped in just as the Afghan village of Ali Mardan was celebrating a wedding. Bombs slammed into the crowded village square, killing 30 men, women and children. After the smoke cleared and the dead were buried, all the able-bodied men left alive took up arms against the invaders. That was 1982…

Drought starts to bite in northern Kenya - Clouds of dust rising above the harsh scrub herald the arrival of more livestock at a borehole in northeastern Kenya, the end for some of a 45 km (28 mile) trek for water that must be repeated every few days. Drought is starting to bite into east Africa’s biggest economy and the government says 10 million people may face hunger and starvation.

World’s largest wetland threatened in Brazil – Jaguars still roam the world’s largest wetland Hyacinth Macaws nest in its trees, but advancing farms and industries are destroying Brazil’s Pantanal region at an alarming rate. “It’s a type of Noah’s Ark but it risks running aground,” biologist and tourist guide Elder Brandao de Oliveira says of the Pantanal.

Indonesian city grapples with quake threat - Remember the name Padang. Geologists say this Indonesian city of 900,000 people may one day be destroyed by a huge earthquake. “Padang sits right in front of the area with the greatest potential for an 8.9 magnitude earthquake,” said Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, a geologist at the Indonesian Science Institute.

‘Protest TV’ tries to bring down Georgian leader - It’s been dubbed “Protest TV”. A man in an improvised prison cell under the 24-hour gaze of television cameras, promising to stay put until Georgia’s president quits. Four cameras and a microphone on the ceiling capture his every shuffling move and political rant.  An edited version is broadcast in the evening, before Gachechiladze goes live all night, often with guests.

U.S. farmland fetches top dollar despite recession - On a chilly day in January, more than 200 investors gathered in west central Illinois to haggle over 4,000 acres of prime farmland called the Kilton Farm in the heart of U.S. Corn Belt. The auction came during the most depressing climate for the U.S. economy in decades. But when the hammer fell…

Sunken Green treasures at risk from scuba lootersA corroded mechanism recovered by sponge divers from a sunken wreck near the Greek island of Antikythera in 1902 changed the study of the ancient world.  Hundreds more wrecks beneath the eastern Mediterranean may contain treasures, but a new law opening Greece’s coastline to scuba diving has experts worried that priceless artifacts could disappear into the hands of treasure hunters.

In the north, Afghans fight hunger, not the TalibanThe United States’ decision to send more troops to Afghanistan will mean little to the people of northern Sang-i-Khel village, whose fight is not against Taliban insurgents but against hunger. “Life is not good. There was nothing last year. No water. No wheat. If there is no water this year, I will have to leave…”

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