A special place that honors thousands of soldiers from World War 2

April 3, 2013

Hello from Washington.  I’m Jim Tedder.    Today we are off to the Philippines to hear about a special place that honors thousands of soldiers from World War 2.  Then we travel to Madagascar.  There is an invasion taking place there, but it is not what you think.  But first, we head to the Middle East.

As the security situation in Egypt continues to worsen, a growing number of Egyptians and Islamists have decided to act.  In some neighborhoods in Cairo and in other areas of Egypt, neighbors are filling in for the lack of police protection.  Egyptians are forming what is called a ‘watch group.’  In some cities, Islamist leaders have called on unofficial militias to provide security when necessary.

Egypt’s disliked police force mostly disappeared after the 2011 revolution.  Many who returned say they are not well treated.  They say they are poorly paid and lack weapons.  Some officers have once again left their jobs.

Recently, Egypt’s top lawyer, Talat Abdullah, urged Egyptians to fill in for the lack of police.  However, some believe it is dangerous to give civilians the right to arrest each other.  Human Rights Watch researcher, Heba Morayef, worries about how civilians will react to being given this right.

"This new license that's been given to private citizens to become involved in violence is an even more dangerous one. Because you see a weakening of the role of the state, and honestly this opens the door to vigilantism moving forward, and that's not a healthy environment in which to protect rights ultimately."

While some Egyptians have called for the military to intervene, Miz Morayef says it is better to reform the police into a responsible force.   But with Egypt’s political situation not moving forward, a decision to even start the reform process will probably not take place anytime soon.

An old American military cemetery in the Philippines once again belongs to the United States government. Last month, President Obama signed a law placing the Clark Veterans Cemetery under an agency of the federal government. Bob Doughty has our story.

Retired Army First Sergeant John Gilbert heads a group of volunteers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2485. Since 1994, the VFW Post has cared for the cemetery while still holding burials. The grounds are near what once was Clark Air Force Base, about 100 kilometers north of Manila.

“About the only thing we’ve been able to do very successfully is keep it presentable… So we’re excited about the changeover.”

The property covers eight hectares. More than eight thousand 600 people are buried there. Visitors can find historical objects, including a small marker that once stood at Fort McKinley in Manila. The marker was built to honor the more than 1,000 unidentified soldiers buried there. It suffered damage from artillery shells during World War Two.

The United States military left Clark Air Force Base and the cemetery after Mount Pinatubo exploded in 1991. A short time later, the Philippine government ordered all American bases to close. The American withdrawal left the burial grounds without a caretaker.

Two and a half years ago, retired Navy Captain Dennis Wright formed a group to persuade American officials to re-take control of the cemetery. Supporters wanted a recognized burial place for former military veterans who stayed in the area after World War Two.

“They died well after the war and were buried here. Now think of the dichotomy. If you died during the war, you’d get to be revered in Manila. But if you survived the war, you got forgotten here. It makes no sense.”

Under the federal action, the Philippines will host the American cemetery free of charge or taxes. Dennis Wright says the two countries have yet to negotiate an agreement on how the United States can operate the cemetery on Philippine territory. He says it could take months or longer before Clark Veterans Cemetery starts to receive any of the five million dollars in promised federal assistance.

Madagascar is being invaded by destructive insects called locusts. The invasion threatens the food security of half the population.  The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, says it will take three years to control the locust plague. But money is needed to do that.  Christopher Cruise has more.

The word “plague sounds bad enough. But FAO says it will take three years to control the hungry insects called locusts. Annie Monard is an FAO official who is organizing action against the plague.

“The situation is a very serious one because it is what we call a plague now. That means most of the locust population are present as groups and bands of hoppers or as swarms of flying adults.”

The locust invasion extends over half the country and probably will soon be in more than two-thirds of Madagascar.   The insects are extremely hungry. They eat natural vegetation, including land for pasture.  That could seriously harm cattle farmers.  And the locusts eat all kinds of crops.

Under normal conditions, locusts are present only in the southwestern part of the country.  But Ms. Monard said that although FAO warned against a plague, not enough was done to prevent it.  She said the first warning came in April three years ago, and two locust control campaigns were carried out.  But more funding was needed to have stopped the insect invasion early.

A February storm created ideal conditions for the locusts to reproduce. The FAO says the storm called Cyclone Haruna also damaged crops.  In the southern areas where the plague started, about 70 percent of homes are reported to be insecure about their food supply. The FAO says it needs 22 million dollars no later than June to begin a three year effort to control the hungry locusts.

Ms. Monard says time is needed to prepare the first part of the locust control campaign that would begin in September.  That campaign would begin at the same time as the rainy season in Madagascar.  I’m Christopher Cruise.

And I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.  Thank you for being with us today. Just for fun, we mention that today is Mule Day in Columbia, Tennessee in the southern United States.  40,000 people are expected to enjoy parades, arts and hand-made products, some good southern cooking, and also to honor that hard working animal that is part horse and part donkey!  World news is yours from VOA at the beginning of the hour.