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Dispatches, August 1998


By Sarah Friedman

You're Fired ... Sort Of

Chaos at the Kenyan Wildlife Service ("When Elephants Collide," Dispatches, June) reached a crescendo on May 21, when the KWS's director, David Western, was summarily dismissed. The very next day, foreign donors responded by withdrawing $400 million, prompting Western's reinstatement for another nine months, time enough to find a replacement. Western says that when the end arrives, it will come as a relief. "I never wanted more than a short-term position," he confides. "Basically, I'm not an administrator."

When dozens of young women began disappearing from the Sumatran village of Aman Damai, no one suspected that Amat Suraji, a local dukun, or faith healer, had been murdering them in the belief that drinking their saliva would imbue him with invincible powers ("Mourning in the Land of Magic," by Mark Levine, December 1997). On April 27, an Indonesian court found the necromancer guilty of killing at least 42 women and condemned him to death. Locals say they're satisfied with the verdict. "Not happy, but satisfied," notes Alfred Satyo, the forensic pathologist on the case. "Happy is if it could be undone."

A Valued Rural Tradition?
The ongoing skirmish over the fate of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area yielded a small victory to motorists battling for access to the largely unspoiled lakes ("Minnesotans, Start Your Engines?" Dispatches, September 1997). An amendment to the Federal Transportation Act , passed in late May, permits trucks on a pair of key portage routes. In exchange, motorboats will be banned on two small lakes. Todd Indehar, president of Conservationists with Common Sense, couldn't be more delighted. Reason: His group deems motorized recreation "a valuable aspect of traditional rural culture."

Illustration by John Euland

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