March 14, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 11

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

Haiti rapes defy U.N. intervention, SoCal scofflaws dump hazmat waste deep in canyon country, Pakistani’s chief justice is under house arrest, immigration officials are in the spotlight at home and abroad, Muslims face discrimination from Massachusetts to Mindanao … and apartheid aftershocks shake up South Africa.

QUOTED:

“Previously we were too black to own the land where we lived and worked, and now it seems we’re too white.”

— Willem Diergaardt of the Richtersveld Sida !hub Communal Property Association, on a bitter dispute over diamond mine claims in South Africa (see “Apartheid,” below).


TOP STORIES

Haiti Rapes Defy U.N. Intervention

Kidnappings and rape went hand-in-hand during Haiti’s years of political repression. But even as U.N. peacekeepers crack down on gangs in the slums of Port-au-Price, rapes there are on the rise. Social workers say at least 800 women there were raped in the past 12 months, and estimate that many never tell police or their families out of shame or fear.

SoCal Scofflaws Take Hazmat to the Hills

The forested canyons of San Bernardino County, California, are full of construction debris, old computers, TV sets, and other refuse dumped by people trying to avoid increased landfill fees. Much of it is hazardous waste, and subject to new, strict recycling regulations. Forest Service officials say that as a result, illegal dumping has massively increased.

Pakistan’s Overrule of Law

Pakistani lawyers were rioting in the streets last week after President Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry for “misconduct and misuse of authority.” Critics say the judge, who was appointed in 2005, is being punished for enforcing laws against human rights abuses and illegal detentions, and for blocking privatization plans.

Two TV stations that broadcast the protests went off the air temporarily, and did not show the footage thereafter. The BBC reports that the conflict is exacerbating election-year tensions between the civilian government and Musharaff’s military regime.

Sources:

“Haiti kidnap wave accompanied by epidemic of rape”
Reuters, March 8, 2007

“San Bernardino National Forest trashed by dumpsites”
Press-Enterprise (CA), March 10, 2007

“Violent protests in Pakistan over chief judge’s suspension”
Indo Asian News Service, March 12, 2007

“Pakistan panel quizzes top judge”
BBC, March 13, 2007


IMMIGRATION

Immigration Officials in the Spotlight

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s “Operation Return to Sender” has arrested 18,000 undocumented immigrants since June, provoking an inquiry by the ACLU into reports that agents illegally entered homes, posed as police officers, and racially profiled suspects.

In McHenry County, Indiana, activists accuse county jail officials for dehumanizing treatment of 36 Mexican detainees by writing numbers on their hands instead of using their names, shackling them in cells and jailing them with criminals. The practices stopped when the Mexican Consulate stepped in, and I.C.E. disavowed any knowledge of it.

And Mexican federal police detained 22 immigration agents suspected of accepting bribes to help 81 Chinese nationals, who were found “hiding” in the Cancun airport, sneak into the United States, the Associated Press reports.

Sources:

“Immigrant sweeps rouse ACLU”
San Mateo County Times, March 7, 2007

“Enraged activists: Jail marked illegal workers’ hands”
NBC5 (Chicago), March 9, 2007

“81 Chinese immigrants arrested”
Associated Press, March 10, 2007


DISCRIMINATION

Muslims Targeted, From Massachusetts to Mindanao

Four Muslim truck drivers for FedEx in Massachusetts are suing over claims that upper management ignored racist verbal abuse and unfair work assignments. A judge has ruled that the suit can proceed because the men are employees and not independent contractors — a finding that also undermines the company’s case against a unionization bid by its 15,000 truckers.

On the overwhelmingly Christian island of Mindanao in the Philippines, Muslims say they have been barred from working at malls over fears that they might be suicide bombers. Critics say this increases tensions in a province with a decades-old Islamic independence movement, where Muslims tend to be poorer, and have shorter life expectancies than average.

Sources:

“Arab Americans charge harassment by FedEx”
Reuters, March 10, 2007

“Philippines: Muslims ‘banned’ from working in malls in Mindanao”
ADNKRONOS International, March 9, 2007


APARTHEID

South Africa’s Mining Laws: A Divisive Legacy

Two Italian companies are suing South Africa over a law that requires firms to sell to black investors to redress abuses of black laborers under the apartheid system. The companies say that their purchase of granite operations there occurred in 1994, after the fall of apartheid.

The legacy of institutionalized racism has also taken a particularly bitter turn in the struggle over South Africa’s diamond mines, where the ethnically mixed residents of the diamond-rich Richtersvelders province are enraged by a government deal to sell mine holdings there to de Beers.

The land, which was appropriated by the state in the 1920s, is claimed by residents in lieu of a $26 million settlement. But South Africa’s public enterprises minister says his primary concern is the well-being of the government-owned Alexkor mining company.

Sources:

“Italian firms sue SA over mining law”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), March 9, 2007

“Erwin’s ‘get lost’ to Richtersvelders”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), March 10, 2007

“Richtersveld talks back on track”
South African Press Association, March 14, 2007


Editor: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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