April 11, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 15

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

THIS WEEK:

A United Nations fund for Gulf War refugees is under fire, gays in Chile face murderous bigotry, “honor” killings take their toll on Jordan’s women, cost-cutting at the Labor Department hit funds for nuclear and chemical workers … and activists use outreach and education to take on child labor worldwide.

QUOTED:

“I think they want him to hurry up and die because it’s costing them too much money. How can a doctor in Washington, D.C., determine what kind of help my husband needs?”

— Verna Keaton’s husband Addison got cancer in a government uranium plant. The Labor Department now seeks to cancel his home care and move him to a hospice (see “Labor & Health,” below).


TOP STORIES

U.N. Fund Fails Pakistani Gulf War Refugees

Thousands of rural Pakistanis displaced from Kuwait by the first Gulf War never found out about a $263 million compensation fund set up by the United Nations. Now the program has closed, after 95 percent of claims were rejected as duplicates or false.

Critics say a third-party foundation mismanaged the funds, and many war victims were never allowed to submit their claims.

Bigotry Stalks Gays in Chile

Two transgender prostitutes were murdered in Chile in March, the latest in a spate of killings dating back five years. Activists say that many cases aren’t prosecuted, and that one accused murderer never served time after paying bail of $925 and telling reporters, “turns out it’s cheap to kill a faggot,” the Santiago Times reports.

Honor’s Deadly Jordan Toll

A women’s advocate says there is “no political will” to combat the killing of women and girls by their relatives for affronts to family honor. They are strangled or beaten to death for falling in love with the wrong man, teenage flirtation, hosting male guests and more, the U.N news agency reports.

Those who commit “honor killings” are exempt from Jordan’s death penalty, and perpetrators are often treated sympathetically by their communities. Lawmakers voted against a reform bill over fears of angering their constituents.

Sources:

“Pakistan: no compensation for thousands of Gulf War victims”
ADNKronos (Italy), April 6, 2007

“Honor killings still tolerated in Jordan”
IRIN (U.N.), April 6, 2007

“Transgender murders in Chile increasing”
Santiago Times (Chile), April 4, 2007


CHILD LABOR

Labor Groups Tackle Child Exploitation

Cheap labor from children working in slavelike conditions is booming worldwide. But in India, Africa and Turkey, activists are taking on the problem with education and outreach.

An estimated 100,000 boys under 14 work in Delhi’s sari mills, sold to middlemen by impoverished and uninformed parents. A local advocacy group, which says the boys are kept in filthy conditions and live and work in the same rooms, is pressuring clothing designers to commit to child labor-free textiles.

Poverty also drives West African parents to send their children to work on Ivory Coast cocoa farms, where they suffer abuse and miss out on school. The farms supply nearly half the world’s cocoa, including companies like Cadbury and Nestle.

Now, a campaign by rights activists has led one British industry group to promise to certify and monitor cocoa suppliers.

In Turkey, grassroots social workers are working with families of children illegally employed in the furniture, textile, automotive and agricultural industries. Their solution? Find work for the parents, and persuade them to send their children back to school.

Sources:

“Children robbed of childhood in zari units”
Indo Asian News Service, April 8, 2007

“Scandal of child slaves behind your Easter eggs”
Scotsman (U.K.), April 7, 2007

“Throwing a wrench in the works of child labor”
Today’s Zaman (Turkey), March 22, 2007


LABOR & HEALTH

Cost-Cutting Hits Fund for Nuclear and Chemical Workers

Two federal programs for nuclear workers with cancer and other diseases are under fire for cutting costs without regard for patient needs.

In Colorado, Harold Hinton is dying of lung disease contracted while producing weapons-grade uranium 308, and under a Labor Department cost-cutting measure will lose the live-in nurse his doctor recommended. A government spokesman said Hinton’s medical provider pressured the doctor into calling for 24/7 home care.

Officials have paid $1.8 billion to 20,000 claimants, and thousands of other cases are still pending. Advocacy groups are pressuring Congress to speed up the process.

Another Labor Department program for workers sickened by exposure to toxic chemicals has locked out thousands of potential claimants, and hundreds of former Department of Energy employees now dying of cancer have had claims denied because they were subcontractors or “worked in the wrong building,” the Ventura County Star reports.

Two members of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, a presidential panel hired to oversee claims under the programs, were removed last year amid complaints that the panel was “essentially a worker advocacy organization,” according to the Center for Public Integrity.

In Congressional hearings held in March 2006, both Republicans and Democrats noted the administration seemed “preoccupied with payouts” rather than serving the sick.

Sources:

“Cold War, hellish consequences”
Rocky Mountain News (CO), April 7, 2007

“Ill nuclear workers get a boost”
Knoxville News Sentinel (TN), March 29, 2007

“Workers’ claims denied”
Ventura County Star (CA), March 18, 2007

“Radiation panel fairness questioned”
Center for Public Integrity (D.C)., March 29, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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