August 15, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 33

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“I’ll tell you what, Marc. Someone in the shop that day saw you reading something, and thought it looked suspicious enough to call us about … Like I said, there’s no problem. We’d just like to get to the bottom of this. Now if we can’t, then you may have a problem. And you don’t want that.”

— FBI agent Clay Trippi, as recounted by Atlanta bookstore employee Marc Schultz (see “Top Stories,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Khatami’s losing hand
For a soldier’s father, deportation
Your words betray you

*War & Terrorism*
Security state’s brave new technologies

*Labor*
Domestic workers abused worldwide

*Petroleum Politics*
Iraq’s oil fields open for business (soon)


TOP STORIES

Khatmai’s Losing Hand

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami announced he will not run for president in the 2009 election, despite his popularity as a reformist candidate, following a scandal over an incident in Italy when he shook hands with a woman.

Such handshakes are generally forbidden in Islam except for between family members. Khatami denied the incident took place even as a video circulated on YouTube.

Radical clerics have circulated a petition calling for Khatami to be defrocked, and posters of Khatami have been defaced. Supporters see his decision to not run as capitulation.

For a Soldier’s Father, Deportation

When Pfc. Armando Soriano was killed in Iraq, his mother benefited from a loophole on immigration law that allows soldiers’ family members to apply for legal residency. But the rules work on a case-by-case basis, and his father, who has been in the U.S. illegally since 1999, faces deportation because he once snuck back into the country. One of Soriano’s sisters is also not a citizen.

Such cases are increasingly common as more foreign-born fighters join the military en route to citizenship. More than 68,000 such soldiers are on active duty now, and more than 100 have died so far.

Your Words Betray You

Marc Shultz couldn’t quite recall what he brought into the coffeeshop that Saturday morning, the day the last Harry Potter book hit the shelves. But as a worker at a local bookstore, a cup of coffee was a mandatory prelude to what would surely be a hectic day.

In his hand, it turned out, was a printout of an article — a bit of media criticism to start the day and accompany his ritual caffeine boost. This he later recounted to the FBI agents who quizzed him at length on the topic. They were tipped off by someone at the coffeeshop who considered a critique of Fox News to be a risk to national security.

Sources:

“Handshake picture deals election blow to Iranian reformist”
Guardian (U.K.), August 3, 2007

“Father of fallen soldier now battling deportation”
Houston Chronicle, August 6, 2007

OP-ED: “Careful: The FB-eye may be watching”
Creative Loafing, July 17, 2007


WAR & TERRORISM

Security State’s Brave New Technologies

The U.S. and Britain have been developing elaborate new tools to identify and subdue would-be terrorists at home and abroad.

The Department of Homeland Security is developing a non-lethal weapon that emits a dazzling beam of light to incapacitate any suspect for a period of time. According to USA Today, the device has been dubbed the “puke-ray” for its tendency to induce nausea and vomiting. Rights groups worry it will be used not on terrorists but on Mexican immigrants crossing the border at night.

Others worry that the instruments could enter the black market, forcing law enforcement to defend themselves against the weapon they developed.

The DHS is also hard at work on Project Hostile Intent, a mood-sensing device that will scan crowds using video cameras, infrared, audio recordings and “eye tracking technology” to pick someone suspicious out of a crowd.

The system would scan for expressions, heart rates and perspiration that might tip law enforcement off to someone’s panicked or guilty conscience.

Authorities also hope to develop a lie detector that can be deployed remotely, according to the Guardian.

One counter-terrorism expert said the government should look past technology to understand what lies at the root of terrorism, and pointed out that anyone can look guilty when surrounded by heightened security.

Another expert dismissed the program, suggesting officials had been “watching too many Tom Cruise movies.”

In the United Kingdom, such concerns didn’t stop authorities from implementing a new policy that will screen everyone who leaves or enters the nation with a new, rigorous form of electronic scanning that will reveal their criminal records, travel history and other details.

In the hopes of preventing a terrorist suspect from crossing borders, the information gleaned will be shared with Interpol and other foreign security services, reports The Times of London.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also proposed extending the period during which terrorist suspects can be detained from 28 to 56 days, and allocated millions of pounds toward helping local councils and communities fight extremism.

Sources:

“Security firms working on devices to spot would-be terrorists in crowd”
Guardian (U.K.) August 9, 2007

“Feds testing ‘puke-ray’ to subdue suspects”
USA Today, August 8, 2007

“New border police force will check all travelers”
Times Online (U.K.), July 26, 2007


LABOR

Domestic Workers Abused Worldwide

Hundreds of domestic workers commit suicide in Bahrain every year rather than return to their families in debt, according to rights groups and Western observers.

The workers, mostly women from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, take out huge loans to pay their way to Bahrain, lured by the promise of good jobs and decent wage, according to Gulf News.

But the jobs turn out to be lower quality, and the pay a fraction of what they expected.

Broke and often abused by their employers, they cannot return home and often choose to end their lives.

A report by Human Rights Watch titled “Swept Under the Rug: Abuses Against Domestic Workers Around the World” includes testimonials from hundreds of women from Asia to Africa.

They tell stories of abuse at the hands of employers, working 19-hour days without being fed properly, and enduring rape and other sexual abuse without any legal recourse.

Such reports are especially common in Saudi Arabia, which reportedly arrested, tortured and jailed domestic workers who fought back. Some have been executed.

The Indonesian, Sri Lankan and Philippine embassies handle “thousands” of complaints of this nature every year, according to the report.

In the Philippines, officials called for an investigation into cases of rape and forced prostitution of Filipino domestic workers abroad.

This follows public outcry over a video of a domestic worker named Melissa being raped and tied up by the son of her employers in Saudi Arabia — the second such case in recent weeks.

India is considering requiring a minimum monthly wage of $250 be paid to all Indian maids and domestic workers who take jobs in 18 countries across the Middle East and Asia, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen.

Indian embassies would monitor domestic workers to ensure they receive the minimum wage, and would forbid emigration if the employer doesn’t meet their approval.

In New York, a state assemblyman recently introduced a “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights” into both legislative chambers to give local domestic workers — mostly Caribbean and Latin American women — a measure of protection.

Such women are entitled to many of the same rights as other workers in the United States, but often don’t report problems for fear of being deported, according to Hardbeat News, a Caribbean diaspora publication.

Sources:

“Expat blues fuel suicide rate”
Gulf News (Bahrain), August 10, 2007

“Domestic servants suffer abuse: report”
Associated Press, August 6, 2007

“The virtually invisible New Yorkers – Caribbean domestic workers”
Hardbeat News (NY), August 10, 2007

“Abuse of Pinays worries DFA”
Inquirer (Philippines), August 11, 2007

“BD94 wage plan for Indian maids”
Gulf Daily News (Bahrain), August 8, 2007


PETROLEUM POLITICS

Iraq’s Oil Fields Open for Business (Soon)

Iraq is cautiously opening its oil fields to foreign and domestic investment, but is trying to do it on their own terms.

In September, Iraq’s parliament is expected to ratify a law allowing Western countries to invest in Iraqi oil fields. The country is believed to have oil reserves of 115 million barrels, half of them unexplored.

From now on, all previous oil contracts will be reviewed with an eye toward spreading the country’s oil wealth evenly among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and other groups, according to proposed legislation.

Iraq’s national oil company will be given first access to the country’s enormous West Qurna field and decide which foreign companies to work with.

Russian giant Lukoil is hoping an agreement they had under Saddam Hussein to drill there still holds.

Total and Chevron have reportedly agreed to team up on Majnoon, the fourth-largest oil field in Iraq.

BP is said to have “been asked” to look into oil fields near Kirkuk in the north, while Shell is thought to have looked at Ramaila, Iraq’s largest oil field, according to the Times Online.

As rich in oil as the country is, Iraq has suffered from a lack of refined crude oil products as insurgents have targeted the oil infrastructure.

Iraq’s improved relations with Iran have paved the way for a deal to build a 32-inch pipeline that will transport crude from the southern port of Basra to Abadan, an Iranian port just across the border.

Under the agreement, Iran would buy 100,000 barrels or more of Iraqi crude to refine and sell back to Iraq.

It was not clear who would pay for the pipeline or when it would be constructed.

Sources:

“Total and Chevron agree to work together in Iraq”
Times Online (U.K.), August 9, 2007

“Iraqi oil minister says no special deals for Russia”
Associated Press, August 9, 2007

“Iran, Iraq sign oil pipeline deal”
Agence France-Presse, August 11, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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