October 10, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 41

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“This is not an immigration law … it’s a nod to National Front electors ahead of the municipal elections.”

— A French editorial cartoon targets a DNA-testing proposal for prospective immigrants (see “Top Stories,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Inter-agency spying a U.S. “intelligence nightmare”
Genocide resolution a threat to Turkey’s Jews?
French DNA bill stirs anti-immigrant fears

*Refugees*
Political asylum becomes private detention

*Arms Race*
U.S. leads in weapons trade — for now

*Crime & Punishment*
The world’s prison crisis


TOP STORIES

* Inter-agency Spying a U.S. “Intelligence Nightmare”

A Marine at San Diego’s Camp Pendleton pleaded guilty to passing top secret documents along to L.A. police and counterterrorism officers — but says he did it out of a sense of patriotism.

Sgt. Gary Maziarz said bureaucracy was preventing military and civilian agencies from working together, and spirited more than 100 classified documents out of the base and into the hands of an L.A. detective and an intelligence analyst at a Colorado command center.

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that the extent of the inter- agency spying may be far more profound — reaching back to the early 1990s — and indicative of a deep disconnect between U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies.

Experts also told the newspaper that the spying case reveals the growing role of the U.S. military in domestic security, and “confirms that U.S. officials believe al-Qaeda is active in the United States.”

Sources

“Marine took files as part of spy ring”
San Diego Union-Tribune, October 6, 2007

* Genocide Resolution a Threat to Turkey’s Jews?

Turkey’s Foreign Minister issued a cryptically threatening remark in response to a non-binding resolution before the U.S. Congress that would declare the World War I killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia to be genocide.

The Turkish government still denies the murders happened on such a large scale, and warned that if the U.S. were to pass the resolution, it would “further damage” U.S.-Turkish relations, reports the Istanbul-based newspaper Today’s Zaman.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also said the move would create a backlash directed at Turkey’s Jewish population.

“We have told [the American Jewish groups] that we cannot explain it to the public in Turkey if a road accident happens. We have told them that we cannot keep the Jewish people out of this,” he said.

Sources

“U.S. image to suffer if resolution passes”
Today’s Zaman (Turkey), October 6, 2007

(Alternative article source)

* French DNA Bill Stirs Anti-Immigrant Fears

If a French bill becomes law, any immigrant seeking to join relatives in France will have the option of taking a DNA test to prove they are related to them.

The controversial bill is described as voluntary, but opponents say they fear anyone who refuses will be discriminated against when they apply, and that the law has been proposed to stir up anti-immigrant sentiment ahead of municipal elections.

The legislation also requires would-be immigrants to prove their understanding of the French language and cultural values, and that their family can support them and earn minimum wage.

Sources

“France: Senate backs controversial migrant DNA tests”
ADNKronos, October 4, 2007


REFUGEES

* Political Asylum Becomes Private Detention

“Untouchable” refugees — including the elderly, certain ethnic groups, large families, single men and poorly educated individuals — remain unwelcome in many prospective host countries, according to a new U.N. report.

The report notes that even if their asylum claims are justified, refugees from countries like Iraq, Sri Lanka and Somalia face a poor reception depending on where they go.

Some countries even refuse to allow ocean-traveling refugees to disembark when their ships make landfall.

Those that are permitted entry may be treated no differently than criminals, facing “legal limbo” in private detention centers, according to Reuters.

A U.N. official said the surge of private detention centers allows governments to shed their responsibility for the refugees, creating prison-like conditions that are reinforced by a growing detention industry.

Despite these issues, asylum-seekers are on the rise worldwide.

Windsor, Ontario, has seen an influx of hundreds of Mexican refugees from the U.S., where they have been living under the threat of deportation, reports CBC News.

Thousands more are believed to be on the way, but the mayors of Windsor and Toronto say their shelters are full.

The refugees may not have a case — fleeing deportation is different from the threat of persecution — but they hope to stay in Canada for “quite some time.”

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board has a backlog of 30,000 cases.

New Zealand officials say their refugee screening system is increasingly fleeced by “bogus” refugees who make up stories about persecution in their home countries.

Twenty-three refugees previously accepted by the country’s Refugee Status Branch had their status cancelled in 2006 — an increase of 13 from the previous year.

In the United Kingdom, public pressure forced the government to change their position and offer Iraqi interpreters employed by British soldiers the possibility of asylum.

Perceived as supporters of the occupation, interpreters have been threatened and killed by insurgents every year since 2003.

Others have seen their families threatened or been forced to flee to Syria or Jordan.

Countries like Denmark and the United States already have asylum programs for Iraqi interpreters.

The British proposal still faces criticism because it excludes other British employees in Iraq who face equal peril, including drivers and cleaners.

Sources:

“U.N. worried detention business is hurting refugees”
Reuters, October 4, 2007

“NZ First criticizes migrant screening”
The Press (New Zealand), October 4, 2007

“Toronto mayor warns city can’t handle refugee influx”
CBC News, October 5, 2007

“Scared and alone, interpreters are finally offered a way out”
The Times (U.K.), October 6, 2007


ARMS RACE

* U.S. Leads in Weapons Trade — For Now

The United States still dominates the global arms trade, but its modus operandi has come under increased scrutiny, even as competitors battle for first place.

Australia, Britain Japan, and mush of Africa are among 100 countries that would like to create a U.N. treaty regulating the arms trade.

The NRA vehemently opposes the proposal — which would focus only on arms imports and exports, but which the advocacy group perceives as a slippery slide toward domestic gun regulations.

The United States has studiously avoided taking a position on the treaty, but last December was the lone dissenting vote among 153 nations on a General Assembly resolution creating the treaty process, reports Australia’s Herald Sun.

U.S. arms exports totaled $17 billion last year, giving it close to a 42 percent market share, according to the Congressional Research office.

Russia was second on the list, followed by the United Kingdom.

U.S. arms sales are booming due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those conflicts have made neighbors in Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia nervous, causing them to buy more weapons than ever.

But even those numbers weren’t enough to insure U.S. market hegemony.

Saying the United States can’t produce weapons fast enough to satisfy the need of its army, Iraq has ordered $100 million worth of military equipment from China.

Experts say the United States is losing more than a moneymaking opportunity with the Iraqi government.

More than 190,000 U.S. weapons supplied to Iraq have already gone missing, and are likely in the hands of insurgents; but many more will go missing if China becomes a weapons supplier, reports the Washington Post.

The Iraq government has no system in place to monitor its weapons, and is far less likely to track them if the United States is not empowered to make them do it.

U.S.-made weapons may be reaching the hands of insurgents in other ways.

The controversial private security firm Blackwater has been accused of smuggling weapons into Iraq that may have been sold on the black market later on.

Blackwater officials deny the charge.

Sources:

“U.N. members, gun lobby face treaty fight”
Herald Sun (Australia) October 2, 2007

“America cashes in on arms sales to developing world”
Guardian (U.K.), October 2, 2007

“Iraqis to pay China $100 million for weapons for police”
Washington Post, October 3, 2007

“Blackwater says allegations of arms smuggling are `baseless'”
Bloomberg, September 22, 2007


CRIME & PUNISHMENT

* The World’s Prison Crisis

Overcrowding, poor hygiene and drug addiction aren’t just issues that affect some U.S. prisons.

In Iraq, several prisoners in Interior Ministry facilities have been diagnosed with scabies — though it’s not clear whether the problem extends to U.S.-run prisons.

The government denies that scabies are a problem, and refuses to accept medication from an Iraqi advocacy group, which is now calling for international intervention.

“Bad management of prisons isn’t something new in Iraq but sometimes I think it is worse now than it was during Saddam Hussein’s regime,” said one Iraqi prison guard, speaking anonymously to the United Nations news service.

In Zimbabwe, overcrowded prisons — crammed with 40,000 people, but designed for only 16,000 — are rife with filth, and have become home to a mass outbreak of dermatomyositis.

The disease, which cause the skin to peel away from the neck and hands, has far claimed the lives of around 800 male and female inmates, killing approximately ten per week.

A prison official there told the ZIm daily that it’s not clear what, if anything, the government is doing to curb the outbreak, since it covers up the outbreak by telling families their relatives died of natural causes.

Dermatomyositis is also cause by malnutrition, a direct result of chronic food shortages across Zimbabwe.

In Iran, experts blame prison overcrowding on the fact the nation’s high rate of drug prosecutions.

According to prison officials, fully half of all male inmates in Iraq were convicted of drug-related crimes.

Prisoners also continue their drug addictions in prison, reports Agence France-Presse.

Iran jails a far larger percentage of its population than the vast majority of countries.

There are 225 prisoners there for every 100,000 people, whereas the world average is 144 per 100,000.

Sources:

“Scabies said to be rife in several Iraqi prisons”
IRIN News (United Nations), October 2, 2007

“Drug-related crime filling Iran’s prisons: official”
Agence France-Presse, October 7, 2007

“Fatal rare skin disease wrecks havoc in Zim prisons”
Zim Daily (Zimbabwe), October 9, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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