November 14, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 46

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“Two or three problems out of 4,000 result in the whole process being shut down. It’s very hard for child welfare advocates to respond. They don’t want to defend one adoption taking place that shouldn’t be. But at the same time, 3,999 children are being deprived of a family.”

— Chuck Johnson of the National Council on Adoption, on new international adoption restrictions (see “Child Welfare,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Anti-gay Russian churches growing in U.S.
FCC trying to sneak through looser media rules: critics
Tribal loyalty may bridge Iraq’s sectarian divide

*Labor*
Land struggles sour India economic zones

*Immigration*
No safe haven: Oklahoma targets illegal immigrants

*Child Welfare*
Families asunder over international adoption woes


TOP STORIES

* Anti-Gay Russian Churches Growing in U.S.

The beating death of a gay man by a group of Russian-speaking men in Sacramento this summer highlighted the growing trend of anti-gay extremists in western U.S. states that hail from Slavic countries.

These men, second- or third-generation immigrants from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, are part of an international evangelical Christian movement known as the Watchmen of the Walls.

The right-wing group has churches in Sacramento, Seattle and Portland that organize virulently anti-gay marches. Gay activists are routinely harassed during demonstrations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Source:

“The Latvian connection/ West Coast anti-gay movement on the march”
Intelligence Report (Southern Poverty Law Center), Fall 2007

* FCC Tries to Sneak Through Looser Media Rules, Protesters Say

Among the 200 people who signed up to speak at an FCC hearing on media consolidation in Seattle last week were many who are convinced the Republican-controlled panel has already decided to loosen existing media ownership rules.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who was greeted with catcalls and boos at the meeting, wants a vote on changing ownership rules next month, reports the Seattle Times.

The FCC loosened some of those rules in 2003, enabling a company to own more than one type of media outlet in a local market. But the move was struck down by a federal appeals court.

Proponents say restrictions on media ownership aren’t an issue anymore because the Internet has given people access to more diverse media.

At the event, activists responded that media corporations were trying to restrict access to the Internet as well.

Source:

“Seattle crowd blasts FCC on big media”
Seattle Times, November 10, 2007

* Tribal Loyalty May Bridge Iraq’s Sectarian Divide

Iraqi tribal chiefs from the Sunni-dominated Anbar province held talks last week with counterparts in Shia-dominated Qadissiya Province. Their goal — to find a peaceful, government-backed solution to the current sectarian violence in both provinces, according to the Azzaman newspaper.

Although divided by religion, Sunnis and Shia are often members of the same tribe.

Tribal leaders want to leverage this loyalty to stop the violence, oust al Qaeda forces, and support a push for “national reconciliation.”

Source:

“Sunni, Shiite tribes unite to fight Qaeda”
Azzaman (Iraq), November 7, 2007


LABOR

* Land Struggles Sour India Economic Zones

Controversy follows the violent deaths of 21 protesters who opposed the creation of a “special economic zone” in India’s West Bengal district.

Activists say the deaths highlight the dangers of land seizures to create industrial areas that largely benefit multinational corporations.

Such conversions are common in nations such as China, where small fishing and farming villages are transformed into economic powerhouses.

The Indian villagers, from the district of Nandigram, oppose the local government’s plans to acquire 14,500 acres for an industrial park and petrochemical hub, reports Reuters.

Nearly 150 SEZs already exist in India, employing 41,000 people.

The government “hopes they will generate 25 billion dollars’ worth of exports in 2008-2009,” according to the wire service.

Most of the special economic zones have been established since 2005.

Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva called the acquisition of agricultural land for private companies “draconian, thoughtless and pro-corporate-capital,” according to the Indo-Asian News Service.

She said other countries, like the United States and Japan, had managed to grow without establishing special economic zones, and that promises to make farmers stakeholders in the new endeavor made them dependent on unstable markets rather than “stable lands.”

India’s Minister for Labor and Excise P.K. Gurudasan echoed Shiva’s concerns at a recent conference, saying the zones are given “too much” power, and that tax breaks to foreign corporations don’t benefit India, reports The Hindu.

“Special economic zones are nothing less than carving out a foreign territory within a sovereign nation,” he said. “This will result in extra-territorial powers calling the shots.”

Gurudasan also said the government ought to protect Indian workers from labor exploitation and guarantee that those who lose their lands are adequately compensated and assured of a job and a place to live.

An upbeat story in India’s Business Standard brushes aside all these concerns, arguing that the industrial zones provide welcome employment for local villagers.

The article claims that exported goods from SEZs already account for six percent of India’s total exports.

In the coming year, such exports are expected to grow by more than 100 percent.

Sources:

“India dispatches troops to tackle land-grab protests”
Agence France-Presse, November 10, 2007

“Rehabilitate those displaced by Special Economic Zones, says Gurudasan”
The Hindu, November 5, 2007

“SEZ Act not justified, says eco activist”
Indo-Asian News Service, November 5, 2007

“SEZs defy critics, begin to deliver the goods”
Business Standard (India), October 14, 2007


IMMIGRATION

* No Safe Haven: Oklahoma Targets Illegal Immigrants

A new Oklahoma law targeting undocumented workers is among the most punitive in the nation, making it illegal to “hire, transport or house an illegal immigrant.”

The law also authorizes police to help federal immigration officials enforce existing immigration laws.

Employers found to have hired undocumented workers will be penalized, and the state will not provide any services to illegal residents beyond what is required by federal law.

Proponents of the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizens Act say it reduces a growing “national security threat,” reports the government-funded Voice of America news service.

But opponents say the law is discriminatory — and has already had unintended consequences.

An Oklahoma county judge used the law, which went into effect Nov. 1, to jail two Latino men when he forced them to admit they were in the country illegally, reports the Associated Press.

An attorney for the two men said the proceedings were a violation of their Fifth Amendment rights again self-incrimination.

The local district attorney, meanwhile, said the law justified his prosecutors informing a judge when they think someone might be an illegal immigrant.

The AP also notes that the law will inconvenience 195,000 Oklahomans with expired driver’s licenses.

Now, they’ll be required to show proof of legal residency with a passport, a birth certificate or a visa.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the state’s top religious authorities, including the Archbishop of Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, have signed a pledge resisting the immigration law, under which they could be fined or sent to jail for the simple act of providing food or other assistance to a family of undocumented residents.

“Our various faith traditions instruct us to do good to all peoples,” reads the pledge. “There is no exemption clause for those persons who do not have documentation of their citizenship status.”

The law faces a number of legal challenges, one of which has already been thrown out.

Other states are watching to see whether the Oklahoma law holds up in court; Utah lawmakers say they want to model proposed legislation on the new Oklahoma law.

There have been 182 immigration-related laws passed in 43 states this year, according to Voice of America.

Sources:

“Oklahoma implements toughest U.S. measures against illegal immigrants”
Voice of America, November 5, 2007

“Immigration law faces new legal challenge”
Associated Press, November 10, 2007

“Expired license renewal process complicated by law”
Associated Press, November 10, 2007

“Archbishop, priests resist anti-immigration law”
National Catholic Reporter, November 9, 2007


CHILD WELFARE

* Families Asunder over International Adoption Woes

Several countries are tightening their adoption laws to avoid kidnapping scandals, such as the recent confrontation in Chad over a French charity group’s attempt to take 103 children out of the country.

The new restrictions highlight the huge international demand for adoptions, and the lack of adequate safeguards, standards and corruption-prevention in many of the nations providing children for adoption.

Another result of the changes, however, is thousands of disappointed American parents.

The regulatory changes could affect as many as 4,000 children who were already bound for adoptive homes in other countries, reports the Lawrence Journal World in Kansas.

One prospective parent of a Nepalese child told the Journal World that she feared for the health and development of children in overcrowded Nepalese orphanages.

But the government there has suspended nearly all international adoptions, amid rumors of mothers paid to give up their children, or children being taken against a parent’s will.

Guatemala will suspend all adoptions starting January 1, while Russia is pushing for more domestic family placements.

China, meanwhile, has placed restrictions on who may adopt a Chinese baby — no single parents, or disabled or obese people.

China, Russia and Guatemala account for 70 percent of international adoptions.

The Netherlands announced it was tightening rules after a Dutch TV show alleged that an adoption foundation may have provided hundreds of families with Indian children from parents who may not have given them up voluntarily, reports Reuters.

Guatemala, which has provided American parents with 25,000 children since 1990, seeks to reform a disorganized and corrupt adoption system where some mothers are offered $1,000 to give up their children and lawyers earn up to $20,000 to close the deal, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein publicly alleged that U.S. parents were adopting Guatemalan babies in order to steal their internal organs, which turned many Guatemalan parents against the United States, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Would-be adoptive parents say they are being penalized for the actions of a few, and they charge the Guatemalan government with condemning their orphans to a life of poverty, illness and illiteracy.

Guatemala recently decided to join the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, and is refusing to allow any children to be adopted by countries that are not parties to the convention as well — such as the United States.

The Inquirer reports that the United States “signed on” to the Hague Convention in the early 1990s but has yet to officially join due to concerns over several provisions.

Ironically, it was the United States, along with UNICEF, that pushed Guatemala to institute the adoption reforms in the first place.

Sources:

“Dutch tightens foreign adoption rules after probes”
Reuters, November 7, 2007

“Both joy, frustration soar at prospect of Nepal adoption”
Lawrence Journal World (Kansas), October 15, 2007

“Awaiting adoptions that may never be”
Philadelphia Inquirer, November 6, 2007

“Guatemala tries to change its image as adoption factory”
Chicago Tribune, November 10, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Will Crain, Josh Wilson

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