March 27, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 13

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“The government celebrates [non-resident Indians] and is able to build airports on their remittances, but turns its back on them when they expose the ugly reality of immigrant life in the U.S.”

— New Orleans-based labor activist Saket Soni (see “Immigration,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Who wants to buy a President?
Cancer in the air, and in your hair
Debt waived for India farmers

*Immigration*
U.S. guest workers kept like “pigs in a cage”

*Women*
Witch-hunting in the 21st century


TOP STORIES

* Who Wants to Buy a President?

Bucking the trend of “horse race” campaign coverage, the Center for Public Integrity’s latest edition of “The Buying of the President” does more than simply track vital statistics, such as poll numbers and the amount of money raised by each candidate.

Instead, CPI delves into who, specifically, is donating — and what their motivations are.

The site offers a wealth of regularly updated information and analysis of campaign spending throughout the 2008 season, with blogs tracking ad buys, campaign spending, and controversial, tax-exempt 527 organizations that aren’t quite political action committees, but still impact elections.

There’s also an extensive look at the history of campaign financing and its abuses, plus an overview of “The Spoils” — the rewards given to the donors who backed the winning candidate, including “Access,” “Flights on Air Force One,” “Cabinet Posts” and more.

Source:

“Buying of the President 2008”
Center for Public Integrity

* Cancer in the Air, and in Your Hair

Two new reports identify byproducts of everyday life as culprits behind an increase in avoidable cancers and other health issues.

Diesel emissions from the Port of Oakland and the freeway system around West Oakland puts millions of people at risk of cancer, asthma and other diseases, according to a new report from the California Air Resources Board.

The study found that 1,200 cancer cases per million people were attributable to diesel exhaust, most from trucks, but also from port activities, which collectively cause hundreds of premature deaths.

In France, a new study has found a “small but consistent risk” of bladder cancer among male barbers and hairdressers.

The study also found personal use of hair dyes had a possible correlation to bladder cancer, lymphoma and leukemia.

Sources:

“Study says diesel emissions raise cancer risk”
San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2008

“Hair dyes found to increase cancer risk”
The Independent (U.K.), March 26, 2008


* Debt Waived for India Farmers

Small and marginal farmers in India will get almost $15 billion in debt relief, thanks to legislation orchestrated by the populist son of the Nehru-Gandhi political family.

Rahul Gandhi, whose family includes several former prime ministers and a turbulent history of assassination, said the farmers deserved the same treatment as “industrialists” who default on billions of rupees borrowed from banks, and then have their obligations waived.

While some farmers complained that they were excluded from debt relief, critics said Gandhi was playing at being “Santa” for the sake of political populism, without concern for the economy, and praised his decision to limit loan waivers.

Taking a cue from Gandhi’s actions at the federal level, state officials in Andrha Pradesh are moving forward with their own debt relief plan, aimed at more than 4 million women and minorities.

Sources:

“Can’t play Santa beyond a point, realises Rahul”
Economic Times (India), March 26, 2008

“When industrialists dont pay, why should farmers: Rahul”
Deccan Herald (India), March 26, 2008


IMMIGRATION

* U.S. Guest Workers Kept Like “Pigs in a Cage”

Almost 100 Indian guest workers at a Mississippi shipyard stormed off from their jobs one day earlier this month, claiming their employer had treated them like slaves.

Now the group is suing the company and marching from New Orleans to Washington, D.C., in a nonviolent “satyagraha,” to demand a meeting with the Indian ambassador.

The men were part of a group of 500 Indians who were brought into the United States after Hurricane Katrina to work as welders and pipe fitters for Signal International, a company that makes marine oil platforms and other equipment in Mississippi and Texas.

The company housed them in trailers where 24 men shared a room, paying $1,050 in rent, India-West reported.

According to the Web site of the AFL-CIO, the workers say they were also pressured into paying other fees by Signal and forced to live like “pigs in a cage.”

The workers also accused Signal of “human trafficking,” according to the AFL-CIO.

Signal has refuted the charges, saying the workers’ living conditions were adequate.

According to India-West, the men said they had paid $15,000 or more to Signal-affiliated recruiting firms in Mumbai after being told they would receive permanent residency in the United States.

Instead, they say, they received 10-month work permits and were threatened with losing their passports if they did not sign contracts.

The men also claim the Indian government refused their requests for help.

“The government celebrates NRIs (non-resident Indians) and is able to build airports on their remittances but turns its back on them when they expose the ugly reality of immigrant life in the U.S.,” New Orleans labor activist Saket Soni told India-West.

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Another protest by Indian workers in foreign land”
Newstrack India, March 8, 2008

“Indian Workers Say They’re Treated Like Slaves at Mississippi Shipyard”
AFL-CIO Now Blog, March 22, 2008

“Shipyard Workers Begin Satyagraha to Washington”
India West, March 20, 2008

“Shipyard Workers’ Lawsuit Alleges Employer Slavery”
India West, March 13, 2008


WOMEN

* Witch Hunting in the 21st Century

“Do We Need to Uproot Witchcraft in Africa?” demands a headline in Rwanda’s New Times newspaper.

The answer, according to the article, is no — but that opinion is not necessarily shared around the continent.

Indeed, witchcraft — or at least the accusation of it — is a serious matter in much of Africa and the African diaspora.

In Ghana, belief in witchcraft is widespread, Africa News reports, and in rural areas a witchcraft accusation lead to exile.

Banished by their families and left without means of support, those accused — usually older, impoverished women — are forced into so-called “witch’s villages,” and resort to selling charcoal to survive.

Sometimes the consequences can be even worse. Three people were arrested in Tanzania for killing accused witches, the BBC reported in 2003.

They were rare arrests in a crime that is reportedly common.

Witchcraft prejudices are hardly confined to the African continent.

The BBC reported earlier this week that hundreds of African children living in the United Kingdom have been sent back to Angola or the Democratic Republic of Congo after being accused by fellow immigrants of witchcraft.

The problem first came to the attention of the greater public in Britain when three people were jailed in London for torturing an 8-year-old girl they believed was a witch.

Of course, it should be noted that Britain itself imprisoned women accused of witchcraft as late as 1944.

Earlier this month, Scottish authorities refused to issue a posthumous pardon to Helen Duncan, who was convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, and spent nine months in jail after holding a seance during World War II.

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“DR Congo’s ‘dangerous’ superstition”
BBC, March 23, 2008

“Rwanda: Do We Need to Uproot Witchcraft in Africa?”
The New Times (Rwanda), March 24, 2008

“Plight of suspected witches in Ghana”
AfricaNews, March 17, 2008

“Tanzania arrests ‘witch killers'”
BBC, Oct. 23, 2003

“Witchcraft torture three jailed”
BBC, July 8, 2005

“Witchcraft pardon plea rejected”
BBC, March 5, 2008


Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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