Important but overlooked news from around the world.
“I believe these men were kidnapped by the First Kuwaiti Company to work on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.”
— Roy Mayberry, an American medical worker, in Congressional testimony about forced labor in Iraq (see “Labor,” below).
Thousands still sick from Cold War radiation
Big Brother’s just a mouseclick away
In Iraq, school is out
Genocide inquiry stumbles on French Connection
Slavery (and emancipation) for the new millennium
Labor Day highlights immigrant dilemma
* Thousands Still Sick from Cold War Radiation
Government records show 36,500 Americans were sickened from exposure to uranium, plutonium and beryllium since 1945, most from building or transporting atomic weapons.
At least 4,000 people have died from related illnesses, although an investigation by the Rocky Mountain News suggests many more were affected than the government is willing to compensate.
Former atomic bomb manufacturers say no one ever told them it would be dangerous to breathe in, eat next to, or sit on piles of uranium.
Well into the 1960s, soldiers were ordered to march toward nuclear bomb tests in the Nevada desert, putting them within three miles of the blasts.
Marines were exposed to nuclear blasts on the deck of an aircraft carrier 16 years after Hiroshima.
Government documents show officials were aware of the dangers but risked the lives of soldiers and civilians in the name of national security.
“Troops, workers paid steep price for nuclear weapons”
Rocky Mountain News, August 31, 2007
* The FBI’s Just a Mouseclick Away
New details on the FBI’s domestic wiretapping program reveal it to be far more technologically sophisticated than experts believed.
FBI wiretapping rooms across the country, connected by a private network run by Sprint, gives officials direct access to the country’s telecom infrastructure.
Wired News reports that with a few clicks of a mouse, the FBI can now intercept land-line phone calls, cell phone calls and text messages, broadband, wireless, and internet streaming conversations on Vodaphone and other networks.
The surveillance system, called DCSNet, for Digital Collection System Network, pays telecom companies thousands of dollars for weeks of access to a user’s phone calls.
Once a court order is issued and a company turns on the wiretap, the FBI can download the communication data in real time.
“Point, click … eavesdrop: how the FBI wiretap net operates”
Wired.com, August 29, 2007
* In Iraq, School is Out
Iraq’s school system, once one of the finest in the Middle East, is wracked with violence and disrepair following the sanctions imposed under Saddam Hussein’s regime and the sectarian violence that followed his downfall.
Children are regularly kidnapped for ransom and about 600 teachers were killed last year, according to the Ministry of Education.
In Baghdad, daily violence disrupts classes and parents are pulling their children out of school to be tutored at home, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
UNICEF estimates that 800,000 students, 63 percent of them girls, did not attend school in 2005-2006.
Sectarian graffiti covers school walls and classrooms have become divided by sect, with Sunni teachers separated from Shia teachers.
Students no longer respect authority, but teachers are afraid to discipline those who misbehave because of fears that their parents might “come after them.”
“Violence batters Baghdad schools”
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, August 30, 2007
* Genocide Inquiry Stumbles on French Connection
With the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda due to wrap up early next year with many genocide suspects still at large, Rwanda is keen to find and prosecute fugitives at home or abroad.
But distance, cost, and international politics make this an unlikely goal.
Along with France and Switzerland, Canada is trying Rwandan genocide suspects who stole across its borders in 1994.
Genocide survivors claim to have seen at least five who are still at large in Canada.
These expatriates criticize the Canadian government of tolerating the fugitives in the same way they refused to intervene during the genocide.
The problem is that Canadian genocide trials are lengthy and expensive.
Rwandan prosecutors would rather see the suspects extradited and tried in regional Gacaca tribunals, the system that has sent more than 100,000 genocide suspects to jail in Rwanda.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame abolished the country’s death penalty in July to encourage other countries to send suspects their way.
Yet there are questions about how much justice the tribunals provide and how safe the jails are — a report by Human Rights Watch said at least 20 people had been killed in custody since November 2006.
And a Gacaca court judge recently confessed to extorting money from several genocide suspects and taking bribes from MP Elise Bisengimana, who was accused of mass killings, in return for an acquittal, according to the New Times of Rwanda.
Many are wondering how fair the French courts can be toward genocide suspects in light of a new report from a Rwandan commission accusing French soldiers of carrying out “widespread rape” of genocide survivors.
The commission, which is investigating France’s role in helping Hutu Interahamwe militants kill Tutsis during the conflict, says it has enough evidence to convince the international community.
Based on eyewitness testimony and official paperwork, the commission says the French soldiers trained and armed the Interahamwe, and raped Tutsi survivors, under the auspices of a U.N. peacekeeping force sent to protect civilians.
France denies any role in the genocide.
“War-crimes trials for Rwandans complex and costly”
Canadian Press, September 1, 2007
“Five top genocide suspects are living free in Canada, says Rwanda”
Montreal Gazette, September 1, 2007
“French troops accused of widespread rape”
Independent (U.K.), August 31, 2007
“Rwanda: MP bribed me, judge confesses”
New Times (Rwanda), August 30, 2007
“Rwanda: Kagame encourages other countries to abolish the death penalty”
Hirondelle News Agency, August 31, 2007
* Slavery (and Emancipation) for the New Millennium
Children and adults alike throughout the world are kidnapped and trafficked out of their home countries, or leave home in search of a better life only to be forced into conditions akin to slavery.
In China, a major scandal erupted when the parents of 570 enslaved child workers started searching for their missing children, only to discover that they had been forced into heavy labor at brick kilns in Shanxi and Henan provinces.
The culprits were more than 60 officials, including policemen and Communist Party members, reports Agence France-Presse.
An op-ed in the Philippine Inquirer cites testimonial by an American medical technician working in Baghdad that he had witnessed the kidnapping and enslavement of 51 Filipinos.
Roy Mayberry told a U.S. Congressional committee that the workers had been hired by the First Kuwaiti Company to work in Dubai, only to learn, once they were on the airplane, that they were going to Iraq.
Upon arrival, they joined a group of Indians, Pakistanis and Africans in back-breaking labor in subhuman conditions, without safety equipment or breaks for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the American witness.
The committee took no action on the matter.
Hundreds of African children, some as young as ten, are brought over to the United Kingdom from countries like Nigeria every year, and are forced to work as prostitutes or domestic slaves, according to a human rights report in Britain.
Officials have long been aware of the problem, but have yet to prosecute a single trafficker, according to the report.
In Australia, several foreign workers died recently working in jobs they weren’t suited for, reports The Age.
The workers were hired under a special visa reserved for highly skilled workers, but once they arrived they were forced into harsh menial labor that resulted in fatal accidents.
Australian companies increasingly employ this scheme to attract foreigners for the jobs Australians won’t do.
On a positive note, Mauritania’s National Assembly voted unanimously to adopt a law criminalizing the country’s own practice of caste-based slavery last month, resulting in the emancipation of half a million slaves now emancipated.
Local advocacy groups are now calling for new rules to monitor and enforce the law, according to the United Nations news service.
They also want to give former slaves access to land and job training at welcome centers.
“China busts child slavery gang”
Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2007
“Overseas Filipino slaves in Iraq”
Inquirer (Philippines), August 3, 2007
“Mauritania: New anti-slavery law not enough for real change, activists say”
IRIN (United Nations), August 24, 2007
“Foreign workers ‘enslaved'”
The Age (Australia), August 28, 2007
“Britain’s invisible labor force: African children”
Independent (U.K.), August 21, 2007
* Labor Day Highlights Immigrant Dilemma
This Labor Day, different corners of America were confronted with fallout from the debate over illegal immigration and the jobs immigrants do that support local economies.
While some people call for greater restrictions on hiring, others say immigrants are a vital part of their communities.
Bay Area row crop farmers are worried about losing their workers to a new policy that forces employers to fire employees if the government notifies them that their social security numbers don’t match existing records.
Like other industries, farmers depend on immigrant labor to do the hard work they say no one else will do, reports the San Mateo County Times.
Many workers use fraudulent Social Security numbers to collect wages, leaving farmers with a tough choice: fire their workers, some of whom have been with them for decades and live with their families, or risk federal prosecution for harboring illegal immigrants.
The new policy was going to take effect next week, but a U.S. district court judge has issued a stay pending a further hearing on October 1.
The small community of Marshalltown, Iowa, became ground zero for the immigration debate following two recent raids of a meatpacking plant that resulted in the deportation of dozens of undocumented workers.
According to the Lawrence Journal-World, some locals of the formerly all-white town had trouble with newly arrived Hispanic immigrants in their midst, but had to concede that without them, the town’s economy would suffer — the meatpacking plant is its largest employer.
Immigrants and native-born citizens alike joined together in Virginia to rally against a Prince William County resolution, taken by the local Board of Supervisors, to deny county services to undocumented immigrants.
Protesters also boycotted all local stores that did not outwardly support all immigrants by displaying a special sign.
“No human being should be labeled as illegal,” one protester told the Potomac News.
The anti-immigration side of the debate has been ramping up the rhetoric with a new ad campaign directed at both citizens and presidential candidates.
The ad depicts a young couple unable to pay their bills because all the jobs are going to foreign workers, reports the Washington Times.
The campaign, created by the Coalition for the Future American Worker, is urging presidential candidates to crack down on foreign workers and support policies that would favor U.S. citizens over foreigners for jobs.
“Immigrant rally held”
Potomac News, September 3, 2007
“Farmers fear labor pinch”
Bay Area News Group, September 4, 2007
“Immigration fight turns to U.S. workers”
Washington Times, September 3, 2007
“Illegal immigration reshapes culture of small-town Iowa”
Lawrence Journal-World, September 2, 2007
Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson
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