The trawlers have mostly been identified engaging in pirate fishing off west Africa. Photograph
Shocking evidence of conditions akin to slavery on trawlers that provide fish for European dinner tables has been found in an investigation off the coast of west Africa. Forced labour and human rights abuses involving African crews have been uncovered on trawlers fishing illegally for the European market by investigators for an environmental campaign group.
The Environmental Justice Foundation found conditions on board including incarceration, violence, withholding of pay, confiscation of documents, confinement on board for months or even years, and lack of clean water.
The EJF found hi-tech vessels operating without appropriate licences in fishing exclusion zones off the coast of Sierra Leone and Guinea over the last four years. The ships involved all carried EU numbers, indicating that they were licensed to import to Europe having theoretically passed strict hygiene standards.
"We didn't set out to look at human rights but rather to tackle the illegal fishing that's decimating fish stocks, but having been on board we have seen conditions that unquestionably meet the UN official definition of forced labour or modern-day slavery," EJF investigator Duncan Copeland said. A report on the abuses is published by the foundation today.
Its photographs and film of the areas in which the crews were working and sleeping show quarters with ceilings less than a metre high where the men cannot stand up. Temperatures in the fish holds on some vessels where men were being required to sort, process and pack fish for lucrative European and Asian markets were 40 to 45 degrees, with no ventilation, On some vessels the crews of up to 200 had little access to clean drinking water.
The trawlers have mostly been identified engaging in pirate fishing off west Africa. Many of the men on board have been recruited from the area around the Senegalese capital, Dakar. Others have been recruited from rural areas of Asia, including China and Vietnam, by agents. According to a recent estimate illegal fishing accounts for between 13% and 31% of total catches worldwide each year, but accurate figures are hard to come by.
NEW DELHI, India - Indian Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was detained for intensive questioning at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, US, due to a misunderstanding about his name.
The Indian media reported on Wednesday that the minister had been mistaken for a wanted man by the same name when he was escorted to a room by security officers.
He was travelling from London to Montreal via Chicago for an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) conference, but was making a personal visit to see his son while en route.
Once convinced they had got the wrong Praful Patel, the immigration authorities let him leave the airport and enter the US. The US Secretary of Homeland Security on Tuesday apologised to the minister for the incident, which was further complicated by the fact that the minister was travelling on a civil passport instead of a diplomatic one.
This is not the first time this has happened. The minister was previously detained in New York airport for the same reason.
The Ministry of External Affairs usually counters such a situation by informing US counterparts of Patel’s itinerary well in advance; however a sudden change of travel plans for the minister caught the Chicago authorities unaware.
The United States says such an incident won’t happen again and that the necessary amendments will be made to the present immigration law. Patel later clarified in an SMS that nothing serious had happened. "I'm in Montreal and nothing serious happened so please don't sensationalise. There is a person with a similar name and date of birth. That's why they just double checked," he wrote.
One of five U.S. soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians for sport and posing for photographs with their mutilated bodies has confessed to investigators, according to video of the confession obtained by ABC News and CNN. Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 22, was arrested in June on charges of murdering three innocent civilians near Kandahar, where his 5th Stryker Brigade was stationed. In a taped interview with Army investigators, Morlock claimed that his superior, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, coldly selected innocent Afghans to kill for sport and then instructed his men to help make it look like they were insurgents.
"We'd identify the guy, and Gibbs would make a comment like, 'Hey, you guys wanna wax this guy or what?'" Morlock told investigators. "He'd set up the whole scenario."
Morlock is the first of a total of a dozen soldiers to face court-martial in the case: five on suspicion of murdering three Afghans, seven on suspicion of participating in a cover-up. Testimony and evidence unearthed so far indicates that the "kill team" was using hashish. Prosecutors say the men mutilated the bodies of the Afghans they killed, taking fingers and bones as "souvenirs," and posed for photographs with the corpses. Prosecutors have kept those images sealed for fear their release might incite violence in the Muslim world.
Morlock's attorney told the Los Angeles Times that his client participated in the killings under the threat of discipline or worse from Gibbs: "Everybody in the unit was threatened, from the beginning of this to the end, that if they were not on board, if they were a snitch … they'd get what's coming to them."
One of the charged men, Spc. Adam Winfield, alerted his parents to the violence via Facebook messages. Winfield's father reportedly went to the Army with his son's concerns and was told that the safest thing he could do would be to wait until his tour was over before reporting the crimes. Two more civilians were killed after Winfield's father sought help from the Army.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India - A total of 13 policemen are among the 14 charged in relation to the death of a man in custody five years ago in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Three constables are accused of torturing a man named Udayakumar which led to his death. They have been charged with murder. The others are charged with forging documents and of conspiracy in relation to the case.
Three female constables are among the accused. The only one charged in the case who is not a policeman is Suresh Kumar who was allegedly at the station when Udayakumar was interrogated.
The allegation is that Udayakumar, who was taken into custody on suspicion of stealing money, was tortured to death in custody.
Udayakumar died at the Fort police station at the state capital in September 2005 and his body had multiple injuries.
The case was handed to the CBI for investigation. The police allegedly tortured Udayakumar after he was unable to explain the source of money that he had with him.
The Central Bureau of Investigation yesterday submitted the charge sheet in the case before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Kochi. The accused include deputy superintendent of police E.K. Saboo and circle inspector Ajith Kumar. The three constables charged with murder are Jithakumar, Sreekumar and Soman. The case has attracted media attention at different points during the investigation, including the time when the CBI charged some of the police officers with attempting to forge documents to allegedly save their colleagues. Source: The Correspondent
BERLIN, Germany - At least 13 Polish tourists were killed and 34 injured, 16 seriously, when the coach in which they were travelling crashed near Berlin yesterday. The crash occurred when the 37-year-old driver of a Mercedes lost control of her car and rammed the coach carrying 47 passengers, mostly forestry workers from Zlocieniec in western Poland returning from a holiday in Spain.
The coach reportedly skidded and collided with the pillar of a motorway bridge near Berlin’s Schönefeld airport.
The driver of the car and a passenger are among those in a critical condition.
Polish prime minister Donald Tusk travelled to the accident scene yesterday evening after German chancellor Angela Merkel called him to express her condolences.
Visibly shaken, Mr Tusk thanked German rescuers. All I can say is many thanks for your efforts, your help, he toldreporters in German at a Berlin hospital.
Investigators said poor driving conditions, including fog and a slick road surface caused by heavy rain, were a likely factor in the incident. Nearly 300 police and rescue teams worked to rescue survivors from wreckage of the silver coach.
The most seriously injured were airlifted to hospital while those with mild injuries were treated at the scene. One psychologist told a Berlin radio station she found some survivors “wandering the motorway” when she arrived.
Many rescue workers were distraught by the sight of mangled bodies that awaited them inside the bus “It’s a sight one doesn’t forget,” said Marko Behrens, fire service chief and head of the 150-man rescue team.
Police declined to name victims until relatives had been informed. The crash-scene meant the A10 motorway, an important east-west artery leading to Frankfurt Oder and the Polish border, was blocked until the evening. A Polish government aircraft was sent to bring the dead home, while two coaches were sent for those who escaped injury.
photo illustration of upside down PI flag versus the real setup WASHINGTON — The United States government apologised for displaying the Philippine flag upside down at an event in New York attended by President Barack Obama on Friday, calling it an “honest mistake.” The red-white-and-blue Philippine flag adorned with yellow stars was hanging upside down, with red on top instead of blue, when Obama met his counterpart Philippine President Benigno Aquino during a gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the Philippines, an inverted flag signals the nation is in a state of war. “This was an honest mistake,” said Rebecca Thompson, US embassy spokesperson in Manila. “The US treasures its close relationship and close partnership with the Philippines.” Thompson did not say who made the mistake or how it happened.
WASHINGTON – A powerful computer code attacking industrial facilities around the world, but mainly in Iran, probably was created by experts working for a country or a well-funded private group, according to an analysis by a leading computer security company.
The malicious code, called Stuxnet, was designed to go after several "high-value targets," said Liam O Murchu, manager of security response operations at Symantec Corp. But both O Murchu and U.S. government experts say there's no proof it was developed to target nuclear plants in Iran, despite recent speculation from some researchers.
Creating the malicious code required a team of as many as five to 10 highly educated and well-funded hackers. Government experts and outside analysts say they haven't been able to determine who developed it or why.
The malware has infected as many as 45,000 computer systems around the world. Siemens AG, the company that designed the system targeted by the worm, said it has infected 15 of the industrial control plants it was apparently intended to infiltrate.
It's not clear what sites were infected, but they could include water filtration, oil delivery, electrical and nuclear plants.
None of those infections has adversely affected the industrial systems, according to Siemens.
U.S. officials said last month that the Stuxnet was the first malicious computer code specifically created to take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants.
The Energy Department has warned that a successful attack against critical control systems "may result in catastrophic physical or property damage and loss."
Symantec's analysis of the code, O Murchu said, shows that nearly 60 percent of the computers infected with Stuxnet are in Iran. An additional 18 percent are in Indonesia. Less than 2 percent are in the U.S. "This would not be easy for a normal group to put together," said O Murchu. He said "it was either a well-funded private entity" or it "was a government agency or state sponsored project" created by people familiar with industrial control systems. Source: AP, Yahoo News ..read more
NEW YORK—US President Barack Obama declared Friday that Southeast Asia
was becoming a positive leader on the world stage, as he convened the second US-ASEAN summit, focusing on security and economics.
"As president, I've... made it clear that the United States intends to play a leadership role in Asia," Obama said, opening the summit of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
"So we've strengthened old alliances, we've deepened new partnerships, as we are doing with China, and we've reengaged with regional organizations, including ASEAN," Obama said at the summit in New York.
Obama also confirmed he would attend the East Asia summit, in Jakarta, next year, as he presses home a strategy of enhancing US influence in the dynamic region, which he believes has been neglected by recent American policy.
"ASEAN countries are increasingly playing a leadership role in the region. ASEAN itself has the potential to be a very positive force in global affairs," Obama said, before hosting two hours of talks with regional leaders.
"That's why the United States has accepted ASEAN's invitation to join the East Asia summit which will help us meet regional and global challenges together."
Friday's talks went ahead as regional maritime and territorial disputes and economic tensions between Beijing and Washington underscore the challenges posed to regional security by the rise of China.
Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet said ASEAN was keen to take its relations with Washington to "the next level" to sustain peace, stability and development in the region.
The two-hour meeting at the Waldorf Astoria hotel was expected to discuss trade and investment, evolving East Asian security and economic architectures and so far unsuccessful US pressure for political change in Myanmar. The talks take place amid rising tensions between Japan and China over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea, and after Beijing warned Obama not to interfere in its row with southeast Asian states in the South China Sea.
China asserts complete sovereignty over the potentially resource-rich Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea.
However, ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, plus non-member Taiwan have competing claims.
Obama briefly raised the South China Sea issue with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao when they met here on Thursday.
Some observers expect the US-ASEAN meeting to issue a statement affirming freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Anticipating the New York meeting, China warned the United States on Tuesday to keep out of the dispute.
But in Hanoi in July, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said resolving the South China Sea question was "pivotal" to regional stability and called for multilateral talks -- a position opposed by Beijing.
Friday's meeting was also likely to touch, at the request of the United States, on developments in Myanmar, after Washington admitted it was disappointed with its efforts to use dialogue to promote democratic change in the military-ruled state.
Myanmar government is set to go ahead with November 7 elections, despite wide concern over their credibility.
On Thursday, Obama announced that he would visit Indonesia in November, after he was this year forced to cancel two previous attempts to make the trip to the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.
The visit will come after a stop in India and before Obama heads to South Korea and Japan.
Friday's New York meeting follows the inaugural summit that Obama held last year in Singapore with his counterparts from 10-member ASEAN. Next month, in a further deepening of US ties with the region, Clinton will attend this year's East Asia Security summit in Hanoi. ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The East Asia summit groups ASEAN with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
Almost half of the population in Nigeria's central-northern Jigawa state has been displaced after authorities had to open floodgates on two swollen rivers. "We have about two million people affected," in a state which has 4.3 million people, Umar Kyari, the spokesman of Jigawa state, said on Friday.
He said the flooding was caused after authorities opened floodgates of the Challawa and Tiga dams in neighbouring Kano state to avoid overflowing following heavy rains.
"When the rains became too much they realised the water was too much and opened the dams," Kyari told AFP news agency from Dutse, the capital of Jigawa state.
"Over 5,000 villages in 11 of our 27 local government areas were affected. It started more than two months ago and it's continuing as I speak," he said.
Aminu Mohammed, the state information commissioner, said local officials had begun putting displaced families in rural schoolhouses and other government buildings out of the reach of the flood waters.
"The flood has washed away all the farms and houses," he said.
Flood waters have submerged about 90,000 hectares [222,400 acres] of farmland with food and livestock estimated at 4.5bn naira [$30m] destroyed.
Seyi Soremekun, a spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross, said volunteers had already reached Jigawa and Sokoto states to offer assistance.
"I think the most pressing need is how to put the victims, those affected, in shelter from the harsh weather," Soremekun said.
"They need blankets; they need some personal effects to at least deal with or absorb the shock of displacement."
Kyari said that although the floodgates are opened almost every year to avoid overflowing and waters wash away villages on the low-lying plains of the state, "this year is just very bad".
Nigeria, an oil-rich nation of 150 million in West Africa, typically has strong seasonal rains that wash through the country. However, this year has seen particularly strong rains that already broke a dam and flowed over levees in another northern state.
TACOMA, Washington. – A federal judge ruled Friday that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay should be given her job back as soon as possible in the latest legal setback to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton(photo) came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but Leighton is now the second federal judge this month to deem the policy unconstitutional.
Maj. Margaret Witt was suspended in 2004 and subsequently discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy after the Air Force learned she had been in a long-term relationship with a civilian woman. She sued to get her job back.
Leighton hailed her as a "central figure in a long-term, highly charged civil rights movement." Tears streaked down Witt's cheeks and she hugged her parents, her partner and supporters following the ruling.
"Today you have won a victory in that struggle, the depth and duration of which will be determined by other judicial officers and hopefully soon the political branches of government," the judge told her, choking up as he recalled Witt's dramatic testimony about her struggles.
The ruling was the second legal victory this month for opponents of "don't ask, don't tell," and it throws the law into further disarray.
Barring an appeal, Witt will now be able to serve despite being openly gay, and a federal judge in California earlier this month ruled the law unconstitutional and is considering whether to immediately halt the ban. While such an injunction would prevent openly gay service members from being discharged going forward, it wouldn't do anything for those who have already been dismissed.
Witt's attorneys, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, say her case now provides a template for gays who have been previously discharged to seek reinstatement.
Gay rights advocates say that if the government must justify each firing under "don't ask," it will mean a slow death for the policy — even if an outright repeal isn't endorsed by Congress or the courts.
The 1993 law prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members, but allows the discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity.
The Justice Department did not immediately comment on the ruling, but James Lobsenz, Witt's attorney, said he expected an appeal.
In 2006, Leighton rejected Witt's claims that the Air Force violated her rights, following precedent that the military's policy on gays is constitutional. An appeals court panel overruled him two years later, holding that in light of a Supreme Court ruling striking down a Texas ban on sodomy, "don't ask, don't tell" intrudes on the rights of gay service members. For the government to discharge gays it must prove that their firings further military goals, the panel said.
Leighton determined after a six-day trial that Witt's discharge advanced no legitimate military interest. To the contrary, her dismissal hurt morale in her unit and weakened the squadron's ability to carry out its mission, he ruled.
"There is no evidence that wounded troops care about the sexual orientation of the flight nurse or medical technician tending to their wounds," Leighton ruled.
Leighton became emotional as he recalled Witt's testimony about the support she has received from her parents since she came out to them on the eve of filing her lawsuit.
"The best thing to come out of all this tumult is still that love and support," he said.
A crowd of spectators remained quiet until the judge left the courtroom, when it erupted in cheers.
"I'm just so thrilled I have the chance to do what I wanted to do all along: that's return to my unit," Witt said.
She also said that she appreciated the judge's recognition of the many gays who continue to quietly serve in the military.
US diplomats and other Western delegations have walked out of a United Nations summit as the Iranian president said some believe the 9/11 attacks on the US was the work of Americans to save Israel. Two US officials led the walkout as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the General Assembly in New York on Thursday. They were quickly followed by the British and other Western delegations.
PARIS - French commuters squeezed onto limited trains or fought for rare parking spots on Thursday as a second round of strikes against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 hobbled trains, planes and schools across the country.
Fewer than half of the Paris Metro's lines were working normally, according to the RATP public transit network, and about half of France's long-distance trains were expected to be cancelled, according to the SNCF state-run rail system. Major cancellations were expected at Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, the Paris airport authority said.
Security was higher than usual at some Metro stations, where soldiers armed with machine guns were on patrol. In recent days, top officials have warned that the risk of a terrorist attack on French soil was at a record high.
Union leaders are seeking a massive show of popular discontent at 232 demonstrations throughout the country yesterday, hoping to beat the September 7 protests when at least 1.1 million people took to the streets over reforms to the deficit-burdened pension system.
The strikes are seen as a test for the conservative Sarkozy and are being watched elsewhere in Europe, as governments struggle to rein in costs with unpopular austerity measures after a debt crisis in Greece scared markets and sapped confidence in the euro.
Sarkozy has indicated he is willing to make marginal concessions but remains firm on the central pillar: increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62 and pushing back the age from 65 to 67 for those who want full retirement benefits.
MANILA:The main highway in the Philippines capital, Manila, has been closed by thousands of squatters resisting eviction from their homes in Quezon City. Philippines Anti Riot Police were ordered into the 340-hectare government-owned North Triangle property to clear it of 6,000 illegal settlers.
Police say a large team of riot police and other special units are deployed in the area to protect the demolition crews and try to keep traffic flowing.
Shantytown residents are standing with arms linked across the the road with their belongings stacked in the middle of the highway behind them.
Traffic on the six-lane highway is backed up for several kilometres as slum dwellers fight running battles with police.
In April, a fire raged through the shanty residential area of Quezon City, in suburban Manila, gutting hundreds of homes and displacing thousands of people.
However, according to another sources, the squatters resisting eviction from a roadside shantytown have won a temporary reprieve after fighting with police and shutting the Philippine capital's main highway. Police in Manila say several officers were injured after slum dwellers fought running battles with officers, and blocked the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue for several hours.
By midday yesterday, the largely unprotected demolition crews had been forced to stop work after having torn down around 50 dwellings, according to reporters.
The protest prompted a court order temporarily halting the demolition of an estimated 6,000 shanties at the 340 hectare site, according to Chito Cruz, general manager of the government's National Housing Authority.
Senior police superintendent Benjamin Magalong said slum dwellers had been resisting an initial court order to remove the settlement known as the North Triangle.
The government wants to redevelop the site into a business district in a joint venture with a private firm.
Mr Cruz says there were about 6,000 families at the site, but around half have been relocated, and says he is confident the court order stopping the demolition will be lifted soon.
TEHRAN, Iran - A bomb tore through a military parade in Iran on Wednesday killing 10 people, including wives of two military chiefs, as the country marked the 30th anniversary of the start of the bloody Iran-Iraq war, reports said. Dozens of people were wounded in the blast, which occurred during an annual military parade in the northwestern Kurdish town of Mahabad, Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam said.
"The explosion happened in the morning as people were watching the military parade and it left ten dead and dozens wounded, mostly women and children. The explosives were in a bag," Al-Alam said.
Provincial governor Vahid Jalalzadeh confirmed the casualties to the official IRNA news agency.
"Counter-revolutionaries committed this savage act with the aim of taking revenge on the people of Mahabad" in West Azarbaijan province, he said.
The attack took place as Iran marked the 30th anniversary of the start of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, during which army parades are traditionally staged across the country.
Western Iran, which has a sizeable Kurdish population, has seen deadly clashes in recent years between the Iranian security forces and Kurdish rebel groups, mainly the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) operating from bases in neighbouring Iraq.
In Tehran earlier in the day, Iran's top military commander insisted that the Islamic republic's military power was for defencive purposes only.
"The increased military capability of Iran is only a deterrent against aggressors and for defending our country against enemy threats," chief of staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said in a speech.
"We can confidently tell people that our military might is superior in the region but our military superiority is not limited to the number of planes and material calculations," he boasted.
Firouzabadi, flanked by Iran's top military commanders, made the speech at a military parade where Iran's long-range Sejil, Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1 missiles were also showcased.
With a range of 1,800 to 2,000 kilometres, the missiles are theoretically capable of hitting Iran's archfoe Israel.
Iraq's Saddam Hussein attacked Iran on September 22, 1980, shortly after the Islamic revolution, starting an eight-year war during which an estimated one million people were killed on both sides.