Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Post

File this under "a damn crying shame":

West Africa's cocoa industry is still trafficking children and using forced child labour despite nearly a decade of efforts to eliminate the practices, according to an independent audit published by Tulane University.

A U.S.-sponsored solution called the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed in 2001 by cocoa industry members to identify and eliminate cocoa grown using forced child labour. A child-labour-free certification process was supposed to cover 50 per cent of cocoa growing regions in West Africa by 2005 and 100 per cent by the end of 2010. But independent auditors at Tulane University's Payson Center for International Development said in a late September report that efforts have not even come close to these targets.

"Hundreds of thousands of children are involved in work on cocoa farms," the report said. Child trafficking for labour also continues virtually unabated as well, it said.

Thousands of children travel from impoverished neighbouring countries to the cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, where some of them live in substandard conditions and receive little or no pay.

Research in border areas shows that only a tiny proportion of children in cocoa farming ever see a police officer on their way over the border, and that police officers are not properly trained to deal with such crossings. Almost none of the children have any contact with NGOs or anti-child-labour organizations while working.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol set up community-based education and monitoring programs in Ivory Coast and Ghana — the world's two largest cocoa growers — to improve the situation. The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an industry funded organization charged with implementing the protocol, said because of the protocol thousands of children are no longer working in exploitative conditions on cocoa plantations in both countries.

But industry efforts are "uneven" and "incomplete," the report said. Less than three per cent of cocoa growing villages have been visited by monitors in Ivory Coast and across the border in Ghana, only 13 per cent of communities have been impacted by the program.

The Swiss non-governmental group Bern Declaration, which campaigns for fairness in international trade, said Tuesday that the study's findings prove the existence of "the worst forms of child labour on West African cocoa plantations and the fact that efforts to date by the chocolate industry to prevent this have failed."

Chocolate (used to feed fat people in the West) should be a thing of ultimate good, not one in which children are exploited.

China is furious that no one will let it have its own way:

Jailed Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for two decades of non-violent struggle for human rights, infuriating China, which called the award "an obscenity".

The prize shines a spotlight on human rights in China at a time when it is starting to play a leading role on the global stage as a result of its growing economic might.

"We have to speak when others cannot speak," Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told Reuters. "As China is rising, we should have the right to criticize."

The award drew muted reactions from the European Union, France, Germany and Britain.

But last year's winner, U.S. President Barack Obama, accused China of falling behind on political reforms as its economy surges, and urged it to free Liu Xiaobo as soon as possible.

Liu Xiaobo rose to prominence as a strike leader during the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989.

He was sentenced to 11 years' jail last December for writing a manifesto calling for free speech and multi-party elections.

The Nobel Committee praised him for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights" and reiterated its belief in a "close connection between human rights and peace"....

China, which had warned against giving the prize to Liu, summoned Norway's ambassador to protest.
"This is an obscenity against the peace prize," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

"(Liu's) actions are diametrically opposed to the aims of the Nobel prize. Nobel's behest was that the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to somebody who promoted peace between peoples, promoted international friendship and disarmament."

Beijing residents reported that CNN and BBC broadcasts were cut when the prize was mentioned.

Activists say human rights have dropped down the agenda of Western powers wary of upsetting China, now the world's second largest economy.

Britain, France, Germany and the European Union all congratulated Liu, saying they had lobbied for his release from prison, but were careful to avoid direct criticism of China.

Seriously, China is like the spoiled child who ruins a party. Put him in his room without dessert. Stand outside his room and describe in rich detail the dessert he is missing. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is the weak-willed parent that will give into China's tantrums.

It's a small world after all:

The Islamic militant whose disclosures under U.S. interrogation in Afghanistan triggered Europe's terror alert is an old friend of a man convicted in the 9/11 attacks and, as the strikes were being planned, frequented the same mosque where the Hamburg-based plotters often met, officials say.

Hamburg security officials in August shuttered the Taiba mosque, known until two years ago as al-Quds, because of fears it was becoming a magnet for homegrown extremists who, unlike foreigners, could not be expelled from the country.

Ahmad Wali Siddiqui, a 36-year-old German of Afghan descent arrested by the U.S. military in July in Afghanistan has emerged as the latest link between Germany and al-Qaida's worldwide terror campaign. 

Siddiqui is believed to have been part of the Hamburg militant scene that also included key 9/11 plotters.

Intelligence officials say he was a friend of Mounir el Motassadeq, who was convicted by a German court in 2006 of being an accessory to the murder of the 246 passengers and crew on the four jetliners used in the 2001 terrorist attacks, and also frequented the al-Quds mosque.

Motassadeq was found to have aided suicide hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah by helping them keep up the appearance of being regular university students — paying their tuition and rent — though it was never established whether he knew of the planned timing, dimension or targets of the attacks.

"Siddiqui is a long-term member who has been a friend of Motassadeq since 1997," said a senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

I'm sure this is little comfort to the twits who think the September 11th  attacks were an inside job but to everyone else, this is another page in the terrible story.

It stuns me that this even happened:

Authorities say the concentration of toxic heavy metals where Hungary's massive red sludge spill entered the Danube has dropped to the level allowed in drinking water.

The test results released by the National Catastrophe Management Directorate on Friday further allay concerns that the river would be significantly polluted.

Also Friday, the disaster's confirmed death toll rose from four to seven. An 81-year-old man died from injuries sustained in the torrent and two bodies were found on the outskirts of the village of Devecser.

The red sludge devastated creeks and rivers near the spill site and entered the Danube on Thursday, moving downstream toward Hungary's immediate neighbours, Croatia, Serbia and Romania.

North Koreans will follow Kim Jong-Il's equally fat son:

A top official told APTN on Friday that North Koreans will be honoured to follow the youngest son of Kim Jong Il as the third-generation leader of the communist nation.

The remarks were the first official comment about the future of Kim Jong Un, who just last week made his public debut.

Yang Hyong Sop, a top official in North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, referred to the 20-something Kim as "the young general" during an exclusive interview with APTN.

"Our people take pride in the fact that they are blessed with great leaders from generation to generation," Yang said.

"Our people are honoured to serve the great President Kim Il Sung and the great leader Kim Jong Il," he added. "Now we also have the honour of serving young Gen. Kim Jong Un."

I don't know about "honoured" in so far as "they will follow Kim Fatty, Jr. or be sent to Yodok". I think that is what they meant to say.

Do graphic images cross a line? If you can allow Jew-hating week (or Israel Apartheid Week), "Pride Week", dead seals and oil sands photos splayed everywhere, then you can allow graphic and sordid images of dead babies to be seen. If you can force a student body to pay for services they don't want or need, then you can at least let them determine whether or not they are adult enough to listen or ignore their fellow students. Better yet, contact the geography department head and ask him for a map. Have him calculate the distance between Canada and North Korea. If it is determined that there is a significant distance, then why don't we forget the whole thing? I don't see why we should be shielding a sad number of infantile censors from what people are already paying for.

Police inaction breeds community-policing:

Wang “David” Chen, the Toronto grocer charged for detaining a thief, for the first time told a packed and rapt courtroom on Thursday his own version of what happened in May of 2009 at his store, the Lucky Moose Food Mart.

The testimony painted a picture of a harried shopkeeper who works 19-hour days, preyed on by petty thieves and frustrated by the glacial response of Toronto police. He has, it appears, grown accustomed to using his own methods to deter shoplifters.

In fact, Mr. Chen revealed that on May 22, 2009, the day before the theft that landed Mr. Chen in court, he stopped a woman who had stolen some apricots.

“I asked her to come in the store and pay for the apricots,” Mr. Chen, 37, who wore a black sweatshirt and olive green hoodie, told a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice.

When the woman refused, the Lucky Moose owner had her sit down on the floor in the store between two ­cashiers. She waited there for five hours before police arrived at 10 p.m. The police officers dissuaded Mr. Chen from pressing charges against the woman, he said.

On an earlier occasion, a man who had taken some apples and refused to pay for them waited at the store 3½ hours for police to show up, the shop owner said.

“The police said, ‘Don’t come here again.’ They let him go.”

Mr. Chen is charged along with two other store employees with assault and forcible confinement for tying up a thief, Anthony Bennett, and throwing him into the store’s delivery van, on May 23, 2009.

The case has become ­national news, with two MPs in Ottawa submitting private member’s bills to Parliament to change the law on citizens’ arrests.

The current law says such arrests are only legal if the thief, when stopped by a shopkeeper, has stolen ­merchandise in his hands.

A court last year convicted Mr. Bennett of stealing from the Lucky Moose, but reduced his sentence from three months to 30 days after he agreed to testify against Mr. Chen.

After stealing 12 money tree plants, also known as Malabar chestnuts, from the store at 12:30 p.m. — a theft the store caught on its security cameras — Mr. Bennett returned to the Lucky Moose an hour later, Mr. Chen told the court.

Mr. Chen said he confronted Mr. Bennett and told him to pay $60 for the plants and that he would not call police.

“He told me, ‘I’ve never been here before. Go f— yourself, Chinese. Stop bullsh-tting, and don’t stop me,’ ” Mr. Chen, who normally spoke through a Cantonese interpreter, told the court in English. Mr. Bennett then ran off.

“He is a known thief on the streets of Chinatown,” Mr. Chen added.

Peter Lindsay, Mr. Chen’s lawyer, asked what would have happened if Mr. Chen had not acted.

“He would continue to steal my property and steal my flowers,” Mr. Chen replied.

That was why he chased the thief down the block and stopped him, at which point Mr. Bennett punched and elbowed him. The court saw photos of bruising on the shopkeeper’s body.

Mr. Chen said he told Qing Li, one of his co-accused, to go into a wholesale grocery store he owned around the corner from the Lucky Moose and get some rope to tie up the thief.

“We tied up his feet so he won’t be able to run away,” Mr. Chen said. “He was using his hand to hit us with his fist, so I tied up his hands to bring him back to the store.”

Asked how long he expected police to take, Mr. Chen replied, “About four hours.”

But police, summoned by 911 calls from onlookers, arrived in minutes. Three officers told the court yesterday they ordered three grocery store employees to the ground, handcuffed them behind the back, and then took them to the police station, where they took off all their clothes for a “level three” search.

Mr. Chen, his brother-in-law Qing Ping Li, and his employee Jie Chen, who all work at the Lucky Moose, are charged. Police said they found a yellow box cutter on Jie Chen and an orange box cutter on David Chen.
The two initially faced concealed weapons charges, which the Crown has since withdrawn.

Most grocers use box cutters to open boxes.
What are we paying taxes for, anyway?

Now, let us butt our heads in friendship.

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