Daily Archives: April 19, 2008

British prime minister calls for global `interdependence’

AP | Apr 18, 2008

By DENISE LAVOIE

BOSTON (AP) — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his first foreign policy address in the United States, called Friday on the U.S. and Europe to lead a new era of global “interdependence” aimed at solving international problems such as terrorism, poverty and climate change.

“We urgently need to step out of the mindset of competing interests and instead find our common interests, and we must summon up the best instincts and efforts of humanity in a cooperative effort to build new international rules and institutions for the new global era,” Brown said to about 350 invited guests at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Brown cited Kennedy’s Independence Day speech in 1962, when the president proposed a “new and global declaration of interdependence.” Brown said Kennedy’s call for public service “still reverberates around the world and always will.”

Noting Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps, Brown called for the creation of “a new kind of global peace and reconstruction corps,” which he described as an organization of trained civilian experts available any time to rebuild states.

Brown also talked about U.S. leadership following World War II, including the Marshall Plan, which funneled millions in economic aid and technical assistance to help rebuild Europe.

“We must summon inspiration from the vision, humanity and leadership shown by those reformers to guide our actions today,” he said.

Brown called on the World Bank to focus on reducing poverty and said the institution should become a bank for both development and the environment by transferring billions in loans and grants to encourage the poorest countries to adopt alternative sources of energy.

The British leader, who has set a mandatory target in the U.K. to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050, insisted that a new global pact on reducing carbon emission must be agreed on by the end of 2009.

He said the deal, which would replace the Kyoto Protocol, should be led by the United Nations and needs to set binding targets for all developed countries.

Brown praised President Bush for leading the world in an attempt to root out terrorism and “our common commitment that there be no safe haven for terrorists.”

Brown said the United States and Europe should act as “hardheaded internationalists,” and use “diplomatic, economic, and yes, when necessary military action — to prevent crimes against humanity when states can no longer do so.”

U.S. economic slowdown likely to bring Mexican workers north

McClatchy | Apr 18, 2008

By Franco Ordonez

TEZIUTLAN, Mexico — As the U.S. economy heads south, Mexicans may have to head north.

That’s the fear of many workers here, where the slowdown in the United States already has cut production at manufacturing plants whose output is largely sold in the United States .

“If it’s bad there, it will be worse here,” said Bartolo Juarez , 35, who makes jeans for Levis and Guess at a Teziutlan factory and already has discussed moving to the United States if his job here vanishes. His 12-year-old daughter, Gabriela, has broken down in tears more than once after hearing her parents talk about her father leaving for the States, her mother said.

“It’s a sacrifice. I don’t want to go, but I know I can get a good-paying job in San Antonio ,” even in troubled economic times, Juarez said. It’s always easier to find work in the United States than in Mexico , he added, and for five times more money.

Economists say that U.S. recessions historically are tougher on Mexico than they are on the United States , and that while U.S. officials say that border security measures, such as building a wall along the Mexican border, have reduced illegal immigration in recent months, they won’t hold back the flood of workers that’s likely if Mexican factories close.

The majority of the 72,000 people who live in this rainy town tucked up in the cloud forests of the Sierra Norte mountains in central Mexico work in more than 30 factories that specialize in assembling pants for distribution in the United States .

Rodrigo Martinez , the coordinator of the National Job Service in Teziutlan , estimates that 10 percent of the community already has gone to the United States in search of work after losing jobs here or deciding to find better pay there.

As demand for Mexican-made pants declines in the United States , he expects more workers to go.

“This community is almost 100 percent maquiladora,” he said, using the Spanish word for factories that assemble goods for U.S. consumption. “Closing some of those shops would affect us greatly.”

Manufacturing is by far Mexico’s most vulnerable sector during a U.S. downturn, economists say. More than 80 percent of Mexican exports are destined to go north. A drop in U.S. demand would cut into Mexican production levels and employment.

As the old adage goes, “When Uncle Sam sneezes, Mexico catches a cold.”

Jaime Ros , an economics professor at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at Notre Dame , said the Mexican manufacturing industry already was experiencing a pinch from the U.S. economic downturn. Those who lose their jobs will “certainly add to the supply of immigrants” heading north, he said.

Ros, who formerly taught at Mexico City’s Center of Investigation and Economic Studies , is skeptical that U.S. border-security measures will have a significant impact when so many desperate immigrants see the U.S. as their only option for work.

While the crash of the U.S. housing market has reduced demand for immigrant workers in construction, immigrants are likely to find jobs at hotels, restaurants and other services that won’t be as affected by a U.S. recession.

The U.S. learned how closely Mexico’s fate is tied to its economy in 2001. At the time, Mexico’s maquiladora industry was at its peak, with more than 3,000 companies employing about 1.2 million workers. Then the U.S. went into a recession after the dot-com crash. Hundreds of maquiladora plants closed as a result from 2001 to 2004 and more than 200,000 people lost their jobs.

Maquiladora workers who lose their jobs are more likely than other Mexicans to move north, said Kathy Kopinak , a senior fellow at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at University of California San Diego .

Because many maquiladoras have been set up in border towns, Kopinak said, workers have family members and friends on both sides of the border who can assist in labor migration.

Mexico hasn’t fallen into a recession, but several economists say that’s the direction the country is going if the U.S. recession is deeper than expected.

Mexico’s economy grew 3.3 percent last year. Wachovia Corp. forecasts this year’s growth to slow to 2.5 percent. Others are less optimistic: The Economist Intelligence Unit forecast that Mexico’s growth would be just 1.9 percent this year.

“The risk is that if we have a deeper, darker, longer recession than what we are expecting, then Mexico is going to catch a pretty bad cold and it could pull Mexico into a recession itself,” said Jay Bryson , a global economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte .

Mexican officials say their economy is more resilient now than in it was in 2001. They say that a pickup in automobile exports to Europe and Asia will help offset decreased demand from the United States . Central bank Governor Guillermo Ortiz said last month that Mexican exports to countries other than the U.S were growing by 30 percent a year.

President Felipe Calderon has announced several initiatives intended to weather a U.S. economic slowdown.

Last month, he announced a $5.6 billion stimulus package of tax breaks, discounts and bank loans. Last week, he called for sweeping changes in Pemex , Mexico’s ailing oil company and the country’s largest source of foreign exchange.

Calderon’s initiatives may never be approved, however. Opposition legislators have seized control of Mexico’s Congress , some spending the night in sleeping bags, to protest the bill, which they claim is an effort to privatize the state oil company.

Over drinks after their shift at an auto parts company that feeds the giant Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico , Antonio Paredes , 24, and Jaime Galicia Alonso , 23, were discussing the likelihood of an economic downturn.

Paredes said he’d already talked to his wife about accompanying him to the United States . He’s also talked with a co-worker about getting in touch with his son in Chicago , where Paredes is considering moving.

Galicia said he’d do whatever he could to stay in Mexico , but he acknowledged that it will be tough. Many people from his village already have left for the United States .

“If you lose your job and you can find another job, you stay in Mexico ,” Galicia said. “Otherwise you’re almost obligated to go to the United States .”

Aboriginal stolen children ‘were used in leprosy tests’

Independent | Apr 17, 2008

By Rachel Shields

The Australian government has launched an investigation into claims that aboriginal children seized from their parents during the 1920s and 1930s were secretly used as guinea pigs for leprosy treatments.

The allegations surfaced at a Senate inquiry this week into plans to compensate the “stolen generation” of aboriginal Australians who were taken from their families as part of a government programme.

“As well as being taken away, they were used… There are a lot of things that Australia does not know about,” Kathleen Mills, a member of the Stolen Generations Alliance and an indigenous elder, told the hearing.

Ms Mills said children held at a compound in Darwin were injected with serums designed to be used in the treatment of leprosy – a practice which seriously damaged their health. Her uncle, who worked there as a medical orderly, had told her about the sinister goings-on.

“He said it made our people very, very ill. The treatment almost killed them,” she told reporters outside the hearing. “It was a common experience and a common practice.”

Australia’s Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, yesterday ordered an investigation into the accusations, asking that the State Health Department and the Department of Indigenous Affairs comb their archives for any evidence of such abuses. “These are obviously very serious allegations and we will do everything we can to ascertain the facts of the situation,” she said.

Between the late 19th century and the late 1960s, 100,000 aboriginal children were victims of a government policy that saw them taken from their homes and placed with white families, or in orphanages. The latest claims of abuse come just two months after the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, offered a historic apology to the children of the “stolen generation”, condemning the period as “a blemished chapter of ournation’s history”.

While the Prime Minister may have apologised for “the indignity and degradation” inflicted on the aboriginal community, his refusal to offer compensation has led many indigenous leaders to dismiss the move as a”cut-price sorry”.

Australia’s 450,000 aborigines are the country’s most disadvantaged social group, with a life expectancy 17 years lower than their white counterparts. They are three times more likely to be unemployed, and 13 times more likely to be imprisoned.

An infectious disease specialist from Sydney University has questioned the claims that aboriginal children were subject to unusual or inhumane practices.

Warwick Britton told ABC radio that in the 1920s and 1930s, leprosy sufferers were treated with chaulmoogra oil, which was painful when injected. “It is possible that this has been misunderstood as some kind of guinea pig therapy when in fact it was a treatment that was being used around the world,” he said.