Fri May 16, 2008 2:48pm EDT
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - A special U.N. human rights investigator will visit the United States this month to probe racism, an issue that has forced its way into the race to secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
The United Nations said Doudou Diene would meet federal and local officials, as well as lawmakers and judicial authorities during the May 19-June 6 visit.
"The special rapporteur will...gather first-hand information on issues related to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance," a U.N. statement said on Friday.
His three-week visit, at U.S. government invitation, will cover eight cities -- Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Omaha, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Race has become a central issue in the U.S. election cycle because Sen. Barack Obama, the frontrunner in the battle for the Democratic nomination battle, stands to become the country's first African American president.
His campaign has increased turnout among black voters but has also turned off some white voters in a country with a history of slavery and racial segregation.
Diene, a Senegalese lawyer who has served in the independent post since 2002, will report his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council next year.
However, the United Nations has almost no clout when it comes to U.S. domestic affairs and is widely perceived by many as interfering. The United States is not among the 47 member states of the Geneva-based forum, but has observer status.
In a report last year he said Islamophobia had grown worldwide since the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States, carried out by al-Qaeda militants.
A U.N. panel which examined the U.S. record on racial discrimination last March urged the United States to halt racial profiling of Americans of Arab, Muslim and South Asian descent and to ensure immigrants and non-nationals are not mistreated.
It also said America should impose a moratorium on the death penalty and stop sentencing young offenders to life in prison until it can root out racial bias from its justice system.
Racial minorities were more likely than whites to be sentenced to death or to life without parole as juveniles, according to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It monitors compliance with an international treaty which Washington ratified in 1994.
U.S. officials told the body, made up of 18 independent experts, that they were combating hate crimes such as displays of hangman's nooses and police brutality against minorities.
Some 800 racially motivated incidents against people perceived to be Arab, Muslim, Sikh or South Asian had been investigated since the September 11 attacks, they said at the time.
Substantial progress had been made over the years in addressing disparities in housing, education, employment and health care, according to a U.S. report submitted to the talks.
(Additional reporting by Matt Bigg in Atlanta; Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Jon Boyle)
Become a Friend of the Congo
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
For the past two weeks, natural disasters have completely disrupted the peace and killed thousands of people in Southeast Asia. In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, the Nigoris Cyclone wiped out Yangon City and its surrounding areas, nearly leaving over 40,000 injured over 128,000 dead. Up to 2.5 million survivors were in an urgent need for food, water shelter, and medicine. A week after this devastation, a massive earthquake struck central China. As a result, over 15,000 people died. About 25,000 people are still trapped in fallen homes, schools, and cut roads. Both countries have been offered so much international aid from different nations. Initially, Burma restricted international help teams for more than a week. Burma's military tried to handle relief efforts on their own, but failed due to insufficient helicopters.
Today, China is making more progress than Burma. China has proven to better equipped in mobilizing massive rescue efforts. Chinese authorities have successfully sent thousands of troops and police officers to the epicenter. Unlike China, Burma’s crisis continues to worsen. The cyclone effects is perpetuating Burma’s water & air pollution, the spread of diseases, homelessness, and starvation. The UN predicts that the death toll will reach up 100,000 by the end of this month.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
On Monday, Kenya launched its first recovery stage, which is called Operation Rudi Nyumbani. Operation Rudi Nyumbani a.k.a. Operation Return Home is an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) resettlement, which authorized all refugees to return back to their homes after the post-election crisis. After the signing of the power-sharing agreement in February, both sides agreed that Kalenjin and Kikuyu ethnic groups must live in peace and harmony in order for Kenya to prosper.
During that Monday morning, buses and military trucks first headed to the Rift Valley to load thousands of refugees. Soldiers and police officers were sent as guard transporters to ensure that all IDPs were sent back to their homes with tight security. In addition, church leaders were sent as mediators. As a result, about 6,000 were returned back to Molo and 3,855 were taken back to Trans Nzola District.
Some survivors were thrilled to return home due to their horrible experience in the wet camps. Some stated that the wet camps were like prison. According to BBC News, Mary Wanbui, a Kenyan mother of five, quoted, "Look around this place, there are no toilets, bathrooms or anything else. it's been unbearable. For the last four months, we had to deal with crime, spread of diseases, and starvation.“
Although survivors are now authorized to return home, many people are still frustrated. Some people are returning back home to nothing. Others refused to leave the wet camps unless the government enforces improved security and compensation for all their losses. Unemployment and housing is the biggest loss for many survivors. Since the election crisis weakened the economy, Kenya now faces economic turmoil. Some of the top industries have suffered from high inflation and lost many workers. Many workers have went on strike and filed lawsuits. In terms of land property, homes or roof tops were burned down from repeated attacks. Homelessness has skyrocketed in rural areas. Many people are still reluctant from living with those people that have robbed them from their property, which had taken them generations to put together. Legislators now question on whether the government should rush the victims back to their homes is the most appropiate decision. Before returning home, the government should first listen to the grievances of those who were evicted. One victim quoted, “How can you go back to the same piece of land where your house was razed to the ground, your children hacked to death and your crops destroyed. Can you live in harmony with the very neighbours who destroyed your life?”
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator Hilary Clinton by seven votes on Saturday in Guam's Presidential Caucus.
According to the latest results, Obama won 2,269 votes, which is 50.1 percent. This places his total delegate votes at 1,736 delegates. Clinton finished with 2,257 votes or 49.9 percent. She currently has a total of 1,599 delegates.
Overrall, the total count was more than 4,500 ballots. Each candidate only earned two delegates. Both candidates did not campaign in Guam. However, both Obama and Clinton promised Guamanians better health care plans. According to Pacific News, Obama stated during a phone interview that he would " support the rexamination of the $5.4 million Medicaid spending limited imposed on the terroritory and promise more medical providers. "
Also, Obama said to his voters that during his time with a U.S. military unit from Guam on a trip to Africa that his Hawai'i roots make him "especially sensitive" to the needs of islanders.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Havanna, Cuba- On Friday, President Raul Castro announced that Cubans are now authorized cell phone services. This is the first official change that shows that Castro's 76-year old regime is willing to lift a major restriction.
The next day, hundreds of Cubans brought cellular phones at local states-owned telephone offices. Before this week, only top government officials, foreigners, and foreign employees were allowed to use cell phones. Now, ordinary local people can purchase cheap pre-paid cellular phone plans. Since 1991, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.(ETECSA) have only profited from limited customers. Now, ETESCSA are thrilled to work with more customers.
Also, Cubans are now allowed to buy DVD players, computers, and other electronic goods. However, ordinary people are still limited to internet access and home ownership.
President's Raul Castro new decision questions the Cuban government. Could this be the first step in completely revoluctizing Cuba's restrictive system. Already, the people of Cuba are excited for this new small freedom and hoping this could be a way of improving their lives.