Archive for May 17th, 2008

The Washington Post

CANNES, France — With his follow-up to “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Michael Moore wants to examine America as an empire, study its standing since the Sept. 11 attacks and present revelations to surprise audiences as much as the first film did.

But he doesn’t want to make a sequel.

“To just say it’s a sequel is so wrong,” Moore told The Associated Press on Friday at the Cannes Film Festival, where he met with potential international distributors for the film, due out in 2009.

The documentary announced this week at Cannes will be a broader chronicle than “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which took President Bush to task over the terrorist attacks and the Iraq war.

“It would be easier and safer to make a sequel, if that’s all it was, but this isn’t about Bush. We all know this. Regardless of who the president is come November, we have a big mess, a big, big mess to be cleaned up, and I don’t know whether it can be cleaned up,” Moore said. “The toxicity of the spill may be so great that there’s nothing we can do about it. If that’s the case, where are we now as America and as Americans?”

“Fahrenheit 9/11″ won the top prize at Cannes in 2004 and went on to top $100 million at the domestic box office, the only documentary to hit that mark.

Moore plans to keep details of the film to himself, saying he regretted talking too early about his health-care documentary “Sicko.” Health insurers were able to mobilize against him, which “made it impossible for me to get in anywhere” for interviews, he said.

The new film, which doesn’t yet have a title, is being financed by Overture Films, which is handling the U.S. release, and Paramount Vantage, which is overseeing international distribution.

Chris McGurk, chief executive officer of Overture, said the new film will be something of a culmination of Moore’s previous work, which includes the General Motors tale “Roger & Me” and the Academy Award-winning gun-control documentary “Bowling for Columbine.”

“The country has sort of been rotting from within, and the culprits are big business, big corporations, kind of the conservative government,” McGurk said. “`Bowling for Columbine,’ `Sicko,’ `Roger and Me’ all could have been episodes inside the context of this film.”

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Some angry conservatives will tell you they have a good reason to call the Republican presidential candidate ?Juan? McCain>. He has alienated many conservative voters with his position on immigration, and he apparently plans to worsen the problem in July with a speech before the National Council of La Raza, the vociferously anti-American and leftist pro-immigration group.

As bad as the Democrats are when it comes this kind of blatant pandering, Republicans will, apparently, try their best. Problem is, pandering to radical Hispanics won?t help McCain get to the White House, and may likely hurt him among those who will actually vote for him: conservatives opposed to illegal immigration. For those in the dark, La Raza, which means ?The Race,? is a leftist Hispanic lobbying group that openly agitates for erasing our southern border, even as it abets the work of radical Mexican activists struggling for the reconquista, or reconquest, of the American Southwest for Mexico. Simply put, La Raza and its allies and votaries do not consider themselves Americans. In that, they are correct.

The name of this organization, ? again, The Race ? speaks for itself, and its activities speak even louder. Point is, if Mr. McCain believes dancing ?round La Raza?s sombrero will win the Hispanic vote, he had better think again. Not that the pandering stops there. It doesn?t.

It?s bad enough that Mr. McCain has been snuggling with La Raza for years. He has also launched a Spanish language Web site, presumably to address all those ?Latino? voters he hopes to persuade to vote for him. Topping all that off, one of the McCain campaign?s national committee members, Sen. Lindsay Graham, has frankly labeled those who oppose illegal immigration as racists. He closed a speech, also before La Raza, with these words: ?We?re going to tell the bigots to shut up.?

Actually, Señor Graham ought to shut up, if only for Mr. McCain?s sake, but in any event Mr. McCain?s Spanish Web site and his speaking before La Raza are tactically consistent with his strategic view of immigration. He joined the bibulous senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, on the notorious immigration ?reform? bill that went down in flames thanks to conservative voters who deluged Congress with angry phone calls and letters.

Thus chastened, Mr. McCain claimed that he understood the issue, and that Americans showed him they want immediate immigration reform and border security efforts. But then he confessed he would, as president, sign a similar bill if it landed on his desk. None of this is encouraging. Indeed, Mr. McCain?s recalcitrance on this issue rather smacks of Sen. Barack Obama?s elitism so perfectly expressed in the Democrat candidate?s last two major speeches. If Mr. McCain wants to secure his conservative base, he had better get some religion on immigration, and that doesn?t mean the religion proselytized by Mr. Graham and the racialist ministers of reconquista. Rather, Mr. McCain should cancel his speech and say ?adios? to his amigos at La Raza.

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There is an unwritten rule in Congress that the appropriations process should not be used to pass major legislation. So when the Senate Appropriations Committee makes an exception to this rule, you can bet that they are doing so only to deal with some burning crisis.

For the Senate Appropriations Committee to break with tradition, the interests at stake must be so compelling that circumstances demand that the cumbersome legislative process be bypassed and that the issue be dealt with immediately. And when the legislation gets tacked on to not just any old appropriations bill, but an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund our servicemen and women fighting in Iraq, one can assume that the most vital national interests hang in the balance.

What were the compelling interests that led the august Senate Appropriations Committee to include major legislation as part of the military spending bill on Thursday? Amnesty for illegal aliens, and lots of new foreign workers for powerful business interests.

In one afternoon, the Appropriations Committee approved amnesty for 1.35 million illegal alien agricultural workers, and made available an additional 650,000 skilled and unskilled foreign guest workers over the next three years. That?s 2 million new, or newly legalized, foreign workers entering our labor force over the next three years ? even as our economy has been losing jobs.

The 2 million figure does not include the dependents of the amnesty recipients or new workers who could be admitted under existing agricultural guest worker programs. Under the agricultural amnesty ? written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at the behest of the California agricultural lobby ? the spouses of amnesty recipients will also be authorized to compete with American workers for jobs in any sector of our labor market. Nor does it include the potentially unlimited number of new guest workers agricultural employers will be able to import under a ?streamlined? H-2A program that requires the Department of Labor to issue visas within seven days of an employer?s request.

Just to be extra sure that the agriculture industry will get their workers as cheaply as possible, Sen. Feinstein threw in a provision that freezes wages for these farm workers at 2007 levels.

While the Feinstein amendment offers senators a fig leaf to avoid the dreaded ?A-Word? (that?s A-M-N-E-S-T-Y) by legalizing these workers for only five years, the sunset provision is sheer kabuki theater. Everyone knows that once we start down that road there is no turning back. At some point in the next five years, the ?temporary? amnesty will be made a permanent one and will likely include many other categories of illegal aliens ? just to be fair to everyone who broke our laws.

California agriculture is not the only business interest powerful enough to hitch a ride on the backs of our military personnel. The Maryland fishing and tourism industries also want a ready supply of cheap foreign labor, and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was happy to accommodate by offering an amendment that exempts returning unskilled or low-skilled H-2B workers from counting against the caps for that category. (Never mind that there are fewer Maryland crabs to harvest each year, and that with the skyrocketing price of gas people may not be able to afford to drive to the Eastern Shore.) Over the next three years, the cumulative number of H-2B workers admitted could reach 432,000.

And while the Appropriations Committee was piling on goodies for the low-skill industries, they found time to take care of the lobbyists for the high tech industry as well. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Microsoft/Wash.) added a provision to ?recapture? 218,000 visas for skilled foreign workers. These visas didn?t really ?escape,? so much as they just went unutilized between 1996 and 2004, especially during the years immediately after the high tech bubble burst. But now high tech employers and labor contractors want those visas back, because foreign guest workers tamp down labor costs for the industry.

Americans, no matter what they might think of the war in Iraq, genuinely support our men and women who are over there serving our nation. It seems that the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee love our troops too ? but for entirely different reasons: they provide convenient cover for passing special interest legislation to benefit illegal aliens and powerful business lobbies.

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The Washington Post

DES MOINES, Iowa — The nation’s largest single immigration raid, resulting in nearly 400 arrests earlier this week, violated the constitutional rights of workers at a meatpacking plant, a federal lawsuit says.

The lawsuit accuses the government of arbitrary and indefinite detention. It seeks to prevent the government from moving the arrested workers out-of-state as their cases wend through the system.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of about 147 of the workers rounded up Monday at an Agriprocessors Inc. meat processing plant.

The lawsuit was filed against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division and several government officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Most of the arrested workers were held in local jails. The suit notes that other raids have seen detainees transferred for detention far from attorneys, making it difficult to work on their cases.

An attorney who interviewed detainees learned that Agriprocessors obtained false identification for immigrant workers, improperly withheld money from employees’ paychecks for “immigration fees,” did not allow workers to use the restroom during 10-hour shifts, physically abused workers and didn’t compensate them for overtime work, according to the lawsuit.

As victims of alleged crimes, the workers would be eligible for certain visas that would let them gain legal status, the suit said. Some of the arrested workers have spouses and children that are U.S. citizens and could be eligible for immigration relief because of their family ties, according to the suit.

The suit noted that a number of immigrant workers’ children have been stranded with baby sitters and other caretakers as a result of the raid.

Telephone messages left for lawyers who filed the lawsuit weren’t immediately returned.

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The Washington Post

McLEAN, VA — The U.S. is its own worst enemy when it comes to the desperately important task of recruiting immigrants as spies, analysts and translators in the war on terror, new Americans are telling intelligence officials. The government’s policies raise suspicions and fear in the immigrants’ home countries and disturb potential recruits here who might otherwise want to help.

The U.S. knows it needs the help. At the heart of a Friday summit with immigrant groups was a stark reality: The intelligence agencies lack people who can speak the languages that are needed most, such as Arabic, Farsi and Pashtu. More importantly, the agencies lack people with the cultural awareness that enables them to grasp the nuances embedded in dialect, body language and even street graffiti.

At the suburban Virginia summit, not far from the CIA and National Counterterrorism Center, officials gathered more than a dozen representatives of recent immigrant and other ethnic groups to get their recruiting assistance.

“We are going to ask you to open up your communities to us,” said Ronald Sanders, an assistant national intelligence director, and the son of an Egyptian immigrant mother.

The officials got an earful in return _ about immigration and hiring rules and foreign policies that make life harder in immigrants’ old countries. The intelligence agencies’ own practices also came under criticism: extraordinary rendition, holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, harsh interrogation practices that some say amount to torture.

“Basically they’ve scared people,” said Amina Khan, of the Association of Pakistani Professionals and an attorney formerly with the U.S. Energy Department.

Immigrants “have always seen and regarded the United States as a law-abiding country,” Khan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Now we are the only superpower in the entire world. For us, when we hear things like renditions or Guantanamo Bay, which for many is considered outside the letter of the law, there is an element of fear.”

Many immigrants come to the United States already fearing the intelligence agencies of their home countries.

A man named Aung, from Myanmar, said his countrymen in the United States are spied on by Myanmar agents.

“Basically by attending this conference I myself am on the list,” he said. It will complicate his visits home to see his father, he said, asking that his full name not be used.

“In our culture it is looked down on to be a … spy,” added Humira Noorestani, whose family is from Afghanistan.

Some U.S. policies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks made things worse, said Kareem Shora, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Read More

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The Washington Post

For about six months last year, Pedro Clavjio and other painters and carpenters on his work crew toiled full days and sometimes nights at a Department of Justice building downtown.

But as they spruced up the building, a civil lawsuit alleges, Clavjio and his co-workers were being unlawfully exploited by their employer, Hann & Hann Inc. construction services, a Rockville-based contractor.

For work there and elsewhere, Clavjio and the other laborers, mostly immigrants earning $10 to $20 an hour, weren’t paid overtime they were entitled to and in some cases weren’t paid for regular work hours, according to the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Hann & Hann also made unauthorized deductions from workers’ pay, charging them for tools such as paintbrushes and uniforms that bore the company’s name, the lawsuit alleges.

“We all have dignity,” Clavjio, 42, a Silver Spring resident, said in an interview conducted in Spanish. “What happened to me and the other workers isn’t right. We’re looking for justice.”

Clavjio, a legal immigrant from Peru, said he often worked 56 hours a week but was paid for 40.

Hann & Hann is owned and run by company President Terry R. Hann, of Potomac, and his brother Gary F. Hann, of Gaithersburg. The Hanns did not respond to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment.

Robert J. Smith, an attorney for the company, said Hann & Hann “strives to abide by all of the applicable laws relating to its employees.

Read More

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The Wasington Post

LOS ANGELES — Three Mexican men held dozens of illegal immigrants in a squalid “drop house” in South Los Angeles, where one woman was raped and others say they were threatened with sexual assault, authorities said Friday.

Jose Teul, 23, Daniel Pena, 18, and Saul Mendez, 35, were charged with harboring illegal immigrants at the two-story home that immigration agents raided Wednesday, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

The three were arrested along with 57 immigrants, including teenagers and toddlers, from Central and South America, Kice said. It wasn’t immediately clear where the three was being held or if they had attorneys.

Kice said that an agent involved in the raid described conditions in the house as “utter squalor with trash and food piled up two to three feet high inside.”

Inside the home agents found a pistol and a stun gun that the men allegedly used to threaten the immigrants, said Kice.

According to an affidavit ICE filed in the case, Pena repeatedly raped a woman who had been at the house since last summer. The woman, now seven months pregnant, said Pena threatened her with a gun.

Several other female immigrants said Pena and Teul tried to rape them, relenting only when the women’s young children began to cry, according to the affidavit.

The harboring charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The sentence will be harsher if the defendants are found to have committed sexual assault or brandished weapons during the crime, said Kice.

Drop houses are commonly used to hold illegal immigrants until they are transported to their ultimate destination.

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North American Union