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U.S. puts nations on notice for trafficking


U.S. puts nations on notice for trafficking

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration last week warned more than a dozen states, including perennial rogues Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar, of possible sanctions for failing to do enough to fight human trafficking.

The State Department’s 10th annual review of global efforts to eliminate the trade in human beings and sexual slavery put 13 countries on notice that they are not complying with minimum international standards and could face U.S. penalties.

Other nations receiving a failing grade were the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Kuwait, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Another 58 countries were placed on a “watch list” that could lead to sanctions unless their records improve.

For the first time, the United States was included in the department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report” and was given high marks. The report said that while trafficking is a problem here, the U.S. is complying with all minimum standards. It placed the U.S. along with 27 other mainly European countries in the top “Tier 1” category for compliance.

“We believe it is important to keep the spotlight on ourselves,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in presenting the report. “Human trafficking is not someone else’s problem. Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn’t exist in our own communities.”

Deadline nears for Haitians’ deportation reprieve

MIAMI — More than 50,000 Haitians have applied to legally stay and work in the U.S. so they can send money back to their earthquake-stricken homeland.

Immigration advocates are urging others not to miss their chance. The deadline to apply for temporary protected status is July 20.

Only Haitians already living in the U.S. illegally when the earthquake struck Jan. 12 are eligible.

Temporary protected status allows immigrants from countries experiencing armed conflict or environmental disasters to stay and work in the U.S. for 18 months.

U.S. immigration officials initially said they expected about 100,000 to 200,000 applications. The government now says that’s the number of applications they can handle. They actually expect about 70,000 applications by mid-July.

Obama taps Graves for federal appeals post

JACKSON, Miss. — President Barack Obama has nominated Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Graves Jr., to a federal appeals post.

Graves’ nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans was announced last week. The 5th Circuit hears appeals from the federal courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Obama said in a statement that Graves has shown integrity and commitment to public service throughout his career.

Graves is now the only black justice on the state Supreme Court, where he’s served since 2001. Before that, he was a Hinds County Circuit Court judge for 10 years.

Witness: Station shooting victim didn’t resist

LOS ANGELES — A woman who recorded video of an unarmed black man being shot by a former transit officer says she didn’t see the man resist or fight with police.

Karina Vargas testified in Los Angeles Superior Court last week that she watched as officers tried to control a group of young men on a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform in Oakland on New Year’s Day 2009.

Vargas says she recorded Officer Johannes Mehserle as he tried to handcuff one of the men, Oscar Grant. She said Grant was cooperating before he was shot by the officer, who is white.

Now 28-year-old Mehserle is accused of killing 22-year-old Grant while he was lying on the ground. Mehserle has pleaded not guilty to murder.

The defense argues Mehserle made a mistake by pulling out his gun instead of a Taser.

But during his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Dave Stein told the jury that Mehserle’s anger led to his shooting of Grant. Stein said Mehserle allowed emotion to take over his judgment and self-control during the incident.

Prosecutors have said Mehserle intended to shoot Grant, and he used his gun because officers were losing control of the situation.

Clinton unveils Caribbean security plan

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Alarmed by a dramatic increase in narcotics-related violence in the Caribbean, the Obama administration is pledging to help island nations combat drug and weapons traffickers.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Barbados for a regional meeting of foreign ministers, unveiled the administration’s Caribbean Basin Security Initiative last week.

The program devotes $124 million over two years to help countries counter the illegal narcotics and arms trade and improve their ability to prosecute offenders.

Caribbean islands had one of their bloodiest years on record in 2009 as they battled drug-fueled crime, with Jamaica, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico hitting or coming close to all-time highs for homicides.

The broader deteriorating situation reflects the drug trade’s deep entrenchment in the region, with high murder rates becoming a fact of life at tourist havens that traffickers use as transit points for South American drugs bound for Europe and the United States.

Associated Press