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Israel admits torture

Feb. 11, 2000

Israel has released a damning government report accusing its own agents of systematically torturing Palestinians, and lying about it, during the Palestinian uprising from 1988-1995. Based on an investigation conducted by the Israeli state comptroller, the report reveals that Israel’s internal security force, Shin Bet, regularly transgressed their own guidelines–which actually permitted “mild physical pressure”–during interrogations. The revelations confirm what human rights groups have already documented, which is that Israeli agents commonly used beating, kicking, shaking, and exposure to extreme heat and cold in order to force information out of Palestinian prisoners.

Read the GUARDIAN (UK) story.


Family values, Tennessee-style

Feb. 10, 2000

You know you have problems when your own dad commends your killer.

That’s what happened to Keith Podzsebka, 41, of Coker Creek, Tenn., according to the NASHVILLE TENNESSEEAN. The 8-year-old son of Podzebka’s girlfriend stabbed him to death in January in retaliation for Podzebka’s abuse of the child’s mother. Not even Podzebka’s father, Fred, blamed the child. “If he was sticking up for his mom, I give him a gold star,” Fred Podzebka said, adding, “I knew that Keith was abusive. This is not the first woman who said he had beaten her.”

Fred Podzebka, along with his wife, Sharron, have sprung to the 8-year-old’s defense for a reason: He has been charged with first-degree murder. According to 10th District Attorney General Jerry Estes, there is even a possibility the boy could be tried in adult court.

Read the TENNESSEEAN story.


Is Lady Liberty black?

Feb. 9, 2000

National Park Service researchers think the Statue of Liberty may have been originally intended as a memorial to commemorate the emancipation of African Americans from slavery. According to the ASSOCIATED PRESS, the agency launched the investigation in response to an unsourced document that has been circulating on the Internet for several years. The unconfirmed report claims that not only is Lady Liberty dedicated to liberated slaves rather than European immigrants, but that the original model for the famous statue was a black woman.

Although the agency’s findings will not be released until this summer, park service researchers are already citing some preliminary evidence which lends credence to the new theory. For example, French historian Edouard de Laboulaye originally conceived of the statue in 1865, the year of the Yankee victory, and was a dedicated abolitionist. An early scale model of the statue, completed in 1870 and now kept at the Museum of the City of New York, has a broken chain around one hand (the actual statue has a more subtle broken shackle on her foot), which supporters of the theory see as evidence that she is a freed slave. There are also clear signs that the monument’s traditional meaning emerged over time. Lines from the “huddled masses” poem–the most commonly cited evidence linking the statue to immigration–were not inscribed upon Lady Liberty’s pedestal until 1903, 17 years after the monument was originally dedicated.

Read the AP story.


Kids’ labors lost

Feb. 8, 2000

For a respectable business owner to advocate a scaling down of child labor laws would seem, at first, like social and financial suicide. The very term “child labor” conjures up images of soot-faced chimney sweeps or sweatshop slaves working for two cents a day. But when Jim Schrock, a grocery store manager in Roaring Fork Valley, Colo., began employing children as young as nine years old, the community couldn’t have been more supportive, the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR reports.

Two years ago, Schrock, desperate to fill long-vacated positions for grocery baggers in his Village Market, began hiring local children — ranging in age from 9 to 14 — to work after school and on weekends. He paid them $7 an hour plus tips, to the delight of both the kids and their parents. When he was told it was illegal to employ any person under age 14, though, Schrock had to let the kids go.

The issue didn’t die. In Roaring Fork Valley, controversy continues to stir over whether existing child labor laws are unfair. The issue is of particular significance in an economy with a miniscule unemployment rate and a scarce labor supply.

Many experts, however, maintain that a reform of child labor laws would not be worth the long-term costs to the kids’ well being. “The laws were intended so that education would come first, and jobs afterward,” says Chester Burry, an officer for the Colorado Department of Labor, in Denver.

Read the CSM story.


Drink coffee, be healthy

Feb. 7, 2000

Water purists, throw out your Brittas and break out your French presses. According to a new multi-national study, brewed coffee can remove up to 90 percent of lead, copper and other heavy metals often found in drinking water, ENVIRONMENT NEWS SERVICE reports. This could mean that public health officials have been greatly overestimating the health risks from tap water in caffeine-crazy countries. No word yet on what bonus health benefits you get from hazelnut flavoring.

Read the ENS story



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