Other countries eagerly await U.S. immigration reform

Apple harvest
They design our electronics, harvest our food, staff our research labs and care for our children. Immigrants -- legal and illegal, skilled and unskilled -- by all accounts are vital cogs in the wheel of the U.S. economy, and the money they send back to their families improves the quality of life throughout their homelands.

GlobalFocusSo why, when both sending and receiving countries benefit, is the quest for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States so politically divisive and often pushed to the legislative back burner?

Immigration policy experts say the caustic partisan debate over who can stay and who must go has been ratcheted up by the lingering joblessness inflicted by the Great Recession and the searing spotlight of Campaign 2012 that illuminated only candidates' points of contention rather than those of convergence.

Now that the election is over and President Obama purportedly is beholden to the 71% of Latino voters who helped propel him to a second term, the more sober analysts of immigration dynamics are predicting that lawmakers of all political stripes will make a priority of devising more fair, efficient and mutually advantageous practices for integrating foreign labor.

"Immigrants operate on supply and demand, like everyone else. If there is a huge supply of jobs, they will come to the United States and look for them. If, as the case has been recently, there is not a huge supply of jobs or work opportunities are declining, then they either don’t come here or they go back," said S. Lynne Walker, vice president of the Institute of the Americas and an immigration policy analyst for more than 20 years. She pointed to a Pew Hispanic Center report in April that tracked the steady decline of undocumented workers, who have been kept at bay by the recession.

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Must Reads: Colombian rebels, a salamander and evangelical TV


From evangelical broadcasters in Israel to a salamander seen as a metaphor for the Mexican soul, here are five stories you shouldn't miss from this last week in global news:

Daystar, TBN ready for Messiah in Jerusalem

In Colombia, optimism about FARC peace talks

Kurdish autonomy in Syria troubling for rebels, Turkey

In Mexico, the ajolote's fate lies in troubled waters

In India, trained priests from lower caste still awaiting jobs

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Trinity Broadcasting Network co-founder Paul Crouch, center, his son, Matt Crouch, right, and Singapore evangelist Joseph Prince tape a prayer broadcast on the terrace of TBN's new Jerusalem studio. Credit: Edmund Sanders / Los Angeles Times

Attack on retired Indian general evokes '84 Golden Temple assault

AMRITSAR, India -- A painful chapter in India’s history was reopened this week when a retired general who oversaw the storming in 1984 of the Sikh’s most revered site was stabbed in London in an alleged “revenge attack” by disgruntled Sikhs.

The story has made headlines in India since Sunday’s attack on Lt. Gen. Kuldeep Singh Brar, who directed the controversial Operation Blue Star storming of the Golden Temple. Brar, 78, who says he fought his attackers off using his military training, spent an hour in surgery after receiving cuts on his face and neck in the assault near a central London hotel. The injuries were not serious and he returned to Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon.

Although London police declined to speak about the attackers’ alleged ethnicity in line with department guidelines, Brar told Indian media he was the object of a “pure assassination” attempt motivated by revenge, while his wife Meena told India’s the Hindu newspaper her husband was “101% certain” the assailants were Sikhs. In an appeal for witnesses, Scotland Yard described the four assailants as having long beards, dark clothes and long black jackets.

So far there have been no arrests in the ongoing investigation.

Brar, himself a Sikh, oversaw the Indian army’s two-day assault starting June 5, 1984, after then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi directed the armed forces to remove well-armed militants from the Golden Temple complex in northern Punjab state. The fighters had been holed up there for months seeking an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan.

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Indian drug kingpin mysteriously escapes police custody

NEW DELHI — Indian police are embarrassed after word leaked out this week that an alleged drug kingpin suspected of running a $40-million heroin and methamphetamine network walked away from the police unit guarding him and the escape was kept from the public for days.

Ranjit Singh, who uses the alias Raja Kandola, was reportedly being transported back to Delhi’s Tihar Jail by train Monday after a court hearing in northern Punjab state when he flew the coop about 11:30 p.m.

Police officials were not available for comment, and versions differ on exactly what happened. Some media reports say Singh was escorted by four officers aboard the Jammu Mail express train, others by six. Most agree that the train made a stop at Ludhiana, about 160 miles north of New Delhi.

Mukesh Gautam, a crime reporter with the Dainik Bhaskar daily newspaper, says sources told him that five of the officers were asleep when the train stopped and Singh asked the sixth to go buy him some tea. When the officer returned, Singh was gone. Another version has Singh offering spiked drinks to the policemen and slipping away, although it’s unclear why Singh would be entertaining the police.

Gautam says even these versions may be questionable. A few years ago in a similar case, he said, police initially reported that a prisoner escaped from a rail carriage only to eventually admit he had slipped away earlier from the hotel where they were all staying. “Maybe it’s the same situation,” he said.

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Indian opposition calls nationwide strike over reforms

NEW DELHI — For years, critics frustrated at the slow pace of economic reform in India heaped criticism on the government for its muddled policies and inability to stare down vested interests.

On Thursday, days after officials finally announced decisive reforms, those "vested interests" made eminently clear their displeasure over the Cabinet's decision to cut fuel subsidies and allow foreign investment in the retail, aviation and broadcasting industries.

In a show of force, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party backed by left-wing parties called a nationwide general strike. Trains, buses and rickshaws stopped rolling from early morning in several of India’s 35 states and union territories, over 1 million stores were shuttered and effigies of the prime minister were burned as thousands of workers and small-shop owners marched, waved flags and blocked traffic.

Some kiosks were also attacked and tires were burned to block traffic, while some shops that remained open, including a Wal-Mart outlet in central Uttar Pradesh state, were forced by angry mobs to close for the day.

But the picture was mixed. Even as activity ground to a near halt in the states of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa, things remained relatively normal in New Delhi and the states of Kerala and western Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is based.

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Protesters in India embrace waterlogged tactics

India protests
NEW DELHI -- There’s never a shortage of creative ways to protest in India, the world’s largest democracy. The tradition stems at least as far back as the 1930 salt march against oppressive taxation led by Mohandas Gandhi that helped bring down the British empire, and Gandhi’s “fasting unto death,” employed effectively to pressure politicians and stem sectarian violence.

Several times a day somewhere in India, roads, highways and byways are blocked over one issue or another, ranging from power blackouts and land grabs to farm prices and ethnic separatism. One highway blockage in northeast Manipur state last year carried on for 92 days.  

Other arguably less subtle forms of protests in recent years meant to spotlight corruption, inflation, education policy and military crackdowns include self-immolation, women stripping in front of army barracks, slapping senior officials on live television and throwing shoes at politicians -- considered a grave insult in parts of Asia and the Middle East. Then there was the rather imaginative, if short-lived, idea of handing out “zero rupee” notes to crooked officials in order to stem bribery.

In recent days, demonstrators have opened a new front: water. The move started in late August in the central state of Madhya Pradesh when villagers opposed to a dam stood in a reservoir for 17 days. Their drive for building a smaller structure and receiving compensation for lost land turned the sight of their disembodied heads into a fixture in news photos.

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Indian cartoonist's arrest on sedition charges sparks outcry

India finds itself in the middle of a new free-speech controversy after authorities arrested cartoonist and anti-corruption activist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges
NEW DELHI -- India finds itself in the middle of a new free-speech controversy after authorities arrested cartoonist and anti-corruption activist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges.

The move over the weekend came after Trivedi displayed caricatures of India's constitution, parliament and the national emblem on placards and posted them on a social networking site.

As outcry spread Monday among media and civic groups, the police in Maharashtra state appeared to back down, telling Trivedi they would let him go if he applied for bail. He refused, however, saying he would remain in custody as a matter of principle. His next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 24.

"If telling the truth makes me a traitor, then I am one," Trivedi told reporters outside the court late Sunday on his way to a hearing. "Even Mahatma Gandhi was called traitor, and if I am booked under sedition for doing service to the nation, then I will continue to do so."

Most of his allegedly seditious cartoons were displayed last year on a website that Trivedi launched, called CartoonsAgainstCorruption.com. The government blocked the site in December during a demonstration by anti-corruption leader Anna Hazare.

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Israel won't negotiate with Hitler store owners in India, envoy says

M9iqh6pdNEW DELHI -- Israel won't compensate two Indian businessmen to get them to change the name of their shop called Hitler, a diplomat said Wednesday, because paying them could inspire a host of copycat fortune seekers.

"We'd have 10,000 shops tomorrow," said Orna Sagiv, Israel's consul general in Mumbai. "We need him to understand it's wrong; we're not going to negotiate for money."

In recent days, the Western clothing shop in Ahmedabad has attracted global attention for its huge "Hitler" sign in white lettering with a red swastika inside the dot above the letter "i." Co-owner Manish Chandani said by telephone he won't cover the sign with a cloth or otherwise obscure it until he's settled on a new name and had a new sign made.

"I have a name in mind, but I don't want to disclose it yet," said Chandani, 24. "I've been getting a good response with the Hitler name; sales are good. I'm concerned that business could drop off once I change it."

Chandani, who set up the shop with partner Rajesh Shah, said he knew who Hitler was before he named the shop, having watched a TV program, and was aware the German leader helped start World War II and was responsible for the deaths of millions of people in gas chambers.

But the shop wasn't named after that Hitler, Chandani insisted, but after shopkeeper's strict grandfather who had the nickname "Hitler." The swastika -- a version of which has been used in Indian Hinduism for over 3,000 years -- was added by the sign-maker, he said.

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Chinese, Indian defense ministers hold wary meetings

M9tnz8pdNEW DELHI -- Visiting defense ministers traditionally stop at New Delhi’s India Gate war memorial and lay a wreath in memory of Indian soldiers who lost their lives in past wars.

Some analysts saw Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie’s decision this week to steer clear of the monument as symptomatic of the wary military relations existing between the two Asian giants.

“It’s a kind of protocol,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, Chinese studies professor at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. “If they had observed it, it would be nice. If not, it indicates a certain stiff response, a stiff body language that’s reflected in the discussions.”

While analysts and both governments welcomed Liang’s five-day trip ending Thursday -- the first visit by a Chinese defense minister in eight years -- as a tepid move to build confidence between the two militaries, few expect any breakthroughs. Weighing on the two sides during the visit are growing border tensions, stepped-up military spending and friction in the South China Seas.

“They’re like two porcupines,” said C. Uday Bhaskar, a visiting fellow with Delhi’s National Maritime Foundation. “They want to be friends, but can only move a quill at a time.”

In a 90-minute meeting Tuesday between Liang and Indian Defense Minister A.K. Anthony, the two sides agreed to strengthen high-level exchanges, improve border security and work to “maintain peace and tranquility” in the region, according to a news release.

In reality, the two sides agreed to disagree on most issues, Kondapalli said, with the exception of possibly holding joint-operations in counter-terrorism, which have not been held since 2008, and some shared air force acrobatic displays. These are all very low-level and involve no sharing of tactics, scenarios or strategy, in keeping with past practice, he added.

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Indian court convicts 32 people in deadly 2002 riots

n a court case that has provided a grim reminder of the sectarian violence that has haunted India, 32 people were convicted of participating in riots between Hindus and Muslims that followed the burning of a train in 2002
MADURAI, India -- In a court case that has provided a grim reminder of the sectarian violence that has haunted India since its birth, 32 people were convicted Wednesday of participating in riots between Hindus and Muslims that followed the burning of a train in western Gujarat state in 2002.

Sentencing is expected on Friday, with the prosecution demanding the death penalty. Legal experts expect most of those convicted to receive at least several years in prison given the high-profile nature of the case, stemming from riots that took the lives of more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

There were originally 62 defendants; 29 were acquitted, and one died during the lengthy trial.

"This is a very good judgment, partly because judicial process on communal-riot cases has been very bad," said Kamal Chenoy, professor of politics at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "We're happy, but obviously a lot of people got off."

Separately, India's Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence Wednesday for Ajmal Amir Kasab, 25, the lone surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.

The court rejected Kasab's argument that he hadn’t received a fair trial, ruling that legal procedures were not violated when the government failed to provide him with a lawyer during pre-trial proceedings.

A court convicted Kasab in May 2010 of criminal conspiracy, waging war against the nation and various terrorism charges, a decision he appealed. Judges ruled that his actions met a "rarest of the rare" standard deserving of the death penalty.

Kasab was the only one of 10 attackers captured alive after the November 2008 attack. He can still avoid execution -- carried out by hanging in India -- if the president reduces his sentence, an outcome that seems unlikely given the raw public emotions surrounding the case.

Wednesday's verdict in the Gujarat case, meanwhile, represents the sixth decision of nine major cases working their way through the courts involving the 2002 riots, among the deadliest in recent Indian history.

The catalyst was a fire that raced through Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express passenger train on Feb. 27, 2002, killing about 60 people, mostly Hindu pilgrims. Its source is still controversial, but Hindus blamed Muslims and sought revenge. Over the next three days, at least 1,200 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

Wednesday's verdict covered the case of a mob attack the day after the train fire, when a crowd surrounded the Muslim neighborhood of Naroda Patiya. Residents were attacked with swords, sticks, pipes and stones, their valuables looted and houses burned. In all, 97 residents were killed and 800 families left homeless in what was the deadliest of several Gujarat riot cases.

Among those convicted in the exhaustive trial -- in which over 300 eyewitnesses, victims, doctors, police and forensic experts testified -- were a former state minister with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, on charges of murder and criminal conspiracy.

"This is unprecedented," said R.B. Sreekumar, a senior police officer at the time of the riots who has since retired. "Not only have we seen people convicted who actually did the violence, but those who incited and motivated people, like the former lawmaker."

The decision by a special court in the Gujarat capital of Ahmedabad is a blow to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, seen as a possible future BJP candidate for prime minister. Gujarat authorities have been accused of standing by while the violence unfolded. Eyewitnesses say Modi discouraged police from intervening; he has long denied any wrongdoing.

The BJP sought to distance itself from the verdict Wednesday. "We don't support any violence," said spokesman Prakash Javadekar. "But this is the first court decision, and there is a legal procedure in place."

Others expressed hope the judgment would help heal deep social wounds. "On the whole, this is a very great thing," Sreekumar said. "It shows that both Hindu and Muslim militants can't escape. With these convictions, hopefully it will help prevent riots in the future."

Italy Prime Minister Mario Monti faces growing pressure over debt

Norwegian leader apologizes for poor police response to massacre

Russia's Putin lives like a "galley slave" with jets, yachts, limos, report says

-- Mark Magnier

Photo: A convict consoles his son while being taken to prison after the court verdict in a 2002 religious violence case in Ahmadabad, India, on Wednesday. Credit: Associated Press  


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