Friday, November 10, 2006

Fleeing a sinking ship?

An excellent article earlier this week by the New York investigative journalist Lucy Komisar revealed that five prominent Republicans have resigned from the board of a telecom company accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Former Minnesota senator Rudy Boschwitz, former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III, former Washington senator Thomas Slade Gorton III, former NewYork congressman and 1996 vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President Ronald Reagan Jeane Kirkpatrick were not included among nominees on the proxy statement filedby the IDT telecom company with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Oct. 30, the article states.

IDT has been the focus of bribery charges centered around Aristide's second term in office from 2001 until 2004, alleging that the Haitian president took hundreds of thousands of kickbacks in money that should have been deposited in Haiti's meager treasury, in exchange for giving IDT a favorable rate on international calls. A former IDT executive, Michael Jewett, claims the he refused to go along with the scheme and was fired for his trouble. Jewett, who sued IDT in October 2005 for wrongful dismissal, charges that the deal enabled several North American companies (including IDT) to operate in Haitifor a cut-rate fee of nine cents per minute, three cents of which promptly disappeared into an Aristide shell company called Mont Salem set up in Turks and Caicos, as opposed to going to TELECO, the Haitian state telephone company, where the money belonged.

Two fairly disturbing bits of news, this time out of Egypt and Kenya. This morning while listening to the BBC, I heard a piece chronicling yesterday’s demonstration by women in Cairo held to protest a series of sexual assaults that took place against women there during the recent Eid el Adha (the feastof the sacrifice), which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Witnesses also charge that Egyptian police did nothing to defend the women. Evidently filmmaker and activist Sherif Sadek documented something very similar in January 2006.

And, in a chilling echo of the violence that has depopulated the Martissant neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, residents of Nairobi’s Mathare shantytown have fled an explosion of gang violence that has killed nearly a dozen people in the last week. An article by the Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman asserts that what “began with a bootlegging dispute…has been fueled by ethnic rivalry,” with the two criminal, quasi-religious gangs at each others throats being members of the country’s Kikuyu and Luo ethnic groups.

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