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Friday, June 7, 2013

Ghana Arrests Chinese Gold Miners

Roughly 150 Chinese citizens are being detained in Ghana, after they were arrested for illegally mining gold in the African country. Chinese officials have suggested that the majority of those arrested were in Ghana without visas or work permits. Yu Jie, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Ghana, told Chinese state media that his embassy “cautioned all the Chinese people in Ghana to strictly abide by the related laws and regulations.” The arrests are part of an ongoing attempt by the Ghanaian government to curb illegal small-scale mining throughout Ghana. Ghana is a mineral rich country, and the continent’s largest producer of gold. Gold mining in Ghana is legally only allowed to be done by native Ghanaians, but many people from Shanglin county in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have come to Ghana seeking respite from Shanglin’s severe economic depression. A similar round-up of illegal miners occurred last year; over 100 Chinese miners were fined and detained. Isaac Kojo Abraham, with Ghana Minerals Commission, stated that “all such people doing illegal mining in Ghana without the requisite documentation will be flushed out“. Ghana’s immigration service said that all those arrested would be deported to China.

Mexican Army Freed Kidnapped Migrants

Today the Mexican army announced it has freed 165 kidnapped migrants near the U.S. border. The migrants had been held hostage by a gang that had promised to sneak them into the U.S., but the gang reneged and demanded ransoms from the families of the hostages. On Tuesday, the army was alerted to the presence of a cadre of armed men on a property in northern Tamaulipas state. After they stormed the estate, soldiers found 165 people, mostly from El Salvador and Guatemala, crowded in poor conditions. Mexican police and soldiers often announce similar missions targeting cartel safe houses, but the number of migrants rescued during this week’s raid is unprecedented. According to government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez, “they had been kidnapped by an armed individual and that they had been deprived of their freedom in precarious, dirty and overcrowded conditions in the past two or three weeks.” A 2009 report by the National Human Rights Commission found that nearly 10,000 migrants were kidnapped in the first half of that year. Often would-be migrants end up forcibly constricted into work as drug trafficking mules. Almost three years ago, in what is known as the first San Fernando massacre, 72 migrants were found buried in a shallow mass grave in the same state. A survivor suggested they were murdered for refusing to work as assassins and mules for the Zeta cartel.

U.S. Officials Defend Secret Spying Programs

Yesterday after a secret court order compelling Verizon to turn over comprehensive call logs to the U.S. National Security Agency came to light, U.S. officials defended its existence. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, stated the program was not as broad as some had suggested. “The highest priority of the intelligence community is to work within the constraints of law to collect, analyze and understand information related to potential threats to our national security.” Clapper also criticized the exposure of the secret government program, saying the “unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation.” But Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, who both serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released a joint statement today saying that they “remain unconvinced that the secret Patriot Act collection has actually provided any uniquely valuable intelligence.”

WHO raises SARS-like Death Toll

The World Health Organization has raised the global death toll for a new SARS-like virus to 31. The WHO issued a statements today saying identifying the latest victim as an 83-year-old man from the eastern region of Al-Ahsaa, in Saudi Arabia, where an outbreak began in a healthcare facility in April. The man fell ill on May 27th and died four days later. The virus, previously called novel coronavirus 2012, has been renamed Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), MERS causes acute pneumonia, but MERS is more lethal as it also causes renal failure; 31 of the 55 identified cases have proven fatal. Last month, Dr. Margaret Chan, head of the WHO said MERS “is a threat to the entire world.” Addressing an annual WHO meeting, Chan said, “‘We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond.”

Weekend Read: Dear Leader Dreams of Sushi

In 1982 Kenji Fujimoto, a sushi chef from Japan, became Kim Jong-il’s cook, confidant, and court jester. After he left North Korea Fujimoto proved to be a valuable cache of intelligence on the hermit Kingdom. Adam Johnson interviewed Fujimoto in GQ.

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