The Guardian 30 March, 2005

Global briefs

ISRAEL: Between 3000 and 5000 women have been smuggled into Israel and sold into prostitution over the past four years, according to a Knesset committee investigative report examining the status of the sex trade in Israel. The trafficking in women amounts to around a billion dollars every year. Yahad MK Zehava Gal-On, chair of the parliamentary Committee Against Trade in Women, submitted the extensive report. The women, sold to pimps for $8000 to $10,000, are forced to work seven days a week and between 14 and 18 hours a day.

EU: Europe appeared to bury misgivings over Washington’s nomination of Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank on Wednesday, making clear that it would not stand in his way. European Union leaders pressed, nevertheless, for a meeting with the US Deputy Defense Secretary before the end of March to hear his views on the multinational development bank’s role. Wolfowitz’s nomination to succeed James Wolfensohn as World Bank president angered many Europeans, who know him best as an advocate of using US military power to invade Iraq. More than 1300 European aid organisations have put their names to a statement of concern about Wolfowitz’s nomination, saying his appointment risked turning the bank into a “tool of the current controversial US foreign policy’’.

BRITAIN: In a letter to Reuters, the Pentagon says it will not reopen an investigation into the case of three un-embedded Iraqi journalists who say US soldiers tortured and sexually abused them while they were working for the London-based news service last year. “I’m very disappointed that the Department of Defense has chosen not to reopen a clearly flawed investigation into a very troubling incident”, Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger said. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division detained the three Reuters employees in January 2004 while covering the downing of an American helicopter by rebels near Fallujah. The journalists say the soldiers beat them and subjected them to sexual humiliation similar to that practiced by US jailers at Abu Ghraib prison around the same time. They were released without charges three days after being detained.

BRITAIN: The UNISON public workers union has won the biggest-ever equal pay award with North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust, for 1500 women working at Cumberland Infirmary and at West Cumbria Hospital. Awards to each worker will range from $66,500 to $380,000. The union waged an eight-year legal struggle. Equal value claims were filed in August 1997 for 14 job classifications, using five different male comparisons. Workers ranging from nurses to office workers and domestics compared their pay and benefits with craftsmen and craft supervisors, labourers and maintenance assistants. Some women will receive up to 14 years’ difference in pay, and interest of 50 to 60 percent will also be paid.

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