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Sexual Harassment Training

(category: Ethics, Word count: 142)
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One of the more significant pieces of California legislation that went into effect on January 1, 2005, was AB 1825. This law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment training and education to all supervisory employees by the end of 2005. It also mandates that these employees will receive sexual harassment training and education once every two years after January 1, 2006.

It is important to note that temporary employees, independent contractors and workers outside of the state of California are not excluded in the 50-employee tally. Be sure you count every employee before you decide this legislation doesn't apply to your company.

Scope of the training:

Your company's sexual harassment training should include "information and practical guidance" about all federal and state sexual harassment laws. The information provided should include:

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Profit Shouldn T Be A Dirty Word In Material Handling

(category: Ethics, Word count: 550)
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Nobody benefits when profit is eliminated from the economic equation.

With the economy on the mend, a lot of people in the material handling industry are expecting good times without having to make any changes in the way they do business. Unfortunately, that means the continuation of one particular practice that played a major role in getting the economy in trouble a few years back.

When the "dot.coms" were flying high, they experienced rapid growth by the simple method of offering impossibly low prices and constant expansion into markets about which they knew nothing. They operated at a loss for years on end, promising investors that it would all turn around when they had achieved sufficient market share. Eventually, of course, this "lose a little on each deal but make it up in volume" business model blew up in their faces. The balloons popped, one by one, and the economy followed them down the tube.

In the material handling industry, this discredited business model is still very much in evidence. Too many companies have played the merger game, getting themselves involved in markets that they know nothing about. Too many have played the numbers game, moving money from one pocket to another to make themselves look good for one more quarter (this is called managing for stockholder value), totally forgetting about long-range planning.

Worst of all, too many companies have bought into the concept of forgoing profits in pursuit of market share, with the idea of becoming profitable once the competition is eliminated. It's called "buying a job," meaning submitting a bid that allows for little or no profit. Theoretically, this has two benefits. It gets you the job, which makes your sales figures (if not your profits) look impressive. More importantly, for some people, it prevents your competition from getting the job.

But let's look at the downside. Without profits, you have no money to invest in research and development, capital expenditures, etc. Your growth is all on paper, and will disappear as soon as you run out of money to buy jobs with.

With minimal profit margins, you have neither the money nor the inclination to service the sale after it is made. The result is an unhappy customer, and that is never good news for the long term prospects of your company.

Finally, let's say that your strategy of underbidding the competition works, and your nearest competitor goes bankrupt. What happens? Somebody buys his assets for 25 cents on the dollar and opens a new business. Since his initial investment was so low, he can undercut your prices. You haven't eliminated competition, you've made it worse.

Profit is not a dirty word. Nobody - least of all the customer - benefits when profit is eliminated from the economic equation. I'm not saying we shouldn't be looking for efficiencies that will allow us to keep prices down while maintaining a reasonable profit margin. Of course the customer benefits from lower prices, but the economy in general and the material handling industry in particular will be much healthier when we all admit to wanting our fair share. If you're satisfied with a 3% profit, I suggest you buy a government bond. It's safer.

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The Business Of Torture

(category: Ethics, Word count: 1083)
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On January 16, 2003, the European Court of Human Rights agreed - more than two years after the applications have been filed - to hear six cases filed by Chechens against Russia. The claimants accuse the Russian military of torture and indiscriminate killings. The Court has ruled in the past against the Russian Federation and awarded assorted plaintiffs thousands of euros per case in compensation.

As awareness of human rights increased, as their definition expanded and as new, often authoritarian polities, resorted to torture and repression - human rights advocates and non-governmental organizations proliferated. It has become a business in its own right: lawyers, consultants, psychologists, therapists, law enforcement agencies, scholars and pundits tirelessly peddle books, seminars, conferences, therapy sessions for victims, court appearances and other services.

Human rights activists target mainly countries and multinationals.

In June 2001, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of 11 villagers against the American oil behemoth, ExxonMobile, for "abetting" abuses in Aceh, Indonesia. They alleged that the company provided the army with equipment for digging mass graves and helped in the construction of interrogation and torture centers.

In November 2002, the law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll joined other American and South African law firms in filing a complaint that "seeks to hold businesses responsible for aiding and abetting the apartheid regime in South Africa ... forced labor, genocide, extrajudicial killing, torture, sexual assault, and unlawful detention".

Among the accused: "IBM and ICL which provided the computers that enabled South Africa to ... control the black South African population. Car manufacturers provided the armored vehicles that were used to patrol the townships. Arms manufacturers violated the embargoes on sales to South Africa, as did the oil companies. The banks provided the funding that enabled South Africa to expand its police and security apparatus."

Charges were leveled against Unocal in Myanmar and dozens of other multinationals. In September 2002, Berger & Montague filed a class action complaint against Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Transport. The oil giants are charged with "purchasing ammunition and using ... helicopters and boats and providing logistical support for 'Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland'" which was designed, according to the law firm, to "terrorize the civilian population into ending peaceful protests against Shell's environmentally unsound oil exploration and extraction activities".

The defendants in all these court cases strongly deny any wrongdoing.

But this is merely one facet of the torture business.

Torture implements are produced - mostly in the West - and sold openly, frequently to nasty regimes in developing countries and even through the Internet. Hi-tech devices abound: sophisticated electroconvulsive stun guns, painful restraints, truth serums, chemicals such as pepper gas. Export licensing is universally minimal and non-intrusive and completely ignores the technical specifications of the goods (for instance, whether they could be lethal, or merely inflict pain).

Amnesty International and the UK-based Omega Foundation, found more than 150 manufacturers of stun guns in the USA alone. They face tough competition from Germany (30 companies), Taiwan (19), France (14), South Korea (13), China (12), South Africa (nine), Israel (eight), Mexico (six), Poland (four), Russia (four), Brazil (three), Spain (three) and the Czech Republic (two).

Many torture implements pass through "off-shore" supply networks in Austria, Canada, Indonesia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Albania, Russia, Israel, the Philippines, Romania and Turkey. This helps European Union based companies circumvent legal bans at home. The US government has traditionally turned a blind eye to the international trading of such gadgets.

American high-voltage electro-shock stun shields turned up in Turkey, stun guns in Indonesia, and electro-shock batons and shields, and dart-firing taser guns in torture-prone Saudi Arabia. American firms are the dominant manufacturers of stun belts. Explains Dennis Kaufman, President of Stun Tech Inc, a US manufacturer of this innovation: "Electricity speaks every language known to man. No translation necessary. Everybody is afraid of electricity, and rightfully so." (Quoted by Amnesty International).

The Omega Foundation and Amnesty claim that 49 US companies are also major suppliers of mechanical restraints, including leg-irons and thumbcuffs. But they are not alone. Other suppliers are found in Germany (8), France (5), China (3), Taiwan (3), South Africa (2), Spain (2), the UK (2) and South Korea (1).

Not surprisingly, the Commerce Department doesn't keep tab on this category of exports.

Nor is the money sloshing around negligible. Records kept under the export control commodity number A985 show that Saudi Arabia alone spent in the United States more than $1 million a year between 1997-2000 merely on stun guns. Venezuela's bill for shock batons and such reached $3.7 million in the same period. Other clients included Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico and - surprisingly - Bulgaria. Egypt's notoriously brutal services - already well-equipped - spent a mere $40,000.

The United States is not the only culprit. The European Commission, according to an Amnesty International report titled "Stopping the Torture Trade" and published in 2001:

"Gave a quality award to a Taiwanese electro-shock baton, but when challenged could not cite evidence as to independent safety tests for such a baton or whether member states of the European Union (EU) had been consulted. Most EU states have banned the use of such weapons at home, but French and German companies are still allowed to supply them to other countries."

Torture expertise is widely proffered by former soldiers, agents of the security services made redundant, retired policemen and even rogue medical doctors. China, Israel, South Africa, France, Russia, the United kingdom and the United States are founts of such useful knowledge and its propagators.

How rooted torture is was revealed in September 1996 when the US Department of Defense admitted that "intelligence training manuals" were used in the Federally sponsored School of the Americas - one of 150 such facilities - between 1982 and 1991.The manuals, written in Spanish and used to train thousands of Latin American security agents, "advocated execution, torture, beatings and blackmail", says Amnesty International.

Where there is demand there is supply. Rather than ignore the discomfiting subject, governments would do well to legalize and supervise it. Alan Dershowitz, a prominent American criminal defense attorney, proposed, in an op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times, published November 8, 2001, to legalize torture in extreme cases and to have judges issue "torture warrants". This may be a radical departure from the human rights tradition of the civilized world. But dispensing export carefully reviewed licenses for dual-use implements is a different matter altogether - and long overdue.

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Fbi Raids Pertinent Or Paranoid

(category: Ethics, Word count: 171)
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Business always moves faster than government ...

It's no surprise that a great deal of lawmakers' time is spent reacting to advances in commerce and science. It's also no surprise that one of their favorite tactics is to call on their enforcement agencies to bring scrutiny against any topic about which they're struggling to understand.

We're now seeing this applied against at least two e-currency operations.

One of them, INT Gold, saw their head offices in Texas raided by the FBI in December. No arrests were made and no disclosures were presented to indicate the reason for their actions. The only auspices mentioned were that they were pursuing an ongoing fraud investigation. It's now been over a month and nothing further has happened.

At roughly the same time, e-Gold was also served with a search warrant. It seems the justification was petty - they allegedly didn't have a 'required' currency-exchange license - and they were upset enough to place the following posting on their website:

e-gold

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Approaches To Care In Physician Assisted Suicide

(category: Ethics, Word count: 655)
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There is a growing interest in suicide. When people start looking for more information about suicide, you'll be in a position to meet their needs. This article is a brief description of much information on this subject. Let's start with 3 levels to discern in the act of euthanasia.

There are three levels to discern in the act of euthanasia:

1. One is a patient who is comatose or brain dead. In these cases the doctor is asked to "pull the plug," or remove the patient from mechanical life support. These cases are generally not challenged by the general public. It is an act of withdrawing or withholding necessary mechanisms used to sustain a life that cannot sustain itself. It is here that the recognition of one's personality is gone and the shell of a body is all that remains.

2. Another act of euthanasia involves the use of morphine to hospitalized patients in the painful final stages of her or his life with diseases such as cancer and AIDS.

3. The last category of euthanasia is patients in relatively good health and at the beginning of a terminal illness wishing to end their lives. Such cases as Alzheimer's and Cancer preclude patients to want information on PAS. This is the most controversial of the three issues involved in euthanasia.

Euthanasia originated from the Greek language meaning "good death." It is the intentional termination of a life by another person capable of doing so by the request of the person wanting to die. Here are a few terms that one needs to know in PAS that define actions taking place.

Passive Euthanasia is the hastening of a death by means of altering some form of support and letting nature take its course. This can include; removing life support equipment, stopping medical treatment or procedures, stopping food and water consumption which leads to dehydration or starving to death, and withholding CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation). The most common use of PAS is to give patients large doses of morphine to control pain. It is most likely that the pain relief will suppress respiration and cause death earlier than it would have otherwise happened. This is also done on patients who are in a persistive vegetative state or patients not able to regain consciousness due to brain damage.

Active Euthanasia is the use of intentional means to cause the death of a person through a direct action. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan physician made this well known in 1998 with a patient who had ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). His patient was afraid of the long suffering involved in ALS and wanted to die a quick and painless death. Dr. Kevorkian injected controlled substances into this patient and caused death. Kevorkian was charged with 1st degree murder, but the jury found him guilty of 2nd degree murder in March of 1999.

Physician Assisted Suicide is the provision of information or means to a dying patient with the intent to commit suicide.

Involuntary Euthanasia is the ending of a life without a patient clearly requesting it.

"There are many reasons why patients want to utilize PAS. Some are simply clinically depressed, of which, one's illness has brought on or one's emotional and mental processing of their illness has led to suffering in ways beyond the body. Others live in chronic pain-due to lack of healthcare coverage or means to obtain medication. This later group would rather die early and not incur medical expenses on those they leave behind. A serious disorder or disease such as: ASL, Huntington's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, Alzheimer's, etc. are just some of the illnesses people would rather avoid losing their independence and finances over. In some ways, this gives people a feeling of control over the process of their lives."

Samuel Oliver, author of, "What the Dying Teach Us: Lessons on Living"

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What Investigative Reporting Entails

(category: Ethics, Word count: 561)
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The field of investigative reporting involves bringing to the fore facts and figure that affect human interests and fair governance. This means conducting in depth research, looking at public records, doing extensive interviews, as well as checking and rechecking of facts before publication. Whether print or television, investigative reporting is essentially "watchdog" reporting. This means reporting crimes, unfair practices, injustice, as well as other human interest aspects like environment, disease, and so on.

Investigative journalism can move public opinion and instill fear in those treading the wrong path. Slave trade, gun running, terrorist activities, drug trafficking, money laundering and so on are brought to the notice of the world by investigative journalism.

An investigative journalist must be unafraid, determined, patient, watchful, fair, as well as dog minded to be successful. The questions a journalist seeks answers to are: who is responsible for the wrong doing; what methods were employed; what are the consequences; what can be done to correct the wrong; can the wrongdoers be brought to book?

The keys are to dig up the first lead, tip, or hunch. Then sniff around for facts. Form an investigative hypothesis. Next, like a detective, gather evidence that will prove undeniably the hypothesis. This will involve interviews, documents, records, proofs, and intense paper work. Organize the information and write the report. Check facts, check chances of libel, and the laws. To be good at your work it is advantageous if you are familiar with the law, know the procedures, can conduct quick and accurate research, follow the money trail, and dig out facts.

Investigative journalism is a specialized field that uses journalism skills, curiosity, advanced research methods, and a determination to right wrongs. This field of journalism is what helps shape democracy and protects the lives of the innocent. Done correctly it can raise public opinion to such an extent that the way the world thinks and functions can be changed.

An investigative journalist must work within the confines of ethics written and unwritten and the laws. The work could include revealing scandals and tracing infringements of laws, rules, or morals. Bring to public notice the policies of governments, companies, and other organizations. And, institute social change by describing social, economic, political, and cultural trends.

To be effective in investigative journalism the journalist must have high standards of functioning and be above corruption. The principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fair play, and public accountability must be deeply ingrained in the mind and soul of the journalist. Since investigative journalism involves use of undercover sources and anonymous tips it is absolutely essential for the journalist to double check facts.

Investigative journalism is news with a difference. It is critical and in depth investigations to a happening or policy which will serve to prevent or correct a wrong, prevent crimes, save the planet from destruction, and shape the future of the world in more ways than one. It is reporting the unknown, the hidden, and so, the investigative journalist becomes the keeper or custodian of public conscience.

It is a field where a mere niggling thought or suspicion becomes an expose of wrong doings. It questions actions and decisions and brings to the limelight outrageous acts and in human actions. In simple terms an investigative journalist polices society in the larger interests of mankind.

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Slush Funds

(category: Ethics, Word count: 2164)
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According to David McClintick ("Swordfish: A True Story of Ambition, Savagery, and Betrayal"), in the late 1980's, the FBI and DEA set up dummy corporations to deal in drugs. They funneled into these corporate fronts money from drug-related asset seizures.

The idea was to infiltrate global crime networks but a lot of the money in "Operation Swordfish" may have ended up in the wrong pockets. Government agents and sheriffs got mysteriously and filthily rich and the whole sorry affair was wound down. The GAO reported more than $3.6 billion missing. This bit of history gave rise to at least one blockbuster with Oscar-winner Halle Berry.

Alas, slush funds are much less glamorous in reality. They usually involve grubby politicians, pawky bankers, and philistine businessmen - rather than glamorous hackers and James Bondean secret agents.

The Kazakh prime minister, Imanghaliy Tasmaghambetov, freely admitted on April 4, 2002 to his country's rubber-stamp parliament the existence of a $1 billion slush fund. The money was apparently skimmed off the proceeds of the opaque sale of the Tengiz oilfield. Remitting it to Kazakhstan - he expostulated with a poker face - would have fostered inflation. So, the country's president, Nazarbaev, kept the funds abroad "for use in the event of either an economic crisis or a threat to Kazakhstan's security".

The money was used to pay off pension arrears in 1997 and to offset the pernicious effects of the 1998 devaluation of the Russian ruble. What was left was duly transferred to the $1.5 billion National Fund, the PM insisted. Alas, the original money in the Fund came entirely from another sale of oil assets to Chevron, thus casting in doubt the official version.

The National Fund was, indeed, augmented by a transfer or two from the slush fund - but at least one of these transfers occurred only 11 days after the damning revelations. Moreover, despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, the unfazed premier denied that his president possesses multi-million dollar bank accounts abroad.

He later rescinded this last bit of disinformation. The president, he said, has no bank accounts abroad but will promptly return all the money in these non-existent accounts to Kazakhstan. These vehemently denied accounts, he speculated, were set up by the president's adversaries "for the purpose of compromising his name".

On April 15, 2002 even the docile opposition had enough of this fuzzy logic. They established a People Oil's Fund to monitor, henceforth, the regime's financial shenanigans. By their calculations less than 7 percent of the income from the sale of hydrocarbon fuels (c. $4-5 billion annually) make it to the national budget.

Slush funds infect every corner of the globe, not only the more obscure and venal ones. Every secret service - from the Mossad to the CIA - operates outside the stated state budget. Slush funds are used to launder money, shower cronies with patronage, and bribe decision makers. In some countries, setting them up is a criminal offense, as per the 1990 Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime. Other jurisdictions are more forgiving.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands issued a press release November 2001 in which it welcomed the government's plans to abolish slush funds. They described the poisonous effect of this practice:

"With a few notable exceptions, the practice of directing funds through politicians to district projects has been disastrous. It has created an atmosphere in which corruption is thought to have flourished. It has reduced the responsibility of public servants, without reducing their numbers or costs. It has been used to confuse people into believing public funds are the 'property' of individual members rather than the property of the people, honestly and fairly administered by the servants of the people.

The concept of 'slush-funds' has resulted in well-documented inefficiencies and failures. There were even accusations made that funds were withheld from certain members as a way of forcing them into submission. It seems that the era of the 'slush funds' has been a shameful period."

But even is the most orderly and lawful administration, funds are liable to be mislaid. "The Economist" reported recently about a $10 billion class-action suit filed by native-Americans against the US government. The funds, supposed to be managed in trust since 1880 on behalf of half a million beneficiaries, were "either lost or stolen" according to officials.

Rob Gordon, the Director of the National Wilderness Institute accused "The US Interior Department (of) looting the special funds that were established to pay for wildlife conservation and squandering the money instead on questionable administrative expenses, slush funds and employee moving expenses".

Charles Griffin, the Deputy Director of the Heritage Foundation's Government Integrity Project, charges:

"The federal budget provides numerous slush funds that can be used to subsidize the lobbying and political activities of special-interest groups."

On his list of "Top Ten Federal Programs That Actively Subsidize Politics and Lobbying" are: AmeriCorps, Senior Community Service Employment Program, Legal Services Corporation, Title X Family Planning, National Endowment for the Humanities, Market Promotion Program, Senior Environmental Employment Program, Superfund Worker Training, HHS Discretionary Aging Projects, Telecomm. & Info. Infrastructure Assistance. These federal funds alone total $1.8 billion.

"Next" and "China Times" - later joined by "The Washington Post" - accused the former Taiwanese president, Lee Teng-hui, of forming a $100 million overseas slush fund intended to finance the gathering of information, influence-peddling, and propaganda operations. Taiwan footed the bills trips by Congressional aides and funded academic research and think tank conferences.

High ranking Japanese officials, among others, may have received payments through this stealthy venue. Lee is alleged to have drawn $100,000 from the secret account in February 1999. The money was used to pay for the studies of a former Japanese Vice-Defense Minister Masahiro Akiyama's at Harvard.

Ryutaro Hashimoto, the former Japanese prime minister, was implicated as a beneficiary of the fund. So were the prestigious lobbying firm, Cassidy and Associates and assorted assistant secretaries in the Bush administration.

Carl Ford, Jr., currently assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, worked for Cassidy during the relevant period and often visited Taiwan. James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs enjoyed the Taiwanese largesse as well. Both are in charge of crafting America's policy on Taiwan.

John Bolton, erstwhile undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, admitted, during his confirmation hearings, to having received $30,000 to cover the costs of writing 3 research papers.

The Taiwanese government has yet to deny the news stories.

A Japanese foreign ministry official used slush fund money to finance the extra-marital activities of himself and many of his colleagues - often in posh hotel suites. But this was no exception. According to Asahi Shimbun, more than half of the 60 divisions of the ministry maintained similar funds. The police and the ministry are investigating. One arrest has been made. The ministry's accounting division has discovered these corrupt practices twenty years before but kept mum.

Even low-level prefectural bureaucrats and teachers in Japan build up slush funds by faking business trips or padding invoices and receipts. Japanese citizens' groups conservatively estimated that $20 million in travel and entertainment expenses in the prefectures in 1994 were faked, a practice known as "kara shutcho" (i.e., empty business trip).

Officials of the Hokkaido Board of Education admitted to the existence of a 100 million yen secret fund. In a resulting probe, 200 out of 286 schools were found to maintain their own slush funds. Some of the money was used to support friendly politicians.

But slush funds are not a sovereign prerogative. Multinationals, banks, corporation, religious organizations, political parties, and even NGO's salt away some of their revenues and profits in undisclosed accounts, usually in off-shore havens.

Secret election campaign slush funds are a fixture in American politics. A 5-year old bill requires disclosure of donors to such funds but the House is busy loosening its provisions. "The Economist" listed in 2002 the tsunami of scandals that engulfs Germany, both its major political parties, many of the Lander and numerous highly placed and mid-level bureaucrats. Secret, mainly party, funds seem to be involved in the majority of these lurid affairs.

Italian firms made donations to political parties through slush funds, though corporate donations - providing they are transparent - are perfectly legal in Italy. Both the right and, to a lesser extent, the left in France are said to have managed enormous political slush funds.

President Chirac is accused of having abused for his personal pleasure, one such municipal fund in Paris, when he was its mayor. But the funds were mostly used to provide party activists with mock jobs. Corporations paid kickbacks to obtain public works or local building permits. Ostensibly, they were paying for sham "consultancy services".

The epidemic hasn't skipped even staid Ottawa. Its Chief Electoral Officer told Sun Media in September 2001 that he is "concerned" about millions stashed away by Liberal candidates. Sundry ministers who coveted the prime minister's job, have raised funds covertly and probably illegally.

On April 11, 2002 UPI reported that Spain's second-largest bank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), held nearly $200 million hidden in secret offshore accounts, "which were allegedly used to manipulate politicians, pay off the 'revolutionary tax' to ETA - the Basque terrorist organization - and open the door for business deals, according to news reports."

The money may have gone to luminaries such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Peru's Alberto Fujomori and Vladimiro Montesinos. The bank's board members received fat, tax-free, "pensions" from the illegal accounts opened in 1987 - a total of more than $20 million.

Latin American drug money launderers - from Puerto Rico to Colombia - may have worked through these funds and the bank's clandestine entities in the Cayman Islands and Jersey. The current Spanish Secretary of State for the Treasury has been the bank's tax advisor between 1992-7.

The "Financial Times" reported in June 2000 that, in anticipation of new international measures to curb corruption, "leading European arms manufacturers" resorted to the creation of off-shore slush funds. The money is intended to bribe foreign officials to win tenders and contracts.

Kim Woo-chung, Daewoo's former chairman, is at the center of a massive scandal involving dozens of his company's executive, some of whom ended up in prison. He stands accused of diverting a whopping $20 billion to an overseas slush fund.

A mind boggling $10 billion were alleged to have been used to bribe Korean government officials and politicians. But his conduct and even the scale of the fraud he perpetrated may have been typical to Korea's post-war incestuous relationship between politics and business.

In his paper "The Role of Slush Funds in the Preparation of Corruption Mechanisms", reprinted by Transparency International, Gherardo Colombo defines corporate slush funds thus:

"Slush funds are obtained from a joint stock company's finances, carefully managed so that the amounts involved do not appear on the balance sheet. They do not necessarily have to consist of money, but can also take the form of stocks and shares or other economically valuable goods (works of art, jewels, yachts, etc.) It is enough that they can be used without any particular difficulty or that they can be transferred to a third party.

If a fund is in the form of money, it is not even necessary to refer to it outside the company accounts, since it can appear in them in disguised form (the 'accruals and deferrals' heads are often resorted to for the purpose of hiding slush money). In light of this, it is not always correct to regard it as a reserve fund that is not accounted for in the books. Deception, trickery or forgery of various kinds are often resorted to for the purpose of setting up a slush fund."

He mentions padded invoices, sham contracts, fictitious loans, interest accruing on holding accounts, back to back transactions with related entities (Enron) - all used to funnel money to the slush funds. Such funds are often set up to cover for illicit and illegal self-enrichment, embezzlement, or tax evasion.

Less known is the role of these furtive vehicles in financing unfair competitive practices, such as dumping. Clients, suppliers, and partners receive hidden rebates and subsidies that much increase the - unreported - real cost of production.

BBVA's payments to ETA may have been a typical payment of protection fees. Both terrorists and organized crime put slush funds to bad use. They get paid from such funds - and maintain their own. Ransom payments to kidnappers often flow through these channels.

But slush funds are overwhelmingly used to bribe corrupt politicians. The fight against corruption has been titled against the recipients of illicit corporate largesse. But to succeed, well-meaning international bodies, such as the OECD's FATF, must attack with equal zeal those who bribe. Every corrupt transaction is between a venal politician and an avaricious businessman. Pursuing the one while ignoring the other is self-defeating.

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The Morality Of Child Labor

(category: Ethics, Word count: 1247)
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From the comfort of their plush offices and five to six figure salaries, self-appointed NGO's often denounce child labor as their employees rush from one five star hotel to another, $3000 subnotebooks and PDA's in hand. The hairsplitting distinction made by the ILO between "child work" and "child labor" conveniently targets impoverished countries while letting its budget contributors - the developed ones - off-the-hook.

Reports regarding child labor surface periodically. Children crawling in mines, faces ashen, body deformed. The agile fingers of famished infants weaving soccer balls for their more privileged counterparts in the USA. Tiny figures huddled in sweatshops, toiling in unspeakable conditions. It is all heart-rending and it gave rise to a veritable not-so-cottage industry of activists, commentators, legal eagles, scholars, and opportunistically sympathetic politicians.

Ask the denizens of Thailand, sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, or Morocco and they will tell you how they regard this altruistic hyperactivity - with suspicion and resentment. Underneath the compelling arguments lurks an agenda of trade protectionism, they wholeheartedly believe. Stringent - and expensive - labor and environmental provisions in international treaties may well be a ploy to fend off imports based on cheap labor and the competition they wreak on well-ensconced domestic industries and their political stooges.

This is especially galling since the sanctimonious West has amassed its wealth on the broken backs of slaves and kids. The 1900 census in the USA found that 18 percent of all children - almost two million in all - were gainfully employed. The Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional laws banning child labor as late as 1916. This decision was overturned only in 1941.

The GAO published a report last week in which it criticized the Labor Department for paying insufficient attention to working conditions in manufacturing and mining in the USA, where many children are still employed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the number of working children between the ages of 15-17 in the USA at 3.7 million. One in 16 of these worked in factories and construction. More than 600 teens died of work-related accidents in the last ten years.

Child labor - let alone child prostitution, child soldiers, and child slavery - are phenomena best avoided. But they cannot and should not be tackled in isolation. Nor should underage labor be subjected to blanket castigation. Working in the gold mines or fisheries of the Philippines is hardly comparable to waiting on tables in a Nigerian or, for that matter, American restaurant.

There are gradations and hues of child labor. That children should not be exposed to hazardous conditions, long working hours, used as means of payment, physically punished, or serve as sex slaves is commonly agreed. That they should not help their parents plant and harvest may be more debatable.

As Miriam Wasserman observes in "Eliminating Child Labor", published in the Federal Bank of Boston's "Regional Review", second quarter of 2000, it depends on "family income, education policy, production technologies, and cultural norms." About a quarter of children under-14 throughout the world are regular workers. This statistic masks vast disparities between regions like Africa (42 percent) and Latin America (17 percent).

In many impoverished locales, child labor is all that stands between the family unit and all-pervasive, life threatening, destitution. Child labor declines markedly as income per capita grows. To deprive these bread-earners of the opportunity to lift themselves and their families incrementally above malnutrition, disease, and famine - is an apex of immoral hypocrisy.

Quoted by "The Economist", a representative of the much decried Ecuador Banana Growers Association and Ecuador's Labor Minister, summed up the dilemma neatly: "Just because they are under age doesn't mean we should reject them, they have a right to survive. You can't just say they can't work, you have to provide alternatives."

Regrettably, the debate is so laden with emotions and self-serving arguments that the facts are often overlooked.

The outcry against soccer balls stitched by children in Pakistan led to the relocation of workshops ran by Nike and Reebok. Thousands lost their jobs, including countless women and 7000 of their progeny. The average family income - anyhow meager - fell by 20 percent. Economists Drusilla Brown, Alan Deardorif, and Robert Stern observe wryly:

"While Baden Sports can quite credibly claim that their soccer balls are not sewn by children, the relocation of their production facility undoubtedly did nothing for their former child workers and their families."

Such examples abound. Manufacturers - fearing legal reprisals and "reputation risks" (naming-and-shaming by overzealous NGO's) - engage in preemptive sacking. German garment workshops fired 50,000 children in Bangladesh in 1993 in anticipation of the American never-legislated Child Labor Deterrence Act.

Quoted by Wasserstein, former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, notes:

"Stopping child labor without doing anything else could leave children worse off. If they are working out of necessity, as most are, stopping them could force them into prostitution or other employment with greater personal dangers. The most important thing is that they be in school and receive the education to help them leave poverty."

Contrary to hype, three quarters of all children work in agriculture and with their families. Less than 1 percent work in mining and another 2 percent in construction. Most of the rest work in retail outlets and services, including "personal services" - a euphemism for prostitution. UNICEF and the ILO are in the throes of establishing school networks for child laborers and providing their parents with alternative employment.

But this is a drop in the sea of neglect. Poor countries rarely proffer education on a regular basis to more than two thirds of their eligible school-age children. This is especially true in rural areas where child labor is a widespread blight. Education - especially for women - is considered an unaffordable luxury by many hard-pressed parents. In many cultures, work is still considered to be indispensable in shaping the child's morality and strength of character and in teaching him or her a trade.

"The Economist" elaborates:

"In Africa children are generally treated as mini-adults; from an early age every child will have tasks to perform in the home, such as sweeping or fetching water. It is also common to see children working in shops or on the streets. Poor families will often send a child to a richer relation as a housemaid or houseboy, in the hope that he will get an education."

A solution recently gaining steam is to provide families in poor countries with access to loans secured by the future earnings of their educated offspring. The idea - first proposed by Jean-Marie Baland of the University of Namur and James A. Robinson of the University of California at Berkeley - has now permeated the mainstream.

Even the World Bank has contributed a few studies, notably, in June, "Child Labor: The Role of Income Variability and Access to Credit Across Countries" authored by Rajeev Dehejia of the NBER and Roberta Gatti of the Bank's Development Research Group.

Abusive child labor is abhorrent and should be banned and eradicated. All other forms should be phased out gradually. Developing countries already produce millions of unemployable graduates a year - 100,000 in Morocco alone. Unemployment is rife and reaches, in certain countries - such as Macedonia - more than one third of the workforce. Children at work may be harshly treated by their supervisors but at least they are kept off the far more menacing streets. Some kids even end up with a skill and are rendered employable.

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Are Employers Less Likely To Hire Muslims

(category: Ethics, Word count: 402)
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Research conducted at Davenport University by Murad Ali indicates that Muslims are the least likely out of all other ethnic groups to be hired by employers. Participants were students enrolled in either the MBA program or in business undergraduate courses. The type of full-time work the students engaged in ranged from entry level to senior executive. Many of the MBA students were already managers and had hiring powers within their companies.

Participants ranked their desired applicants for positions based upon their own preconceived notions from 1-5. A ranking of 1 meant that the applicant was most desirable and a ranking of 5 meant that the applicant was least desirable. All of the applicants were considered to be equally qualified and all of them were male. The only difference between the applicants was there name. Robert Schwalbach (White), Tyrone Johnson (Black), Yan Chin (Asian), Pedro Gonzalez (Hispanic) and Ahmed Al-Arabi (Muslim) were used to represent the different races and ethnic groups.

The results of the study indicated that the following order of preference was as follows African American, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic and Muslim. African Americans were more likely to be called back for employment while Muslims were the least. The data was split into similar groups with African Americans, Caucasians, and Asians on the far left with Hispanics and Muslims on the far right. Data indicating which background the participants came from wasn't collected.

It is interesting to note that those people who are considered "main stream" or who have been in the country for some time were all very similar in their rankings. Hispanic and Muslims who are seen as newer immigrants were stratified as the least likely to be hired. In essence this means that immigrants are not considered to have the same desirability to employers as "main stream Americans". It is therefore possible that poverty, unemployment and lack of healthcare may be something imposed on this group than by personal choice.

Employers should be aware of the results of this study because it has an impact with their compliance to the Civil Rights Act. As Muslims become more aware of their rights in the workplace employers may have more lawsuits to deal with. If the hiring managers allow their personal preferences to determine who they are going to hire, instead of most qualified, the bottom line of the company may be affected.

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