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China, India taking advantage of US: Donald Trump

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Washington: Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump accused China and India of taking advantage of the US as the eight top tier candidates clashed over issues ranging from trade to foreign policy to immigration.

“If you look at the way China and India and almost everybody takes advantage of the United States — China in particular, because they’re so good,” real estate mogul said during Tuesday night’s fourth Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee.

“It’s the number-one abuser of this country. And if you look at the way they take advantage, it’s through currency manipulation,” he said, calling the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among twelve Pacific Rim countries a “terrible deal.”

“It’s not even discussed in the almost 6,000-page agreement. It’s not even discussed,” Trump complained before the Kentucky senator Rand Paul suggested to the moderators that “we might want to point out China is not part of this deal.” Nor is India.

Trump also faced skepticism from his rivals over his plans to deport 11 million illegal immigrants with Ohio governor John Kasich calling it “silly”.

“Come on, folks, we all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border. It’s a silly argument. It’s not an adult argument,” he said.

Jen Bush, son of a former president and the brother of another also rejected Trump’s call for deportations, saying it hurt the party’s ability to reach out to mainstream audiences: “They’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this.”

But Texas senator Ted Cruz called Bush’s plan “amnesty.” He joked that party elites and the mainstream media were easy on Bush because they don’t feel the economic threat that immigrants pose to working-class Americans.

If people were coming across the Rio Grande with journalism degrees, Cruz said, the American media would suddenly see immigration as a major problem.

On the question of how to handle the Islamic State and Russia, Trump called for the US to stay out of more confrontations saying “We can’t continue to be the policeman of the world.”

“If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it,” Trump said, noting that he had met Russian President Vladimir Putin through a “60 Minutes” episode.

Bush quickly shot back. “Donald is wrong on this” he said. “We are not going to be the world’s policemen, but we sure as heck better be the world’s leader.”

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is running neck and neck with Trump in polls, blasted the media for what he characterized as lies about his past. Carson also said the press is treating Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton more favorably.

“I have no problem with being vetted. What I do have a problem with is being lied about,” Carson said.

(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)