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News Briefs II

Clinton Receives Miliant Leader of Resource-Rich Turkmenistan

The Washington Post

The president of the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, Saparmurad Niyazov, has a reputation as a Soviet-style leader who rules with an iron hand, tolerates no opposition and encourages a cult of personality.

But his country has vast reserves of natural gas and a long border with Iran, which is why President Clinton received him at the White House on Thursday.

Much as they did with China, Clinton and his senior foreign policy advisers decided that the imperatives for doing business with Niyazov outweighed their objections to his domestic repression, administration officials said.

Clinton did not ignore human rights concerns, McCurry said, adding that Niyazov "well understands the importance we attach to political reform and economic reform. He knows that that will continue to be a feature of the bilateral relationship that we stress."

But Niyazov left a strong impression during his visit that political pluralism and freedom of expression are not his foremost concerns. In response to a shouted question about reported suppression of opposition parties, Niyazov, standing in the White House driveway Thursday, replied, "We have no opposition parties. You were misinformed."

Nevertheless, the strategic importance of Turkmenistan requires Washington to deal with Niyazov, administration officials said when questioned.

China's Ban on Direct Sales Affects Four Big U.S. Firms

Los Angeles Times

Amway, Mary Kay, Avon and Tupperware: The four giant U.S. direct-sales companies, which have enjoyed phenomenal growth across China, were ordered this week to stop operating under a broad new directive banning "pyramid selling."

The State Council order for all direct-sales companies to wind up operations by Oct. 31 came the day before U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky arrived in China for trade talks.

"We understand China is intent on cracking down on Ponzi and pyramid schemes and their problems," said Jay Ziegler, a U.S. trade spokesman. "But it's important to recognize that those problems have never been associated with U.S. companies operating in China."

The U.S. companies have been swept up in China's push to rid itself of schemes that have sprouted across the country and have sparked small riots when customers found that they have been duped out of their money. Among the home-grown ploys are door-to-door sales of mechanical foot massagers, cosmetics, water beds, vitamins and elixirs. But the vague definitions in the latest directives affect multinational businesses with millions of dollars invested in China, as well as fly-by-night scammers.

"I don't believe a pullout will be necessary," Amway representative Holwill said. "We're talking to the government about their concerns, and we think we'll be able to address those concerns."

Indictions Reached in Miami Slavery-Prostitution Case

Los Angeles Times

As many as two dozen women and girls were held in virtual slavery and forced to work as prostitutes in a chain of filthy Florida and South Carolina brothels after being lured from Mexico by the promise of work as field hands or domestics, federal officials said Thursday.

Catering to a clientele of farm workers, the women were allowed to keep $3 of the $20 charged each customer while working off so-called transportation fees that could range as high as $3,000, according to U.S. Justice Department officials.

In announcing on Thursday a 52-count indictment charging six members of a Veracruz, Mexico, family and 10 associates with multiple violations of federal immigration, sexual exploitation and extortion laws, Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, described the operation as "modern-day slavery of an unconscionable kind," said Lee.

In custody are eight of the 16 people named in the federal indictment, including one of the ringleaders, Rogerio Cadena, 51. He was arrested Feb. 20 while raking leaves in front of one of the southern brothels.

Late Weather Report Blames Early Settlers' Demise on Long Drought

Los Angeles Times

The worst droughts of the past 800 years likely were responsible for wiping out the first British settlers who tried to colonize North America, according to researchers who have reconstructed the weather of the era when European colonists struggled for a toehold in the New World.

"If the English had tried to find a worse time to launch their settlements in the New World, they could not have done so," said Dennis B. Blanton, director of the William and Mary Center for Archeological Research.

Severe drought may have doomed Britain's first settlement, known to history as the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island, the researchers report. And, but for a timely and prolonged rainy season in 1612 that ended an unusually severe 7-year drought, the second attempt, at Jamestown, might have succumbed as well.

The new research, published in Friday's edition of Science, is helping historians gain a growing appreciation for how even the fate of nations can turn on the whims of weather.

It comes at a time when scientists are voicing increasing concern that human activities may influence future weather patterns by causing warming of Earth's climate.