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Briefs (right)

Several Political Leaders Killed
In Kenya Air Crash

By Marc Lacey

A military cargo plane carrying a high-level Kenyan delegation on a peace mission crashed on Monday as it tried to land in bad weather in the north of the country, killing 14 people, including five members of parliament.

A provincial official and two crewmen aboard the Chinese-made Y-12 aircraft were rescued from the crash site, on a hillside near the town of Marsabit. One additional passenger was recovered from the fiery wreckage but died en route to Nairobi for treatment.

“This is the worst tragedy to hit the National Assembly,” said Speaker Francis ole Kaparo, announcing the adjournment of parliament until the deceased were buried. “We have lost a lot of good people.”

Among them were Bonaya Godana, a veteran politician and constitutional scholar who was deputy leader of the opposition Kenyan African National Union. Godana served as foreign minister and agriculture minister, among other posts, in the government of Daniel arap Moi.

Other lawmakers the government reported killed in the crash were Mirugi Kariuki, the assistant minister for internal security; Titus Ngoyoni, the assistant minister for regional development authorities; and some of the area’s representatives in Parliament, Abdi Sasura and Guracha Galgalo Boru.

“These were the powerbrokers of this part of Kenya,” said Marc Cassady, who runs an American-financed program advising parliament. “Essentially, this wiped out a regional political class.”

Union Negotiates Contract Covering
Guest Farm Workers

By Steven Greenhouse

With Congress debating a major expansion in the program for guest workers, the nation’s largest union of farmworkers planned to announce on Tuesday that it had signed the first nationwide contract covering agricultural guest workers.

The union, the United Farm Workers, and Global Horizons, a labor contractor based in Los Angeles, have signed an agreement that provides employer-paid medical care, a seniority system and a grievance procedure to help ensure that farms comply with state and federal laws.

“This is huge, because we’re setting a whole new standard of rights and benefits for guest workers,” said Erik Nicholson, the union’s Pacific Northwest director. “Guest workers have been the most exploitable and vulnerable workers short of slaves in the United States.”

Global Horizons, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of agricultural guest workers, has nearly 1,000 in the country now, but plans to have 3,000 to 5,000 by peak harvest season this summer.

The company, which has workers in more than a dozen states, signed the union contract in part to help improve its image after Washington state revoked its license to do business there because of violations alleged by state investigators. The state accused it of failing to pay Thai guest workers their promised wages, putting them in inadequate housing, not paying enough unemployment insurance taxes and improperly withholding state income taxes.

Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington revoked Global’s license in December, even though the company had agreed three months earlier to a $230,000 settlement, which was used largely for workers’ unreimbursed airfare and for improperly deducted taxes.

Detroit Police Agree to Videotape
Certain Interrogations

By Jeremy W. Peters

The Detroit Police Department has agreed to videotape interrogations of all suspects in crimes that carry a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The new policy is expected to be in place within six months and is part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the family of a psychiatric patient who spent 17 years in prison after confessing to a rape and murder that he did not commit. For years, the force’s reputation has been marred by complaints of wrongful detentions, the excessive use of force to obtain confessions and other civil rights abuses,

Detroit’s police chief, Ella Bully-Cummings, was enthusiastic about the action.

“No. 1, it keeps cops honest,” she said.

“It’s a protection for the citizen that’s being interrogated,” she went on. “But from a chief’s point of view, I think the greatest benefit is to police because what it does is provide documentation that they didn’t coerce.”

She said the department has already installed equipment so it can begin taping interrogations once the final settlement language is worked out and approved by the City Council and Judge Gerald E. Rosen of the U.S. District Court here.

Why Industrious Rats Put Up
With Lazy Ones

By Henry Fountain

Lounge around. Gorge yourself on munchies. Road-trip occasionally, looking for mates.

That description might fit your average male college student. But this life of Reilly is being lived by other mammals, Damaraland mole rats, furry burrowing rodents that live in colonies in southern Africa.

Along with their cousins, the naked mole rats, Damaraland mole rats are the only mammals considered to be eusocial, meaning that, as with ants and some other insects, mole rat reproduction is a cooperative affair, with a division of labor. Not everyone gets to do it.

Eusocial organisms often divide up other kinds of labor as well, with castes of workers. But not all of the mole rats are pulling their weight. South African researchers say there is a caste of lazybones, referred to, charitably, as “infrequent workers.” These slothful mole rats can make up as much as 40 percent of a colony yet do only about 5 percent of the work.