News in Brief: Obama to Back Business Tax Breaks With Stimulus Package, and More …

Obama to Back Business Tax Breaks With Stimulus Package

In the latest in a series of proposals rolled out in hopes of jump-starting the economy before the November elections, President Obama will call on Congress to pass new tax breaks for businesses. The proposals would allow them to write off 100 percent of their new capital investment through 2011, and are expected to save businesses $200 billion over two years and allow companies to have more cash on hand. The president is expected to outline the plan during a speech on the economy in Cleveland Wednesday, reported The Associated Press.

Firm Accused of Exploiting Thai Workers

Six labor contractors from a Los Angeles manpower company have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Honolulu in the largest ever human trafficking case ever brought by federal authorities, reported The New York Times. The president, three executives and two Thai labor contractors from Global Horizons Manpower were charged with imposing forced labor on some 400 Thai farm workers. The company recruited the foreign farm workers for the federal agricultural guest worker program, known as H-2A, and forced the workers’ labor and service “through threats to have them arrested, deported or sent back to Thailand, knowing the workers could not pay off their debts if sent home,” according to the complaint.

Charities Connected to Lawmakers May Skirt Ethics

An investigation by The New York Times has founds that charities set up or operated by lawmakers or their families regularly accept money from business that could gain from access to the politicians. There are no legal limits to how much companies can pledge to these charities, which makes them an ideal way to maneuver around ethics rules. The scope of the problem is difficult to grasp as charities are not required to disclose their donors, but the investigation found at least a dozen companies that appear to be violating the requirements. Meanwhile, lawmakers are benefiting from the acts of charity performed by their organizations.

Blacks Farmers Renew Push for Discrimination Case Settlement

The National Black Farmers Association plans to call on the US Senate Tuesday to fund a discrimination case settlement reached more than a decade ago by minority farmers and the US Agriculture Department. The historic and costly settlement, Pigford v. Glickman, was settled out of court in 1997, and under a federal judge’s terms from 1999, qualified farmers were eligible to receive $50,000 each to mitigate claims of racial bias, reported CNN. The House tacked the payment onto a war supplemental bill in July, but it was rejected by Republicans in the Senate. Democrats in the Senate, who unanimously approved the request, and some Republicans have attempted to approve the pay-out several times in recent months.

Afghanistan to Bail Out Kabul Bank

The Afghan government has set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to keep Kabul Bank from going under, reported The Wall Street Journal, as police and soldiers were called in to keep order at the bank’s branches as depositors made a run on the country’s largest bank to retrieve their money. The bank is in trouble due to allegations of corruption, and Afghan and US officials fear the bailout could backfire on President Karzai’s administration. Estimates of the money the Afghan government will devote to propping up the bank range from $200 million to $400 million.

French Unions Strike Over Plan to Raise Retirement Age

More than 200 demonstrations have swept France against French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to raise his country’s retirement age from 60 to 62. The strike coincides with the start of a debate in Parliament over the money-losing pension system, calling for an overhaul on the basis that people live longer and the huge national debt must be reduced, reported The Guardian UK. Demonstrations caused major travel delays, with only one-fourth of scheduled flights leaving Paris’ airports and two of five speed trains operating. Germany recently increased its retirement age by two years, and the UK is considering similar measures and, even at 62, France would still have one of the lowest retirement ages in all of Europe.