Weeks before anyone published the now-infamous photographs of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Shereef Akeel, an Egyptian-American lawyer working outside Detroit, received a strange visitor. The caller, an Iraqi with Swedish citizenship, walked into Akeel's office one day in March to tell a horrible story: He had been tortured by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. \n"Abu what?" Akeel asked. \nThe visitor, whom Akeel will identify only as "Saleh," explained he had been held at Abu Ghraib, Saddam Hussein's most notorious prison, not once, but twice. \nThe first time, he said, was for opposing Saddam's regime. After his release, he fled to Sweden. But in September of last year, he said, he returned to Iraq, answering the US' call for expatriates to come home and rebuild their country. \nHe crossed the border from Jordan in a Mercedes loaded with US$70,000 in cash, he said. He was stopped by Americans who took his car, his cash, and threw him into Abu Ghraib, he said. There he remained for three months, he said, and he never saw his car or his money again. \nHis story is among the worst told by 13 Iraqis who have filed two unusual lawsuits -- longshot attempts to hold American civilian contractors responsible for torture in Iraq, allegations that they strongly deny. \nAccording to Saleh, his second stay at Abu Ghraib was his worst. While being held by American civilians working at the prison, Saleh claimed: \nHis genitals were beaten with a stick and then tied by rope to the genitals of other prisoners. A guard pushed one man down, causing the others to fall like dominoes. \nHe was beaten, shocked with electricity, forced to masturbate before others, dragged by a belt tied around his neck, and pistol-whipped. \nHe heard the screams of an Iraqi woman being raped by a US guard. \nHe saw other male prisoners beaten and watched a guard shoot into a crowd of detainees, killing at least five men, including one he had befriended. \nAfter the Americans released him, Saleh again fled to Sweden. In March, he traveled to Michigan to visit his mother. It was there he heard about Akeel, who had gained prominence after Sept. 11, 2001, for filing anti-discrimination lawsuits on behalf several members of Detroit's large Arab-American community. \nAfter Akeel accepted Saleh's case, word spread. Relatives of other detainees began calling, Akeel said, and he soon had more clients than he could handle. The case was getting too big. \nHe sought help from The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based organization dedicated to racial equality. In June, they filed a lawsuit in San Diego, California, on behalf of eight Iraqis -- including Saleh and a widow who said her husband was killed at Abu Ghraib -- and a potential class of more than 1,000 people. The suits were filed not against the US military but against giant American firms providing interrogators and translators to occupying forces in Iraq. \nOne month later, on the other side of the country, other lawyers filed a similar lawsuit in Washington, DC, on behalf of five people, former prisoners and, again, a woman who said her husband was killed in custody. \nThe 13 Iraqis all claim they were imprisoned and interrogated by Americans, but never charged with any crime. Some were held for days, some for months. The federal lawsuits allege prisoners were killed, raped and tortured at prisons including Abu Ghraib, an adjacent facility at Camp Ganci and Camp Bucca in Southern Iraq. \nThe defendants are Virginia-based CACI International Inc and Titan Corp of San Diego, suppliers of thousands of interrogators and translators to military units in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. \nAlso named as defendants are three civilian employees: interrogator Stephen Stephanowicz of CACI, and translators John Israel and Adel Nakhla of Titan. Israel worked for a Titan subsidiary. All three, the suits claim, committed acts of torture. \nThe private companies deny the allegations, which CACI called in a statement "a malicious and farcical recitation of false statements and intentional distortions."
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From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory