Passport

Cash-strapped WikiLeaks unveils new credit card system

In a press statement released this morning, WikiLeaks announced the creation of a new fundraising scheme to circumvent the international embargo imposed last fall by international credit-card processors. Empowered by a recent legal victory against VISA Iceland, the organization aims to exploit a technical loophole in the international credit card system:

The French credit card system, Carte Bleue, is coupled with the VISA/Mastercard system globally. VISA and Mastercard are contractually barred from directly cutting off merchants through the Carte Bleue system. The French non-profit FDNN (Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality- Fonds de Défense de la Net Neutralité), has set up a Carte Bleue fund for WikiLeaks.

The embargo, which caused a temporary publication halt in October 2011, has hit the organization hard. As donations dropped to a total of $40,2013 in the first half of 2012 -- a mere 21% of operating costs -- WikiLeaks cash reserves plummeted from $983,6000 in December 2010 to barely $120,000 at the end of June. The press statement could not hide the organization's desperation: "reserve funds will expire at the current austere rate of expenditure within a few months. In order to effectively continue its mission, WikiLeaks must raise a minimum of EUR 1M immediately."

Despite the financial trouble (and significant personal legal woes), WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remained defiant in his statement to the press. "We beat them in Iceland and, by god, we'll beat them in France as well. Let them shut it down. Let them demonstrate to the world once again their corrupt pandering to Washington." Julian Assange announced from his perch in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, "We're waiting. Our lawyers are waiting. The whole world is waiting. Do it."

CARL COURT/AFP/GettyImages

Passport

"Goodwill gesture" by Bahraini firm sets Indian laborers free

After six years of being stranded in Bahrain, roughly 100 laborers will be allowed to return home to India, the BBC reports. The workers, who were employed at the Nass Corporation until they quit in 2006, had been legally barred from leaving Bahrain because they terminated their contracts before the agreed upon date.

The company had accused the workers of "absconding from work" in 2006 after many of them left the company complaining of low wages.

The workers' visas were sponsored by the company, a requirement under Bahrain law for anyone leaving the country.

Nearly 400,000 Indians live and work in Bahrain and campaigners say many live in extreme poverty - they are often not paid the wages they are promised and their passports are taken away from them.

In 2009 Bahrain's own labour minister criticised the visa sponsor system, saying it was akin to slavery.

One of the laborers recently committed suicide by hanging himself from a palm tree in a public garden. He was the 26th Indian laborer who has committed suicide in Bahrain this year.

The Nass Corporation has reportedly agreed not to press charges against runaway workers in the future in exchange for being removed from an Indian government blacklist.

The headline in Bahrain's state-run Gulf Daily News was "Goodwill gesture by firm."  

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images