World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Immigrant Crackdown Upends Hispanic-Heavy Work Force

Last November, immigration officials began a crackdown at Smithfield Foods’ giant slaughterhouse here, eventually arresting 21 illegal immigrants at the plant and rousting others from their trailers in the middle of the night.

Since then, more than 1,100 Hispanic workers have left the 5,200-employee hog-butchering plant, the world’s largest, leaving it struggling to find, train and keep replacements.

Across the country, the federal effort to flush out illegal immigrants is having major effects on workers and employers alike. Some companies have reluctantly raised wages to attract new workers after raids at their plants. After several hundred immigrant employees at its plant in Stillmore, Ga., were arrested, Crider Poultry began recruiting workers from Minnesota, hiring men from a nearby homeless mission and providing free van transportation to many workers.

So far, Smithfield has largely replaced the Hispanics with American workers, who often leave poorly paid jobs for higher wages at the plant here. But the turnover rate for new workers — many find the work grueling and the smell awful — is twice what it was when Hispanics dominated the work force.

Starving Man’s Diary Suggests Harshness of Welfare in Japan

In a thin notebook discovered along with a man’s partly mummified corpse this summer was a detailed account of his last days, recording his hunger pangs, his drop in weight and, above all, his dream of eating a rice ball, a snack sold for about $1 in convenience stores across the country.

“3 a.m. This human being hasn’t eaten in 10 days but is still alive,” he wrote. “I want to eat rice. I want to eat a rice ball.”

These were not the last words of a hiker lost in the wilderness, but those of a 52-year-old urban welfare recipient whose benefits had been cut off. And his case was not the first here.

One man has died in each of the last three years in this city in western Japan, apparently of starvation, after his welfare application was refused or his benefits cut off. Unable to buy food, all three men wasted away for months inside their homes, where their bodies were eventually found.

Debating a Privately Owned Span’s Replacement

More than a mile of teal-painted steel rises over the Detroit River, just another bridge really, but for the thousands of trucks and hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods that rumble across it each day between the United States and Canada.

In fact, this ordinary four-lane bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in North America, carrying one-third of all road trade — or more than $122 billion in goods a year — between the two countries.

But the span, the Ambassador Bridge, is owned not by either country, not by the cities of Detroit or Windsor, Detroit’s Canadian neighbor, and not by some public bridge authority. It is owned by one man and his privately held company.

In a remarkable arrangement for a crossing so major, Manuel J. Moroun, a reclusive billionaire from Detroit’s suburbs who oversees a trucking empire, owns the bridge, one of only two privately owned bridges along the United States’ entire northern border and by far the most economically significant privately owned bridge in the nation.