The human rights group Amnesty International has released a report criticizing forced labor and dangerous working conditions in Brazil’s sugar cane industry, which feeds the country’s booming ethanol industry. Eduardo Simoes and Inae Riveras report for Reuters (via Gristmill):

Amnesty said that in March 2007, 288 workers were rescued from forced labor at six cane plantations in Sao Paulo state, and 409 workers from an ethanol distillery in Mato Grosso do Sul state.

In November 2007, inspection teams found 831 indigenous cane cutters working in poor conditions, also in Mato Grosso do Sul, while over 1,000 people “in conditions analogous to slavery” were released in June from a sugar plantation in Para state.

“We’ve been receiving accusations of rights violations against workers in the industry that range from precarious working conditions to threats against union leaders,” Tim Cahill, Amnesty’s Brazil researcher, told Reuters by phone.

Although inspections and prosecutions have increased in the Sao Paulo state, where 60% of cane production occurs, limited resources and a large number of companies make enforcement challenging.

In other news:

Associated Press: At least 115 soldiers committed suicide in 2007, the highest rate on record.

Occupational Hazards: Following last week’s deadly crane collapse in New York Senator Clinton has sent a letter to OSHA head Edwin Foulke calling on the agency to issue the long-overdue crane and derrick safety standard. (See Celeste’s post for more on this standard.)

Washington Post: Current and former Federal Aviation Administration employees are stepping forward with complaints that the agency mistreated them after they raised safety concerns.

International Herald Tribune: The International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations is urging regulators to monitor airline cabin air for fumes from engine oil and hydraulic liquid, after recent reports of crew members being sickened by contaminated air.

NIOSH: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is leading a new initiative to highlight the importance of design in preventing workplace injuries and illnesses.