Friday, June 04, 2010 3:01 PM
Take a gander at mainstream media and one could be forgiven for having the impression that, despite the military nature of former president Manuel Zelaya’s removal, the Honduras question is largely resolved, with free and fair elections replacing a president on the verge of becoming a second Hugo Chavez.
“The Washington Post called the election ‘mostly peaceful,’ ” according to muckraker NACLA Report on the Americas. “[Porfirio] Lobo was ‘elected president in a peaceful vote’ . . . reported Bloomberg News, [and] The New York Times said in an editorial that there was ‘wide agreement’ the election was ‘clean and fair.’ ”
Alternative publications and organizations, including NACLA, Briarpatch, and The Nation, have pushed back forcefully, claiming that Lobo’s election was intended to gloss over a military coup led by corporate oligarchs and military generals. Through the alt-press lens, we can glimpse the ongoing human rights abuses, flaws in the argument that Zelaya was on the verge of becoming a dictator, and the passionate public opposition to the new government.
Let’s begin with the scene on the ground last November. As mentioned above, Lobo’s election was widely portrayed as a peaceful end to the strife that followed Zelaya’s removal by the Honduran Congress and military, who claimed his attempt to include a non-binding referendum—calling for a constitutional convention—on the ballot would have paved the road to him becoming “President for Life.”
The elections themselves, however, were heavily protested; The Nation reports that street protests ranged from 400,000 and 600,000 people, and leading progressive candidates withdrew from the November election in protest of the coup. Between June and December of 2009, the Committee for Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras documented 708 human rights violations and 54 murders.
Briarpatch questions the motives behind Zelaya’s removal, blaming the oligarchs who run Honduras’ multinational corporations for supporting the forcible replacement of a progressive president with one friendly to business. In 2009, Zelaya raised the minimum wage 84 percent to $289/month, lowered interest rates on home loans, and otherwise moved to protect working-class Hondurans. The day after the coup, in contrast, interim president Roberto Micheletti, “promised to make Honduras an even more attractive destination for foreign direct investment,” and replaced those in the Ministry of Labour who “possessed knowledge of the issues” with people who were friendly to industry.
Six months later, sweatshop workers found that their working conditions had deteriorated, and that their protests to the Ministry went unanswered, Maria Luisa Regalado, the director of the Honduran Women’s Collective, told Briarpatch.
Making matters more complicated, NACLA points out that the Honduran constitutional convention—had it happened—would probably not have begun until well after the seven months Zelaya had left in his one term, and any resulting changes almost certainly wouldn’t have gone into effect until years afterward. Thus it is far more likely, in a what-if scenario where the constitutional convention abolished term limits, that Zelaya’s successor, not him, would have had the chance to become “President for Life.”
Nor have things settled down since the election; since many Hondurans refused to accept the results, the government has moved to silence dissent. According to Reporters Without Borders, Honduras has become “the world’s deadliest country for the media since the start of this year [emphasis added],” particularly for those who oppose Lobo. Seven journalists were killed in the six-week period between March 3 and April 21.
In addition, opposition radio stations have been threatened with censure and closure, and neither threats nor killings have been seriously investigated by the police; Reporters Without Borders notes that no one has yet been punished for any of the attacks. Honduran journalists are being silenced—making the U.S. mainstream media’s silence all the more disappointing.
Sources: Briarpatch, Committee for the Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras, NACLA Report on the Americas, Reporters Without Borders, The Nation
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 12:21 PM
Conservationists in the Ngorongoro Crater, a Tanzanian National Park, are searching for a compromise with the area’s native Maasai tribes, whose survival and longstanding traditions depend on killing lions.
The park’s protected lions are crossing Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) borders and killing Maasai livestock during dry seasons. The Maasai orchestrate “revenge killings” in retaliation. Ceremonial group lion hunts are also a Maasai rite of passage.
But, “the resulting death rate threatens two of the four prides in the NCA,” writes Cheryl Lyn Dybas in the July issue of The Scientist:
Maasai graze their livestock in open pastures during the day, when one to three herdsmen—who are often very young—protect the cattle against lions. Cattle losses to lions could be reduced if adults rather than children served as guards. Another solution: replacing wooden barriers with chain-link fencing in village corrals.
Source: The Scientist, Maasai Association
Image by Frederic.Salein, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, July 09, 2009 11:45 AM
Russia’s tepid response to Barack Obama’s recent visit to Moscow reveals the shortcomings of the current administration’s “president as policy” strategy, writes David J. Rothkopf for Foreign Policy magazine. The lack of "bro-ing down" between Vladimir Putin and America’s rock star president indicates Obama’s campaign-era charm in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily translate to people who are not “pre-disposed to like us,” says Rothkopf. He writes:
In these instances, the new president is discovering that something much more than personal diplomacy and smile from the genuinely appealing Obama clan is needed. In these instances, we are going to need to go back to the drawing board and do the grunt work of foreign policy, the tough negotiations, the nuanced position changes, the threats, the cajoling. It's a very different game from American politics and, in fact, is often completely unconnected to it. What works here, very often does not play at all overseas.
The key to building a successful structure of foreign relations, adds Rothkopf, should rely less on the president and more on the delegation of power to members of his team, primarily the all but invisible Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It's time to move out of campaign mode and into governing mode. It's time recognize that it really does take a big team of empowered leaders to make the complex foreign policy of the U.S. work and evolve in the right directions. It's time to recognize that it does not reflect badly on the president if we all agree he cannot transform the world single handedly, that however different he may be from his predecessors, that alone is not enough.
Source: Foreign Policy
Image by AlexJohnson, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:59 PM
1. Provide Cover: If you are Twittering about events in Iran from outside Iran, you have the luxury of not worrying about that knock on the door. Not so for Iranians. There is a movement afoot to provide cover for Iranian cyber-dissent by changing your Twitter profile to match the time zone and location of the Iranians brave enough to tweet the updates and calls to action. To do this, simply open the settings page and select "GMT+03:30 Tehran" and change your location to Tehran, Iran.
2. Change Your Facebook Picture: We did! It's a small thing, but a show of support on Facebook is something Iranians can see, so long as the government doesn't shut down the internet completely.
3. Spread the Stories: Iran is a deeply misunderstood place. Stereotypes abound and are typified by the front page of today's New York Post, which featured a photo from the protests and the headline: TURBAN WARFARE. Powerful narratives are emerging from inside Iran. Put them in your Twitter feed, on your Facebook page, on your blog, or send them out via email. The best place to find these narratives is over at Andrew Sullivan's Atlantic blog The Daily Dish or through a Twitter search for tweets about Iran.
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Monday, June 08, 2009 12:42 PM
On March 17, American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling were arrested for allegedly crossing the border from China into North Korea while reporting for Al Gore’s user-generated news organization Current TV. In doing so, they became unwitting players in Kim Jong-Il’s ongoing political theatrics, aimed at the U.S. in particular. This drama came to a head today when they were sentenced to 12 years hard labor by North Korea’s highest court for committing “grave crimes” against the country.
For the past month and a half, Gore and Current TV have been mum on the situation, causing SF Gate blogger Phil Bronstein to question what’s going on with our former Vice President:
“Where is Mr. Gore, Nobel winner and formerly the second most powerful person in the world in all this? How about anything from SF-based Current TV, say maybe even just a public expression of concern? At the moment I wrote this, the big story on their web site is, ‘Top 10 Sexting Acronyms For Adults.’” (as of this writing, one of the top stories is “James Cameron Joins Heavy Metal” but alas, no mention of Lee and Ling)
One hopes that Gore’s silence has been out of concern for his reporters’ safety, given the situation’s potential volatility. Indeed, Fox News reports that the State Department “did not rule out” the possibility of Gore’s involvement in negotiations but refused to comment further.
Most journalists and North Korea watchers believe that Lee and Ling will eventually be released. Jason Zengerle over at The New Republic echoes the prevailing sentiment that Pyongyang will use the journalists as a bargaining chip for bilateral talks with the U.S.: “American diplomats will jump through whatever hoops the North Koreans set up for them; and that will be that.” And, Yonhap News predicts that Pyongyang will try to get the U.S. and UN to soften any political and financial sanctions in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear missile tests.
Regardless of the outcome, both Bronstein and LaToya Peterson at Racialicious view this as a defining moment for Current TV’s user-generated, “democratic” mode of journalism.
Bronstein writes: “Is this what happens when information becomes more democratic? No one’s willing to step up? If you work for a viewer-supplied TV cable network, does that mean no one has your back? This does not help the argument that the value of large news organizations is dwindling to nothing in favor of small entrepreneurs. There’s no encouragement for 2.0 reporting when its practitioners can disappear into the gulag with no one to fight for them.”
Peterson writes: “As we enter a world where corporate interests often trump stories that impact every day people, Current TV’s work developing user generated content and training citizens to become journalists is rapidly emerging as a model to follow to keep citizens engaged in their communities.
But, it is like the old truism: Nothing in life comes for free. In the process of fighting for truth, we have to dig deeper and go to places we never thought we’d go, often at the risk of running afoul of authorities who would rather this information was not released.”
Sources: New York Times, SF Gate, Fox News, The New Republic, Yonhap News, Racialicious
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:48 PM
The media storm in response to North Korea’s short-range missile tests on Monday runs the gamut between calls for continued diplomacy to questions about a renewed Cold War. Here’s a short list of key articles:
Daniel Politi summarizes the mainstream press coverage for Slate, including: how this incident spells an early test for Obama’s foreign policy from the New York Times; questions about North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s motivations from the Los Angeles Times; and, speculations in the Washington Post on how big a bomb the communist regime can actually produce.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Kim may be preparing a transitional leader on the heels of his alleged stroke in August of last year. A top candidate may be his brother-in-law, Jang Seong Taek, whom he recently appointed to North Korea’s National Defense Commission. U.S. officials suspect that Mr. Kim’s third son, Kim Jong Un, is also in the running.
Korea Times wonders if their peninsula may be regressing to Cold War-era tensions after a decade of uneasy yet promising relations with their northern neighbor, as defined by the “Sunshine Policy” doctrine. Articulated in 1998 by then-South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, the Sunshine Policy established a peaceful stance towards North Korea that anticipated eventual reunification. However, since his 2008 election, current President Lee Myung Bak has taken an increasingly hard line approach toward Pyongyang.
Lee Chi-dong reports for Yonhap News that South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan has vowed to try to “bring North Korea back to the bargaining table” of peaceful negotiation.
And, New Scientist sees a silver lining in Monday’s missile tests: “The network of blast detectors intended for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has not yet come into force, seems to have perfectly identified the explosion as a nuclear test, despite its small size.” In other words, at least our nuclear-monitoring technology is working.
Sources: Slate, Wall Street Journal, Korea Times, Yonhap News, New Scientist
Image by Borut Peterlin, licensed under Creative Commons
Monday, April 13, 2009 11:24 AM
How do you mark the 50th anniversary of China taking over Tibet? If you were China, you’d create a national holiday, of course. On March 28 the Chinese government officially forced “Serf Liberation Day” onto the citizens of Tibet, its awkward answer to commemorations of the Dalai Lama’s exile and the Tibetan uprising of 1959.
The government stated through Xinhua that this new holiday would “offer Tibetans an occasion to remember history and remind themselves to cherish the good days they have enjoyed since the democratic reform 50 years ago,” while the website of the Tibetan government-in-exile countered that “Tibetans consider this observance offensive and provocative.”
In the May issue of In These Times, Stephen Asma takes a decidedly middle path on the situation in Tibet (article not available online), and recommends a cooling of the rhetoric on both sides. He cites problematic “doublespeak” from both China and the Tibetan exiles, influencing how the West has framed the debate:
“The Dalai Lama and his own propaganda machine have been effective in setting the parameters of discussion and reflection in the West. Most Americans know one simple story, when it comes to this vexed region: Tibet = mystical, peace-loving, good guys. China = godless, pugnacious, bad guys. The reality is more complicated.”
Asma states that the Dalai Lama’s views on Tibet’s future are more pragmatic than most reports acknowledge: “He wants an ethnically controlled, autonomous region together with the massive benefits of being part of China.”
He then takes the risky position that “If it wasn’t for China, Tibet would have no infrastructure or modern development to speak of. Roads would still be rudimentary; education would be largely theological; drinking water and medical facilities would be closer to the medieval condition they were in during the 1940s.”
Asma illuminates the fraught history between China and Tibet and then recommends that “The two sides could sit down and negotiate an honorable accord, in the spirit of the Seventeen-Point Agreement [which established Chinese sovereignty over Tibet]...The real issue worth working toward is the fair distribution of economic, educational and political opportunities for both the Tibetan people and the more recent immigrant Han population.”
Sources: In These Times, the website for the Central Tibetan Administration, Xinhua
Monday, April 06, 2009 2:45 PM
The war in Sudan continues to rip apart families and communities. The Canadian International Development Agency, with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is trying to help them find each other. Heba Aly reports for The Walrus that the ICRC in Sudan is attempting to track down missing persons and deliver messages to separated family members. The impact of war is illustrated through the devastating simplicity of the tracing requests and their responses.
Here is one message:
Greetings. I am so happy to be able to hold pen and paper in my hands and write this message. How are you? We ask God that you are fine and in good health. The only thing we miss is seeing you. It has been a long time since we heard from or about you. I’m writing this Red Cross Message because we don’t have any means to communicate. Pass my greetings to all your sons. Thanks.
This is one of two messages from a camp south of Nyala city in Darfur to reach Adam Ibrahim El Hag, the owner of a construction company in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, 900 kilometers away. “They found my relatives in the middle of the mountains!” El Hag cried, his eyes beaming behind large red-framed glasses, as the ICRC field officer handed him the notes. After reading them, he sat at his desk to reply.
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. My respected uncle, I hope that this message finds you in good health and that the whole family is happy and blessed. All the family members in Khartoum are okay and are asking about you a lot. And they ask God to make life easy for you and remove all your hardships. May peace be upon you. Your brother, Adam Ibrahim El Hag”
Source: The Walrus
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 11:27 AM
International adoption, like any business, is driven by market forces. In this month’s Mother Jones, Jim Carney tells the story of a boy adopted from India into an American family who is later revealed to have been kidnapped rather than relinquished. After the news is broken to both families, the boy’s Indian parents wish to have contact with their American counterparts, who choose instead to cease all communication. The article is accompanied by a podcast interview with Carney, who elaborates on what happened after the story was published, as well as his own views on how the supply and demand of international adoption contribute to its corruption.
“American families don’t want children who have lived in orphanages for too long,” he explains, noting the vulnerability of institutionalized children toward diseases, neurological problems, and general lack of care. “They aren’t very saleable.”
So, corrupt adoption brokers look for healthy children of “better stock”, i.e. from loving families, abduct them, and then concoct back stories that label the children as willingly relinquished. Thus, the receiving families, predominantly from the global west, get what they want, and the brokers get paid.
Systemic corruption in international adoption is not limited to India, either, with similar reports common from other sending countries.
For further examination of international adoption’s supply chain, check out E.J. Graff’s op-ed in The Washington Post, “The Orphan Manufacturing Chain,” which breaks down the system.
Beneath the traditional rhetoric of international adoption as save-the-children altruism lies the undeniable influence of basic economics. Framing international adoption in economic terms allows us to deconstruct the various forces that drive it and contribute to its corruption.
Sources: Mother Jones, The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 3:30 PM
Writing for New Internationalist, climate activist Danny Chivers delivers an accessible roundup of several major climate change proposals on the table for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. (A longer version of the story is available on his blog.) His article focuses on climate justice, rating each framework on its fairness, effectiveness, and current level of support among world leaders. Cheeky analogies cut through the wonk to illustrate each option for addressing climate change.
The proposal with the most support is the grandfathering of Kyoto targets, which would require industrialized countries to reduce emissions to a certain percentage below their 1990 levels. According to Chivers, “It’s a bit like a group of wealthy tourists and destitute refugees have survived a plane crash and are stranded on a mountain. They decide to ration out the food based on how much each person ate in the week before the crash—the more you ate per day back then, the more food you get now.”
Chivers prefers Greenhouse Development Rights (GDRs). Under this method, carbon targets for each country would be set based on how much money its citizens make and how much greenhouse gas they produce. In Chivers’ analogy, “It’s a bit like a city is razed to the ground by alien invaders. The people who escaped unscathed because they lived in solid houses built from money they stole from the aliens (thus provoking the attack) are expected to take on most of the rebuilding work. The people who had left the aliens alone, stayed poor, and lived in rickety houses that collapsed on them during the attack are allowed to recover in hospital before joining in the work.”
As for carbon credits: “It’s a bit like handing control of the Earth’s vital natural systems over to a bunch of grinning Wall Street traders. Oh no, wait: it’s exactly like that.”
Monday, March 02, 2009 1:43 PM
A coaltion of people's movements have united against large-scale mining in Ecuador, reports Daniel Denvir for In These Times, in the form of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit, massive highway blockades, and even a possible political alliance in the next election.
Indigenous groups and campesinos, or peasant farmers, are protesting President Rafael Correa’s recent call to expand mineral exploitation by citing the new constitution that Correa’s own Alianza País supported this past September. Among other things, this document extends legal rights to the natural environment and claims access to water as a human right. However, in January Correa seemed to backtrack on this language by moving to open Ecuador up for further mining by Canadian companies Kinross, Iamgold Inc., and Corriente Resources Inc. In response the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) mobilized thousands of protestors, who went so far as to physically block mining routes along the Panamerican Highway.
Additionally, the Amazon Defense Front, which represents indigenous and campesino movements, has initiated a lawsuit against oil mammoth Texaco, whose practices have wreaked environmental havoc and widespread illness in local populations. Denvir further reports that indigenous and campesino leaders are discussing the possibility of challenging Correa in the April elections, with the aim of gaining seats in the National Assembly.
Sources: In These Times, Upside Down World
image by hyperscholar, licensed under Creative Commons
Friday, February 27, 2009 1:29 PM
China may be surpassing the U.S. in its tolerance and acceptance of transgender people, TransGriot author Monica Roberts reports for Racialicious. With an estimated transgender community of 400,000, the Chinese government has adopted policies that grant transgender citizens civil rights under the law, allow them to change their identification cards, and legally recognize their marriages after sex reassignment surgery. Roberts cites popular Chinese transsexual public figures like Jin Xing and Chen Lili as helping to open up public attitudes. Jin is a former colonel in the Chinese army who is now an internationally acclaimed ballet dancer, while Chen was the first transgender contestant to win the Miss China Universe pageant in 2004 before being banned from participating in the international competition.
Sources: Racialicious, TransGriot
Image by ernop, licensed under Creative Commons
Monday, February 23, 2009 1:35 PM
Last week North Korea once again took a defiant stance toward the world by declaring its right to test what is widely believed to be a long-range missile. Given the pugnacious rhetoric exchanged between the U.S. and North Korea over the years, it’s easy to overlook the non-governmental Korean organizations doing important work to heal the fractured peninsula and bring peace to the region.
The National Human Rights Commission, for example, is an advocacy institution for human rights protection established in 2001. It has developed a clear position on addressing North Korean human rights that recognizes the fundamental rights of Korean citizens while taking into account “the uniqueness of inter-Korean relations.”
Also, the Korean Democracy Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing Korean democracy, includes in its efforts not only future-oriented organizing but also memorializing the history of Korea’s human rights struggle. The organization’s website contains a “Modern History of Democracy and Democratization Movement in Korea,” a primer on contemporary Korean politics from an alternative, grassroots perspective.
Both of these organizations highlight the vast cultural knowledge that is often missing from the U.S.-North Korea debate.
Friday, January 23, 2009 12:49 PM
Freedom fries may be gone, but George Bush's resentments toward the French are not forgotten. As he prepared to leave office, Bush seized the opportunity to lob a departing, symbolic food bomb at the French, according to Foreign Policy:
Apparently one of George W. Bush's last acts as president was to triple tariffs on French Roquefort cheese. This was meant as retaliation for the longstanding French ban on U.S. beef imports. But as Charles Bremner notes, many French were quick to see it as Bush's final shot at the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” who had so aggravated him during the run-up to the Iraq war.
American hormone-treated beef is actually banned by the entire European Union over health concerns, and while Bush raised tariffs on a host of EU products, he singled out Roquefort for a particularly extreme hike.
The French took notice, and made sure Barack Obama knew they weren't happy, sending him what Foreign Policy calls “a deluxe box of Roquefort” to welcome him to the White House and a letter asking him to lift the "shocking" tax. They’re now busy plotting their next move, Telegraph reports, taking hefty new tariffs on Coke products into consideration.
Image by star5112, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, January 23, 2009 11:24 AM
Americans certainly weren’t alone in their eagerness to see George Bush pack his bags for Texas. Bush got a farewell lashing in editorial sections around the globe this week, while President Obama was welcomed by adoring front-page headlines. The cover of London’s The Daily Telegraph even offered a “Free Barack Obama DVD.”
As Hendrik Hertzberg speculates, Obama owes some of his soaring popularity among Americans—a recent poll puts his approval rating at eighty-two percent—to their equally robust distaste for Bush. The same could safely be assumed about worldwide esteem for Obama, but as Gary Younge points out in The Nation, global excitement about the recent election goes much deeper, particularly when you consider race.
“For most of the last century,” Younge writes, “progressives and the oppressed around the world have looked to black America as a beacon—the redemptive force that stood in permanent dissidence against racism at home and imperialism abroad.” Younge explains that African-American artists and sports stars have long been inspirational icons for “oppressed minorities” around the world. Lately, however, “black America's most globally prominent faces were singing and rapping about getting rich.” Obama’s election ushered in a new era of possibility, and represented to the world, just as it did to Americans, real triumph over oppression. It also signals an important racial shift, according to Younge:
The rest of the world must become comfortable with a black American, not as a symbol of protest but of power. And not of any power but a superpower, albeit a broken and declining one. A black man with more power than they. How that will translate into the different political cultures around the globe, whom it will inspire, how it will inspire them and what difference that inspiration will make will vary.
The world is watching as Obama gets down to work, and not just for inspiration—they’re also expecting results. The New Stateman devoted much of a recent issue to analyzing what the world wants from Obama and how likely he is to deliver. Don’t worry, Mr. President, you “only [have] to rescue the global economy, solve the crisis in the Middle East and fix the environment.”
Image by Muhammad Adnan Asim, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, January 12, 2009 3:27 PM
Now that the U.S. presidential contest is finally over, GOOD magazine suggests that people turn their attentions to six particularly interesting elections that will take place around the world in the coming year.
First up is Israel’s parliamentary election, which may be delayed due to the current conflict in Gaza. The top two contenders are Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni; Netanyahu currently leads in the polls, but Livni has experience as the current Foreign Minister and a reputation of being untouched by corruption.
Other contests to follow include India’s parliamentary election in May and Iran’s presidential election in June.
Thursday, November 20, 2008 10:10 AM
President-elect Barack Obama has confidently pledged to scrub out the blight on America's moral standing that is Guantanamo Bay. Closing the notorious prison is a move the world would eagerly embrace, and the move would immediately distance the new administration from the sinister national security practices of the Bush years. Goodbye torture, hello habeas corpus.
That sure sounds nice. But putting Gitmo’s sordid abuses in our past won't be easy. The legal issues at stake remain with or without the prison, as Matthew Waxman, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, points out in an interview with Foreign Policy. “The United States will continue to capture, detain, and need to interrogate suspected terrorists long into the future,” Waxman said. “And the bigger question than whether to hold them at Guantanamo or not is one of legal authority. On what legal basis and according to what standards will the United States conduct detentions?”
Trials of “enemy combatants” are another complicated matter, and there’s little consensus on how they should be carried out, according to the New Republic. “Some conservatives argue that civilian courts are too protective of detainee rights or would sacrifice sensitive national security information,” writes Joseph Landau for TNR, while, “civil libertarians reject national-security courts for insufficiently guarding defendants’ rights.”
The proposed creation of national security courts charged solely with trying suspected terrorists is being hotly debated, and Obama is said to be considering the option. University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora is a strong proponent of this idea. In a guest column for Jurist, he writes, “In advocating the establishment of domestic terror courts I am seeking both a legal and practical solution to the continued detention of thousands of ‘post 9/11 detainees.’” Guiora suggests the courts as an ongoing solution to a problem that extends far beyond Guantanamo Bay. “Guantanamo Bay is but one detention facility,” Guiora writes.
The Christian Science Monitor describes the new court model as similar to one that was used in Israel, where trials were “conducted behind closed doors to protect intelligence sources and methods.” According to CSM, “Instead of using military judges, such a court should be staffed by civilian federal judges, preserving the separation of powers,” but protecting intelligence information. Guiora told CSM, “Source-protection is a must in the context of counterterrorism.” He said, “Without sources, there is no intelligence. Without intelligence, there is no counterterrorism.”
But not everyone thinks a specialized terror court is a good idea, or necessary. Also for Jurist, Washington University law professor Leila Nadya Sadat notes the following:
Although advocates of creating a new set of courts to try terror suspects are no doubt sincere in trying to “fix” the problem of what to do with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, let’s remember that at least some of these folks are the ones who gave the advice that supported the practice of rendition and the establishment of Guantanamo Bay in the first place. Indeed, a close look at their proposals suggests a disregard for time-tested rules of law eerily similar to the lawyering style that has pervaded the administration during the past eight years.... The federal courts, and regularly constituted military courts, are more than capable of trying individuals accused of terrorism and violations of the laws and customs of war, as they have done so before.
Image by woody1778a, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, October 31, 2008 5:53 PM
From my observation perch in Stanford, California, an English European turned 24/7-cablenews-Webcast junkie, I notice that many Americans still suffer from a touching delusion that this is their election. How curious. Don't they understand? This is our election. The world's election. Our future depends on it, and we live it as intensely as Americans do. All we lack is the vote.
That’s historian Timothy Garton Ash writing in a roundup of election eve observations from the New York Review of Books.
The sentiment is backed up in numbers with this interactive global poll at Foreign Policy, which shows Obama with a commanding lead in world opinion.
Americans, meanwhile, are heading to the polls with visions of Great Depression II dancing in their heads. Domestic economic woes rule the polls as the top voter issue. And that might give fretters like Ash the feeling that Americans aren’t too worried about views beyond our shores.
Of course, the economic focus is good news for anyone pulling for Obama. But as another note of perhaps premature assurance, I’ll mention one thing that struck me during the presidential debates, though it didn’t register among the punditry at the time. The conventional wisdom is that the Republican ticket owns foreign policy, and if national security—not the economy—were Americans' top concern then people wouldn’t be selling their souls on Craigslist for tickets to Obama’s Grant Park would-be victory rally.
But every time Obama talked about restoring America’s standing in the world during those debates, that little CNN widget tracking independent voters’ sentiments spiked. It may not be the issue in the forefront of voters’ minds, but it’s one they do seem, at long last, to care about.
Monday, October 27, 2008 3:12 PM
The election might still be a week away, but why not start mulling over who should be the next president’s “dream team” of international strategists? That’s what Foreign Policy did with a poll of luminaries like Nation editor/publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and conservative icon Grover Norquist.
There are some intriguing ideas in here. Bill Bradley or Richard Holbrooke for secretary of state? Michael Bloomberg or Warren Buffett for treasury secretary?
And some amusing ones, too: Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, uses his bonus pick to nominate Sarah Palin as the ambassador to Russia. And Norquist keeps it in the family by giving David Norquist the nod for director of national intelligence: “He’s my brother and he’s good.”
You can jump into the fray with your own submissions. Foreign Policy has set up a page where you can select among their experts' options and add your own.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 11:55 AM
Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event that taps thousands of bloggers across the globe to tackle a single pressing issue. This year, the focus is on poverty. We’ll be spotlighting excellent alternative press coverage of poverty throughout the day here. Let’s get started with this rallying call to progressives from In These Times:
One of the finest traditions of the American left has been its historic commitment to solidarity with the oppressed and poverty-stricken peoples of the world.
In the last few years, however, the progressive movement has become far too insular. As a result, we have too often neglected our internationalist responsibilities–especially when it comes to confronting the ravages of world poverty.
Ken Brociner argues that while other concerns have understandably drawn progressives’ focus—namely, the war in Iraq and electoral politics—the movement is in danger of succumbing to a deadly domestic myopia.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 18 million people die each year due to poverty-related causes. This staggering figure represents about one third of all deaths that occur throughout the world on an annual basis. And these are deaths that could be easily prevented through better nutrition, safe drinking water, and adequate vaccines, antibiotics and other medicines.
It’s a point that’s proved particularly salient in the last few weeks, as headlines warming of Great Depression II have Americans gnashing their teeth over their disappearing retirement funds. As folks see their budgets increasingly squeezed, it’s easy to ignore the dire needs of those abroad. This dismissal has infected the campaign trail as well, with both presidential candidates confessing that the economic crisis likely will force them to roll back their foreign aid plans.
Which is all the more reason why, as Brociner notes, progressives must not lose sight of their internationalist obligations. Because if they don’t keep global poverty on the U.S. agenda, then who will?
For more alt-press dispatches from Blog Action Day, click
Monday, October 06, 2008 3:56 PM
This summer, President Bush reauthorized PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The bill allocates up to $39 billion for AIDS prevention, treatment, and education in 114 countries worldwide, including much of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In order to qualify for the emergency funding, every participating nation must adopt a set of strategic principles, known as the Three Ones: “one national plan, one national coordinating authority, and one national monitoring and evaluation system in each of the host countries in which organizations work.” In other words, they need what’s referred to as a “national AIDS strategy” to see any cash.
But ironically, the United States lacks a unifying AIDS strategy of its own and has allowed funding for domestic AIDS programs to slip. This August the CDC revealed that America’s AIDS infection rates were up 40 percent from their previous estimate. This translates to at least 56,000 new infections each year. John McCain recently voiced his support for a national AIDS strategy, while Barack Obama gave his endorsement last fall. But a mere endorsement is not enough. POZ magazine has put forth seven specific steps to battle AIDS in America, to be executed by the next president during his crucial first 100 days in office.
The steps are straightforward and packed with information, insistent but not preachy or angry. They remind us that while socioeconomic status, gender, geography, and sexual orientation often come into play, AIDS infects indiscriminately. It must be addressed as an epidemic, and every American should have equal access to treatment and education resources.
HIV/AIDS issues may take a back seat to the economic crisis and foreign policy, at least for the time being, but the urgency of the domestic AIDS crisis can’t be ignore for much longer.
For more on Bush's bumbling AIDS policies, both domestic and foreign, read Utne Reader librarian Danielle Maestretti's Shelf Life column, "Bush: The AIDS President?", from our July-August issue.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:35 PM
Yesterday at the United Nations, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy held out the carrot of immunity for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir if he implements “radical and immediate change in Sudanese policies.” Britain is reportedly in agreement with staying the International Criminal Court’s war crimes investigation. (China, Russia, the Arab League, and the African Union were already on board with the immunity deal.)
And so the organ of blind international justice is being reduced to just another political bargaining chip in a disastrously long conflict that’s proven immune to such wheeling and dealing. Just as bad, the approach could be completely misguided by removing what might prove to be one of the few effective pressure tactics on Sudan to date. An interesting piece in Britain’s new Standpoint magazine argues that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s much-maligned campaign for war crime charges against al-Bashir may actually be rattling Khartoum toward change.
Here’s Justin Marozzi, who spent the summer as a communications adviser for the joint U.N.-African Union force in Darfur, writing for Standpoint:
Many commentators fear [Moreno-Ocampo’s] decision will wreck any chances of peace, failing to note that there is no peace process to spoil. With his back to the wall, there is no accounting what Bashir might do, they argue, ignoring the fact that he has had carte blanche to do what he likes in Darfur since 2003. In fact, although it is early days, the fallout from the ICC’s landmark move towards the indictment of Bashir looks positive. A friend with access to the highest levels of the regime reports unprecedented conversations at the presidential palace.
“The government’s in meltdown,” he reports. “They just didn’t think it would ever happen. They can’t believe it. The four or five people who run Sudan are now saying to Bashir, look where your policies have got us. They’re telling him, you can go to your rallies and demonstrations, you can shake your fist and rattle your walking stick, but you shut the hell up.” ...
Now a national cross-party committee has been created to address the Darfur issue and end the conflict. Bashir has suddenly rediscovered an interest in Darfur, promising security, schools, roads and water. Window-dressing while the ICC judges ponder Moreno Ocampo’s evidence? Quite possibly, but these are suddenly interesting times. “There’s going to be a real push now for peace,” my palace mole reports. “Bashir’s got nothing to lose.”
Far from emboldening the Sudanese president and destroying a peace process that doesn’t exist, in other words, the ICC’s potential indictment may have been the best news for Darfur in years. Sudan watchers wonder whether Khartoum will finally ditch the president, who came to power in a 1989 coup, noting that the regime dropped the Islamic ideologue Hassan al-Turabi in the late Nineties in a bid to end its international isolation. Turabi, they note, was a far more important figure to the ruling National Congress Party then than Bashir is today.
Late last month, the Institute for War & Peace Reporting noted “rumblings of dissent” in Sudanese media and among fringe political circles in the wake of Moreno-Ocampo’s announcement to seek an arrest warrant for al-Bashir. Marozzi, however, goes further, placing dissent in the mouths of those with influence. Removing this key instigator of dissent—the threat of prosecution—could very well restore the status quo, which translates to more death and disaster for the people of Darfur.
Side note: If you’re interested in reading one of the best pieces written on Darfur in recent memory—yes, the genocide has tragically gone on long enough to justify that statement—check out this piece from Richard Just in the New Republic. A snippet:
No genocide has ever been so thoroughly documented while it was taking place. There were certainly no independent film-makers in Auschwitz in 1942, and the best-known Holocaust memoirs did not achieve a wide audience until years after the war. The world more or less looked the other way as genocide unfolded in Cambodia during the 1970s, and the slaughter in Rwanda happened so quickly—a mere hundred days—that by the time the public grasped the extent of the horror, the killing was done. But here is Darfur, whose torments are known to all. The sheer volume of historical, anthropological, and narrative detail available to the public about the genocide is staggering. In the case of the genocide in Darfur, ignorance has never been possible. But the genocide continues. We document what we do not stop. The truth does not set anybody free.
Image of displaced mother and child in North Darfur from USAID.
Friday, August 29, 2008 3:03 PM
No, I don’t mean on an energy-efficient treadmill. Get a wild workout the good old-fashioned way—doing chores. According to Nicolette Loizou of the Ecologist (article not available online), Green Gyms, which are gaining popularity in the UK, revolve around the idea of conservation and gardening volunteerism as a workout. The UK now has 95 Green Gyms, where you can expend your calories while nurturing the great outdoors.
BTCV, a charitable environmental organization in Doncaster, UK, began its Green Gym 10 years ago. More than 10,000 people have since volunteered to improve local green spaces, as well as their own fitness. Typical tasks can be anything from digging soil and planting trees to sawing logs for building a sheep enclosure. And just like a workout routine with a personal trainer, BTCV leads groups in pre-workout warm-up exercises.
Aside from the obvious benefits of improving physical health and our natural surroundings, participants felt that the skills they learned helped to improve their mental health, self-esteem and confidence, reports Loizou.
A single Green Gym session usually lasts around three hours—for free. So instead of hiking it across spinning rubber, grab a shovel and dig—a tree is waiting to be planted. Exercise never felt so worthwhile.
, licensed under
Tuesday, May 13, 2008 3:36 PM
If globalization is catalogued in your brain as an impenetrable, abstract idea, filed away somewhere between Existentialism and The Official Rules of Cricket, it will quickly become concrete upon reading Clive Doucet’s clear vision of the future of international commerce in Maisonneuve. The article offers a primer on free-market economics, handily explaining the effects of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and how this relationship, camouflaged as the complete absence of a relationship, plays into the greater global marketplace. Along the way, Doucet discusses the environmental impact of the global provisioning system, and how Havana is—oh, the irony—a template for the localized-by-necessity cities of the future.
Monday, May 12, 2008 12:40 PM
Expectations about nuptial readiness differ around the world. In the United States, it might seem hurried to marry before college graduation, but “early marriage” elsewhere can mean pushing pre-teen or teen girls toward matrimony, even when it’s illegal. Girls can avoid early marriage, reports humanitarian organization CARE International in the spring 2008 issue of its magazine I Am Powerful (article not available online), with the proper help.
A recent case in point comes from India, where a grandfather demanded his 15-year-old granddaughter marry, despite Indian law setting the age of consent at 18. A CARE-trained volunteer health worker helped the girl take her case to the village council. Not only did the council decide in the girl’s favor, it formed a committee on early marriage to dissuade families from arranging early marriages for their adolescent daughters.
In Yemen, an 8-year-old girl forced to marry a 30-year-old man sought help from the courts, the Yemen Times reported in April. While Yemeni law dictates that girls and boys must be 15 before they can marry, parents are allowed to make a contract on behalf of younger children. “But the husband cannot be intimate with her until she is ready or mature,” says a Yemen Supreme Court lawyer. After the girl complained of her husband’s physical and sexual abuse, her father told her she would have to get a divorce herself if she wanted one. She petitioned for divorce, and the judge ordered the arrest of her husband and father.
The BBC reports that a judge annulled the girl's marriage. "Nojoud is living happily with me and my eight other children," her uncle told the British broadcaster. "She is looking forward to going back to primary school as soon as possible."
(Thanks, Minnesota Women’s Press.)
Image by Steve Weaver, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 11:33 AM
Over the last 30 years, U.S. cities and states have taken up various smoking bans
. No smoking in bars, for example, has become commonplace. But what about other countries? According to a list over at Foreign Policy
,plenty of foreign governments
are aggressively campaigning against smoking, and controversial legislation is on the way. Fact of note: The smoking rate among Chinese men is 61 percent.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 9:38 AM
Microcredit may not work miracles, say two economists for Wilson Quarterly, but it does a damn good job in the face of deeply entrenched poverty. Rather than being a poverty-ending panacea, microcredit is laudable for the small advances it allows borrowers to make. Using microcredit money to pay for education and medical care for their children helps some borrowers stay afloat, which is important, even it doesn’t lead them to become wealthy entrepreneurs. “The more modest truth is that microcredit may help some people earning $2 a day, to earn something like $2.50 a day,” the authors write. “That may not sound dramatic, but when you are earning $2 a day it is a big step forward.”
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