JFP 5/3: Methodists Back Ban on Settlement Products; Palestinians Shift to Hunger Strikes

Just Foreign Policy News, May 3, 2012
Methodists Back Ban on Settlement Products; Palestinians Shift to Hunger Strikes


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Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

*Action: Urge John Brennan to Tell the Whole Truth about CIA drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan
On Monday, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan claimed the U.S. "conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaeda terrorists." What Brennan didn't say was that the CIA has launched drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen without knowing who would be killed, against people who are not on any list of "suspected terrorists," on the basis that according to U.S. intelligence, their behavior fits a profile of "suspected terrorist." U.S. officials have said that these "signature strikes" increase the risk of killing civilians, as well as the risk of killing people who have no dispute with the United States. Law professor Bruce Ackerman has argued that such strikes in Yemen are not legal under the 2001 AUMF, contrary to Brennan's claims.
Urge John Brennan to tell the whole truth about CIA drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan by signing our petition. We will hand-deliver the petition when Brennan speaks at the Fordham University commencement in New York City on May 19.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/brennan-petition

Barbara Lee/Walter Jones: Sign on to Letter to President Obama: Expedite Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Representative Barbara Lee and Walter Jones are circulating a letter calling on President Obama to expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago. Urge your Rep. to sign.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1210

Gareth Porter: Finding Bin Laden: The Truth Behind the Official Story
Porter: in Abbottabad, bin Laden was not the functioning head of al-Qaeda, but an isolated figurehead who had become irrelevant to the actual operations of the organization; bin Laden was in Abbottabad because he had been forced into exile by the al-Qaeda leadership; intensive focus on the compound in Abbottabad was the result of crucial intelligence provided by the ISI.
http://truth-out.org/news/item/8866-finding-bin-laden-the-truth-behind-the-official-story

Ari Berman: Mitt Romney's Neocon War Cabinet
A comprehensive review of Romney's statements during the primary and his choice of advisers suggests a return to the hawkish, unilateral interventionism of the George W. Bush administration should he win the White House in November. If we take the candidate at his word, a Romney presidency would move toward war against Iran; closely align Washington with the Israeli right; leave troops in Afghanistan at least until 2014 and refuse to negotiate with the Taliban; reset the Obama administration's "reset" with Russia; and pursue a Reagan-like military buildup at home.
http://www.thenation.com/article/167683/mitt-romneys-neocon-war-cabinet

Michael Weinstein: The United States Military ... a Crusader Force?
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs, has issued an unprecedented directive tasking the entire US military to immediately review all of its official training and educational programs and to eliminate any anti-Muslim and/or anti-Islam bias that is currently present therein. Talking the talk is one thing. Walking the talk is another matter. Case in point: the recent decision to rename Beaufort, South Carolina-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) the "Crusaders" and adopt the red cross of the crusading medieval Knights Templar.
http://truth-out.org/news/item/8873-the-united-states-military-a-crusader-force

II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The United Methodist Church, the nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination, voted against proposals to divest from companies that provide equipment used by Israel to enforce its control in the occupied territories, the New York Times reports. But the Methodists passed a strongly worded resolution denouncing the Israeli occupation and the settlements, and calling for "all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land."

The divestment resolution called specifically for pulling investments in the church's pension funds out of three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Advocates for divestment say Caterpillar supplies the bulldozers and earth-moving equipment used by the IDF to clear Palestinian homes and orchards; that Hewlett-Packard provides biometric monitoring at checkpoints; and that Motorola supplies surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in the West Bank and communications equipment to the occupation forces.

A spokeswoman for the United Methodist Kairos Response said said four geographic regions, or "annual conferences," of the Methodist Church - Northern Illinois, California Pacific, New York and West Ohio - had already voted to pull out their own investments. "We expect that more United Methodist conferences will do this," she said. The Presbyterian Church USA will vote on a divestment measure at its general assembly, which begins on June 30 in Pittsburgh.

2) Each day since April 17, scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike that officials say now counts more than 1,500 participants, the New York Times reports. The two longest-striking prisoners, who have gone without food for 66 days, appeared in wheelchairs before Israel's Supreme Court Thursday, pleading for their release from what is known here as administrative detention - incarceration without formal charges. "I am a man who loves life, and I want to live in dignity," Thaer Halahleh testified. "No human can accept being in jail for one hour without any charge or reason."

3) House Republicans are proposing to shift billions from poverty programs to the Pentagon, writes David Rogers for Politico. Monthly food stamp benefits would be cut, hitting millions of single-mother households by summer's end. Unemployed workers would be dropped from the rolls until they spend down their cash savings below $2,000. Their plans aren't going anywhere in the Democratic Senate, but going into November, they define the Republican line in the national debate on guns and butter, Rogers says: this moral dimension explains why the Catholic bishops have come off the sidelines with such force in opposition.

4) According to counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, the US can kill not just leaders and operatives, but individuals who "possess unique operational skills that are being leveraged in a planned attack," far from any theater of war, writes human rights lawyer Naureen Shah in the Guardian. Any conventional interpretation of the laws of war starts from the presumption that individuals who are not members of the armed forces are entitled to protection against intentional attack. As presumptive civilians, they can only be targeted for so long as they directly participate in hostilities, or, according to the international committee of the Red Cross, as members of an organized armed group with a "continuous combatant function."

Israel/Palestine
5) Israel's move toward early elections is the latest sign that its threatened attack against Iran's nuclear facilities is unlikely to take place in the coming months, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some officials predict the chances of an Israeli airstrike against Iran will decrease because a divisive political campaign would paralyze the government and focus attention on domestic issues. Netanyahu is unlikely to risk the comfortable lead most polls give him over his rivals by launching a risky, complicated operation against Iran, the LAT says. A bungled or failed strike is one of the few things that could stand in the way of his reelection, analysts say.

6) Two top Israeli security officials said the prospect of early national elections will have no influence over a decision over whether to strike Iranian nuclear sites, AP reports. Both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said policy toward Iran will be based solely on strategic interests. Israeli media reported Wednesday that the election would be set for September 4.

Haiti
7) The cholera strain in Haiti is evolving, US researchers reported Thursday, a sign that it may be taking deeper root, AP reports. Health officials have been paying especially close attention to cholera infection rates in Haiti as it heads into the rainy season, when conditions are ripe for the spread of the waterborne disease because of a paltry sewage and sanitation system. the Pan American Health Organization warns that between 200,000 and 250,000 people could contract the disease this year. Haiti currently has the highest number of cholera cases in the world. Health officials say the disease has sickened more than 534,000 people, or five percent of the population, and killed 7,000 others since UN troops from Nepal brought cholera to Haiti.

Partners in Health and its partner, the Gheskio Center, have launched a campaign to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians, or 1 percent of the national population.

Mexico
8) Former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Wednesday labeled the global war on drugs "useless" and an "absolute failure," saying it's time to consider legalization as an antidote to the violence ravaging Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reports. More than 50,000 Mexicans have died since President Calderon launched a crackdown in late 2006. Fox said Mexico, caught between drug producers in South America and a sea of users in the U.S., was paying an unfair price for U.S. laws criminalizing drug use. "The country that imposed the prohibition, the country that has punishments and considers drugs a crime is the country that uses the most drugs in the world," Fox said. "We must end this useless war."

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Methodists Vote Against Ending Investments Tied to Israel
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, May 2, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/us/methodists-vote-against-ending-investments-tied-to-israel.html

The United Methodist Church, the nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination, voted against two proposals on Wednesday to divest from companies that provide equipment used by Israel to enforce its control in the occupied territories.

The closely watched vote, at the church's quadrennial convention in Tampa, Fla., came after months of intense lobbying by American Jews, Israelis and Palestinian Christians. After an afternoon of impassioned debate and several votes, the delegates overwhelmingly passed a more neutral resolution calling for "positive" investment to encourage economic development "in Palestine."

However, the Methodists also passed a strongly worded resolution denouncing the Israeli occupation and the settlements, and calling for "all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land."

An international movement for "boycott, divestment and sanctions" has gained steam as the peace process in the Middle East has come to a virtual standstill, and allies of the Palestinians have argued that these strategies could pressure Israel to stop building settlements and return to the negotiating table.

The divestment question has come up repeatedly over the years in mainline Protestant churches, which have long cultivated relationships with Palestinian Christians and regularly send delegations to Israel and the occupied territories. These denominations support hospitals, schools and charities in the territories.

The Presbyterian Church USA will vote on a divestment measure at its general assembly, which begins on June 30 in Pittsburgh. (The Presbyterians voted for divestment in 2004, then backed off at their next general assembly two years later.)

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, recently came out against divestment and boycotts, and instead urged Episcopalians to invest in development projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation's largest Lutheran denomination, rejected divestment in 2007 and 2011.

In Tampa, many delegates took to the floor to testify that they had traveled to the Holy Land and met with Palestinian Christians who were suffering and increasingly desperate for an end to the occupation. But in the end, they listened to some Jewish leaders and fellow Methodists who warned that divestment was a one-sided strategy that penalized only Israel.
[...]
Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote an article in The Tampa Bay Times likening the Israeli occupation to apartheid and saying that divestment could be as effective in Israel as it was in South Africa.
[...]
The divestment resolution called specifically for pulling investments in the church's pension funds out of three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.

Advocates for divestment say that Caterpillar supplies the bulldozers and earth-moving equipment used by the Israel Defense Forces to clear Palestinian homes and orchards; that Hewlett-Packard provides, sometimes through subsidiaries, biometric monitoring at checkpoints and information technology to the Israeli Navy; and that Motorola supplies surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in the West Bank and communications equipment to the occupation forces.

In two separate votes, divestment was defeated by a 2-to-1 ratio. Susanne Hoder, a Methodist from Rhode Island and a spokeswoman for a group for divestment, the United Methodist Kairos Response, said: "Though we did not get the decision we hoped for, we have succeeded in raising awareness about the persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. We have awakened the conscience of the churches and pointed out the inconsistency between our words and our actions."

Ms. Hoder said that four geographic regions, or "annual conferences," of the Methodist Church - Northern Illinois, California Pacific, New York and West Ohio - had already voted to pull out their own investments. "We expect that more United Methodist conferences will do this," she said.

2) Palestinian Resistance Shifts to Hunger Strikes
Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, May 3, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/world/middleeast/palestinian-resistance-shifts-to-hunger-strikes.html

Kharas, West Bank - The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.

Each day since April 17, scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike that officials say now counts more than 1,500 participants. And on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority's minister of detainees said that if Israel did not yield to their demands for improved prison conditions, the remaining 3,200 would soon join in.

The two longest-striking prisoners, who have gone without food for 66 days, appeared in wheelchairs before Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday morning, pleading for their release from what is known here as administrative detention - incarceration without formal charges. One of them, Bilal Diab, 27, fainted during the hearing.

"I am a man who loves life, and I want to live in dignity," the other man, Thaer Halahleh, 33, testified, according to an advocacy group that had a supporter in the courtroom. "No human can accept being in jail for one hour without any charge or reason."

As the strike has swelled, the prisoners' names and faces have been plastered on protest tents in villages throughout the West Bank. With the peace process stalled and internal Palestinian politics adrift, many analysts here see nonviolent resistance as a critical tactic for the Palestinian national movement, and the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank.

While the revolutions around the region have helped elevate support for the Palestinian cause, they have also undermined the leadership it has long relied on, and until now the streets here have largely remained quiet.

Prisoners play a crucial emotional and political role in Palestinian culture. Virtually every family has been touched by incarceration, experts say, and there is a visceral sense of allegiance to people viewed as suffering for the broader community's rights. The prisoners are highly organized, and influential even on the outside.
[...]
"There's a real transformation in the way the prisoners are working - this time, people are willing to die," Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a recent interview. "Look, the Palestinians may be quiet for a while, but they may erupt. There's a sinking-in of the idea that nonviolent resistance gets results."

This week, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, promised to take the prisoners' case to the United Nations. Khader Habib, the leader of Islamic Jihad, warned that "the martyrdom of Bilal Diab or Thaer Halahleh or any other prisoner will put an end to the calm, and the occupation will be held responsible for the consequences."
[...]
Hunger striking by Palestinian prisoners is not a new tactic. According to the Palestine Solidarity Project, the tactic was first used in the Nablus prison in 1968 and has been repeated at least 15 times since, with three men dying over the years. Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, said that in 2004 virtually all of the Palestinians held in Israeli prisons took part in a two-week strike, and that the most ever was 11,000 prisoners, in 1992.

But social media have spread the siren this time, first on Khader Adnan, a member of Islamic Jihad who was released last month from administrative detention after a 66-day fast that left him in grave condition. Attention then shifted to Hana Shalabi, a female prisoner deported to Gaza after a 43-day strike, and is now focused on Mr. Halahleh and Mr. Diab, who also are members of Islamic Jihad, a radical and militant Palestinian faction.
[...]

3) Defense trumps poverty in Republican House
David Rogers, Politico, May 2, 2012 11:23 PM EDT
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/75856.html

American soldiers learned the hard way not to walk down enemy trails in Vietnam - and certainly not twice. But here come the House Republicans, marching into the sunlight by shifting billions from poverty programs to the Pentagon, all within hours of adopting an entirely new round of tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year.

Is this the same party that abhors class warfare and wants to show a gentler side of Mitt Romney toward women and Hispanics? Are we talking smart, principled politics or the charge of the light brigade?

The House Budget Committee meets Monday afternoon to put the final touches on the more than $300 billion 10-year package - the opening shot of a fall campaign to preserve defense spending without bowing to Democratic demands for new taxes.

Monthly food stamp benefits would be cut, hitting millions of single-mother households by summer's end. Unemployed workers would be dropped from the rolls until they spend down their cash savings below $2,000 - one-fifth of Romney's famous $10,000 bet. Working-class, often Latino, parents would be denied child tax credit refunds if they lack Social Security cards proving they are authorized to work in the U.S.

These are immigrant taxpayers whose average annual wages are $21,240 and generate far more for the Social Security system in payroll taxes than any refunds they receive. Yet their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens, would lose out even as the House channels an almost identical sum, $7.35 billion, into a new tax deduction for 125,000 small-business owners whose income exceeds $1 million.

Because none of these House bills are going anywhere soon in the Democratic Senate, it's easy enough to dismiss. Much of the press - and even some Republicans - prefer to do so.

But something far bigger is happening here.

There have been ugly moments in the course of committee markups: snide comments about what food stamp recipients buy at the local grocery line, a wild accusation that President Barack Obama's preventive care fund had been used to spay dogs in Tennessee. But going into November, here too are the seeds of a real national debate about guns, butter, taxes - the math and morals of budget choices when the money's running out.

"Ignore it at your own peril," Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) told POLITICO. "They think it's not the enemy path. They think that's the path to victory."

This moral dimension explains why the Roman Catholic bishops have come off the sidelines with such force in opposition.
[...]

4) Drone attacks and the Brennan doctrine
Finally, the Obama administration admits US drone strikes kill civilians – yet demands we trust its say-so on who is a terrorist
Naureen Shah, Guardian, Wednesday 2 May 2012 17.07 EDT http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/02/unmanned-drones-usa

[Shah is lecturer in law at the Human Rights Institute at Columbia University School of Law.]

In remarks on Monday, US counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan admitted for the first time that US drones have killed civilians. "It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened," he said.

With his sources in the intelligence community, Brennan no doubt has more information about the number and identity of individuals killed than do journalists and lawyers who, in the last year, have documented hundreds of what they call "civilian deaths". But the discrepancy between Brennan's view and theirs is not about the facts; it is about definitions. Brennan would call "terrorists" many of the people whom the journalists and lawyers would say are civilians.

"Terrorists", whom the Obama administration may go after with lethal force, are not just people linked to the 11 September 2001 attacks, or active members of al-Qaida. According to Brennan, most of them are already dead: "Al-Qaida has been left with just a handful of capable leaders and operatives."

Yet there are, according to Brennan, thousands of individuals the US can lawfully target in drone strikes. Under the hugely expansive definition he described Monday, the US can kill individuals across the globe. Brennan named potential targets not just in Pakistan and Yemen, but in Somalia, Nigeria and west Africa. The Obama "war on terror" may include groups like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which Brennan described as attempting to "destabilize regional governments", and Boko Haram, a group that "appears to be aligning itself" with al-Qaida and is "increasingly looking to attack western interests in Nigeria". Moreover, the US can kill not just leaders and operatives, but individuals who "possess unique operational skills that are being leveraged in a planned attack".

The trouble with this definition of whom the US may target is not just its breadth, but its distance from any conventional interpretation of the laws of war. The rules on who can be targeted are complex and highly contested, especially in this context. But every formulation starts from the presumption that individuals who are not members of the armed forces are entitled to protection against intentional attack. As presumptive civilians, they can only be targeted for so long as they directly participate in hostilities, or, according to the international committee of the Red Cross, as members of an organized armed group with a "continuous combatant function".
[...]
The definition of who may be killed is not just about a rigorously reviewed kill list, but about whom the US can kill in "signature strikes" – individuals whose identities are unknown, who are targeted because they match intelligence-provided "signatures" – like "a tall man driving a blue car". The leading role of the CIA, an agency designed to operate in secret and without public accountability, adds worry. Yet Brennan did not mention the agency once in his lengthy remarks.

It remains unclear how the United States can reliably identify who it is killing in places like Pakistan, with no US ground troops officially present and thus no opportunity to talk to witnesses or collect forensic evidence. Presumably, the US relies on local informants or covert agents. But in the "rare" cases of US mistakes, the government itself should make amends for the pain and loss to victims and families.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
5) Israel's move toward early vote may shelve any attack on Iran
Some say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to risk his reelection by striking Iran. The Iran issue could also lead to a divisive campaign.
Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2012
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-israel-iran-elections-20120503,0,3432039.story

Jerusalem - Israel's move toward early elections is the latest sign that its threatened attack against Iran's nuclear facilities is unlikely to take place in the coming months.

Though no final decision has been made about moving up national elections slated for next year, the Knesset, or parliament, is talking about dissolving this month and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce as soon as next week an election date in September.

Some officials predict the chances of an Israeli airstrike against Iran will decrease because a divisive political campaign would paralyze the government and focus attention on domestic issues.

"He can't do anything before elections," said Knesset member Daniel Ben-Simon of the Labor Party. "He's a lame duck. Nothing will be decided before the vote."

At the same time, Netanyahu is unlikely to risk the comfortable lead most polls give him over his rivals by launching a risky, complicated operation against Iran. A bungled or failed strike is one of the few things that could stand in the way of his reelection, analysts say.
[...]

6) Israeli security chiefs say election campaign won't influence decision whether to strike Iran
AP, May 2, 2012
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israeli-security-chiefs-say-election-campaign-wont-influence-decision-to-strike-iran/2012/05/02/gIQAeHsiwT_story.html

Jerusalem - Two top Israeli security officials said Wednesday that the prospect of early national elections will have no influence over a decision over whether to strike Iranian nuclear sites.

Both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said in published comments on Wednesday that policy toward Iran will be based solely on strategic interests.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled this week that he may call parliamentary elections a year ahead of schedule - casting additional uncertainty over any Israeli military plans.
[...]
Israeli media reported Wednesday that the election would be set for September 4.

"The election would have no affect on considerations on the professional level regarding the Iranian issue," Barak said on his Facebook page in answer to questions from the public.

Echoing Barak's sentiments was Deputy Prime Minster Moshe Yaalon. "The election will not be a consideration in the Iranian issue. If we need to make decisions we will make them," he told the Maariv daily.

There has been a precedent to big military offensive prior to an election.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered a daring Israeli airstrike on an unfinished Iraqi nuclear in 1981 just a few weeks before Israelis went to the polls. His Likud Party won that election. Though that attack successfully destroyed the Iraqi reactor, critics charged that Begin ordered the raid to win votes.

An Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities now would likely trigger the same charges. In any event, success of such an Israeli strike is far from guaranteed, and the risk is far greater.

Iran is believed to have multiple well guarded underground nuclear sites. An Israeli attack would require that almost all of its fleet fly over hostile countries and face formidable Iranian defense systems.

Also, an Israeli attack on Iran would likely trigger punishing retaliation from Iran itself and its proxies on Israel's borders - Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza - both armed with thousands of rockets.

Israel is also under international pressure not to act militarily.

Haiti
7) CDC study shows Haiti cholera has changed, experts say it suggests disease becoming endemic
Associated Press, Thursday, May 3, 3:39 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/cdc-study-shows-haiti-cholera-has-changed-experts-say-it-suggests-disease-becoming-endemic/2012/05/03/gIQATv1YzT_story.html

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - The cholera strain in Haiti is evolving, researchers reported Thursday, a sign that it may be taking deeper root in the nation less than two years after it appeared and killed thousands of people.

The study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the bacterium is changing as survivors acquire at least some immunity to the original bug, which apparently was imported from Nepal.

Cholera experts also say such a development is expected and has happened in cholera epidemics around the world.

"This suggests that the ongoing epidemic in Haiti might be entering its next phase, since we see these shifts where cholera is endemic," said Dr. Edward T. Ryan, an infectious disease specialist with Massachusetts General Hospital who was not involved with the study.

The change also means it could be easier for Haitians to fall ill a second time to the new cholera version because they don't have full immunity to it if they don't take precautions such as washing their hands or chlorinating water.

In a field study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, co-authors Joan M. Brunkard and Deborah F. Talkington say researchers at the National Public Health Laboratory found that two isolates of the cholera strain collected on March 12 and 13 in Haiti's Artibonite region differed from the Ogawa version found in Haiti when the disease was discovered in October 2010.

The CDC, the new study says, later confirmed that the isolates belonged to the Inaba serotype, the other major version of the cholera strain.
[...]
Health officials have been paying especially close attention to cholera infection rates in Haiti as it heads into the rainy season, when conditions are ripe for the spread of the waterborne disease because of a paltry sewage and sanitation system.

So far, there has been evidence of a small jump in the number of reported cases, but nothing compared to the threefold spike seen at the same time a year ago.

Still, the Pan American Health Organization warns that between 200,000 and 250,000 people could contract the disease this year, many of them during the rainy and the hurricane season that peaks in late summer and early autumn.

Haiti currently has the highest number of cholera cases in the world. Health officials say the disease has sickened more than 534,000 people, or five percent of the population, and killed 7,000 others since United Nations' peacekeepers from Nepal, according to scientific studies, were blamed for introducing the disease to the Caribbean nation in October 2010. But the infection rate is believed to be much higher because not all cases are reported.

In an effort to stem the spread of the disease, the Boston-based Partners in Health and its partner, the Gheskio Center, have launched a campaign to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians, or 1 percent of the national population, in a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince and in a rural area north of the capital.

"The good news is that the cholera vaccine that has been piloted in Haiti provides protection to both versions of the organism," Ryan said.
[...]

Mexico
8) Mexico ex-president calls drug war 'useless'
Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2012 | 3:20 pm
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/05/former-mexican-president-calls-drug-war-useless.html

Mexico City - Former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Wednesday labeled the global war on drugs "useless" and an "absolute failure," saying it's time to consider legalization as an antidote to the violence ravaging his country.

Fox, who governed Mexico from 2000 to 2006, said his successor's 5-1/2-year-old offensive against drug trafficking groups had failed to reduce the availability or consumption of illegal drugs and led only to more bloodshed and mayhem. More than 50,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched the crackdown in late 2006.

Fox said his country, caught between drug producers in South America and a sea of users in the United States, was paying an unfair price for U.S. laws criminalizing drug use.

"The country that imposed the prohibition, the country that has punishments and considers drugs a crime is the country that uses the most drugs in the world," Fox said during an hour-long meeting with foreign correspondents. "We must end this useless war," he said.

It's hardly the first time Fox has called for decriminalizing drug since leaving office. But in a pointed message aimed at audiences abroad, he said escalating violence made urgent the need to rethink the decades-long global drug strategy, under fire by a growing number of current and former world leaders.

Those calls have become especially loud in violence-racked corners of Latin America, such as Guatemala. During a recent summit of regional leaders in Colombia, President Obama said he was open to debate on drug policies, but ruled out legalization, saying it would lead to worse problems.
[...]


-

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here:

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Tags:

"he Methodists passed a strongly worded resolution denouncing the Israeli occupation and the settlements, and calling for "all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land."

The divestment resolution called specifically for pulling investments in the church's pension funds out of three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Advocates for divestment say Caterpillar supplies the bulldozers and earth-moving equipment used by the IDF to clear Palestinian homes and orchards; that Hewlett-Packard provides biometric monitoring at checkpoints; and that Motorola supplies surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in the West Bank and communications equipment to the occupation forces. "

Finally someone or thing (a group) that might actually have the "balls" to accomplish something for the Palestinians and at the same time hold the Israeli's accountable for their occupation and get in front of this Israel/American media campaign the way no American institution seems to have the cohones to do. Kudos to the Methodists and I hope they inspire people around the glob to bring these international corporations to their knees and let them rise up no more.

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