JFP 7/26: Top Romney Adviser Bolton Backs Bachmann anti-Muslim Witch Hunt

Just Foreign Policy News, July 26, 2012
Top Romney Adviser Bolton Backs Bachmann anti-Muslim Witch Hunt

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

*Action: House Must Sanction Bachmann for Anti-Muslim McCarthyism
Rep. Michele Bachmann is using her position on the House Intelligence Committee to promote a conspiracy theory that government officials, including State Department official Huma Abedin, are part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the U.S. government. Bachmann also claims that Rep. Keith Ellison is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Bachmann has refused to apologize or back down, even after prominent Republicans like Senator John McCain demanded that she stop. Bachmann's Muslim conspiracy-mongering is part of a broader campaign to intimidate Muslim-Americans from speaking out about U.S. foreign policy. Urge your Representative to take action.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/sanction-bachmann

7,500 dead from cholera in Haiti
647 days, 7,492 dead, 587,529 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still there is no apology, no compensation, no implementation of an effective plan to eradicate the disease.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/haiti-cholera-counter

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Romney foreign policy adviser John Bolton defended Rep. Michele Bachmann's ongoing McCarthy-esque attacks on Muslim-Americans serving in the U.S. government, People for the American Way reports. PFAW called on Romney to reject Bolton's comments.

2) Russia accused the U.S. of trying to justify terrorism against the Syrian government and berated Western nations it said had failed to condemn a bomb attack that killed senior security officials, Reuters reports. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, referring to what he said were comments by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland indicating such attacks were not surprising, said: "This is a direct justification of terrorism." Lavrov suggested Washington was using the threat of further attacks to push the U.N. Security Council to place Annan's peace plan under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows foreign military intervention.

3) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has hired Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon as a legal adviser as he seeks political asylum in Ecuador, Reuters reports. Human rights investigator Garzon is best known for ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.

4) A Romney adviser said Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the U.S. and Britain than Obama because "we are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage," the Telegraph reports. Several in Romney's foreign policy team favor backing Britain and publicly rejecting Argentina's claims of sovereignty in the Malvinas dispute, the Telegraph notes. Under Obama the US remains neutral.

5) US military officers told Congress that Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who headed the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, opposed an investigation into corruption and "Auschwitz-like" conditions at a US-funded military hospital in Kabul for partisan political reasons, the Guardian reports. Colonel Mark Fassl testified that Caldwell forced him to retract a request for an inspector general's investigation into the Dawood national military hospital. Fassl said he was shocked when Caldwell brought up the 2010 congressional elections and said: "How could we do this or make this request with an election coming? He calls me Bill." Fassl said he believed it was a reference to President Obama.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Afghan soldiers often died at the hospital from neglect or lack of food as some Afghan doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food. Committee officials said the inspector general has now opened two investigations in response to complaints over the response of Caldwell and a deputy, now Major General Gary Patton.

6) There are some 55,000 homeless women veterans in the U.S. today, and that number is likely to grow as the number of women veterans increases overall, writes Jin Zhao for Alternet. Research shows that trauma is a gateway to homelessness; as many as 93 percent of female veterans have been exposed to some type of trauma. Among homeless women veterans, 53 percent have experienced military sexual trauma, compared to one in five among women veterans in general.

Syria
7) Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has US intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed, the New York Times reports. Iraqi officials said the extremists operating in Syria are in many cases the very same militants striking across their country. Joseph Holliday, an analyst from the Institute for the Study of War who studies Al Qaeda and the Arab Spring, said, "The emergence of Al Qaeda-linked terrorist cells working against the regime poses risks to the United States and a challenge to those calling for material support of the armed opposition."

Somalia
8) UN officials say US drones in Somalia pose a danger to air traffic and violate the UN arms embargo on Somalia, the Washington Post reports.

Mozambique
9) Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz warned Mozambique against following IMF advice to make the fight against inflation the number one priority of economic policy, The Zimbabwean reports. Stiglitz, former chief economist at he World Bank, said he had been "appalled" to discover that the IMF wants to impose "inflation targeting" on Mozambique. He argued that, while low inflation might be desirable, it could not be the main goal of economic policy, which should also take into account such considerations as growth and employment.

[This is a striking example of why it's a spectacular fail when liberal Democrats support the IMF. If the IMF tried to impose "inflation targeting" on the U.S., liberal Democrats would have to take numbers in line for permission to scream against it. Paul Krugman would be writing column after column against it. But because it's Mozambique, a poor country in black Africa, the outrage passes quietly in the U.S. - JFP.]

Colombia
10) The Washington Office on Latin America says there has been a surge in reprisals against trade unionists in Colombia since the US-Colombia trade agreement came into effect, Inter Press Service reports. 11 Colombian trade unionists have been killed this year. Activists say the US-Colombia Labor Action Plan would make a very positive difference - if it were implemented.

Contents:
U.S./Top News

1) Top Romney Adviser Backs Bachmann Witch Hunt – PFAW Calls on Romney to Stand Up to McCarthyism
People for the American Way, July 25, 2012
http://www.pfaw.org/press-releases/2012/07/top-romney-adviser-backs-bachmann-witch-hunt-pfaw-calls-romney-stand-mccarthy

Washington, DC – As Mitt Romney leaves on a six-day international trip meant to bolster his foreign policy credentials, People For the American Way is calling on him to reject recent comments by his own foreign policy adviser, John Bolton.

Yesterday during an interview with anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney, Bolton defended Rep. Michele Bachmann's ongoing McCarthy-esque attacks on Muslim-Americans serving in the U.S. government. Bolton's comments, first reported by PFAW's Right Wing Watch, place him at odds with prominent Republicans including Sen. John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner, who have both repudiated Bachmann's unfounded allegations about"deep penetration" of the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood and her targeting of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's aide Huma Abedin.

"Mitt Romney is traveling to Europe to prove that he has the foreign policy chops to be President," said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. "But first he needs to deal with a foreign policy problem of his own right here at home. Five members of Congress, led by Rep. Michele Bachmann, are targeting Muslim-American public servants in an old-fashioned witch hunt. Their dangerous and unfounded accusations are resonating halfway across around the world and undermining American diplomacy in the Middle East at a critical moment.

"Top Republicans like Speaker Boehner and Senator McCain have denounced Bachmann's 'dangerous' efforts, and even her former campaign manager ripped her 'outrageous and false charges,'" said Keegan. "Now one of Romney's top foreign policy advisers is backing Bachmann's witch hunt, but Romney hasn't said a word.

"If Romney can't stand up to Michele Bachmann at home, how could he ever be a world leader?" asked Keegan. "Bachmann's witch hunt is endangering the lives and livelihoods of hard-working Americans while undermining diplomacy abroad. Romney needs to take a stand on this basic issue at home or his foreign policy trip will be a failure before it ever gets going."

2) Russia says U.S. tries to justify terrorism in Syria
Steve Gutterman, Reuters, Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:16pm IST
http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/25/syria-crisis-russia-usa-idINL6E8IPBNP20120725

Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of trying to justify terrorism against the Syrian government and berated Western nations it said had failed to condemn a bomb attack that killed senior security officials.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, referring to what he said were comments by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland indicating such attacks were not surprising, said: "This is a direct justification of terrorism."

"To put it mildly, we don't understand the refusal of our partners to condemn the terrorist attack in Damascus," he said.

He suggested Washington was using the threat of further attacks to push the U.N. Security Council to place international mediator Kofi Annan's peace plan under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.

Chapter 7 allows the council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention, although U.S. officials have said they would prefer the former course of action.

Lavrov said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, had cited the July 18 bomb attack in Damascus as evidence that the Security Council should not delay further in adopting a Chapter 7 resolution.

"In other words this means 'We will continue to support such terrorist attacks until the Security Council does what we want,'" Lavrov told a news conference after talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis. "This is a terrible position."

Lavrov criticised Western sanctions on Syria and defended Russia's veto last week of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have threatened the Syrian authorities with sanctions if they did not halt violence.

He also reiterated Moscow's stance that Assad's departure from power could not be a precondition to a political dialogue aimed at ending the 16-month-old conflict and that Syrians themselves must decide the country's future.
[...]

3) Ecuador says WikiLeaks' Assange hires Spanish jurist Garzon
Eduardo Garcia, Reuters, Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:34pm EDT
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/25/us-ecuador-assange-garzon-idUSBRE86O05G20120725

Quito - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has hired Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon as a legal adviser as he seeks political asylum in Ecuador, the Andean country's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said on Tuesday.

Assange has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 19. The Australian anti-secrecy campaigner, who enraged Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published secret U.S. diplomatic cables, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex crime allegations.

Assange broke his bail terms and requested asylum in Ecuador. He denies any wrongdoing in Sweden and says he fears that if extradited there, he could be sent on to the United States, where he believes he could face criminal charges punishable by death.

The Ecuadorean government has said it will take as long as needed to make a thorough analysis of Assange's asylum application before making a decision.

"Mr. Assange has requested the services of lawyer Baltasar Garzon to deal with his case. ... Of course he has the right to hire and look for the legal advice that he needs or may need for the asylum request," Patino told reporters in Quito.

Human rights investigator Garzon is best known for ordering the arrest of former Chilean military leader Augusto Pinochet in 1998.
[...]

4) Mitt Romney would restore 'Anglo-Saxon' relations between Britain and America
Mitt Romney would restore "Anglo-Saxon" understanding to the special relationship between the US and Britain, and return Sir Winston Churchill's bust to the White House, according to advisers.
Jon Swaine, Telegraph, 10:00PM BST 24 Jul 2012
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/mitt-romney/9424524/Mitt-Romney-would-restore-Anglo-Saxon-relations-between-Britain-and-America.html

Washington - As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America's enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama's "Left-wing" coolness towards London.

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

"We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special," the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have".
[...]
A change in tone was reflected by the enthusiastic welcome extended to Mr Cameron during an official visit and dinner in March. However, British diplomats remain frustrated by their "transactional" relationship with the Obama White House and lack of support on issues such as the Falkland Islands.

Mr Romney has not made any commitments on the Falklands, but several in his foreign policy team favour backing Britain and publicly rejecting claims of sovereignty by Christina Kirchner, the Argentine president. Under Mr Obama the US remains neutral.
[...]

5) US officers tell Congress that general blocked probe of hospital in Kabul
House hears of abuses that went uninvestigated because commanding officer allegedly feared 'bad news' getting out
Karen McVeigh, Guardian, Tuesday 24 July 2012 15.57 EDT
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/24/us-officers-congress-kabul-hospital

New York - The American general who led a Nato training mission in Afghanistan opposed an investigation into corruption and "Auschwitz-like" conditions at a US-funded hospital in Kabul for political reasons, US military officers told Congress on Tuesday.

One active-duty officer testified that the three-star general, Lieutenant General William Caldwell, who headed the training mission in Afghanistan, forced him to retract a request for an inspector general's investigation into the Dawood national military hospital.

Colonel Mark Fassl, said he was shocked when Caldwell brought up the 2010 congressional elections and said: "How could we do this or make this request with an election coming? He calls me Bill." Fassl, who was inspector general for the compound, said he believed it was a reference to President Barack Obama.

Two retired colonels who worked with training command also told the House oversight and government reform committee that Caldwell did not want an inspector general's report of the hospital. In testimony submitted ahead of the hearing, retired Colonel Gerald Carozza, who served as adviser to the US campaign in Afghanistan, said: "The evidence is clear to me that General Caldwell had the request for a probe [into the hospital] withdrawn and postponed until after the election and then, after the election, tried to intimidate his subordinates into a consensus that it need to move forward at all."

He went on: "The general did not want bad news to leave his command before the election or after the election."

At the hearing, officers described the extent of human suffering at the hospital, where the lack of care forced families of soldiers to empty "vats of blood draining from their wounds". When asked to describe the scene at the hospital, Fassl said it lacked basic facilities. Hygiene was poor and the hospital lacked soap, heat and the means to boil water, he said.

"There were open vats of blood draining out of soldiers' wounds, there was faeces on the floor. There were many family members taking care of their loved ones. The family members were emptying these vats of blood to help their patients out."

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Afghan soldiers often died from neglect or lack of food as some Afghan doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food. Fassl said he had expected Caldwell to insist on going to the hospital to find out what was going on.

Fassl said: "When I think about what we were trying to do in Afghanistan, which is build the army and police corps, how could we allow this type of suffering to go on when we should be showing the Afghan citizens that their soldiers matter?"
[...]
A memo written by another committee witness, retired air force colonel Schuyler Geller, a command surgeon attached to the training mission, confirmed poor treatment and corruption and that Caldwell did not want an inspector general's investigation.

Geller told the hearing that when military officials came to visit the hospital they got a "dog and pony show" that covered up the abuse.

Caldwell eventually agreed to request a limited investigation, but Carozza said it "would not mention the Auschwitz-like conditions at the national military hospital".

Committee officials said the inspector general has now opened two investigations in response to complaints over the response of Caldwell and a deputy, now Major General Gary Patton.

One concerns the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which stops commanders from restricting subordinates' communication with the inspector general. The second involves allegations of reprisal from a complainant who alleged that Caldwell and Patton cited partisan reasons for requesting postponement of an investigation until after the 2010 elections.

Carozza said the committee should be considering a broader issue than conditions at the hospital. "What this hearing should about are attempts to over-control the message," he said in his testimony. "It is about some leadership that puts the best foot forward and relies on the hard built reputation earned by the military to soften any belief that there is a need to see the other foot."

6) How About This for Supporting the Troops: Help Our 55,000 Female Homeless Veterans
There are 55,000 homeless women vets in the U.S. and that number is only getting bigger. What are we going to do about it?
Jin Zhao, Alternet, July 18, 2012
http://www.alternet.org/story/156374/how_about_this_for_supporting_the_troops_help_our_female_homeless_veterans

Homelessness among women veterans is a growing national concern. Tens of thousands of women veterans are fighting a war they did not choose to wage, and many of them have had multiple traumatic experiences, not only during service but also before and after. These traumatic experiences, which can include everything from combat-related stress to childhood abuse to domestic violence, contribute to this growing crisis.

There are some 55,000 homeless women veterans in the U.S. today, and that number is likely to grow as the number of women veterans increases overall. (The VA projects the number to grow from 1.8 million, or 8.2 percent of the total number of veterans, in 2010 to 2.1 million, or 15.2 percent of the total, in 2036.)

Research shows that trauma is a gateway to homelessness. As many as 93 percent of female veterans have been exposed to some type of trauma. The high concentration of trauma among women veterans contributes to the fact that women veterans are four times more likely to become homeless than their civilian counterparts. Among homeless women veterans, 53 percent have experienced military sexual trauma (MST), compared to one in five among women veterans in general.
[...]

Syria
7) Al Qaeda Taking Deadly New Role in Syria Conflict
Rod Nordland, New York Times, July 24, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/world/middleeast/al-qaeda-insinuating-its-way-into-syrias-conflict.html

Cairo - It is the sort of image that has become a staple of the Syrian revolution, a video of masked men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and brandishing AK-47s - with one unsettling difference. In the background hang two flags of Al Qaeda, white Arabic writing on a black field.

"We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of God," said a speaker in the video using the classical Arabic favored by Al Qaeda.

The video, posted on YouTube, is one more bit of evidence that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed.

While leaders of the Syrian political and military opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq - suicide bombings - into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad with growing frequency.

The evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda. An important border crossing with Turkey that fell into Syrian rebels' hands last week, Bab al-Hawa, has quickly become a jihadist congregating point.

The presence of jihadists in Syria has accelerated in recent days in part because of a convergence with the sectarian tensions across the country's long border in Iraq. Al Qaeda, through an audio statement, has just made an undisguised bid to link its insurgency in Iraq with the revolution in Syria, depicting both as sectarian conflicts - Sunnis versus Shiites.

Iraqi officials said the extremists operating in Syria are in many cases the very same militants striking across their country. "We are 100 percent sure from security coordination with Syrian authorities that the wanted names that we have are the same wanted names that the Syrian authorities have, especially within the last three months," Izzat al-Shahbandar - a close aide to the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki - said in an interview on Tuesday. "Al Qaeda that is operating in Iraq is the same as that which is operating in Syria," he said.

One Qaeda operative, a 56-year-old known as Abu Thuha who lives in the Hawija district near Kirkuk in Iraq, spoke to an Iraqi reporter for The New York Times on Tuesday. "We have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution," he said. "Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine."

Although he is a low-level operative, his grandiose plans have been echoed by Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant, which military and intelligence analysts say is the major Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria, with two other Qaeda-linked groups also claiming to be active there, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al Baraa ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade.

Since the start of the uprising, the Syrian government has sought to depict the opposition as dominated by Al Qaeda and jihadist allies, something the opposition has denied and independent observers said just was not true at the time. The uprising began as a peaceful protest movement and slowly turned into an armed battle in response to the government's use of overwhelming lethal force.

Syrian state media routinely described every explosion as a suicide bombing - as they did with a bombing on July 18 that killed at least four high-ranking government officials.

Over time, though, Syria did become a draw for jihadists as the battle evolved into a sectarian war between a Sunni-dominated opposition and government and security forces dominated by the Alawite sect. Beginning in December, analysts began seeing what many thought really were suicide bombings.

Since then, there have been at least 35 car bombings and 10 confirmed suicide bombings, 4 of which have been claimed by Al Qaeda's Nusra Front, according to data compiled by the Institute for the Study of War.

In some cases, such as on June 1, when a bomb struck at government security offices in Idlib, or on April 27, when a suicide bombing killed 11 people in Damascus, Al Nusra claimed credit for the attacks in postings on a jihadist Web site, according to the SITE monitoring group. Al Nusra also claimed responsibility for a June 30 attack on Al Ikhbariya TV, a pro-government station, which it said "was glorifying the tyrant day and night." Seven media workers were killed, to international condemnation. Syrian opposition spokesmen denied any role.

In February, the United States' director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told a Congressional hearing that there were "all the earmarks of an Al Qaeda-like attack" in a series of bombings against security and intelligence targets in Damascus. He and other intelligence community witnesses attributed that to the spread into Syria of the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda.
[...]
Joseph Holliday, an analyst from the Institute for the Study of War who studies Al Qaeda and the Arab Spring, said, "The emergence of Al Qaeda-linked terrorist cells working against the regime poses risks to the United States and a challenge to those calling for material support of the armed opposition."
[...]

Somalia
8) Drone operations over Somalia pose danger to air traffic, U.N. report says
Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, July 24
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/drone-operations-over-somalia-pose-danger-to-air-traffic-un-report-says/2012/07/24/gJQALvnf7W_story.html

The skies over Somalia have become so congested with drones that the unmanned aircraft pose a danger to air traffic and potentially violate a long-standing arms embargo against the war-torn country, according to United Nations officials.

In a recently completed report, U.N. officials describe several narrowly averted disasters in which drones crashed into a refugee camp, flew dangerously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital.

Although U.N. investigators did not directly pin the blame for the mishaps on the United States, the report noted that at least two of the unmanned aircraft appeared to be U.S.-manufactured and suggested that Washington had been less than forthcoming about its drone operations in Somalia.

The U.S. military has conducted clandestine drone flights over Somalia for years as part of a broader counterterrorism campaign against al-Shabab, a group of Islamist fighters that controls much of the country and is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
[...]
The number of military drone flights over Somalia has increased substantially since the Air Force opened a new base last year in next-door Ethi­o­pia. The military opened a similar base in late 2009 in the Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago off the eastern coast of Somalia.

Both of those operations complement a much bigger U.S. military drone base in Djibouti, a small country on Somalia's northwestern border on the Horn of Africa.
[...]
The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992, although it has carved out an exception for an African Union military force that has been battling al-Shabab and propping up a transitional Somali government based in Mogadishu.

The U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia, which prepared the new report, said that it considered the use of drones in that country "a potential violation of the arms embargo" because the aircraft are "exclusively military" in nature.

The Pentagon has supplied several small, hand-launched surveillance drones, known as Ravens, to the African Union troops in Somalia. But any other drones - such as the Predator and Reaper unmanned aircraft that the U.S. military flies at higher altitudes - would "be operating in violation of the embargo," said Matthew Bryden, a Canadian official and coordinator for the U.N. Monitoring Group.
[...]
The United Nations said it had documented 64 unauthorized flights of drones, fighter jets or attack helicopters in Somalia since June 2011.

At least 10 of those flights involved drones, according to the report, which provided dates and locations but few other details. U.N. officials said they catalogued the flights from "confidential international agency security reports" and press reports.

In addition, the U.N. report presented evidence of two other incidents in which aircraft believed to be drones nearly caused catastrophes.

The first occurred Nov. 13, when a small surveillance drone fitting the description of a Raven flew dangerously close to large fuel depots in Mogadishu kept by the United Nations and African Union. U.N. officials said it was unclear who was operating the drone.

The second incident happened Jan. 9, when a drone flying above Mogadishu nearly collided with a Boeing 737 transport plane carrying more than 100 African Union soldiers.

That near-miss prompted the commander of the African Union forces in Somalia to call an urgent meeting with partner countries participating in the peacekeeping mission, according to U.N. officials. They said the commander complained that the unauthorized and uncoordinated drone flights represented a threat to his troops and "aviation safety in general."
[...]

Mozambique
9) Stiglitz warns against IMF "Inflation targeting"
The Zimbabwean, July 13, 2012
http://www.thezimbabwean.co.uk/news/africa/59434/stiglitz-warns-against-imf-inflation.html

Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz warned in Maputo on Thursday against following advice by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would make the fight against inflation the number one priority of economic policy.

Addressing an overflowing public meeting organised by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), Stiglitz, who is also a former chief economist at he World Bank, said he had been "appalled" to discover that the IMF wants to impose "inflation targeting" on Mozambique.

He argued that, while low inflation might be desirable (and he praised the Bank of Mozambique for its handling of inflation, currently at historically low levels), it could not be the main goal of economic policy, which should also take into account such considerations as growth and employment.

The main weapon against inflation has always been interest rates – but high interest rates risk destroying small and medium sized businesses. Stiglitz noted that the interest rates charged by Mozambican commercial banks are already far too high, and that is in a situation of low inflation.

The crippling impact of high interest rates could be ameliorated where there is an alternative to the commercial banks. Stiglitz noted that Brazilian banks also charge exorbitant interest rates – but this does not damage the Brazilian economy, since Brazil has a development bank, the BNDES, controlling more resources than the World Bank does, which can provide cheap loans to businesses.

[JFP President Mark Weisbrot notes: "Stiglitz is referring to just one part of the damage that high interest rates do, to investment. And he is right, the BANDES has for decades supplied credit to Brazilian companies at much lower interest rates than the SELIC rate. I'm sure Stiglitz also knows that major damage has also been caused by the high interest rates through the overvaluation of the exchange rate. And there is also damage to investment in other parts of the economy that cannot get credit from the BANDES. Basically, Brazil's Central Bank monetary policy is more responsible than any other single factor for the fact the Brazil's GDP grew by a pathetic 0.5 percent annually on average for 1980-2003. Dilma is in the process of changing this policy now; there was some limited progress under Lula" - JFP]
[...]

Stiglitz urged against overvaluing the currency, and suggested that overvalued exchange rates were among the reasons for the de-industrialisation that had happened in Africa over the past quarter of a century.

He also called for better contracts, and if necessary the renegotiation of contracts. He regarded as nonsense the idea that contracts are sacred. "Renegotiation has always been part of capitalism", he pointed out.

Stiglitz noted that the Botswana success story began with renegotiating the unfair contract that the South African diamond company, De Beers, had secured prior to Botswana's independence. De Beers had initially protested, but eventually came to agree that a fairer contract was in its interests as well as those of the Botswanan public. Among other countries that had successfully renegotiated contracts were Australia, Bolivia and Venezuela.
[...]

Colombia
10) Assault on Colombian Trade Unions Continues Unabated
Carey L. Biron, Inter Press Service, Jul 24 2012
http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/assault-on-colombian-trade-unions-continues-unabated/

Washington - Two months after a free-trade [sic] agreement between the United States and Colombia went into effect, workers and activists are warning that U.S.-stipulated labour reforms have not been fully implemented and have yet to result in promised improvements in the lives of workers.

"We ask President (Barack) Obama to push for more guarantees for Colombian workers," Miguel Conde, with Sintrainagro, a union representing workers on palm-oil plantations, said here on Tuesday. "In Colombia, it is easier to form an armed group than a trade union … because we still have no guarantees from the government."

Colombia today is the most dangerous place in the world to be a member of a trade union.

Further, those gathered Tuesday at the Washington headquarters of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of trade unions in the United States, warned that much of a year-old labour agreement, meant to pave the way for the free-trade agreement (FTA), was in certain respects making things even more difficult for labour organisers in Colombia.

The FTA, although stridently opposed by a spectrum of workers and rights activists, was originally signed in late 2006 but was only passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2011. One of Washington's prerequisites for the deal was the implementation of a 37-point Labour Action Plan (LAP), aimed at improving decades' worth of labour rights abuses in Colombia.

According to a new report by the AFL-CIO, of those 37 points, at least nine have yet to be adopted, while the implementation of several others "can be regarded as partial or insufficient".

The FTA came into full effect in mid-May, though only after President Barack Obama claimed, in April, that the Colombian government had already met its LAP-related commitments – just a year into what was expected to be a four-year plan.

"What happened since then is a surge in reprisals against almost all of the trade unions and labour activists that really believed in the Labour Action Plan," Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, a rights advocate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a watchdog group, said at the report's launch.

This included the Apr. 27 killing of Daniel Aguirre, a labour leader who had helped to organise Colombia's sugarcane workers. According to Sánchez-Garzoli, 34 Colombian trade unionists have been killed since the LAP was implemented, including 11 this year alone.

Further, such figures do not capture an ongoing campaign of intimidation. According to José Luciano Sanín Vásquez, executive director of the National Trade Union School, in Medellin, Colombia, since the LAP began more than 2,900 acts of violence and 1,500 assaults have taken place, aimed at workers and labour activists.

The Colombian government dismisses such numbers as simply part of a half-century of paramilitary violence that has dogged the country.

This is in part correct, says Vásquez, but it misses the crux of the matter: as paramilitary violence has wound down in Colombia in recent years, former rebel groups have been hired by companies to provide thuggish repression of trade unions.

While many have been critical of certain parts of the LAP – including that it does not cover public-sector workers – those gathered here on Tuesday were quick to note the agreement's promise if it were fully implemented.

"We think the LAP is a very positive step forward and, if properly applied, would radically change a situation that's been systematically problematic for the past 20 years in Colombia," WOLA's Sánchez-Garzoli says.

But the recent spike in anti-labour violence has forced a slowdown in progress on the LAP, Jhonsson Torres, a founding member of the sugarcane union Sinalcorteros and former colleague of Daniel Aguirre, said Tuesday.

More critical is a continuing lack of political will. "Even if the different sectors want to implement the Labour Action Plan, they can't do it," Torres said in Spanish. "In places where the government has complied with the LAP, it has only been because they've been forced to do so due to strikes and other actions."

Others point to broader issues. "There is no reason to believe that top officials are not making sincere efforts to make a change," cautions Celeste Drake, a trade policy expert with AFL-CIO.

"The problem is these changes cannot simply be made by people with good intentions at the top. It's a culture within the government and throughout Colombia that for years has tolerated, condoned, promoted intolerance to the exercise of worker rights."

Citing eyewitness reports, Drake says that government ineffectiveness and corruption is leading to hesitancy in reporting labour-rights infringements, for fear that an employer – or a paramilitary group – will be notified.

Workers and activists repeatedly reference the government's stubbornness or inability to offer judicial or even informational responses to trade unions' LAP-related queries and requests for justice and security.

At Tuesday's meeting, when a representative from the Colombian Embassy in Washington noted that officials were taking note of the recent allegations of violence against labour organisers, participants responded that it was unfortunate that workers needed to come all the way to the United States to get an official response.
[...]

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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:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews


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