JFP 8/1: Former U.S. officials call for Bachmann's removal from intelligence committee

Just Foreign Policy News, August 1, 2012
Former U.S. officials call for Bachmann's removal from intelligence committee

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Former U.S. officials call for Bachmann to be replaced on Intelligence Committee
By promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, Rep. Michele Bachmann is undermining U.S. policy in the Middle East. That's why former U.S. officials are calling for her removal from the House Intelligence Committee.
http://truth-out.org/news/item/10653-former-us-officials-call-for-bachmann-to-be-replaced-on-intelligence-committee

Daily Kos poll: "I'd like my Representative to advocate for Michele Bachmann's removal from the House Intelligence Committee."
Agree
99% 441 votes
Disagree
0% 3 votes
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/01/1115724/-Former-U-S-officials-call-for-Bachmann-to-be-replaced-on-Intelligence-Committee

RootsAction: Campaign Targets New NBC War "Reality" Show
"'Stars Earn Stripes' is a reality show cohosted by retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, co-starring Todd Palin, and with no apparent role for reality," said RootsAction campaigner David Swanson. "The ads brag about the use of real bullets, but depict war as a harmless sport. Celebrities paired up with soldiers competing at 'long-range weapons fire' is not a continuation of the Olympics. It's a normalization of war that erases the death and suffering." A petition to NBC urges them to air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars.
http://StarsEarnStripes.org

Phyllis Bennis: Military Intervention in Syria: No
Of course the normal human reaction is "we've got to do something!" But however dire the situation facing Syrian civilians, the likelihood that any outside military attacks would actually help the situation is very remote. Direct outside military involvement, especially by the United States, NATO, or other longstanding opponents of Syria would inevitably mean even greater carnage.
http://www.fpif.org/articles/military_intervention_in_syria_no

7,499 dead from cholera in Haiti
655 days, 7,499 dead, 587,793 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) President Obama has just released a new TV ad attacking Mitt Romney for wanting to increase military spending, writes William Saletan for Slate. This goes against conventional wisdom that Democrats will be punished for publicly advocating less military spending, Saletan writes. But poll data shows that the public is increasingly ready for cuts to the military budget.

2) New sanctions legislation being considered by the House will hurt Iranian civilians, FCNL says. Ordinary Iranians already face tremendous difficulties in accessing basic medicine under sanctions. This week, the board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society said the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs, as a consequence of international sanctions. The Iranian Hemophilia Society notes that U.S. and international sanctions technically do not ban medical goods. Yet, despite the 'humanitarian exemption' in U.S. sanctions laws, medicine is not getting in to Iran because the "sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country's other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods."

3) Rep. Richard Hanna [R-NY] said the Republican Party is too willing to accommodate its most extreme members, The Syracuse Post-Standard reports. Hanna pointed specifically to Michele Bachmann of Minnesota - particularly her suggestion that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin be investigated to see if she has ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood that would compromise her loyalty.

4) A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says significant work on five of the seven projects of the $400 million Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund has not yet begun and is unlikely to be completed until well after the NATO mission ends in 2014, the New York Times reports. Officials did not properly prepare for contingencies like the challenge and expense of running power lines through remote areas of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban is strong, the report said.

5) US meat, dairy and poultry producers called on the EPA to suspend this year's quotas for corn ethanol production because of the drought, the Guardian reports. US government forecasts of a 4% rise in food prices for US consumers because of the drought have sharpened criticism of supports for producing fuel from corn-based ethanol. Research published by the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of an "imminent food crisis" because of the diversion of corn stocks to ethanol. Food security experts and international aid organizations have warned that ethanol could be tightening up supplies and pushing up prices in the global food market during the drought. Demand for corn ethanol was seen as a key driver of the 2007 and 2008 global food crisis.

Bahrain
6) Physicians for Human Rights says Bahrain is engaged in systematic and disproportionate use of tear gas on its Shiite majority, permitting police officers to routinely fire volleys at point-blank range at crowds and into homes and vehicles in Shiite neighborhoods, the New York Times reports. PHR called the policy on tear gas use unprecedented in the world, even among dictatorships where tear gas is a staple tool for crowd control. PHR said the Shiite populace's abnormally prolonged exposure to the tear gas's toxic components had already led to an alarming increase in miscarriages, respiratory ailments and other maladies.

Venezuela
7) The Air Force general responsible for U.S. military operations in most of Latin America said he does not believe Venezuela poses a national security threat to the U.S., AP reports. "I don't see them as a national security threat," Gen. Douglas Fraser, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, told AP. Fraser's comments echo a July 11 statement by Obama that drew criticism from Romney. Obama said his "overall sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the past several years has not had a serious national security impact on us."

Colombia
8) Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has ratified a law deeming drug addiction a public health issue rather than a crime, according to Colombia Reports. With the new law in place, health insurance companies are obliged to cover the voluntary treatment of drug addicts. The legislation is part of several measures taken by the Santos administration to decriminalize drug use; in late June Congress passed a bill that decriminalized the possession of small doses of illegal substances like marijuana and cocaine.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Hunt the Hawk
Obama's new ad attacks Romney for increasing military spending. Is the attack crazy or brilliant?
William Saletan, Slate, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, at 8:00 AM ET
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2012/08/obama_s_ad_against_military_spending_have_polls_shifted_on_the_defense_budget_.html

[The ad:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP58AcoRIFs - JFP]

President Obama has just released a new TV ad. He's picking a fight with Mitt Romney over - can you believe this? - the defense budget. The ad says Romney, unlike Obama, would "increase military spending." Is Obama crazy? Isn't it political suicide to argue for a cheaper military? Apparently not.

Democrats have long suffered for looking soft on defense. Remember Mondale and the nuclear freeze? Dukakis in the tank? Clinton and the gay ban? Kerry and the $87 billion? Democrats always preferred less money for national security, but they never admitted it. Just a week ago, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Obama pledged, "We will maintain our military superiority. It will be second to none as long as I am president."

The new ad abandons this pose. Using Iraq War footage and a fat aerial photo of the Pentagon, it comes out proudly for a leaner defense budget:

"Two wars. Tax cuts for millionaires. Debt piled up. And now we face a choice. Mitt Romney's plan? A new $250,000 tax cut for millionaires. Increase military spending. Adding trillions to the deficit. Or President Obama's plan: a balanced approach. Four trillion in deficit reduction. Millionaires pay a little more."

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. So I looked up the latest poll data and compared it to previous years. And you know what? That ad isn't crazy. The polls have been moving. Obama has caught Romney on what's now, by some measures, the losing side of the issue.

For six years, the percentage of Gallup respondents who think we spend too much on defense has outpaced the percentage who think we spend too little. Since 2008, the percentage who are very satisfied with the nation's military strength has increased from 30 to 35, the percentage who are dissatisfied has shrunk from 30 to 23, and the percentage who say our national defense isn't strong enough has plunged from 47 to 32 - a two-decade low.

Every year since 2001, the Pew Research Center has asked Americans whether strengthening the U.S. military should be a top priority, a lower priority, or not a priority. This year, the percentage who called it a top priority fell to an all-time low (39), while the percentage who said it shouldn't be a priority rose to an all-time high (23). In Harris polls since 2008, the percentage favoring defense cuts has increased from 35 to 42. A table published by Harris this year tracks public opinion on 19 budget areas since 1980. Of these, defense is the only item on which support for cuts has increased.

Other polls taken in the last eight months confirm the pattern. In December, Reuters asked Americans which of six budget items we could "afford to cut back on." Defense was the most commonly selected option, outpolling education, Medicare, and Social Security. In February, CBS/New York Times interviewers asked a national sample "which of the following programs would you be willing to change in order to cut spending?" Thirteen percent picked Social Security, 15 percent picked Medicare, and 52 percent picked the military. A simultaneous National Journal survey offered respondents five areas - Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid, and defense - and asked whether, in each case, "spending should be cut back a lot, some, or not at all to help reduce the deficit." Defense was the only target on which an affirmative majority agreed, with 60 percent endorsing cuts and only 35 percent opposing them. In April, an academic consortium headed by the Program for Public Consultation asked U.S. adults whether, in view of the federal deficit, Congress should raise some taxes, "reduce national defense spending," or "reduce non-defense spending." Respondents were invited to choose any combination of these options. Twenty-seven percent endorsed tax hikes. Fifty percent endorsed cuts in non-defense spending. Sixty-two percent endorsed defense cuts.

Among independents, the issue looks particularly dangerous for Romney. In Gallup's February sample, twice as many independents said we spend too much on defense (48 percent) as said we spend too little (22 percent). In the CBS/Times sample, when independents were asked "which of the following programs would you be willing to change in order to cut spending," only 13 percent chose Social Security, and only 14 percent chose Medicare, while 53 percent chose the military. In the PPC sample, when independents were shown the 2012 defense budget and were instructed to propose a new level for 2013, they cut it, on average, by more than a quarter.

Romney and other Republicans, blaming Obama for the prospect of across-the-board defense cuts, seem to think they have a good issue against the president. Maybe they're right. Or maybe they're too busy fighting the last war to notice that the battleground has changed.

2) New Iran Sanctions Push U.S and Iran Closer Toward War
Kate Gould, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Aug 1, 2012
http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/new_iran_sanctions_push_us_and_iran_closer_toward_war/

Washington, DC – FCNL's Lobbyist on Middle East issues Kate Gould issued the following statement opposing the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (H.R. 1905) that is expected to reach the House floor today:

The Friends Committee on National Legislation strongly opposes the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (H.R. 1905). We believe this legislation would undermine human rights in Iran and cripple the accountability of the diplomatic process now underway to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, pushing the U.S. and Iran closer toward a devastating war.

War is the ultimate human rights violation, and this bill lays the groundwork for war by escalating the scale of economic warfare that Congress would impose on ordinary Iranian citizens. As in the case of the decades of U.S. and U.N. sanctions against Iraq that culminated in a U.S. invasion of that country, economic warfare punishes civilians, emboldens hardliners in Iran's regime, and forecloses diplomatic options to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and war.

Punishing Iranian Civilians

FCNL and ten other national advocacy and religious organizations from the human rights and peace and security community wrote to Senator Tim Johnson, Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, last week to oppose this bill and to highlight the importance of keeping channels open for Iranians to have access to food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods and services.

Ordinary Iranians already face tremendous difficulties in accessing basic medicine under sanctions. For example, this week, the board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society informed the World Federation of Hemophilia that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs, as a consequence of international sanctions.

The Iranian Hemophilia Society notes that U.S. and international sanctions technically do not ban medical goods. Yet, despite the 'humanitarian exemption' in U.S. sanctions laws, medicine is not getting in to Iran because the "sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country's other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods."

The humanitarian exemption is of profound importance, as the U.S. business community and humanitarian organizations have pointed out. We are relieved that this legislation does not directly prohibit Iranians from accessing food, medicine, and humanitarian trade. However, if the Iranian civilian economy is destroyed by sanctions, then millions of Iranians will be deprived of their livelihoods, and unable to purchase the food, medicine, and other goods that the humanitarian exemption is supposed to protect. Further destabilization of the Iranian currency and decimation of the Iranian economy will push Iran closer to the state of Iraq when it was under sanctions. During that time, UNICEF estimated that U.N. sanctions contributed to the deaths of half a million children.

Emboldening Hardliners in Iran

This bill would embolden hardliners in the Iranian regime, at the expense of the civilians who will overwhelmingly bear the brunt of these sanctions. Just as Saddam Hussein never missed a meal under the decades of sanctions against Iraq, top Iranian officials will not have difficulty accessing food and medicine. National security expert Fareed Zakaria has noted that the U.S./U.N. sanctions' "basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state", and that "the other effects of the sanctions has been that larger and larger parts of the economy are now controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard - the elite corps of the armed forces."
[...]
We are particularly concerned about section 217, which effectively endorses regime change. The provision would prohibit the president from lifting sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran unless Iran agrees to a host of conditions that the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot reasonably be expected to agree to.

As veteran intelligence officer Paul Pillar has pointed out, requiring Iran to end efforts to "acquire or develop ballistic missiles", [section 217 (d)(1)(A)(iii)] "goes beyond any United Nations resolutions on Iran, which talk about nuclear capability of missiles, and even beyond anything ever demanded of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, for which range limits were imposed. It would be understandable if Tehran reads such language as further evidence that the United States is not interested in any negotiated agreement but instead only in regime change."

The bill even requires the president to certify that Iran does not "construct, equip, operate, or maintain nuclear facilities that could aid Iran's effort to acquire a nuclear capability" [section 217 (d)(1)(A)(ii.)]: in order to lift sanctions against Iran's Central Bank. It appears that Congress is requiring that these broad, indiscriminate sanctions remain in place unless Iran surrenders its nuclear program entirely, even if it is a verifiably peaceful program.
[...]

3) Rep. Hanna: Fellow Republicans indulge the party's extreme members too much
Paul Riede, The Post-Standard, Monday, July 30, 2012, 6:04 PM
http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/07/rep_richard_hanna_fellow_repub.html

Syracuse -- U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna took his own party to task today, saying the Republican Party is too willing to accommodate its most extreme members.

"I have to say that I'm frustrated by how much we - I mean the Republican Party - are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history," he told The Post-Standard editorial board.

Hanna, R-Barneveld, pointed specifically to Michele Bachmann of Minnesota - particularly her suggestion that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin be investigated to see if she has ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood that would compromise her loyalty.
[...]

4) U.S. Fund to Rebuild Afghanistan Is Criticized
Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, July 30, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/world/asia/us-fund-to-rebuild-afghanistan-is-criticized.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - Two years ago, as the final pieces of the Obama administration's troop surge were moving into place in southern Afghanistan, American officials identified a handful of infrastructure projects that they hoped would build popular support for the Afghan government in the Taliban's heartland.

The Pentagon and State Department secured $400 million from Congress for what was christened the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund and drew up plans for seven projects, five of them aimed at increasing the electricity supply in southern Afghanistan to light shops and power factories. The projects were to be completed by mid-2013, just as the NATO combat mission was to wind down.

Yet as the remaining surge forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, significant work on five of the seven projects has not yet begun and is unlikely to be completed until well after the NATO mission ends in 2014, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the government agency charged with documenting how billions of dollars in American reconstruction funds are being spent.

As a result, a program that was intended to bring soldiers and civilians together to buttress the Obama administration's counterinsurgency strategy could end up undercutting it, according to the report, which is to be released Monday.

The difficulties the report describes provide insight into why the results of the surge have appeared ambiguous and the broader American-led reconstruction effort in Afghanistan has often foundered, despite the nearly $90 billion that Congress has appropriated for it over the past decade.
[...]
Some of the difficulties with the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund were to be expected in a war zone, but officials did not properly prepare for contingencies like the challenge and expense of running power lines through remote areas of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban is strong, the report said.

Other problems were the result of bureaucratic holdups in Washington. A separate power line project in eastern Afghanistan, for instance, had not been put up for bids as of February because the Pentagon was working out how to transfer the money to the State Department, which is to carry out the project through the United States Agency for International Development, the report said.

The Afghan government had little role in designing the projects or seeing the work through, the report said, though American officials in Kabul disputed this assertion.

Four of the five delayed projects involve building power lines; the fifth aims to construct provincial justice centers across the country.

As for the two projects that are roughly on schedule, both were begun under a different program, months before the infrastructure fund was created. They were then incorporated into the fund, which won Congressional financing in 2011.

One of them, the installation of diesel generators in Kandahar, was meant only to improve the city's energy supply until the power line projects were finished.

The generator project was initially budgeted at $40 million. But because the power lines are so far behind schedule, it "is expected to cost $80 million in fiscal year 2012 and increase to $100 million in fiscal year 2013," the report said.

Even then, the power lines might not be completed until September 2015, although some American officials say they could be ready by the summer of 2014, a year after the original completion date.

Once completed, it is unclear who will maintain the projects or pay for them - a problem that highlights how each part of the reconstruction mission affects the other.

"If you build a road, you also need to build a government that can keep the road passable," another American official said, adding: "We're not building good roads, and we're not building a good government."

5) US Farmers Urge Obama Administration to Suspend Ethanol Quota Amid Drought
EPA's requirements for corn ethanol will drive food prices even higher after an already distressed harvest, growers warn
Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, Monday 30 July 2012 14.13 EDT
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/30/farmers-obama-administration-ethanol-drought

The Obama administration was urged on Monday to stop diverting grain to gas amid warnings of an "imminent food crisis" caused by America's drought.

US government forecasts of a 4% rise in food prices for US consumers because of the drought have sharpened criticism of supports for producing fuel from corn-based ethanol.

Meanwhile, research published last week by the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of an "imminent food crisis" because of the diversion of corn stocks to ethanol.

"Necsi has warned for months that misguided food-to-ethanol conversion programs and rampant commodity speculation have created a food price bubble, leading to an inevitable spike in prices by 2013. Now it appears the "crop shock" will arrive even sooner due to drought, unless measures to curb ethanol production and rein in speculators are adopted immediately," the researchers warned.

In the latest move, the country's meat, dairy and poultry producers called on the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend this year's quotas for corn ethanol production.

"The extraordinary and disastrous circumstances created for livestock and poultry producers by the ongoing drought in the heart of our grain growing regions requires that all relevant measures of relief be explored," said the petition to the EPA's administrator Lisa Jackson.

It went on to warn that the requirement for corn ethanol production was further beating up corn prices, which were already at record levels because of the drought in the mid-west.

"We are worried about having enough corn, soybean and other crops at any price to feed our animals," Randy Spronk, the president of the National Pork Producers Association told a conference call with reporters.

Producers were already scaling back production, and some could be forced out of business entirely, said John Burkel, president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers' Association. "Even the most prudent and cautious producer could be put out of business," he said.

Under the EPA's renewable fuel standard programme, oil companies are required to dilute their gasoline with increasing amounts of biofuel every year. This year's mandate calls for the production of 13.2bn gallons of biofuels – almost all of it produced from corn.

Food security experts and international aid organisations have also warned that ethanol could be tightening up supplies and pushing up prices in the global food market during the drought.

Demand for corn ethanol was seen as a key driver of the 2007 and 2008 global food crisis.

About 40% of America's corn crop went for ethanol last year – although the refineries then sell on "distillers' grain" as animal feed.

But with expectations for a smaller harvest this year, there are fears ethanol will consume an even bigger share of the crop.

That will price corn out of reach of livestock producers as well as countries which rely heavily on imported grains, food security experts say.
[...]

Bahrain
6) Bahrain Is Criticized for Its 'Torrent' of Tear Gas Use
Rick Gladstone, New York Times, August 1, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/world/middleeast/bahrain-criticized-for-torrent-of-tear-gas-use.html

Despite a pledge to stop abuses by its security forces, the ruling Sunni minority in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain is engaged in systematic and disproportionate use of tear gas on its restive Shiite majority, permitting police officers to routinely fire volleys at point-blank range at crowds and into homes and vehicles in Shiite neighborhoods, a leading rights group said in a report released on Wednesday.

The group, the Physicians for Human Rights, which has been highly critical of the Bahraini monarchy's behavior since the Shiite protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings began there 18 months ago, called the policy on tear gas use unprecedented in the world, even among dictatorships where tear gas is a staple tool for crowd control.

Its report, based on dozens of interviews of victims in Bahrain and forensic evidence gathered there by the group's investigators in April, said the Shiite populace's abnormally prolonged exposure to the tear gas's toxic components had already led to an alarming increase in miscarriages, respiratory ailments and other maladies.

It documented examples of grievous wounds suffered by civilians whose skulls and limbs had been struck by metal tear gas canisters blasted from a few feet away. The report also described instances in which people not engaged in protests were attacked with tear gas fired into their cars and through the windows or doors of their homes, including at least two cases in which residents died from complications from exposure to the gas because they were trapped in enclosed spaces.

"Since February 2011, the Bahraini government has unleashed a torrent of these toxic chemical agents against men, women and children, including the elderly and infirm," asserted the report, titled "Weaponizing Tear Gas."
[...]
Richard Sollom, the deputy director of the Physicians for Human Rights and an author of the report, who was scheduled to testify on Wednesday at a House hearing in Washington on whether Bahrain has adhered to its promises, said that he had become cynical about official Bahraini pledges. "What they're very good at is rhetoric, not results," he said in a telephone interview. "Literally, not much has changed."

In the 100-year history of tear gas, Mr. Sollom said, "there is no other example where a country has continually assaulted its people with this toxic chemical."

The report appeared likely to cause some awkwardness in the Obama administration, which has tempered its criticism of the Bahraini government's repression even while acknowledging the legitimacy of the protesters' grievances. Bahrain, home to the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf, is seen as a strategic bulwark against the influence of Iran.

Mr. Sollom, who has visited Bahrain three times, said that tear gas attacks occurred weekly in some Shiite neighborhoods, and that the lingering smell was so pervasive that some residents gave guests gas masks.

He also said the Bahrain government had not responded to the group's request for a breakdown on the exact types of tear gas used by the police. Nor has it explained precisely how and where it is obtaining its tear gas, although canisters recovered on the street by activists suggest that they come from the United States, France and Brazil. Mr. Sollom noted that the United States had withheld licenses for tear gas exports to Bahrain, which suggests that any American tear gas products used there might have been stockpiled before the American restriction, or re-exported from other countries.

According to Bahrain Watch, an activist group that has chronicled the government's weapons use, the police have recently begun using unmarked tear gas canisters, presumably to obscure the country of origin.

Tear gas is the generic term for a group of at least 15 riot-control chemicals that disable people by exposing their lungs, skin and eyes to irritants.

Venezuela
7) Top US general: Venezuela not a national security threat
Frank Bajak, Associated Press, July 31
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/top-us-general-venezuela-not-a-national-security-threat/2012/07/31/gJQAdNBrNX_story.html

Lima, Peru - The Air Force general responsible for U.S. military operations in most of Latin America said Tuesday that he does not believe Venezuela, despite ongoing arms purchases and close ties to Iran, poses a national security threat to the United States.

Gen. Douglas Fraser also said he would like to see more counterdrug cooperation from Venezuela, from which most northbound cocaine smuggling flights continue to originate, according to U.S. and Colombian officials.

Fraser was asked if he thought Venezuela's newly announced development of unmanned aerial vehicles and continued purchase of billions of dollars' worth of weaponry, including anti-aircraft missiles from Russia and other nations, did not present a danger to his country.

"From my standpoint, no, I don't see it that way," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I don't see them as a national security threat."

Fraser, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, said from his headquarters in Miami that he views the anti-aircraft missile purchases in particular as primarily defensive in nature.

He also said he did not consider Iran's ties with Chavez's socialist government to amount to a military alliance.

"As I look at Iran and their connection with Venezuela, I see that still primarily as a diplomatic and economic relationship," he said, with Iran using it to counter international sanctions over its alleged development of nuclear weapons.

Fraser's comments echo a July 11 statement by U.S. President Barack Obama that drew criticism from his presumed Republican challenger in November elections, Mitt Romney.
Obama said his "overall sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the past several years has not had a serious national security impact on us."

Romney responded by saying it was "simply naive" to think Chavez does not pose a threat to the United States.
[...]

Colombia
8) Colombia enacts law recognizing drug addiction as public health issue
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Wednesday, 01 August 2012 07:46
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/25353-colombia-enacts-law-recognizing-drug-addiction-as-public-health-issue.html

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has ratified a law deeming drug addiction a public health issue rather than a crime, local media reported Tuesday.

The newly-enacted bill recognizes "the consumption and abuse of, or addiction to, psychoactive substances, legal or illegal, as a matter of public health and the well-being of family, community and individuals."

According to Liberal Party Senator Juan Manuel Galan, Law 1566 recognizes drug addiction as an "illness" and "guarantees (...) treatment."

With the new law in place, health insurance companies are obliged to cover the voluntary treatment of drug addicts. Until Tuesday, addicts could only obtain financial resources for treatment through legal action.

The legislation is part of several measures taken by the Santos administration to decriminalize drug use; In late June Congress passed a bill that decriminalized the possession of small doses of illegal substances like marijuana and cocaine.

---
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The alternative colorway for the AJXX8 featured an articulated print that mirrored the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Christmas Day uniforms. The superstar guard rocked the shoes with the shroud flapped down in the first half, before zipping them all the way up in the second half.

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The Air Jordan XX8 is Jordan Brand's lightest ever, featuring the Jordan Flight Plate, a Pebax moderator plate that maximizes the responsiveness of the Nike Zoom units through compression and deflection for optimal performance by essentially unlocking the airbags in the forefoot and heel.

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The Air Jordan XX8 will be available in Houston only on February 15, 2013; and then, nationwide on Saturday, February 16, for $250.

The Air Jordan 1 Retro ’97 TXT “Gym Red” Is The Perfect Way To Ring In The New Year

Haaaaaaappy new year! It’s finally 2013 and, if you’re a sneakerhead, there are a ton of reasons for you to be happy right now. This year, there are a number of different Nike, cheap jordan heels 2013, Reebok, and Adidas sneakers for you to look forward to.

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But, before we start looking ahead, we thought we’d take one final look back at 2012 and put you on to the last sneaker that the Jordan Brand dropped in 2012.

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After putting out several really popular retro sneakers in 2012, they hit us with one more heater before the ball dropped yesterday when they released the Air Jordan 1 Retro ’97 TXT “Gym Red” sneaker. And, it’s a must-have for anyone who loves the AJ1.

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As you can see, the AJ1 Retro ’97 TXT “Gym Red” is an all-red sneaker. It’s also comprised mostly of leather and includes a hologram “Air Jordan” logo on the upper. It features black laces, a black and red sole, and Jordan branding on the heel and tongue.

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If you’re looking to make a statement with your sneakers, then the AJ1 Retro ’97 TXT “Gym Red” sneaker is definitely the way to go.

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Officially, the AJ1 Retro ’97 TXT “Gym Red” sneaker was released yesterday at select Nike retailers. But, if you’re lucky, you can probably still scoop up a pair of these to help you ring in the new year.

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If nothing else, they’ll help you put a nice bow on your sneaker spending for 2012 and get you warmed up and ready to go in 2013.

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With all of the sneakers that are going to be dropping this year, you’re going to need a primer like the nike jordan high heels ’97 TXT “Gym Red” to help you transition from 2012 to 2013.

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So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and grab a pair of these for $130 now and bring the new year in right.

TaylorMade & adidas to Launch New Golf Gear This Year

TaylorMade and adidas have unveiled their new golf gear, which will be available for purchase later this year. (Stay up-to-date with the latest from the adidas brand.) Included in the 2013 lineup is an upgraded version of the RBZ Fairway, a new golf ball, two new adjustable drivers and the new adizero golf shoe.

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The updated RBZ Stage II Fairway Wood has a thinner face and faster flexing ability, which allows it to generate greater ball speed and distance. The product's engineers estimate that golfers will be able to drive the ball ten yards farther with the club. Meanwhile, the two new drivers—R1 and RBZ Stage II—focus on adjustability.

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The R1 is a follow-up to the popular R11S and includes 12 loft options and seven face angle settings. The Stage II is not only more aerodynamic than its predecessor, it also features a larger clubface in order to generate more yardage.

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(Take your game to the next level with STACK's Golf Guide.)

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TaylorMade's new golf ball, dubbed "Lethal," features a 322-dimple pattern to improve performance and consistency on those windy days.

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It is a follow-up to the Penta and uses the same 5-layer concept. "Lethal" has already made its debut on the green, as Justin Rose has used it in several victories, including the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final.

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Rounding out the collection is the adizero golf shoe. Partially based on Lionel Messi's soccer boot, the shoe comes in at 10.6 ounces, making it the lightest golf shoe ever. PGA Tour Champion Sergio Garcia commended it for helping him "stay light" on his feet while remaining comfortable. The shoe is available in three colorways.

Air Jordan XI "Bred" Retro [PHOTOS]

The sneaker game is getting stressful. The latest holy grail to get another Retro treatment is the Air Jordan XI in the black and varsity red aka "Bred" colorway. Getting your hands on a pair, or two, of your own will require equal parts skill, savvy, a nice hook up and some good ol' faith.

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In case you're new to the sneaker cause, the Air Jordan XI features a black upper with the easily recognizable patent leather and mesh combo. The midsole is white and the outsole is a translucent red. Michael Jordan rocked these while winning another championship in the '95/96 season.

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As more hypebeasts continue to sprout, these will probably be harder to get than last year's Concord release. However, with all the hoops you gotta jump through to reserve a pair (Foot Locker gave away tickets this past Sunday in select stores to reserve a pair to dead camp out shenanigans), and better security, there should be less tomfoolery. At least we hope so.

The Air Jordan XI officially hits retailers on December 21st for a none too cheap $185. Check out photos of Air Jordan XI "Bred" in the gallery. You copping a pair?

adidas & MLS Announce World’s First Smart Soccer League

Major League Soccer and adidas have announced that MLS will integrate the adidas miCoach Elite System league-wide in 2013, marking the world’s first soccer league. The announcement precedes the 2012 MLS All-Star Game, which is set to be the world’s first “smart game” integrating the system.

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Next season, each MLS club will use adidas’ data-tracking technology to provide coaches, trainers and players with real-time performance metrics.

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By measuring on-field performance, league officials are hopeful that teams will have a better understanding of the physical and physiological impact of the game.

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In-depth analysis will possible prevent overtraining and risk of injury, allowing players to maintain optimum levels of performance throughout the season.

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“We are proud to partner with our long-term partner Major League Soccer to debut our latest innovation the micoach Elite System at the MLS All-Star Game and then across the league in 2013,” said adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer. “As the paths of sports and technology continue to converge, we are pleased to be pioneering in this area and continue to deliver cutting-edge innovations to teams and leagues worldwide.”

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The miCoach Elite System includes a small data cell that fits into a player’s base layer in a protective pocket on the back between the shoulder blades. A series of electrodes and sensors woven into the fabric of the base layer connect to the cell, which will wirelessly transmit more than 200 data records per second from each player to a central computer. Information will also be displayed on a series of simplified insights and results on the coach’s iPad.

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“Our long-standing partnership with adidas and our combined goal to bring innovative and game-changing experiences to the sport of soccer are key reasons behind the success of Major League Soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “Working with adidas, we are bringing players, coaches and fans across the league a revolutionary technology to help teams perform at the highest level.”

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In the future, MLS fans will be able to experience greater insight from the field of play as live, on-field player data will become an integral part of the game experience, whether watching from home or within the stadium.

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The micoach Elite System is part of the family of micoach electronic training devices, services and technologies that capture, analyze and evaluate personal performance to help athletes get better for their sport.

Man shot over Air Jordan shoes dies days after robbery

The man who was critically wounded Friday for his Air Jordan shoes has died at Houston Northwest Hospital.

Two male suspects began shooting at the 22-year-old victim and his friend around 10:30 a.m. Friday morning in the 1700 block of Plumwood Drive.

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According to investigators, the shooting victims went to Willowbrook Mall earlier that morning to buy several pairs of Air Jordan shoes.

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As they were heading home, a driver pulled up to the front of the car and an armed suspect got out and demanded the shoes.

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The driver took off on foot as the shooter chased and shot at him. As the driver went for help at a neighbor’s house, he heard gunshots. According to investigators, the passenger, who never left the car, had been shot in the head by the second suspect.

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The passenger, who was trying to get behind the wheel of the car to escape, drove away wounded, but ended up crashing between two houses and a gas line. He was taken to Houston Northwest Hospital with life threatening injuries and later died. The driver was not hurt.

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Last week, Harris County teen Juan Reyna was also gunned down over the Air Jordans. A suspect has been arrested in the shooting.

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The night before the shooting, shoppers all over the country lined up for the release of the Nike Air Jordan, 11 Bred shoes priced at $185. In some areas of the country, shoppers have rioted over the shoes.

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The only description investigators have at this time is two black male suspects driving a four-door green car. Anyone with information as to their whereabouts should call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Doggone! Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise leave their new pet pooch at home as they head out for a snack

She was only spotted with her new pet pooch yesterday for the first time.

And while you would think that Suri Cruise would be inseparable from her curly haired companion, the youngster stepped out without the canine today.

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The six-year-old and her mother Katie Holmes went out for a snack in the Big Apple, leaving the dog at home.

Suri was bright and colourful for the outing, wearing a floral pink dress teamed with matching flip-flops.

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She also sported a patterned plaster on her right arm, where it appears that she has suffered from some kind of tiny abrasion.

Meanwhile, her mother Katie was dressed for the summery conditions in a billowing short dress paired with her favourite Isabel Marant boots.

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The actress has worn the tan ankle boots dozens of times, and they are starting to get some major wear and tear.

Both mother and daughter wore their identically-styled hair in a low ponytail.

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Besides obviously her father Tom Cruise, who is currently holidaying in Croatia, Suri was missing one family member during her outing - her new doggie.

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The pair were seen for the first time with the curly ball of canine fur yesterday, during one of their regular outings at the Chelsea Piers.

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The sighting came just weeks after Katie was seen telling Suri she couldn't have a puppy, resulting in the obligatory tears.

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At the time, Katie was urged by animal groups to think about getting a rescue dog... and it seems that she may have heeded this as their new pup looks older.

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Suri burst into floods of tears after her actress mother refused to buy her the adorable pet puppy she wanted.

The mother-daughter duo were seen looking at different pet pooches in Citipup pet store in New York.

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Suri appeared to fall in love with a little white and black Yorkshire Terrier and Maltese mix pup but was left inconsolable when Katie put her foot down.

The little girl was seen performing all the classic children's tactics to try and get her own way.

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First she stuck out her bottom lip, pulled her face into a frown, while gazing up at the dog in question.

Next she tried to ignore her mother who held out her hand keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the floor.

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When this didn't work she stormed out of the shop before bursting into tears in the car on the way home.

Animal rights campaigners urged Katie to adopt a dog instead of buying one from a pet store - should she want to get a dog for Suri.

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Devera Lynn of North Shore Animal League America told Radaronline: 'Unfortunately most pet stores are provided their dogs from commercial breeding organizations otherwise known as puppy mills.'

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Adding: 'We would love to show Katie the animals we have if she is ready to adopt.'

Finger of blame in Wak firing pointed right at Junior

"Three years ago when Ken Griffey Jr. returned to Safeco Field with the Cincinnati Reds, I listened to the pre-game ceremony on the radio and damn near teared up. The lengthy standing ovation was well-deserved for the man who helped save baseball in Seattle.

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I loved the guy, but I'm not a Junior fan anymore. In the Go 2 Guy's estimation, Griffey is the biggest reason why Don Wakamatsu was fired as the Mariners manager on Monday.

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To recap some of the dysfunctional developments, Junior struggled and slept in the clubhouse and was ultimately benched and got upset because he thought that Wakamatsu planted the whole Sleep-gate story with Larry LaRue, which is completely preposterous. And then he got even madder when Wakamatsu didn't communicate with him for two weeks after his benching or something like that.

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I understand Griffey's place in the game, but was he so clueless that he needed Wakamatsu to continually explain why he was benched? Wakamatsu gave him more than enough time to produce, and when it didn't happen, what was the manager supposed to do? Keep putting him in the lineup? Wakamatsu, if I'm not mistaken, was trying to win games, and he couldn't do it with a powerless, sub-.200 designated hitter.

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Griffey could have been a reasonably mature adult and hashed out his differences with Wakamatsu and stuck around as a part-time DH and full-time pinch-hitter who still would have wielded considerable clout in the clubhouse.

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But no, Junior had to take his toys and go home. He said he left because he didn't want to be a distraction. Please. He left because he was in a full-on hissy-fit, mistakenly at odds with Wakamatsu.

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It's interesting to note that Wakamatsu, two years ago, had reservations about signing Griffey because he feared that Griffey's moodiness might be a problem in the clubhouse. Last year, when things were going well, Griffey was a clubhouse enhancer who everyone loved. He was also the congenial conduit between Ichiro and the rest of the team.

Then of course, you know what's happened this year -- everything goes to hell and Griffey goes to Orlando, driving off in a huff in one of the biggest chump moves ever."

Griffey rides into sunset - on a cloudy day

"Of all the imagined conclusions to Ken Griffey Jr.'s baseball career, the least satisfying was an abrupt goodbye.

We suspected Griffey would quit after hitting a final home run, perhaps, or playing a symbolic inning in center field one last time. We suspected he'd appear in his Mariners uniform in front of a sold-out Safeco Field crowd, doffing his cap, giving thanks to teammates and fans and the organization before walking down a red-carpet path toward the rest of his life.

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But there was no chance to acknowledge a Hall-of-Fame career with the future Hall-of-Famer on hand. At some point, between the moment he left the clubhouse Tuesday night and the moment he was supposed to show up Wednesday afternoon, Griffey decided his time as a ballplayer had expired.

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The ending turned out to be a 180-degree twist from the storybook scene we envisioned, and yet there was something admirable, even noble, about riding off into the sunset on a day without a sunset. No longer capable of making magic, Griffey renounced a moment in which the magic would've been prearranged, packaged as a can't-miss souvenir item.

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Griffey's gifts as a power-hitting, thrill-seeking center fielder were almost without peer, but he had another gift that made him unique: Spontaneity. The most familiar play on a Griffey highlight video, for instance, was not the result of his smooth swing or his golden glove. The most familiar play was the extra gear he got during his first-to-home sprint that scored the winning run in the 1995 playoff clincher against the Yankees."

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