JFP 1/13: Stop Deportations to Haiti
Just Foreign Policy News
January 13, 2010
Updates on Haiti's Earthquake
The New York Times is aggregating accounts on the Lede blog.
FCNL: Stop Deportations to Haiti
Send a letter to President Obama and send copies to your representative urging the U.S. government to immediately act to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitian immigrants. It's exactly for this kind of humanitarian disaster that the TPS program exists.
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1) President Obama plans to ask Congress for $33 billion in war funding for a major U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan this year, Reuters reports. The money, mainly for the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and other war costs in the current 2010 fiscal year, would come on top of Obama's expected request to increase the Pentagon's overall budget in fiscal 2011 to a record $708 billion. Fiscal 2010 Defense Department funding, including war costs in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as military construction, already comes to $660 billion. The budget for fiscal 2011 is expected to be released by the White House on February 1.
2) A UN report says the number of Afghan civilians killed in violence in 2009 was higher than in any year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, the BBC reports. Civilian casualties rose by 14% in 2009 compared with 2008, the UN Mission in Afghanistan reported. The UN report said that deaths attributed to allied forces dropped by nearly 30% in 2009.
3) The UN says airstrikes make up the largest cause of civilian deaths by coalition forces in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. Even with new guidelines, which took effect in the middle of last year, 359 Afghans were killed in airstrikes in 2009, the UN found [60% of the civilian deaths attributed by the UN to coalition forces - JFP.] US commanders said this week that they would tighten the rules governing night raids, which the US acknowledges are a constant subject of Afghan complaints about Western forces.
4) Secretary of State Clinton downplayed the dispute with Japan over the Futenma Marine base, marking a shift in tone for the US, which has been pressing Japan to drop its opposition to the relocation of the base on Okinawa, the Washington Post reports. Japan's government was elected on a platform that included opposition to the plan. "We are respectful of the process that the Japanese government is going through," Clinton said.
5) Syrian President Assad started talks with Saudi King Abdullah that could see a renewed push for reconciliation between Iran-backed Hamas and the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority, Reuters reports. Reaching a positive outcome could hinge on the participation of Egypt, whose efforts at brokering a deal between the main two Palestinian factions have been hurt by what it perceives as an unconstructive approach from Syria. "Egyptians should also be here which means we need to reconcile them with the Syrians," said a former Saudi diplomat. The visit followed intense diplomatic efforts leading to a rare visit earlier this month to Riyadh by Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Syria.
6) Israel on Wednesday caved in to demands from Turkey and apologized over an insult to its ambassador, AP reports. Israel has been troubled by harsh statements from Turkey, which was outraged by the high Palestinian civilian death toll during Israel's Gaza offensive.
7) The arrest of a USAID contractor in Cuba has raised questions about whether the administration should continue a Bush administration practice of sending development workers to conduct semicovert operations, the New York Times reports. Some US officials said they suspected that Cuba aimed to shine light on A.I.D.'s undercover Cuba programs, whose financing has grown in the past decade from about $5 million to over $45 million a year and have a history of mismanagement. Senator Kerry has called for a comprehensive review of the A.I.D. programs. Representative Delahunt asked whether there might be other ways to provide information to nongovernmental groups.
8) U.N. investigators announced that a Guatemalan lawyer who accused the country's president of his murder in a video made before his death actually contracted the hitmen to kill him, AP reports. The lawyer's posthumous accusations became a rallying cry for members of Guatemala's dominant elite, many of whom are angry over Colom's attempts to eliminate tax loopholes for corporations. President Colom is overwhelmingly backed by Guatemala's mostly Mayan Indian poor for his efforts to tax the rich and build schools and clinics for disadvantaged communities.
9) Bolivia plans to take back the nation's railroad system in 2010, 14 years after selling its trains and tracks to the private sector, CNN reports. One of the two privatized train lines, resold to an American investor, has been practically abandoned, the government says. The government's plan calls for bringing the western line back into service and uniting the two systems. Last year, Bolivia completed the nationalization of its oil and gas industry.
10) Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says federal and state governments haven't shown results in investigating or preventing the killing of journalists, AP reports. The commission said 58 journalists have been killed and nine have disappeared since 2000.
11) Wal-Mart said it will reinstate contracts with the Brazilian sugar maker Cosan SA Industria & Comercio after a Brazilian judge ordered the company removed from a government list of companies whose workers operate in slave-like conditions, Bloomberg reports. Brazil's Attorney General's Office plans to appeal the ruling. The Labor Ministry will present evidence that Cosan used slave-like labor, the Labor Minister said.
1) Obama Wants $33 Billion More For War
Obama to ask for $33 billion for Afghan troop buildup
Reuters, Wednesday, January 13, 2010; 10:03 AM
Washington - U.S. President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for $33 billion in emergency war funding for a major U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan this year, defense officials said on Wednesday.
The money, mainly for the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and other war costs in the current 2010 fiscal year, would come on top of Obama's expected request to increase the Pentagon's overall budget in fiscal 2011 to a record $708 billion, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Fiscal 2010 Defense Department funding, including war costs in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as military construction, already comes to $660 billion.
If approved by Congress, the $33 billion emergency funding request, in line with estimates released last month by the Pentagon, would push that 2010 total to $693 billion.
The budget for fiscal 2011, which begins on October 1, is expected to be released by the White House on February 1.
2) Afghan civilian deaths rose 14% in 2009, says UN report
BBC, Wednesday, 13 January 2010
The number of Afghan civilians killed in violence in 2009 was higher than in any year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, a United Nations report says. Civilian casualties rose by 14% in 2009 compared with 2008, the UN Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) reported. It said the "vast majority" of the more than 2,400 civilian deaths had been caused by Taliban attacks.
Earlier this week, a report in Pakistan said that more than 3,000 civilians there had died in violence in 2009. A third of those deaths were the result of suicide attacks in a year which saw a 45% increase in incidents related to terrorism, the report by the think-tank Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies said. Overall violence-related deaths in Pakistan last year, including military operations against insurgents, increased to more than 12,500, the report said.
The Unama report said 2,412 civilians had been killed in Afghanistan in 2009 compared with 2,118 in 2008. "The intensification and spread of the armed conflict in Afghanistan continued to take a heavy toll on civilians throughout 2009," the report said. Civilian casualties are a sensitive subject in Afghanistan, with foreign forces frequently accused of killing non-combatants in airstrikes.
The UN report said that deaths attributed to allied forces dropped by nearly 30% in 2009 - a statistic which correspondents say will be welcomed by the US military. In recent months it has made repeated assurances to the Afghan government that it will lower civilian casualties as part of its goal of gaining support on the ground among Afghan people.
Unama figures show that there were 520 troop deaths throughout the year, up from 295 for the year before. It said that 70% of last year's civilian deaths - representing about 1,681 people - had been caused by insurgent attacks, while pro-government forces including Nato and US troops had been responsible for 25% of civilian deaths (596 people).
3) U.N. Blames Taliban for Afghan Toll
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, January 14, 2010
Kabul - Last year was the most lethal for Afghan civilians since the American-led war began here in late 2001, with the Taliban and other insurgent groups causing the vast majority of noncombatant deaths, according to a United Nations survey released Wednesday.
Indeed, airstrikes make up the largest cause of civilian deaths by the coalition. Even with the new guidelines, which took effect in the middle of last year, 359 Afghans were killed in airstrikes in 2009, the United Nations survey found.
On the same issue, American commanders said this week that they would tighten the rules governing night raids, one of the touchiest subjects among ordinary Afghans.
American and NATO troops often move into villages at night because of advantages like surprise and because they typically have equipment, like night-vision goggles, that allows them see with very little light when the insurgents cannot.
But some night operations have gone awry, resulted in the deaths of civilians. On some occasions, Afghan civilians alarmed by the presence of gun-toting men in their villages have grabbed their own guns, only to be shot by American or NATO forces, who took the villagers for insurgents.
And even raids that went relatively smoothly have caused ill will among ordinary Afghans, who are often offended by foreign soldiers moving through their villages - or into their homes - after dark.
"Nighttime is a good time to operate, said Col. Rich Gross, the chief legal counsel to American and NATO forces. "We control the environment, and the people are in bed.
"But the Afghans don't like night raids. They bring them up all the time. It's about perception."
According to the new directive, American and other NATO forces should explore other alternatives to night raids, such as cordoning villages at night and then moving in at sunrise.
"In the Afghan culture, a man's home is more than just his residence," a draft of the new guidance said. "It represents his family, and protecting it is closely intertwined with his honor. He has been conditioned to respond aggressively whenever he perceives his home or honor is threatened.
"We should not be surprised that night operations elicit such a response," the guidance said, "which we then often interpret as the act of an insurgent."
4) In shift in tone for U.S., Clinton plays down fight over Marine base in Japan
John Pomfret, Washington Post, Wednesday, January 13, 2010; A12
Honolulu - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the Obama administration would not allow a squabble over the fate of a Marine air base in Okinawa to shake the foundations of the United States' alliance with Japan.
Her comments, after a meeting here with her Japanese counterpart, Katsuya Okada, underscored a shift in tone for the administration, which had been pressing the new Japanese government to drop its opposition to a proposed realignment of bases and move the Futenma Marine base to another part of the island.
Instead, Clinton said she was "respectful" of Japan's recent decision to wait until May to decide the facility's fate. "This is an issue that we view as very important," Clinton said at a news briefing. "But we are also working on so many other aspects of the global challenges that we face, and we are going to continue to do that."
Many Okinawa residents object to the presence of U.S. forces on the island, and Japan's new government ran on a platform that included opposition to the realignment plan.
The mutual move to accentuate the positive came after months of friction over the air base. Experts have criticized both sides for allowing the fate of a military installation with at most 40 helicopters to hijack their relationship. Leaders across Asia have privately expressed alarm and urged the United States and Japan to resolve the problem. And traders in the foreign exchange markets have expressed concern that the disagreement could affect coordination among the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve and Japan's central bank.
Japan's government, led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, informed the Obama administration last month that it would take until May to decide on an alternative site for the Futenma base. The U.S. military views a Marine presence on Okinawa as key to its regional strategy, not only in defending Japan but also in reinforcing allied forces in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula. Hatoyama's decision prompted fears in Washington - and throughout the Asia Pacific - that he is using the Futenma issue as an excuse to cool relations with Washington.
But on Tuesday, Clinton appeared understanding. "We are respectful of the process that the Japanese government is going through," she said. "We also have an appreciation for some of the difficult new issues that this government must address," including the widespread opposition to the U.S. military presence on Okinawa.
5) Saudi, Syrian leaders to discuss Iran, Mideast peace
Souhail Karam, Reuters, Wednesday, January 13, 2010; 12:43 PM
Riyadh - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad started talks with Saudi King Abdullah on Wednesday that could see a renewed push for reconciliation between Iran-backed Hamas and the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority. Riyadh has been trying to convince Syria to loosen its alliance with Iran and adopt a more Arab-focused foreign policy, with Saudi officials hinting at financial aid for Syria and a resumption of investment there in return.
Weaning Syria away from Tehran is seen by some as a key to getting Hamas to soften its position in reconciliation talks with the rival Fatah party, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
At a news conference with his Chinese counterpart, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Assad and King Abdullah would discuss "Arab reconciliation," but declined to say if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would join the talks.
Reaching a positive outcome could hinge on the participation of Mubarak whose country's efforts at brokering a deal between the main two Palestinian factions have been hurt by what it perceives as an unconstructive approach from Syria. "The aim is to reconcile the Palestinians with the help of the Syrians. But it is a triangle: Egyptians should also be here which means we need to reconcile them with the Syrians. If Mubarak joins the talks then we will achieve a breakthrough," said Jamal Khashoggi, a former Saudi senior diplomat who is editor of al-Watan newspaper.
The lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks - which depends in part on a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation - is strengthening the hand of hardliners backed by Iran, Saudi and Egyptian officials fear.
Officials gave few details about the agenda of the Riyadh talks. The visit followed intense diplomatic efforts leading to a rare visit earlier this month to Riyadh by Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Syria.
6) Israel apologizes to Turkey over insult
Mark Lavie, Associated Press, Wednesday, January 13, 2010; 3:10 PM
Jerusalem - Israel on Wednesday caved in to demands from Turkey and apologized over an insult to its ambassador, a government statement said, an attempt to defuse the latest crisis between the two nations.
On Monday, Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about a TV show. The ambassador was forced to sit on a low sofa without a handshake, while Ayalon explained to local TV stations that the humiliation was intentional. Outraged, Turkey threatened to recall the ambassador.
Late Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said a letter of apology has been written, and the premier "hopes this will end the affair." Israeli officials said the letter was delivered to Turkish officials in Ankara.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the apology. "We have received the answer that we had been waiting for," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Ayalon issued a statement admitting that his behavior was undiplomatic, but falling short of an apology. Turkey rejected that and threatened to withdraw its ambassador if a formal apology was not forthcoming.
Over the past decade, the two states had built up a strong relationship, including military cooperation and tourism, making Turkey Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world.
Lately, however, Israel has been troubled by harsh statements from Erdogan, who was outraged by the high Palestinian civilian death toll during Israel's Gaza offensive a year ago. Israel is also concerned with a perception that Turkey is moving closer to Iran, considered by Israel as a strategic threat.
Days after the Gaza offensive began, Erdogan stalked off a stage he was sharing with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with the parting shot: "You kill people." Turkey also canceled a high-profile military exercise with Israel last fall.
Erdogan reignited tensions on Monday by accusing Israel of threatening world peace, just before Ayalon summoned Celikkol for the public insult.
7) Contractor Jailed in Cuba Was Aiding Religious Groups, U.S. Says
Ginger Thompson and Marc Lacey, New York Times, January 13, 2010
Washington - The United States contractor detained in Cuba last month and accused of being a spy is a 60-year-old social worker from the Washington suburbs who had gone to Cuba to provide communications equipment to Jewish nonprofit organizations, according to American officials.
In postings on the Internet, the contractor, Alan P. Gross - whose identify had not previously been made public - said he had more than 20 years' experience in development work around the world. One of his Internet networking sites said he had been a volunteer field organizer for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
American officials say that Mr. Gross had gone to Cuba as part of a United States government program and was providing encouragement and financial assistance to religious nonprofit groups. The officials acknowledge that Mr. Gross entered Cuba without the proper visa, though they contend that he was not involved in any activities that posed a violent threat to the Cuban government. And they flatly dispute any allegations that he is a spy.
The Cuban government, however, has characterized his work as a threat to national security.
In the United States, where Cuba continues to fire political passions, Mr. Gross's detention has become the source of new tensions between Washington and Havana, and it threatens to ignite more debate on Capitol Hill about how the Obama administration ought to proceed in its Cuba policy.
Specifically, the case has raised questions about whether the administration should continue a Bush administration practice of sending development workers to conduct the kind of semicovert operations that landed Mr. Gross in jail.
President Obama came to office promising a new era of engagement with Cuba. But after lifting some restrictions on travel and remittances, he has been reluctant to take further steps, citing continuing reports of human rights abuses in Cuba. Some Cuba experts have said that Mr. Gross's arrest may harden Mr. Obama's stance.
Cuba, meanwhile, said the episode signaled that Mr. Obama was just as committed to overthrowing the government as his predecessor was.
Havana has used Mr. Gross's arrest as an opportunity to raise an old grievance: America's long prison terms for five Cuban agents convicted of spying on Cuban exile organizations. Havana maintains that the agents were in the United States to prevent terrorist acts against Cuba and has called on the Obama administration to release them.
Some American officials said they suspected that Cuba aimed to shine light on A.I.D.'s undercover Cuba programs, whose financing has grown in the past decade from about $5 million to over $45 million a year and have a history of mismanagement.
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, has called for a comprehensive review of the A.I.D. programs.
Representative Bill Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, meanwhile, asked whether there might be other ways to provide information to nongovernmental groups. "If we want to have influence on the island, what makes sense?" he said.
8) UN: Guatemala attorney orchestrated own killing
Juan Carlos Llorca, Associated Press, Tue Jan 12, 6:38 pm ET
Guatemala City - A Guatemalan lawyer who accused the country's president of his murder in a video made before his death actually contracted the hitmen to kill him, U.N. investigators announced Tuesday.
Attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg contacted cousins of his first wife to help him find a hitman to deal with an extortionist - when he really was orchestrating his own slaying amid severe personal problems, according to a special international group commissioned by the government.
"We have to conclude that it was Rodrigo Rosenberg himself who asked for help from ... intimate friends and said to them: 'I have an extortionist who is threatening me and I want to kill him,'" said Carlos Castresana, head of the probe into the May 10 killing. "They received his request and looked for someone capable."
The 47-year-old attorney, who served as assistant dean at a private university, claimed Colom's government was linked to a corruption scandal at a government bank and said any attack on him would be an attempt to cover that up. Colom has denied any involvement in the killing.
Rosenberg's accusations were distributed to reporters on DVDs at his May 11 funeral and immediately set an already polarized country into a frenzy of protests, allegations of corruption and calls for Colom's resignation.
His posthumous accusations of corruption became a rallying cry for members of Guatemala's dominant elite, many of whom are angry over Colom's attempts to eliminate tax loopholes for corporations and criticize his inability to reduce high rates of violent crime.
Colom is overwhelmingly backed by Guatemala's mostly Mayan Indian poor for his efforts to tax the rich and build schools and clinics for disadvantaged communities.
Colom had suggested that criminal or political interests were behind the video. In a public statement Tuesday, Colom thanked all those who supported him during "eight months of infamy."
9) Boliva plans to nationalize railways 14 years after privatization
Train lines were sold for $14 million to a Chilean consortium
CNN, January 12, 2010
Bolivia plans to take back the nation's railroad system in 2010, 14 years after selling its trains and tracks to the private sector, a government official says. Public Works Minister Walter Delgadillo said officials in the Transportation Ministry are already working on a blueprint for the transfer, the state-run ABI news agency reported Sunday.
Then-President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada sold the two Bolivian train lines for $14 million to a Chilean consortium called Cruz Blanca (White Cross). The Chilean group sold the western line to an American investor and the eastern line to Antofagasta Railway, ABI said.
The eastern line is fully functional but the western line is practically abandoned, said the news agency.
The government's plan calls for bringing the western line back into service and uniting the two systems, ABI reported.
"This will be a very strong investment because we are talking about a recuperation of the old route and also a new east-west line to transport essential iron," Delgadillo said. "We don't know how much all of it will cost, but just the interconnection will cost $2 million, with state financing and external credit."
Last year, Bolivia completed the nationalization of its oil and gas industry, a process that leftist President Evo Morales began shortly after taking office in January 2006.
10) Mexico rights agency: Reporters' deaths unresolved
Associated Press, Mon, Jan. 11, 2010
Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says federal and state governments haven't shown results in investigating or preventing the killing of journalists. Commenting three days after the latest such slaying, the commission says journalists have been subject to kidnappings, threats, intimidation, attacks and disappearances.
The commission said Monday that 58 journalists have been killed and nine have disappeared since 2000. It says seven attacks with explosives have been made against media outlets in that time.
The most recent killing involved Valentin Valdes, a reporter for the newspaper Zocalo in the northern city of Saltillo. His body was found Friday along with a threatening message of the type often left by drug gangs.
11) Brazil Will Appeal Removal of Cosan From Blacklist
Katia Cortes, Bloomberg, Jan. 12
Brazil's Attorney General's Office plans to appeal an injunction that removed sugar-cane processor Cosan SA Industria & Comercio from a government list of companies whose workers operate in slave-like conditions.
The Attorney General's Office will contest the ruling as soon as it is officially notified, according to an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg News. The Labor Ministry will present evidence to the Attorney General's Office that Cosan used slave- like labor, Labor Minister Carlos Lupi told reporters in Sao Paulo today.
Cosan, the world's biggest sugar-cane processor, won an injunction from a Brazilian labor court on Jan. 8 ordering its removal from the Labor Ministry list. Brazil's state development bank said yesterday that it will resume lending to the company and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it will reinstate contracts with the sugar maker after the blacklisting was canceled. "If Cosan was included in the list it's because there was hard evidence," Lupi said.
The incident that got Cosan on the list took place in 2007 with a third-party cane-cutter, Cosan said in an e-mailed statement on Jan. 7. Cosan said it canceled the contract and paid the workers.
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