JFP 1/20: Haitians dying from lack of care
Just Foreign Policy News
January 20, 2010
Let Aid Go Through to Haiti
Aid groups have charged that the US military has blocked them from bringing desperately needed assistance into Haiti. Urge your representatives in Congress to speak up.
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1) Aid workers said unknown numbers of people are dying every day in Haiti due to a lack of medicines and assistance, the Wall Street Journal reports.
2) NGOs and policy groups today called for the U.S. government to prioritize aid delivery over military deployment to Haiti, as airdrops of water supplies only just began to get underway, and as the U.S. military continued to prevent planes carrying aid supplies from landing in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, reports the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "Right now the U.S. is blocking aid. There should be better coordination so that all actors - other governments, agencies and NGO's - ready to deliver aid are able to do so," said Melinda Miles, founder and Director of Konbit pou Ayiti, an aid and assistance organization based in Haiti.
3) Defense Secretary Gates said Al-Qaeda could trigger a war between Pakistan and India, AFP reports. Although he praised India for exercising restraint after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Gates suggested India could not be expected to remain restrained if it was attacked again. "I think it's not unreasonable to assume India patience would be limited were there to be further attacks," he said.
3) The ACLU says the Pentagon has for the first time made public the names of 645 detainees held at the US military base in Bagram, AFP reports. "Vital information including their citizenship, how long they have been held, in what country they were captured and the circumstances of their capture has been redacted," the ACLU said.
4) Evidence is emerging that the Obama Administration failed to investigate seriously and may even have continued a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006, reports Scott Horton in Harpers. Four U.S. soldiers have provided evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners' deaths.
5) An early 2002 letter from then foreign secretary Jack Straw to Tony Blair warned that the case for military action in Iraq was of dubious legality and would be no guarantee of a better future for Iraq, the Times of London reports. The letter said there was "no credible evidence" linking Iraq to Al-Qaeda and that the "threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September".
6) Afghan Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani told the Wall Street Journal that his forces can inflict heavy casualties while sustaining few, the Journal reports. That message is problematic for a key plank of the U.S. military's Afghan "surge" which is based on a strategy of applying sufficient pressure on some Taliban leaders that they will negotiate for terms acceptable to Washington, the Journal says. While pledging allegiance to Mullah Omar, Haqqani operates independently, choosing his own targets and only loosely coordinating with the Taliban's supreme leadership. U.S. and Afghan officials believe Haqqani has cultivated high-level double agents inside the Afghan government. Any move by the Pakistanis against Haqqani appears to be months away, at the soonest, the Journal says.
7) Israel has stopped granting work permits to foreign nationals working in most international nongovernmental organizations operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, Haaretz reports. Organizations affected by the apparent policy change include Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and the Religious Society of Friends. NGO workers say the new policy is intended to force them to close their Jerusalem offices and relocate to West Bank cities. This move would prevent them from working among the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem. The organizations fear the new policy will impede their ability to work in Area C, 60 percent of the West Bank.
8) The UN said Israel's blockade of Gaza undermines Gaza's health care system and puts patients at risk, Reuters reports. The U.N. said that in 2009, 27 Palestinian patients died while awaiting permission for medical treatment in Israel, and that damage to Gaza's hospitals and primary health care facilities from Israel's military offensive last year cannot be fixed until Israel allows construction materials into Gaza.
10) U.S. officials say they have warned Iraqi officials that there is a real possibility the U.S. and the international community will refuse to accept upcoming elections as legitimate if a ban on 500 mostly Sunni and secularist candidates is upheld, the Los Angeles Times reports.
11) Brazil has succeeded in curbing the appreciation of its currency by imposing a tax on foreigners' purchases of stocks and bonds, Bloomberg reports. [The report suggests the possibility that such policies could work elsewhere - a possiblity regularly dismissed by US and IMF officials - JFP.]
1) Medical Care for Haitians Falls Short, Group Warns
Ianthe Jeanne Dugan and Corey Dade, Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2010, 6:49 P.M. ET
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti - Unknown numbers of people are dying every day in Haiti due to a lack of medicines and assistance, compounding the tragedy from last week's earthquake, aid workers said Wednesday.
Aid such as food and water began to be more widely distributed and a U.S. medical ship arrived and began taking on patients. But the need for essentials such as medicines was overwhelming - and claiming lives by the day. At any given moment, thousands of injured, some grievously, wait outside virtually any hospital or clinic, pleading for treatment.
Outside the capital's main hospital on Wednesday, armed guards in tanks kept out mobs. Inside the hospital's gates, dozens of patients recovering from surgery lay outdoors on beds under makeshift tents. Many had amputations.VTwo newborn babies cried. The smell of infection hung in the air, and isitors wore masks to keep out the smell and dust.
At any time, more than 1,000 people are waiting for surgery at the hospital, said Andrew Marx, spokesman for Partners in Health, a U.S.-based aid group that has been providing health care in Haiti for two decades.
Partners in Health warned on its Web site Tuesday that as many as 20,000 people in Haiti might be dying every day from infections such as gangrene and sepsis, raising the possibility that as many people could die in the days and weeks after the quake as died in the actual 7.0 temblor.
"Tens of thousands of earthquake victims need emergency surgical care now!!!," the group said in its online statement. "The death toll and the incidence of gangrene and other deadly infections will continue to rise unless a massive effort is made to open and staff more operating rooms and to deliver essential equipment and supplies."
The Haitian government's minister of communications, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue, disputed the notion that large numbers of Haitians were still dying every day. "There are seven medical centers functioning. The general hospital is open. We have foreign doctors, we have medicines coming in," she said. Asked about the estimate of 20,000 a day, she said: "No, that's way too high."
Others also said the aid group's fatalities figure was likely way too high. "I've seen that figure, and it seems too high," said Sir John Holmes, a United Nations Under-Secretary-General and its emergency relief coordinator. Haitian government officials also disputed the figure.
Aid group Doctors Without Borders, which has more than 700 workers at several Haiti hospitals, said one of the greatest problems is an inability to treat patients with "crush syndrome," in which damaged muscle tissue releases toxins to the bloodstream that can cause kidney failure and then death. The condition is treated with dialysis machines; two such machines were on one of the organization's cargo planes that was blocked three times on Sunday from landing at Port-au-Prince's Toussaint Louverture International Airport.
Doctors Without Borders says that five of its planes carrying a total of 85 tons of supplies have diverted from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic since Jan. 14. "We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying" on Sunday, said Loris de Filippi, emergency coordinator for the organization's Choscal Hospital in Cité Soleil, in a statement.
2) Haiti: NGO's and Relief Groups Call for Immediate and Widespread Distribution of Water and Other Aid Supplies
Aid Needs to Be Centrally Coordinated, Not Hindered, They Say
Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 20
Washington - NGO's and policy groups today called for the U.S. government to prioritize aid delivery over military deployment to Haiti, as airdrops of water supplies only just began to get underway, and as the U.S. military continued to prevent planes carrying aid supplies from landing in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, the largest two cities devastated by the earthquake. A USA Today report Tuesday stated that the U.S. had only airlifted 70,000 bottles of water into Port-au-Prin ce since the earthquake last Tuesday. Three million people are estimated to be in need of water and other aid.
"Right now the U.S. is blocking aid. There should be better coordination so that all actors - other governments, agencies and NGO's - ready to deliver aid are able to do so," said Melinda Miles, founder and Director of Konbit pou Ayiti, an aid and assistance organization based in Haiti.
Established aid groups who have a long history of working in Haiti have suddenly found themselves unable to deliver urgently needed medical, water, and food supplies because the U.S. military will not grant them access to ports and airports. Doctors Without Borders reported yesterday that one of its "plane[s] carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday night." Groups ready to deliver aid to Jacmel - the fourth-largest city in Haiti - were told they would receive no clearance to land there from the U.S. military, even though they already had both aid supplies and the means for distributing them. This aid is only just now beginning to be delivered because of assistance from the Dominican Republic.
Aid groups also report that outside Port-au-Prince, there are places where quake survivors have fled where the infrastructure is capable of receiving airdropped aid. Many of these areas are not being utilized for airdrops, however.
Numerous media reports and statements from officials suggest that U.S. and UN relief teams have delayed aid distribution due to security concerns. Yet Lt. General P.K. Keen, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, reports that there is less violence in Haiti now than there was before the earthquake hit, and Doctor Evan Lyon of Partners in Health stated, "there's also no violence. There is no insecurity," and that the security concerns are being overstated due to "misinformation and rumors… and racism."
"The U.S. military needs to prioritize getting clean water and other essential needs to the population," Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said. "The clock is running and the lack of clean water is a serious threat to public health. They have the ability to get water or, where it is useful, water treatment chemicals, to everyone in need - that should be a vastly higher priority than getting thousands of more troops and military equipment on the ground."
3) Al-Qaeda Could Provoke New India-Pakistan War: Gates
AFP, Wed Jan 20, 3:09 AM
New Delhi - Al-Qaeda is seeking to de-stabilise the entire South Asia region and could trigger a war between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on Wednesday.
Groups under Al-Qaeda's "syndicate" in Afghanistan and Pakistan are trying "to destabilise not just Afghanistan, not just Pakistan, but potentially the whole region by provoking a conflict perhaps between India and Pakistan through some provocative act," Gates said during a visit to New Delhi.
Gates cited three main groups operating under Al-Qaeda's "umbrella," the Taliban forces fighting in Afghanistan, Taliban elements targeting Pakistan's government and the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan focused on India.
Although he praised India for exercising restraint after the 2008 Mumbai attacks - which Delhi blamed on LeT - Gates suggested India could not be expected to remain restrained if it was attacked again. "I think it's not unreasonable to assume India patience would be limited were there to be further attacks," he said.
4) Pentagon releases names of Bagram prisoners
AFP, January 17, 2010
Washington - The Pentagon has for the first time made public the names of 645 detainees held at the US military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, a US human rights group said Saturday. The American Civil Liberties Union said the list of names, dated September 22, 2009, was released by the US defense secretary after the group filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The list is the first official information about the detainees held in a prison sometimes referred to as the "Afghan Guantanamo," but it was released in a heavily-censored form, the ACLU said. "Vital information including their citizenship, how long they have been held, in what country they were captured and the circumstances of their capture has been redacted," the group said in a statement. The ages of the detainees was also not provided.
"Hundreds of people have languished at Bagram for years in horrid and abusive conditions, without even being told why they're detained or given a fair chance to argue for release," said ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman.
NATO and Afghanistan signed an agreement in early January authorizing the transfer of the prison to Afghan authorities, though no date was set for the handover. In September, the Obama administration announced it would allow prisoners at the facility to view some of the evidence against them and the right to challenge their detention before limited military tribunals. In the United States, courts are considering whether non-Afghan detainees who were captured outside of Afghanistan should have access to the US justice system to challenge their detention.
5) The Guantánamo "Suicides": A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle
Scott Horton, Harpers, January 18, 2010
Furthermore, new evidence now emerging may entangle Obama's young administration with crimes that occurred during the George W. Bush presidency, evidence that suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously-and may even have continued-a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006.
Late in the evening on June 9 that year, three prisoners at Guantánamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. They were being held in a cell block, known as Alpha Block, reserved for particularly troublesome or high-value prisoners.
As news of the deaths emerged the following day, the camp quickly went into lockdown. The authorities ordered nearly all the reporters at Guantánamo to leave and those en route to turn back. The commander at Guantánamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, then declared the deaths "suicides." In an unusual move, he also used the announcement to attack the dead men. "I believe this was not an act of desperation," he said, "but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." Reporters accepted the official account, and even lawyers for the prisoners appeared to believe that they had killed themselves. Only the prisoners' families in Saudi Arabia and Yemen rejected the notion.
Two years later, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which has primary investigative jurisdiction within the naval base, issued a report supporting the account originally advanced by Harris, now a vice-admiral in command of the Sixth Fleet. The Pentagon declined to make the NCIS report public, and only when pressed with Freedom of Information Act demands did it disclose parts of the report, some 1,700 pages of documents so heavily redacted as to be nearly incomprehensible. The NCIS report was carefully cross-referenced and deciphered by students and faculty at the law school of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and their findings, released in November 2009, made clear why the Pentagon had been unwilling to make its conclusions public. The official story of the prisoners' deaths was full of unacknowledged contradictions, and the centerpiece of the report-a reconstruction of the events-was simply unbelievable.
This is the official story, adopted by NCIS and Guantánamo command and reiterated by the Justice Department in formal pleadings, by the Defense Department in briefings and press releases, and by the State Department. Now four members of the Military Intelligence unit assigned to guard Camp Delta, including a decorated non-commissioned Army officer who was on duty as sergeant of the guard the night of June 9–10, have furnished an account dramatically at odds with the NCIS report-a report for which they were neither interviewed nor approached.
All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners' deaths. Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman and men under his supervision have disclosed evidence in interviews with Harper's Magazine that strongly suggests that the three prisoners who died on June 9 had been transported to another location prior to their deaths. The guards' accounts also reveal the existence of a previously unreported black site at Guantánamo where the deaths, or at least the events that led directly to the deaths, most likely occurred.
6) Revealed: Jack Straw's secret warning to Tony Blair on Iraq
Michael Smith, Sunday Times, January 17, 2010
A "secret and personal" letter from Jack Straw, the then foreign secretary, to Tony Blair reveals damning doubts at the heart of government about Blair's plans for Iraq a year before war started.
The letter, a copy of which is published for the first time today, warned the prime minister that the case for military action in Iraq was of dubious legality and would be no guarantee of a better future for Iraq even if Saddam Hussein were removed.
It was sent 10 days before Blair met George Bush, then the US president, in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002. The document clearly implies that Blair was already planning for military action even though he continued to insist to the British public for almost another year that no decision had been made.
The letter will be a key piece of evidence at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war when it questions Straw this week.
Straw said Iraq posed no greater threat to the UK than it had done previously. The letter said there was "no credible evidence" linking Iraq to Al-Qaeda and that the "threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September".
Implying Blair was already seeking an excuse for war, it warned of two legal "elephant traps". It states "regime change per se is no justification for military action" and "the weight of legal advice here is that a fresh [UN] mandate may well be required".
The letter went on to question the very objective of military action. Straw warned Blair: "We have also to answer the big question - what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than on anything." Straw said there was "no certainty that the replacement regime will be better" than that of Saddam Hussein.
The issue of the war remains highly sensitive among the public. A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times this weekend shows that 52% of people believe Blair deliberately misled the country over the war. Almost one in four - 23% - think he should be tried as a war criminal.
7) New Wave Of Warlords Bedevils U.S.
Matthew Rosenberg, Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2010
In his teen years, Sirajuddin Haqqani was known among friends as a dandy. He cared more about the look of his thick black hair than the battles his father, a mujahideen warlord in the 1980s, was waging with Russia for control of Afghanistan.
The younger Mr. Haqqani is still a stylish sort, say those who know him. But now, approaching middle age and ensconced as the battlefield leader of his father's militant army, he has become ruthless in his own pursuit of an Afghanistan free from foreign influence. This time the enemy is the U.S. and its allies.
From outposts along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, his Haqqani network is waging a campaign that has made the Afghan insurgency deadlier. He has widened the use of suicide attacks, which became a Taliban mainstay only in the past few years. U.S. officials believe his forces carried out the dramatic Monday gun, grenade and suicide-bomb attack in Kabul on Afghan government ministries and a luxury hotel. The assault claimed five victims plus seven attackers.
Mr. Haqqani also aided the Dec. 30 attack by an al Qaeda operative that killed seven Central Intelligence Agency agents and contractors at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan, say militant commanders. And he orchestrated last year's assault on a United Nations guesthouse that killed five U.N. staffers, along with other attacks in the capital.
In a rare interview with The Wall Street Journal conducted by email and telephone last month, Mr. Haqqani declared, "We have managed to besiege the Afghan government. We sustain very few causalities; we can inflict heavy casualties to the enemy's side."
That message is problematic for a key plank of the U.S. military's Afghan "surge" which is based on a strategy of applying sufficient pressure on some Taliban leaders that they will negotiate for terms acceptable to Washington. On Tuesday, the Obama administration lent cautious support to the Afghan government's new outreach effort to the Taliban-a show of optimism that lower-level militants would reconcile with Kabul even if senior leaders continued fighting.
The rise of Mr. Haqqani, who is in his late 30s or early 40s, is part of a broader changing of the guard in the Afghan militant movement. A younger generation of commanders have helped transform the Taliban from a peasant army that harbored al Qaeda and was routed by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 into a formidable guerrilla force that killed a record 520 Western troops last year.
Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and his inner circle-believed to be based in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta-still provide overall leadership of the Taliban movement. Osama bin Laden still rallies the al Qaeda faithful. But more than either man, Mr. Haqqani is at the fulcrum of the Afghan rebellion and its twin uprising in Pakistan's northwestern mountains. His base in North Waziristan, on the Pakistani side of the border, has become arguably the most important Islamist militant haven in the region, say U.S. and Pakistani officials. It attracts aspiring jihadis from around the globe, such as the five young Americans arrested last month in Pakistan who were allegedly on their way there.
Mr. Haqqani has emerged as a powerbroker on both sides of the border. He has ties to almost every major faction in the confederation of groups operating under the Taliban umbrella. He has the strongest links to al Qaeda of any major Taliban faction, say U.S. officials and Pakistani experts. While pledging allegiance to Mullah Omar, he operates independently, choosing his own targets and only loosely coordinating with the Taliban's supreme leadership.
U.S. and Afghan officials believe Mr. Haqqani has cultivated high-level double agents inside the Afghan government-including senior military and police officers, some of whom are suspected of having aided an assassination attempt on President Karzai at a parade in April 2008 in Kabul. "There is no doubt that some of our countrymen in the army and police are helping us in our fight against the occupiers," Mr. Haqqani said when asked about the parade attack.
The tone surrounding discussions about Mr. Haqqani has changed markedly in the past year. Officials in Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, have gone from calling him a potential "force for peace" in Afghanistan to telling journalists that they lost nearly three dozen agents and informers in North Waziristan last year. Most were caught spying and killed by Mr. Haqqani's fighters and their Pakistan Taliban allies, the officials say. "It's clear to all that the Haqqanis' interests and our interests, over the long term, they're not the same," said a senior Pakistani civilian official.
Any move by the Pakistanis against Mr. Haqqani appears to be months away, at the soonest. It would mark a reversal of Pakistani policy that U.S. officials say could greatly increase the chances of stabilizing the region.
8) Israel withholding NGO employees' work permits
Amira Hass, Haaretz, 20/01/2010
The Interior Ministry has stopped granting work permits to foreign nationals working in most international nongovernmental organizations operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, Haaretz has learned.
In an apparent overhaul of regulations that have been in place since 1967, the ministry is now granting the NGO employees tourist visas only, which bar them from working.
Organizations affected by the apparent policy change include Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and the Religious Society of Friends (a Quaker organization).
Israel does not recognize Palestinian Authority rule in East Jerusalem or in Area C, which comprises some 60 percent of the West Bank. The NGO workers say they've come to believe that the new policy is intended to force them to close their Jerusalem offices and relocate to West Bank cities. This move would prevent them from working among the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, defined by the international community as occupied territory.
The organizations fear the new policy will impede their ability to work in Area C, whether because Israel doesn't see it as part of the Palestinian Authority or because they will eventually be subjected to the restrictions of movement imposed on the Palestinians. Such restrictions include the prohibition to enter East Jerusalem and Gaza via Israel, except with specific and rarely obtained permits; and prohibition to enter areas west of the separation fence, except for village residents who hold special residency permits and Israeli citizens.
One NGO worker told Haaretz that the policy was reminiscent of the travel constraints imposed by Burmese authorities on humanitarian organizations, albeit presented in a subtler manner.
9) World Aid Agencies Appeal to Israel to Unlock Gaza
Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, Wednesday, January 20, 2010; 10:32 AM
Gaza - The United Nations said on Wednesday Israel's blockade of Gaza undermines the enclave's health care system and puts patients at risk.
Max Gaylard, resident Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said Israel was to be commended for letting Palestinians from Gaza access specialist medical care but could save more lives by allowing more timely treatment. "It is causing on-going deterioration in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health," he said. "It is hampering the provision of medical supplies and the training of health staff and it is preventing patients with serious medical conditions getting timely specialized treatment."
"We have had extreme cases of patients dying because they could not get out to get the more advanced medical care in Israel," Gaylard told Reuters in an interview after presenting a report on the situation at a Gaza news conference.
"It is quite true that hundreds of patients do get out to Israel. That has been happening on a continuing basis. That is good and we welcome it and the Israelis are to be commended for that," he said. "I think we are concerned about the ones who do not go out and there are too many of them."
One year after Israel's offensive on Hamas-ruled Gaza, U.N. agencies and the Association for International Development Agencies (AIDA), representing over 80 NGOs, is a report highlighting the health impact of the blockade. They again called on Israel to relax its tight control of the Gaza Strip's borders to allow sufficient supply of essential items and let people seek care not available in the enclave.
Gaza student Fida Hejji, 18, died of cancer waiting for Israeli permission to go to an Israeli hospital for treatment. She was promised an entry permit three times. Three days after she died last November, her family got a hospital date. Hejji had hoped to get life-saving treatment in Israel as other Gazans have done. The Egyptian border is also closed. "In her (Hejji's) last days she used to ask when she could rest, and when all her pain would come to an end," said her mother Shadia. "I knew she was dying."
The U.N. report said 1,103 patients sought permits for treatment in Israel in December 2009. Most succeeded but 21 percent were denied or delayed, as a result of which patients missed their hospital appointments and had to restart. "Two patients died recently while awaiting referral - one in November and one in December," it said. In total, "27 patients have died while awaiting referral" in 2009.
Israel's offensive damaged 15 of Gaza's 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, the report said.
The damage cannot be fixed until Israel allows construction materials into Gaza, the report said. Meanwhile, doctors and nurses are cut off from learning the latest techniques abroad. "The new surgical wing in Gaza's main Shifa hospital has remained unfinished since 2006," the report noted.
Nafeth Enaeem, head of Shifa's kidney department, said dialysis treatments had to be carefully rationed last year, which he said was the worst in terms of health conditions. "Sometimes a cable for a machine took three months of coordination with the Israeli side to get into Gaza," he said.
10) Iraqi Election Crisis Poses Diplomatic Test For U.S.
Iraq's barring of hundreds of mostly Sunni candidates could destabilize the country before and after the March vote. The U.S. has launched a diplomatic push for a solution.
Liz Sly, Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2010
Baghdad - The barring of hundreds of mostly Sunni candidates from participating in Iraq's upcoming elections is testing the limits of U.S. influence in Iraq even as American troops prepare to draw down later in the year.
U.S. diplomacy has shifted into high gear in recent days in an attempt to pressure Iraqi government officials into finding a way out of a crisis that many fear could seriously destabilize the country both before and after the election.
The 515 barred candidates - the number keeps growing - belong mostly to Sunni Arab and secularist parties that oppose the dominance of Shiite religious parties in the current government. Their exclusion risks reigniting the sectarian tensions that plunged the country into civil strife the last time Sunnis stayed outside the political process.
The candidates have been barred because of their alleged ties to the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq under the late President Saddam Hussein. A clause in Iraq's Constitution forbids former Baathists from holding public office. They may appeal, but it's unclear whether the courts will have time to rule on so many cases before the March 7 election.
In a sign of the seriousness with which the crisis is being viewed, U.S. officials say they have quietly warned the Iraqis that there is a real possibility the U.S. and the international community will refuse to accept the elections as legitimate if the ban is upheld, a step that would undermine the entire U.S.-led effort to bring democracy to Iraq and that would potentially deprive the next Iraqi government of international recognition and domestic support.
In one glimmer of hope, Iraq's election commission decided Tuesday not to publish the names of those barred, as it had said it would do this week. Instead, a commission spokesman said, it will now only release a list of approved candidates sometime next week, a delay that U.S. officials said may provide a window of opportunity to find a solution.
The delay came after Vice President Joe Biden weighed in on Sunday, telephoning three top Iraqi officials with a proposal to delay vetting candidates until after the voting, a solution that would permit all Iraqis to participate in the election and allow time for appeals.
"The Americans are trying very hard, but I don't think anyone in the Iraqi government is listening," said Saleh Mutlak, the most prominent Sunni leader to be barred. "I don't think the political leaders are responsible enough to try to find a solution. It needs American pressure."
11) Brazil Tax May Encourage More Measures, Dennis Says
Veronica Navarro Espinosa, Bloomberg, Jan. 19
Brazil's success in curbing the rally in the real by imposing a tax on foreigners' purchases of stocks and bonds is a "scary" and "dangerous" precedent, said Citigroup Inc. equity strategist Geoffrey Dennis.
The success of the tax may encourage officials to adopt more measures to stem the currency's appreciation, Dennis said at a conference organized by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York. "It's kind of scary because it might mean that the government wants to do more things over time should the currency stay strong," Dennis said.
The real has weakened 3.1 percent against the dollar since the government implemented a 2 percent tax on the purchases of equity and fixed-income assets by overseas investors on Oct. 19. The currency surged 33 percent last year, the best performance among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, as an accelerating economic recovery and growing demand for commodities lured foreign investors to the country.
"Part of the success of the tax comes about because there's an implicit threat by the government to actually increase the tax if the currency continues to appreciate," Tony Volpon, a Latin America strategist for Nomura Holdings Inc., said at the conference. "The government has had a surprising success in putting the fear in the carry-trade community."
In carry trades investors borrow at a low interest rate to invest in markets where returns are higher, earning the spread between the cost of borrowing and the returns on their investment. Brazil's benchmark lending rate is 8.75 percent, compared with the U.S. Federal Reserve's near-zero target rate.
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