JFP 7/29: Ex-DNI blasts drone strikes; US blocked min wage increase in Haiti
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July 29, 2011
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Israeli Army Attacks Dutch Music Orchestra with Tear Gas
The Dutch street orchestra 'Fanfare van de Eerste Liefdesnacht' (the First Night of Love Brass Band) from Amsterdam was attacked with tear gas today by the Israeli army during their performance in the Palestinian village Kufr Qadum near Nablus, northern West Bank. http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10536&Itemid=28
World map: who recognizes Palestine?
Says it all.
Lee-Jones Letter to President Obama calling for complete withdrawal from Iraq by previously agreed upon deadline
93 House Members signed the letter.
Ansel Herz & Kim Ives: WikiLeaked Cables Reveal Obsessive, Far-Reaching U.S. Campaign to Get and Keep Aristide Out of Haiti
Reviewing 1,918 Embassy cables from April 2003 to February 2010 obtained by WikiLeaks, Haïti Liberté examines how the State Department pushed for Aristide's removal from power in February 2004 and strongly opposed his return in March 2011.
RT video: Israelis and Palestinians gear up for final diplomatic battle
Just Foreign Policy talks to RT about the UN confrontation over Palestinian independence.
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1) Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair strongly criticized the administration's reliance on drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, Politico reports. Blair said the administration should curtail drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia because the missiles are fueling anti-American sentiment and undercutting reform efforts in those countries. "We're alienating the countries concerned, because we're treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us. We are threatening the prospects for long-term reform raised by the Arab Spring," Blair said.
2) Negotiations between the US and Afghanistan on an agreement to keep US troops and bases in the country past 2014 are foundering on US refusal of Afghan demands for a timetable to transfer of control of detentions and night raids, the Washington Post reports.
3) Witnesses said the commander of the Libyan rebels' military was killed by fellow rebels while in custody after he was arrested by the opposition's leadership, AP reports. The killing raised worries among Western allies who have backed the rebels, AP says. A rebel military officer attributed the killing to revenge for Libyan government suppression of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, whose members are now part of the rebel forces.
4) The killing of the rebel military commander raised the specter of a tribal rift within the NATO-backed rebel forces, the New York Times reports.
5) Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show the US embassy worked to block an increase in the minimum wage in Haiti in 2009, under the Obama Administration, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs reports.
6) The Norwegian who allegedly killed dozens at a kids summer camp claims he legally bought high-capacity ammunition clips by mail from the US, Politico reports. The sale or transfer of high-capacity gun clips containing more than 10 bullets were illegal in the US under the 1994 assault weapons ban, but the legislation expired in 2004.
7) Brazil's representative on the IMF's executive board said the Greek government's austerity plan was too tough and the restructuring of Greek debt held by European banks was too small, the Financial Times reports. He implied that if the plan went through, it would confirm suspicions that the IMF's new head, former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, is biased towards the interests of European bondholders.
8) Ollanta Humala , promised in his inaugural address to make his priority the one in three Peruvians still mired in poverty, AP reports. Humala pledges include guaranteeing old-age pensions for all Peruvians at age 65; raising the minimum monthly wage to $270 by next year; and building hospitals in 50 cities where they're lacking.
9) Starbucks is facing its first strike at their Chilean cafes after more than 200 unionized baristas walked out on July 7, In These Times reports. Members of the Chilean union say that while prices in Starbucks in Chile are the same as in the U.S., the workers in Chile are paid $2.05 per hour. Unionized Starbucks employees in the U.S. have launched a solidarity campaign.
10) Human rights activists are worried that upcoming presidential elections in Guatemala could put an end to prosecutions for atrocities in the country's civil war, Reuters reports. Jennifer Harbury, a human rights lawyer, said she expected former general Otto Perez to obstruct ongoing civil war cases if elected. Human rights groups say Perez, who served in the army until 1998, was involved in wartime abuses, an accusation he denies.
1) Ex-DNI rips Obama White House
Josh Gerstein, Politico, July 29, 2011 06:51 AM EDT
Aspen, Colo. - Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair unloaded on the White House Thursday evening, strongly criticizing the administration's reliance on U.S.-directed drone strikes and saying officials have failed to implement the lessons of Sept. 11 by backing away from efforts to integrate the intelligence community.
Blair, who was essentially fired by President Barack Obama last year, said the administration should curtail U.S.-led drone strikes on suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia because the missiles fired from unmanned aircraft are fueling anti-American sentiment and undercutting reform efforts in those countries.
"Pull back on unilateral actions by the United States, except in extraordinary circumstances," Blair urged during an onstage, hourlong interview with CBS's Lesley Stahl at the Aspen Security Forum. "I think we need to change - in those three countries - in a dramatic way."
"We're alienating the countries concerned, because we're treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us. We are threatening the prospects for long-term reform raised by the Arab Spring … which would make these countries capable and willing allies who could in fact knock that threat down to a nuisance level," Blair said.
Blair said drone strikes in Pakistan have hampered Al Qaeda and other militant groups there but they will never succeed in reducing them to a mere nuisance.
"I think that they can sustain their level of resistance to an air-only campaign long enough to continue to pose this threat," the ex-DNI said. "I just see us with that strategy walking out on a thinner and thinner ledge and if even we get to the far extent of it, we are not going to lower the fundamental threat to the U.S. any lower than we have it now."
As he elaborated on his views on drone strikes Thursday, Blair conceded that giving the Pakistanis veto over such operations would complicate U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, but he said it would be wise to do, nonetheless.
"That would make our job in Afghanistan more difficult for a while, but it would make it a lot easier over the long term," he argued.
2) Talks on long-term Afghan-U.S. partnership stalled
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, July 28
Kabul - Negotiations to set the terms of the U.S. partnership with Afghanistan in the decade after 2014 are faltering as the two countries struggle to bridge the gap between their demands, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
After months of talks, some of the officials involved are growing increasingly pessimistic about the prospect of a substantive "strategic partnership" declaration anytime soon that would allow for a long-term U.S. troop presence in exchange for protection guarantees for Afghanistan and support for the nation's security forces. U.S. -led NATO forces are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"I see a situation building that will turn negative," said Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Afghanistan's deputy national security adviser. "If the U.S. is really interested in staying in Afghanistan, it must show it practically to the Afghan government and the people. And respond to what we need."
Much of the partnership document has been agreed to, but key sections remain in debate. The Afghans are attempting to use the agreement as the place to set binding deadlines for their assumption of control of detentions and controversial U.S. military nighttime raids. U.S. officials think that such timelines should be based on conditions on the ground and that the partnership declaration is not the forum in which to settle them.
The United States is seeking long-term access to military bases for counterterrorism operations and for training and mentoring the Afghan security forces. Although the document does not specify how many bases would be involved, Afghan officials said they are considering four to five regional military facilities in places such as Herat province, along the Iranian border; Mazar-e Sharif in the north; Kandahar in the south; and Jalalabad in the east, toward Pakistan.
3) Libyans carry rebel military chief's body for burial amid confusion after mysterious killing
Associated Press, Friday, July 29, 1:45 PM
Benghazi, Libya - The commander of the Libyan rebels' military was killed by fellow rebels while in custody after he was arrested by the opposition's leadership on suspicion of treason, witnesses said Friday, indicating a potentially major split in the ranks of the movement battling Moammar Gadhafi.
The killing of Abdel-Fattah Younis under still mysterious circumstances raised fear and uncertainty in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital, and worries among Western allies who have backed the rebels controlling most of the eastern Libya.
The National Transitional Council, the rebels' leadership body, has said it is investigating the killing. It blamed unidentified "gunmen" and has made no confirmation that Younis had been arrested. It has said only that Younis was gunned down on route to Benghazi, where he had been summoned to discuss "a military matter."
But a rebel special forces officer under Younis' command told The Associated Press that Younis was taken before dawn on Wednesday from his operations room at Zoueitina, just east of the main front with Gahdafi's forces.
Fighters from a rebel faction known as the February 17 Martyr's Brigade came to the operations room and demanded Younis come with them for interrogation, said the officer, Mohammed Agoury, who said he was present at the time.
Agoury said he tried to accompany his commander, "but Younis trusted them and went alone."
"Instead, they betrayed us and killed him," he said.
Younis' body was found on Thursday, dumped outside Benghazi, along with the bodies of two colonels who were his top aides. They had been shot and their bodies burned.
The February 17 Martyrs Brigade is a group made up of hundreds of civilians who took up arms to join the rebellion. Their fighters participate in the front-line battles with Gadhafi's forces, but also act as a semi-official internal security force for the opposition. Some of its leadership comes from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamic militant group that waged a campaign of violence against Gadhafi's regime in the 1990s.
An officer with the rebels' internal security forces - the official security force of the National Council - told AP that the council ordered Younis' arrest after a letter arose earlier this week connecting the commander to Gadhafi. But he suggested the killing had not been authorized by the council and was instead an act of vengeance by rebels.
He said Younis was brought back to the Benghazi area Wednesday and held at a military compound until Thursday, when he was summoned to the Defense Ministry for questioning.
As they left the compound, two men from the security team escorting the detainees opened fire from their car on Younis with automatic weapons, said the officer, who was at the compound and saw the shooting. He said the two men were members of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade.
"The men's leader was shouting 'Don't do it!' but they shot Younis and his two aides, and took their bodies in their car and drove away," the officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the events.
Younis was Gadhafi's interior minister until he defected to the rebellion early in the uprising, which began in February, bringing his forces into the opposition ranks. His move raised hopes among rebels and Western allies that the uprising could succeed in forcing out the country's ruler of more than four decades. But some on the rebel side remained deeply suspicious of him because of his longtime ties to Gadhafi.
Agoury said the Martyrs Brigade had an agenda against Younis, because while with the regime he was involved in the bloody crackdown that crushed the LIFG. "They don't trust anyone who was with Gadhafi's regime, they wanted revenge," said Agoury.
4) Questions Surround Killing of Rebel Leader
David D. Kirkpatrick and J. David Goodman, New York Times, July 29, 2011
Benghazi, Libya - Thousands of mourners thronged the flag-draped casket of the top rebel military commander in Benghazi on Friday as questions continued about the identity and motive of his assassins.
Most in the crowd, which followed the body for miles to a cemetery from Friday Prayers at a seaside courthouse in the city, belonged to tribe of the commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, whose death - and those of two other officers - was announced on Thursday by the rebel provisional government.
The uniformity of those attending the funeral - nearly all from the Obeidi tribe, one of the largest in the rebel-held east - further raised the specter of a tribal rift within the ranks of the NATO-backed forces fighting Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Members of the Obeidi tribe have said they believed the rebel leadership may have played some role in the death of the general, who had been summoned to Benghazi for questioning by a panel of judges before he was killed.
The potential for tribal conflict touches on a central fear of the Western nations backing the Libyan insurrection: that the rebels' democratic goals could give way to a tribal civil war over Libya's oil resources.
The setting in which Mr. Abdul Jalil announced the general's death conveyed an unmistakable anxiety about the feelings of General Younes's Obeidi tribe. Instead of appearing with other members of the rebel council, as expected, he sat at a table with men he said were Obeidi elders. He repeatedly said he wanted to "pay respects" to the tribe for its sacrifice and understanding, calling it "strong and deep." He left the news conference without taking questions.
Moments later, a pickup truck full of angry armed Obeidi tribesmen arrived at the front of the hotel. Some fired their automatic rifles at hotel windows, shattering them; others shot into the air.
The eruption of tribal animosities within Benghazi is itself a blow to the rebels' self-image as a movement bringing the whole country together behind the banner of freedom and democracy. Tripoli and other western cities initially seemed to rise up with the Benghazi movement before Colonel Qaddafi reasserted control.
Colonel Qaddafi's supporters acknowledge that he still holds power in the face of the NATO bombing, mainly because of the loyalty of a handful of big western tribes.
5) WikiLeaks Cables Show Haiti as Pawn in U.S. Foreign Policy
- The U.S. tried to undermine Haiti's oil deal with Venezuela in order to protect the vested interests of U.S. oil corporations.
- Under the Obama administration, the U.S. embassy worked with major textile companies to cap the minimum wage in Haiti at 31 cents per hour.
- Election monitors from the U.S. and the international community knowingly supported elections that did not remotely follow accepted democratic standards of procedure.
Katie Soltis, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, July 27, 2011
Textiles: U.S. Interference in Wage Laws
In another instance of U.S. interference documented by WikiLeaks, the Obama administration tried to prevent minimum wages in Haiti from rising above 31 cents an hour. In 2009, Port-au-Prince passed a law that raised the minimum wage from an astonishingly low 24 cents to 61 cents an hour. This law would have increased the minimum wage by 150 percent to about USD 5 a day, but, even with this large increase, the new measure would still have fallen short of the estimated USD 12.50 a day needed to provide for a family of four in Haiti.
The proposed wage increase was of course enormously popular with Haitians, who argued that the increase was necessary because of the rising cost of living. However, U.S. textile companies with factories in Haiti, including Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Levi Strauss, fought the measure, while the U.S. State Department also exerted pressure on the government of Haiti. David E. Lindwall, a deputy chief of mission, said the minimum wage increase "did not take economic reality into account" and was a populist measure for "the unemployed and underpaid masses." U.S. plant owners argued that, should the cost of labor rise substantially, these U.S. companies would have to close their factories in Haiti and relocate. Based on the insistence of these U.S. textile companies and the U.S. embassy, the Haitian government agreed to limit the increase to only 7 cents, at 31 cents an hour.
According to a U.S. embassy cable, it would cost Hanes USD 1.6 million a year to pay its workers an extra USD 2 a day. This cost is very low compared to the company's registered profits of USD 211 million with sales of USD 4.3 billion.
6) Norway shooter: Ammo clips were from U.S.
Reid J. Epstein, Politico, July 28, 2011 01:32 PM EDT
The Norwegian man who allegedly killed dozens at a kids summer camp claims he legally bought high-capacity ammunition clips by mail from the United States, prompting Capitol Hill's leading gun-control advocate to say on Thursday that America should be ashamed such purchases aren't against the law.
Anders Behring Breivik wrote in a 1,500-page manifesto that he bought 10 30-round ammunition clips for his .223 caliber rifle from an undisclosed, small U.S. supplier, which had acquired the clips from other suppliers. Norway forbids the sale of clips for hunting rifles that hold more than three bullets, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
Breivik wrote in his manifesto that while he could have purchased the high-capacity magazines in Sweden, they would have been significantly more expensive than ordering them from a U.S. supplier. He wrote that he spent $550 for the 10 clips. He also described legally buying four 30-round clips for a Glock handgun in Norway.
The Norwegian press has written extensively about how Breivik legally acquired his weapons and ammunition, but the mail-order purchase of his ammo from the United States has received little attention in the English-language press.
The sale or transfer of high-capacity gun clips containing more than 10 bullets were illegal in the United States under the 1994 assault weapons ban, but the legislation expired in 2004. After Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was critically shot and six others killed during the January shootings outside a Tucson supermarket, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation to restrict magazines to their pre-2004 level.
She said the legislation now has 109 Democratic co-sponsors. It is highly unlikely to come to a vote, let alone pass, in the GOP-controlled House.
McCarthy said the U.S. should be ashamed that its laws allowed for the ammunition that may have been used in the Norwegian massacre to be sold and shipped overseas.
"There should be a lot of shame," she told POLITICO. "We're sending a death warrant to other parts of the world. … Unfortunately now, internationally, it's known that you can get here, buy your guns, buy your large magazines, and you're not going to have any problem."
Like McCarthy, gun control advocates urged Congress to outlaw the high-capacity magazines.
"It is bad enough that our lax laws gun cause death and destruction in the streets of our own country but we must now face the fact that our domestic arms bazaar is attracting foreign terrorists and criminals," said Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "What will it take for Congress to wake up and take action?"
And Dennis Henigan, the acting president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the world is endangered by American gun laws.
"It now appears that not even Norwegian children at a youth camp are safe from the battlefield firepower so easily available in America," he said. "Large-capacity assault clips are instruments of mass killing, yet federal law leaves them completely unregulated."
7) Emerging markets warn IMF over Greek loan plan
Alan Beattie, Financial Times, July 27, 2011 11:00 pm
Washington - Representatives of leading emerging market countries at the International Monetary Fund have warned the fund's management against pouring more large sums of money into another Greek bail-out with uncertain prospects.
Paulo Nogueira Batista, who represents Brazil and eight other countries on the IMF's executive board, said the Greek government's austerity plan was too tough and the restructuring of Greek debt held by European banks was too small. "Greece is not having an easy time," he told the FT. "The mostly European private creditors of Greece have had an easy time."
He said Ms Lagarde, the former French finance minister who took over as managing director three weeks ago, would have an ideal opportunity to dispel suspicions of bias towards European bondholders. "This is the first big decision that she is taking as head of the fund," Mr Batista said. "The community of fund-watchers around the world will be looking to see if she can transcend her European origins."
8) New Peruvian president: Peru's poor my priority
Frank Bajak, AP, July 28, 2011
Lima, Peru - Ollanta Humala, the leftist military man who won Peru's presidency after abandoning a radical platform, promised in his inaugural address Thursday to make his priority the one in three Peruvians still mired in poverty.
In an impassioned speech, the 49-year-old former army lieutenant colonel charted a plan for spreading the wealth from Peru's mineral boom beyond Lima, where it has long been concentrated among a small elite, to long-neglected hinterlands.
"Peru's peasants and the poor in the countryside in general will be the priority," Humala said in remarks before a newly installed Congress and dignitaries who included 11 presidents, almost all from South America.
The pledges include guaranteeing old-age pensions for all Peruvians at age 65; raising the minimum monthly wage to $270 by next year; and building hospitals in 50 cities where they're lacking.
The president also has promised to invest more in public transportation in the traffic-choked capital of Lima; to expand highways and railways; to rebuild Peru's merchant marine, and to re-establish a national airline. Aeroperu went bankrupt in 1999.
He also said he would dedicate more natural gas from the Camisea field for domestic use rather than export, and has promised to lower natural gas prices, although he wouldn't offer a target price Thursday.
Humala won't have an easy time in Congress, where his party has just 47 of 130 seats and will have to depend on lawmakers from the Peru Posible party of former President Alejandro Toledo for a majority.
The World Bank says that in Peru's rural highlands, where support for Humala was strongest, the poverty rate is as high as 66 percent. Humala won more than 70 percent of the vote in several highland states in the June 5 election.
9) Chilean Starbucks Workers on Strike-and U.S. Baristas Show Solidarity
Akito Yoshikane, In These Times, Jul 27, 2011
Starbucks has been hit with labor strife in Chile and the United States, as its unionized workers have launched a strike and solidarity campaign to improve wages and benefits.
The global coffee chain is facing its first strike at their Chilean cafes after more than 200 unionized baristas walked out on July 7. Members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile are seeking wage increases in line with inflation, a lunch stipend similar to what managers are offered and greater employer contribution to their health insurance. Several union leaders stepped up their efforts over the weekend by initiating a hunger strike in front of Starbucks' corporate Santiago office in an effort to bring company representatives to the negotiating table.
Starbucks, which opened its first Chilean cafe in 2003, now has more than 30 stores in the country. Roughly one-third of its 670 workers are unionized.
The Sindicato de Trabajadores says workers haven't received a raise in eight years. Based on consumer price index adjustments, the union says employees last year earned 31 percent less than what they made in 2003. Workers are also pressured by their managers to forgo their mandated break periods during busy periods, even though they are not compensated for the extra work, according to the Santiago Times.
They write: "Much of the competition in our area, cafeteria and restaurant offers the same or lower wages but very high compensation in tips, which does not occur in Starbucks. Nor can we ignore that selling the products at the same prices that you do in USA, we only earn $2.05 per hour."
Meanwhile, solidarity campaigns are planned in various U.S. cities. The Chilean baristas have drawn support from other unionized Starbucks workers in New York City, who have also launched a campaign of their own. The Starbucks Workers Union, which is part of the International Workers of the World (IWW), began a "Global Week of Action" and picketed at local stores on Monday.
10) Analysis: Return of Guatemalan military looms as left falters
Mike McDonald, Reuters, Thu Jul 28, 2011 5:06pm EDT
Guatemala City - The uphill struggle of Guatemala's ruling leftists to field a candidate puts the military establishment on the verge of regaining the presidency just as probes into the country's brutal civil war begin.
The center-left Union of Hope Party (UNE) may have no candidate at all for September's election if an appeal by former first lady Sandra Torres fails to overturn a court decision barring her from the presidency.
Already well behind in polls, her absence would nearly guarantee victory for former general Otto Perez, 61, of the right-wing Patriot Party (PP), raising fears that nascent efforts to prosecute military officials for crimes committed during the war will founder.
Nearly a quarter million mostly Mayan villagers died in the 1960-1996 conflict.
Jennifer Harbury, a human rights lawyer, said she expected Perez to obstruct ongoing civil war cases if elected. "He'll suggest that the war is over and everyone should get together. But without any justice that's exactly the same as saying everyone should get together after World War Two without Nuremberg" where Nazis leaders were tried, she said.
In a country deeply scarred by the army's role in the civil war, many voters back Perez in the hope he can restore law and order in areas ravaged by violent incursions by Mexican drug gangs.
"Guatemala needs a strong man to govern this country," said Juan Mancilla, 54, a thrift store owner among thousands of cheering Perez supporters at a recent rally in the capital. "We're under attack and he's the only one offering security. If Perez doesn't win ... you'll see how the criminals and drug dealers take control of this country," he added.
Perez has pledged to act against organized crime in one of Latin America's most troubled countries with an "iron fist".
Colom's government denies crime is growing in Guatemala, citing a drop in murders to 6,502 in 2010 from 6,948 in 2009. But that is still more than 44 murders per every 100,000 people, nearly nine times the rate in the United States.
Voters are worried about the violence.
In a recent poll, two-thirds of Guatemalans said security was their biggest concern heading into the election.
Mindful of the need to strengthen the army against cartels, Colom has said he would repeal a law passed in 2004 limiting the military budget to 0.33 percent of Guatemala's GDP. Watchdogs fear the army may exploit this under Perez.
During Guatemala's civil war, a U.N.-backed truth commission found 85 percent of the rights violations were committed by the military, and after years of prevarication, the government has begun to prosecute implicated officials.
On July 25, four former special forces officers became the first suspects to stand trial for the massacre of over 200 people in the village of Las Dos Erres in late 1982.
Human rights groups say Perez, who served in the army until 1998, was involved in wartime abuses, an accusation he denies.
In July, the Guatemalan indigenous group, Waqib Kej presented a letter to the United Nations accusing Perez of human rights violations in the Quiche region during the war.
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