Just Foreign Policy News
November 24, 2010
*Action: Host a "South of the Border" Screening Party
Bolivian President Evo Morales criticizes US involvement in coups in Latin America, but the AP claims critics have provided "no clear evidence" of US involvement in the coup in Venezuela.
On December 10 – Human Rights Day – host a house party to watch Oliver Stone’s documentary "South of the Border," and tune in to a live webcast with Just Foreign Policy President Mark Weisbrot, who co-wrote the script. Help educate your community about what the U.S. has been doing in Latin America.
*Action: Urge Obama to Keep 2011 Drawdown Promise
Vice-President Biden and Speaker Pelosi said in July 2011 there would be a "serious drawdown" (Pelosi) involving "a whole lot of people" (Biden.) Urge President Obama to keep his promise with a serious and significant drawdown in July 2011.
Jimmy Carter: North Korea’s consistent message to the U.S.
Former President Carter says North Korea has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the "temporary" cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer, Carter argues. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the US, along with efforts to change the political regime.
Jewish Voice for Peace – In the name of the father: Israel arrests 16 year-old son of imprisoned protest organizer
In yet another nighttime raid on the village of Bil’in, soldiers stormed Adeeb Abu Rahmah’s house and arrested his sixteen year old son.
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1) The Pentagon says violence in Afghanistan has reached an all-time high, with clashes up fourfold since 2007, the BBC reports. In a report covering the period between 1 April and 30 September, the Pentagon attributed much of the increase in violence to the growth in the coalition force after Obama’s escalation this year. "Efforts to reduce insurgent capacity, such as safe havens and logistic support originating in Pakistan and Iran, have not produced measurable results," the report states. "The insurgency has proven resilient with sustained logistics capacity and command and control."
2) The head of UN humanitarian efforts in Haiti says deaths from the cholera epidemic in Haiti could rise above 10,000 if help doesn’t quicken, the CBC reports. "All the conditions for a massive cholera epidemic are present in Haiti," Nigel Fisher told CBC News. "It is exploding." Fisher said the key to tackling the treatable disease is setting up more treatment centers and moving resources from future projects and reconstruction to cholera. "This today is the most urgent crisis Haiti is facing," he said. "Put the resources in now. Let’s worry about next year next year."
3) The presence of UN troops at polling stations on November 28 is more likely to trigger violence than prevent it, write Nicole Phillips and Kevin Edmonds for Fresh Outlook. Since MINUSTAH was sent to Haiti in 2004 to secure a coup d’etat government that overthrew democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide, it has represented an oppressive, occupying force – a significant obstacle to human rights and popular democracy, they argue.
4) The actions of an illegitimate electoral council supported by international actors have set Haiti on course for undemocratic elections which may lead to widespread social unrest, argues the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti in a new report. IJDH’s latest report describes the failure of the international community to heed its warnings and provides a legal analysis of the irregularities leading up to Sunday’s November 28 elections.
5) Independent aid groups operating in Afghanistan are increasingly distancing themselves from the U.S.-led coalition and trying to forge safe-passage agreements with insurgents, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Taliban are reciprocating with a more moderate approach to some aid workers, while continuing attacks on those seen as affiliated with the coalition. The split between independent NGOs and the coalition-linked organizations has crystallized over President Karzai’s decision to outlaw private security companies by early next year. US contractor Development Alternatives has said it will pull out if deprived of its security details. Scores of other NGOs, however, are welcoming the ban on security firms. "The more armed people are present, the more danger there is for anyone in their vicinity," says Michiel Hofman of Doctors Without Borders.
6) One in 10 South Americans – about 38 million people – escaped poverty during the past decade, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Half of that improvement comes from Brazil. Under outgoing President Lula, Brazil pushed up the minimum wage a real 65 percent in eight years, helping to raise the wages of tens of millions of workers, including many receiving more than minimum wage. Real income per person is up 24 percent since 2000. Poverty has been halved since 2002; extreme poverty is down by 70 percent. Venezuela has tripled social spending per person since 2003. Attendance at universities has doubled.
7) Unaids says 20 percent fewer people are being infected with the virus that causes AIDS than in the late 1990s, the New York Times reports. Infections among young people in South Africa have been reduced 50%. About 5.2 million people are getting antiretroviral drugs – more than ever before, thanks to the multinational Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and its US counterpart, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. But 10 million more still need the treatment immediately, and it seems unlikely that donors will give enough money to keep them all alive, the Times says.
8) Pope Benedict has clearly acknowledged that the need to prevent diseases like AIDS could outweigh the church’s long opposition to the use of condoms, the New York Times reports. The pronouncement was greeted with enthusiasm from clerics and health workers in Africa, where the AIDS problem is worst. "We’re in a new world," said the Rev. Jon Fuller, a Jesuit priest and a physician at the Center for H.I.V./AIDS Care and Research at Boston Medical Center. The pope is "implicitly" saying, he said, "that you cannot anymore raise the objection that any use of the condom is an intrinsic evil."
9) Israeli police officers evicted a Palestinian family from their home in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, and a group of Jewish settlers moved into the property at night, the New York Times reports. Activists of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group said the objective of the new settlement was "without doubt to undercut the rationale of the 2000 Clinton Proposal, namely the division of Jerusalem into two capitals."
10) The Israeli army destroyed a farm road built by the Palestinian Authority in the 60% of the West Bank still under "full Israeli control," AP reports. Palestinian residents said the road allowed them to reach their fields and haul out their harvests with cars instead of donkey carts.
11) Egypt’s parliamentary elections Sunday have been ushered in by one of the most sweeping campaigns to silence critics since President Mubarak came to power 30 years ago, AP reports. In the weeks leading up to the vote, police and armed gangs have broken up campaign events by Muslim Brotherhood candidates. More than 1,000 Brotherhood supporters have been arrested. Authorities have also reined in the media, shutting several independent TV stations and forcing critics off the air on other channels.
12) Colombia’s former President Uribe ignored a subpoena ordering him to give testimony in a civil case filed by victims of paramilitary violence against U.S. coal giant Drummond, according to Colombia Reports. Uribe was subpoenaed to appear Monday, but instead traveled to Honduras. The plaintiffs want Uribe to testify because they claim his administration knew about alleged ties between Drummond and a paramilitary organization that killed more than 130 civilians in the region where Drummond is active.
1) Afghanistan war: US says violence reaches all-time high
BBC, 23 November 2010
Violence in Afghanistan has reached an all-time high, with clashes up fourfold since 2007, the Pentagon has said. In a twice-annual report to the US Congress, the Pentagon said progress had been "uneven", with only modest gains against the Taliban insurgency.
[…] In a report covering the period between 1 April and 30 September, the Pentagon attributed much of the increase in violence to the growth in the coalition force after US President Barack Obama’s escalation this year.
"Efforts to reduce insurgent capacity, such as safe havens and logistic support originating in Pakistan and Iran, have not produced measurable results," the report states. "The insurgency has proven resilient with sustained logistics capacity and command and control."
[…] Very indirectly, the US defence department is suggesting the strategy of American, British and other politicians [speaking about any timeline for withdrawal whatsoever – JFP] is the cause of the Taliban’s success, our correspondent adds.
2) Cholera help slowed by indecision: UN
Amber Hildebrandt, CBC News, Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Deaths from the cholera epidemic in Haiti could rise above 10,000 if help doesn’t quicken, but bureaucracy is slowing aid down, says a Canadian who heads the United Nations humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean country. "All the conditions for a massive cholera epidemic are present in Haiti," Nigel Fisher told CBC News. "It is exploding."
The United Nations puts the reported cholera death toll at 1,344, but says experts believe the tally could be as high as 2,000. Though official numbers state about 50,000 Haitians have been stricken by the disease, Fisher believes the true number could be closer to 70,000. "If we don’t move – we, the whole community and national counterparts – don’t accelerate the process, we could see deaths going above 10,000 or so."
While additional funds are necessary to combat the outbreak, Fisher said the key to tackling the treatable disease are setting up more treatment centres and moving resources from future projects and reconstruction to cholera. "This today is the most urgent crisis Haiti is facing," he said. "Put the resources in now. Let’s worry about next year next year."
3) MINUSTAH: Obstacle to Democracy in Haiti
Nicole Phillips and Kevin Edmonds, Fresh Outlook, 2010-11-24
[Phillips is Staff Attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Assistant Director for Haiti Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. Edmonds is a freelance journalist.]
Haiti’s elections planned for November 28 could aggravate the country’s tragedies and inequalities that were brought to the world’s attention after the January 12 earthquake. Highly politicized authorities have illegally excluded all the candidates from the country’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, and other progressive candidates.
Haitians know a fraudulent election when they see one and took their complaints to the streets. Thousands of Haitians have protested all across the country. The United Nations peace keeping force, MINUSTAH, have assisted the Haitian National Police quell demonstrations and increased security patrols two weeks before the elections to help secure polling stations.
MINUSTAH’s presence at polling stations on November 28 is more likely to trigger violence than prevent it. Since MINUSTAH was sent to Haiti in 2004 to secure a coup d’etat government that overthrew democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide, it has represented an oppressive, occupying force – a significant obstacle to human rights and popular democracy. The protection that MINUSTAH’s presence offers primarily benefits the interests of the Haitian elite and their business partners in the international community, not the country’s poor majority.
Since the coup, MINUSTAH and Haitian police have referred to President Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, as "bandits", which they have used to justify illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings. MINUSTAH has killed civilians in Port au Prince’s slums, specifically in the Fanmi Lavalas strongholds of Bel Air and Cité Soleil, silencing the demands of self-determination and socio-economic justice of the people in these neighborhoods. Fanmi Lavalas was strong within these communities because they promoted the widespread building of primary social services such as healthcare and education, attempted to halt the privatization of public utilities, and worked to raise the country’s low minimum wage – all policies that should be resurrected and strengthened by the nation’s next government.
MINUSTAH’s shoot-first tactics have been well documented, most recently with the cholera protests. Haitian grassroots groups and Haitian internal displacement communities organized a protest on November 18 in Port au Prince, which was peaceful until MINUSTAH arrived and drew their weapons out at demonstrators. As the crowd fled for safety, MINUSTAH threw teargas canisters into the crowd and the nearby displacement camp. Several camp residents were taken to the hospital with injuries from the teargas. The United Nations callously referred to the popular resistance as "civil unrest" and the result of a political publicity stunt, not as an expression of grassroots discontent with the fact the same army may have been responsible for introducing an epidemic that has killed over 1,300 people.
MINUSTAH’s commitment to providing security for these elections is ironic, but not a surprise. The outright exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas in every election, since Aristide’s administration, is a testament to the fact that the international community and Haitian elite are bent on suffocating this popular movement with sham elections and outright force. The holding of an illegitimate election is the way to "legitimize" the international community’s reconstruction vision – one that further prioritizes and concentrates profits, property and power into the hands of few.
4) Haiti’s November 28 Elections: Trying to Legitimize the Illegitimate
A comprehensive report released today outlines the flaws leading up to Sunday’s Elections in Haiti
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, November 23, 2010
Port-au-Prince – The actions of an illegitimate electoral council supported by international actors have set Haiti on course for undemocratic elections which may lead to widespread social unrest, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) said in a report released today.
The eleven-page report, Haiti’s November 28 Elections: Trying to Legitimize the Illegitimate, was written as a follow-up to IJDH’s June report which called on the international community to pressure the Haitian Government to hold free and fair elections. IJDH’s latest report describes the failure of the international community to heed its warnings and provides a legal analysis of the irregularities leading up to Sunday’s November 28 elections.
Among flaws highlighted in the report are the scandals involving the Electoral Council’s running of the elections; the Council’s exclusion of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas; and the Council’s inadequate preparations for the elections. Haiti’s November 28 Elections also explains that the United States and other international donors have committed to funding and working with the Electoral Council, ignoring allegations of fraud, unconstitutional activity, and the politically motivated exclusion of candidates and entire political parties.
"The international community has pushed and paid for swift elections hoping to secure a stable government to preserve its investment in earthquake reconstruction in Haiti," said IJDH Staff Attorney and lead author of the report, Nicole Phillips. "But by supporting elections that exclude legitimate political parties, it is only assuring the very social and political unrest it hopes to avoid."
The report details Haitian voters’ ongoing efforts to communicate their opposition to exclusionary elections through their boycott of the 2009 elections, their demonstrations in the streets, and their rejection of the upcoming elections in the press and in political meetings. While recent protests in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitian have been demonized by certain media outlets and international actors, Haiti’s November 28 Elections sheds light on the reasons behind the mounting frustration in the days leading up to the elections. The authors conclude that interest in the elections is as low as the stakes in their outcomes are high.
The objective of IJDH’s latest report is to provide the international community with the proper context in which to view the upcoming elections regardless of the outcome. "The next Haitian government will need to ask its citizens to make sacrifices in order to implement the reconstruction plans," said Brian Concannon Jr., Director of IJDH. "A government can obtain these kinds of sacrifices in two ways: it can develop trust, or it can use force." According to the report, the requisite trust can only be developed through elections that are truly free and fair.
5) Aid Groups Seek Safety Pacts With Taliban
Agencies Tout Their Neutrality to Get Permission to Operate
Yaroslav Trofimov and Habib Khan Totakhil, Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2010
Kabul – Independent aid groups operating in Afghanistan are increasingly distancing themselves from the U.S.-led coalition and trying to forge safe-passage agreements with insurgents, betting that a show of neutrality will protect their work amid an intensifying war.
The Taliban are reciprocating with a more moderate approach to some aid workers, while continuing attacks on those seen as affiliated with the coalition. Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s supreme leader, recently issued formal instructions to help nongovernment organizations that register with them, Taliban officials say.
The split between independent NGOs and the coalition-linked organizations has crystallized in recent weeks over President Hamid Karzai’s decision to outlaw private security companies by early next year.
Some of the coalition’s so-called implementing partners, such as Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc., which works on local governance, agriculture and small business development, have said they will pull out if deprived of their security details.
Scores of other NGOs, however, are welcoming the ban on security firms. In a joint statement last month, associations representing these aid groups said that only six of the 360 international NGOs here used private security guards, and that independent NGOs shouldn’t be confused with private development partners even though they engage in "similar looking activities," such as building roads or dispensing farming tools.
"The more armed people are present, the more danger there is for anyone in their vicinity," says Michiel Hofman, country representative for Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders
MSF, which pulled out of Afghanistan after five of its staff members were assassinated by insurgents in 2004, returned last year to run medical facilities in violence-wracked Helmand and Kunduz provinces. The organization, Mr. Hofman says, came back only after it negotiated written commitments to respect its neutrality with the Afghan government, coalition forces-and the Taliban high command.
The Taliban have begun displaying a more pragmatic approach over the past six to 12 months, prompting other NGOs to seek access accords, says Laurent Saillard, director of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an umbrella organization of 106 foreign and local NGOs. These groups usually refuse to discuss the accords in public because they lack a formal agreement on neutrality with Afghan authorities and often receive Western government funding.
"It’s a very thin line to walk-you’re taking money from countries with a very clear political agenda, and yet pretending to be impartial and neutral," says Mr. Saillard. "But it’s feasible because the Taliban have learned to be pragmatic. If a project is supported by the community, they let the NGO to keep working as long as it doesn’t conduct any political activity."
NGO representatives say they don’t see themselves as the Taliban’s enemies because their efforts focus on helping Afghan civilians rather than on shoring up the government or furthering Western political goals.
[…] Access agreements don’t always provide safety, especially outside the communities where an NGO works, as criminal gangs prowling roads and fringe militant units often ignore Mullah Omar’s orders.
In a tragedy that shocked Afghanistan’s aid community, ten medical workers from the Kabul-based International Assistance Mission were gunned down in northern Badakhshan province in August as they were returning from nearby Nuristan province. IAM had assurances of safe passage from Afghan Taliban commanders in both provinces, but was targeted by a militia linked with the Pakistan Taliban, Western officials familiar with the case say.
Acceptance of some aid groups represents a big change for the Taliban, who in 2003 went as far as attacking the International Committee of the Red Cross, a scrupulously neutral organization. The Taliban softened their approach in 2007, agreeing through the ICRC to facilitate United Nations-backed polio vaccination teams composed of local Afghans.
In recent months, the Taliban have specified that they make a clear distinction between independent NGOs and coalition implementing partners, which they view as legitimate military targets. The two kinds of aid workers are easy to tell apart, as coalition partners usually live in military-like compounds, travel in heavily armed convoys and often wear body armor.
6) Want to slash poverty? Look to Latin America.
While poverty has grown in the United States, it’s been shrinking in Central and South America.
David R. Francis, Christian Science Monitor, November 22, 2010
One in 10 South Americans – about 38 million people – escaped poverty during the past decade. That’s remarkable progress by any measure.
Contrast that with the United States, where poverty has been growing due to a decade-long stagnation of income for the middle class and the Great Recession. In 2009, the US had more poor people than in any of the 51 years since poverty levels have been estimated.
Of course, America’s poor are far better off than South America’s poor. And the US still has a much lower poverty rate (14.2 percent versus around 70 percent). South America remains infamous for huge income gaps between a tiny elite and masses of people making, often, just $1 or $2 a day.
Still, 10 years of growing prosperity has shrunk that gap. The credit goes to democratic leftist governments that have vastly boosted social spending to help the poor, maintains Mark Weisbrot, a left-of-center economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
Half of that improvement comes from Brazil. Under outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the nation pushed up the minimum wage a real 65 percent in eight years, helping to raise the wages of tens of millions of workers, including many receiving more than minimum wage. A program offered small cash grants to poor families if they sent their children to school.
The results? Real income per person is up some 24 percent since 2000. Illiteracy is down. Poverty has been halved since 2002; extreme poverty is down by 70 percent, says Mr. Weisbrot, pulling more than 19 million people into the middle class.
And the economy hasn’t suffered. Unemployment under Mr. da Silva’s presidency dropped from more than 11 percent to 6.7 percent. Income inequality has fallen considerably.
Other nations with "progressive" governments have made much social progress, notes Weisbrot. He lists Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Venezuela. Under President Hugo Chávez, attacked by the right in the US, oil-rich Venezuela has tripled social spending per person since 2003. Attendance at universities has doubled. Most of the poor now get health care under a government program.
The continent weathered the financial crisis relatively well. Social spending rose. So there was no big rise in poverty, says Norbert Schady, an economic adviser to the Inter-American Development Bank, speaking from Quito, Ecuador.
Moreover, prospects for continued economic progress are strong. The Institute of International Finance (IIF), set up by the world’s biggest banks, forecasts 6 percent growth in gross domestic product in Latin America this year, which includes Mex ico and Central America as well as South America. That growth should shrink poverty further.
By contrast, the IIF forecasts a 2.5 percent growth rate this year for the US. At that slow pace the US could see a further rise in poverty.
7) U.N. Reports Decrease in New H.I.V. Infections
Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, November 23, 2010
Fewer people are being infected with the virus that causes AIDS than at the epidemic’s peak, but progress against the disease is still halting and fragile, the United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency reported Tuesday. In its new report on the epidemic, Unaids said 2.6 million people became newly infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, in 2009 – almost 20 percent fewer than in the late 1990s.
But progress is spotty. About 25 countries are doing better at prevention, including several in southern Africa with sky-high AIDS rates.
South Africa, which has the world’s worst epidemic, has benefited from the changeover from the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, which was hostile to the distribution of AIDS drugs, to that of Jacob Zuma, who has publicly taken an AIDS test and urged citizens to do the same. Still, it faces an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 new infections annually.
In one area, progress has been heartening: giving mothers drugs to prevent the infection of their babies at birth or through breastfeeding. "We’ve had a 50 percent reduction of infections among young people in South Africa, which is a huge reservoir," Michel Sidibé, executive director of Unaids, said in an interview in Manhattan last week.
[…] In Iran, Mr. Sidibé said, he accompanied a woman in a chador who was handing out condoms in prison. "I was shocked," he said. "In Iran, the prisons had one of the most progressive programs. There was methadone maintenance; there was condom distribution. They even had conjugal visits for prisoners – five hours in a private room every three months with your wife. With condoms."
There is also both good and bad news on the treatment front. About 5.2 million people are getting antiretroviral drugs – more than ever before, thanks to the multinational Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and its strictly American counterpart, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. But 10 million more still need the treatment immediately, and it seems unlikely that donors will give enough money to keep them all alive.
8) After Condom Remarks, Vatican Confirms Shift
Rachel Donadio and Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, November 23, 2010
Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI clearly acknowledged on Tuesday that the need to prevent diseases like AIDS could outweigh the church’s long opposition to the use of condoms.
It was a significant and stunning personal pronouncement from the conservative pope after more than two decades of heated debate inside the Roman Catholic Church and condemnation by health workers who said the church’s ban on prophylactics was morally indefensible during the AIDS crisis.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, said that for Benedict, the use of condoms by people infected with H.I.V. could be "the first step of responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk to the life of the person with whom there are relations."
[…] Though Benedict did not endorse the general use of condoms or change official church teaching – which still strongly opposes contraceptives – his words ricocheted around the globe, greeted with anger from some conservative Catholics and enthusiasm from clerics and health workers in Africa, where the AIDS problem is worst. The pope also considers the continent to be a major area of growth for the church.
"We’re in a new world," said the Rev. Jon Fuller, a Jesuit priest and a physician at the Center for H.I.V./AIDS Care and Research at Boston Medical Center. The pope is "implicitly" saying, he said, "that you cannot anymore raise the objection that any use of the condom is an intrinsic evil."
9) Eviction of Palestinian Family, After a Legal Battle, Underlines Tensions Over Jerusalem
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, November 23, 2010
Jerusalem – Israeli police officers evicted a Palestinian family from their home in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, and a group of Jewish settlers moved into the property at night.
The episode struck one of the more sensitive nerves in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship at a time of increasing tension and as the Obama administration is working to restart stalled peace negotiations. Such evictions have drawn international condemnation in the past.
The Palestinian family, the Karains, lost a legal battle for ownership of the house. They said it had been sold to settlers illegally and without their knowledge by a relative, Ali Karain, who was a part-owner of the house, and who has since died.
[…] The settler takeover of the Karain house will represent a new point of Jewish settlement in this contested city. The three-story stone building is wedged among other houses on a steep slope in the Farouk section of the Jebel Mukaber neighborhood, with a panoramic view of the Old City, the Aksa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. Those shrines sit atop the plateau revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
[…] Activists of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group were in Jebel Mukaber on Tuesday, helping the Karain family remove boxes of food and some last belongings from the house.
The group issued a statement saying that the objective of the new settlement was "without doubt to undercut the rationale of the 2000 Clinton Proposal, namely the division of Jerusalem into two capitals," referring to an idea put forward by President Bill Clinton.
10) Israeli military destroys West Bank farmers’ road
Mohammed Daraghmeh, Associated Press, Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Qarawat Bani Hassan, West Bank – The Israeli army on Wednesday destroyed a farm road built as part of a Palestinian campaign to assist residents, an apparent attempt to limit Palestinian efforts to extend their reach in the West Bank.
Residents said the road allowed them to reach their fields in a valley near the hilltop village and haul out their harvests with cars instead of the donkey carts they used in the past.
The Israeli military said the road was built illegally in a nature preserve. On Wednesday, while soldiers clashed with stone-throwing village youth, a bulldozer cut strips through the road, leaving it unusable.
The road was a small part of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year program of building institutions for a state. While Palestinians have limited autonomy in the West Bank’s main cities, about 60 percent of the territory remains under full Israeli control.
Fayyad has carried out several small projects in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank, whose needs he says Israel ignores. The road destroyed Wednesday, completed late last year, was one such project.
[…] Earlier this year, he had roads paved in a Bedouin village in the Jordan Valley that Israel has slated for demolition. The order has not yet been carried out. He gave another community a trailer to use as a school, but the Israeli military later demolished it, saying it was illegal.
Fayyad announced this month that his government had quietly helped fund the renovation of 14 schools in east Jerusalem – the disputed sector of the city where the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state. Israel complained but took no action.
[…] Also Wednesday, the Arab League criticized a new Israeli law that requires a referendum before Israel would cede territory it annexed – east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 war. Israel has not annexed the West Bank. A referendum would be called if the proposal to give up territory did not garner a two-thirds majority in parliament.
[…] Others, including Palestinian officials, have criticized the law.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev rejected the criticism, calling it "strange, considering that successive Palestinian presidents have said that if a peace agreement is reached between Israelis and Palestinians, that they will take it to the Palestinian people in a referendum. Why do they think such a process is good for them and not good for us?"
11) Egypt’s vote ushered in by crackdown on dissent
Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Cairo – Egypt’s parliamentary elections Sunday have been ushered in by one of the most sweeping campaigns to silence critics since President Hosni Mubarak came to power nearly 30 years ago, with the government seemingly determined to shut out its top rival, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, police and armed gangs have broken up campaign events by Brotherhood candidates – even attacking the movement’s top member in parliament in his car. More than 1,000 Brotherhood supporters have been arrested during the election campaign.
The measures have been so dramatic that a judge in an administrative court in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria late on Wednesday ordered elections to be halted in at least 10 out of 11 city districts because so many candidates, particularly from the Brotherhood, had been disqualified by authorities.
The ruling party has already appealed the decision and it is not clear if the government will implement it ahead of the Nov. 28 contests.
Authorities have also reined in the media, shutting several independent TV stations and forcing critics off the air on other channels.
The clampdown suggests this close U.S. ally in the Middle East wants to guarantee its powerful grip on authority ahead of more crucial presidential elections due next year.
12) Uribe ignores Drummond subpoena
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe ignored a subpoena ordering him to give testimony in a civil case filed by victims of paramilitary violence against U.S. coal giant Drummond. The former president was subpoenaed to appear on Monday, but instead traveled to Honduras to visit President Porfirio Lobo.
Attorney Terry Collingsworth said that Uribe apparently feels "above the law," as the subpoena obliged him to appear. The victims’ defense said it would file a motion to compel, so a court can order Uribe to give testimony in the case.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, Uribe may be sanctioned for contempt of court if he also ignores a court order to appear.
The plaintiffs want to hear Uribe because they claim his administration knew about alleged ties between Drummond and a faction of now defunct paramilitary organization AUC that killed more than 130 civilians in the region where Drummond is active.
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