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Wednesday: April 2, 2014 

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in mexico (18)

Monday
May142012

Historic Brazil, Mexico Droughts Cause Distress, Economic Conflict (REPORT) 

(Video IBNTimes)

(HN, 5/14/12) - In Brazil the worst drought in 30 years is underway in the country's  poor north-eastern region, destroying crops and prompting officials to limit water use in the 266 districts that have declared a state of emergency.  Lakes have dried up, forcing thousands of families who live in remote areas to walk miles in order to pick up water.

The agriculture secretary in the town of Maracas, Gilmar Rocha, said the drought problems have become constant in the region.  "The local neighborhood of Porto Alegre, is located close to the Contas' river, and we use the river's water in our homes. But the river is drying up and the problems are constant now," he said.

As a result of the drought, ranchers have been struggling to feed and water cattle while farmers have been left to watch their crops shrivel into the dusty soil.  Forty-two-year-old Jose Oliveira de Sousa, who works at a raft station in the district of Maracas, said many of his colleagues have been left unemployed as a result of the drought.

"Everyone is going through a big crisis because of the drought. Our jobs have been taken away from us, from the fishermen to the farmers to the boat and raft operators," he said.

According to weather experts, the drought may last up to October. The drought in the Southern hemisphere is caused by La Nina, which is cooling equatorial Pacific waters.

- By Marisa Krystian originally for IBNTimes

(PHOTO: A northern Mexico river location/El Universal) In Mexico a cold and dry winter in the north of the country has exacerbated conditions there with reports of widespread famine, escalating food prices and extreme dry conditions that have forced the Mexican government to truck drinking water to nearly a half million residents in remote villages across six northern states where lakes and ground wells have run dry.

In addition, Mexican aid workers have been offering food rations throughout the winter to more than 2 million residents who are desperately clinging to life in a region that is experiencing its driest period on record. 

The drought is credited with destroying some 7.5 million acres of cultivable land in 2011 and is responsible for $1.18 billion in lost harvests and has destroyed about 60,000 head of cattle and weakened 2 million more causing a substantial spike in food prices.

Officials say acute food and grain shortages caused Mexico’s imports to soar 35% last year and they could go even higher in 2012 as conditions worsen.

Dr. Mark Welch, grain marketing economist with Texas AgriLife Extension in College Station, says while Texas is not a big corn producing state, he thinks shortages for grain and food corn will cause many US growers to look hard at market potential in Mexico in the months ahead.

“We have been watching corn imports trend higher in Mexico over the last 25 years, but the recent spike related to the drought there is significant as it is not just yellow corn that is in demand, but white corn for food,” Welch says.

In Mexico the shortage of white corn is marked by higher food prices and a shortage in tortillas, a food staple for Mexican families.

(MAP: El Universal) “And this is not the first time we have seen an extreme shortage. The last time was in 2008 when corn shortages caused a tortilla crisis that resulted in riots and price limit controls by federal authorities,” he added.

Welch says even if drought conditions improve in Northern Mexico over the summer months, the trend for white corn imports are expected to trend upward.

“The demand for grain corn may be directly associated with the drought in Northern Mexico. Once conditions improve there we will see Mexican grain corn imports leveling off. But white corn imports have been trending up for several years, and it could be that a growing population base is driving demand - and I expect that to continue,” he says.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to struggle with more than just grain shortages as a result of dry conditions. The 2011 price of beans has doubled in just over a year, and consumers are feeling the pinch in other food staples. On a whole, prices for basic foods—including beans, tortillas, vegetable oil, meat and dairy - rose 45% in 2011, and since October last year prices have exploded another 35%.

While the situation is most dire in the impoverished areas of the north, metropolitan areas including highly industrialized Monterrey are also feeling the squeeze. Recently the Mexican Red Cross estimated that some two million people are chronically hungry in the state of Nuevo Leon.

The crisis is becoming a political thorn in the side of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. While Mexico grows substantial food crops for export to the US - some $21 billion last year - it is struggling to grow enough for its resident population, a problem some argue is being driven by greed from Mexico’s upper class.

Economists say Mexico will continue to struggle with becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient, but drought conditions will continue to complicate those efforts until substantial rains fall.

-- A version of this article by Logan Hawkes appeared in the Southwest Farm Press

Monday
Apr162012

Nigeria: World Bank Presidency - US vs the World? (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Yemi Ajayi

(PHOTO: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, new World Bank President/Dartmouth College) *Since this article posted on Monday, the World Bank board voted to confirm Jim Yong Kim as the next World Bank President. He will start his tenure on June 30 when Robert Zoellick steps down from this same post.

The race for the World Bank presidency will enter the homestretch Monday when the bank's 25-member executive board votes on who succeeds its outgoing president, Robert Zoellick.

It is a defining race for the Bretton Woods institution (comprising the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) founded in 1944. It is also a race that has assumed the character of a clash between an arcane tradition and the quest for change in the way the international finance institution with the official goal of fighting poverty picks its president.

In the race for the World Bank presidency were initially three candidates: Nigeria's Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Colombian Minister of Finance, Jose Antonio Ocampo and a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College in the United States, Jim Yong Kim. The number was reduced to two last Friday with Ocampo's withdrawal for the post.

However, the candidates are merely instruments in a proxy war between Washington and its European allies, which has traditionally produced the president and the rest of the world that is clamouring for a paradigm shift in how the leadership of the World Bank emerges.

The clamour has pitted the rest of the world against the US, which is out to defend its tradition of producing the World Bank president since foundation.

(PHOTO: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria/NigeriaMailOnline)For US President Barack Obama, he cannot afford to fail where his predecessors had succeeded. Losing out in the jostling for the post, especially in a crucial election year, is to hand the Republicans the ammunition to make a bid at undoing his attempt to renew his tenancy at the White House.

Withdrawing from the race last Friday, Ocampo, in a letter to the World Bank, said he was doing so because "it is clear that this is becoming no longer a competition on the merits of the candidates, but a political exercise."

"For me, as an economist and as a Colombian, it has been a great honour to participate in this first open competition for the presidency of the World Bank... to facilitate the desired unity of the emerging and developing economies around a candidate, today (last Friday) I am retiring from the race to support the minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who I wish the best of luck in this final stage."

If it were going to be a straight fight based on merit on a level playing field for the candidates, Okonjo-Iweala could start preparing her handover notes for her successor in Nigeria and return to the organization where she was managing director before her call to national duty last year.

Even though she was reluctant to join the race some weeks ago, her candidacy has gathered rave endorsements from the media at home and abroad, 35 former World Bank economists and managers, Africa and other developing nations since she threw her traditional headgear into the ring.

She is the official candidate of Africa and its allies who have canvassed the argument that someone with high-flying credentials and requisite experience like hers is better placed to make the World Bank deliver on its goals of helping developing nations to improve on their peoples' wellbeing.

Since March when Obama picked him as the US candidate for the post, Kim has come under global scrutiny. Despite his credentials and achievements, especially in public health, including his stint as a director of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization, he is considered as one who lacks the "appropriate finance and economic credentials" to lead the World Bank.

(PHOTO: Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia/Columbia Univ) In contrast, Okonjo-Iweala has institutional knowledge, hands-on experience in development economics and public finance and has proven to be reform minded. In her first appointment as Nigeria's Minister of Finance, she superintended over the country's historical debt relief, an exercise that earned her global accolades; spearheaded the reform of the public sector in Nigeria leading to greater transparency and the monetization policy of the federal government; and championed the creation of the Excess Crude Account that largely provided a buffer for Nigeria during the global economic crisis between 2008 and 2009.

Notwithstanding his diminished credentials, Kim, by some quixotic arrangement, is most likely to succeed Zoellick who bows out on June 30 after a five-year term during which the bank provided over $247 billion to help developing countries boost growth and overcome poverty. His being the US candidate, which some analysts have described as a "wrong call," guarantees him victory under the weighted voting system that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are calling for a review.

Under the voting system, the US, which is the bank's largest shareholder, Europe and Japan control 54 per cent of the votes. The trio has formed an alliance which ensures that the bloc votes are delivered to the US' candidate. Europe is under obligation to back the US as repayment for its support in always ensuring that the headship of the International Monetary Fund, is held by the continent under an informal pact.

According to reports at the weekend, so far, US, Russia, Canada and Japan are lining up behind Kim alongside Spain, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. This follows a move last Friday by the US members on the World Bank executive board to block the board from transparently assessing the outcome of the interviews of the three candidates, which took place earlier last week.

With Ocampo's withdrawal for Okonjo-Iweala, his backers - Brazil and Argentina - may team up with the three African constituencies to vote for the Nigerian minister.

However, the straw poll held by the bank's board last Friday before Ocampo's withdrawal, showed that Kim was guaranteed 36 per cent of the votes, Okonjo-Iweala about five per cent and six per cent for Ocampo. The votes reflect the voting rights of the countries or regions backing each of the candidates.

The undecided were the European Union with 29.2 per cent; India, 4.6 per cent; China, 3.4 per cent; Switzerland, 3.0 per cent; Saudi Arabia, 2.4 per cent; and Asia, 9.5 per cent bloc votes.

Monday's decision by the bank's executive board was some three weeks ago clearly encapsulated for the members by the Financial Times. The newspaper in an editorial on March 27, in which it endorsed the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala, said: "In this less than ideal world, Mr. Kim's appointment seems inevitable. But if the Bank's shareholders wanted the best president, they would opt for Ms. Okonjo-Iweala."

Will the board heed the voice of reason as the World Bank, for the first time in its 68 years of existence, chooses between candidates?

Well, if the Nigerian minister loses, as that fact cannot be discounted, given the high stakes politics, she can take solace in the immortal word of American journalist and writer, Damon Runyon, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...."

--- This editorial originally appeared in AllAfrica HERE

Monday
Apr092012

Mr. Gay World Takes Africa by Storm as Controversy Continues on the Continent (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: A billboard advertises the Mr. Gay World finals at South Africa's Gold Reef City, Johannesburg, on Sunday/MABUTI KALI)(HN, April 9, 2012) - A 32-year-old New Zealand manager for a chain of stationery stores, won the title of Mr. Gay World during the final competition that ended late Sunday at the Gold Reef City resort in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The grand finale was hosted by local stars Soli Philander and Cathy Specific, who were joined onstage by the group African Umoja, and international performers such as Ukraine's top pop star, Kamaliya and guest artist Baby M from Japan, as well as local stars Terrence Bridgett and Alexander Steyn.

Andreas Derleth, 32, a German man who lives in New Zealand won the competition which included 24 other delegates from all over the world including:  Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. Only three of them are from Africa and it's also the first time black Africans took part.

Founded in 2008, the Mr. Gay World competition was created as`a positive environment for gay men to share their stories. The winner would not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self-assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities, but would also take care of his physical beauty.'

Prizes included $25,000 in travel vouchers to enable the winner to spread his message around the world.

Gay rights have been under pressure in many parts of the globe recently - Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East - but primarily in African nations where gay rights activists have been threatened and killed and where dozens of countries have passed laws banning homosexuality.  

Of particular concern in recent years have been attacks on lesbians sometimes called "corrective rapes."

(PHOTO: Lexus sponsors the Mr. Gay World contest, Johannesburg, SA/Mr. Gay World) Prominent African politicians ridicule gays and minor politicians grab headlines by proposing even tougher anti-gay laws.

In nations such as Uganda, Zimbabwe  and Ethiopia court battles and street clashes have defined the movement with strong feelings on both sides as the continent modernizes.

Therefore, many of the African participants faced the most intense discrimination and prejudice, though the location of the event took place in South Africa - the only country on the continent where gay marriages are allowed.

The bill of rights adopted after apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994 explicitly bans `discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation'. Same-sex couples can marry and adopt children in South Africa.

Originally, Africa was to be represented by South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, as a lack of sponsorship and funding prevented delegates from Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya from taking part.

But relentless government pressure on the Zimbabwean delegate, Taurai Zhanje, forced him to withdraw from the competition fearing the publicity was making life difficult for his mother. 

Namibia's representative, Wendelinus Hamutenya, was attacked in early December and landed in hospital but his family accompanied him to the airport for a warm send-off when he left for the competition.  "Bring the trophy home,"  Hamutenya's mother said to him.

Though he lost, a disappointed Hamutenya said he would nonetheless return to Namibia to fight "for gay rights and human rights."

Since becoming Mr. Gay Namibia, Hamutenya has lobbied for a repeal of his country’s anti-sodomy law. And he says, politicians have been receptive to his arguments.

The Ethiopian delegate, Robel Hailu, is a student in South Africa and after his candidacy was announced on Ethiopian radio a media storm broke out and his father cut off all communications.

(PHOTO: Andreas Derleth beat out 24 other contestants to be crowned Mr. Gay World/Mr. Gay World) It wasn't just African gays who faced difficulties this year however. The Chinese contestant was unable to come to Johannesburg because of anti-gay pressure there, organizers said. 

Mr. Gay World includes an essay test on the history of the gay rights movement. But the swim suit competition counts for more, according to the judges’ handbook. The seven judges from around the world include journalists and an actor.

South Africans Charl van den Berg and Francois Nel were Mr. Gay World in 2010 and 2011 respectively, bringing home the honor of winning a world event twice in a row.

"We look for the best man, whether he’s white or black or any other color," said Tore Aasheim, one of the Mr. Gay World organizers, adding he hoped more contestants from Africa would participate in future contests.

---HUMNEWS

Monday
Mar262012

Guatemala President Calls for Drug Legalization Ahead of Summit Of The Americas (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: Guatemalan President Otto Molina & Honduras' Vice President Samuel Reyes speak during an anti-drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala/IBT)(HN, March, 26, 2012) - This past weekend, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss the drug issue which has plagued their nations and their neighbors for decades.  In Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday for the first time, leaders met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the war on drugs has "failed", and it's time to end the "taboo" on discussing decriminalization for the Americas.

Also in attendance were Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a harsh critic of US-style drug policies and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was an invited guest and addressed the summit. Outside of Central America, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have expressed support for the meeting.

Invited to attend but who didn't were El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.  While Funes initially expressed support for the summit, he has since backed away. Lobo and Ortega have opposed the idea from the beginning.  Funes and Ortega did send lower ranking members of the governments to the meeting, and the Salvadoran delegation called for a future meeting on the subject, saying it remained a topic of great interest and importance to the region.

"We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives," said President Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. "We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it."

(PHOTO: Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla attends Saturday's drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel in Antigua/CRTV)He said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated and suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.

But US-backed drug policies in the region have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.

High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras,  combined with the cartel presence is making the region one of the world's deadliest.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates; and Guatemala recently has been saying it is being "outgunned by gangs".

In its most recent annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said violence linked to the drug wars has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in the region.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" asked Chinchilla. "Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

President Molina also suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf - including the United States.

"For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the has a "responsibility" because of its high rates of drug use.

While Saturday's summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade.

Some leaders are pushing for a discussion on alternatives to the drug war to be on the agenda at next month's Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14-15 where President Santos has also been signaling an openness to debate on the issue. 

Members of the OAS include 35 countries:  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,      Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Bahamas, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Canada, Belize, and Guyana.

The White House says US President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for a North American summit in Washington on April 2. The meeting is expected to focus on economic growth and competitiveness, security, energy, and climate change; along with North America’s role in the upcoming Summit of the Americas

Ahead of the summit, Obama said Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, which waives import duties on thousands of goods from developing countries because of the South American country's failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors; effective in 60 days.

Argentina's top exports under the program were grape wine, prepared or preserved beef, sugar confections and olive oil. Washington waived about $17.3 million in duties on those goods from Argentina last year.

--- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Tuesday
Mar062012

African wax material: All the rage, but where's the money going? (PERSPECTIVE)

Credit: Jennifer Micheals House of Style/NigeriaBy Melinda Ozongwu

*NOTE:  Africa Fashion Week begins today and runs March 7-10, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can find a schedule and watch a live stream of the shows, HERE.     

The material that we call African print or wax is a multi-million dollar business. As African as these textiles are, the Dutch companies that produce and sell the majority of our fine wax and lace materials are benefiting off an African industry and potentially destroying its authenticity. And we, the African customer, are part of the problem.

I was once given six yards of beautiful Dutch wax material. It was a kaleidoscope of colour, rich with texture and print. It’s amazing how a few yards of material can be so powerful. If you’ve ever stepped in a room filled with rolls of Dutch wax, Ankara, Hollandaise or African fabric you know what I’m talking about. Wearing this heavily patterned, bold, rich fabric is a transformative experience. Since then I have worn African wax not in traditional attire but in beautifully constructed, modern pieces that are very much in trend. 

With celebrities like Beyoncé and Kelis wearing clothes by African designers like Lisa Folawiyo (Jewel by Lisa), as well as being introduced to our designers, a growing number of people are being exposed to the beauty and versatility of the African fabric. 

American designer Maya Lakes’ Boxing Kitten line is rich with African print and worn by celebrities like Erykah Badu, Rihanna and Solange Knowles. Her burlesque-inspired designs make good use of the vibrancy of the print and the structure of the material.

Arise magazine editor and author of New African Fashion, Helen Jennings points out that, “Having that calibre of celebrity wear designs by African designers, made from an African fabric, helps that fabric to be taken seriously alongside others such as silk, leather and satin.” 

So business ought to be booming for local manufacturers of African wax material, for local consumption and for the export market. But here’s the thing, Africa is importing wax material and other “African” textiles made solely by non-African manufacturers.

CREDIT: Jennifer Micheals House of Style/NigeriaThe popular “African print” textile manufacturer Vlisco aren’t hiding their origin. Their trademark is ‘Veritable Wax Hollandais’ meaning “Real Dutch Wax”. They aren’t lying about their brand; it isn’t one of those “Made in America” but really Made in Mexico things. It’s Dutch, and it’s manufactured exclusively in Holland. The company’s two other brands Woodin and Uniwax do produce in Africa as well as Holland, but they all fall under the same umbrella. 

The Vlisco company’s website has a meet-the-employees page with some very positive testimonials from staff, ranging from production managers to quality controllers. I’m no PR specialist but I know that a testimonial from an African would be good right about here. With over a dozen designers in the company not a single one is African. "We don't try to make our designs African," says Vlisco’s creative director Henk Bremer, "but there seems to be a click with Dutch design. I think it is because West Africans like innovation and novelty."

I would contest that statement. The first country Vlisco exported to was the former Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), they imitated their traditional handmade batik designs and saturated the market with them. Were those also Dutch designs? I highly doubt that you could look at any Vlisco print and see Dutch design. Wax material is as African as a tulip is Dutch.  

In 2006, 75% of the wax on the African market carried Vlisco designs (Source: Vlisco; click on 2006 in the timeline). The company disputed the figure, claiming they’d fallen victim to the copycats. (Counterfeiting is a real problem across Africa; copycats will duplicate any good product at half the price or even less.)

Forget the obvious Nike and Gucci imitations from India and China; we are seeing fake wood and metal plastic-coated beads that are made in China being used in locally made jewellery. And though certain African countries like Cameroon are enforcing their copyright laws, seized goods often reappear on the market making it an increasingly difficult problem to tackle.) 

Vlisco’s strategy in combating the copycats was to shorten turnaround times and rebrand. They also extended their product line to include accessories and shoes. Despite their efforts you can still buy replicas at a quarter of the price of the “original”, the only difference being that these are Made in China. By making their brand more visible, showing at fashion shows, increasing their advertising, and opening flagship stores on the continent they continue to flourish and grow despite the copycats. 

(PHOTO: Funky wax/ThisIsAfrica)But while Vlisco enjoys a €100-million annual turnover, what becomes of authentic African prints and fabrics? What becomes of our local textile industry? Vlisco were pushed out of Indonesia by a government that understood the need to protect their local industry. They did so by levying high import duties on textiles. That was in the 1900s. This is standard practice by countries all over the world when one of their industries is developing. But in 2012, our local governments don't appear to be doing much to protect our textile industries. Since individual brands don’t yet have the budgets to advertise like Vlisco, our governments shouldn’t only be protecting the local industry they should be supporting it, not selling off all our raw materials and leaving us with a poor foundation on which to develop high quality goods. 

Our countries are flooded with imports of second-hand clothing from all over the world, and our respective governments let this happen too. But the importation of second-hand clothes  is even more detrimental to our textile industries than anything a company like Vlisco could do. Our manufacturers can never compete with a pair of second-hand jeans that sells for $1. 

When design houses like Burberry and Michael Kors start showcasing African print motifs and African-inspired fabrics, these are stepping stones to the growth in mainstream popularity of our patterns and fabrics. But with things as they are right now, increased exposure to African fabrics equals increased sales only for non-African companies like Vlisco. 

(PHOTO: Used clothing bound for Africa/ThisIsAfrica) I am not a fan of supporting African products for no other reason than that they’re African products. It has to make sense, the products have to be of good quality and the prices have to be within reason. We might not be there with products in certain industries, but we are with textiles; we have beautiful prints of good quality. There is no denying the fantastic job Vlisco is doing for itself. If we can’t change much else, we should at least look at ourselves as consumers. We are paying premium prices for Dutch wax and missing something more authentic that’s right under our noses. And in doing so we continue to discredit our product, dilute its history and wreck the potential future of our craft.

I think it’s high time we took back our tulips. 

-- Reproduced with permission from This is Africa. You can follow Melinda Ozongwu on Twitter @melindaembrace

Friday
Mar022012

UN-Leashing the Power of Women (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Kate Holt, IRIN) (HN, March 2, 2012) -- This week, the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women opened on Monday at United Nations Headquarters in New York. It's special focus? The development of `Rural Women'. 

For the next two weeks, leaders - men and women alike - are meeting  to focus on women's visibility, contributions, and empowerment, in poverty and hunger eradication, development, climate change adaptation, conflict resolution, gender inequality, technology and energy access, and ending female genital mutilation and sex slavery.

The session, led by Chile's former President and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, is also preparing the agenda for the UN Rio+20 Conference that Brazil will host in June. The Commission was established by ECOSOC resolution 11, June 21, 1946; just a year after the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945. Of the 160 signatories, only 4 were women - Minerva Bernardino (Dominican Republic), Virginia Gildersleeve (United States), Bertha Lutz (Brazil) and Wu Yi-Fang (China).

(PHOTO: Minerva Bernardino/Archive) The Commission's mandate was expanded in 1987 to include the functions of promoting the objectives of equality, development and peace at the national, sub regional, regional and global levels. Following the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the General Assembly mandated the Commission to integrate into its program a follow-up process to the Conference, regularly reviewing the critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action and to develop its catalytic role in mainstreaming a gender perspective in United Nations activities.

45 member states of the UN serve as members of the Commission at any one time. The Commission consists of one representative from each country elected by the Council on the basis of equitable geographical distribution: 13 members from Africa; 11 from Asia; 9 from Latin America and Caribbean; 8 from Western Europe and other States and 4 from Eastern Europe. Members are elected for a period of 4 years(SEE BELOW FOR FULL LIST)

In her opening speech to delegates, UN Deputy Secretary General Aisha-Rose Migiro welcomed attendees from around the world which included government officials, rural women, representatives of the UN and civil society; the media and the private sector to review progress, share experiences, good practices, analyze gaps and agree on actions to empower rural women.

(PHOTO: Opening session of the 56th UN Women's Conference/UN News Centre) Migiro, called for `systematic and comprehensive strategies' to empower women and girls in rural areas as `key agents of change' by maximizing their `potential to combat extreme poverty and hunger for themselves'.   "If rural women had equal access to productive resources", she said, "Agricultural yields would rise and hunger would decline".

Further, "They are leaders, producers, entrepreneurs and service providers, and their contributions are vital to the well-being of families, communities and economies, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals".

World population demographics put the number of women and men in the world as roughly equal (with men just slightly ahead by a few hundred million). The idea is that women are becoming the most effective catalysts of sustainable development, and they must be supported.  

Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said empowering women, "Requires a transformation in the way governments devise budgets and make and enforce laws, policies and land rights; including trade and agricultural policies, and how businesses invest and operate.  Private sector partnerships are crucial”, she said.

"Let us be clear. This is not just hurting the women.  It is hurting all of us”, said Bachelet.  "It's a matter of human rights, equality and justice on behalf of women.  

According to a UN Women's report released last week, rural women and girls comprise 1 in 4 people worldwide and they constitute a large share of the agricultural workforce.

(PHOTO: UN Multimedia) The gathering squarely noted that not only do women face gender inequality - despite progress; they also face blowback from Mother Nature too. How to bring women online while also creating sustainable solutions is a major focus of the conference.   

Some 86% of the global rural population of both genders derives a livelihood from agriculture,  with an estimated 1.3 billion people engaged in small scale farming or working as `landless laborers'.  Increasingly, almost 70% of agriculture laborers are women, producing the majority of global food grown; while playing key roles in rural economic activities, such as planting crops, saving seeds and selling their produce. Not to mention, performing virtually 100% of household labor.

In South Sudan, women farmers are working with a host of civil society groups like the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Norwegian People's Aid, Catholic Relief Services and Concern Worldwide, organizing themselves to engage in climate-resilient crop production and sustainable pursuits like goat rearing and bee keeping.  The women grow food drought-tolerant crops such as cereals, legumes, sorghum, bulrush or pearl millet and vegetables in order to improve their children’s overall nutrition and bring in a small, market-based income.

In Mexico, rural women have organized themselves to struggle against financial and environmental crises. In many cases, local NGOs have assisted in this process by building formal structures and developing capacities.  39% of Mexican households are rural.

(GRAPH: Poverty in the world, darker is worse/PRB.ORG)But still, generally worldwide, women continue to face lower mobility, less access to training, market information, and financial resources.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, rural women can tap just 5% of the services and facilities  including bank credits, public services, welfare, employment and the market; a mere 3% of the $7.5bn in official allocations for rural advancement and agriculture between 2008-2009 were assigned to gender equity.  Additionally, rural women constitute one-fourth of the world’s population and while women have equal property ownership rights in 115 countries and have equal inheritance rights in 93, gender disparities in land holdings persist worldwide."

The conference platform posits that if rural women had equal access to productive tools such as seeds, tools, and fertilizer; and laws were loosened -  agricultural yields would rise by up to 4% and there would be 100 million to 150 million fewer hungry people worldwide.  

Mobile is Key

Mobile phones are changing lives and strengthening economic enterprises, providing information about credit, markets, weather updates, transportation or health services - changing the way rural women and men obtain services and conduct business. 

In a recent global survey, 93% of women reported feeling safer because of their mobile phone, 85% reported feeling more independent, and 41% reported having increased income and professional opportunities.

(PHOTO: UNH WC Superhero/UNH) Sisters Doing it For Themselves

Women on the ground in the global South aren't waiting. They are already busy deploying a combination of indigenous techniques and adaptive agricultural methods to stave off the impacts of climate change, and in June on the eve of the Rio+20 Summit, UN Women will join the Government of Brazil in convening a high-level meeting on women and sustainable development.

It All Starts With Education

"Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people," the UN said and, "Just 39% of rural girls attend secondary school". Far fewer than rural boys (45%), urban girls (59%) and urban boys (60%).  A lack of a high school education can mean poverty and even earlier death, and even a lack of local schools is a reason fewer girls attend high school. 

"Data from 68 countries indicates that a woman’s education is a key factor in determining a child’s survival," according to UN statistics. "Every additional year of primary school increases girls’ eventual wages by 10–20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence."

(GRAPH: Girls, Women global education levels/PRB.ORG) If Women Ruled The World There Would Be No War

In a study of 24 major peace processes since 1992, UN Women  found that women composed only 2.5% of peace signatories, 3.2% of mediators, 5.5% of witnesses and 7.6% of negotiators.  

War is always most devastating to women and children who are often the victims of rape, abuse, and sexual slavery during and after conflict.   But when women's interests are not represented at the negotiation tables, in the post-resolution restructuring process, or in the governance bodies established after the war, the interests of children and families are almost always omitted from discussions.  The UN recognized this 12 years ago when it voted to "ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels; urging governments to `adopt a `gender perspective'".

For instance, in Egypt, rural women are receiving identity cards so they can obtain social services, and are able to vote and can have a say in shaping the future of their country.  In India, more than a million women are now members of local village councils.  This has changed their lives for the better, and also the lives around them.

(PHOTO: Martine Perret)From Costa Rica to Rwanda, where quotas have been used, more women are in positions of decision-making. They are using their voices to secure land rights, to understand political processes, to engage with governance and policy issues, to tackle domestic violence, to improve healthcare and employment, and to demand accountability.  

But in other parts of the world, a recent study which covered 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific showed that the proportion of elected representatives in rural councils who are women ranged only from 0.6 percent to 37%.

In her speech UN Women's Bachelet pointed the finger at her own organization, the UN too, saying, "Here in the United Nations, we must lead by example. From 2007 through 2010, the UN experienced an unprecedented increase in women at the most senior levels - from 17% to 29% at the Under-Secretary-General level, and from 20% to 25% at the Secretariat at the Assistant Secretary General level".

Last December the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Member States to take concrete steps to increase the political participation and leadership of women, including the follow through on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Labor Organization conventions,  the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the report on the Social Protection Floor, that UN Women launched last year.

(PHOTO: FAO) Still, despite all the progress of the global women's empowerment movement, many conference speakers have lamented the need to `reality-check' the situation by reminding delegates that currently in the world: "925 million people were chronically hungry, of whom 60 percent were women.  Moreover, 884 million people in the world lack access to potable drinking water; 2.6 billion people do not have access to sufficient sanitation facilities; and 1 billion people do not have adequate access to roads and transportation systems."

What future will we leave our children?

The African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) is a bold political initiative that aims to put women at the centre of development on the continent. Launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2010, with roots traceable to the UN First World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City in 1975. However, the disheartening reality is that very few women in Africa actually know about the Women’s Decade and the policies set out to be implemented during this decade.   

What's clear from this 56th Conference on Women is that women worldwide want change, they want to have their voice be heard, and they are impatient for equality and solutions to their own problems.  Out of sheer survival, many women are taking circumstance into their own hands and making progress despite the world.

Because these life situations, cannot stand:  In Afghanistan - 87% of women are illiterate; in  Pakistan 90% of women face domestic violence and more than 1,000 women and girls are victims of honor killings every year according to the Human Rights Commission.  In the DRC  420,000 women are raped every year; while in India, 100 million people, mostly woman and girls are victims of traffickers.

Before they go though from UN Headquarters next week, the commission will agree on urgent actions needed to make a real difference in the lives of millions of rural women by making recommendations for other policy forums, such as the Rio+20 and, they will celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th.  A celebration indeed.  

Full List of Current UN Women's Commission Members:

Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, Haiti, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, US, Uruguay, Zimbabwe.

---- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Tuesday
Feb212012

G20 foreign ministers meet in Mexico; say `World is failing' (NEWS)

(PHOTO: Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano speaks during the opening of the G20 Foreign Ministers Informal Meeting in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur state, Mexico, 2.19/Xinhua, Shi Sisi)LOS CABOS, Mexico -- Foreign ministers of the Group of 20 (G20) on Sunday convened in Los Cabos, a resort town in northwestern Mexico, to discuss important issues including global governance, food safety, climate change and green growth.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, host of the meeting, said that frank and open dialogue would be held among G20 foreign ministers and officials from other invited countries at the two-day meeting from Sunday to Monday.

Mexico, which holds the G20 presidency this year, planned the meeting to "stimulate ideas" to promote the changes the world needs, said Espinosa.  "There are many important issues that affect the lives of billions of people across the world, on which the international community is failing to make any discernible progress," she said.

She called for progress to be made on issues such as eradicating famine and illiteracy, promoting green growth and sustainable development, and enhancing the rule of law.

The Mexican official, however, said the meeting, given its informal color, would not lead to any official documents.

"At this stage any results arising from these sessions will be mere recommendations for policy coherence among our countries and we do not intend to develop guidelines or formal documents to negotiate at the G20 Summit," she said.

According to the minister, the meeting have four major topics, namely the multilateral trade system, current global challenges, green growth and human development.

The meeting brought together 10 foreign ministers of G20 member economies, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. The Chinese delegation is led by Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu. Mexico also invited representatives from non-G20 economies and international organizations to participate in the meeting.

Los Cabos, the coastal resort where the G20 Summit will take place in June, has adopted strict measures to beef up security. More police and soldiers have been deployed at the airports and along the major roads to maintain order and check the vehicles.

--- this article first appeared on Cam11

Related:

Mexican Presidency of the G20

Mexico will chair the G20 in 2012 and host the Leaders’ Summit in June of the same year. By assuming the annual Presidency of the G20, as the second emerging country to do so at the Leaders’ level, and the first in Latin America, Mexico confirms its role as a responsible and constructive actor, both regionally and globally.

Mexico is firmly committed to achieving a successful Summit in regards to the agreements reached and their positive impact on the world economy. The Mexican Presidency will seek to follow up the agreements reached previously and will also work to make important contributions to these and other issues of the agenda of the G20. Moreover, Mexico will promote an active and engaged participation of non-members, international organizations, think tanks and the private sector in order to make the G20 dialogue as inclusive, open and transparent as possible.

With this goal in mind, Mexico has established the following priorities:

1. Economic stabilization and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment.

2. Strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth.

3. Improving the international financial architecture in an interconnected world.

4. Enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility..

5. Promoting sustainable development, green growth and the fight against climate change.

Wednesday
Feb012012

Femicide and The Drug War's Invisible Victims (PERSPECTIVE) 

(On The Edge, a documentary covering the brutal murders of hundreds of young women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico since 1993. {2006})

By Laura Carlsen

There are many kinds of war. The classic image of a uniformed soldier kissing mom good-bye to risk his life on the battlefield has changed dramatically. In today’s wars, it’s more likely that mom will be the one killed.

UNIFEM states that by the mid-1990s, 90% of war casualties were civilians-- mostly women and children.

Mexico’s drug war is a good example of the new wars on civilian populations that blur the lines between combatants and place entire societies in the line of fire. Of the more than 50,000 people killed in drug war-related violence, the vast majority are civilians. President Felipe Calderón claims that 90% of the victims were linked to drug cartels. But how does he know? In a country where only 2% of crimes are investigated, tried, and sentenced, the government pulled this figure out of its sleeve.

There is no official information on why these thousands were killed. When their bodies are found in unmarked mass graves, no one even knows who they were. With violence the norm, executions can—and do--target grassroots leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, and rebellious youth under the cloak of the drug war.

(PHOTO: Victim's families hope for justice/FP) Not Just Homicide

There are also war tolls beyond the body counts. The homicide number misses the disappeared, the thousands whose bodies--dead or alive--are never found to be counted. And it hides the mutilation of lives caused by “collateral damage”: the loss of loved ones, families forced from their homes, permanent injury, orphans and widows, sexual abuse, lives lived in fear.

These costs fall primarily on the shoulders of women--the mothers, daughters, and sisters who are left with the nearly impossible task of seeking answers and redress in a justice system outpaced by the violence and overrun by the corruption. They are often re-victimized by government agencies that ignore, reject, or stifle their pleas for justice.

“Families that demand that our children be found face all kinds of threats… the loss of our property, isolation, rejection by our own families,” said Araceli Rodríguez, a mother whose son, a young policeman, was disappeared on the job. His police unit refuses to give information on his disappearance.  “I wake up and find that it’s not a nightmare, that his absence is real and the impunity is also real.”

It’s rare to hear the voices of the women who bear the brunt of the drug war. Their pain doesn’t make headlines. Some need anonymity to remain alive. Many have been granted protective measures by the government or international human rights organizations because of the extreme threats they face.

Telling Stories

Despite all these difficulties, some 70 women told their stories amid tears and despite fear for their lives in Mexico City on January 22. The meeting called by the Nobel Women’s Initiative brought an international delegation led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams together with Mexican women victims of the violence and women human rights defenders.

From the sketchy statistics available, women make up a relatively small proportion of the murdered in Mexico, but they are the majority of citizens who denounce disappearances, murders, and human rights violations in the drug war. They work on the front lines of defending communities and human rights. For their efforts, they become targets themselves. In Mexico, six prominent women human rights defenders have been murdered in the past two years.

(PHOTO: Nobel Women's Initiative delegation to Mexico/NWI)The last report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recognized that threats and especially “explicit death threats against women human rights defenders are one of the main forms of violence in the region, with more than half coming from Latin America, most of those (27) from Mexico.”

Sometimes it’s the drug cartels that seek to silence women activists. But a recent survey of Mexican women human rights defenders revealed that they cite the government (national, state, and local) and its security forces as responsible in 55% of cases of violence and threats of violence to women defenders. Among government officials charged with public safety and justice, they encounter at best indifference and at worst death threats and attacks. A human rights defender from the state of Coahuila explained that searching for a disappeared loved one implies “always having to be in the hell of the institutions, which are often infiltrated by crime.”

Gender-based violence including femicide has skyrocketed in the context of the overall violence.

The number of femicides in Chihuahua since sending the army in has risen to 837 for the period 2008-2011 June - nearly double the total femicides in 1993-2007. Women rights defenders report that the vast majority of threats and acts of violence against them include gender-based violence.

Silent No More

Olga Esparza, whose daughter Monica disappeared in Ciudad Juarez in 2009, explains through her tears that the government simply doesn’t care. “We’re the ones who have to carry out the investigations, with our own resources.” She adds that government officials often add insult to injury, “They say she’s probably just gone off with her boyfriend or she’s a prostitute or drug addict.” In her case, as with so many others, there’s no investigation, no results, no justice.

(PHOTO: Keeping memories alive/Dominio Público)Another woman described how her work with indigenous communities led to her rape and torture by police agents. She continues to live in terror due to threats against her life and her family.

Alma Gomez of the Center for the Human Rights of Women in Chihuahua summed up what she sees in the center, “Women are the invisible victims, we are always at risk in this military and police occupation. We know of gang rapes by security forces that the women don’t even report; arbitrary arrests; women who make the rounds between army barracks and city morgues searching for their sons, fathers, or husbands… We are the spoils of war in a war we didn’t ask for and we don’t want.”

“Victim” is really the wrong word for these women. The mother whose son disappeared more than two years ago said, “In the struggle to find my son, I joined the peace movement. I learned that I can transform my pain into a collective force and together we can help more people to have a voice and to now be empowered to defend their rights.”

Valentina Rosendo, a Me’phaa indigenous woman from the State of Guerrero, was raped by soldiers and took her case all the way up to the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. She sums up the reason for participating in the Nobel Women’s forum, “It’s really hard to speak out, but it’s more painful to keep quiet.” 

- Laura Carlsen is director of the Americas Program for the Center for International Policy in Mexico City. Originally published by Foreign Policy in Focus licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Related click here 

Tuesday
Jan102012

THE HUM - WORLD HEADLINES - January 10, 2012

Algeria 

Algeria to Nationalize Orascom Algeria’s Mobile Phone Unit

(PHOTO: In Canada, author Naomi Klein is named one of the 12 people to watch in 2012. TORONTO STAR)Australia 

Australia’s International Islamic College suing Saudi Arabia

Azerbaijan 

3023 illegal migrants deported from Azerbaijan in 2011

Bahrain 

Formula One urged to quit Bahrain

Brazil 

US House Speaker John Boehner tours Rio slum as part of trade-boosting Latin America trip

Canada 

Canadian warship bound for Mediterranean

Asking for an outbreak of preventable diseases

12 Canadians changing the way we think

Calgary, Edmonton set attendance record for World Junior events

China 

(PHOTO: Cuban Labor Delegation visits in Damascus, Syria. SANA) China launches remote-sensing satellite

China imports dairy cows as demand for milk continues

China, an important driving force in East Asian cooperation: asst. FM

Hong Kong Arts Festival 2012 to Kick Off January 28

Congo (DRC)

Elections-DR Congo: DRC faces suspension of EU cooperation over last elections

African States and UN agree to beef up measures against Lord’s Resistance Army

U.S. Department of State Announces Second International Sports Exchange with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Cuba 

Cuban Labor Delegation in Damascus: Syrians have right to Solve problems without foreign Intervention 

Egypt

Three New Land Routes to Connect Egypt, Sudan

Equatorial Guinea

Sam Wallace: A poverty-stricken people don't need the wonga cup (Perspective)

(PHOTO: Producers with Cocoa beans in Ivory Coast. BUSINESS LIVE)Estonia

Ikea Expands to Estonian, Latvian Markets

Finland

Woman: Hotel clerk in Finland gave my key to drunken pervert & now I’m suing 

Demand for day-care skyrockets

Around 100 street beggars remain in Finland

France

France's RFI radio back on air in DR Congo

Georgia

Marriott Business in Tbilisi Proving Successful Despite Tough Competition 

India

Indian expats celebrate winning the right to vote

Terrorist threat to railway stations in Bihar

Graft war in India reflective of global power shift: Miliband

India is the success story of South Asia — that is a fact: David Miliband

India seeks reversal of EU carbon emissions tax

International real estate expansion halted for Indian companies

(PHOTO: Students at the International Islamic College in Brisbane, Australia. BIKYA MASR)Bangalore airport may shut down for 7 hours every day from Feb 24-April 19

India Faces Challenges in Connecting With African Continent

'Bangalore can be a little slow' (Perspective)

Indonesia

Many Indonesians repatriated from Saudi Arabia in 2011

Analysis: Power woes could trip Indonesia’s economic surge

Iran

Oil Minister: Iran Self-Sufficient in Drilling Industry

Iraq

Poll: 25 percent of Iraqis 'suffering'

Ivory Coast

Ivorian cocoa arrivals slump, exporters say

Jamaica

(PHOTO: Next top model Model Hoang Thuy (R) with American super model Tyra Banks in Vietnam. SAIGON Daily)New Jamaica PM: We will be a republic 

Japan

Japan begins Middle East visit seeking oil assistance

Japan to Install Tsunami Monitoring System at Sea

Kenya

Kenya's TB campaign proves a success (Video)  

Libya

Libya lifts sanctions against Switzerland

Lithuania

President’s charity campaign provides Lithuanian libraries with thousands books

Malaysia 

Malaysia to boost ties with South Africa

Marshall Islands

Marshalls President announces Cabinet

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulates the Marshall Islands on their Presidential election (Press Release)

(PHOTO: In Ukraine EcoWave Power Completes Testing of Wave Energy Generation. Model-ECO WAVE POWER UKRAINE)Mauritania

Report: Mauritania "expels" Qatari emir

Mauritius

Bihar’s village decks up to welcome Trinidad & Tobago PM

Mexico

Vatican spokesman explains why Pope will visit Mexico

Myanmar 

Aung San Suu Kyi Confirms Run for Burmese Parliament

George Soros to open aid office in Myanmar

Namibia

Namibian Prime Minister Angula Meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi

Nepal

Lack of Awareness, Stigma Fuels Marital Rape in Nepal

(PHOTO: Hong Kong Arts Festival to start. This is the Hong Kong Jockey Club. DESTINASIAN) Nepal's child malnutrition 'silent emergency'

Nepal Telecommunications Authority reports 2.1m mobile additions in a month; amends Telecoms Regulations

Smartphones outsell normal handsets

Straws of steel: Earthquake-proof houses

Pollution Rise Worsens South Asia’s Winter Smog

New Caledonia

New Caledonian politician suggest to merge with Wallis and Futuna 

Nicaragua

Nicaragua goes back to gold

Nicaragua next stop in Ahmadinejad's Latin America tour

Niger

Niger's president makes stop over in Luanda city

Nigeria

Nigeria, Finland Renew Commission

(PHOTO: In Uganda Assist Commissioner of Entomology Mr. Fred Luyimbazi inspects a target used to control Tsetse flies in Murchison Falls National Park. SPYGHANA) Nigeria: UN, MDGs and Fuel Subsidy Removal

North Korea

N.Korean economy plunges after hitting high in 2007: report 

Oman

Oman LNG signs pact to fund two more social initiatives

Sierra Leone keen to boost trade with Oman

Pakistan

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait reject Pak's request to supply oil on long-term credit

Palau

2-year Pacific tuna-fishing ban extended until March

Panama

Taboga Festival of the Sea- The timing is right

(PHOTO: Some Saudi's travel miles to go to the cinema. Bikya Masr) Papua New Guinea

Encouraging sign of new gold and copper find in PNG

Paraguay

Paraguayan FM to Attend Inauguration of Daniel Ortega 

Peru

Peruvian Govt Highlights Agreements with Venezuela

Six Peruvian cities nominated for New 7 Wonders Cities campaign

Philippines

South China Sea issues flare yet again as Manila alleges Chinese incursion

A sea of humanity attends Black Nazarene feast, ignoring warnings of possible terror attack

Dads push for declaration of La Trinidad as pioneer in organic farming

Environment is Benguet's main concern for 2012

Puerto Rico

(PHOTO: Vietnam rice exports facing growing competition. Thanh Niet News) Puerto Rico Gets First Assisted Living & Memory Care Community

Russia

Russian naval vessels anchored in Syria

Russia to put new radar in 2012

Russian-Ukrainian border closes because of recognition of people animals in Ukraine 

Rwanda

Children Contributing to Country's Development - Unicef

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia Tourism Minister Calls All Hands on Deck  

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s automotive aspirations

(PHOTO: The vast, sany Karakum desert dominates Turkmenistan in Central Asia which is getting ready for an election. REX) Saudi executions concern U.N. officials

Saudi N-S Railway stations contract signed

The Arab Spring of Saudi Cinema?

Man tries to sell son on Facebook for $20 million

Senegal

CCR: Schlesser scores the Africa Eco Race victory

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Women Issues for the 2012 National Elections

The Geo-political implications of the November elections (Perspective)

Singapore

Top international scientists meet in Singapore

Singapore Government Unveils Initiative To Improve National Productivity

(PHOTO: South Sudanese children displaced by attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the town of Mundri, Western Equatoria state. South Sudan. UN NEWS CENTRE) A Pool for Daring Swimmers in Singapore

Slovakia

Piano Media extends its mass paywall in Central Europe, launching in Slovenia

Slovenia

Media in Slovenia to charge for online access

Jankovic announces formation of govt. coalition

Slovenian adventurer launches eco-friendly round-the-world light plane trip

Solomon Islands

Delay of results irk parents

Government soon to receive Truth and Reconciliation Commissions final report

Reconciliation minister assaulted in Honiara

Somalia

(PHOTO: A man covers the body of fellow immigrants killed in Yemen. BAR KULAN)Somali immigrants killed in Yemen

Transitional Federal Government PM says roadmap nearly to fail

Somali Nationalism: A Dead Concept? (Perspective)

South Africa

Runner Zola Budd in Durban for Comrades

South Korea

Google accused of meddling with S Korean probe

S. Korea to offer better biz environment for foreigners: minister

S Korea President Visits China

Financial crimes on rise in S. Korea

Samsung seeking ban on iPhone 5 in South Korea

South Korea approves Anti-leukemia drug production

South Sudan

(PHOTO: In Somalia, the Grand Mosque in Garadag district, Somaliland. THINK AFRICA PRESS)Humanitarian Crisis in the World's Newest Country

Blue Nile Governor Refutes International NGO Claims of Food Gap

Spain

Spain: Thousands March in Support of ETA Prisoners (Video)

Spain: "This year we expect to have a slight increase in the acreage of garlic"

El Mundo America newsroom relocates to Spain, USH and Latam editions of Marca

Spain's SOPA Law: How It Works And Why It Won't  (Perspective)

Spanish prince, princess to tour Central America

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka to establish embassy in Ukraine

Lanka to issue free passports to Tamil refugees in India

Sri Lanka liquor sales grow

(PHOTO: In Tanzania micro enterprises dominate the manufacturing sector. THE CITIZEN) Sri Lankan government is banning its roti and eating it too

Non-alignment and SL’s foreign policy (Perspective)

Sudan

Libya lays out red carpet for Omar al-Bashir

Turabi’s party releases documents alleged to contain coup plan in Sudan

15 people perish in Sudan auto accident

Suriname

Suriname President takes over chairmanship of CARICOM, promises 2012 to be a “year of change”


Sweden

Sweden Recognizes File-Sharing as a Religion

Swaziland

Govt offers farmers land for edible oil production

Taiwan, China aid to Swaziland won’t be affected by economic slump

(PHOTO: In Swaziland, following a spillage of chemicals into canals in Big Bend, fish were found floating dead in the past week. TIMES OF SWAZILAND) andChemical poisons hundreds of fish

Hard work earns orphan six distinctions

Switzerland

Switzerland’s central bank chief resigns

Cooperatives: building blocks of democracy (Perspective)

Lenzburg Prison in Switzerland uses state-of-the-art IP video surveillance

Syria

As Syria unravels, prices soar for guns, grenades, and RPGs

Syria hails arrival of Russian warships

Turkish FM meets Syrian official in Istanbul

Syria Criticizes Qatar´s Biased Stance

Taiwan

Taiwan's elections draw international attention 

Biotech innovation offers hope for Taiwan entrepreneurs

Growth of visitor arrivals to Taiwan double world average: officials

Taiwan’s birth, marriage rates hit new high in 2011

(PHOTO: A Taiwanese garbage truck. FLICKR) In Taiwan, trash disposal is a classical (music) affair

Taiwan, U.S. companies to jointly release online console game 

Movie madness in Taiwan

Tajikistan

200 kilos of Afghan drugs burnt in Tajikistan

Wildlife Conservation Society documents pneumonia outbreak in endangered markhor

Tanzania

Micro-enterprises dominate manufacturing sector — study 

World Bank $5m to boost local mining firm capital

Airtel Mobile Money offers thousands of jobs

Construction of big arena gets going

Doctors to hold emergency meeting

Health-Tanzania: Rising cancer cases cause big concern

(PHOTO: New snake species in Tanzania Matilda's horned viper. Tim Davenport/Wildlife Conservation Society)New Snake Species Found in Tanzania

Need for effective education on disaster management (Perspective)

Agricultural modernisation techniques needed - expert (Perspective)

Press - Not Yet Free, Though There Is Certain Degree of Freedom (Perspective)

2012 - It's Time to Do Your Own Thing (Perspective)

Thailand

Capital market faces unresolved questions

Thailand's furniture industry looks to intra-Asean markets

Hard Drive Prices Rise Due To Thai Floods

Losing out for lack of English

British backpacker 'electrocuted by fridge' in Thailand

Thailand is the hottest Asian destination for British tourists

Thai Christian fights child prostitution

The Arctic

Energy firms asked about Arctic drilling

UK launches Arctic environment inquiry

Visualizing the Link Between Ice Extent and Volume

(PHOTO: Inuit filmmaker Qajaaq Ellsworth’s new app & educational game `Iliarnnarnaqsivuq', or Time for School, is designed to encourage learning among Inuit youngsters.) New Inuit language app makes learning fun for little ones

Much Ado about Methane (Perspective)

Watch This Stunning HD Time-Lapse Of The Largest City North Of The Arctic Circle (Video)

The Netherlands

Dutch Royal Family is Visiting the United Arab Emirates (Photos)

Togo

Mobile technology takes root in Togo (Video)

Tonga

Former Tonga Chief Justice Knighted

Trinidad and Tobago

Coalition member worried over conflicting police reports on alleged assassination plot

Trinidad and Tobago to tie up with India’s Jaipur Institute

Young designer to launch fashion label

Tunisia

Protests Challenge Tunisian Prime Minister’s Public Media Appointments

Tunisia can be a model for North Africa, German foreign minister says

US Issues Arrest Warrant for Tunisian-American Accused of Abducting His Children

(PHOTO: In Tunisia, a banner that reads `Journalists revolt against the dictator's remnants'. TUNISIA LIVE)Tunisia: Request to do away with death penalty

Tunisia, Larger Olive Oil Crop and Exports in 2012

Turks and Caicos

Chamber of Commerce predicting another tough year

Courtney Robinson Appointed As New Director Of The Turks & Caicos Islands Red Cross

Turkey

Istanbul forum to boost GCC-Turkey trade links

Diplomat Confirms Turkey Hosting US Drones

Turkish Minister: Energy Agreement with Russia

Turkey signals more sanctions against Syria

A maturing market (Perspective)

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan refuses to use military force as an instrument of foreign policy - President of Turkmenistan

Monitors from the former Soviet Union to observe Turkmen election

Uganda

State House Aide Cited in Buganda Park Land Scandal

100 dead from nodding disease

Uganda’s Warid Telecom:  “Mobile money moving faster than expected”

(PHOTO: Newport Beach California, USA famous for its big ocean swells where Mark Holmes David New of Green Wave Energy is testing wave powered energy generation 200 yards offshore. Don Bartletti/LATimes)Uganda government releases plans to get rid of tsetse flies in parks

Inspire Africa Reality Show Launched

Ugandans in Diaspora launch TV proggie

Ukraine

Ukraine to introduce EU model to control food quality, biosecurity service head says

Ukraine exports 9.65 million tonnes of grain in 2011-12

Tax revenues in Crimea almost triple over year

Ukraine: Eco Wave Power Completes Testing of Wave Energy Generation Models

United Arab Emirates

Dubai hotels reap rewards of tourism boom, increase rates

Scottish government, UAE in landmark agreement on green energy

Emirates to host Somalia meeting before UK’s sponsored conference

UAE's Dewa launches new USD26m water pipeline project

(PHOTO: In the UAE, Coptic Christians thanked Muslims for Christmas spirit. THE NATION) Copts thank Muslims for Christmas spirit

UAE looks at open data to promote e-government

Plastic bags cause pollution crisis, camel deaths in UAE deserts (Video)

UAE’s Hidden Fashion Talent… Hamda Al Fahim!

Sports fans left in the dark with channel blackout set to continue

United Kingdom

UK still has racism problem says David Cameron

U.K. Will Use Olympics to Spur Investment With Business Summits

Man gets suspended sentence for UK’s largest child porn collection

Woman Who Launched Internet Campaign to Track Down Guy She Met in Spain Finds Out He’s Already Taken

Roald Dahl's best-loved novels celebrated with new set of stamps

6 Million(i) UK Households Could Not Survive Until the Weekend on Savings According to first direct (Press Release)

United States

Almost 1 In 3 U.S. Warplanes Is a Robot

US expels Venezuelan diplomat

Ocean waves power a prototype generator in Newport Beach

Gayest Cities in America, 2012

(PHOTO: In Switzerland, cooperatives reign for consumers. Swiss retail giants Migros & Coop are both cooperatives RDB)Hyundai and Land Rover win top awards at Detroit auto show

CAIR Seeks Support for Bill Barring Military Detentions

American Farm Bureau leader: ‘We are the 1 percent’

Vanuatu

Vanuatu man told to find a lawyer

Vanuatu Churches Continue Anti-WTO Efforts

Volcanic activities at Ambrym and Yasur volcanoes at Vanuatu

Venezuela

Chávez: No somos guerreristas (on his meeting with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad)

Venezuela's Skyscraper Slum

Venezuela Will Not Bow Down To Imperialist "Tentacles": Chavez

Chavez resumes Venezuelan TV show after illness

Venezuela: Women with PIP breast implants demand justice while creating online support network

Cuba - Venezuela to Premiere Film on Terrorist Posada Carriles

Vietnam

(PHOTO: Venezuela's Skyscraper slum. Ángela Bonadies & Juan José Olavarría/THE ATLANTIC WIRE) Vietnam Bars Zimbabwe’s Mugabe's Plane From Its Airspace

Vietnam rice exporters face growing competition for low-end markets 

Vietnam asks the US to help search for the missing

Vietnam hopes to clear unexploded ordinances in 100 years 

Vietnamese Man Has 200-Pound Tumor Removed From Leg (Video)

Hoang Thuy chosen Vietnam’s Next Top Model 2011

No One Wants to Move to Vietnam’s New Cities (Perspective)

Wallis and Futuna Islands

(PHOTO: Multi Platinum selling R&B group Boyz II Men is headed to Zimbabwe in March this year. The Zimbabwe Guardian)New Caledonia politician says territory should merge with W&F

Yemen

Yemen's Cabinet gives president immunity from prosecution

Yemen told by UN not to pass amnesty law to protect “gross violations”

Yemen PM kicks off tour to GCC states seeking aid

WFP raises 2012 food aid to Yemen to $122 million

Yemen plans to renegotiate container port accord with DP World

Yemen HR minister: government must talk to youths

Yemen to have Friday-Saturday weekend

Zambia

Organization Works to Rehabilitate Sex Workers in Zambia

(PHOTO: Volcanic activities at Ambrym & Yasur volcanoes at Vanuatu. THE WATCHERS)Graft: Zambia charges ex-minister

IFAD releases K127bn for rural agro development

Maamba's planned thermal expansion to boost power

PF government should address the plight of lack of health workers (Perspective)

Zimbabwe

Terror bungee fall like being slapped: tourist (Video)

‘Air Zimbabwe refused to take advice’

Zimbabwe MPs to get own hotel

Union urges teachers to report for work

ZMDC Takes Over Sino-Zimbabwe Diamond Mining Operation

A tale of two democracies: New Hampshire to Zimbabwe

(PHOTO: Taiwan Movie Madness-Actor Masanobu Andô as Genji Kojima (left) & Umin Boya as aboriginal warrior Temu Walis in Warriors of the Rainbow Seediq Bale.)Zimbabwe outlaws sale of used knickers

MDC-T MP demands union for prostitutes

Boyz II Men headed for Zimbabwe

WORLD

Russian, French warships off Syria, Iran, US drones over Iranian coast

$ 20 trillion needed for global oil & gas infrastructure in MENA

MultiTaction 55-inch Multi-Touch Display Can Track Hundreds of Fingers

Struggles of Refugee Children Captured By Filmmakers

Mobile tech and child protection in West Africa

Amnesty International slams western reactions towards Arab Spring

The Career Of The Future Doesn't Include A 20-Year Plan. It's More Like Four.

(PHOTO: MultiTaction 55-inch Multi-Touch Display Can Track Hundreds of Fingers. PC WORLD)‘Occupy’ occupies 2011 Word of the Year

Ecobank applies equator principles to finance activities

Elton John Writing His First Book

Press censorship on the rise in Latin America (Perspective)

Ocean Floor Reveals Past Climate Changes

Deep Sea Expedition to Probe Tectonic Plates 

(PHOTO: The world's tectonic plates. USGS)

Tuesday
Oct252011

Hurricane Rina Heading Towards Mexico As Many Parts of Central America Suffer From Severe Flooding (NEWS BRIEF)

(graphic courtesy of National Weather Service) (HN, October 25, 2011) Hurricane Rina, which spent days nagging the coastline of Honduras as a disorganized depression, has now coalesced into a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, could barrel into Belize and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula by the end of the week, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

The storm was packing sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour and was tracking to the northwest at six miles per hour.

"Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," and Rina could unleash up to five inches (12.5 centimeters) of rain in some areas, the Miami-based NHC said in a bulletin.

Rina's center was about 135 miles northeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios, on the Nicaragua-Honduras border, and was predicted to pass north of the Honduran coast.

Several nations in Central America have only just begun to dig out from recent torrential rains which triggered deadly flooding and landslides, swamped huge swathes of farmland and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

The number of fatalities across the region topped 100, including 36 deaths in Guatemala, 34 in El Salvador and 18 in Honduras, from non-stop downpours that have affected hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed crops, livelihoods and infrastructure. 

Throughout the region, some 1.2 million people have been affected, said the UN.

According to the Salvadoran Ministry of Natural Resources, almost 60 inches (150 centimetres) of rain have fallen in the past 10 days.  The cumulative record for Hurricane Mitch, which in 1998 killed 11,000 people in the region, was 34 inches (86 centimetres).

The region has endured a multitude of natural disasters, in the past 4 decades, that have killed some 50,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

- HUMNews Staff 

Tuesday
Sep272011

Drug War: Faster and More Furious (COMMENTARY) 

By Tania Arroyo

Jean Baptiste KingeryIn early September, Mexican authorities arrested a U.S. citizen, Jean Batiste Kingery, for smuggling grenades across the border for the Sinaloa cartel. Astonishingly, U.S. agents had released Kingery a year before when he was captured for the same offense. U.S. law enforcement officials reportedly wanted to use him in a sting operation.

The Kingery case is only the most recent scandal involving the flow of weapons from the United States to Mexico. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently sent a letter asking the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for a hearing on the controversial federal operation “Fast and Furious,” which in 2009 allowed 2,000 high-powered weapons from the United States to reach Mexico as part of an alleged effort to go after drug cartel leaders. According to McCain, the hearing's purpose is to “ensure further damage from this operation does not persist.”

But the real problem at the border goes beyond the Kingery case and the Fast and Furious fiasco, which are just one small part of the flow of arms into Mexico for use in drug war that has claimed more than 50,000 victims during the tenure of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Although Calderon will leave the presidency next year, the war will not likely end with his term of office.

The Merida Frame

On September 6, diplomat John Wayne formally assumed the post of U.S. ambassador to Mexico, replacing former Ambassador Carlos Pascual. In March, Pascual resigned after the Mexican government expressed its concern over the ambassador's doubts, revealed in WikiLeaks cables, about Mexico’s capacity to conduct the fight against drug trafficking.

This replacement, however, doesn’t bring anything new to the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States. In his statement to Congressin July, Wayne said, referring to the Merida Initiative, “one of my principal objectives, if confirmed, will be to work with my Mexican and U.S. colleagues to accelerate the implementation of the activities and to assure that we are achieving our Merida objectives.”

The Obama administration has done a great deal to support Calderon’s fight against Mexican drug trafficking through the Merida Initiative, the 2008 bilateral agreement of cooperation between Mexico and the United States to combat drug trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering. Yet Obama has done little to strengthen arms control on the U.S. side of the border. In March, during a joint press conference with President Calderon, Obama stated that "I believe in the Second Amendment. It does provide for Americans the right to bear arms for their protection, for their safety, for hunting, for a wide range of uses.” Although he went on to state that “that does not mean that we cannot constrain gun runners from shipping guns into Mexico,” he has not managed to reduce the arms trade.

On the other side, President Calderon demands more funds from the United States and insists that the war on drug mafias is a shared responsibility that must continue. Following the Zetas’ attack on a casino in the northern city of Monterrey last August, which claimed at least 52 lives, Calderon said that “the economic power and firepower of the criminal organizations operating in Mexico and Latin America come from this endless demand for drugs in the United States.” He stressed the need to continue this fight against “criminals” and “terrorists.”

Although the two governments disagree on small details, like the performance of former Ambassador Carlos Pascual, they are of one mind on the importance of the “war on drugs” and the Merida Initiative, which has proven to be a profitable business for arms manufacturers and dealers.

Good for the Arms Business

The Merida Initiative has been roundly criticized, even by those affiliated with the U.S. military. Paul Rexton, associate professor of national security studies at the U.S. Army War College, has suggested that this initiative has not led to substantial reductions in violence in Mexico or in drug smuggling to the United States. “In fact,” he writes, “the current policy has led to what can be described, at best, as a stalemate between Mexican state authorities and the cartels”.

The U.S. government has provided nearly $1.3 billion to the Mexican government to confront the drug cartels. Meanwhile with operations like Fast and Furious, it has fed weapons to the narcotraffickers. This apparent paradox can be explained by the different objectives of the state and the market, the former focused on security and the latter fixated on profit.

For the arms lobby, operations like Fast and Furious are always welcome: the more weapons that can be purchased, the more money arm dealers will get. There are cases in which one person has come to buy up to 190 guns a month in armories near the border, supposedly to ensure his personal safety under the Second Amendment. According to the owner of one of these stores: "In Arizona it is more difficult to get credit for a car than to buy 10 rifles. My business is the sale of weapons and to sell them under the law. Honestly, I don’t care where they will end up.”

Members of the arms lobby want Mexicans, too, to arm themselves in response to violence by drug cartels. More armed Mexicans translates into more arms sales. Drug cartels already get their supplies of lethal weapons manufactured and distributed by the U.S. arms industry through an “ant trail” across the border, like the one that Kingery followed.

Recent revelations of money laundering suggest that the United States is not really serious about the fight against drug trafficking. According to The Observer, banking giant Wachovia "paid federal authorities $110 million in forfeiture for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50 million fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine." The sum that Wachovia paid for these omissions, $160 million, pales in comparison to the overall volume of money, $378.4 billion, to which the bank failed to apply proper anti-laundering regulations. In a real war on drugs this should have been a sufficient reason to close that bank. However, Wachovia continues to operate normally (now as part of Wells Fargo) and may be able to continue laundering money, since the sanctions are affordable in relation to the gains.

Finally, Mexicans have been privatizing the drug war in Mexico much as Colombia has already done. The United States spends nearly $550 million per year on Plan Colombia (and spent an average of $700 million per year before 2009), and more than 50 percent of that sum has reached private contractors operating as mercenaries in the South American country. According to the State Department, since 2007 Lockheed Martin, DynCorp International, and ARINC, Inc., among other companies in the industry, have been the major beneficiaries of Plan Colombia.

Mexico is not far behind. According to one of the representatives on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, Jose Gomez del Prado, in 2006 instructors from the company Global Risk Solutions Inc. trained Mexican federal agents in torture techniques. Once the drug war becomes a lucrative business, the conflict becomes potentially endless.

For the two governments, the Kingery case and Fast Furious represent only small miscalculations in the grand strategy of the Merida Initiative, which continues unabated. The Secretary of Defense in Mexico (SEDENA) recently purchased $4 billion worth of weapons for "operations of internal order and national security contingent emergency" through the Trust for Military Equipment.

A Bleak Balance

The Mexican and U.S. governments are duty-bound to guarantee human rights and preserve the lives of their citizens. The actions of organized crime, from the distribution of arms and drugs to kidnapping, murder, and human trafficking, are reprehensible. But so is the double standard of the Mexican and U.S. governments, which have been jointly responsible for the escalation of violence on both sides of the border in their effort to defeat the mafias.

For President Calderon this is even more outrageous because, under the Merida Initiative, he has given Washington the authorization to act with the freedom and discretion it wants, further undermining Mexico’s national sovereignty. But the actions taken by U.S. law enforcement in connection with arms trafficking and the failed Fast and Furious operation are only partially responsible for the escalation of violence in Mexico. The real culprits are the Mexican and U.S. governments and their bilateral agreements concerning the war against drugs.

It’s long past time to look at the failures of the overall war and not just the debacles of particular battles.

- Tania Arroyo is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. 

Commentary originally published by the Institute for Policy Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Commentrary published and distributed by HUMNEWS represents the views of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of the board members or staff of HUMNEWS or of the HUMNEWS editors.

Wednesday
Aug172011

Legalising drugs a solution to the violence? (REPORT/VIDEO)

By Lucia Newman 

Almost five years ago, Mexicans watched their President Felipe Calderon send soldiers out onto the streets of cities like Ciudad Juarez, announcing an unprecedented frontal attack on the country’s drug cartels.

Then, they saw the death toll rise year by year, from around under 3,000 in 2007 to almost 20, 000 in 2010. This year could be even higher.

When I went to Cancun for the Climate Summit in late November, a taxi driver told me that the leve of violence was seriously disrupting the economy - especially tourism - and that he hoped the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) , which ruled Mexico for 70 years, would be brought back to power in the next presidential elections.

“Before, during the PRI governments , we didn’t have this problem with the drug traffickers . They minded their business and we minded ours. Why should we do the dirty work for the Americans, who are the ones who consume the drugs?“ the man asked point blank.

I was amazed that anyone could articulate what seemed like such a short-sighted point of view. Didn’t he realise that sooner or later the traffickers would become so powerful that they would become everyone’s problem in Mexico?

Eight months later, I find that it is not just the taxi driver who believes that it is time to go back to a policy of peaceful co-existence with the cartels, but also some politicians and opinion makers, including former Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who served under previous President Vicente Fox.

“Call off the war. Take the army back to the barracks and say enough of this business. Let’s concentrate our efforts, our army and navy on reducing violence against society, kidnapping, extortion, etc," he said.

"And frankly, let the cartels do pretty much what they want as long as they don’t get involved in these things. Now since we don’t want to encourage a culture of illegality, we’re going to try to begin the process of legalisation." 

What legalisation? I asked.

"In a perfect world, all drugs, all over, everywhere,” Castaneda told me.

Was he really proposing an accommodation with the cartels, I enquired.

“Isn’t that what the Americans are doing in Afghanistan with the poppy growers who are producing heroin? Nobody complains about that!”

Even Castaneda recognises that what he suggests is politically incorrect, but with drug trafficking violence getting worse, and the amount of drugs crossing the border into the United States undiminished, many Mexicans I talked to are demanding a Plan B, which some say should include less confrontation with the traffickers.

The Mayor of Ciudad Juarez, from the opposition PRI , supports Calderon’s policy and insists that the government must keep the pressure on.

But many people I spoke to - including a respected community leader, Protestant Pastor Alfonso Murguia, say that “it is time for the army to leave. They had already been corrupted by traffickers and they are committing abuses against the population. We need to do something else. “

Everyone agrees that if Mexico is serious about dealing with the cartels, it needs to dramatically reduce poverty , corruption and impunity, an elusive goal since independence.

And as long as millions of Mexicans cannot make a decent living legally, the cartels will always have an army of willing foot soldiers.

“So many young people tell me they would rather have a couple of good years on the street, than a lifetime on their knees living in poverty,” Pastor Murguia told me, shrugging his shoulders.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on August 17, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 

Monday
Aug152011

Drug gangs wage war for Acapulco (REPORT/VIDEO)

By Mariana Sanchez

It’s noon... and very busy under the scorching sun of Acapulco.

On one side of La Costera, the main road that runs along the coast, thousands of bathers are diving into the warm waters of this tourist city, once a paradise for honeymooners.

On the other side, the contrast couldn’t be more stark. A corner has been sealed off with red tape. Soldiers and police are waiting for a forensic team to pick up the body of a man lying on the ground, lifeless. Apparently, the man was a taxi driver killed by a drug gang.

We rushed to the scene. It happened just a few hours after landing in Acapulco. Local crime reporters have been incredibly busy. One killing is happening after another.

That’s exactly what I saw in the course of two hours.

Another alert. Ten minutes away, up the mountain through busy streets, a forensic team was picking up the remains of at least two dismembered bodies left on a corner, out in the open. The scenes were too horrible to describe.

Then another call came in. This time a young man who’d been in a phone booth had been shot dead.

This is what Acapulco has become by day and night.

These days members of the so-called Independent Cartel of Acapulco are fighting for control of territory.

I've travelled to Acapulco many times this year to cover the violence. But this time it seemed much more intense and out of control.

Violence begun spiralling in the port city when the top boss of a major drug cartel was killed by Mexican soldiers in December, 2009. Arturo Beltran Leyva’s drug organization divided. His brother Hector took over one faction and he fought Edgar Villareal known as “La Barbie”, who’d been a right hand man for Arturo Beltran.

When Villareal was caught one year ago, the fighting intensified again. Another boss, Moises Montero led an emerging powerful new group called the Independent Cartel of Acapulco. Two weeks ago he was captured.

“For days now, violence has erupted and all of us who are following the news know that this violence is in retaliation to Montero’s capture”, said Uriel Sanchez, a crime reporter covering Acapulco’s violence.

Mexico’s government strategy to target drug “capos” is having a multiplying effect. As bosses are captured or killed, drug organisations divide into smaller gangs, who are armed and with a thirst for power. They embark on a killing spree.

According Ramon Almonte, security chief of Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, the majority of violent attacks happen among rival gangs.

“I’m completely sure that the majority of the fallen is because of the decomposition of the criminal groups. That’s why I can say that 98 per cent of the dead in this wave of homicides are directly or indirectly involved in organised crime, and a very narrow number of victims are circumstantial of the situation,” he said.

The government contends the strategy is weakening the drug cartels. But on the ground the reality is that the violence is getting worse.

Acapulco’s level of violence is starting to look like that of Ciudad Juarez one year ago. Juarez is still considered Mexico’s most violent place, though the level of daily killings has now wound down in that northern border city.

Taking a stroll some blocks away from the crime scenes, Ricardo Gonzalez, a resident of Acapulco, says that life before was much better, although Acapulco has always had violence. Many like Gonzalez say they almost crave for the days when one sole kingpin was in charge.

“There were no territorial disputes, when there was one boss he had nobody to fight with, or it was between them. It was better having only one boss. The violence today is senseless.”

Originally published by Al Jazeera on August 15, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 

Saturday
Jul022011

Immigrants and 11 Latin America Nations Fight New US Immigration Laws (REPORT) 

Protestors hold signs and chant while marching to Georgia's state capitol Saturday. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) (Atlanta, Georgia, USA-HN, 7/2/11) – Today, thousands marched on the US state of Georgia’s Capitol in protest of House Bill 87 – an anti immigration bill which passed and was signed earlier this year - chanting cries of “Humans are not for sale” and “Justice for all”.  Protestors called upon US President Barack Obama to step in and do something to halt the stringent requirements.

In March of this year, after a moderate amount of debate in the state House of Georgia, the legislature passed a strict immigration bill that has sparked ire among 11 Latin American countries and various civil and human rights groups.

Following a similarly controversial step in the US states of Arizona, Utah and South Carolina, Georgia passed the law, known as House Bill 87, targeting illegal immigrants and those who harbor them in the state. It carried by a largely Republican party-line vote of 113-56 in the House; with a 37-19 vote in the Georgia State Senate. HB 87 is also called the `Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011'.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal went on to sign the bill, one of the nation’s toughest immigration enforcement measures in May, and both the Georgia law and the South Carolina law took effect July 1.  All of these laws have challenged the thorny debate over illegal immigration in the United States and triggered immediate court appeals.

Under Georgia’s sweeping HB 87, police will be empowered to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and Georgia employers will be required to check the status of potential workers by using the US Federal `E-Verify’ system before hiring. The measure also sets new regulations and penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants in the state. 

State lawmakers have cited passage of these bills as being necessary because they say “efforts to get comprehensive immigration legislation through the US Congress have failed”, complaining the federal government has not secured the nation's borders.

Immigration protestors want Justice for All on Saturday in Georgia (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) But federal judges in both Utah and Arizona have halted both of those states' laws amid complaints that they are unconstitutional. In Georgia last week, two of the more controversial provisions of the state’s new immigration enforcement law were blocked by US federal judge Thomas Thrash; but other provisions that were not overturned go into effect July 1. It is now a criminal offense to apply for a job with a false I.D. in Georgia, punishable by up to $250,000 in fines and 15 years in jail.

Aside from the 11 Latin American countries, the US Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several other civil and immigrant rights groups are party to the legal cases hoping to stop Georgia HB 87 from going forward.

The governments of Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru filed court papers stating that HB 87 is unconstitutional because there is already a federal immigration law on the books.

“HB 87 substantially and inappropriately burdens the consistent country to country relations between Mexico and the United States of America,” Mexico says in its brief in support of halting the law. It also claims the bill is “interfering with the strategic diplomatic interests of the two countries and encouraging an imminent threat of state-sanctioned bias or discrimination.”

In its defense, the state of Georgia has also filed court papers against the challenge to dismiss the lawsuits.

Even before the law in Georgia took effect yesterday, there were reports of immigrants, Hispanics and others who may be affected by the new law leaving the state to avoid detection or prosecution.

In a state – and indeed region where agriculture is one of the biggest industries for the South – the consequences include serious labor shortages with crops rotting in fields, and forcing farmers to raise prices to pay for new workers.

"When this all started in May there was big concern whether we would have enough labor to harvest the crops," Executive Director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Charles Hall, said.

Immigrant workers have been leaving the state since Georgia's bill passed. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) Judge Thrash’s ruling last week has stemmed the flow of people leaving for the time being. But many remain worried, and in recent days have taken to Georgia’s streets and called for a `Human Rights Summer’ in the state to stop the bill from fully coming into practice. Organizers plan to visit Latino communities throughout the state to educate people and organize mobilizations.

The two provisions halted by the judge would have resulted in police checking the immigrant status of anyone detained for traffic violations or some other crime and would have criminalized the harboring and transporting of undocumented immigrants.

Still in play and set to go into effect on January 1, 2012 are parts of the bill which will require employers with 500 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify system to determine job applicants’ legal status before hiring them. Federal law says that E-Verify can only be used for new employees; so many undocumented workers will be unaffected unless they lose their jobs.  That requirement will be phased in for all businesses with more than 10 employees by July 2013.  Also starting January 1, applicants for public benefits must provide at least one state or federally issued “secure and verifiable” document.

In South Carolina, a new illegal immigration enforcement unit has been established by that state’s law and the unit will coordinate between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

Critics of the bill cite both the need for migrant workers for food harvesting but also other economic issues as being impacted with the state’s decision.  Metro Atlanta school officials plan to closely monitor their enrollment figures over the summer.  The reason: many illegal immigrants could leave the state and pull their children out of public schools if opponents are unable to block the law in federal court. In Arizona, which passed a similar immigration law last year, hundreds of children left some of its schools after the bill passed. The state’s tourism business is also taking a hit too.

On Saturday immigrants and US citizens alike took to the streets of Atlanta (CREDIT J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) On Friday in Georgia, the day HB 87 took effect, a Latino community group called The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights organized a “day without immigrants” to protest the measure. It called for a day of non-compliance, asking businesses to close and community members to stay home and not work or shop. Accounts suggest that at least 125 Atlanta-area businesses closed to show their support Friday.

“We will mark our presence with our absence so that the state of Georgia takes note of the important role and contributions of Latinos in the state,” the group’s president, Teodoro Maus, said.

At Plaza Fiesta, a mall in Atlanta that caters to the growing immigrant population, many stores were closed, with signs in the windows expressing opposition to the law and saying they would be closed Friday in solidarity with the immigrant community. Many restaurants in the food court, however, were open.

The group is also trying to create shopping zones that are friendly to the immigrant community. After a business owner signs a “pledge of non-compliance” with the new law, they get a sign to put in their window that says “Immigrants Welcome Here, Georgia Buy Spot.”

Georgia’s Hispanic population has nearly doubled since 2000, to 865,689, or nearly 10 percent of the state’s population, according to 2010 US Census figures.

But the legal fight nationally is far from over. It could drag on for months and reach the chambers of the US Supreme Court before long.

----HUMNEWS staff

Wednesday
Feb162011

Pakistan Deadliest Country for Journalists in 2010 - CPJ (Report)

(HN, February 16, 2011) -- Amid a rash of suicide attacks, Pakistan became the world’s deadliest country for the press in 2010. Journalists covering street protests are increasingly becoming targets. Credit: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS

According to the annual report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Attacks on the Press 2010, at least eight journalists killed in connection with their work in Pakistan last year - constituting a significant portion of the worldwide death toll of 44.

The CPJ says Iraq, Mexico, Honduras, and Indonesia also ranked high for journalism-related fatalities. And for the first time, broadcast journalists accounted for the highest proportion of fatalities, overtaking their colleagues in print.

The worldwide toll reflected a notable drop from 2009, when a massacre in the Philippine province of Maguindanao drove the number of work-related deaths to a record 72. The CPJ is investigating 31 other deaths in 2010 to determine whether they were work-related.

Not surprisingly, Internet-based journalists constitute an increasing portion of CPJ’s death toll. At least six journalists who worked primarily online were killed in 2010, a CPJ analysis found.

Murder was the leading cause of work-related deaths in 2010, as it has been in past years. But murders composed about 60 percent of deaths in 2010, lower than the rate of 72 percent seen over the past two decades, the CPJ found.

Deaths in combat-related crossfire and in dangerous assignments such as street protests constituted a larger portion of the 2010 toll than usual, says the CPJ.

(With the ongoing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, street protests are likely to account for a higher proportion of deaths and injuries among journalists in 2011. Earlier this month, Egyptian journalist Ahmed Mahmoud, 36, of Al-Taawun newspaper died of his wounds, inflicted from gunfire while taking photographs of protests from his balcony. And only yesterday, the media community was shaken when CBS News reported that one of its star correspondents - Lara Logan of 60 Minutes - was beaten and sexually assaulted while covering protests in Cairo recently. Several other Egyptian and foreign journalists have been injured, detained and harassed in the past weeks of unrest in Egypt).

One of the most dangerous professions in the world

Suicide bombings and crossfire in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Somalia accounted for the unusually high proportion, the CPJ report says.

The only journalist to die in prison in 2010 was Cameroonian editor Germain Cyrille Ngota Ngota - who was jailed after he and other journalists asked a presidential aide about alleged misuse of state oil company funds. Cameroon will hold Presidential elections later this year in a race which is expected to be turbulent.

"There's a price to pay for speaking out," Al Jazeera anchor Riz Khan says in the forward to the report.

The CPJ reports that at least five journalists were reported missing during the year, three in Mexico and one apiece in Sri Lanka and Ukraine.

In the report, the CPJ also took aim at international institutions for failing to defend press freedom. It chides UNESCO for wanting to present a prize honoring one of Africa’s most notorious press freedom abusers - President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. It also cited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for awarding Kazakhstan, one of the region’s worst press freedom violators, chairmanship of the organization.

- HUMNEWS staff