Monday: March 2, 2015
When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open?
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
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)
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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An interview with IAEA’s assistant director general, by the Buenos Aires Herald's reporter Carolina Barros as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad facing new sanctions over his nation's suspect nuclear program, arrived in Venezuela on Sunday to meet with President Hugo Chavez. The trip will be five-days aimed at shoring up ties in Latin America and will also take him to Nicaragua where he’ll attend the inauguration of re-elected President Daniel Ortega, and on to Ecuador and Cuba.
Rafael Grossi is an Argentine career diplomat, who has specialized in nuclear issues since the 1980s. “Borrowed” from the Argentine Foreign Ministry, Grossi is Assistant Director General at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear agency reporting to the UN Security Council. He is also Chief of Cabinet for Yuyika Amano, IAEA’s Director General. Relaxed and self-assured, Grossi has deep knowledge of Iran’s nuclear development and facilities, which at the moment are in the spotlight for allegedly being expanded to nuclear weapons. While on a short visit to Buenos Aires, Grossi gave an exclusive interview to the Buenos Aires Herald and straightforwardly spoke about the current tensions generated by Iran in the Middle East and the Western world.
Q: How serious is the Iran situation?
Rafael Grossi: In the global context of nuclear weapons proliferation, Iran, when compared with Syria or North Korea, is the most urgent issue and of the most immediate concern. The fact that Tehran has an institutional relationship with the agency (IAEA), signed the Non-Proliferation Nuclear Treaty and stays within the international system in terms of non-proliferation rules is a very important issue. Independently, there are controversies in terms of the degree to which Iran complies with these norms.
Q: Iran insists that its nuclear programme does not have military designs. Is this true?
RG: In public statements, Iran has said and repeated that its nuclear programme is absolutely peaceful, and that it is willing to prove it is and keep its doors open to IAEA inspectors. This demonstrates the importance of our work, as we are the only international presence within Iran that is allowed to get inside nuclear installations. This must be kept and maintained, as a starting point. Beyond the inspections, Iran has not totally complied with the norms in terms of agreements regarding to safeguards, as well as the Additional Protocol, which it pledged to comply with but later decided not to. In other words, Iran has attempted to move forward in terms of transparency several times and later changed its mind.
Q: In November 2011, the IAEA released a strongly-worded document about Iran ’s nuclear development, which led to US sanctions and maybe later EU sanctions. Would this be an ultimatum for an Iran that could have already developed a nuclear weapon?
RG: In 2009, Western intelligence services revealed that uranium was being enriched in a facility in Qom to a greater degree than permitted. This led Iran to rapidly “recognize” the existence of these installations to the IAEA. The November 2011 document, on the other hand, is a list of possible military dimensions (PMD) in its programme. This has nothing to do with enrichment, heavy water, or what happens in known installations, where Iran is undergoing uranium enrichment activities that it should not be doing and which Security Council resolutions have called on the country to suspend (resolutions ignored by Iran until now). The problems revealed by the latest report focus on development and technology directly linked to nuclear weapons.
Q: Specifically, what sort of development is being discussed?
RG: Activities linked to the development of an explosive nuclear device. In the report we focus on the research and development of detonators, primers, the use of uranium in a metallic state, and the nuclear testing and technology. These are all aspects and activities that are solely linked to the development of nuclear weaponry devices.
Q: Is there time to interrupt this process? Are there actually more than three bombs under development, as is suspected?
RG: We are not saying that Iran has one, two or three nuclear devices: we are saying that Iran has, at different stages of development, technology that is directly linked to the development of a nuclear device. With this report, we have proved to the international community that the issue is not the “possible military dimensions within the Iranian nuclear programme,” as the agency has said up to now. The November report reveals the “list” of what we have been discussing up to now. It is a portion of the information that we have regarding 12 technological lines. We want to clarify what the Iran situation is but, as an agency, we cannot speculate about the real situation.
Q: Yourself and other IAEA directors are going to Iran at the end of the month. What are your expectations?
RG: Beyond grandiose statements, Iran has not shut down relations with the Agency. (After Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Minister, sent a document, Tehran accepted the continuation of dialogue.) On January 28, we will try to draft a road map to see how we tackle specific issues, including those related to the PMDs.
Q: If the Iranians scratch the PMDs off the list, will the IAEA withdraw from negotiations?
RG: We will continue to inspect the rest of the nuclear programmes. We will call the Board of Governors, who will take the issue to the Security Council. It would be very serious for Iran as, up until now, China and Russia have blocked sanctions on the grounds that Tehran is cooperating with the Agency. If the IAEA tells the world that “ Iran is not cooperating”, Russia and China will be left without justification for their support.
Q: Will Turkey become involved?
RG: Turkey failed in a 2010 attempt to mediate along with Brazil. Now the country is surely looking to ally with or protect Iran, in exchange for the latter’s renouncement of nuclear weapons. Turkey clearly is tired of the Europeans and has realized that it has a very important role in the region.
Q: What do you think of Ahmadinejad’s Latin America tour and Iran ’s proposal to export nuclear “know-how” to Africa ? Is this but one more challenge?
RG: More than a challenge, this is an attempt by Iran to expand its support base among developing countries, which is currently almost non-existent. Internationally, Tehran has not achieved, despite its efforts, to transform its case into a “North-South” issue, in which the developed North throttles the technological advances of a “southern” country.
----This interview originally ran in today’s Buenos Aires Herald newspaper.
(HN, October 29, 2011) – Ten days of heavy rains in Central America have caused the deaths of an estimated 123 persons; forced tens of thousands from their homes and destroyed crops, livelihoods and infrastructure in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
In El Salvador, 35 persons are reported dead and some 55,000 persons were evacuated from their homes and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has begun to deliver assistance and manage shelters in the flood zone. As part of the UN Flash Appeal for El Salvador, IOM is appealing for US$709,522, which includes US$ 288,997 from the CERF.
With funds from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), in El Salvador IOM will support the management of 42 temporary shelters currently housing 1,895 persons; that the shelters comply with safety and hygiene standards; provide basic materials to improve the shelters; and distribute non-food emergency items amongst most affected families.
"This week, all assessments were finished, and so with that concrete information in hand we can now begin the delivery of relief supplies and the rehabilitation of shelters", explains Jorge Sagastume, IOM Shelter and Emergency Coordinator in El Salvador, where the need is focused on urgent shelters and return kits for the families to rebuild their damaged homes.
"The rains have stopped, but the emergency continues," said Sagastume, head of the IOM eight-person assessment team which this week visited the departments of Ahuachapán, Sonsonate, La Libertad, Usulután, La Paz y San Miguel.
"Hundreds of persons have left the shelters, but have returned to communities that are still suffering from lack of clean water, proper hygiene, and bacterial infections, especially amongst the children," added Sagastume.
In Guatemala, where 39 people are reported dead and more than 500,000 have been affected, IOM is requesting US$ 442,417 from the CERF to repair and upgrade basic living and sanitary conditions in temporary shelters and provide non-food emergency assistance to some 2,000 families in the departments of Santa Rosa, Escuintla, Retalhuleu, Quetzaltenango, Jutiapa y San Marcos.
IOM's Sebastian Berkovich headed the three-person IOM team that this week visited seriously affected communities in the southern department of Santa Rosa. "We had relentless rains for more than a week; non-stop rain for more than seven days. During our trip to Santa Rosa we saw chunks of highway that had been washed away by the rains and entire communities isolated on the other side of the road," recounted Berkovich.
Marta Zamora, Nursing Assistant at the village of La Bomba health centre, told IOM, "The water has receded a bit, but access to the clinic is still very difficult. Fortunately one of our colleagues was able to go the nearest town and fetch medicine, so we have supplies. We're treating children with upper respiratory infections and many people with fungal infections."
At the peak of the rains and floods, the Nicaragua Government reported that 10,000 persons had been evacuated to emergency shelters. Although some 3,000 have returned home, IOM Nicaragua is working with its partners to rebuild and rehabilitate existing shelters, strengthen the capacity of shelter managers, distribute non-food items (house cleaning implements, kitchen kits, comfort kits, and hygiene kits) to the estimated 7,000 persons who remain homeless and in shelters. As part of the UN Flash Appeal, IOM Nicaragua is appealing for US$ 637,374.
This week, the IOM Nicaragua team visited the most affected departments of Estelí, Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Leon and Chinandega. The team worked hand-in-hand with IOM's local staff in Chinandega and Estelí, as well as with authorities and the NGO Shelter Box to assess the extent of damage to the homes, as well as the living conditions of those who took refuge in official shelters.
IOM Officer Daizen Oda reported heard from people whose homes completely collapsed or were washed away; others lamented that their home was missing the roof or a wall.
"Some shelters are filled with more than 200 people, including women and children. They told us that they had lost most of their belongings. IOM, working with its many partners, is ready to begin distributing non-food items to this population the moment funds become available," said Oda.
A woman from Villanueva, in the department of Chinandega, who was forced to seek refuge in a school told IOM: "It is not easy to live in a school with so many other people and with students coming in every day for their classes."
As the lead agency in charge of shelter, IOM Nicaragua will work with its partners to rebuild or rehabilitate existing shelters, strengthen the capacity of shelter managers, distribute non-food items (house cleaning implements, kitchen kits, comfort kits, and hygiene kits) to families in shelters; provide protection and psychosocial support to some 4,000 children and adolescents in shelters, and support the prevention of gender-based violence in shelters in Managua.
To carry out these activities in Nicaragua, and as part of the UN Flash Appeal, IOM is appealing for US$ 637,374. The approval of the UN's Flash Appeal for Nicaragua is expected today.
IOM is working with governments in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua and Honduras, as well as national and international partners, and is appealing for US$ 2,783,926 to provide emergency assistance to the affected communities.
In the past 40 years, the region has endured a multitude of natural disasters that have killed some 50,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
--HUMNEWS staff, IOM
(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
(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.
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.
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 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.
(HN, October 26, 2010) -- In an effort to check rising rural poverty and hunger in Nicaragua, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping the country’s government to support small-scale farmers boost their production of beans, maize, rice and other staple crops.
The agency said that there are 52.5 million hungry people in Latin America, citing high food prices and the global recession as among the main reasons for the region’s increasing food insecurity.
Although Nicaragua has made strides in the fight against hunger and poverty, it is still the second poorest country in the region after Haiti. In 2009 the GDP fell by almost 3% due to decreased export demand in the US and Central American markets, lower commodity prices for key agricultural exports, and lower remittance growth – remittances are equivalent to almost 15% of GDP.
In Nicaragua, poverty is a rural phenomenon, with two out of three people in the country-side living on less than $1 a day.
FAO is working with the Ministry of Agriculture and the European Union (EU) to help farmers’ associations increase their yields through a two-year, €3 million scheme which will, among other activities, focus on the delivery of high-quality seeds as well as the provision of technical support and marketing assistance
During the planting season which lasted from May to June, nearly 5,000 hectares of land were planted with improved bean, maize and rice seeds provided by FAO to more than 4,000 farmers.
No results are available yet, but looking back on the harvest of late last year, Leonard Fagot, the agency’s project coordinator, said he is optimistic. At the time, FAO assistance led to productivity increases of up to three times the national average in the central area of Jinotega.
Drought and pests hit the department of Nueva Guinea in south-eastern Nicaragua, and yields remained slightly under average. Nevertheless, Fagot is looking forward to the upcoming season. Many farmers will come and work with us again.
Related economic information
The US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has been in effect since April 2006 and has expanded export opportunities for many agricultural and manufactured goods. Textiles and apparel account for nearly 60% of Nicaragua's exports, but increases in the minimum wage during the ORTEGA administration will likely erode its comparative advantage in this industry. Nicaragua relies on international economic assistance to meet internal- and external-debt financing obligations. Foreign donors have curtailed this funding, however, in response to November 2008 electoral fraud. In early 2004, Nicaragua secured some $4.5 billion in foreign debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and in October 2007, the IMF approved a new poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) program.
- HUMNews Staff (sources: UN, FAO, IMF)