Monthly Archives: July 2008

US Expands Sanctions Against MUgabe

The United States expanded its economic sanctions against the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in an effort to tighten the screws of outside pressure. President Bush made clear the determination of the United States to support aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe for their right to decide who is their president. Mugabe, after losing the March election for president, undertook a campaign of violence and murder in order to ensure victory in subsequent election. There are currently talks underway between Mugabe and his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, which supposedly are aimed at creating a new government which has shared power.

President Bush acknowledged the discussions which are being mediated by President Mbeki of South Africa. He said, “should ongoing talks n South Africa between Mugabe’s regime and he Movement of Democratic Change result in a new government that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people, the United States stands ready o provide a substantial assistance package.”

As an ongoing critic of George Bush, we admit this is one time he has taken a stand FOR democracy.

European Union Supports Zimbabwe Mediation

South Africa and the European Union concluded a landmark summit meeting in which the EU endorsed efforts by President Mbeki of South Africa to serve as a mediator in the difficult situation posed by chaos in Zimbabwe. Nicolas Sarkozy, whose nation holds the EU presidency offered strong support for mediation efforts admitting his fury at the brutality of President Mugabe made him unable to have any relations with such a tryant. The European Union has extended its economic sanctions against Zimbabwe but Sarkozy said it might be possible to rethink those actions if mediation results in ending the tyranny of Mugabe. South African President Mbeki, who has come under strong criticism on the part of democratic forces in Zimbabwe for his ongoing support for Mugabe, emphasized both major parties had to share power and violence had to end.

However, as the summit concluded, the Zimbabwe government issued an announcement that Mugabe’s controversial election as president was a “non-negotiable” issue. Of course, the key issue is that election was the result of fraud and violence and it must be negotiated if Zimbabweans are to have peace and freedom.

Want A Job–Check With Hamas!

A major goal of Israel’s blockade of Gaza has been to weaken the power of Hamas in the eyes of Palestinians. Ironically, the tighter and more extensive is the blockade, the greater the power and influence of Hamas among people in Gaza. The Hamas de factor government is one of the only employers in Gaza with a growing payroll in an economy which offers scant opportunities for employment to people. A new UN report shows more than 52% of
Gaza households have now plunged below the internationally-designated poverty line despite humanitarian assistance. Unemployment has now reached 45%. The UN Relief and Works Agency(UNRWA) noted 19% are living in poverty in the West Bank and in all Palestinian territory, the unemployment rate is 29%. The only increase in jobs in the Gaza Strip came from Hamas.

The report cites anecdotal evidence to reinforce the impact of the Israel blockade which has created unemployment and forced hundreds to seek employment in Hamas organizations including the militia. As an UNRWA official noted: “If you deprive young people of an economic future, you deprive them of hope and when hope vanishes, what is left? How better to prevent despair and economic misery taking hold of a whole population than to re-open Gaza’s borders?”

Immigrants To Denmark-Who Is Happy? Unhappy?

In 2001, a Conservative-Liberal government assumed power and promised the people of Denmark it would take action to reduce immigration.In 2001, the Immigration service issued 36,000 permanent and temporary residence permits, in 2007, it issued 58,000. In order to make it more difficult to obtain “family reunification residence permits,” age limits were established as well as more stringent rules to ensure immigrants would have greater ties to Denmark than to any other nation. It is now clear there are loop holes in immigration polices such as having foreign nationals study temporarily in Denmark.

Denmark is encountering dramatic increases in the number of immigrants who are entering with study and work permits from nations like Turkey, Pakistan and other areas which have strong contingents already established in Denmark. The push for immigrants comes from businessmen who need workers they just can not find in Denmark. Universities are anxious to increase enrollments and they are reaching out to other parts of the world for students.

The modern world of post industrial societies always shows the same pattern. Business simply can not obtain the needed workforce from existing communities and reaches out across national borders. The unasked question is what would happen if there was a dramatic economic collapse.

Former US Official Slams President Karzai

A former senior US official who worked on anti-drug programs in Afghanistan accused President Karzai of playing the US “like a fiddle” and protecting drug lords from being interfered with as they pursued their program of getting drugs out of the country. Thomas Schweich, who until June, was the US State Department co-ordinator for counter-narcotics, said the Afghan president was interfering with anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan. Schweich noted drug production has been soaring since the United States invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban who at that time were actively suppressing drugs. The American charged Karzai’s friends were involved in drugs. “Karzai had Talbian enemies who profited from drugs, but he had even more supporters who did,” claimed Schweich.

Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US National Security official for Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera, the US knew that government officials, including the minister of defense in 2002 were involved in drug trafficking. “When I worked on this issue at the White House in 2001 and 2002, we were made aware, very clearly aware, that the highest government officials, including the minister of defense at the time, were drug traffickers.”

Perhaps, it is time to change our attitude towards drugs and consider alternative approaches such as legalization of this product and placing it under some form of government monopoly. This would end the power of drug lords.

Geman Foreign Minister Checks Out Afghanistan

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a surprise visit to Afghanistan where he will spend four days examining the situation. The trip was made hours after he spent time with Senator Barack Obama discussing the topic of Afghanistan. The government of President Karzai has come under increasing criticism as the Taliban grows in strength, corruption is rampant, and the military appears uncertain how to deal with the Taliban. Both Obama and his opponent, John McCain have pledged to send additional troops to the beleaguered country. The German government is concerned it will be called upon to supply more troops and the foreign minister wants to find out if additional troops are the issue or does change require rethinking who leads Afghanistan.

Steinmeier is considering dispatching more troops but first he wants assurances President Karzi will deal with corruption and bring a greater sense of stability and vigor to the fight against the Taliban. A few years ago, Steinmeier referred to Kabul as a stable city, but this time he will be forced to ride in an armored car and even wear a bullet proof vest.

German politicians are confronted by the reality their nation does not want more troops in Afghanistan. Perhaps, it is time to rethink what is happening in Afghanistan and develop a new strategy that encompasses both economic and military reform.

Anglican Proposal For Holy Office To Decide

During the past few years the Church of England has been divided over issues such as allowing gays and females to become bishops with traditionalists threatening to leave the church and either create a new branch or become affiliated with the Catholic Church. The Windsor Continuation Group which analysis tensions within the communion, has proposed creating an Anglican version of the Catholic “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” which decides on faith issues and identifies examples of heresy. The document was critical of attitudes both of those supporting gays and female bishops and those opposed to that perspective. It has resulted in “fragmentation as well as to confusion among our ecumenical partners.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury indicated his support for such a body in his effort to reconcile warring factions of his church. “Thee is a strong feeling we need another structure that would be a clearing house for some of these issues…I’m actually quite enthusiastic about that.” The Archbishop made the normal comments one does when there is divisiveness by urging groups to work together.

One can only wonder if creating a central office which would wind up deciding what was faith would do to those finding themselves on the wrong side of such a body’s decision. The Archbishop of Canterbury should beware that many Catholics who fight for female and gay rights are not pleased by the Vatican Holy Office.

Hamas Divided By Internal Conflicts

One of the ongoing myths among most Western police and military organizations is their belief terrorist groups are composed of individuals who are united in hatred toward the United States or Israel. A perennial problem is our inability to grasp the nuances existing within terrorism and thus enhancing the power of these groups. Unknown assailants set off bombs early today in Gaza City outside a cafe that previously has been the scene of violence. The explosions were not caused by Israeli agents, but arose from internal disputes within Hamas. Gaza has been the scene of internal Palestinian violence, some of it carried out by fundamentalists who oppose what they see as signs of Western cultural encroachment. In recent years, unknown groups have firebombed internet cafes, music stores and Christian institutions. The bombings typically come late at night.

It is important for Israel and those who seek peace in the Middle East to acknowledge all organizations have internal disputes. There are people within Hamas or Hizbullah who most probably seek some sort of reconciliation with the West and want to end violence. It is important to reach out to these groups because they may well represent an important factor in achieving peace in the region.

Canadian Police Charged With Racism

The former police chief of the Mohawk Tyendinaga First Nation is taking the Ontario Provincial Police(OPP) to court on grounds he was fired from the OPP for speaking out against racism in policing. Larry Hay was fired earlier this year from the eight person force after telling the Belleville Loyalist College student newspaper the most Canadian police groups are riddled with racism. Hay had been a member of the RCMP for over 20 years. He also charged the OPP had ignored recommendations from the Ipperwash Inquiry which urged police to work more closely with members of the First Nations’ police groups in order to deal with possible issues of racism. The report cited “cultural insensitivity and racism was not restricted to a few ‘bad apples’ within the OPP but was more widespread.”

Hay pointed out the First Nations’ police had less power than other police groups nor do its police have the same rights in dealing with disciplinary actions. The OPP, as in most such cases, refused to comment about the charges on grounds reasons for his firing are in his personnel file and therefore can not be shared with the public.

Bangladesh Forced Marriage Halted

A British teenager has been rescued from a forced marriage to her Bangladeshi cousin due to intervention by a British diplomat. The 19 year old girl was traveling with her mother in Bangladesh in order to be forced to marry a cousin. Hours before the wedding was to take place, the girl telephoned the British consular office in Syihet and an embassy official shortly arrived with local police to halt the marriage. The girl was handed back to her mother on condition she would not be forced into any marriage. The British High Commission in Dhaka says it has assisted in preventing 56 such forced marriage in the past year.

The issue of forced marriages remains an interesting contrast in views regarding the meaning of family and the power of parents to make decisions regarding their children. Historically, parents arranged marriages but in the past century this cultural tradition has died out in most industrial and post industrial societies. The rights of women have become important and this incident is simply one more example of the clash of cultures that remains alive in many parts of the world.