Monthly Archives: March 2010

Photo worth one thousand words


Πάρα πολύ ιδιαίτερη η σημερινή εικόνα… Ένα παιδί από το Αφγανιστάν σημαδεύει

με το ψεύτικο του όπλο τον φωτογράφο που αποθανατίζει τη στιγμή. Μαζί του και

οι φίλοι του. Ακόμα και αν συνηθίζεται τα αγοράκια μικρά να παίζουν με ψεύτικα όπλα,

η σημαιολογία της συγκεκριμένης

εικόνας είναι ιδιαίτερη. . .

Very special every day picture  . . . A child from Afghanistan aims with toy gun at

the photographer capturing the moment. The small boy’s friends are with him.

Still if the young boys continue to play with toy guns . . .

http://glenti.blogspot.com/2010/03/1000-300310.html#comment-form

Three dead in Washington shooting


posted by VSN

Wed, 31 Mar 2010 11:08:32 GMT

A mass drive-by shooting has killed three people and wounded six others in the US capital, US media report.

A gunman was “spraying [bullets] into a crowd” gathered outside an apartment block, The Washington Post quoted Police Chief Cathy Lanier as saying.

The shooting took place late Tuesday in one of Washington DC’s poor southeast neighborhoods.

No motive has been established for the attack.

Spokeswoman for Washington Hospital Center Carolyn Hammond said one victim died at the scene, one was dead on arrival at the hospital, and a third died in the operating room. She added that a fourth victim was in critical condition.

Police have arrested three people in connection with the attack. However, no charges have been filed yet.

Four police officers had been slightly injured in the subsequent car chase into neighboring Prince George’s County.

Washington’s NBC channel reported that an AK47-type weapon was thrown from a fleeing car as police cars, aided by a helicopter, pursued a van from the scene.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=122112&sectionid=3510203

Serbia apologizes for 1995 massacre of Muslims


127 from among some 173 Serbian lawmakers voted to a resolution that condemns the massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.
The Serbian parliament voted on Wednesday to apologize for the 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, but stopped short of labeling the killings as “genocide.”

The landmark resolution condemned the massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims and expressed regret for not doing enough to prevent the tragedy.

The endorsement of the declaration, with a majority of 127 from among some 173 lawmakers present, ends years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scope of the massacre at the end of the Balkan Wars.

“The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995, as determined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling,” the text of the declaration said.

The UN has accepted responsibility for its failure in protecting the enclave when Serbian troops overran the UN-protected Srebrenica. However, no UN official has so far been held responsible.
UN,
In its newly-endorsed declaration, the parliament also vowed to help with international efforts for the arrest of Ratko Mladic — the general in charge of Serb forces in Srebrenica and the UN war crimes court’s most wanted fugitive — so that he can be tried at the International Criminal Court.

Mladic is believed to be hiding in Serbia.

The apology comes at a time when Serbia continues its bid to become a member of the European Union and attract business investors.

Belgrade is expected to capture Mladic and send him to the war crimes tribunal before starting talks on its bid for EU membership.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=122083&sectionid=351020606

Gazans barely survive under Israeli siege: UNRWA chief


Sun, 28 Mar 2010 02:32:38 GMT
Andrew Whitley, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
The following is a rush transcript of Press TV’s interview with Andrew Whitley, director of the New York Representative Office of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). The interview was first broadcast on March 24 in Press TV’s Face to Face, hosted by Rhonda Pence.

Press TV: We are talking today about the status of refugees in Gaza. Thank you for joining me today. Recently, at a Brookings event, Congressman Keith Ellison – our first Muslim elected to Congress – was comparing a visit he had to Gaza, about a year ago, to coming back to Gaza now… he says he wishes the status of Gaza had remained the same. But he says that, unfortunately, things have deteriorated; Schools have not been rebuilt, there are not enough jobs to go around and people in Gaza are on the brink of starvation. Do you agree with his assessment that things have deteriorated that dramatically in the past year?

Andrew Andrew Whitley:Congressman Ellison is a wonderful advocate. He is a great speaker for the Muslim world, and a great advocate in the Congress for downtrodden people, particularly in Gaza, which he has really made his personal cause. I don’t say that it’s been a dramatic decline. Certainly, there has been a decline. Living standards continue to deteriorate. Nothing is static in this world after all, and, as the siege has not been lifted to any appreciable degree, you are still getting into Gaza perhaps 20 percent of the volume of goods that are required for daily subsistence of people. People are effectively living on a subsistence diet. The kind of food and other products that we can bring in provide the barest essentials for life. People have got their noses just above the waterline. But, in the meantime, what has happened is that those few small remaining businesses, which had provided some local employment, have virtually all collapsed, because there is no money in circulation. Poverty is deepening in Gaza every day. So, today we probably have 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line. People have survived until now through the tunnel economy, which certainly was bringing in some illicit goods – drugs, weapons. We know about that. But, most if it, it was a lifeline for people providing normal goods. It was a means of being able to keep some commerce going and being able to provide consumers with a few essentials certainly needed for ordinary life which were not coming through the largely closed Israeli crossings from Israel into the Gaza Strip. So, there is the problem of the tunnel economy which is being threatened now as a result of the construction of the wall that Egypt is putting on its side of the border…

Press TV: This is a 20-mile (32-km) steel wall…

Andrew Whitley: It is a huge wall. We don’t know the whole plans, but it is obviously a massive enterprise which is designed to interdict the tunnels that have been running. Perhaps several hundreds of them throughout the entire area, that have provided the basis for the economy. But, everything else has come virtually to a halt. Apart from the tunnel economy, you’ve got UNRWA which supports about 17,000 people directly. Over 100,000 people indirectly who are being supported by them. Plus the Palestinian Authority, which is paying for people to largely sit at home and not do their jobs, and then Hamas of course, which has had its own sources of money, which has been able to keep it. That is it; That is what people are living off. All the traditional ways that people used to live – on agriculture, on fishing – those all virtually have collapsed.

Press TV: So, are the agriculture and fishing industry damaged beyond repair? I mean, is this just gone?

Andrew Whitley: I wouldn’t say that it is damaged beyond repair. But, obviously the pollution that has been going into Gaza has severely damaged the water quality in the area and is damaging the fishing fleet. The main restrictions on fishing at the moment are those imposed by the Israelis, because they prevent the boats going out to sea in order to be able to catch the more lucrative fish which are a little bit further off shore. As far as agriculture is concerned; that is a long-term trend. Most of Gaza’s traditional agricultural lands have been built over. A lot of it has been destroyed in the repeated Israeli incursions that have been coming in as bulldozed ……….. the traditional date palms or orange groves or other normal crops that they had in the area. It is not completely destroyed, but just recently Hamas took a decision to ban farming in certain areas of Gaza, because they said that the land had been contaminated as a result of the toxic metals that were left behind after Israel’s operation a year ago. So, that was a further blow to people wanting to have a little bit of agriculture. People are just about surviving in Gaza today. Through ways that they hardly know how they are going to manage.

Press TV: So, they are hungry every day. Are the kids going to school?

Andrew Whitley: The kids are falling asleep in school, because they are not able to eat enough. They are not concentrating. There is serious and growing problem of malnutrition in Gaza, and that is going to have a long-term effect. We are already seeing the stunting of children. This is something that happens only after a few years of malnutrition. So, we are affecting a whole generation, which not only has no prospects in life, but is going to grow up weak and hungry and anemic and, unfortunately, ill equipped to be able to deal with normal life, if and when it returns.

Press TV: You mentioned that wall that is being constructed. Why is this wall being constructed and is it in compliance with international agreements?

Andrew Whitley: Well, one of the reasons that the wall is being constructed, and it is a perfectly legitimate one, is in compliance with resolution 1860 from the Security Council, which called for an end to arms smuggling into Gaza. One of the main routes – probably the main route – was through these underground tunnels that were coming through. And, the consequence of that is that it is going to further deepen the hardships, the deprivation, that the ordinary people are facing, if there is no comparable opening up of the crossings on the Israeli side. Because, clearly, there is no other way in which the population is going to survive. People have to remember that Gaza depends for 80-90 percent of its normal subsistence on imports and on exports. Most of that in the past used to come through Israel. Israel has closed that door, and attempted to throw away the key, allowing in only a very small quantity of goods, most of which comes in through the United Nations and most of which my agency is responsible for distributing.

Press TV: So, Israel stopped UNRWA from providing medicine, food and goods to the refugees?

Andrew Whitley: No, I would not go that far. We now have a fairly established régime with the Israelis, after some difficulties for some months, where, for month after month, we were not able to bring cash in for example. We couldn’t even pay our own staff. Which I thought was particularly unfair. When people do a month’s work, they are entitled to their wages which they depend on to support their families and their extended relatives who depend on them for income. Now that has eased, and we do at least have enough money to be able to pay our staff and to meet some of our social welfare obligations to people who have no means of support for themselves, who are registered refugees, who are unemployed and who are completely without any means of sustenance for themselves. And we are able to bring in most of the basic goods that we want, but there are many things in addition to the food commodities and medicines that we need. Spare parts for machines, for example. Light bulbs for our classrooms. Other essentials of life, which we have to negotiate on a case-by-case basis, sometimes for months, to be able to say, “are these things on a prohibited list or not?”. We assume that they are not dual-use items. They are the kinds of things which are the normal consumer goods. They are not going to have any negative consequences, if you bring in a truck-load of paper for textbooks for example, and yet we were not able after the war to print the right number of textbooks, because we did not have enough paper locally to be able to do it. So, three kids at a desk were sharing one book. That is no way for getting an education going.

Press TV: So, about 6 months ago, if this is the right timeframe, you were having difficulty getting medicine and food in, because of some restrictions from Israel, but things have lessened. Is it because of negotiations that UNRWA has been making with Israeli officials?

Andrew Whitley: Absolutely, and we do have at least a cooperative, cordial, working-level relationship to be able to explain what the basic essential goods are that we need to be able to bring in to the area. I mean, this is within a highly restricted environment. Let me not go too far and to suggest that somehow we approve of the overall restrictions, or the blockade. Absolutely not. But we do need, as we are dependent entirely on the cooperation of Israel, to bring these goods in to be able to negotiate with them to explain exactly what the purpose of the goods are. What we would like to have done, which we have not succeeded at all, is doing any reconstruction. We have got hundreds and hundreds of buildings of refugee shelters, our own schools, our own warehouse in Gaza which was destroyed exactly a year ago, and all the contents of it, which we are not able to rebuild, because we don’t have the structural steel, we don’t have the cement, we don’t have the building aggregate. So, important re-housing projects to at least give a normal life to people who have been living in truly miserable conditions for a long time, we weren’t able to finish off. We provided guarantees to Israelis that there was going to be no diversion of supplies; that the goods were going to go directly to where we wanted. We’d supervise them. We do direct implementation. It is not as if we are subcontracting to someone else. It is our engineers who oversee those sites. We import directly the goods ourselves, so that they are not going to get misused for concrete bunkers, by Hamas for example, for which is one of the arguments Israel makes. And, besides, if Hamas wants to build concrete bunkers, it can import the cement through the tunnels. So, they don’t need us to use it; that is a pretext. So, unfortunately, on many of the big things that we have wanted from Israel, we have not got it. We have got bare essentials.

Press TV: How is this going to affect the conditions in Gaza, long term?

Andrew Whitley: I don’t believe this is a permanent situation. I believe that Hamas is exerting its authority by showing a determination to say “we are here to stay. You can’t wish us away. You have to deal with us”. And, that is the message that is being sent to Fatah and to the outside world, saying “we need to be taken into account and we are a part of the eventual solution for the Palestinian issue”. Clearly, it is our view. It is a strong UN-held principle that there needs to be Palestinian reconciliation. There needs to be a unified Palestinian leadership, in order to be able to re-unify Gaza and the West Bank, which are increasingly drifting apart, in order to be able to ensure that the Palestinian national project of ending the occupation and building a state can finally be achieved. It will not happen, in our view, if Gaza remains under Hamas control and simply build up the West Bank under the PA (Palestinian Authority) control. Because, how is the PA going to be able to deliver on the people of Gaza when it has no presence there?

Press TV: We haven’t talked about the United States yet and, recently, at a panel discussion at Brookings – and you were on the panel – one of the experts was talking about how the Gazans expect the United States to step in, rebuild their homes, repair their sewage system. What is the United States doing?

Andrew Whitley: There is a touching faith in the power of the United States. There is a great belief, I think, that President Obama’s speech in Cairo inspired a large number of people to believe that there were going to be different policies. I think that people are willing to give [US special envoy to the Middle East] Senator Mitchell credit for the seriousness and determination with which he has approached his task. Obviously, they have not seen much by way of concrete results yet, but then perhaps they were expecting too much too soon. But they do recognize that the keys are in the United States’s hands, and that they expect that the Israeli government will listen to what Washington has to say. Obviously, that is not always exactly the case. The Israeli government has got its own views. It’s got its own perspective on what are its priorities and its policies. Prime Minister Netanyahu has at least committed himself to a two-state solution and to entering into negotiations. Those must happen. It remains everyone’s goal to eventually bring about the end of the occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. How do we get there, given these deep divisions which are being played upon by outside forces also, and that is a factor. The United States is by far the most important actor in this process, but there are a number of others, in the region and further afield, who have been playing a role – some of them constructively, some of them not so constructively.

Press TV: President Bush was criticized because he wasn’t involved enough in the Palestine-Israeli conflict and, as you said, President Obama did give an inspiring speech in Cairo. But that was about a year ago. Do you really see any progress since then? Because there are some Middle Eastern experts out there who say that the United States really hasn’t done enough.

Andrew Whitley: To be a UN official and to be a diplomat, you have to be a professional optimist. You have to – despite what looks like a temporary bleak or negative picture – try and look a little bit beyond that and you have to try to assume that hose who are involved in it – because they are serious people who do recognize the centrality of being able to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute, and specifically the Palestinian aspect of it, how central this is to the wider issue of the Muslim world. And, therefore, I give credit to President Obama and to Senator Mitchell for being determined to try to bring about a solution within a determined period of time. I think this point is very important, which is that this is not just about process, about an open-ended process that would drag on and drag on. Senator Mitchell has made clear in recent days, and I think we should take comfort from this, that he sees this as a two-year timeframe. In other words, he is saying to those people who might like to say, as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used to say, that we’d just kick the negotiations into the long grass and we’ll be able to just play out the flock. No, I think what they are saying is, “we are serious, gentlemen. We want a two-year timeframe and we believe you must do it within this period”. Setting a deadline, saying that you must move towards it, under certain preconditions that have to be met. Obviously, on the Palestinian side, the issue of the settlements in the West Bank is a very serious one, because those continue to expand and I think that the US administration was right to be able to make this an important issue. They didn’t get the results that they were hoping to, in terms of the commitment to be able to halt it and president Abbas is standing firm and insisting on this… What Senator Mitchell is clearly aiming at is to be able to, by hook or by crook, by some means, to be able to get the negotiations started again. To change the dynamics of where we are at the moment, where is one where there is an increasing pessimism and fatalism about where we are going.

Press TV: The question that is actually burning inside of me right now is that, do the refugees have two years?

Andrew Whitley: I must say that the capacity of Palestinians, their resilience, in the face of great and deep adversity, always makes me full of admiration. They are living in very difficult circumstances, in Gaza in particular. Yes, things are getting better generally on the West Bank. But, let’s not forget that there are approximately 600 checkpoints in the West Bank, which are restricting normal movement, normal commerce to be able to live free lives of free movement. Do they have two years? Yes, I think that they probably do. They have been enduring already over forty years of occupation since the 1967 war. We are talking about forty-three years now, and they probably could hang for a little bit more. But, people in Gaza are not just dependant on food. They need hope. They need concrete signs of things getting better for them. Young people in particular need to be offered something tangible, which is more than the very nihilistic environment they are living in these days. They need to be given some reason to think that their lives and their families’ lives are going to get better in a certain defined frame, and not to be treated as if they are simply playthings in a larger political game.

Press TV: I have heard a statistic recently that 70 percent of the population of Gazans is under 30. Is that correct?

Andrew Whitley: I think that is a very reasonable statistics. Certainly, over 60 percent of the population is under 25.

Press TV: And, what is the unemployment rate?

Andrew Whitley: The unemployment rate is off the scale. Frankly, it is very hard to come up with a realistic unemployment rate in a situation like Gaza today, because there are very few real sources of employment. You can’t measure it in an economy that is destroyed like that. The real question to ask is how many people are actually in regular employment, which is a tiny percentage. Probably only of the active, potential labor force – not those who have given up – because many people have given up looking for a job, or think that there is no prospect for them, perhaps only 20-25 percent of people are actually working in a normal, regular, productive fashion, and most of those are on the payroll of either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority or UNRWA.

Press TV: Do the rest just sit around?

Andrew Whitley: Yes…. They don’t have much to do.

Press TV: So, what are the prospects for young people growing up in Gaza today?

Andrew Whitley: We try to provide an alternative. I recognize that we can’t do everything. Our financial means and our capacity and our mandate are limited to the refugee population, although let’s remind listeners and viewers that the refugee population is 70 percent of the population of Gaza – 1.1 million out 1.5 million are registered refugees. For those young people, we have a summer games program that provides some fun, some normality of life to them. Some remedial education. Some connections to Gaza’s ancient culture. Looking at their archeology, for example. Something to be able to give them something better to hope for than the drabness and the dreariness and the tensions and conflicts at home and in the streets that they face every single day. But, this is only a sop. We need to be able to give people, not just education, but a sense of where that is going to lead to. It is not in UNRWA’s hands. We are a UN organization; that’s a developmental organization, that can only go so far. We can’t create private sector jobs out of nothing. We have a small micro-enterprise program which can help people to be able to set up some more jobs. We have a skills training program that is overwhelmed with demand for its vocational training centers. But, these meet perhaps 10 percent of the goals. Most young people unfortunately will drift into the underground tunnel economy and, tragically, large numbers of young teenagers have been killed in these dangerous conditions, burrowing under the ground in order to be able to complete a tunnel or bring goods through the tunnel, mostly because they are so unsafe. Or else, they will join one of the militia groups and think that they will earn at least some credit and some kudos, for some brave, perhaps futile, act of resistance.

Press TV: With these conditions remaining the way they are, doesn’t this really cause more insecurity and instability for Israel, for the United States, for the world?

Andrew Whitley: That certainly is our view. We certainly believe very strongly that the policies that have been applied to Gaza are counterproductive. That they lead to increased radicalization. That it simply creates a tinderbox on Israel’s border, which, ultimately, is not in Israel’s interest. Gaza can’t be wished away. It is not some offshore island that is going to disappear and go somewhere else. It’s part of the geography of the region, whether you like it or not and Egypt has made clear that it is not going to assume responsibility for this problem. The problem lies, ultimately, in reuniting Gaza with the West Bank and dealing with the Palestinian issue on its own land.

Press TV: Do you think Israel is going to budge? You said that have been in negotiation. Are you hearing any melting of that wall?

Andrew Whitley: Not much. Not much in the near future.

Press TV: What about the United States? What could the United States do right now to just get things moving?

Andrew Whitley: I hope that the prisoner exchange, which has been brewing for a long time, will actually change the dynamics. Will change the mood. Will remove the pretext for the maintenance of the blockade, at least of the severity that it is, and start to allow the traditional business elites in Gaza – the strongly entrepreneurial class – who want to be able to establish links with the outside world, including with Israeli businesses, to actually be in a position where they can start having some normal business life and social life and that education can be completed. All those young Gazans who would like to be able to complete their education abroad or in the West Bank universities have not been able to do so. We need to be able to give them a sense of perspective in their future. So, I’m hoping, and I think many of us do, that, the prisoner exchange, when it happens, will not be an end in itself, but that it will lead to a virtuous circle.

Press TV: We are almost out of time, but I have one last question. It appears to many that the United States lacks political will right now in this situation. Is that what you are seeing?

Andrew Whitley: I don’t think so. I mean I don’t think that we should underestimate the determination of the United States within a difficult political environment. They have to work within practical constraints and they know what the limits are to which they can push and the timing is very important also. At what stage do you decide that you do really use the levers, the ‘tools in your toolbox’ as they sometimes call it, in order to be able to put pressure on? So, I think that we should be a bit more patient.

Press TV: Right, we’ll have to be patient. Thank you very much, Mr. Whitley for joining us today on Face to Face.

Ghosts Threaten to Return to Haiti


By Nikhil Aziz, March 25, 2010

Some of the advice for how Haiti ought to rebuild after the earthquake sounds hauntingly familiar. There are echoes of the same bad development advice Haiti has received for decades, even before the nation faced its current devastating situation. To avoid repeating past failures, we would be wise to review how previous aid models led down the wrong path.

Twelve years ago, Grassroots International released a study entitled “Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy: USAID Policies in Haiti.” Offering an in-depth examination of USAID development policies in Haiti, the study concluded that official aid actually damaged the very aspects of Haitian society it was allegedly trying to fix. The aid was undermining democracy and creating too much dependency.

The study was particularly critical of the development community for making Haiti into a net food importer when it had been nearly self-sufficient and, in fact, a major rice producer. Despite, or because of, years of aid programs and structural adjustment policies imposed by international financial institutions and donor countries, the study found that Haiti’s food dependency was actually increasing. This disturbing result was partially caused by subsidized food aid programs that fed transnational agribusiness corporations but didn’t help Haitians grow food for their families.

Sadly, much of that 12-year-old study could have been written today.

Making Matters Worse

As recently as 2007, a USAID agronomist told Grassroots International that Haiti’s small farm sector simply had no future. This was a callous prognosis for the nation’s three million-plus small farmers (out of a population of 9 million). In a nutshell, USAID’s plan for Haiti and many other poor countries is to push farmers out of subsistence agriculture as quickly as possible. Farmers that might otherwise be supported to grow food are frequently engaged as laborers in work-for-food programs. Rather than pursue innovative programs to keep rural food markets local and support food sovereignty, misguided aid programs encourage farmers to grow higher-value export crops such as cashews, coffee, and, more recently, jatropha for agrofuels.

USAID policies seek to make optimum use of Haiti’s “comparative advantage” — namely, its abundant cheap labor — by funneling displaced farmers into low-wage assembly plants in the cities or near the border with the Dominican Republic, a strategy critically examined in the FPIF article Sweatshops Won’t Save Haiti. Among other consequences, this strategy is resulting in staggering levels of rural-to-urban migration, leading to dangerous overcrowding of Port-au-Prince. Passed by the U.S. Congress in 2006, programs such as the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) have lured transnational companies to Haiti with offers of no-tariff exports on textiles assembled in Haitian factories to capitalize on this pool of laborers.

Export-driven aid and development policies were a bad idea before the earthquake; they are a terrible idea now. Development agencies currently face a choice. In the name of rebuilding Haiti, will USAID and other large donor and aid agencies pursue this same formula over the coming years? Or will they take a different tack that puts Haiti’s vibrant network of civil society organizations at the center of rebuilding efforts?

Development Rut

The record of the last dozen years is not a pretty one. Food aid in Haiti rose steadily from 16,000 metric tons of imported rice in 1980 to more than 270,000 metric tons by 2004.  This 17-fold increase is one example of the shift from at least partial food self-reliance to almost total food dependency. The main cause of this shift was international development policies that emphasized free trade and export agriculture over food sovereignty.

The impact of misguided USAID and other development policies also produced significant rural-to-urban migration (nearly 4.5 percent annually), as displaced farmers flocked to the cities in search of work in the assembly plant/maquila sector. Despite the promises of the HOPE initiatives, unemployed farmers found far fewer jobs than imagined and at even lower wages than hoped. Worldwide competition for these assembly plants remains fierce, and many investors have found more attractive places than Haiti to set up shop. Casting further gloom on this sector is the current slowdown in the global economy. Fewer assembly plants may be necessary, and the destruction of Haiti’s infrastructure makes it unlikely that plants would relocate there.

In the period from 2003-2009, Haiti’s foreign debt rose from $1.2 to $1.5 billion. International lenders insisted on balancing budgets even if that meant cutting essential social services. During almost the same period, the United Nations stationed a force of 6,000-9,000 peacekeepers in Haiti known by its acronym, MINUSTAH. These peace-keepers have received mixed reports. Even before the earthquake many Haitians described their situation as a military occupation. The Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), a Grassroots International partner, has documented numerous human rights abuses by MINUSTAH personnel. A cautionary note about current militarized aid comes from wary Haitians quoted in the media: “We asked for 10,000 doctors and nurses; we got 10,000 soldiers.” Some post-earthquake development plans rely on continued foreign troop presence, raising concerns about ongoing dependency and social unrest.

Haiti’s ecology continues to deteriorate, demonstrated by the tremendous loss of life and soil in recent hurricanes. Forests barely cover 2 percent of Haitian territory. Between 1990 and 2000, the UNDP reports that natural forest cover declined by 50 percent. Misguided development policies and practices can turn natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes into humanitarian catastrophes. An already weakened government that had privatized everything from building roads to teaching children has found itself ill-equipped to emerge from natural shocks. Bad policies have also undermined the ability of Haitians to overcome the spike in food prices in 2008, when many hungry families rebelled. Policies advancing food sovereignty are few, although we note the Herculean work of many Haitian popular and nongovernmental organizations in strengthening the ability of Haitian small farmers to grow food for their families and local markets.

There are other hopeful signs. While many aspects of Haiti’s reality have stayed the same since Grassroots International published Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy in 1998, others have changed for the better. Some aid agencies, such as CARE, took to heart many of the findings in the study and altered the way they provide aid. For example, in 2007 CARE gave up $45 million in annual federal funding because, as it said, “American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but also may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.” Others expanded partnerships with Haitian social movements and utilized local expertise to inform their programs.

Holistic Alternatives

Camille Chalmers of Grassroots International’s partner, the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA), suggests concrete ways to turn around the appalling performance of international aid. Most fundamentally, instead of traditional agency-to-agency aid that turns Haitians into “aid recipients,” earthquake rebuilding needs to be a people-to-people effort that transforms Haitians into protagonists of their recovery.

Chalmers notes that this reconstruction can’t be conceived of as simply rebuilding damaged physical infrastructures. He suggests, for example, working holistically to overcome the 45 percent illiteracy rate through an effective and free public school system that respects the history, culture, and ecosystems of Haiti. A new public health system is essential to bring together modern and traditional medicine and offer quality, affordable primary services to all of the population.

Sustainable development is dead in the water without reversing the environmental crisis and replenishing Haiti’s depleted watersheds. Likewise, Haiti’s damaged soil is begging for models of agroecology and food sovereignty, based on comprehensive agrarian reforms that respect ecosystems, biodiversity, and the needs and culture of small farmers.

The reconstruction of a new capital city has to be based on a different logic. The Port-au-Prince that emerges from the ruins should feature public transportation, biodiverse public parks, urban agriculture, and popular arts. Such a humane and balanced urbanization should respect ordinary workers and vendors as true wealth creators,

And finally, recommends Chalmers, Haiti must once and for all cut its ties of dependency with Washington, the European Union, and others. Development policies based on the “Washington Consensus” ought to be abandoned, including militarized aid such as the MINUSTAH soldiers. True peacekeepers, in the form of people-to-people solidarity brigades, would instead be a great help.

A holistic rehabilitation and development plan of this nature will require much more than money. It would require a reversal of policies that run counter to healthy, sustainable development. The Haitian government should resist outside efforts to pry open the economy to imports and to balance Haiti’s budget by cutting health and education spending. In the agricultural sector, Haiti needs to emphasize environmentally friendly food sovereignty so that Haitian families can eat food they grow in fields that hold soil. A virtuous circle of support can allow both the governmental and non-governmental sectors to grow strong together.

Most importantly, this work must be led by Haitians themselves. To  keep the development industry honest and advocate for exactly this kind of long-term, holistic aid grassroots organizations must steer Haiti’s development agenda through the challenging decades ahead. Only then will Haiti fully escape its impoverishing dependency and build a strong democracy.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/ghosts_threaten_to_return_to_haiti

Greece thrown lifeline by Eurozone


Greece thrown lifeline by Eurozone

Alan Fisher in Brussels, AJE

Greece is given the support of Eurozone countries.  Prime Minister Papandreiou notes that this is not only a challenge for Greece but also a challenge for European Union to demonstrate its cohesion and ability to work problems out together.

OpEd from Alan Hart: Zionism’s Dark Forces Don’t Want the Lights On


By Alan Hart

March 22, 2010 “Information Clearing House” – – At the opening of AIPAC’s annual foreign policy conference its new president, Lee Rosenberg, was not a happy man. As he put it, “In recent days we have witnessed something (the Obama administration’s initial public anger with Netanyahu and his government) very unfortunate.”

The Biden “incident”, Rosenberg said, was “regrettable”, but Netanyahu had apologized “four separate times” and said “the announcement” (of more Jewish construction in occupied Arab East Jerusalem) was “hurtful and should not have been made.” Quite so, Mr. Rosenberg. It would have been much better from Zionism’s point of view if the announcement had not been made and Israel had just got on with the business of de-Arabizing East Jerusalem.

In any relationship even the best of friends were going to disagree, Rosenberg said, but it was “how friends disagree, how they react when missteps occur, that can determine the nature of the relationship.”

Then he made his three key points:

“Number one, the people of Israel and the democratically elected government of Israel passionately believe in peace. And Israel is committed to its alliance with America.

“Number two, the United States and Israel both have a responsibility to work with one another and achieve that peace. That is what allies do.

“And three, allies should work out their differences privately.”

That brought AIPAC’s new president one of three standing ovations.

Why should disagreements between American administrations and Israeli governments be kept from the public?

Rosenberg’s answer was: “History shows that when America pressures Israel publicly, it provides an opportunity for those who wish to derail the peace process to have their way.”

Ah, so it’s not Israel that is making peace impossible?

Rosenberg could not have been more explicit with AIPAC’s take on that aspect of the matter.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let us be clear, the reluctant partner in this peace process is not Israel’s elected leader Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Another standing ovation).

“The recalcitrant partner is the Palestinians and their leader – President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The Palestinians are bitterly divided between Hamas and Fatah – that is a problem. The failure of President Abbas to end his nay-saying and come to the table for direct talks which Prime Minister Netanyahu has been committed to from the start – that is a problem. The failure of the Arab world to begin normalizing its relationships with Israel – that is a problem.

“Israel is not the problem. Israel is America’s partner. (The third standing ovation).

When I was a child my father often said to me, “Boy, there are none so blind as those who don’t want to see.”

But blind though AIPAC is for that reason, it’s not completely out of touch with reality. It knows that the more Zionism’s on-going colonisation is exposed to the light, the more the world understands that Israel is the obstacle to peace. (The world now includes some of the U.S.’s top military men who are going on the public record with their view that support for Israel right or wrong is not in the best interests of America).

If you are a Zionist, the case for keeping the lights off is a very strong one.

At the time of writing, I’m waiting, as no doubt many others are, to see if President Obama returns to his surrender mode when he meets with Netanyahu tomorrow.

Alan Hart has been engaged with events in the Middle East and their global consequences and terrifying implications – the possibility of a Clash of Civilisations, Judeo-Christian v Islamic, and, along the way, another great turning against the Jews – for nearly 40 years.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25048.htm

What economic crisis? Greece focuses on porn movie by pop star Julia Alexandratou.


By Iason Athanasiadis — Special to GlobalPost

Published: March 19, 2010 06:31 ET
Greek porn sensation Julia Alexandratou at a nightspot in Athens, March 2010. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)

ATHENS, Greece — A peroxided blonde mounted on high heels stalks into an uptown bar in northern Athens, turning every customer’s head.

Swathed in a leopard-print fur, she is instantly recognizable as Greece’s scandalous new “it girl.”

Julia Alexandratou, a 23-year-old minor Greek-British celebrity, attained Paris Hilton-esque infamy overnight when a controversial porn film starring her went on sale across Greece this month.

In the bar, she sat down with me. Beside her was her ever-present, chain-smoking metrosexual manager, Menior Fourthiotis. Alexandratou had agreed to give her first interview since triggering a nationwide sensation with her porn performance. All eyes in the bar were on our table.

The controversy even reached the hallowed debating chamber of the Greek Parliament when far-right wing politician George Karatzaferis pointed out that “3,500 people came out to protest the harsh and cruel measures of the prime minister while 150,000 sped to buy the DVD of Julia Alexandratou.”

The publicity-hungry starlet has titillated the nation’s males for years with provocative appearances in fashionable nightspots and naked photo shoots for Greek magazines.
Her anthemic 2007 single, “The Target is Cash,” defined gold-digging during the freespending, credit-fuelled first decade of the 21st century. It features her writhing over an overweight, cigar-puffing man against a succession of exotic backdrops.

Sitting with Alexandratou is an unsettling experience. Her seemingly airbrushed face is sprinkled with glitter, frizzled blonde hair hangs over high cheekbones, framing vacant green eyes and supersized lips. Her leopard-print coat does little to hide her curves.

When I photograph her, she picks up a chess piece from the table, turns it over in her hands then nuzzles it against her lips. All the while she eyes the lens with the hollow seductiveness of a professional poser. I resist the temptation to suggest a game of chess.

Alexandratou’s video was released around the same time that Prime Minister George Papandreou announced harsh new measures aimed at cutting back on state expenditures. Some Greeks are divining a conspiracy aimed at distracting the people from the country’s financial woes.

“Can it be a coincidence that this film was released on the same day as the most important policy speech of our financial holocaust so far?” asked Savvas Karavidas, an unemployed engineer who started driving a taxi a month ago to make ends meet.

At times Alexandratou plays up her notoriety. “It wasn’t just the bedroom, it was the bathroom, the living room, the floor,” she was reported telling the Greek media about the locations of her acting debut.

But then a penitent Alexandratou issued a statement requesting that the Greek media “desist from reproducing science fiction scenarios around my stolen private moments that were partly shot with my knowledge but circulated without it.”

Plagued by allegations of substance abuse and extensive plastic surgery, Alexandratou seems more tragic personae than diva. Her naked shenanigans captured the national

imagination by breaking a long-standing taboo in which mainstream celebrities would balk at performing in anything spicier than a Penthouse centerfold. In a belt-tightening era for Greeks, Alexandratou single-handedly created a mini consumer boom as stocks of her porn flick sold out.

“Despite her youth, Miss Alexandratou plays an entire society on her dextrous fingers,” noted the venerable To Vima newspaper, in a reference to the star’s sexual manipulation of a champagne bottle, one of the video’s most notable moments.

Suddenly our interview is interrupted as television lights flood the scene. A camera crew from Star TV, a Greek celebrity channel, has been tipped off by Alexandratou’s manager that “foreign journalists” have traveled to Greece to do a cover story about her. When they discover I am Greek and am not planning a cover story, they are livid with Fourthiotis, describing him as a “nothing.”

Alexandratou is still being watched by the entire room, but she appears to inhabit another sphere. Glued to her mobile phone, she ignores everyone, even me when I ask her questions. Her answers are slow in coming but, when they do, they seem guileless.

In the 30-minute video, Alexandratou pairs up with an anonymous priapic male torso, variously said to belong to a French boyfriend or a Paris-based porn star.

“I met a French guy without knowing who he really is and we met at a club and went out to eat a few times,” said Alexandratou. “We had a nice time together and of course we ended up in a hotel,” she added laughing, then said coyly, “I can’t say anything else, you understand, aside from that we decided to video it.”

“You’re saying too much,” interjected manager Fourthiotis, removing the microphone and taking over.
 “My lawyer is the largest and best in Greece and knows very well the moves needed to be taken to recover the injury done to my reputation,” he continued, cutting off Alexandratou. “The people are supporting me, they love me, and they are always next to me.”

Later Alexandratou said, “I never thought that this guy would put out all his personal things to earn money. He took advantage of the situation. I tried to find him but failed.”

Alexandratou has continued exhibiting her talent for self-promotion. Just as her story was disappearing from the front pages, her manager announced that she will be wedding a mystery businessman who “loves, respects and has supported her.” The groom’s identity? It won’t be revealed until the carefully selected guests are standing inside the church on the day of the wedding.

As our interview comes to an end, Alexandratou lifts her head from the screen of her phone to deny the rumor that there is a sequel in the works.

“I’ve learned my lesson and won’t do it again,” she said, and let out a short toneless chuckle.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/greece/100313/julia-alexandratou-sex-tape?page=0,0

Analysis: Pakistan tells the USA, that it is time to pay up.


Pakistan is likely to bring a laundry list of demands to talks with the US today, as the two sides reassess their frayed relationship.

By Nicolas Brulliard – GlobalPost

Published: March 24, 2010 06:48 ET
Pakistani supporters of hardline pro-Taliban party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Nazaryati torch a U.S. flag in Quetta on Feb. 4, 2010, to protest a U.S. court verdict against Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, found guilty in the United States of trying to kill a U.S. serviceman. (Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — When Pakistani officials sit down with their American counterparts for a round of high-level talks in Washington today, they’ll be a demanding bunch.

They’ll say that their armed forces have paid a heavy price to fight what many here see as America’s war, and they’ll argue that their country continues to bear the brunt of the war on terror with bomb blasts claiming the lives of Pakistanis nearly every week.

“We have already done too much,” Foreign Minister Shah here last week. “Pakistan has done its bit, we have delivered; now it’s your turn. Start delivering.”

The United States government has already taken steps to address Pakistan’s grievances. U.S. officials have markedly increased the frequency of their visits to Islamabad in recent months, and America is helping fund the country’s recent military offensives. In addition, Congress has passed legislation that provides for $7.5 billion of economic and development assistance to Pakistan over a five-year period.

Despite all these gestures of goodwill, deep mistrust subsists between the two strategic allies. Pakistan remembers that Americans were quick to leave the region once their objectives were attained at the end of the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the widely held view is that the same will happen when American troops depart from Pakistan’s neighbor.

U.S. efforts to improve its image have often turned into public-relations disasters, and anti-Americanism seems to be on the rise among the general Pakistani population.

“Ultimately, they want to change the tone of this relationship,” said Moeed Yusuf, South Asia adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “This is a realization on both sides that the relationship has failed to deliver.”

Qureshi, who will officially lead Pakistan’s delegation, intends to bring an exhaustive list of demands when he meets with his counterpart Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today. He has identified no less than 10 “sectoral engagements” that go much beyond military cooperation and include everything from energy and education to health and agriculture.

Pakistan, a country of 175 million people — half of them illiterate — with an economy crippled by corruption and chronic power outages, has proved particularly fertile ground for fundamentalist ideologies and militant groups.

As a result, U.S. officials have increasingly emphasized economic development as a key component of their relationship with Pakistan, and the $7.5 billion aid package passed by Congress late last year was meant as a substantial move in that direction.

But the Kerry-Lugar bill, as the piece of legislation is known here, is a symbol of the dangers the United States faces when trying to woo the country’s population.

Instead of focusing on the bill’s potential benefits to Pakistan, local politicians and media preferred to turn their attention to the conditions of good governance the bill carried and labeled them as yet another infringement on Pakistan’s sovereignty.

More recently, a U.S. tour of Pakistani legislators also turned into a PR fiasco when the tour members suddenly decided to return to Pakistan after experiencing what they saw as excessively intrusive body screening at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Airport.

Perceived American favoritism in favor of India, Pakistan’s historical enemy, has also proved to be a major stumbling block in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

“Washington’s heavy tilt in favor of India and its helplessness in nudging India to seriously address Kashmir and other issues is another source of friction,” wrote Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general, in The News, a local newspaper. “Pakistan also cannot kowtow America’s Afghanistan policy either unless it takes into account Pakistan’s security and strategic concerns.”

Pakistan has always sought to ensure a friendly Afghan regime would allow it to focus the bulk of its military might on its eastern border. The involvement of India in the training of Afghan armed forces is therefore seen as a strategic menace to Pakistan’s interests, said Imtiaz Gul, the executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank.

“We do not want an army operating in our backyard … that has been trained by our archrival,” he said.

Gul said a recalibration of the U.S.-India relationship that would take into account Pakistan’s interests would go a long way toward mending fences between America and Pakistan.

He said the upcoming talks between the United States and Pakistan are unlikely to yield guarantees besides agreements related to the energy sector. Nonetheless, he said he views the intensification of the dialogue between the two countries as a major opportunity.

“I think they’re developing into a much more positive relationship,” Gul said. “Pakistan stands a very good chance to benefit from it.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/pakistan/100323/pakistan-us-talks?page=0,0

“hayethim I am just nothing …” Celebrating Dassehra


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Have you found yet this great blog from a young man in Pakistan? Let’s show we are friends – not enemies -visit him at http://hayethim.blogspot.com to get to know his world.

Dassehra was celebrated with great pomp and show, epitomising the victory of Good over Evil. Effigies of demon king Ravan, his brother Kumbhkaran and son Meghnad waited to meet their nemesis.
Demons could be seen across the country’s capital. Many people burnt their inner evils alongwith the effigies. There were, however, few exceptions.
In the Ramayan-reversal of sort, Ravana was the first one to go- apparaently by mistake. Asardar Sonia Gandhi was here with Sardar Manmohan Singh. With the spectre of elections looming large on Haryanvi and Maharashtrian horizons, the duo must have thought to uproot their biggest enemy first- the way Ravana went up in flames first.

Kumbhkaran ate flames and slept- forever.

Meghnad followed his father and uncle. The crowd cheered.
In another Ramlilla, just a few days before the third anniversary of complete ban on child labour, these kids could be seen making human chain, protecting any intrusion or suspicious people.
The kid in blue, guard-like uniform is not participating in any fancy dress competition as I first thought seeing him. When I spoke to him, I got to know he has never been to school and has seen very little of Ramlilla performance as most of the time his back is turned towards the stage. Reminds me of a story, masons build our big houses but themselves live in shanties.

Dilli 6 looked nice, even as Allah and Ramleela coexisted.
Ram must have smiled as the exile he started on December 6, ended in Delhi 6.
Happy Dassehra to you all.

Posted by Hayethim at 3:18 AM

http://hayethim.blogspot.com/2009/09/dassehra.html