Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

U.S. immigrant population dips in recession

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By Tim Gaynor

The foreign born population in the United States dipped slightly last year for the first time in more than a generation, as this nation of immigrants weathered its worst recession in decades, figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week indicated.

The Bureau’s American Community Survey showed the total foreign-born population dipped by around 99,000 people to 37.9 million in 2008, as the U.S. sank into its most extended recession since the Great Depression. It was the first recorded decline since 1970.

The Census Bureau cautioned that the dip in the foreign born, to 12.5 percent of the population in 2008 from 12.6 percent in 2007, was well within the margin of error, although analysts found it nevertheless suggestive.

“It’s a modest decline when you’re looking at the overall size of the foreign born population of about 38 million ….  but that said, it is the first time that there has been one,” said Michelle Mittelstadt, of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

In search of Russia

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President Dmitry Medvedev’s conference on the modern state and global security this week was an object lesson in efficiency and organisation. Four hours north east of Moscow in the ancient city of Yaroslavl, security was tight but not overbearing, hundreds of Moscow and Saint Petersburg students guided guests to their hotels and waited tables with exquisite fish, caviar, pastries, vegetables and fruit in a marquee beside the conference hall.

Russia was showing the face of a modern state with a global role.

Escaping the speeches for a view of Yaroslavl’s medieval Kremlin and onion-domed churches and monasteries, a few of us set off down the road from the conference centre in search of a taxi to drive us into town. The modern conference grounds quickly gave way to small wooden kiosks selling ‘products’, ‘vegetables’ – no brand names here.

Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, the world’s most violent city?

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By Julian CardonaCiudad Juarez, a Mexican town on the U.S. border where daylight murders and beheaded bodies have become the norm, could be the world’s most violent city.

With 130 murders for every 100,000 residents per year on average last year, the city of 1.6 million people is more violent than the Venezuelan capital Caracas, the U.S. city of New Orleans and Colombia’s Medellin. That is according to a study by the Mexican non-profit Citizen Council for Public Security and Justice, which presented its report to Mexico’s security minister at a conference this week.

The fight between rival drug cartels over Ciudad Juarez’s local drug market and smuggling routes into the United States broke out at the start of last year and continues to intensify.Reliable global crime statistics are hard to pin down and a study last year by Foreign Policy Magazine placed Caracas as the world’s top murder capital, also with 130 murders per 100,000 residents. (The Mexican study disputes that and puts the Caracas figure at 96).But Ciudad Juarez’s rising murder rate, currently at about 250 per month, appears to put it well ahead of other notorious world crime capitals such as South Africa’s Cape Town, Moscow, Baghdad, and Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, according to the Mexican and Foreign Policy studies.In fact, in Ciudad Juarez during the first day of the conference where the Mexican study was presented, eight people were murdered in the city’s streets, including a prosecutor, a lawyer, two policewomen, a clown performer and a gardener.Ciudad Juarez, a manufacturing city across from El Paso, Texas, already has a stained history with the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women in the 1990s.Perhaps most worryingly is not that 10,000 troops and elite police stationed there have failed to stop the drug violence, but that local officials say they have everything under control.Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz says the city’s fight against drug violence is “a successful process that the world can learn from.” Chihuahua state Governor Jose Reyes Baez, who has long bemoaned the media focus on drug violence in Ciudad Juarez, says that troops can gradually leave as newly-trained police take over. The army denies any scaling back in its deployment.

Iraqi faith in future of country blown away in seconds

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By Aws Qusay and Aseel Kami
Just the other day, a friend was complaining about the Iraqi army checkpoints all over Baghdad. “These checkpoints kill all the fun when I go out on a picnic with my family,” he moaned.
The next day, his wife found herself sitting among bleeding and dying colleagues at the Iraqi foreign ministry after a massive truckbomb devastated the facade of the building and cut down dozens of people in a cloud of shattered glass.

“It was judgment day,” his wife said about the scene. “Some people had lost their eyes. Everyone was crying or slaughtered by the flying glass,” she said.

Arizona marijuana seizures hit all-time high

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Large marijuana seizures are frequent in the sweltering Arizona deserts that straddle the superhighway for people smuggling from Mexico — although this year they are breaking all records. Last month the Tucson sector of the U.S. Border Patrol announced that agents had seized more than 500 tons of marijuana smuggled up from Mexico since October, a leap of about 40 percent over the same period last year.Border Patrol spokesman Mike Scioli says seizures of marijuana – which is grown in Mexico by the country’s powerful drug cartels, and forms the backbone of their profits — have become more frequent as security along the border tightens, with more agents and infrastructure, including miles of vehicle and pedestrian fencing.“Smugglers used to just drive vehicles over the border, now that the fence is in place, that’s prohibited them from doing that,” Scioli said of the barriers, part of 670 miles (1,080 kms) of fencing under construction border wide that block or snag trucks crossing north. “They’ve had to change and do things differently.”Scioli said agents are seizing more marijuana walked north over the searing deserts by smugglers carrying it in backpacks, as well as bundles attached to ultralight aircraft and flown below radar surveillance — which have appeared in recent months in Arizona.Federal border police have also found at least 16 clandestine drug tunnels punched beneath the border city of Nogales, Arizona, since October, which investigators say were used by affiliates of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel in a bid to avoid beefed up security at the ports of entry.The spike in seizures comes as both U.S. and Mexican authorities battle Mexico’s powerful cartels, which have killed more than 13,000 people since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.President Barack Obama will fly to the western Mexican city of Guadalajara for his first North American leaders’ summit with Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday, at which the current state of the war to crush the traffickers will be high on the agenda. Meanwhile, U.S. federal police say stepped up enforcement is hurting the drug gangs.“They are finding more resistance from both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement,” said Ramona Sanchez, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Phoenix division. “Nowadays the stakes are too high, nowadays they cannot afford to lose a load” of narcotics.But while authorities make security gains, the multi-ton quantities of marijuana seized by border police in Arizona are but a tiny fraction of the total grown by Mexican cartels and smuggled north to meet the demands of an estimated 25 million Americans who smoke the drug.A recent drug threat assessment published by the U.S. government’s National Drug Intelligence Center pegged Mexican marijuana production at a massive 15,500 tons in 2007, the most recent year on record.Furthermore, it noted that the powerful cartels have moved much of their drug-farming operations to remote areas of the Western Sierra Madre Mountains, away from the Pacific coast states of Guerrero, Michoacan, and Nayarit, which had been the heart of eradication programs.The report also highlighted the resilient cartels’ savvy in relocating production, which also sought ”to reduce transportation costs to the southwest border and gain more direct access to drug markets in the United States.”For more Reuters coverage of the drug war click here.(Photos: Reuters and U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

U.S. border agents under fire as Mexican smugglers fight back

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Gunmen shot and killed U.S. Border Patrol agent Robert Rosas in California near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on July 23, the first such fatal shooting in more than a decade. In rugged desert where people smugglers and drug traffickers roam, Rosas was tracking a suspicious group of people near the rural town of Campo, about 60 miles (97 kms) east of San Diego.

After radioing for backup, he got out of his vehicle and started to follow members of the group as it split up. He was attacked, robbed of his weapon and shot several times in the head and abdomen.

Saviors or conquerors? UN mulls “responsibility to protect”

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By Patrick Worsnip
    
What’s more important — the right of a sovereign state to manage its affairs free of outside interference or the duty of the international community to intervene when massive human rights violations are being committed in a country?
 
The United Nations — nothing if not a talking shop — has been debating that question this week in the General Assembly. It goes to the heart of what the U.N. is all about.
 
At issue is a declaration issued four years ago by a summit of more than 150 world leaders asserting the “responsibility to protect” — R2P in U.N. jargon — populations threatened with genocide or other mass atrocities. It was a somewhat belated response to widespread criticism of the United Nations for failing to stop massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.
    
The carefully crafted declaration said the responsibility began with the government of the country concerned. If that failed, it foresaw a sliding scale of international action, ranging from advice through mediation to — in a last resort — intervention by force. And such a use of force could only be authorized by the Security Council, meaning the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China would all have to agree.
 
Cautious as it was, the summit document was seen by many advocacy groups as a step on the road to fulfilling their dream that if a government was committing atrocities against its people, the United Nations would march in and stop it.
 
In the real world, U.N. officials say, that is not going to happen, at least under the peacekeeping rules that have applied in recent decades. These do not authorize U.N. forces to go to war against the national army of a sovereign state — a move that would amount to invasion. Witness the six-year-old conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur — branded by some as genocide — where a U.N./African Union peacekeeping force is only now being slowly deployed with the consent of the Khartoum government. The only time that R2P has been invoked in practice — and even then retrospectively — was in former U.N. secretary-General Kofi Annan’s mission to mediate in post-election violence in Kenya last year, U.N. officials say.
 
This week’s debate was to take stock of R2P and discuss how to take it forward, although no immediate action is expected. It came against the background of a determined attempt by radicals led by General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, a former Nicaraguan Sandinista government minister, to kick the issue into the long grass.


For D’Escoto and those who agree with him, R2P is code for an attempt by big Western powers to impose their will on the weak. In a contentious “concept note” issued to all U.N. members he declared that “colonialism and interventionism used ‘responsibility to protect’ arguments.” One member of a panel of experts D’Escoto convened to launch the debate, U.S. academic Noam Chomsky, said R2P-type arguments had been used to justify Japan’s 1931 invasion of Manchuria and Nazi Germany’s pre-World War Two move into Czechoslovakia.
 
While some radical states, such as Venezuela, echoed D’Escoto’s line in the assembly debate, human rights groups expressed relief that most cautiously supported a strictly defined interpretation of R2P and backed proposals by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for developing it. Ban has proposed periodic reviews of how countries have implemented R2P and regular reports by himself on the issue. “To those that argued this week that the U.N. was not ready to make a reality of the commitment to end mass atrocities, the majority of the General Assembly gave its answer: you are wrong,” said Monica  Serrano of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Despite that, there have been clear signs of concern among developing countries that unless tightly controlled, R2P could be used in support of future Iraq-style invasions of countries that have angered the big powers.
 
What’s your view?

from Africa News blog:

Overdose of trouble in West Africa

That political stability is vital for investment and development goes without saying, but it seems as though too much instability can be bad for criminal enterprises too.

The cocaine cartels that used West Africa, and Guinea-Bissau in particular, as a conduit to Europe were long accused of worsening the chaos in one of the region’s poorest and most troubled states by buying off some factions of the security forces and political leaders.

Should Europe help Obama out over Guantanamo?

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 Barely noticed, the United States sent a top diplomat to  Europe this week to seek help on an important commitment by President Barack Obama — to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
   
The trip by veteran envoy Dan Fried to Brussels and Prague is part of efforts to persuade European states to take in some of the 241 remaining detainees at the prison, synonomous for many with rights abuses in the “war on terror” under U.S. President George W. Bush.
   
Europe has long called for the jail to be shut down, but only a few countries — such as France, Portugal and Albania — have  volunteered to resettle any inmates from third countries such as Afghanistan or China.
   
 Time is steadily running out if Obama is to achieve his goal of clearing and closing the prison by next January.  A perceived  lack of European help could sour the much-vaunted new start in transatlantic ties which both sides say they want.
  
But many European officials are asking why they should help the United States out of a hole it dug itself into.
   
The main problem does not involve the small number of  so-called high-value  terror suspects in the camp — they will remain in detention and Washington does not seriously expect anyone to come forward and take them off its hands.
   
Nor does it involve the 17 detainees who have already been cleared for release. The really hot issue is the fate of  the remaining detainees who are not high risk but have not been given the full all-clear.
   
 European officials fear the affair could turn into a legal and political nightmare. Who will take which detainees? Given that much of Europe is now border-free, how will one country reassure its neighbours if it agrees to resettle inmates? And doesn’t the fact that European states have different national policies on surveillance and detention pose extra problems?
   
Worse still, the political fall-out could be devastating. If , for example, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner carried out an attack in Germany just before an election this year, how would Chancellor Angela Merkel explain it to voters? 

Washington knows it won’t be easy to get the Europeans on board. But it says it would be hypocritical for Europe now not to help after all its criticism of Guantanamo.

Hollywood props, deployed by the U.S. Army

There was no one there but us and the fake chickens.

I visited the U.S. Army’s training center at Fort Polk in Louisiana this month with some fellow foreign correspondents to see soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division training for a mission in Afghanistan. For 21 days, the soldiers are meant to live and operate as if they had already deployed to the war zone. (You can see the story here.)

The center goes to great lengths to recreate the experience that troops will face in Iraq and Afghanistan. That means fireworks to simulate bomb explosions, fake blood to make casualties look realistic, and Afghan or Iraqi role-players to act as civilians, security force members and interpreters.

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