Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
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.
After just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.
At his penultimate meeting with governors of the U.N. nuclear watchdog before he steps down in November, Mohamed ElBaradei gave diplomats a reminder of the colourful prose and no-nonsense authority they may soon miss.
A veteran of the long-running dispute between the West and Iran over its contentious nuclear programme, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency urged the 35-nation governing body to “put (your) heads together to break the logjam,” on the same day that Tehran submitted a package of proposals to foreign powers.
It was among the 81-billion euro basket of stimulus measures the government put together to soften the impact of the recession and was later copied in many other countries, including the United States.It started out as a 1.5-billion euro scheme but that had to be quickly topped up in the spring as a frenzy swept the country.
Ban Ki-moon isn’t having a good year for public relations. Halfway through a five-year term as U.N. secretary-general, he’s been hit with a wave of negative assessments by the Financial Times, The Economist, London Times, Foreign Policy and other media organizations. In a March 2009 editorial entitled “Whereabouts Unknown,” the Times said Ban was “virtually inaudible” on pressing issues of international security and “ineffectual” on climate change, the one issue that Ban claims he has made the biggest difference on. The Economist gave him a mixed report card, assigning him two out of 10 points for his management skills while praising him on climate change (eight out of 10 points).
This week, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper made an unpleasant situation much worse. It published a confidential memo assessing Ban’s 2-1/2 years in office from Oslo’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Mona Juul, to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Juul’s report is scathing — and it comes from a representative of one of the world’s body’s top financial contributors. She says the former South Korean foreign minister suffers from a “lack of charisma” and has “constant temper tantrums” in his offices on the 38th floor of the United Nations building in midtown Manhattan.
She describes Ban as a “powerless observer” during the fighting in Sri Lanka earlier this year when thousands of civilians were killed as government forces ended a 25-year civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels, trapping them on a narrow strip of coast in the country’s northeast. In Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Congo, she wrote, Ban’s “passive and not very committed appeals seem to fall on deaf ears.” She says that his recent trip to Myanmar was a failure and that some people in Washington refer to Ban as a “one-term” secretary-general.
Juul’s letter could hardly have come at a more inopportune time. Ban is planning to visit Norway in the coming weeks, where he intends to meet with government officials and visit the Arctic circle to see for himself the effects of global warming and the melting polar ice. Now U.N. officials fear reporters will be more interested in what he says about Juul’s memo than climate change.
So far Ban has not reacted to the letter. However, a Norwegian diplomat told Reuters that Ban’s press office had been instructed to hold off on confirming his visit to Norway shortly after the news of Juul’s memo began to spread.
Ban’s PR difficulties didn’t start this year. In March 2008, his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar sent a memo to U.N. employees explaining how to say his boss’s name. “Many world leaders, some of whom are well acquainted with the Secretary-General, still use his first name mistakenly as his surname and address him wrongly as Mr. Ki-moon or Mr. Moon,” Nambiar complained.
Then came Ban’s own speech to senior U.N. officials in Turin, Italy last year, in which he described how difficult it was to improve the working culture inside the United Nations. The secretary-general seemed to acknowledge that his internal management style had failed. “I tried to lead by example,” Ban said. “Nobody followed.”
Ban’s aides vehemently defend him, saying he’s being treated unfairly by the press. One senior U.N. official suggested privately that Ban could very well turn out to be “the greatest secretary-general ever.” They complain that people continue to compare him to his predecessor Kofi Annan, who was a very different U.N. chief and relied less on “quiet diplomacy” than Ban. Annan became a hero to many people around the world for standing up to the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Annan called the March 2003 invasion illegal. U.N. officials also complain bitterly about the indefatigable blogger Matthew Lee, whose website Inner City Press regularly accuses Ban and other U.N. officials of hypocrisy and failing to keep their promises to reform the United Nations and root out corruption. (Some U.N. officials accuse Lee of not always getting his facts right, but his blog has become unofficial required reading for U.N. staffers around the world.)
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, diplomats in New York say, is among those supporting a campaign against a second term for Ban. Juul’s memo said Helen Clark, New Zealand’s former prime minister and current head of the U.N. Development Program, “could quickly become a competitor for Ban’s second term.” But diplomats say they expect the United States, Britain and other major powers to reluctantly back a second term for Ban, if only because there appears to be no viable alternative whom Russia and China would support.
A recent article in the Times of London said the best U.N. chief in the organization’s 64-year history was not Swedish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dag Hammarskjold but the Peruvian diplomat Javier Perez de Cuellar, who held the top U.N. post for 10 years until 1992. Nicknamed “mumbles” because he was so difficult to understand, Perez de Cuellar kept a low profile and, like Ban, preferred backroom diplomacy, not Annan’s bully pulpit. Among the Peruvian diplomat’s successes were managing the end of the Cold War, leading a long-delayed revival of U.N. peacekeeping and encouraging member states to back a U.S.-led military operation to drive Iraq’s invading forces out of Kuwait in 1991.
Will Ban’s preference for quiet diplomacy make him as good or better than Perez de Cuellar? That remains to be seen.
Knowing what not to report is just as important for journalists as knowing what to write. We're inundated with handouts about some pioneering new scientific research or insightful new book. Should we write about it? It's refreshing to hear experts who can dazzle you with their work but warn against falling for any hype about it. This "let's not overdo it" approach has been a recurrent theme in the Neuroscience Boot Camp I'm attending at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. (Photo: The "official" boot camp T-shirt, 8 Aug 2009/Tom Heneghan)
Andrew Newberg's "no God spot" message to boot campers has already been noted here on FaithWorld. Other lecturers added similar reality checks to their presentations. Cognitive science has already begun to influence religion studies (as John Teehan explained here) and we're bound to hear more in the future about what neuroscientific research has to say about faith, morals, altruism and other issues of interest to readers of this blog. Much of this will be fascinating. But before the next "gee-whiz" report comes out, here's the advice the neuroscientists are giving us about speculative claims based on brain research.
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)
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
In the eight years since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, political pundits have used, and largely overused, all the available historical references. We have had the comparisons to the British 19th century failures there, to the Great Game, and to the Soviet Union's disastrous experience in the 1980s. More recently, it has been labelled "Obama's Vietnam".
The latest leitmotif is the domino theory - the view that Vietnam had to be saved from communism or other Asian countries would go the same way. In the case of Afghanistan, the argument is that if it falls to the Taliban, then Pakistan too might become vulnerable - an infinitely more dangerous proposition given that it is a country of some 170 million people with nuclear bombs.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the possibility in April of Islamist militants taking over Pakistan and its nuclear weapons, her words were dismissed as alarmist - and perhaps deliberately so as a way of putting pressure on Islamabad to act.
The problem with Pakistan is that it is almost impossible to come up with a view that is not either alarmist or complacent. It is such a complex country that nobody can agree a frame of reference for assessing the risk. It is the base for a bewildering array of militants including Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda and anti-India groups, yet also has a powerful and professional army which would be expected to defend to the last its Punjab heartland and nuclear weapons against a jihadi takeover. Its potent mix of poverty and Islamist sympathies among a significant section of the population make it ripe for revolution, yet it also has a strong and secular-minded civil society which was willing to go out into the streets earlier this year to demand an independent judiciary.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Joshua Foust is an American military analyst. He blogs about Central Asia and Afghanistan at Registan.net . Reuters is not responsible for the content - the views are the author’s alone.
It would be an understatement to call opium cultivation in Afghanistan America's headache. The issue of illegal drug cultivation and smuggling has vexed policymakers for three decades, and led to a multi-billion dollar campaign to combat the phenomenon.