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October 31, 2005

Pyrite Jubilee

The South Korean-American alliance has been one of the strongest in Asia, if not the strongest, since the 1950s. As Professor Moon Chung-in writes for The Korea Times, however, that bond appears to be in attenuating.

Beginning with the desecration of a Douglas MacArthur statue on the part of some Korean radicals, there is reason to think that the relationship has gone south since the golden jubilee of a few years ago. A laundry list of Korean concerns includes: the continual presence of U.S. bases in the center of Seoul, America's persistence in casting North Korea as an enemy despite the Sunshine Policy's successes on the peninsula, and the general lack of autonomy of the Korean military (which itself dates back to MacArthur's era as the nation's prelate).

Professor Moon makes it clear that the overwhelming majority of Koreans still view their ally favorably, but for a country that has been fettered by imperial powers for several centuries, U.S. policy makers would do well to take note.

He concludes with the following:

But one thing is clear. Seoul and Washington may not be able to sustain the current form of alliance, as a threat-based alliance cannot last long. In the medium- to long-run, the current military alliance needs to be transformed into a comprehensive alliance based on such common values as a market economy and liberal democracy. As in Europe, the comprehensive alliance can pave the way to a collective defense system, multilateral security cooperation, and ultimately a community of security that can assure a collective security system. South Korea and U.S. need to plan a positive transition and resuscitate the alliance by looking toward an entirely new horizon that goes beyond an exclusive bilateral alliance system.

Posted 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

The world consensus on Bernanke

If the designation of Paul Wolfowitz as the head of the World bank, or John Bolton as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, and more recently Samuel Alito as the candidate for Supreme Court justice are controversial in the European press, the consensus is much stronger for the choice of the Federal Reserve’s president, Ben Bernanke. Of course, the French newspapers insist on the friendship between Bernanke and Bush (le Figaro) But at least, comments Le Monde, the President “did not repeat the error made with the nomination of Harriet Miers at the Supreme Court.”
With Bernanke, the Bush administration “chose the most consensual candidate”, “the minimum risk strategy,” insists the Parisian newspaper.
He is an experienced economist who has a lot of practice,” states L’ExpansionHe imposed himself as one of the best specialists of the monetary policy,” insists Liberation. “If he is considered as a moderate Republican, Bernanke will have to reassure on his independance vis-a-vis the Bush administration,” says Le Figaro, which describes him as “a little bit too much academic.” It is not easy to succeed to Alan Greenspan, who is often considered “the greatest central banker of every time,” recalls Liberation
He has committed to act in the continuity of his predecessor, but there is some confusion in the analyses. If his research on the Great Depression and more recenty on the risks of deflation in the United States has designated him as a dove, all commentators state that Bernanke will be much more orthodox than his predecessor. He will most probably opt for the fight against inflation which, ironically, brings him closer to the positions of the...European Central Bank.
Francoise Delstanche

Posted 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

US-Japan, Evolving Alliance, Deepening Isolation?

Former Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage called US-Japan Alliance "the most important one" in the world.
There is no doubt that Japan is one of America's staunchest allies and is a key strategic partner in Northeast Asia.

Japanese and U.S. government officials last Saturday put together an interim report on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. The report not only details the relocation of U.S. military bases, but its content is aimed at expanding and strengthening the security alliance between Japan and the United States.

The news was greeted by majority of Japanese politicians and Yomiuri Shimbun welcomed this with Monday's editorial "Major turning point in deepening of alliance".

In February, both nations confirmed their common strategic targets. In the Asia-Pacific region, both countries will work to maintain peace and stability in Japan and the whole region, in light of China's buildup of its military capabilities and North Korea's development of nuclear arms. Both countries will also team up in such areas as international peace cooperation activities and the prevention of terrorism in the pursuit of world peace.

While called an alliance by both sides, much remains to be done in working out concrete action programs for cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces.

In line with the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan as part of the United States' global reorganization, the two nations agreed on their respective roles and missions as part of efforts to fill the vacuum in the Japan-U.S. security arrangements.

However, Asahi Shimbun warned "the interim report is a source of concern " in Tuesday's editorial.

The United States attacked Iraq in the name of "the fight against terror." It proved, however, that the supposed threat of weapons of mass destruction, the casus belli, was in fact nonexistent. If a similar situation arises, Japan must avoid being automatically dragged into U.S military action.

In its grand strategy, the United States views China as a country that could pose a threat to America's hegemony. But shouldn't Japan ease the possible tension that could build up between Washington and Beijing? Even if Japan takes action in accordance with a U.S. strategy, there should be limits and constraints. Japan should think of its own national interests.

Indeed, there are some concerns within small opposition parties that evolving US-Japan Alliance would be increasing US and Japan's isolation in the world.

Recent online poll conducted by Real time public opinion survey@internet showed almost 60 percenr of Japanese thought the alliance is "essential not only for Japanese security but also for economy, trade, industry and everything".

However, 21.4 percent of Japanese thought "US is untrustworthy as an alliance partner ", and 8.5 percent of Japanese answered "Japan should break up Japan-US alliance and strengthen the alliance between Asian coutries."

Posted 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

National security

By Elena Favilli

American media keep focusing on CFIU and national security issues. William Hawkins, on the Washington Post, underlines the necessity to strengthen control over the CFIUS:

In a dangerous world, America cannot allow its defense industry to either wither away or become the prey of foreign rivals. If CFIUS is not up to protecting the economic base of U.S. military superiority, Congress must strengthen the system.

Posted 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2005

A helping hand from up north?

Angel Boligan of El Universal.

Posted 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2005

New Kid on the Rig

The immediate after effects of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and (now) Wilma have been under consideration in the past few months, but their collective effect on the developing world has received considerably less coverage.

One such residual issue has been the price of petroleum in Latin America, which, in the case of Nicaragua, has undergone one of the most precipitous hikes in national history.

In a story in 7 Días, the author notes that hurricane season initialed a phase of "irrational consumption" of strategic reserves on the part of the U.S. This, in turn, has forced reductions in petroleum exportation in the western hemisphere as a whole.

The article notes that the impact of refineries should be minimized in due time, and that the $65 oil barrels and a 20% increase in domestic energy prices should also go the way of the dinosaur (lest Nicaragua truly suffer). The most interesting facet of this article, however, is the notion that China's staggering growth rate and increasing petroleum consumption has had one of the most adverse effects on the energy needs of the developing world.

Will China soon bear the label of an imperial power with its rapacious appetite for resources and markets? And what will be the role of American interests in this new model?

Posted 01:38 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2005

Non-Diplomatic Diplomacy

An astonishing photo appears in the weekend edition of Le Soir, Belgium’s leading French-language daily newspaper: President Bush is looking, bewildered, up at the rain from under his black umbrella—with a headline reading: ‘Absent Man in the White House’ ('L'Homme absent de la Maison Blanche')

Inside, the paper reports on the accumulating number of top Republicans and former Bush administration officials who have launched scathing criticisms of President Bush’s governing style and reliance on compliant advisers. Foremost among the new critics, it cites a talk and discussion given last week in New York City by retired U.S. colonel, Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002-2005. Wilkerson accused Rumsfeld and Cheney of “subverting the Department of State and American diplomacy with policies that have contributed to the isolation of the United States.” The newspaper cites in in particular his criticism of the conduct of the war in Iraq; alienation of our allies in South Korea and failed U.S. diplomacy with North Korea; and the administration’s long delay—to disastrous effect—in joining forces with the European Union to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear capabilities. In his presentation at the New America Foundation in New York City, Wilkerson criticized the administration’s lack of “grace” in its conduct of foreign affairs:

"If you're unilaterally declaring Kyoto dead, if you're declaring the Geneva Conventions not operative, if you're doing a host of things that the world doesn't agree with you on and you're doing it blatantly and in their face, without grace, then you've got to pay the consequences."

Le Soir includes a comment from political analyst Jurek Kuczkiewicz, who writes that Wilkerson’s revelations suggest how deeply the Bush “cabal”—Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice—have “severed reality from their decision-making.” Referring to the powerful effect that Wilkerson’s revelations will likely have on American’s and the world’s understanding of Bush’s diplomatic failings, he writes: “His [Wilkerson’s] discourse is like a bomb…It’s the cry of a citizen, of the United States, but also of the world, who are looking for the truth from a country of such grandeur. His speech was like a bomb. But it was also, many hope, a dream.”

Posted 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

Who will run the Internet?

The US conception of security seems to be mostly military and mostly national. Yet, one of the most debated issue about security today concerns the control of the Internet.

Foreign Affairs runs a detailed article titled "Who will control the Internet?". We're approaching the second phase of the UN's World Summit on the Information Society and the controversy over who control the Internet has never been so heated.

"The Internet is now coordinated by a private-sector nonprofit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was set up by the United States in 1998. [...] Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty. ICANN, in their view, is an instrument of American hegemony over cyberspace."

Also, many governments are bothered that such a vital resource exists outside their control. China, for example, has recently tightened its restrictions for news media on the Internet. Everyone understands that the Internet is a crucial resource not only for the functioning of economy, society and government but also for the spreading of democracy. It could be interesting starting to compare the attitudes of different countries on the Internet regulations, since they are always interrelated with personal freedom. To get more information about this, we could start looking at "Censorship" and "Internet access" on the Wikipedia.

Posted 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2005

A controversial definition of security

The Bush administration's attempt to overhaul the CFIUS (Committee of foreign investments in the US) gives us the possibility to think about the definition of "national security".

The Financial Times reports on Senator James Inholfe's call for an overhaul that would give Congress greater oversight of CFIUS. His report highlights "a weakness in CFIUS as the panel did non explicitly define 'national security' to include 'economic' security". Mr Kimmitt, deputy Treasury secretary, notes that lawmakers should not force CFIUS to adopt a strict definition of security, since the concept of security is always in motion: "The day you try to define it, it will be out of date".

Posted 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2005

Burning Bodies: Another Abu Ghraib?

While it has become almost gospel in the Muslim world that American troops are culturally insensitive, news that US troops in Afghanistan burned the corpses of enemy combatants does not portend good things.

The background here is that an Australian news service broadcast footage depicting burning corpses atop hills near the village of Gondaz, north of Kandahar, all of whom were allegedly killed by US soldiers the night before.

The footage shows flames emanating from bodies with members of the 173rd Airborne Division looking on impassively. According to Aljazeera, the following was declared:

You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burnt. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be.

You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Talibs but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are.

This is explosive in a variety of ways: The bodies were left out for 24 hours, contrary to standard burial practices in Islam, and further desecration of bodies (burning, westerly positioning of a cadaver) is perceived as apostasy...but generally only if you're a talib, in the estimation of contemporary Muslim luminaries.

It is clear that this footage has the potential to engender even stronger anti-American feelings, in Afghanistan as well as Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, but the desecration of American security workers in Falluja brings into question a glaring problem: When does religious doctrine become convenient for political ends? Ulterior motives would seem to abound.

A good primer on this issue can be seen here, and if the rhetoric of these clerics is salient, it stands to reason that this could initiate a new cycle of violence epitomized by new forms of symbolic resistance.

One desecration begets another in this formula.

Posted 02:38 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2005

Yasukuni's impact on the US

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine became an explosive issue at home and abroad.

Tuesday'd New York Times editorial "Pointless Provocation in Tokyo" sharply criticized Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni.

No one realistically worries about today's Japan re-embarking on the road of imperial conquest. But Japan, Asia's richest, most economically powerful and technologically advanced nation, is shedding some of the military and foreign policy restraints it has observed for the past 60 years.

This is exactly the wrong time to be stirring up nightmare memories among the neighbors. Such provocations seem particularly gratuitous in an era that has seen an economically booming China become Japan's most critical economic partner and its biggest geopolitical challenge.

Japanese leading newspaper Asahi Shimbun analyzed that NY Times editorial represented the US national interests in the East Asia.

No approval was shown by Bush administration or even by pro-Japanese group in the US.
Asahi said deterioration of Japan-China and Japan-Korea relations will destabilize the current six-nation framework including North Korea and the US, and will spoil the regional security in East Asia and US national interests there.

Posted 10:35 AM | Comments (0)


At the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization, in Rome two days ago, Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe and the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez strongly accused the Us of being «a threat to the world and to the survival of the planet». Italian newspapers gave rather little space to their speeches, and far from the first pages. Most of the times they reported their words and ironically called it «a show». Mugabe actually stated that Blair and Bush are like Hiltler and Mussolini. «They formed a deplorable alliance to attack an innocent country(Iraq)», papers report Mugabe’s outburst.
“La Repubblica”, in an article by Giampaolo Cadalanu, explains that these radical words risk weakening the aid process towards developing countries, even though what they said about Us’ insufficient help to tackle hunger and poverty might partly be true. Flavia Amabile on “La Stampa” quotes them, but doesn’t give any space to comments or explanations, focusing on the anniversary instead. “Corriere della Sera”, the most sold Italian newspaper, highlights that the conference turned out to be anything but dull and boring, a mixture of embarrassing accusations and uncommon, histrionic demagoguery.

More extreme papers, on either side of the political spectrum, pay more attention to the men’s accusations and depict the atmosphere surrounding them here in Italy. The left-leaning “L’Unità” describes the Venezuelan as «courageous and proud» and heads: « Chávez defies Bush, oil is ours». The leftist “Il Manifesto” reminds its readers of the African president’s contradictions and define as «more legitimate» Chávez’s words, besides dedicating the lower part of the page to the description of his Italian stay. By contrast, the rightist “Il Giornale” talks about an anti-American rhetoric. According to the journalist Pasolini Zanelli the two presidents have shown their arrogance in a country like Italy, so close to America. Especially because Chávez met the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - «one of the closest allies of president Bush» - and they even shook hands, as the picture confirms.

Posted 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2005

Evolving security issues

“Most forms of political violence have declined significantly since the end of the Cold War,” states a recent report published by the Human Security Center under the title Human Security Report: War and Peace in the 21st Century.

The situation has improved significantly since 1990 and the end of the Cold War. The report finds a reduction of 80% in genocides, 40% in the number of conflicts, 30% in the number of refugees. The number of deaths in each conflict is declining significantly but the proportion of civilians in relation to combatants is much higher today than it was 20 years ago. (See graphics here).

Human security is a relatively new concept. “Unlike traditional concepts of security, which focus on defending borders from external military threats, human security is concerned with the security of individuals,” explains the Center. It is linked to the Canadian Consortium on Human Security which is funded by the Human Security Program of the Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC).

The French daily Le Monde asked Gareth Evans, chief executive of the International Crisis Group, to comment on the report.

The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization working to prevent and resolve deadly conflict. It is chaired by the former European Commissioner for External Relations Lord Patten of Barnes.

An ex Australian Foreign Minister, Evans sees three major threats for today’s world:

- The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;

- Terrorism;

- “The loss of influence of the notion of international order due to the American administration discourse according to which the world does not need the U.N.”

It is obviously linked to the fact that the Human Security Center Report summarizes its finding by saying that, among other elements, “the best explanation for this decline is the huge upsurge of conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding activities that were spearheaded by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Cold War.”

Interestingly enough the title of Le Monde’s interview only says “Two dangers: Nuclear proliferation, and terrorism.”

Posted 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

Hot Water over Water

Canadians are always sensitive to encroachment by the US (whether real or percieved), and that sentiment is manifesting itself in a new phenomenon - aqua-nationalism, an ideological commitment to preserving as much autonomy over Canadian water supplies as possible. In the context of global warming and population growth, as the North American climate shifts while demand continues to grow, there will be growing pressure on Canada to sell its water to thirsty American cities, a number of which, due to poor planning, have been constructed in the middle of deserts. The Walrus, a serious Canadian intellectual magazine, devotes its October issue to examining aqua-nationalism and the thorny issue of managing and sharing water supplies, supplies that have the pesky habit of criss-crossing borders with no regard to national sovereignty. The article manages to capture Canadian axiety on the issue, anxiety that's not entirely unfounded (there was pressure to include fresh water as a tradeable good under NAFTA), but it goes on to argue that some kind of cross-border managemant will be inevitable, as larger and larger scale projects become necessary to supply North American communities and ecosystems with enough water to survive, while diverting water from areas newly-flood prone. Can Canadians overcome their aqua-nationalism? Do Americans know how to simultaneously cajole and reassure thier neighbors? Much may be riding on the answers to these questions.

Posted 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

The Red Scare, Yellow Peril Style

China's meteoric economic growth figures, combined with it's similarly metereoic ascent into space and sky-high defense budget, has provoked considerable anxiety in the United States. Donald Rumsfeld has called China a threat to Asain peace and stability, citing it's increased military expenditures and claims over Taiwan and assorted island chains. The sabre-rattling has begun to infiltrate the elite media as well - in what must count as one of the most provocative instances of alarmisms since the end of the Cold War, the Atlantic ran the following cover to an article on China's rise by Robert Kaplan:


The article itself, "The Next Cold War - How We Would Fight China," was no less inflamatory. Taking conflict almost as a given, Kaplan discusses Chinese tactics in loaded terms:

China has committed itself to significant military spending, but its navy and air force will not be able to match ours for some decades. The Chinese are therefore not going to do us the favor of engaging in conventional air and naval battles, like those fought in the Pacific during World War II. The Battle of the Philippine Sea, in late June of 1944, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait, in October of 1944, were the last great sea battles in American history, and are very likely to remain so. Instead the Chinese will approach us asymmetrically, as terrorists do. In Iraq the insurgents have shown us the low end of asymmetry, with car bombs. But the Chinese are poised to show us the high end of the art. That is the threat.

His suggestions? Rebuild the NATO alliance to counter China, and build a similar coalition in Asia to encirlce and contain the rising power. And it has found some willing partners - both Japan and India have recently deepened security cooperation with the US.

The response from Chinese sources has been predictable - official media outlets argue the harmlessness of China's growth and try to counter American claims. What is more suprising is that this has been picked up by other media, including in Canada, traditionally one of America's closest allies. In an extensive piece in the Walrus (Canada's most seriously intellecual newsmagazine), Gwynne Dyer argues that is the American strategy of containment, and not China's rise, that threatens regional peace and stability. In his piece, there is no ambiguity about what is at stake, and who is to blame:

If there's anyone left to write the history of how the Third World War happened, they might well focus on June 28, 2005, as the date when the slide into global disaster became irreversible. That was the day when India's defense minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a ten-year agreement in Washington on military co-operation, joint weapons production, and missile defense - not quite a formal US-Indian alliance, but close enough to one that China finally realized it was the target of a deliberate American strategy to encircle and 'contain' it.'

It's not clear yet what China plans to do about it, but since June the rhetoric out of Beijing has been unprecedentedly harsh. In mid-July, for example, Major General Zhu Chenghu warned in an official briefing that China is under pressure to drop its policy of 'no first strike' of nuclear weapons in the event of a military conflict with the US over Taiwan. 'We have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States,' he said. 'We can't win this kind of war.' And so China would deliberately escalate to nuclear weapons: 'We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of [their] cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.

Posted 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005

Tai Shi, a small village, big trial for democracy

Tai Shi, a small village not far from my home in Guangzhou, is the capitial city of Guangdong Province, one of the most developed provinces in southern China. What happened there in recent months is a struggle, by the Chinese people and the Central government leaders, also of the corrupted officials dominating that village.

Things became drastic since last week when a Chinese Legistator Lu Bang LIe and an reporter of the Guardian Benjamin Joffe-Walt who were trying to enter the village, was beaten, and then Joffe-Watt wrote an article just before the deadline on Sunday. This is the link to the original report of his.

Later, the Guardian reporter found out Lu Bang LIe, the legislator, also a pro-democracy activist was not dead, so the editor of the Guardian made an annoucement and correct a few flaws in the original report. This is the link.

If you want to know more about the whole Tai Shi incident, in which villagers were following suggestions of lawyers and legislators (deputies of People's Congress, which is a legilative institution of China according to the Constitution of People's Republic of China), trying to get a corrupted chief of the village out ot office, you can go to this webpage http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20050919_1.htm, where you will find what was going on before a western journalist was beaten up.

This article comment on the Joffe-Walt beaten incident, based on the author's own experience as a western journalist covering mainland China.

Posted 08:24 PM | Comments (1)

Nobel Prize Vs. George W. Bush, Part II

By Pierre Langlais

This year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has probably decided to show its opposition to a certain vision of the world, symbolized by Bush's administration and its allies. After giving the Nobel Prize for Peace to Mohammed El-Baradei, the Prize for Literature was given to Harold Pinter, a British playwright and one of the biggest opponents in the artistic world to George W. Bush and Tony Blair. All of the four major French daily newspapers wrote articles last week about this militant artist.

Alain Dreyfus wrote in Libération, in his article called "Pinter, militant Nobel" :

"[Harold Pinter] speaks unambiguously : According to him, Blair is "an idiot full with illusions" and Bush "a war criminal". In 2003, at the time of the London's demonstrations against the War in Iraq, he read a poem from his " War" collection, called "God bless America" : Your head rolls onto the sand / Your head is a pool in the dirt / Your head is a stain in the dust / Your eyes have gone out and your nose / Sniffs only the pong of the dead / And all the dead air is alive / With the smell of America's God."

Raphaëlle Rérolle et Brigitte Salino wrote in Le Monde an article about the tributes made after Pinter received the award. They quoted Andrew Burgin, the Stop the War Coalition spokesperson, who said :

"The award of this prize is important because it reflects that the forces that speak up for humanity and justice are the real voices that people want to hear -- not the voices of war mongers like Bush and Blair"

Marie-José Sirach wrote in L'Humanité, in her article called "Harold Pinter, a "mad" militant" :

"Harold Pinter is a great defender of the human rights. He rose against the war made by the United States to reverse the Sandinist's government in Nicaragua. Then, against both of the War in Iraq, he used his feather in the newspapers, his words on the radio. Harold Pinter is a man in anger towards the contempt and the arrogance of Messrs Blair and Bush junior, a salutary indignation which gave him the nickname of "the Mad one" in the British press."

Pierre Marcabru wrote in Le Figaro an article called, "Harold Pinter, the playwright of unrest" :

"His engagement is more moral than political and pushes him to show us Bush as the devil having fun with poor fellows."

Posted 01:09 AM | Comments (1)

October 16, 2005

Bangladesh Tastes Bolivia's Revolt

Will the breakneck speed of trade liberalization, as
prescribed by the IMF and WB, push Bangladesh toward a
street revolution a la Bolivia? That’s the warning of
AJM Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan, a professor in the
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at
University of Dhaka, in an editorial in
">The Daily Star,the country's largest English language daily newspaper.
“In recent years Bangladesh has become an ideal place for
international money lenders such as the IMF and WB,” he writes.

The adoption of neo-liberal policies, Bhuiyan cautions, has
already resulted in big blows to the nation’s economy.
The closing down of one of the largest and long
standing jute mills in the country, for example, cost
thousands of people their jobs, effectively destroying
the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of their

The history of the IMF and WB policies in Latin
America are a bracing wake up call for Bangladesh and
other developing countries, the author says, tracing
the history of peasant uprisings in Bolivia. “If the
government [of Bangladesh] continues to adhere to IMF
and WB recommended policies, is the vision of a mass
of hungry and poor people seizing the capital like
Bolivians for food, education, shelter, and healthcare
in the near future out of the question?”

Others have echoed his cries. Rapid trade
liberalization, undertaken to appease the World Bank,
is costing Bangladesh dearly, slowing down its
economy, a former commerce minister, Tofail Ahmed,
recently told a trade expo.

DAVID MONTERO is a freelance journalist
currently based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His writing has
appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation,
and Mother Jones, and other publications.

Posted 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

The Cuban Embargo: Forty-five years later

To give some sense of the Bush Administration's reluctance to resort to less bellicose moves in relations with North Korea and Iran, it's instructive to think of the role of embargoes in the history of U.S. foreign policy.

The Colombian weekly Semana gives an overview of the American embargo of Fidel Castro's Cuba over the last forty-five years, noting that the decision has ultimately defined the country. After all, "two of every three Cubans was born during the time period of the blockade."

Semana cites a number of alterations to the American policy since 1960, including most recently a 2004 decision by the government to impose harsher penalties on those who do travel to the Caribbean island, including those visiting family members with the blessing of immigration (weight restrictions, cash limitations, etc.)

The article ends with a sense that contemporary Cuban affairs are of little importance to the U.S. government for the time being given its other obligations, but quotes an expert who says that the democratization of the country will only be successfully administered from within, not by a force that "says to the Cubans what they must do.
All of this reckoning comes in the wake of a Ibero-American conference held over the weekend. The represented members agreed on a resolution that, according to Chinese news service, Xinhua, officially condemns the blockade.

Posted 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2005

"Black, dangerous for the society"

By Pierre Langlais

The 10th of October was the International Day against Death Penalty. For this occasion, the French daily L'Humanité wrote a short portrait of a black prisoner waiting in the Texan death row for 15 years, Eugene Broxton. The article is called "Black, dangerous for the society". "He is one the 400 people sentenced to death and held prisoner in Texas", wrote Céline Bretel, and probably one of the possibly not guilty about to die there. This was the occasion to talk again about one of the major critics made by French people about the USA : the death penalty, especially in Texas, where some black people are condemned almost without clues. Here is how L'Humanité tells the story of Eugene Broxton :

"Eugene was condemned to death for murder in May 1991 during a slapdash lawsuit. The police did not find his prints on the crime scene, the two witnesses likely to prove he is innocent are runaways, and his officially appointed lawyer appeared unable to ensure his defence. Everything leads us to believe that Eugene was condemned arbitrarily, as this precision in the report of his judgment : "black Race, dangerous for the society". Locked up 23 hours a day in his cell, deprived of television and access to Internet, any intimacy isn't possible for the prisoners of Livingston's death row [...] Their only bond with the outside world is the radio and the letters that they can exchange with their correspondents, for those who have the chance to have one. Confinement gave Eugene many health problems : He became diabetic and arthritic, but he does not have the correct cares. His wife, a Frenchwoman who married him in the death row, asked the court law to buy the drugs herself, but her petition was refused ! Only the threat to ask for the opening of an internal investigation for non-assistance to someone in danger was effective, and gave him his medicines. Last June, Eugene's new appeal was rejected. His wife is trying to sensitize the opinion on his case, through an Internet site currently in construction. The objective in the long term is to gather funds in order to remunerate a lawyer who could prove his innocence."

Patrick Le Hyaric, head of L'Humanité and Michel Taube, director of EPCM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort, "together against death penalty") chose together a sentence by Jean Jaures (a French left wing politician from the early 20th century and creator of L'Humanité) in 1908 to illustrate their feelings : "the death penalty is opposed to human's higher thoughts and nobler dreams."

Posted 06:01 AM | Comments (1)

October 14, 2005

Freedom of Press in China

By Nie Zheng (Nevin)

Press freedom in China is undergoing gradual improvements instead of an overnight change, said two mainland visiting scholars in their lecture to journalism students in the University of Hong Kong.

Jin Li-ping, a seasoned reporter and now editor-in-chief of China Newsweek, said she did not believe China could have freed of press overnight. “Freedom of press should happen together with political, economical and legal reforms.” Jin said. Press freedom is one element of total reform of the country. “China doesn’t need a free press for one day only, it needs to last forever.”

Sun Xu-pei, another speaker, said he favored moving toward freedom of press in a “step by step” way, instead of following former Soviet Union’s model. Sun is a professor at Huazhong University of Science and Technology and a researcher at the News and Broadcast Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Last year, Sun published two books about media reform in China. Before the publishing of one book, top officials criticized it. After published, the book was banned for a few months. Sun said he had told officials not to be afraid of reform and they just need the guts to go ahead.

“Provincial-level officials, in their official capacity, can’t speak about what they really think,” he said, “Unofficially many support what I promote.” Sun admitted it was more difficult for him to find a way to speak out the truth than to find out the truth.

If she had more reporting freedom, Jin Li-ping admitted, her magazine would report almost the same topics as what she had already been covering, only in a more professional way. “Our magazine is a new media in China,” she said. “When we choose topics, we don’t consult the government beforehand but we will not pick the topics that have been specifically banned by the government.” Officials would use administrative power rather than the law to press journalists.

In such a gradual improving press environment in China, she said, Chinese reporters need to be persistent and persevering. They need interpersonal skills and tools to be able to find the best possible truth. “Sometimes the truth can’t be found because of the difficulties that can’t be overcome and sometimes it’s because the truth just cannot get out.” She said.

Once head of Institute of Journalism of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Sun said, he found out it was difficult to be a researcher in Journalism and media law too. He has written many things promoting press freedom under different names. Later when a collection of his works was printed under his true name, he was demoted.

“The freedom to report on Central level officials could lead to real chaos in China,” Sun said. But there should be more freedom at provincial levels. He said he believed that a one party system is not compatible with freedom of press. If China has freedom of press, it needs a multi-party system to work with it, which would take a long time to develop.

Posted 07:54 PM | Comments (0)

DiCaprio's warning on global warming

By Pierre Langlais

The actor wrote a column in Le Monde last wednesday (10/12/2005) called "a dream for New Orleans". Leonardo DiCaprio is a militant of Global Green USA (the American branch of the international green Cross) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He signed this article together with Matt Petersen, the head of Global Green USA.

"The recent cyclones have just shown that our cities are in first line on climatic changes consequences. The most powerful democracy of the world, the USA, can show the way to the rest of the world by protecting its large cities and by protecting us, its citizens. There are more and more evidences; it is time for America and its leaders to attack global warming."
wrote DiCaprio, adding that
"Because of the devastations caused by Rita on refining capacities, the United States are confronted with an oil shortage. President George W Bush encouraged the country [...] to control its consumption. Each one of us has of course a role to play. But this short-term call is not enough : the relaxation of the protection measures of the environment and the resumption of oil drilling will finally just make the situation worsen. There is of course in Washington, on both political sides, people who militate in favour of initiatives against global warming, but decisions are not taken fast enough."

Posted 07:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2005

What Japan can do for quake victims in Pakistan

Japan offered US$20 million in aid to Pakistan following a powerful earthquake.

Kyodo News agency reported Thursday that Japan also plans to send some 100 troops.

Japan has sent a disaster relief team and an emergency medical team and pledged US$221,000 worth of relief goods, including blankets, tents and water purifiers, to Pakistan.

In addition to these aid, Japan should be able to do more thing as a country which have survived frequent earthquakes.

Yomiuri Shimbun said in October 12th's editorial that Japan can play major role.

Japan should provide not only immediate relief aid, but also long-term restoration assistance to Pakistan.

This does not only mean monetary and material assistance. For example, Japan, a country often struck by earthquakes, is good at making long-term plans for post-earthquake reconstruction. Excellent quake-resistant engineering technology this country has developed also will be very helpful in reconstructing buildings and other infrastructure.

Japan could play a major role in international assistance for Pakistan.

Posted 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

October 12, 2005

His life as a "KILLER", immigrant worker Chen Hao from China

Chinese Business News
by Tian Yi, Ji Tan

Chen Hao was staring at the 14-inches PC screen. In this game called "World of Warcraft", he scavenged with a long sword in his hand, moving swiftly among brown and desert hills, hunting at those giant monsters. He was only 17 years old.

Suddenly, a monster appeared right behind a small hill, brandishing a pair of big hammers in its hands, fiercely moving toward Chen Hao to attack him. Chen Hao took the advantage of the monster when it brandished the hammers up, and hit its waist before four continuous strikes. The monster was killed, fell down to the ground shaken by its weight.

It's 11 o'clock at night, Aug 17, 2005. Chen Hao had been facing the screen killing the monsters and getting golden coins for almost 6 hours. There were two immigrant workers from rural areas per computer. Everyone take turns to work 12 hours a day in two teams with more than 100 people in each team. It's a workshop for golden coins, in the world of warcraft.

When Chen Hao was busy killing monsters, his collegues in the other team were sleeping on the ground scattered everywhere. Their homes were some rurual areas outside here. But they worked, ate, and lived here, in this virtual world.

This is a small town one hour car drive from Li Shui downtown area in Ze Jiang Province. The pc game workshop locates in the former house of supply and selling commune, which is as large as 200 square meters. The golden coins Chen Hao and his colleagus got in the online game were sold to the Americans on the other side of the pacific, who pay dollars and are eager to use those golden coins to upgrade the player's level.

"World of Warcraft" is an online virtual world for 4 million game players all over the world. However, Chen Hao, these immigrant workers did not play it for fun. It's just their job.

The weather of August here was terribly hot. 24 hours online computers were giving out heat in the room, where on air conditioning was not available. Scores of big electronic fans were stirring the air with terribly big sounds, mixing the smell of sweat and instant noodles. Rythm of "tow butterflies" was floating up through the air. Ashtrys, bowls, cell phones, bottles, scraps of paper and clothes were scattered on the table. People here chose the casual way, either sitting or crouching, with red eyes and yawns. Most of them already fell asleep.

The American players call them "farming gold".

Chen Hao's father sincerely hoped his son can come with him back to the rural hometown to be a peasant, after Chen failed highschool. However, Chen refused to continue after a few months at home. His father asked what he wanted to do. Play PC games, he said, and got a slap on his face by his father. Chen is a handsome young man, doesn't feel like talking. Now he goes home once every week All the time left is for killing monsters or sleeping on the ground.

"I can kill monsters and get at least 250 golden coins per day," he said, "This happened when I was lucky. Most of the time, I was killed by the monster. Once you killed a monster, you can trade its belongings into golden or silver coins. 100 silver coins equals one single golden coin." Chen Hao declared to the reporter. "As long as you are online, you can earn coins without stop."

However, inside the heart of Chen Hao, he really envy those players in the United States, who play the games simply for fun. "When we were really tired and fed up with killing monsters and getting coins, we would also play for fun for a short while, adventuring to some funny place in the game" Chen Hao said. "But after you worked 12 hours, you really simply want to sleep."

Posted 05:51 PM | Comments (1)

Nobel Prize Vs George W. Bush

by Pierre Langlais

He was one of the bigest spine in Bush administration's shoe before the Secound Gulf War started. Mohammed El-Baradei is the new Peace Nobel Prize winner. The award was given jointly to Mr El-Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which he heads. Although most of the French and European press underlines the critics of the anti-nuclear movements, they all insist on the "snub" given by this award to Bush's administration.

Le Temps, a Swiss newspaper, summarizes pretty well the common point of view, as Samuel Gardaz wrote on the 8th of October :

"It is hard not to interpret the attribution of this Nobel Prize [...] like a shingling snub inflicted to the Bush administration [...] There are two approaches on the question of disarmament which were opposed and continue to be opposed : Mohamed El-Baradei wants to prove that multilateral mechanisms like UNO works. Washington, on its side, wants to have a total room to disarm the regimes which it considers a threat for the world stability, with its manner (the armed force) and according to its own criteria."

The French left wing daily L'Humanité wrote it in a more direct way :

"The United States, which had tried to prevent, a few months ago, the renewal of the mandate of El Baradei at the head of the IAEA, diplomatically congratulated the organization and its head, while adding - not kidding - that it is "a well deserved" price and that "the United States are determined to work with the IAEA to prevent the proliferation of the nuclear weapons" [...] The republican president of the Foreign Affairs of the Senate, Richard Lugar, stressed that this choice made it possible to draw "the attention of the world to the essential importance to keep the weapons and nuclear materials, biological and chemical out of the hands of the terrorists". But this was not exactly the principal motivation of the Nobel committee..."
wrote Pierre Barbancey.

Libération, another French daily, traditionaly a moderate left wing newspaper, made an interview of Bruno Tertrais, a security specialist who explained that this award is "a small claw' blow against the United States. The approach of El-Baradei is not the same that the one privileged by the Bush administration."

Here are more reactions about the Nobel Prize and its links with Bush's administration, starting with La Nouvelle République du Centre Ouest, a local newspaper, the only one criticizing this choice:

"Some will see in the choice of the prize winner a lesson for the United States. The price rewards the agency which opposed Bush's administration when they wanted to justify their war in Iraq because. But is it still necessary to insist on the American "error" on the Iraqi file?"
wrote Jean-Claude Arbona.
"Mr El-Baradei always supported that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of massive destruction. He was right. It is to say that if US administration had listened to him, it would have understood that the genuine target of a possible intervention should have been Iran, because the risk is real there..."
wrote Patrice Chabanet in Le Journal de la Haute-Marne.
"Just like the bretzel which failed to choke him, Bush has surely much trouble to swallow the Nobel Prize's pill, bitter with his taste."
wrote Nadjib Touaibia in La Marseillaise.

Posted 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2005

Disasters far and near

The Asian Age has a story about how the recent earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir will change the American geopolitical scene. It cites an American intelligence clearinghouse.

The Stratfor Intelligence has labeled the disaster Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s "Hurricane Katrina." The pressures to balance the Al Qaeda threat, deal with the Kashmiri border, and maintain a burgeoning economy are obviously compounded by the quake.

And while discontent with Musharraf should increase as the relief effort stultifies, the lack of political dissent in a country that is already seen as being too close to the U.S. probably gives him "breathing space."

The focus here is predominantly on the border issues of the Asian subcontinent, but the American element seems to be consistently present as a result of involvement in Afghanistan.

Posted 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2005

Public opposed to extending Japan's mission in Iraq: poll

From Mainichi Shimbun

A whopping 77 percent of pollees were opposed to an extension of Japan's noncombatant mission in Iraq while 18 percent were in favor, a Mainichi weekend poll has found.

In December last year when Japan decided to extend the dispatch of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) to Iraq by one year, 62 percent of pollees opposed the move while 31 percent were in favor. The SDF mission expires on Dec. 14 this year.

Several Japanese politicians even from the ruling coalition say the dispatch of the SDF should be reconsidered if British and Australian forces withdraw from the country in May 2006.

The Mainichi polled 1,068 people on Saturday and Sunday and found that 66 percent of pollees who support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were in opposition to extending the SDF dispatch.

More than 80 percent of those who support the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party or Social Democratic Party were opposed to the extension.

Posted 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

About “the nature of Anti-Americanism”

Anti-Americanism is but a part of the question of “perceptions of the U.S. in the world” that we are trying to tackle here. One of the most common views seems to be that people tend to make a distinction between the Administration, the country, the values, and the people.

A recent essay written by UC-Berkeley Professor Emeritus—Raymond K. Kent--, and published on a liberal Canadian website—Global Research-- takes a provocative position: anti-Americanism is shifting from targeting the Administration to targeting the American people, at least in the Islamic “street.”

In The Nature of Anti-Americanism is Changing, And it is Fifteen Minutes to Midnight, Prof. Kent seeks to address the two following questions:

"(a)Should the U.S. dominate the world, through a combination of Geo-politics, militarism and hard-ball diplomacy focusing, basically, on obedience to its will?

(b)Can it succeed, as the "Indispensable Nation," in shaping and re-shaping other societies and their governments to "make the world safe for Democracy?"

The conclusion, which should become clear in the ensuing pages, is that, so far, the answer to both questions has been " yes." The thesis presented in the text is that our Machiavellians, who promote (without admitting) the pseudo-science of "Geo-politics," and Imperialism of "free trade," "human rights" and spread of Democracy as "rule by the people,"(demos from Greek), are actually self-defeating and suicidal, for the nation as a whole, with or without "Home Security." The immortal words of Lee Hamilton, after the 9/11 Report, "we (just) did not get it," apply equally to both questions posed. Articulated by "the street" in countries with Islam as the state religion, a silent and sullen hate is mutating in the most dangerous sense. Instead of being directed primarily at one or another U.S. Administration or individual occupants of the White House, as used to be the case not long ago, its emerging target today is the American People."

This is not necessarily what appears in some of the surveys mentioned in this blog—see this entry about Europe and the German Marshall Fund—or that one about Latin America and the Chilean social-science institute FLACSO, but it certainly deserves a good debate.

What do you think?

Posted 06:57 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2005

Will India and Pakistan cooperate on a rescue effort in Kashmir?

A powerful earthquake hit Pakistan-India Border including Kashmir, which is is well known as a high-risk area for earthquakes.

A multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, Voice of America reported that the international community had offered condolences and aid pledges for victims of Saturday's massive earthquake in Kashmir that officials fear killed thousands. And in Washington, President Bush said initial U.S. deployments of assistance are underway.

At the same time, Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun expected that Indo-Pakistani tense relations might be improved through cooperation activities in Kashmir.

Considering recent lull of Indo-Pakistani tension over Kashmir and Saturday's region's strongest and worst natural disaster, Asahi said, these two countries are likely to cooperate to rescue quake-devastated region .

However, they didn't work well together on devastating avalanche which had killed almost 300 people in the region this February.

Asahi said it depends on high political judgment if India and Pakistan implement cooperation and support activities together.

Posted 11:28 PM | Comments (1)

Learning to cope with disaster

Part of the dilemma with with a changing risk preparedness environment is the role of education. And while it seems almost impossible to learn of surefire measures against natural disasters, terrorist threats, and the outbreak of war simultaneously, classrooms in Singapore have been attempting to do just that.

The Channel NewsAsia presents a story in which the youth of Singapore are taking courses designed "deal with a catastrophe." The background material includes Hurricane Katrina.

This all-girls school is put through a host of scenarios and then given readings and exercises that relate to catastrophe learning. The course's teacher maintains,

I want them to be empowered and see themselves as active agents in the community. They should be people who can make a difference, and not just curl up into a ball and scream when something happens.

Such measures in education are quite limited in the United States to this day, though all Californian students are required to learn basic earthquake and fire evacuation procedures. One wonders if any future routine in this country--with the help of Homeland Security?--will be able to incorporate both natural disaster procedures and the duck-and-cover moves of the Cold War era.

Posted 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2005

Rumsfeld will bypass Japan amid relocation stalemate

Asahi Shimbun reported on Thursday U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has canceled a visit to Japan planned for later this month because of a stalemate in talks on where to relocate a U.S. military base in Japan.

Bloomberg said Rumsfeld's decision not to visit Japan reflects U.S. frustration over the pace of negotiations on relocating a military heliport in Okinawa quating Koji Murata, a professor of diplomacy at Doshisha University in Kyoto, ``Washington expects Tokyo to take prompt action to promote better U.S.-Japan relations. There's likely to be some disappointment.''

Professor Murata analyzed ``Bush's domestic political situation is quite tough, while Koizumi's domestic situation is quite favorable. The U.S. waited and put off pressing Koizumi until the postal issue was resolved. Now, ashington expects action.''

Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese conservative paper, worried it might cloud the future of U.S.-Japan alliance.

The two allies had planned to draft an interim report on the realignment by the end of October so it could be approved at a summit between Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush expected in mid-November. But Sankei said this summit might be cancelled because of realignment issue.

Koizumi, who has been busy with domestic issue such as nation's postal system, has made very few statement on this military realignment issue. Sankei quoted a former Cabinet official as saying that "Koizumi sits on a good personal relationship with Bush," and concluded that it might be difficult to resolve this issue with Koizumi's time.

The current discussions on base realignment are also aimed at improving U.S-Japan military cooperation and giving Japan a bigger role as a strategic hub from which U.S. forces can respond to regional and global threats.

Posted 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

Living in 2001

By Elena Favilli

From The Spiegel online:

Bush’s speech of yesterday gives the Spiegel an opportunity to talk about his political inability. With the threat of bombing in New York subway, it seemed to be a perfect moment to talk about terrorism, "but his talk was not about the nation's current challenges. He delivered a reprise of his Sept. 11 rhetoric that suggested an avoidance of today's reality that seemed downright frightening […] Yesterday, it seemed like the President was still trying to live in 2001”. It was an ideal moment for Bush to demonstrate that he was really in control of his administration: “For instance, he could have addressed the crisis facing the overstretched military due to the endless demands made by Iraq on both the Army and the beleaguered National Guard”, but he didn’t. He just used again the same rhetoric of 9/11: “The president's inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating”.

Posted 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

Time for amending Japan's pacifist Constitution??

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday that lawmakers began deliberations at the Diet on a bill stipulating procedures to conduct a national referendum to amend the top law in a significant step toward revising the Constitution in Japan.

According to the Yomirui, representatives of most parties--including the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and New Party Nippon--said they were in favor of such a law. Only the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party expressed opposition to creating such a law, which paves the way to amending the Constitution.

Both of the ruling and opposition parties has been apprehensive about revising the Constitution, especially war-renouncing Article 9, which also bans the threat or use of force to settle international disputes.

However, Japanese people in general appear much more aware of the value of Article 9 than government ministers and lawmakers.

Wednesday's Mainichi Shimbun reported over 60 percent of those surveyed by the Mainichi had said they are opposed to revising Article 9 of the Constitution, even though a majority of the pollees expressed support for constitutional amendment in general. Only 30 percent responded that the clause should be revised.

The article said "The results clearly demonstrate that the majority of people think the pacifist clause should be retained even though the public is increasingly in favor of constitutional amendment amid ongoing discussions in the Diet on such changes."

Asahi Shimbun's poll conducted last April showed the similar result. According to that poll, 51 percent of the respondents said Article 9 should not be changed, in contrast with 36 percent who said it should be revised.

However, the article headlined "Playing the Constitution as a diplomatic card" continued that "the overwhelming majority of those polled also say they support Japan's alliance with the United States."

In fact, 76 percent of respondents to that poll said they approve of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, with only 12 percent disapproving.

Given many influential U.S. politicians including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, have argued for a revision to Article 9 to allow the Self-Defense Forces to engage in collective self-defense, the article concluded " we can expect the forces urging the amendment to gather momentum by emphasizing the importance of Japan's alliance with the United States."

Posted 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2005

Japanese poll shows anti-Chinese feeling running strong among Japanese

One of Japanese leading newspapers, Mainichi Shimbun's poll published on Thursday shows only 31 percent of 2,418 Japanese feel an affinity for China while 65 percent of those have favorable impression of the US.
It reveals the cooling public sentiment among Japanese against China and the tension between these two countries that is often called politically cold but economically hot.
The article concluded "when it came to China, the impact of anti-Japanese riots on the Asian mainland in April seems to have had an adverse effect on the way Japanese view Chinese."

People who answered that they feel intimacy with China fairy well 4%
partly 27%
not very much50%
not at all18%
People who answered that they feel intimacy with the US fairy well 14%
not very much28%
not at all5%

Posted 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Reaction to one-year extension for law on terrorism in Japan

Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday decided to extend a special measures law on assisting the U.S. military in its battle against terrorism-but for only a year.
This will be the second time Japanese government has decided to extend the special measures law.
Even though Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials in Japan wanted another two-year extension, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insisted that the time period be for just one year.
In response to this extension, Japanese two major newspapers showed two different editorials.

Asahi Shimbun, which is known liberal, said in their October 5th's editorial "We are not surprised at Koizumi's caution. The fighting has ceased in Afghanistan. The country has an elected president and parliamentary elections were held last month. The nation is on its way to reconstruction, at least after a fashion, and these developments certainly warrant a close re-examination of how Japan should help Afghanistan. Is the MSDF(Maritime Self-Defense Force) presence in the Indian Ocean really necessary? If it is effective, how so? How long should this continue? Is this the best form of cooperation for Japan to offer? The Diet must address these questions when it starts deliberations on the government bill."

On the other hand, the Yomiuri Shimbun, which is supposed to be relatively conservative, said in the same day's editorial that "We would like to stress again that a permanent law should be enacted on international peace cooperation activities conducted by the Self-Defense Forces."
In their editorial, Yomiuri even referred to Article 9 and said "MSDF ships have been dispatched to the Indian Ocean since December 2001 based on the Antiterrorism Law. They have been refueling British, French and U.S. aircraft carriers, frigates and other naval vessels that stop and inspect suspicious ships in international waters. From an international viewpoint, refueling such ships effectively means exercising the right to collective self-defense.
If the SDF helps troops of another country in danger, it may be considered as exercising the right to collective self-defense or the kind of use of arms prohibited by the Constitution.
The government is responsible for making clear rules on the right to collective self-defense and the use of arms.
Japan must try to release itself quickly from the spell of the constitutional interpretation of Article 9. "

Posted 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2005

Supreme deception?

Normally the personnel changes of courts warrant little international attention, but the choice of Harriet Miers seems to have struck a chord in much of the Latin American press.

In spite of the fact that President Bush has stated that he thinks Miers "extremely qualified" for the position of Supreme Court justice, Mexican daily El Universal cites complaints relating to her lack of experience, especially in light of the prominent Hispanic candidates in the American judiciary who could have been chosen.

Citing representatives from two prominent Latino advocacy groups, the paper characterizes a sense of disbelief in the community. "This is like a slap in the face of the Hispanic judges who have served in high distinction on the courts," says Raul Yzaguirre of the the National Council of La Raza.

Mexican-American news site La Opinión, meanwhile, situates this discussion as "deception" on the part of an administration that had once considered raising Florida Senator Mel Martinez (Cuban-American) or Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez (Mexican-American) to the high court. This line of reasoning appears to be that it little matters about the ideological suasion of a judicial candidate, important because most American Latinos do not identify themselves as political conservatives.

This story ends on a foreboding note for an administration that is currently in the firing line between ceaseless calls for border tightening and a rising class of malleable Latino voters: It quotes a LULAC lawyer as saying with this move "[the president] risks angering one of the fastest growing electorates in the country."

Posted 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2005

Karen Hughes Mid-East Tour: A Failure of Public Diplomacy

A number of papers are carrying stories related to Karen Hughes’, the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, recently concluded tour of the Middle East. She stopped in Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia where she met with groups screened to be as receptive as possible to her pro-America, pro-Bush message. Even under these carefully massaged conditions, the trip has caused more harm than good for the image of the US in the Middle East. While the Egyptian leg of the trip, by all accounts, went over passably well, even the Bush-loyalist Weekly Standard acknowledged that her attempt to stand up for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia backfired:

Student after student stepped to the microphones in the hall. Peering out from behind their abayas, they denounced the portrayal in the American news media of Saudi women as powerless and abused.
"We are not oppressed. We are not prisoners in our own homes," said one student. "We are all pretty happy." She demanded to know why Americans have such a negative view of the way Saudi women are treated.

The Washington Post reports that her stop in Turkey likewise failed to impress – there she was met with condemnation for the Iraq occupation:
"This war is really, really bringing your positive efforts to the level of zero," said Hidayet Sefkatli Tuksal, an activist with the Capital City Women's Forum. She said it was difficult to talk about cooperation between women in the United States and Turkey as long as Iraq was under occupation.

Slate’s Fred Kaplan suggests that the whole trip may have been as badly conceived as it was badly executed, beginning with the selection of Hughes as an envoy. Illustrating his point, he comes up with a Muslim version of her:

Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented "Good morning."

He goes on to point out that while Middle Eastern audiences raise substantive issues relating to American policy (the war in Iraq, for instance), Hughes is reduced to mouthing sugary slogans, emphasizing her motherhood and love of children. This whole approach of public diplomacy embraces the idea that what is necessary to repair the image of America in the Muslim world is not a revision of policy, but a better marketing campaign. If that’s the case, as dubious as it seems, the US should start looking for a better PR hack.

Posted 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2005

International merging

Obi of Mexico City, Mexico (CartoonArts International).

Posted 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

Muslim views of the US: Anger or merely disapproval?

A web-only article at the New Republic challenges the widely-perceived notion that the Muslim world is fiercely hostile towards, rather than just displeased with, the United States. It traces that perception back to the hardest data available, the Pew Global Attitudes Survey, observing:

Evidently few reporters took the time to read the fine print in the [March 2004 survey, "A Year After Iraq War: Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher; Muslim Anger Persists."] If they did, they would have found that the poll provided absolutely no evidence to support the charge that "Muslim anger persists." In fact, the word "anger" did not appear in a single poll question. Muslims did give high "unfavorable" ratings to the United States, but there is considerable difference between viewing something unfavorably and being angry at it. (Think of broccoli or Britney Spears.) Pew evidently recognized how problematic this was; in the 2005 version of the Global Attitudes Survey, released in June, references to such sensationalist (and unsubstantiated) terms as "anger" were nowhere to be found. But the damage was already done.

The report further notes that Muslim publics are more accepting of US global leadership than European ones, and that in all Muslim countries but Turkey approval of the US occupation of Iraq had upticked slightly since the previous year. It concludes by noting that there have been few sizeable anti-American protests in 2005, and, tellingly, McDonalds' is reporting sizeable profits throughout the region. But perhaps just as disapproval may not mean anger, so love of the Big Mac may not equal love of Uncle Sam.

Posted 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2005

Conservatives in turmoil

In European press, much is being made of the Conservative scandal after the indictment of Tom DeLay, majority leader of the House of Representatives.

According to The Economist, “A conservative crack-up may be going too far; but a conservative realignment is definitely in the works.” Mr DeLay’s indictment is not the only ethical problem hampering the Republicans. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, is being investigated about a stock sale and Karl Rove, President George Bush’s chief strategist, is fighting accusations that he leaked the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent. The Conservative movement is in turmoil and long-standing tensions are coming out.

The Spanish El Pais points out how the indictment of Tom DeLay is only the last crack of an already assailed White House: the hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, the increasing price of oil barrels, the public deficit. Will be able the Democrats to win 2006 elections?

Posted 11:32 AM | Comments (0)