The Islamic Post Blog


Cuba and United States’ Strained Relationship Begins to Loosen by Khalida
May 21, 2009, 7:04 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009, National | Tags:

By Asma A. Adl
Islamic Post Staff Writer

Cuban President Raul Castro spoke at a meeting of Latin American leftist leaders in Venezuela recently stating that Havana is prepared to discuss any issue the new U.S. administration. “We’ve told the North American government, in private and in public, that we are prepared, wherever they want, to discuss everything —human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners– everything, everything, everything that they want to discuss,” as reported by CNN. Mr. Castro insists that the communist island nation be treated as an equal.
President Obama, during a press conference in Mexico City stated Washington is ready to “recast our relationship” with Cuba. The President also says that his decision to relax travel and remittances to Cuba are very significant and merit reciprocal steps by the island’s communist government; that the importance of the steps taken should not be overlooked, also stating that they are extraordinarily significant for Cubans and Cuban Americans alike. “I think what you saw was a good-faith effort, a show of good faith on the part of the United States that we want to recast our relationship [with Cuba],” he said, if Cuba is ready to change.
Mr. Obama does acknowledge that the debate will continue over the prohibition of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, also stating that “there is not much discussion of the ban on Cuban people traveling elsewhere, and the severe restrictions that they are under.”
President Obama says with understanding that “50 years of frozen relationships will not thaw overnight.”



UN Commemorates End of Open Slavery, Pushes for End to Hidden Scourge by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009

(IP) –A series of events marking the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade took place at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. The Day of Remembrance was designated by the General Assembly in 2007 as the day to honor the millions of Africans violently removed from their homelands and cast into slavery. According to a UN statement it is estimated that “up to 28 million men, women and children were taken from Africa from the 16th to 19th centuries and shipped across the notorious Middle Passage of the Atlantic – mainly to colonies in North America, South America and the West Indies.”
Addressing the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the elevation this year of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States marks a milestone in the 400-year struggle of the descendants of African slaves for justice, assimilation and respect –although the reference would moreso apply to the First Lady Michelle Obama.
The secretary-general also highlighted the fact that contemporary forms of slavery continue to pollute the world. “It is essential that we speak out loud and clear against such abuses,” he stressed.
The UN issued a report entitled “Unfinished Business” in December 2008 calling for more effective enforcefment of anti-human trafficking laws. “Throughout the twentieth century, trafficking was rarely treated as a specific offence, but would instead be covered indirectly as part of more general injunctions dealing with issues such as prostitution or kidnapping,” the report says. However, over the last decade, many countries have introduced anti-trafficking legislation, making it easier, at least on paper to pursue successful prosecutions.
But the report goes on to say “there have been few (if any) serious repercussions for even the most heinous, systematic abuses. This is largely a testament to widespread government involvement. Most historical abuses have taken place because of, rather than in spite of, official endeavours. This pervasive lack of accountability has continued to this day.”
“If slavery has been legally prohibited, but its more heinous characteristics have continued under a variety of different designations, or through numerous illicit activities, on what grounds can we say that slavery has effectively come to an end?” the report asks.
The report listed number of incidents it considers forms of modern day slavery: “(a) Debt bondage, that is to say, the status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of his personal services or of those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined; (b) Serfdom, that is to say, the condition or status of a tenant who is by law, custom or agreement bound to live and labour on land belonging to another person and to render some determinate service to such other person, whether for reward or not, and is not free to change his status; (c) Any institution or practice whereby: (i) A woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group; or (ii) The husband of a woman, his family, or his clan, has the right to transfer her to another person for value received or otherwise; or (iii) A woman on the death of her husband is liable to be inherited by another person; (d) Any institution or practice whereby a child or young person under the age of 18 years, is delivered by either or both of his natural parents or by his guardian to another person, whether for reward or not, with a view to the exploitation of the child or young person or of his labour.”
Ban Ki Moon also warned in December that, due to the global economic turmoil “poor people are likely to be driven further into poverty, making them more vulnerable to slavery-like practices.” Thailand, Brazil and Colombia are countries long considered the nations with the highest percentage of human trafficking with the Dominican Republic at similar levels of exploitation. Last month, the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez, presented her office’s program to install community information and communication technology educational centers nationwide as part of a strategy to discourage women from falling prey to human trafficking, as reported by DR1.
Sources: UN, DR1. Researcher Noora Ahmad contributed to this report.



American Latino Numbers Swell, New ‘Majority Minority’ by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009, National

By Asma A. Adl

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Elementary schools’ populations are nearing Latino/Hispanic majority in nine of the nation’s largest cities according to a study by the Thomas Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California. The Thomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) is a non-profit independent institution founded in 1985 that specializes in key issues affecting the Latino community; issues such as education, political participation, access to health care, economic well being, mass media as well as immigration. The institute is affiliated with the School of Policy Planning and Development at the University of Southern California in L.A. and also has an office at Columbia University in N.Y.
The percentage increase is high in large cities such as Los Angles and Dallas. Hispanic first graders are the highest, as quoted by TRPI; “three out of four first graders in the school district are Latino.” TRPI states as well, “In 2020 this demographic wave of Latino first graders will graduate high school and enter collegiate education or the labor market.” The president of TRPI and a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California, Harry Pachon, stated, “The future is now in terms of challenges presented to school districts across the nation by this influx of Latino youth.” He also stated that a large percentage of these students are U.S citizens by birth and paradoxically our public schools are in the position of teaching English to native born American children.
The Census Bureau states that Hispanics are also becoming more prevalent on college campuses as well. Students comprised 12% of full time college students (both graduate and undergraduate) in 2007, an increase from 10% in 2006, according to Bureau tables recently released. Hispanics also comprise 15% of the nation’s total population. In 2007 students in grades 1-12 made up 64% of the people three and older enrolled in school. The TRPI research compiled this spring by from Hispanic public school enrollment revealed the following information:
Columbia Professor Rodolfo de la Garza and vice president of research at the TRPI observed, “This is a profound demographic change, which provides a challenge for American education, just as European immigrants created a new foundation for New York through their ambition to excel and succeed. Latinos, if provided support and respect, will be in a position to strengthen our cities and our nation.”
Sources: US Census Bureau, Thomas Rivera Policy Institute.In the following major US states Hispanic enrollment rose significantly in the following grade (Gr.) levels:

1st Gr. 6th Gr. 12th Gr.

New York        40.6%   39.3%   34.9%
Los Angeles    74.5%   74.1%   65.1%
Chicago            45.1%   41.1%   35.2%
Houston           63.1%   59.8%   52.1%
Philadelphia   17.8%   18.2%   14.3%
Phoenix            43.9%   42.1%   37.0%
San Antonio    89.4%   89.8%   86.5%
San Diego         45.8%   45.4%   35.1%
Dallas                68.6%   65.3%   55.0%
San Jose           53.6%   49.3%   47.5%

(Data Sources: New York Dept. of Education Research and Policy Support Group; California Dept. of Education; Chicago Public School Office of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability; Texas Education Agency; Philadelphia School District Office of Accountability; Arizona Dept. of Education Research and Evaluation Section; Texas Education Agency.)



As Regional Trade Lags, Tourism Still Rising in Dominican Republic by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Business/Economy, Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009, Touring

(IP) –The Dominican Republic Customs Director, Miguel Cocco, is urging actions to increase Dominican regional exports, saying the DR has been the big loser in regional trade, as reported by DR1. “For every US$10 the country exports to Central America, it imports US$90 from those countries. And for every US$18 exported to the Caribbean, Dominicans import US$82,” he was reported to have said at a trade export summit.
According to Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, the island nation entered 2009 with a strong economy after small increases in remittances and tourist arrivals. “GDP grew 5.3 percent last year, slightly higher than the average for Latin America, he added. Remittances reached $3.1 billion, a 2.1 percent growth from 2007, while the number of tourist arrivals –nearly 4 million– grew 7 percent and generated $4.2 billion in revenue,” Dominican Today reported.
In commenting on the global crisis, Dominican Today reported the president as saying: “The Dominican Republic has been affected by the accumulation of adversities and calamities that extend across the planet as if it were a modern version of the Seven Plagues of Egypt.”
Dominican Today further reports the country is set to rely on an estimated $1.8 billion in loans from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and others to pay for projects related to education, health and energy, as noted by President Fernandez in his annual Independence Day address earlier this year.

Sources: DR1, Dominican Today



US Officials Promote Progressive Governance to ‘Face Challenges,’ Stem Drug Trade by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags: ,

(IP) –Latin America received two visits from Obama administration officials in working in preparation for the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Fifth Summit of the Americas held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on April 17-19.
After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s historic visit to Mexico City, Vice President Joe Biden made his tour of Latin America, meeting up with Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg, and Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero along with center-left heads of state from Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina along with Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Mission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS in Via Del Mar, Chile for the Progressive Governance conference. After the Chile forum, the Vice President headed to Costa Rica for a multilateral meeting attended by Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias, El Salvador’s President Tony Saca, El Salvador’s President- elect Mauricio Funes and Panama’s President Martin Torrijos. Second row left to right; Honduras’ Vice President Aristides Mejia, Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Nicaragua’s Assistant Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel.
Before the visit, the Vice President published an editorial in eleven newspapers announcing the intent of the visit. The editorial, entitled “A New Day for Partnership in the Americas” mentioned the upcoming summit in Trinidad and Tobago, wherein President Barack Obama will “meet his colleagues from across the Western Hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas.” “In advance of that historic meeting,” Mr Biden writes, “I am traveling to Central and South America to consult with Latin American leaders gathered in Chile and Costa Rica about the Summit and the challenges faced by the people of the Americas.
“These meetings are an important first step toward a new day in relations and building partnerships with and among the countries and people of the Hemisphere.”
In addition to mentioning the necessity of joint fiscal policies in the wake of the economic crisis, Mr Biden also reiterated in his editorial statements made by Secretary Clinton on her visit to Mexico earlier in the month. In what could be the first admission of partial culpability by a US administration, Secretary Clinton told reporters: an “insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade” along the US-Mexican border. “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians,” said Mrs Clinton, adding, “I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility.”
Vice President Biden wrote: “In the United States, we need to do more to reduce demand for illicit drugs and stem the flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our borders. We applaud Mexico’s courageous stand against violent drug cartels, as well as Colombia’s anti-drug efforts, but we know that they will have the side effect of pushing traffickers into Central America. We will build on the Meridá Initiative – started last year under President Bush – to assist Mexico and the Central American nations in a joint effort to confront that threat head-on. The drug trade is a problem we all share and one whose ultimate solution we must devise together.”
Mexican officials have long complained that the US government ignored how American demand for cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines fueled the trade. Some months ago, the Mexican President, Felipe Calderon alleged “drug trafficking in the United States [to be] fueled by the phenomenon of corruption on the part of the American authorities,” according to a PressTV report, which added American arms to have been used “in about 90 percent of the murders over drug trafficking, according to both US and Mexican officials.”
-Sources- State Dept, White House, Press TV



US Congress Puts International Tax Havens Under Fire by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009, National | Tags:

(IP) –At the recent Summit of the Americas, Caricom (Caribbean Community) Chairman, Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize, referred to financial services in the Caribbean as important “growth engines,” in response to the tax haven controversy that followed the G20 economic summit last month. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which claims to work “with its 30 member countries and with others to develop sound policy frameworks for the governance of the world economy,” issued a report at the conclusion of the G20 conference outlining the progress of traditional tax havens towards transparency. The move was agreed upon by all attendees. While four of the countries were slow to comply with new regulations being initiated by the OECD –which would include sanctions for those not in agreement– eventually all alleged tax havens, including those nations in the Caribbean and others which are not a part of the G20, were put on a grey list to be monitored, and all sides claimed victory.
The US Congress however, is going forward with a bill that seeks to prevent US tax dollars from hiding in foreign banks in the first place. The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act introduces “new enforcement tools,” according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Carl Levin [Democrat-Michigan]. “They include new legal presumptions to overcome offshore secrecy barriers, special measures to combat persons who impede U.S. tax enforcement, treatment of offshore corporations as domestic corporations when controlled by U.S. persons, elimination of the offshore dividend tax loophole, greater disclosure of offshore transactions, and more,” Mr Levin announced in a statement.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Levin, recently held two days of hearings and released a report that “broke through the wall of secrecy that normally surrounds banks located in tax haven jurisdictions.”
Regarding the tax haven investigation, Senator Levin seems to have started with Switzerland, but the investigation will not end there. The Subcommittee presented seven case histories of U.S. persons who had secretly stashed millions of dollars in accounts at LGT Bank, a private bank owned by the Liechtenstein royal family in Switzerland. “These case histories unfolded like spy novels, with secret meetings, hidden funds, shell corporations, and complex offshore transactions spanning the globe from the United States to Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands, Australia, and Hong Kong,” Levin states. He continues: “A former LGT employee, now in hiding for disclosing LGT client information, provided videotaped testimony during the hearing describing a long list of secrecy tricks and deceptive practices used by LGT to conceal client assets. They included using code names for LGT clients; requiring bankers to use outside pay phones to call clients to prevent those calls from being traced back to the bank; establishing offshore shell corporations which clients could use to route money into and out of their LGT accounts without incriminating wire transfers; and creating elaborate offshore structures involving foundations, trusts, and corporations to conceal client ownership of assets. In addition, four U.S. persons asserted their Fifth Amendment rights at the hearing and declined to answer questions about their LGT accounts.”
The Tax Justice Network, an international non-profit organization dedicated to fighting tax evasion, has estimated that wealthy individuals worldwide have stashed $11.5 trillion of their assets in offshore tax havens. Two experts, Joseph Guttentag and Professor Reuven Avi-Yonah, have estimated that U.S. individuals are using offshore tax schemes to avoid payment of $40 to $70 billion in taxes each year. Mr Levin is supported in his efforts by President Barack Obama, whose proposed budget is counting on the recovery of said billions of offshore tax dollars to assist in stabilizing the economy over time (Please see US government revenue chart on A6).
The US is becoming increasingly aggressive in the effort to shut down tax havens, and this even before the OECD agreements made after the G20 summit earlier this month. USA Today reported that the Swiss Bank UBS closed more than 14,000 accounts owned by US citizens following a court settlement over accusations it assisted its clients with tax evasion. Yet, the Swiss government has made it clear that by adopting the OECD Model Tax Convention, whereby Switzerland will henceforward share information “with other countries in individual cases where a specific and justified request has been made,” bank secrecy will not be put to rest. Pierre Mirabaud, chairman of the Swiss Bankers Association in Geneva accused the G20, of which Switzerland is not a member, of hypocrisy and hoped that Switzerland woud be treated as fairly as those tax havens which are territories of G20 nations, specifically Britain. Mr Mirabaud told the Bloomberg news agency: “I would only believe Mr. Brown [British Prime Minister Gordon Brown] is serious about addressing the question of transparency in offshore banking if he forces the real beneficial owners of any trust to be identified in all jurisdictions.”
But the US Department of Justice did just that, having served UBS almost a year ago with a “John Doe summons,” seeking the names of 19,000 U.S. clients with Swiss accounts hidden from the IRS. UBS said at the Subcommittee hearing in July that it was ready to cooperate. However, virtually none of the information requested by the John Doe summons has been turned over, primarily because the Swiss Government has taken the position that turning over this client account information would violate Swiss secrecy laws. In the deferred prosecution agreement, UBS agreed to contest the summons in court, but if it lost, to turn over the information to the United States or risk resumption of the criminal prosecution against the bank. The Department of Justice has asked the U.S. court that approved the summons to enforce it, and a trial to resolve the issue is now scheduled for July 2009, “one year after the initial request for the information,” according to Senator Levin. “The fact that the United States is having such a difficult time getting the client names, despite catching UBS red-handed and obtaining its admission of wrongdoing, shows how tough the offshore tax evasion problem is.”
Senator Levin also cites the surprisingly widespread use of tax havens by corporations with household names such as Microsoft, which was reported by the Government Accountability Office to have eight subsidiaries in tax haven countries: “In January 2009, Senator [Byron] Dorgan and I released a report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) which shows that out of the 100 largest U.S. publicly traded corporations, 83 have subsidiaries in tax havens. Of the 100 largest federal contractors, 63 have tax haven subsidiaries. Using data from their corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, GAO listed the number of tax haven subsidiaries for each of these corporations. GAO determined, for example, that Morgan Stanley has 273 tax haven subsidiaries, while Citigroup has 427, with 90 in the Cayman Islands alone. News Corp. has 152, while Procter and Gamble has 83, Pfizer has 80, Oracle has 77, and Marathon Oil has 76. My Subcommittee is currently engaged in an effort to understand why so many of these corporations have so many tax haven affiliates. To do that we are going to have to battle secrecy laws in 50 different jurisdictions.”
Senator Levin seems up for the task.



West Indies Accuses Britain of Attempting Recolonization in the Midst of Tax Haven Investigations by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags:

(IP) –The British Government recently sacked the government of the Turks and Caicos Island after it was reported the local premier’s personal assets grew during his five years in office from $US50,000 to a fortune estimated at up to $US180 million, as reported by The Australian news network.
The BBC was even more blunt in reporting the controversial news. “The premier and his cabinet will be sacked, as will the leader of the opposition, speaker and deputy speaker of parliament, the cabinet secretary and members of the judicial and public service commissions other than the chairmen,” wrote the British Broadcasting Corporation. “The House of Assembly will be dissolved and MPs will lose their seats. According to the order laid before the British parliament …the exact date of British restoration of direct rule over the Turks and Caicos Islands depends on the Governor, Gordon Weatherell, acting in his discretion. Once he publishes his date in the local government gazette, the main offices of state shall become vacant,” BBC continued.
Former Premier Michael Misick, who duly resigned after the scandal was made public, describes the move as “modern-day colonialism.” The Inter Press Service (IPS) reports Mr Misick as saying in a statement, “[T]his step by the British cannot be right, morally or otherwise. It is wrong in the 21st century to have an entire population re-colonised in this fashion, with the executive, legislative, judicial and all other powers lying in the hands of the colonial masters, but vested in one person (the governor), who himself, in this case, is not a citizen.”
The former premier continued: “They still view us all as a corrupt people, unfit to govern ourselves. We cannot and should not take this lying down.” Mr Misick called on the UN to intervene on the country’s behalf, according to Bloomberg. Earlier this year, the UN reiterated its support for “de-colonization” efforts worldwide.
“In 1873, after three centuries under Spanish, French, and then British control, the TCI were made a part of Jamaica,” writes IPS. “When that country achieved independence from Britain in August 1962, the Turks and Caicos Islands became a crown colony. It has had its own government since August 1976. In 1979, independence was agreed upon in principle for 1982, but a change in government caused a policy reversal.”
IPS quotes Reuben Meade, a former chief minister of Montserrat, another British colony in the Caribbean, as doubting real independence will ever come for the British Overseas Territories. “From where I sit as a minister of government, the answer is no. It is easier for us to do the bidding of our colonial masters. In doing so, we get money to spend,” he said, adding: “After 375 years of colonial domination, we are yet to see a Black governor in any of the British colonies.”
The sacking of all legislative bodies in the Turks and Caicos Islands comes at the beginning of intense scrutiny into the suspected hidden tax income in offshore banking centers located in the Caribbean and worldwide. The UK Guardian reported the measures contained in the anti tax-haven legislation initiated by US Senator Carl Levin to be a “severe blow” to offshore banking. Nevertheless, Richard Murphy, a British tax accountant who has become one of the world’s leading anti-haven campaigners told The Australian the general agreement made by G20 nations after the summit holds little weight. “These agreements to exchange information are useless; the secrecy will be completely intact,” says. There is an estimated $13 trillion untaxed wealth being filtered through places like Switzerland, Jersey and most Caribbean Islands. “London is the biggest tax haven in the world because all these other places are just branches of London,” Mr Murphy told the Australian.

Addendum:Most of the financial centres listed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), from the Channel Islands to the Caymans or the Cook Islands, are or were British territories. Half of them still have the Queen as their head of state. Britain, Canada and Australia account for 90 per cent of the combined population of the 16 independent nations ruled by the Queen. Most of the other 13 are defined by the OECD as tax havens.

Together the world’s tax havens allow rich individuals to hide trillions of dollars from national tax authorities. The OECD estimates that $US7 trillion ($10 trillion) has been stashed away, while anti-haven campaigners say the true figure is at least $US11.5 trillion.
Places such as Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria are also widely recognised as secretive offshore finance centres.

The OECD has published a list of nations/territories that have the low tax rates, secrecy and poor regulation that define tax havens. The initial list of jurisdictions was derived from US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) court filings identifying certain nations as probable locations for U.S. tax evasion.
These include:

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey/Sark/Alderney, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Nauru, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, Samoa, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Singapore, Switzerland. Turks and Caicos. Vanuatu.



Economic Impact of the Summit of the Americas by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Business/Economy, Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009

By Sabeerah Abdul Majied

Islamic Post Staff Writer

More than 70 world leaders participated in the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad from April 17-19, 2009. It was the first time this prestigious event has been held in the Caribbean and in a CARICOM member state. The Summit is the only forum where the 34 democratically elected Heads of State and Governments of the Western Hemisphere meet to share their vision for the development of the hemisphere. The leaders deliberated on matters related to the political, economic, social, and security challenges confronting the region. Prime Minister Manning noted in an address to parliament that the summit has implications for, “the lives of some 2.8 billion people living in the Americas and the Commonwealth.”
Critics have raised issue with the tremendous cost to the tiny Republic –$2b according to Trinidad’s Newsday– for hosting the event. However the Prime Minister believes that it is a progressive vision which could yield development, progress and greater regional integration.
Preparation for the summit progressed with the readying of official venues such as the Hyatt Regency Trinidad and the Diplomatic Centre for the event. Further, two cruise ships anchored in the Port of Spain Harbor provided additional accommodation for delegates and other international participants. National security was upgraded to meet the standard required for hosting US President Barak Obama and other heads of state. Signs of preparation were most visible at the Piarco International Airport which accommodated the largest number of non- commercial aircrafts ever to land on its runway.
The theme of the Summit, “Securing Our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability” focused discussions on issues related to the global economic situation, environmental management, social protection and poverty eradication. Education, public security systems and entrepreneurship was also discussed. The collective responses and agreements will inform yet another conference- the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which Trinidad will also host from November 27-29, 2009.
In 1994 the leaders of the Western Hemisphere met for the first summit in Miami on the initiative of President Clinton. Since then a 2nd summit was held in Chile (1998). This was followed by the 3rd summit in Canada (2001) and the 4th in Argentina (2005). The summits have provided a forum for sharing experiences and developing solutions to problems that affect the people of the Americas.



Latin American Troops Train for US Service by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009, Uncategorized

(IP) –The US Defense Department recently announced disaster preparedness exercises that would trains 500 guardsmen in Puerto Rico. The announcement came just after the Pentagon announced a “new yearlong program [which] for the first time allows foreigners who are studying or working in the United States on a temporary visa to join [the military] if they meet certain requirements,” as reported by Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe. “There are already about 29,000 legal immigrants serving in the US military in return for expedited citizenship,” the Globe noted. The program has been designated by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to be “vital to the national interest,” and “is being managed by the Army, which is seeking to recruit up to 557 individuals with certain foreign language and cultural skills, and another 330 who are doctors, nurses, or other medical technicians,” the Globe reported.
Also of note to the region, Dominican Today reported the participation of 88 members of the naval forces of Dominican Republic, Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua in regional training excercises by the United States Southern Command, “at a time when drug trafficking and organized crime surge as Central America and the Caribbean’s main security threats.”



Cuba Leads Energy Revolution by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags:

By Safiyah Abdul Khafidh

Islamic Post Staff Writer

(IP) –The astonishing progress Cuba has made in organic agriculture, urban gardens, biodiversity, natural and traditional medicine has earned it the recognition of being the only country in the world that has achieved sustainable development. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet 2006 Report assessed sustainable development using the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint. The HDI is calculated based on life expectancy, literacy, educational levels and per capita GDP, while the ecological footprint measures a country’s use of its natural resources and effects on the ecosystem or demand on the biosphere. According to the above 2006 report, Cuba is at the top of the list of countries worldwide, challenging even the US with its impressive statistics from the United Nations HDI 2007/2008 REPORT: 77.7 in life expectancy, 99.8 in literacy, a rate of 6 in infant mortality per 1000 live births and 9.8 on public expenditure on education (%GDP) as compared to the US 77.9, 99, 6 and 5.9, respectively. The same report assesses Cuba’s energy consumption to be one eight of that in the US. Leading the way in helping Cuba perfect its level of sustainability is its two year old energy revolution, focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The uniqueness of the Cubans approach lies in their integration of technical, social, educational and economic measures. It has five main aspects: energy efficiency and conservation, implementing more renewable energy technologies, increasing the efficiency and availability of the national electric grid, more exploration and production of gas and oil and cooperating internationally.
In tackling the problem of energy efficiency, Cuba realized the answer was not necessarily in finding more ways of generating energy but in decreasing the demand for energy. It set about distributing, free of charge, over nine million compact fluorescent light bulbs, replacing the less efficient incandescent bulbs, making Cuba the first country in the world to phase out the tungsten filament bulbs. People were discouraged from cooking with kerosene and purchased electrical cooking appliances like rice cookers and pressure cookers. Within the two years of the energy revolution, Cubans have replaced nearly two million refrigerators, over one million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and 260,000 water pumps with more energy efficient appliances.
Their primary conservation measure employs the use of a new residential electrical tariff. Those using less than 100 kWh (kilowatt hours) a month pay only a fraction of a cent per kWh. Consumers increasing their usage of 50 kWh a month pay a much higher rate, while those using over 300 kWh a month pay 1.30 pesos per kWh (5.4 US cents). The media, by means of billboards, newspaper articles and a weekly television program dedicated to energy concerns, is also an effective tool used in the energy revolution.
Energy education has been the most cost effective measure that Cuba utilizes in transforming its energy program. The Ministry of Education implements a national energy education program aimed at teaching students, teachers, workers, families and communities about energy efficiency and conservation, as well as renewable sources of energy. Teresa Palenzuela, an energy saving program specialist said, “If we begin to insist on (energy efficiency) at the preschool age, we are creating a conduct for life.” In schools, the energy theme is deeply integrated into the curriculum, crossing many disciplines. The national energy program hosts energy festivals, targeting students to express their thoughts on energy through songs, poetry and theater. In each of the schools, the best energy efficient projects go to the festival at the municipal level, then moving on to the provincial and finally to the national level. At the national level, it is so popular that people line up for blocks to enter. Yet, there are no winners. The students just share their knowledge and experiences.
The use of wind and solar energy is expanding. One hundred wind measuring stations are being installed and two new wind farms have been built and under construction is Cuba’s first grid connected 100 kWh solar electric plant. All schools, health clinics and social centers in rural areas were electrified with solar energy. Currently, 2,364 of the solar electric systems are on rural schools, making lights, educational television and computers available to every student in the country.
Cuba is getting rid of its very old, centralized, inefficient electrical grid and building towards distributed generation of electricity, which allows for diversity of electrical sources. In 2006, Cuba eliminated blackouts by installing 1,854 diesel and fuel oil micro-electrical plants across the country. Also installed were 4000 emergency backup systems to facilities such as hospitals, schools, food production centers and sites critical to the country’s economy. They also upgraded the electrical transmission network. The residue left over after sugar cane is processed, called bagasse, is burned and turned into energy to power the sugar plants as well as feed the electrical grid. Cuba does not support using food crops for fuel while millions suffer hunger. However there are some liquid biofuels projects, one in particular involving the use of non edible oil.
Finally, mention must be made of Cuba’s social workers or “trabajadores sociales,” founded by Fidel Castro who calls them “Doctors of the Soul,” and the role they are playing in the energy revolution. These are youths, whose task is to bring social justice in various aspects such as labor, education, culture, sports and the environment. Thirteen thousand of them have visited homes, facilities and businesses replacing light bulbs, teaching people how to use their new energy efficient appliances and educating on energy conservation. They also work in the bus system and the sugarcane harvest to achieve more energy efficiency. Under the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas, they travel to other countries assisting with the energy crises.
‘We need a global energy revolution,” says Mario Alberto Arrastia Avila, a Cubaenergia expert. “But in order for this to happen we also need a revolution in consciousness. Cuba has undertaken its own path towards a new energy paradigm, applying concepts like distributed energy, efficiency, education, energy solidarity and the gradual solarization off the country.”



Fifth Summit of the Americas Heralds a Brighter Future by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags:

By Sabeerah Abdul-Majied

Islamic Post Staff Writer

(IP) – The spotlight appeared to have been on the highest profiled delegate, U.S. President Barack Obama, to set the tone for the Fifth Summit of the Americas –and he delivered. The U.S. president contributed to the spirit of cooperation among the 34 leaders, as they deliberated in Trinidad last month “using his now familiar arsenal of insightful, eloquent utterances and personal charm,” according to local Caribbean news outlets.
President Obama listened as his hemispheric Latin American neighbors recounted and denounced previous instances of U.S. intervention in the affairs of the regional sovereign states. Although President Obama admitted having a lot to learn about the societal differences between the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean, he also cautioned against blaming all of the regions’ problems on the United States.
President Obama focused attention instead away from the past and towards a brighter future in which he was committed to working more effectively with the leaders. In his feature address the U.S. President advocated moving forward, “with a new sense of partnership.” He said, “We seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values.” He also said that the U.S. is “committed to shaping the future through engagement that is strong and sustained …based on mutual respect and equality.”
President Obama was able to win the admiration of some and the hope of many that change is possible in relations with the U.S. Shah, a columnist for the Sunday Express Newspaper remarked that President Obama “has not assumed the arrogance that typified his predecessors. He speaks as an equal, even if he remains the first among equals.” Shah felt compelled to defend the enormity of the President’s task by referring to similarities in the administration inherited by both the Presidencies of the U.S. and that of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. He said that many people blame Chavez for the poverty that exists in his oil rich nation. However, poverty was “institutionalized by the capitalist policies of his predecessors” and not Hugo’s socialist policies. He is of the view that Hugo, like Barack has started programs aimed at lifting the poor out of poverty.
A highlight of the Summit was the ground breaking handshake exchanged between President Barack Obama and Venezuela’s socialist leader President Hugo Chavez as both men met for the first time. Pr. Chavez, an outspoken critic of the U.S., is reported to have said, “Let’s be friends” as they shook hands. Mr Chavez also gave Mr. Obama a book as a gift, “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano.” The 1971 book was intended to enlighten the US president on how European and American commercial interests have dominated and afflicted Latin America since Spanish Conquest. President Chavez said that the U.S. must stop viewing the region as its backyard. He advised that change in a new relationship was imperative as the alternative was death certain to the nations.
Peruvian president Alan Garcia also felt confident that US Latin American relations will improve under the Obama administration. He said, “We are a market that is more important than China in consumption and per capita. That’s why the United States must change its logic.” Leaders, he believed want a change of relations between the United States and South America.
Also present at the Summit was Canadian President Stephen Harper. In his response to questions about Cuba’s exclusion from the Summit he expressed the view that the US trade embargo against Cuba was not the way to go. He quickly admitted however that its removal was ultimately a matter between the United States and Cuba. He also added that the fact that Cuba is a communist country cannot be ignored as progress towards freedom, democracy and human rights as well as economic matters is required. President Obama also admitted that the economic embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba almost 50 years ago had not worked. He made some pre summit concessions to Cuba by easing the travel ban and remission of money.
Though not tabled as an agenda, most of the leaders denounced Cuba’s exclusion from the Summit. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding said that it was the main concern of Caricom (Caribbean Community) leaders to bring about a relationship between the US and Cuba that would positively impact the lives of Cuban nationals. Similarly Leaders reiterated their commitment to supporting the impoverished nation of Haiti.
There were a handful of demonstrations in the city but they were soon snuffed out by intervening riot squad police as no protests were tolerated. Groups that made last minute attempts to gain permission for protest actions had their requests denied. The Sunday Express noted a police source which said that the host country had no experience hosting an event of that magnitude and therefore did not take any chances. Denials to protestors therefore eliminated the possibility of confrontations to prevent events which may have been reported as human rights abuses by the international media. Summit security forces boasted that they made no arrests. However, many persons like Trinidad and Tobago’s opposition leader Mr. Panday, believed the suppression of protest action was an infringement on the democratic rights of individuals to protest.
The draft Declaration of the Summit was signed by the chairman of the Summit Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning on behalf of the Heads of Government. Mr. Manning acknowledged that the document was not unanimously supported by all 34 countries in the Hemisphere. Opposition to signing the document was raised by ALBA, the Spanish acronym for Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Members of that group which included Venezuela, Guatemala, Bolivia and Dominica, signed a joint statement which declared that the Draft Declaration was unacceptable because it failed to address the world financial crisis and unfairly excluded Cuba.
The chairman of the Fifth Summit declared it a success based on the eagerness of leaders to work together on solutions. It has been hailed as a first step towards change. “The doors have been opened to a new era of reasoning among the countries,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. As a follow up, Caricom leaders have been invited to have discussions with President Barack Obama in Washington this July. Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo believed the development is a new framework for resolving old problems. It seems that much was achieved through discussions and documentation of plans for improved hemispheric relations. This historic summit seems to have endorsed the Islamic principle that states, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”



Segunda Celebración del Foro de Musulman-Cristiano Unido en Honor al Nacimiento del Sagrado Ultimo Mensajero by Khalida

(IP) –En honor a El sagrado Ultimo Mensajero (Que Dios envíe paz sobre el) quien es el pionero en reconocer las similaridades entre Musulmanes y cristianos, además establecer una relación pacifica entre ellos. El Foro de Musulman-Cristiano Unido (United Muslim Christian Forum, o UMCF) y Musulmanes de las Américas (MOA) sostuvieron su segunda celebración anual en honor al nacimiento del Misericordia a Todos los Mundos, el Sagrado Ultimo Mensajero, Muhammad (Que Dios envíe paz sobre el para siempre), en Binghamtom, NY.
Una cuenta personal de la celebración anual de UMCF por una autora del Islamic Post, Aisha A Muqit, sigue:
“Llegando a Binghamton con mis hijos, me sentía muy emocionado de participar una vez mas en tal histórico momento. Aunque no pude verlos, sentí sobre nosotros los ojos del mundo en este momento. Aunque esta es la segunda celebración del Foro Musulman-Cristiano Unido, supe que esta vez seria diferente. Recuerdos de estar parado frente al edificio de las naciones unidas, lloviendo a cantaros sobre nuestras cabezas, las manos unidas a los cristianos quienes habían ladeado la controversia y estuvieron junto a nosotros, mientras mostrábamos nuestra solidaridad y compromiso estableciendo la paz mundial. De repente la lluvia ceso, las nubes se disiparon y el sol broto, irradiando calor y secando nuestras ropas. Yo no podría imaginar que podría superar aquel momento, además supe que el programa de este año seria sin dudas mejor.
“Para iniciar fuimos acogidos por Iglesia Prebistieriana del Oeste, una iglesia marrón con altas torres, y altas escaleras que llevan a una entrada alfombrada. Nunca en mi vida había entrado a una iglesia llena a mas de su capacidad con Musulmanes. Cada banco estaba tenia musulmánes que había viajado desde Canadá, Carolina del Sur, Michigan y Tennessee para participar en esta ocasión tan memorable. Una vez sentados, circunde con la mirada, buscando hermanos y hermanas cristianos que se hubieran unido a nosotros este año, y eran muchos mas que el año pasado. El mensaje de unidad por el bien de la paz mundial parecía expandirse.
El programa empezó con una solicitud de inclinar nuestras cabezas en oración presidida por la maestra de ceremonias Laila Rashid, de origen puertoriqueña. La plegaria fue muy familiar, Mrs Rashid recito el Surah Fatihah, el primero capitulo del Quran Sagrado, traducido en Ingles. Esto fue seguido por una estremecedora versión del Himno Nacional (del EEUU), interpretado por jóvenes damas de Islamville, Tennessee.
Lo siguiente fue un programa exquisitamente orquestado, con cada discurso enfatizando el mismo punto: debemos y podemos poner a un lado nuestras diferencias superficiales y unir nuestras manos unos con otros para detener la matanza sin sentido, tortura, derramamiento de sangre que ha oprimido al mundo. Muhammad Hasib, el portavoz de UMCF, abrio el programa. Eran discursos del honorable Califa Hussein Adams, director de MOA; El Padre Tim Taugher de St. Catherine de Siena; El Pastor Andrew Stehlik de la Iglesia Prebistieriana del Oeste; el alcalde de Binghamton, Matthew T. Ryan, una profesora del Universidad de Bingamton, Dr. Diane O’Heron; la Dra. Jawairriya Shahid del Instituto de Ciencias Sufic Abdul Qadir Jilaani, y el Dr. Bashir del Grupo de Medicos Emergencia Americanos Musulmanes (AMMRT).
El Padre Tim Taugher leyó una carta donde se que los Musulmanes y los Cristianos conforman mas de la mitad de la población mundial y que si hay oportunidad de paz mundial deberá empezar al ponernos de acuerdo entre nosotros.
La Dra. Jawairriya Shahid resalto a la atención de los presentes con su discurso sobre las ciencias Sufis. En su discurso inicio introduciendo al instituto de ciencias Sufic Abdul Qadir Jilaani, que abrirá en otoño en la Sagrada Islamville. Ella explico que es el punto de vista de todos los Sufis que nosotros (la humanidad) proviene de un padre común, Adán, y por tanto partes de una misma familia.
El Honorable Califa Hussein Adams explico como los Musulmanes ven la Trinidad, al explicar que el ángel Gabriel es una manifestación de la voluntad divina de Dios, y por tanto soplo en la virgen Maria el espíritu de Dios, por tanto Jesús, hijo de Maria es Ruhullah, el Sagrado Espíritu de Dios, y fue por esto que El fue capaz, con el permiso del todo poderoso, de levantar los muertos soplar la vida en pájaros de barro; Y como Jesús mismo proclamo, todos somos hijos de Dios.
El mensaje de unidad, y comunidad continuo con la Dra. Diane O’Heron, quien hablo de un incidente, como afirmo, es bien sabido para los Musulmanes pero no tanto para los cristianos. Los nuevos Musulmanes en Mekkah fueron perseguidos y el Ultimo Sagrado Mensajero Muhammad (La paz de Dios siempre este sobre el) los envió a Abysinnia indicándoles buscar refugio con el rey de los cristianos (Najashi) quien reinaba allí a eso tiempo. La Sra. Susan enfatizo lo que ella sentía que este rey bebió haber pensado cuando encaro la decisión de regresar este pequeño grupo de creyentes a los opresores paganos, Quraish, quienes deseaban forzarlos a abandonar su religión. Debió el haber permitido que esta gente fuera asesinada porque querrían en el creador todo poderoso, tal como El? La Dra. O’Heron puntualizo que ella sentía que los cristianos de hoy en día bebían hacer estas mismas consideraciones y enfrentar a los que te llamen “pobre de fe,” y a no continuar permitiendo la matanza sin sentido de hombres mujeres y niños, simplemente porque creen en un Solo creador todo poderoso y escogen una religión diferente.
En conclusión a todos estos discursos hubo una propuesta hecha por el Dr. Bashir Wadud, donde en conjunto con los cristianos debemos esparcir el mensaje de unidad a través del globo con programas similares y una conscientizacion común, no solo de la fecha de nacimiento de El Sagrado ultimo mensajero ( que la misericordia y paz de Dios estén sobre el para siempre), sino también de Jesús hijo de Maria, perfectamente orquestado por el creador todo poderoso mismo ( Gloria a el).
-Traduccion por Yasmin Melgarejo



Los Musulmanes de Las Américas de pie en unidad en duelo por la tragedia by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Interfaith, Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags:

(IP) –Los Musulmanes de Las Américas asistieron a la vigilia de oración en la Iglesia Luterana del Redentor, de pie en unidad con la comunidad de Binghamton en duelo por la tragedia que dio como resultado 14 muertes a principios de este mes, solo pocos dias despues de la celebracion en unidad del Foro Musulmane-Cristiano Unido (United Muslim-Christian Forum). Abu Amir, Ibrahim Caba, M Ashraf, Fátima Begum, Shireen Rashid, Um Shafi, Bilquis Abdallah, Hanan Aziz entre otros encendieron velas en apoyo a las personas que perdieron miembros de su familia y amigos después de que un tirador atacara el Centro Cívico Americano mientras se impartían lecciones de ingles a inmigrantes.
“Cuando llegamos al lugar fuimos recibidos con sonrisas de bienvenida y abrazos,” dijo Fátima Begum. “La diacono Barbara Hayden se acerco y nos agradeció por venir, después de ella otros pastores, diáconos y sacerdotes vinieron a saludarnos. Nosotros les agradecimos por la invitación, y dijimos que veníamos en representación de Su Eminencia, El Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani.”
Fátima Begum continua narrando: “Nos sentamos después de notar que los lideres de la iglesia estaban en un rincón conversando intensamente. Después, descubrimos que se habían reunido de ultimo minuto para ajustar el programa para acomodarlo a nuestra presencia.
“El primero en hablar fue el líder del Cónsul de las Iglesias del Broome County, el Sr. Sellepack, se dirigió dando la bienvenida, y resalto a los Musulmanes como sus amigos. Diciendo Musulmanes y cristianos deben unirse en este tiempo de necesidad, para unirse por la paz en la comunidad. Nos agradeció por estar presentes.
Después de todas las plegarias, ellos se preparaban para la comunión, y antes de empezar anunciaron que si alguien deseaba marcharse seria bien entendido, y que había disponibles refrigerios en la planta baja. Fue un gesto muy bonito. Luego nos fuimos a la planta baja, donde más tarde los líderes de las iglesias nos acompañaron nuevamente dándonos las gracias por estar presentes, y juntos discutimos proyectos futuros para ayudar a la comunidad.
“Socializamos e intercambiamos informaciones, hablamos sobre como ayudaríamos y consolaríamos a las familias, y dejamos para ellos nuestros nombres y números de contacto en caso de necesidad, y nos marchamos. Mientras salíamos nos encontramos un Imam de una de las mezquitas de Binghamtom y este nos dijo que dos mujeres Musulmanas fueron muertas en esta tragedia. En cuanto recibimos esta información le dijimos que le llamaríamos al día siguiente para saber cuando seria el funeral procesion Musulman (janaza).
Los camarógrafos de todas las estaciones de televisión del país estuvieron presente, BCC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX y otras estaciones locales. La mayoría de las estaciones pudieron asistir y grabar la vigilia, sin embargo la Diacono Bárbara nos informo que Fox News le había llamado antes de venir y que ella les había colgado el teléfono porque de las mentiras recientes de Noticias Fox por nuestra comunidad. Mas tarde nos informo que ella les había dicho que ellos no eran bienvenidos en su iglesia. Ella se siente insultada por reporteros de esta cadena con el reportaje hecho la semana anterior, y dijo que no deseaba tratar nada con ellos. Ellos debieron quedarse afuera.”
Otro importante medio de comunicación había sido citado para visitar la Sagrada Islamberg y entrevistar a una “Familia Musulmana Modelo” durante la fin de semana después del desfile. Sin embargo, MOA pospuso la reunión de los medios de comunicación después de escuchar sobre la tragedia que consterno Binghamton, apenando la pequeña ciudad y sus vecinos Musulmanes en la sagrada Islamberg, quienes están situados a poca distancia del lugar.
-Traduccion por Yasmin Melgarejo



Southern Command Builds Latin American Capacity by ipinfo2
March 24, 2009, 11:03 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009 | Tags:

The United States Department of Defense believes the increase of noncommissioned officers trained by the U.S. Southern Command in Latin America and the Caribbean will assist fight against human traffickers and narco-terrorists in the region.

The days of “looking east and west more than north and south” to promote U.S. security are gone, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Admiral Mike Mullen said at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “We need to pay more attention to our neighbors and the security issues and the economic issues that are associated with not just Mexico, but with [all of] Latin America.”

Mr Mullen emphasized the importance of Latin America to U.S. security interests. As the U.S. Southern Command’s top noncommissioned officer (NCO) Mr Mullen is busy promoting the effort of NCOs, who are the primary military leaders responsible for executing missions and for training military personnel.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, a big part of the equation to promote security in Central and South America and the Caribbean is helping partner nations build capacity within their militaries so they’re better able to confront threats ranging from illicit trafficking to narco-terrorism.
Southcom’s top NCO, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael M. Balch commented, “If you go back and look at Colombia in the mid-90s, it was a state in crisis.” The drug trade and guerilla insurgencies such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia terrorist group, or FARC, had taken siege. President Alvaro Uribe was elected in 2002, promising to apply military pressure to crack down on the FARC and other outlawed groups. SouthCom cites the example of Colombia as a successful mission.
According to military historian, Kevin Smith:
“The Noncommissioned Officer as we know him today is a remnant of the organizational structure of the traditional European army, especially as it existed during the Hundred Years’ War.  At that time, noncommissioned officers were drawn almost exclusively from the upper ranks of society.”
“We are trying to teach senior NCOs the skill set to become stronger noncommissioned officers, to complement the officer corps, to then in turn help make the army stronger overall,” said Sgt. Mjr. Balch. “What we are doing is really focused at the operational and strategic level, rather than the tactical level, of leadership in managing and leading forces.”
Mr. Smith notes that, in history, “There was almost no interaction between officers, who were predominately aristocrats, and the conscripted foot soldiers who came from the lower classes.  The Noncommissioned Officer’s  role was to serve as a kind of liaison between the two groups, and to maintain order in the camp.”
Hoping to build on this, he helped Colombia involve other countries. Today, every 45-member class includes three to four NCOs from Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, El Salvador, Honduras or other partner nations. Southcom has offered assistance and support to countries that requested it, and sponsoring conferences and other forums to promote NCO professionalism.
U.S. Army South will sponsor the fifth annual conference for senior enlisted leaders of Caribbean and Central and South American armies in June 2009 in Santiago, Chile, Balch said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force has provided NCO development in Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras. A session at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras that delivered leadership training to NCOs from 16 countries proved “very, very successful,” according to Balch. “Colombia is probably the model of how to accomplish U.S. government objectives without the employment of a force on force,” he said.
The efforts have not been as successful in recent years with narcotrafficking out of Colombia. According to the latest report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, cocaine production in Colombia rose a shocking 27% in Colombia in 2007.

-Sources: UNODC, US Dept. of Defense.



UN Committed to Finish Colonization by ipinfo2
March 24, 2009, 10:59 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009, World | Tags:

The United Nations must step up its decolonization efforts, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said early this month, calling for greater cooperation between the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still remaining and their administering countries.
Most remaining colonies are located in the Caribbean and include Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Montserrat, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Anguilla which are all administered by the United Kingdom; United States Virgin Islands are administered by the United States. The other locations are Western Sahara, American Samoa (United States), Guam (US), New Caledonia (France), Pitcairn (UK) and Tokelau (New Zealand).
At the time of the UN’s establishment in 1945, 750 million people – almost one-third of the global population – lived in non-self-governing territories, compared to fewer than 2 million today.
“The United Nations can look back with a great sense of accomplishment at what has been achieved in the field of decolonization since the Organization’s founding,” Mr. Ban said during an address at the start of this year’s session of the body known as the “Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Granting of the Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.”
He told the body, also known as the Special Committee of 24, to continue its support of the “legitimate aspirations of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories so they can exercise their right to self-determination.”
But the Secretary-General also stressed the importance of cooperation between administering Powers and the Territories in promoting decolonization.
“Under the [UN] Charter, the administering Powers have a special obligation to bring the territories under their administration to an appropriate level of self-government,” he added.

Sources: United Nations and UN News Centre



Trinidad and Tobago Hosts Fifth Summit of the Americas by ipinfo2
March 24, 2009, 10:54 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009 | Tags:

By Sabeerah Abdul- Majied
Islamic Post Staff Writer

More than 70 world leaders will participate in the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad from April 17-19, 2009. It will be the first time the prestigious event has been held in the Caribbean and in a CARICOM member state. The Summit is the only forum where the 34 democratically elected Heads of State and Government of the Western Hemisphere meet to share their vision for the development of the hemisphere. The leaders will deliberate on matters related to the political, economic, social, and security challenges confronting the region. Prime Minister Manning noted in an address to parliament that the summit has implications for, “the lives of some 2.8 billion people living in the Americas and the Commonwealth.”
The theme of the Summit is, “Securing Our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability”. Discussions will focus on issues related to the global economic situation, environmental management, social protection and poverty eradication. Education, public security systems and entrepreneurship will also be discussed. The collective responses and agreements will inform yet another conference- the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which Trinidad will also host from November 27-29, 2009.
In 1994 the leaders of the Hemisphere met for the first summit in Miami on the initiative of President Clinton. Since then a 2nd summit was held in Chile (1998). This was followed by the  3rd summit in Canada (2001) and the 4th in Argentina (2005). The summits have provided a forum for sharing experiences and developing solutions to problems that affect the people of the Americas.
Critics have raised issue with the tremendous cost to the tiny Republic ($2bn according to Newsday, February 15, 2009) for hosting the event. However the prime minister believes that it is a progressive vision which could yield development, progress and greater regional integration.
Preparation for the summit is in progress and includes readying the official venues- The Hyatt Regency Trinidad and the Diplomatic Centre for the event. Further, two cruise ships anchored in the Port of Spain Harbor will provide additional accommodation for delegates and other international participants. National security is also being upgraded to meet the standard required for hosting US President Barack Obama and other heads of state. Signs of preparation are most visible at the Piarco International Airport which will accommodate the largest number of non- commercial aircrafts ever to land on its runway.



Praying for Rain in Argentina by ipinfo2
March 24, 2009, 10:53 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009 | Tags: ,

By Safiya A. Khafidh
Islamic Post Staff Writer

Argentina, South America’s second largest country, and one of the world’s biggest producers of beef, soya and grains is in the grip of the worst drought in 50 years. The entire lush fertile pampas grasslands, the best farming and ranching areas, are being transformed into a dust bowl, littered with cattle corpses. To date some 300,000 head of cattle have perished in the province of Santa Fe.
According to Lillian Nunez of the National Weather Service, Argentina has not experienced such insignificant amounts of rain since 1971. The National Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA) reports that “in many parts of the pampas region, rains have been at their lowest levels in 100 yrs.
The farming sector is facing losses to the tune of $5 billion, while the government of President Cristina Fernandez is liable for an average of $20 billions in debt payments this year.
What are the devastating effects of this severe drought? An estimated 1.5 million head of prized range fed cattle, for which Argentina claims fame, are expected to die in the fields. Within one year, Argentina has gone from being the world’s 5th largest wheat exporter to harvesting the smallest wheat crop since 1989, according to the Buenos Aires Cereals Exchange. An INTA report states, “The drought has caused a seven to eight million ton drop in wheat production, from 16 million tons in the last harvest to around 8 million this crop. The wheat yield was the lowest in 30 yrs.” Argentina is the world’s leader in exporting soy meal and oil, holding third place in the world in exports of corn and soybeans. Yet farmers did not even plant late season crops, as two-thirds of the existing crop is in bad shape, with an expected fall of between 41 million and 42 million tons; down 11% this year. The situation with corn is even more severe. Only 15.5 million tons of corn is expected this year; a 24% drop from last year. The governor of Entre Rios province, Sergio Urribarri said, “It’s an unprecedented disaster”, lamenting the fact that ninety percent of the corn in his province had died. The economy stands to be adversely affected, with a recession looming. The country’s economic growth is slowing in the face of the wider international financial crisis.
Now the farmers are looking to the government for help. In response, in a move that Cabinet Chief Sergio Massa considers as “extending its hand to these farmers”, President Fernandez is offering a deferment of some tax payments for up to a year, temporarily suspending the minimum weight for slaughtering livestock, reversing charges for transport permits and making available a subsidy of about $4,500 for each qualifying farmer. Many are concerned this would not even cover the costs of tractor fuel.
The farmers, however, are disappointed and dissatisfied. “This is a drop in the ocean”, said Eduardo Buzzi, president of the Argentine Agrarian Federation (FAA), “If this is all the official help we get, then it’s a joke.” Furthermore he said, “We can see the abyss and it’s just around the corner. Many producers are disappearing. The graveness of the situation is not being considered by the government.” Mario Llambias, leader of Argentina’s Rural Confederation (CRA) agrees; “The situation is critical and we are not going to emerge from it with these measures. The government’s reaction is inadequate to the circumstances.”
The government, on the other hand, in regards to the relief measures that it is initiating, believes that many farmers have been waiting for this for a long time. When asked, ”What is the government’s plan for financing the next planting?” Agriculture Secretary Carlos Cheppi answered, “We’re working on it by redistributing money to assist in the emergency.”
At this point, the FAA, CRA and other farm groups are considering staging protests by suspending grain and oilseed sales for short daily periods, and marching along with tractors in towns and cities. Last year, for four months, farmers held strikes protesting high taxes on grain and oilseed exports. But “this time we will not be involved in pickets or blocking traffic. That was last year. Now we are struggling over a completely different situation with the government refusing to talk or even listen to us,” said Buzzi
One rancher brings home the somber reality of the Argentine crisis in his statement, “The situation is terminal. We are in God’s hands. Our water reserves are gone.”



Rights Groups Still Insist on Independent Guantanamo Task Force by Khalida
March 24, 2009, 10:52 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009, National | Tags:

(IP)- The US Defense Department task force report, which was released to the public last month, stated Guantanamo Bay is in compliance with the Geneva Convention. US Attorney General Eric Holder has, however, reaffirmed that Guantanamo Bay will be closed on schedule.
Despite assurances from President Obama of continuing the “ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism” “in a manner that is consistent with our values and ideals,” human rights groups and medical ethics committees wanted to oversee that process as it refers to the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The UK-based attorney advocacy group, Reprieve, wrote an open letter to the President, after reports surfaced on the task force findings, requesting additional investigations into treatment of prisoners held, specifically the 10% of the population previously ordered by federal judges to be released. The attorneys who signed the letter, counsellors for some of the men still held there, insist that their clients continue to report abuse. Some detainees allege maltreatment has been heightened in recent months.
Guantanamo Bay has varying camps depending on the level of perceived danger of an individual, ranging from a dormitory environment to solitary isolation. At least two of the men ordered to be freed remain in solitary confinement and complain of harsh force feeding. “Little is known about Camp 7, which is at a secret location at Guantanamo Bay and off limits even to military attorneys representing the men there. It houses those detainees who were formerly held at secret CIA prisons,” reported Washington Post staff writers.
The President, in an attempt to roll back Bush Administration policies which allegedly went beyond the military handbook into torture, insisted by executive order on the first day of his presidency that intelligence-gathering agencies stick to the rules of interrogation as outlined in the Army Field Manual. Yet, it has been countered by analysts that the tactics contained in the Manual itself crosses the moral boundaries Americans have come to expect of its defense forces, and hinges on the border of maltreatment, according to what is allowed therein.
Bringing to light public misconceptions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor says perhaps many mistakenly think of prisoners of war in terms of the classic 1963 movie “The Great Escape,” based on events at Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner of war camp. “In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, the Germans housed captured Allied troops in military-style barracks,” writes Richey. “Allied POWs lived together, ate together, and were able to socialize. In the movie, one character repeatedly tries and fails to escape. Each time he is recaptured, he is sent as punishment to a solitary confinement cell. The plot line illustrates a key aspect of the protections required under the Geneva Conventions: Wartime detention may not be a form of punishment unless there is specific cause justifying punishment. “The general idea is that prisoners of war aren’t supposed to be punished,” according to Shayana Kadidal, director of the Guantánamo Global Justice Project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a quote presented by Richey.
On the contrary, a scarcely-reported section of the Army’s Field Manual on Interrogation “still allows the use of tactics that can constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under U.S. and international law,” writes political analyst, William Fisher. Mr. Fisher, who managed developmental programs for the US State Department under the Kennedy Administration, notes the suspect section of the Manual, known as Annex M, allows the use of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and isolation, which is termed “separation” in the Manual.
He then cites Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Chief Executive Officer, Frank Donaghue as claiming: “Particularly when used in combination, these techniques amount to psychological torture. The Obama Administration must close this loophole in the Army Field Manual by eliminating Appendix M, which leaves the door open to torture.”
Fisher reports that the Nobel laureate not-for-profit organization, (PHR) is calling on the task force, appointed by the president, to review U.S. interrogation and transfer policies, consult with human rights organizations as part of the review process, and ultimately revoke Annex M.
“The desire to turn the page on the past seven years of detainee abuse and torture by U.S. forces is understandable,” Donaghue said. But he noted that “President Obama, Congress and the health professions will not have fulfilled their obligation to the Constitution and medical ethics if they settle only for reform without accountability.”  Mr. Donoghue was referring to what he calls the past administration’s “weaponization” of the health professions, through the use of Behavioral Science Consultants, to inflict harm on detainees. “A war crime unto itself,” said Donaghue.
The Associated Press (AP) reported in “Doctors Blast Guantanamo Treatment as Unethical” that many physicians have refused, particularly, to participate in the force feeding of detainees, a process that may sound mundane, but in reality is far beyond what most people imagine when they think of the Geneva Convention. Force feeding involves a detainee being restrained with straps in a chair and having a tube which forces a liquid nutrition mix through the nose and down the throat. Yet Department of Defense spokeswoman at the time of the 2007 article, Cynthia Smith, claims that force-feeding is done in a humane and compassionate manner using a method that is consistent with procedures used in U.S. federal prisons.
Others disagree that force feeding is humane. The New-York based Center for Constitutional Rights told AP that the parents of two detainees, who committed suicide after being force fed repeatedly for months, are now seeking unspecified damages from the Pentagon for the “illegal detention, torture, inhumane conditions and ultimate deaths” of their sons. At the time of the suicides, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris, then-commander of the prison, described them as “not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare.”
The Pentagon recently announced that the Obama Administration will be replacing the commander in charge of Guantanamo Bay with a senior officer who had attended high school with the president.
But even while the new oversight on Guantanamo and interagency tasks forces headed to Cuba, at the President’s behest, to assess the situation at present, The American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch, drafted a letter late last month requesting permission to “provide an outside assessment of current conditions, and as improvements are made, to credibly, independently and publicly report them to the world,” stated the letter. “Such access and reporting would further the objectives of the current Department of Defense (DoD), review and amplify the international benefits of improving conditions at the camps. Our presence itself will be welcomed as another break from the prior administration’s policies on detainees, and set an example of transparency that will help advance human rights worldwide,” it concluded.

Addendum

What about the U.S. Prison System?

Such a dust storm has kicked up since the executive orders that were signed to prohibit harsh treatment to foreign prisoners, that a New Orleans journalist, Jordan Flaherty, presented the questions of domestic treatment of American citizens confined in the United States prison system:
“The torture of prisoners in US custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo,” writes Mr. Flaherty. “If President Obama is serious about ending U.S. support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana.” Flaherty then listed a wide range of alleged systemic abuses perpetrated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.  He also cites prisoners being kept in solitary confinement from eight to 36 years, for fear of the spread of leftist ideas among fellow prisoners.
“While prison officials deny the policy of abuse, the range of prisoners who gave statements, in addition to medical records and other evidence introduced at the trial (for an escape attempt a decade ago), present a powerful argument that abuse is a standard policy at the prison,” states Flaherty. He then notes that several of the prisoners received $7,000 when the state agreed to settle, without admitting liability, two civil rights lawsuits filed by 13 inmates.
The US has the largest incarcerated population in the world with twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. Louisiana has the largest percentage imprisoned out of any US state.



White House Hosts Victims of USS Cole, 9/11 in Wake of Military Criticism by Khalida
March 24, 2009, 10:50 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009, National | Tags: ,

Update: In a tragic incident a week after the event one of the widows in attendance at the White House forum died in a plane crash outside Buffalo, NY. According to a CNN transcript: “Beverly Eckert was one of the passengers on Flight 3407. Eckert’s husband, Shawn Rooney was killed on the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Eckert worked with the 9/11 commission as a part of the family steering committee. The Buffalo News reports Eckert was traveling to Buffalo for a celebration of what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday. She had also planned to take part in the presentation of a scholarship award she established in honor of her late husband.”

(IP)- The President met for an hour with approximately 40 family members of the victims of the attacks of September 11th and the attack on the USS Cole following criticism from members, and former members, of the military regarding the executive orders to close Guantanamo Bay and review the detention of those held there.
The President spent the majority of the time engaging the families in dialogue and answering questions from the people in attendance after apparently benign attempts to undercut public support for the President Obama’s stance regarding Guantanamo. Mr Obama made it abundantly clear that his most important responsibility is to keep the American people safe, and explained why he believes that closing Guantanamo will make the nation more secure as well as ensure that those who are guilty receive swift and certain justice within a legal framework that is durable.
Hamilton Peterson of Bethesda, who lost his father and stepmother on United Flight 93 told the Washington Post, “There was passion and emotion, but it was enormously respectful.” Mr. Peterson attended the conference, but still thinks Guantanamo Bay should be kept open. However, he noted, “I was extremely satisfied and impressed with his facility with the issues and his genuine commitment to take into consideration the views of family members who want to see Guantanamo rehabilitated, not dispensed with.”
The talks were needed as much as they were appreciated. Newsweek magazine reported “there have also been concerns that Bush administration holdovers were deliberately playing up the cases [regarding alleged terrorists] in recent weeks in an effort to undercut Obama.” One former senior U. S. counter-terrorism official told the magazine that information, regarding the return to Al Qaeda of a person who had been previously released from Guantanamo, was held by unnamed authorities until the day after the executive order was signed to close the prison camp.
This came after retired US Navy Commander Kurt Lippold spoke out against the executive orders, telling the UK Guardian, “We shouldn’t make policy decisions based on human rights and legal advocacy groups.” Mr. Lippold is the former commander of the USS Cole, aboard which Americans died in October 2000 as the result of an alleged suicide attack. “We should consider what is best for the American people, which is not to jeopardise those who are fighting the war on terror – or even more adversely impact the families who have already suffered losses as a result of the war,” Lippold told the Guardian.
The retired commander was responding to the decision of one of the judges at Guantanamo to reject the presidential order to halt the military commissions. US Army Colonel James Pohl issued an order stating: “On its face, the request to delay the arraignment is not reasonable. The public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay in the arraignment. Granting the continuance do [sic] not serve the interests of justice. The government request for a continuance in the arraignment until after 22 May 2009 is DENIED.”
While former Commander Lippold hailed the decision as “a victory for the 17 families of the sailors who lost their lives on the USS Cole over eight years ago,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quoted by the Federal News Service as saying, “Trust me that there will be no proceedings continuing, down at Gitmo, with military commissions.” “The bottom line is, we all work for the president of the United States in this chain of command, and he has signed an executive order which has made it abundantly clear that until these reviews are done all [legal activity at Guantanamo] is on hiatus,” Morrell said.
According to the executive order, federal agencies have 30 days from its signing to report back to the President that Guantanamo Bay complies with Article III of the Geneva Conventions which forbids in Section 1: “(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) Taking of hostages; (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; and (d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”
“I think the point was that you have to make sure they have a system in place that can actually work,” said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband, Alan Kleinberg, also died in the World Trade Center. “I think even the people who came to the meeting who wanted to keep it open could understand his point of view,” said when interviewed by the Washington Post following the group discussions with President Obama. The President vowed to keep the door of communication open with the family members of those struck down by the tragedies and the victims themselves.

STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
Amidst the great deal of speculation involved in the presidential orders to close Guantanamo Bay and review the status of its detainees, the Islamic Post is reprinting here the majority of the text of the order, which contains little ambiguity.

EXECUTIVE ORDER — REVIEW AND DISPOSITION OF INDIVIDUALS DETAINED AT THE GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE AND CLOSURE OF DETENTION FACILITIES
Sec2 (b) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have been there for more than 6 years, and most have been detained for at least 4 years. In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo and closure of the facilities in which they are detained would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice. Merely closing the facilities without promptly determining the appropriate disposition of the individuals detained would not adequately serve those interests. To the extent practicable, the prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals detained at Guantánamo should precede the closure of the detention facilities at Guantánamo.
(c) The individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Most of those individuals have filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal court challenging the lawfulness of their detention.
(d) It is in the interests of the United States that the executive branch undertake a prompt and thorough review of the factual and legal bases for the continued detention of all individuals currently held at Guantánamo, and of whether their continued detention is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests of justice. The unusual circumstances associated with detentions at Guantánamo require a comprehensive interagency review.
(f) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo may have committed offenses for which they should be prosecuted. It is in the interests of the United States to review whether and how any such individuals can and should be prosecuted.
(g) It is in the interests of the United States that the executive branch conduct a prompt and thorough review of the circumstances of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo who have been charged with offenses before military commissions pursuant to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109-366, as well as of the military commission process more generally.
Sec. 4. Immediate Review of All Guantánamo Detentions.
[…](c) Operation of Review. The duties of the Review participants shall include the following:
(1) Consolidation of Detainee Information. The Attorney General shall, to the extent reasonably practicable, and in coordination with the other Review participants, assemble all information in the possession of the Federal Government that pertains to any individual currently detained at Guantánamo
and that is relevant to determining the proper disposition of any such individual. All executive branch departments and agencies shall promptly comply with any request of the Attorney General to provide information in their possession or control pertaining to any such individual. The Attorney General may seek further information relevant to the Review from any source.
(2) Determination of Transfer. The Review shall determine, on a rolling basis and as promptly as possible with respect to the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo, whether it is possible to transfer or release the individuals consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and, if so, whether and how the Secretary of Defense may effect their transfer or release. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and, as appropriate, other Review participants shall work to effect promptly the release or transfer of all individuals for whom release or transfer is possible.
(3) Determination of Prosecution. In accordance with United States law, the cases of individuals detained at Guantánamo not approved for release or transfer shall be evaluated to determine whether the Federal Government should seek to prosecute the detained individuals for any offenses they may have committed, including whether it is feasible to prosecute such individuals before a court established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution, and the Review participants shall in turn take the necessary and appropriate steps based on such determinations.
(4) Determination of Other Disposition. With respect to any individuals currently detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under paragraphs (2) or (3) of this subsection, the Review shall select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals. The appropriate authorities shall promptly implement such dispositions.
(5) Consideration of Issues Relating to Transfer to the United States. The Review shall identify and consider legal, logistical, and security issues relating to the potential transfer of individuals currently detained at Guantánamo to facilities within the United States, and the Review participants shall work with the Congress on any legislation that may be appropriate.
Sec. 5. Diplomatic Efforts. The Secretary of State shall expeditiously pursue and direct such negotiations and diplomatic efforts with foreign governments as are necessary and appropriate to implement this order.
Sec. 6. Humane Standards of Confinement. No individual currently detained at Guantánamo shall be held in the custody or under the effective control of any officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or at a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, except in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of such confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Secretary of Defense shall immediately undertake a review of the conditions of detention at Guantánamo to ensure full compliance with this directive. Such review shall be completed within 30 days and any necessary corrections shall be implemented immediately thereafter.
Sec. 7. Military Commissions. The Secretary of Defense shall immediately take steps sufficient to ensure that during the pendency of the Review described in section 4 of this order, no charges are sworn, or referred to a military commission under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Rules for Military Commissions, and that all proceedings of such military commissions to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered, and all proceedings pending in the United States Court of Military Commission Review, are halted.



Executive Order Lifts Economic Support Fund Ban by ipinfo2
March 24, 2009, 10:49 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009 | Tags:

By Subhana A.  Rahim
Islamic Post Staff Writer

(IP)- After only one week in office, President  Barack Obama announced his intention to waive the ban on 17 countries that have been denied access to the US Economic Support Fund (ESF).  These countries, that are set to receive respite from the Obama administration, have been previously restricted due to their entrance into the International Criminal Court. This decision by President Obama is yet another one of his initial acts in office that clearly sets his policies apart from the Bush administration’s.
The $3 billion fund provides economic assistance to US allies and to countries that are in transition to a democratic system of government. The ESF is designed to support US policy objectives by  providing assistance to developing countries. The goal of the plan is that member countries that accept this aid will eventually become increasingly self sufficient and begin to develop an economic system that is more capitalist in nature as it supports free enterprise. The ESF also provides assistance to foreign nations in the areas of child healthcare, international disaster and famine assistance and by improving failing foreign infrastructures to name just a few.  Some of the countries that have been banned in the past include Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These countries, as well as 7 others are now poised to enjoy the benefits that are associated with the fund. While some of these benefits have greatly improved the economic and social development of their recipients, it has been argued that the fund was previously used to manipulate poor and/or underdeveloped countries.
In the past, the United States had not played a supportive role towards the efficacy of the International Criminal Court by refusing to enroll and adhere to the Court’s policies. This refusal stems from the ICC’s doctrine that states that US citizens, as well as citizens from other countries, should not be exempt from international enforcement and international court proceedings. America’s refusal to have her citizens detained and prosecuted in certain foreign countries has caused a dividing line to occur at the ICC as some countries are willing to waive the restrictions against US citizens in return for US aid. In this vein, some countries have signed separate immunity agreements with Washington in order to circumvent ICC’s unwavering policy.  As a result, it is more difficult, if not impossible, for these countries to enforce laws against US citizens that prohibit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In addition to the conflict with the ICC, the US has also withheld support for UN peacekeeping efforts in various regions as well.
The countries for which the ban has been waived are: Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa, Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenadines, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jordan, Mali, Liberia, Berun, Niger, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.



Colombia Sees Release of More Hostages Held by Leftist Rebel Group by ipinfo2
February 10, 2009, 11:07 am
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009 | Tags: ,

Colombian leftist rebels freed a former governor held hostage for more than seven years.
“I’m free!” declared Mr. Jara after he reunited with his wife and now-teenage son at the Villavicencio airport. Jara, who had been kidnapped by FARC rebels in 2001, was the fifth hostage released over the past few months by the FARC.
Mr. Jara was released two days after the FARC guerrillas released three police officers and a soldier who were abducted more than one year ago. The FARC was expected to free another hostage, Sigifredo Lopez, before press time.
Colombian Senator, Piedad Cordoba, who maintains close ties with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan government, was instrumental in the release of the latest group of hostages.
The rebels have been holding hundreds of people in jungle hideouts for ransom or political leverage. Camilo González, an analyst with the Indepaz peace studies group, told the Christian Science Monitor that the rebels’ decision to do this is part of a FARC effort to regain political relevance: “It is the FARC’s way of trying to recover some political initiative after a disastrous year,” he said. Another political analyst, Gérson Arias, disagreed slightly: “They may have finally realized that it is politically counterproductive to hold civilians,” Mr. González told the Monitor. He argues that the FARC strategy, meant to be a bargaining tool to persuade the Colombian government to release rebel fighters from prison has “lost relevance.”
“You cannot change the country through kidnapping” Jara said at a press conference shortly after his release, although he emphasized that the government must negotiate with the FARC in order to see political gains with the rebel group. He called it “the only solution.”
Robert Wood, acting spokesman for Public Affairs in the U.S. State Department: “We welcome the release of four long-held hostages, three policemen and one soldier, and call on the FARC to immediately release all remaining hostages. There is no justification for the FARC’s continued victimization of innocent people.”



United Nations Lauds Bolivians For High Turn-Out During Peaceful Constitutional Referendum by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:11 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Safiya A. Khafidh

Islamic Post Staff Writer

The new constitution presented by the government of Bolivian President Evo Morales passed late last month by a vote of 60%, signifying the great number of people who approve the new constitution.
“Here the colonial state ends and external and internal colonialism end,” said the leftist president. The vote allows him to run for re-election and remain in power till 2014.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent congratulations to the people of Bolivia for taking part in the national referendum –that approved the amendment of the country’s Constitution– in a peaceful manner, after the violence that has plagued the country from reactionary provinces.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was following with great interest the political developments in the Andean country, where the referendum included the constitutional expansion of indigenous people’s rights, as well as an extension of presidential term limits.
The key constitutional changes include presidents being allowed two consecutive five-year terms; recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, and setting aside congressional seats for them: state control of all gas, oil and mineral reserves: appointment of high court judges rather than election of the same; the prohibition of sexual discrimination; the guaranteed freedom of religion; and self-rule for the indigenous tribes who live on traditional lands.
However, the richer provinces in eastern Bolivia: Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pondo –areas considered violent hotbeds of opposition led by the state governors of those areas– prefer their own increased autonomy, along with more authority over the natural resources mentioned above.
Nevertheless, Mr. Ban Ki-moon applauded the calm atmosphere while the polls were open, and the high level of participation, as a demonstration of civic responsibility.
“The Secretary-General exhorts all political leaders in Bolivia to work together henceforth to build a prosperous and inclusive future for their country,” the statement read, adding that the UN will continue to assist the Government and the people of Bolivia face future challenges.
He also recognized the work of the National Electoral Court of Bolivia in the organization of, what he called, “this important exercise in democracy.”
-Sources: United Nations, News Agencies



Dominican Republic Bids a Farewell of Mixed Sentiments to U.S. Ambassador Fannin by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:09 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Khalida Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Robert Fannin was given full ceremony on his departure last month from his post as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, under the Bush Administration, in favor of a yet unnamed replacement to be posted by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island.
Although in the country a mere 13 months, Mr. Fannin vocally opposed  controversial legislation in the country which would have allowed the Dominican Air Force to shoot down suspected drug planes in flight over the country.
The Dominican Republic is a key entry and exit point for illicit material traveling from South America to Miami. Rogelio E. Guevara, Chief of Operations of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations in 2002 that the Dominican Republic is being used as a “command, control, and communications” centre for drug operations in the Caribbean, and is also used to store drugs, before onward shipment to Puerto Rico or the United States.
The U.S. State Department made its stance known via Ambassador Fannin, as well as in an official statement, that the Dominican Republic should not authorize the shooting down of aircraft suspected of carrying drugs, but should instead improve its internal policies against drug running by confiscating drug traffickers’ property at the least, (Dominican Today, reported late last year.) “ [It’s true,] we must clean up the National Police and the Armed Forces, because those things are unacceptable,” said President Fernandez earlier this month when being interviewed on El Dia.
However, problems with closing down the Dominican drug route do not stop inside the country. “Once a shipment of cocaine, whether smuggled from Haiti or the Dominican Republic by maritime, air, or commercial cargo, reaches Puerto Rico, it is unlikely to be subjected to further United States Customs inspections en route to the continental U.S.,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent Michael Vigil in testimony before Congress in 2000.
Hence, the dramatic step proposed in the Dominican Congress to stop drug traffickers’ invasion of Dominican air space. If the illicit product fails to reach Puerto Rico through the Dominican Republic, the traffickers might assume a different route. Other Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Peru, found a measure of success enforcing laws which allow authorities to down any plane violating territorial airspace and waters.
However, in the latter country, a plane of American missionaries, while in communication with one federal air tower, was shot down after not responding to the requests of another, in April of 2001. A seven-month old baby and her mother were killed, and three other Americans injured. Undoubtedly, this reinforces the argument of the State Department.
Nevertheless, Air force colonels, a local religious figure, numerous fiery editorials of journalists and ordinary honest Dominican businessmen, sanction the shooting down of planes. “It’s a disgrace,” said one cattle rancher. “Drugs are being brought into the country to destroy the people. Another country should not be able to speak regarding our own airspace.”
Top military and political officials face extradition to the United States on drug trafficking charges, compounding political tensions in what is being termed the country’s largest drug case. While Dominican President, Leonel Fernandez, says he will approve all the extraditions, he laments what is perceived as a lack of aid, on America’s, part, to reduce drug trafficking coming out of the country, specifically his own unheeded requests to the U.S. embassy to assist in the purchasing of a radar, to detect drug-laden flights. “I’ve never understood that part… this should be a mutual cooperation,” he said. “The radar is not just to protect us, it will also protect you because you are also being affected by this,” the Dominican president concluded, when speaking to Diario Libre.



Brazil Takes Firm Action to Thwart Forced Labor by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:08 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

Special Task Force Fighting Big Business Cartels to Free Victims of Debt Bondage

By Raheemah Atif

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Thousands of human beings are entrenched in the deplorable business of virtual “slave labor” worldwide. In the South American nation of Brazil, the United Nations International Labor Organization estimated that in 2003 ( the most recent year in which statistics were complied), between 25,000 and 40,000 Brazilians were being held under this criminally oppressive system.
In an interview with CNN, Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy center commented, “Slavery is the tail end of a lot of abuse of poor people and workers in Brazil; bad treatment reaches over to abusive treatment, to treatment that becomes virtual slavery.”
Various human rights organizations, in conjunction with the Brazilian government, have built a special task force that has freed 5,223 “ slave laborers” who were discovered virtually marooned on large farms, plantations, and businesses located deep in rural and deforested areas.  Escape from these forced labor camps is practically impossible.  Anti-slavery International (AI), a human rights group based in the U.K., explains the sordid scenario wherein unsuspecting individuals are lured into the deceptive “employment” agreement.
Unscrupulous recruiters scour the slums and economically depressed areas of Brazil – which is roughly the size of the United States – looking for willing individuals who agree to travel to a distant site to work for inflated wages.  Once separated from any support or contact with family or friends, the workers are told they owe money for transportation, food, housing, etc.  “This is known as debt bondage, which also fits official definitions of slavery,” says Anti-slavery International, “A person is in debt bondage when their labor is demanded as the means of repayment for a loan or an advance. Once in debt, they lose all control over their conditions of work and what, if anything they are paid … often making it impossible to repay and trapping them in a cycle of debt.”
Regulation of the industries that perpetrate the criminal conditions under which these victims suffer has been difficult, in part due to the vastness of Brazil itself.  Anti-slavery International reports that the greatest number of slave labor camps are run by the cattle ranching industry and sugar cane plantations (43%), followed by deforestation operations (28%), and agriculture (24%). The charcoal production and logging industries also run slave labor camps within the deep interior of the country. Brazil is being applauded on its successful efforts to curtail and eliminate slave labor in their country, while AI has estimated that there are more than 12 million people worldwide being held captive in forced labor situations with a much more dismal outlook for rescue. “Forced labor exists in Sudan, Nepal, India, Mauritania as well as many wealthier countries (including the UK), where vulnerable people are trafficked into forced labor or sexual slavery,” the group says. “A similar situation to the use of forced labor on estates in Brazil can be found in the Chaco region of both Paraguay and Bolivia”
The Brazilian Special Mobile Inspection Group is comprised of attorneys from the federal labor prosecution department, labor inspectors, and federal police, who often conduct worksite raids at remote labor camps searching for abuses and workers being held against their will.  In 2007, nearly 6,000 people were freed by the task force.  Labor Minister Carlos Lupi commented to the Brazilian-run state news agency that his country will be stepping up its antislavery operations in 2009.  Part and parcel of the campaign is the elimination of a primary factor in the vulnerability of  forced labor victims – the conditions of abject poverty so prevalent in Brazil, and other countries who are combating the same criminal oppression of its people.  A recent survey conducted by  the Getulio Vargas Foundation’s Center for Social Policy Studies found that one of every four Brazilians live in dire poverty. The Web-based Index Mundi, which says it obtains its figures from the CIA World Factbook, estimates the poverty rate could be as high as one of every three Brazilians; with a population approaching 200 million people, that means at least 49 million Brazilians live under squalid economic conditions.  For the most part, the administration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has done much to reduce poverty and fight slave labor, with one governmental sanction requiring that lands on which slave labor camps are operated are subject to confiscation.  The politically powerful natural resource cartels are fighting hard against the pressure of the Brazilian government and other agencies who are determined to continue waging the protracted battle against the crime of forced labor.  Vigilance and legal action are the primary weapons being utilized to protect and maintain the right of the people to be free from oppression and coercion – and the struggle continues. “Brazil is a big, huge country and there are lots of poor people,” said Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue. “The farther you get away from the populated, industrialized areas, you’ll find large populations of people who do whatever they can to make a living.”



Gesture of Dignity: Hugo Chavez Blasts Israel: With Diplomatic Sanctions by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:05 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags: ,

A strong message of condemnation for Israel’s military aggression came as Israel’s ambassador to Venezuela was expelled along with some embassy staff.  In a statement issued by Venezuela’s foreign ministry, Israel was accused of violating international law and of having planned to use state terrorism against the Palestinian population. Miami Herald reported from Adrian Bonilla, director of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador, “There is a tradition in Latin America of rejecting violence to solve any international conflict.”
Ambassador Schlomo Cohen left the country on Friday, January 9th after having called the expulsion “the most difficult moment in the more than 50-year history of relations between Venezuela and Israel.” President Chavez, contrastingly, called it a “gesture of dignity”, thereby sending a message to the world that military actions which resulted in hundreds of Palestinian civilian deaths were unacceptable.  On state television, Chavez asked “How far will the barbarism go?”
Also unacceptable, as stated by UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, were Israeli attacks on UN schools which killed 46 civilians and injured at least 150, at the time of this report. In a public statement, he said, “These attacks by Israeli military forces which endanger facilities acting as places of refuge are totally unacceptable and must not be repeated” and that “a substantial number of civilians have been killed.” The statement also pointed out that “The locations of all UN facilities have been communicated to the Israeli authorities and are known to the Israeli army.” The clearly marked UN facilities were serving as safe havens for civilians seeking refuge from the violence in Gaza, according to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) director, John Ging. The shelling was reported in The Jerusalem Post to be in response to Hamas Gunmen who used the complex to fire on Israeli targets.   Although, the UN agency insisted that there were no Hamas gunmen on the school grounds, only civilians seeking refuge.
Despite this, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Captain Ishai David denied that the incident was caused by erroneous Israeli shelling.   David said, “We are still sticking by our official position that according to our initial inquiry, the whole thing started when terrorists fired mortar shells from the school compound”.
UN spokesman Christopher Gunness asserted that the Israeli army admitted in private briefings that militant fire came, not from the school, but from somewhere outside of the school compound.   This and other incidents caused civilian deaths and gruesome injuries including, numerous amputations. These have been the cause of international outrage echoed throughout Latin America.
Protests have taken place throughout the world, in Argentina, Bolivia, and El Salvador.  In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet called for a stop of actions from both sides, while the Chilean foreign ministry strongly condemned Israeli raids on Gaza.  The governments of Guatemala and Colombia also called on Israel to end fighting.   Brazil’s foreign policy advisor, Marco Aurelio Garcia, described the attacks as “state terrorism”, while Foreign Minister Celso Amorim called Israeli military action a “disproportional” answer to Hamas rocket attacks.  At the time of the statements’ publishing, Ten Israelis were reported to have died compared to over 1000 Palestinians killed and over 3000 injured.  Brazil subsequently sent 14 tons of food and medical aid, its Foreign ministry said.



Mothers Fight Malnutrition in Bolivia by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:03 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Safiya A. Khafidh

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Quechua indigenous Indian women in poor, rural communities throughout Betanzos municipality in Bolivia are assisting health workers in combating the staggering rates of malnutrition. They are known as “Madres Vigilantes” or “Mindful Mothers” because they teach other women about child nutrition. According to Julia Velasco Parisaca and Wendy Medina of Inter Press Service News Agency, one of every two children in Betanzos suffers from malnutrition. The mindful mothers receive training that is sponsored by the UK humanitarian organization, Plan International, under the auspices of Community Integrated Management of Childhood Illness.  The health program coordinator of Plan International in Bolivia, Aurora Gutierrez, explained that “Madres Vigilantes are trained about children’s growth, development and nutrition, and at the same time, they pass on this training to other mothers in their communities, while monitoring the growth and development of their children.”
Eva Juchani, a mindful mother from the community of Buey Tambo in Betanzos said, “Our task is to weigh and measure children from the time they are newborns until they are five, to see whether or not they are malnourished and whether or not they are gaining weight and growing. As madres vigilantes, we train other women how to feed their kids so that one day malnutrition will disappear.” They also teach how to improve eating and cooking habits”.
However, due to the extreme poverty in this region of Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, the high protein foods that are grown there, such as fava beans, corn and wheat are sold to generate income and the people resort to processed foods such as pasta.
In July 2007, the government initiated, a Zero Malnutrition National Program aimed at improving the nutrition of pregnant and nursing mothers and children under five. Prior to this, the government operated a program called the National Programme for the Care of Children under Six (PAN), that focused on health, protection and childhood education as well as nutrition. The PAN centers provide children with four meals a day and two snacks. Unfortunately, the PAN program, operating in only 17 out of the 100 communities in the Betanzos municipality, only manages to serve about 20% of those most needy since it does not reach the children in the isolated areas, The government intends to remedy this situation by dispatching health care personnel, including Cuban doctors, to those lonely and neglected neighborhoods.



General Noriega May Be ‘Too Late’ to Benefit from Prisoner of War Status by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:02 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags: ,

With the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Manuel Noriega may no longer be exempt from extradition to France for prosecution.

By Mubeen Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not issue an immediate ruling this month in the case of Panamanian General Manuel Noriega –the only person with prisoner of war (POW) status being held on United States’ soil– who is fighting extradition to France for a 10 year additional sentence related to money laundering charges.
Mr. Noriega will remain imprisoned in the United States, until the appeals process is exhausted, although the final decision in the case rests with the U.S. State Department. Noriega’s attorneys hope the hearings will, nevertheless, reach the Supreme Court.
Appeals court judges drew the likely parallel between General Noriega and the men being held in Bagram Air Base, in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Congress “eliminated the legal underpinnings of Noriega’s argument when it passed the 2006 Military Commissions Act,” wrote AP Legal Affairs Writer, Curt Anderson about the judge’s statement. “The law created judicial procedures for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but also could be applied to POWs and anyone else.” In effect, when Noriega first presented his case in September 2007, it was too late for him to take advantage of the POW status previously awarded him.
It is the fourth time the general has sought to halt the extradition proceedings since he completed his sentence for drug racketeering in September 2007. His attorneys insists that, according to the Geneva Convention, Noriega should be repatriated to Panama. Like France, Panama is also seeking his extradition after convicting him (in absentia) of murder, embezzlement, and corruption. His sentence of 60 years imprisonment may, however, be served in his native country under house arrest.
Conditions in the United States are reported to also have a home-like environment for those classified as POWs, unlike those being held at Guantanamo Bay as enemy combatants. “General Manuel Antonio Noriega frequently sees his wife and children, who make the trip to his private bungalow at a federal prison near Miami, from their home in Panama,” reported the Associated Press earlier this month. “The onetime CIA operative is a news junkie, reads voraciously about history and politics, and is working on a memoir.”
After being on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency for the better part of thirty years, Manuel Noriega was arrested after the U.S. military invasion of Panama in 1989 by George H.W. Bush, Sr., on the premise that, according to Anderson, “Noriega had become increasingly belligerent toward the U.S., ignored democratic election results and essentially turned Panama into a way station and banker for Colombia’s powerful Medellin cocaine cartel… Noriega [however], who declined repeated interview requests, has said he believes his ouster was rooted in his refusal to help the U.S. support the Contras attempting to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist government in the 1980s.”



Venezuelan Economy Stable ‘For Now’ by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:02 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Noora Ahmad

Islamic Post Staff Writer

“Venezuela has enough savings to face any crisis,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the Venezuelan daily, El Universal. In an effort to dispel global misconceptions regarding the Venezuelan economy, President Hugo Chavez has recently insisted, repeatedly, in the annual address to his national assembly, on January 13, that the country is not in economic crisis, even with last year’s landslide in oil prices.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director and economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. (CEPR), concurs: “It is clear that Venezuela can be expected to run current account surpluses for the foreseeable future, even at oil prices far below the levels that are currently forecasted, by any experts, in the field,” wrote Mr. Weisbrot late last year, in a report entitled “Oil Prices and Venezuela’s Economy.” “However, even if the economy were to somehow fall into a current account deficit, the government has $40 billion in reserves, at the Central Bank and another $37 billion, in other hard currency assets. These reserves amount to 23 percent of GDP, thus providing an enormous cushion for any unanticipated events.”
And unanticipated it has been. Before oil prices began to climb earlier this month, speculations ran rampant over the causes and effects of the skyrocket in oil prices and their subsequent plummet, which occurred at the same rapid pace. In answer to the current low oil prices, which have been perceived as the effect, of a decrease, in global demand, Venezuela is tempering its output, like other OPEC countries, with a cut of 189,000 barrels per day.
Yet, according to a 60 Minutes segment which aired January 8, a decrease in the demand for oil may not be what caused gas prices to fall. CBS Correspondent Steve Kroft reported during the segment that unheeded experts are saying rapid rise and fall in prices “was a speculative bubble, not unlike the one that caused the housing crisis, and that it had more to do with traders and speculators on Wall Street” than with how much gas consumers were, or were not, putting into their sports utility vehicles.
Steve Kroft claimed: “A recent report out of MIT, analyzing world oil production and consumption, also concluded that the basic fundamentals of supply and demand could not have been responsible for last year’s run-up in oil prices. And Michael Masters [who testified before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the United States Senate last April on the same matter] says the U.S. Department of Energy’s own statistics show that if the markets had been working properly, the price of oil should have been going down, not up.”
With regards to speculation Mr. Kroft asserts: “Over time, the big Wall Street banks were allowed to buy and sell as many oil contracts as they wanted for their clients, circumventing regulations intended to limit speculation. And in 2000, Congress effectively deregulated the futures market, granting exemptions for complicated derivative investments called oil swaps, as well as electronic trading on private exchanges.”
He also claimed there was no way of knowing who did the circumvention, as the deals were done secretly. These secret deals could, as oil prices swing back up, render production cuts, a potentially perilous move for producers and consumers alike, according to Michael T. Klare, author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Oil. “As long as prices remain low,” said Mr. Klare, “Oil companies have no incentive to invest in costly new production ventures, which means no new capacity is being added to global inventories, while available capacity continues to be drained. Simply put, what this means is that, when demand begins to surge again, global output is likely to prove inadequate,” driving the price back up.
In addition, the price may not come back down so easily next time as “most ‘easy oil’ reservoirs have now been exhausted,” according to Klare, “Which means that virtually all remaining global reserves are going to be of the ‘tough oil’ variety. These require extraction technology far too costly to be profitable, at a moment when the per barrel price remains under $50,” concluded Michael Klare. This signifies that if OPEC countries like Venezuela do not continue to explore new oil drilling avenues, the oil shortage could become a very real crisis.
Even given this assessment, Venezuela is going ahead with its charitable CITGO heating oil program in the United States, despite reports to the contrary which, like those commenting on the country’s prospective economic losses, claimed the country could no longer afford such excesses.  CITGO CEO Alejandro Granado and Citizens Energy Chairman, Joseph P. Kennedy II, gave a press conference earlier this month confirming that income-eligible households may apply to receive up to 100 free gallons of heating oil. Mr. Kennedy pointed out that he is “personally aware of President Chavez’s genuine concern for the most vulnerable, regardless of where they may live.”



Billionaire Investors Watch, Wait, Buy by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 8:52 am
Filed under: January Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

Financial barons are taking advantage of the troubled global market and low share prices.

By Mubeen Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Carlos Slim Helu, known as Latin America’s richest man, is moving in on falling stock prices by purchasing extra shares in a few troubled, yet major, companies.
An analyst informed about one of the financial baron’s transactions made with Citigroup, told AFP that the investment firm owned by the Mexican billionaire now owns a one percent stake in the financial corporation, which was recently rescued by the United States’ government. The stake –amounting to nearly 26 million shares and worth almost $150 million– is “a portfolio investment of Grupo Financiero Inbursa,” said the analyst, who requested anonymity. Reuters reported Citigroup’s shares to have sunk to lows not seen since 1992.
“He’s taking advantage of prices,” Rogelio Gallegos, a portfolio manager at Actinver in Mexico City, told Reuters. Carlos Slim has been noted to have a “Midas touch” history of acquiring struggling businesses at low costs and turning them into profitable cash-cows. “It’s the best moment in the last five years to take stock market positions,” said Mr. Galegos.
Mr. Slim also increased his stake in the U.S. luxury retailer, Saks, to 18 percent, making him the company’s biggest investor, the news agency reported.
The new deals occurred only months after Mr. Slim Helu declared the current financial crisis to be a “very difficult situation,” the worst he had ever seen. He anticipated it would effect all economies and “impact everybody.” Slim also suggested in September that bank shareholders and executives should shoulder at least some responsibility for failing financial institutions.
Whether Carlos Slim’s new investments can be seen in this light or not, other billionaires are also embarking on new ventures, including Carl Icahn (1.8 billion invested in a floundering Yahoo!), Warren Buffett (proposed takeover of Constellation Energy Group, Inc.), and Chalva Tchigirinski, a Russian majority owner of Sibir Energy, which allowed his $340 million personal real estate buyout by the company).



International Migrants Day and the Problems of Immigration by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 8:44 am
Filed under: January Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Khalida Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Despite the new law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), continues to urge the United States to sign the United Nations’ International Treaty for the rights of migrants.  To date, none of the countries comprising the G8 –which group represents the largest economies in the Northern Hemisphere, including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, Russia and the United States—are signatories to the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Resolution 45/158) since its inception in 1990.
At the same time, the flight of refugees and immigrants to G8 nations has increased (with the exception of Russia) since that time. The United States and Canada, especially, see regular influxes of foreign nationals seeking work within their borders and a preservation of their human rights.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) applauded the December 23 signing into law of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. The bill became law just after International Migrants Day (December 18), and enhances measures to combat human trafficking. ICE routinely arrests and prosecutes  American and foreign nationals engaged in modern day slavery. ICE also deports the victims of human trafficking.
Although the Wilberforce Trafficking Protection Act should go far to assist those arriving at the shores of America against human trafficking, the problem remains one of global proportions. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sought to bring to light the deplorable condition of female migrants in particular, who make up 48% of the total immigrant population. Selene Kaye, of the ACLU, reiterated on International Migrants Day that “an estimated 100 million women, mostly from the world’s lesser-developed countries, leave their homes each year and migrate abroad in the hopes of finding a better life.”
Women tend to “turn to domestic work as a means of supporting themselves and their families back home,” making them one of the most susceptible categories of migrants (after children). Ms. Kaye continued, “Unfortunately, language barriers, immigration status, isolation in the home, lack of education, and gender make these women extremely vulnerable … a serious pattern of exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers exists around the world.”
“From Southeast Asia to the Middle East, South America to the United States, female domestic workers are routinely trafficked and subjected to conditions of forced labor and servitude,” concluded the ACLU representative.
United Nations Special Reporter on the rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, who conducts investigative missions to various countries on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council, gave his opinion in a March 2008, 27-page report about his mission to the United States the previous year, stating that the U.S. “failed to adhere to its international obligations to make the human rights of the 37.5 million migrants living in the country (according to Government census data from 2006) a national priority.” The Special Reporter also highlighted the fact that “cases of indefinite detention – even of migrants fleeing adverse conditions in their home countries – were not uncommon,” according to testimonies he received.
Mr. Bustamante’s report addresses not only the issue of human trafficking, but the plight of migrants in general, who are defined in the report as all non-citizens, those undocumented and those who have legal permission to remain in the country: such as legal permanent residents, work visa holders, and persons with refugee status. The issue of migrant workers, whether there is forced labor involved or not, and including those who are legal or illegal, has been a contentious issue in the past few years.  However, Mr. Bustamante emphasized: “Contrary to popular belief, [the] United States immigration policy did not become more severe after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Drastic changes made in 1996 have been at work for more than a decade, affecting communities across the nation and recent policy changes simply exacerbate what was put in motion then. Also, contrary to popular belief, these policies do not target only undocumented migrants – they apply to citizens born in the United States of undocumented parents and long-term lawful permanent residents (or green card holders) as well.”
The Special Reporter did, however, note with “dismay” that “xenophobia and racism” in American society “towards migrants in the United States has worsened since 9/11. The current xenophobic climate adversely affects many sections of the migrant population, and has a particularly discriminatory and devastating impact on many of the most vulnerable groups, in the migrant population, including children, unaccompanied minors, Haitian and other Afro-Caribbean migrants, and migrants who are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent.”
Shuya Ohno of Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) told Open Media Boston, “Hate crimes, hate radio, hate speech and hate groups are driving our national conversation about immigrants, and dividing our nation. In this time of uncertainty and fear, we are in desperate need of those …whose courage allows them, and whose conscience compels them to speak up against that which is wrong.” Shuya Ohno was speaking at a rally outside Boston’s city hall, where 30 religious and community organizations, gathered in October to make their opinions known about the breakups of families during immigration raids, and also the common perception that immigrants take American jobs.  MIRA instead blames “unscrupulous employers” for bypassing wage laws in their employment of illegal migrant workers, as well as those who are documented but lack an understanding of their rights. According to MIRA, this process allows unfair bottom-line business competition and hurts all workers by driving down wages.
The UN representative concluded in his report that, despite national perceptions of the issue, “The primary task of such a national [immigration] policy should be to recognize that, with the exception of certain rights relating to political participation, migrants should enjoy nearly all the same human rights’ protections as citizens, including an emphasis on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” -Aisha Spencer contributed to this report.