Archive for April, 2013

29/04/2013

Imperial Hungover? UK ‘Shadow Military’ May Return to Gulf Over Instability Fears

Human Wrongs Watch

By Russia Today*, 29 April 2013 — The UK army is planning to build up a strong “shadow presence” in the Gulf, marking a return to the seat of its old imperial power, a UK think tank said. The Arab Spring and security fears over a nuclear Iran are among the reasons for the move.

**RFA Cardigan Bay leads the minehunters HMS Ramsey, HMS Shoreham and HMS Quorn and Type 45 Destroyer HMS Diamond during exercises in the Middle East, August 2012. |  LA(Phot) Gary Weatherston | http://www.defenceimagery.mod.uk/fotoweb/Grid.fwx?archiveId=5042&search=(IPTC005%20contains(FK120102005)) filename 45154692.jpg object name FK120102005 | © Crown Copyright 2012

**RFA Cardigan Bay leads the minehunters HMS Ramsey, HMS Shoreham and HMS Quorn and Type 45 Destroyer HMS Diamond during exercises in the Middle East, August 2012. | LA(Phot) Gary Weatherston | © Crown Copyright 2012

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a report titled ‘A Return to East of Suez? UK Military Deployment to the Gulf’ on Monday morning, analyzing a shift in UK policy that is driven by a “fear of what is happening in the Middle East.”

The return of the British military would reverse a decades-old decision that allowed the Gulf States to become independent: “The military intends to build up a strong shadow presence around the Gulf; not an evident imperial-style footprint, but a smart presence with facilities, defense agreements, rotation of training, transit and jumping-off points,” the report said.

The British withdrew troops from the Gulf region following the East of Suez decision in 1971; the drawdown of Britain’s imperial military influence allowed many Gulf nations to declare their independence.

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29/04/2013

The Free Market Fundamentalists Are Now in Europe

Human Wrongs Watch

By Roberto Savio*

Rome, April 2013 (IPS) – For a long time it was a given that while Europe was based on defending a more just society, with social values and solidarity, the United States was based on the glory of individualism and competition, and anything public was considered “socialist”.

**The European Central Bank in Frankfurt governs the monetary policy | Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/maveric2003/ - Eric Chan | Wikimedia Commons

**The European Central Bank in Frankfurt governs the monetary policy | Eric Chan

One of the main accusations of the last electoral campaign in the U.S. was that Barack Obama had an unspoken design to transform the U.S. into another Europe, beginning with healthcare reform.

Well, it’s time for an update – the defenders of market fundamentalism are now in Europe.

At the last meeting of Ministers of Finance on Apr. 9, the freshly-appointed U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew tried to convince Europeans to lessen their commitment to austerity as the best medicine for economic problems.

The U.S. Treasury, together with the U.S. Federal Reserve, has launched a policy of economic stimulus, with concrete success. Every month, the Federal Reserve alone is putting 80 billion dollars into the bond market. Incidentally, Japan is doing the same, on an even greater scale.

Lew was met with a firm rejection: the best way to achieve growth in the long term (contrary to any evidence) is to cut deficits and reassure the markets, even at the cost of higher unemployment and social misery in the short term.

Europe’s most powerful minister, Germany’s Wolfgang Schauble, said: “Nobody in Europe sees this contradiction between fiscal consolidation and growth. We must stop this debate, which says that you have to choose between austerity and growth.”

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29/04/2013

Richest Countries' Aid to Poorest Nations Slips Further – OECD

Human Wrongs Watch

Development aid fell by 4% in real terms in 2012, following a 2% fall in 2011, according to a recent OECD report*, adding that the continuing financial crisis and euro zone turmoil has led several governments to tighten their budgets, which has had a direct impact on development aid.

Fall in development aid continues | OECD

Fall in development aid continues | OECD

There is also a noticeable shift in aid allocations away from the poorest countries and towards middle-income countries.  However, on the basis of the DAC Survey on Donors’ Forward Spending Plans, a moderate recovery in aid levels is expected in 2013,” says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which groups the 34 most industrialised countries.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría expressed concern over this trend.

“It is worrying that budgetary duress in our member countries has led to a second successive fall in total aid, but I take heart from the fact that, in spite of the crisis, nine countries still managed to increase their aid.  As we approach the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, I hope that the trend in aid away from the poorest countries will be reversed.  This is essential if aid is to play its part in helping achieve the Goals.”

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29/04/2013

Egypt: Walking The IMF Tight Rope

Human Wrongs Watch

 By James Maxwell, Think Africa Press* — The IMF’s proposed $4.8 billion loan could be crucial for restoring Egypt’s faltering economy. But implementing the IMF’s conditions would be socially and politically costly.

**President Morsi is facing a tricky situation in Egypt. Will he bow to IMF pressure and liberalise? Photograph by Gigi Ibrahim. | Source: Think Africa Press.

**President Morsi is facing a tricky situation in Egypt. Will he bow to IMF pressure and liberalise? Photograph by Gigi Ibrahim. | Source: Think Africa Press.

In January 1977, a series of riots broke out across Egypt in response to the decision of then president Anwar Sadat to abolish government subsidies for bread and other basic foodstuffs.

The riots lasted just two days, but during that time nearly 80 people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes with police and security forces.

In this instance, Sadat, already a committed economic liberaliser, was acting under pressure from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), from whom Egypt had recently received substantial loans to help deal with its deepening debt crisis.

Today, 36 years later, the conditions for a similar confrontation seem to be brewing in Egypt again.

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21/04/2013

Whither Egypt (II) – Economic Bankruptcy

Human Wrongs Watch

By Baher Kamal*

Cairo, 21 April 2013 – Egyptians are frustrated, feel lost and do not know where they are heading to. This short, dramatic conclusion has lastly been the most reiterated sentence by all opposition movements, and –more importantly– by the overwhelming majority of people here.

**Mass protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo | Credit: Lilian Wagdy | Source: The Egyptian Liberal | Wikimedia Commons.

**Mass protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo | Credit: Lilian Wagdy | Source: The Egyptian Liberal | Wikimedia Commons.

Foreign currency reserves are reported to be nearly finished; exchange rates have been lastly as high in favour of foreign currencies as law is the value of national currency, the Egyptian pound.

Railways workers, university students, hotel staffs, among many other sectors, have declared strikes. Elderly people, specially women, do not dare going out nor walking in the streets by themselves as they fear being assaulted by criminal gangs.

It has been estimated that more than 50 percent of all Egyptians –who total over 90 million- are now poor. And that up to 16 percent of Egyptian families live each one in one single room, where they sleep, cook, wash and cover their “sanitation” needs.

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21/04/2013

Journalists Defiant Despite Fears of Return to Egypt’s Bad Old Days

By Shahira Amin*

Cairo, 29 March 2013 — A recent crackdown on journalists and opposition activists has increased fears that Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi will use tactics similar to his ousted predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, to silence dissent.

A bus on fire during clashes in Cairo last week | UNCUT Index on Censhorship

A bus on fire during clashes in Cairo last week | UNCUT Index on Censorship

Earlier this month, a group of activists spraying anti-Muslim Brotherhood graffiti on the ground outside the headquarters of the Islamist group’s political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were attacked by plain clothes security guards and Muslim Brotherhood supporters with sticks and chains.

Journalists who were at the scene, covering a meeting between Muslim Brotherhood leaders and Hamas officials were also assaulted by the guards.

A journalist working for independent newspaper Yom El Sabe’ was arrested and detained for several hours, and one cameraman sustained head injuries, and had his equipment confiscated.

The assault provoked outrage from Egypt’s liberal opposition and journalists alike. Opposition groups and political parties called for a “million people rally” to protest the attacks.

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21/04/2013

"As Long as There Is One of Us Standing, There Will Be a Fight to Protect the Forests"

Human Wrongs Watch

By Jess Miller, Greenpeace*, 19 April 2013 – Today, Brazil celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day. However, on a day that is supposed to celebrate their ancestors, culture and stories, many of Indigenous Peoples are instead fighting for their lands and their rights.

Xavante indigenous people from Maraiãwatsede with traditional body paint for war. Due to conflicts over land ownership, this traditional painting is now a daily ritual in their lives. | Credit: Rodrigo Baleia - Greenpeace

Xavante indigenous people from Maraiãwatsede with traditional body paint for war. Due to conflicts over land ownership, this traditional painting is now a daily ritual in their lives. | Credit: Rodrigo Baleia – Greenpeace

According to a survey by CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council), there are no less than 452 government development projects currently underway in Brazil, 201 of which directly impact Indigenous Lands.

Illegal logging and ranching continues to encroach on Indigenous Lands and conflict and violence is prevalent in the Amazon region.

Accorind to CIMI, an average of 50 murders of Indigenous Peoples occur annually in Brazil. Even more shocking, in the state of Mato Grosso, a leading state for deforestation, there is an average of four deaths per month. From 2003 to 2012, 315 Indigenous Leaders were murdered in connection to forest destruction.

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21/04/2013

1.6 Billion People Depend on Forests, But…

Human Wrongs Watch

New York, 21 April 2013 – Forests cover one-third of the Earth’s landmass and about 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood. Three-fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchment areas and forests stabilize slopes, prevent landslides and protect coastal communities against tsunamis and storms. More than three billion people depend on forests for wood for cooking and heating.

Photo: UN Forum on Forests/Fendi Aspara

Photo: UN Forum on Forests/Fendi Aspara

With this background, the United Nations Forum on Forests concluded its tenth session in Istanbul in the early hours of Saturday [20 April 2013] after agreeing on a series of measures to improve the sustainable management of forests, and deciding to consider setting up a voluntary global fund to support this endeavour.

The Forum*, which met for the first time away from UN Headquarters in New York, adopted two resolutions as it wrapped up its two-week session, one on forests and economic development ­– the main theme of the session – and the other on financing.

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20/04/2013

That’s Where the Money Goes

By , IPPNW*, 18 April 2013 – According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.

**A Royal Air Force British Aerospace Harrier GR.9 aircraft conducts a combat patrol over Afghanistan on 12 December 2008. | Photo credit:  Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon | Source: http://dams.defenseimagery.mil/defenselink/assetcolcreate.action?name=previewcol&id=1a583d908b3872997186fc8ef7de84ef3f8053a9&scope=request&nextpage=/vims_dlink_preview.jsp | Wikimedia Commons

**A Royal Air Force British Aerospace Harrier GR.9 aircraft conducts a combat patrol over Afghanistan on 12 December 2008. | Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon | Wikimedia Commons

The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the US government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion — 39 percent of the global total.

The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third). 

Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.

US military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012. 

NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.

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20/04/2013

Whither Egypt (I) – Did You Say Dictatorship?

Human Wrongs Watch

By Baher Kamal*

Cairo, 20 April, 2013 – Go to any five-star hotel downtown. Enter the lobby and watch who are there. You will see some pure-white “gebbah” (robe) dressed men from any Arab Gulf country, either talking on last-model smartphones, or just seated, thinking. They look rich and they probably are stakeholders -or even the landlords- of this hotel.

**A protester holding an Egyptian flag during the protests that started on 25 January 2011 | Credit: The_lion_of_Egyptian_revolution_(Qasr_al-Nil_Bridge).jpg: Kodak Agfa from Egypt | Wikimedia Commons

**A protester holding an Egyptian flag during the protests that started on 25 January 2011 | Credit: The_lion_of_Egyptian_revolution_(Qasr_al-Nil_Bridge).jpg: Kodak Agfa from Egypt | Wikimedia Commons

You will also see plenty of noisy young, informally dressed people, likely from Libya, who are here in Cairo for a surgery or medical treatment as they were injured in the war against Muammar Gaddafi a couple of years ago. The Libyan government would cover all their expenses.

Really few foreign guests, maybe a group of participants in a seminar.

Walk then towards the epicentre of the Egyptian revolution—Tahrir Square. If you go on a Friday morning –around 8 or 9 am, you will see half-a-dozen carts, loaded with bread, maybe also “white cheese”, refreshments, garlic and big blocs of ice wrapped in canvas.

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