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Showing posts from January 29, 2014

Côte d’Ivoire’s Great West: Key to Reconciliation


Western Côte d’Ivoire’s land, security and identity problems make this vast border territory the country’s most unstable area. Reconciliation has yet to begin there and communal tensions remain acute. Two administrative regions are especially problematic: Cavally and Guémon. Outside Abidjan, these are the two regions where the post-electoral crisis claimed the most victims and which saw the gravest violence. The Ivorian government’s preference for a security clamp-down there, rather than measures to address political and economic problems has done little to address instability, which could provide the spark that reignites the crisis. Since December, the government has taken some steps nationally to lower political tension and promote national reconciliation: these should be immediately extended to these two regions, which remain strongholds of former President Laurent Gbagbo.

Since independence, the central government has ignored Cavally and Guémon …

Defiant Morsi declares himself Egypt’s ‘legitimate leader’ as trial gets underway

In this image taken from Egyptian state TV, toppled President Mohammed Morsi stands inside a glass-encased metal cage in a courtroom in Cairo on Tuesday. Morsi was separated from other defendants for the start of a new trial Tuesday over charges from prison breaks during the country's 2011 revolution. 

CAIRO — Egypt’s toppled President Mohammed Morsi stood alone in a soundproof glass-encased metal cage at the start of a new trial Tuesday wearing a white prison uniform, pacing and shouting angrily at the judge in apparent disbelief: “Who are you? Tell me!”

Morsi is on trial with 130 others, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and militants from the Palestinian Hamas group and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, over charges related to the prison breaks at the height of the 18-day 2011 uprising against his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. After five hours, the trial was adjourned to Feb. 22.

The trial coincided with the third anniversary of one of the most violent days of that revoluti…

Mexico's 'Vigilante Monster'

The fundamental problem in Michoacan is the collusion between criminal gangs and the authorities.

By Belen Fernandez

Mexico's army and federal police were recently deployed to the Mexican state of Michoacan to deal with the ongoing battle between the Knights Templar drug cartel and vigilante groups known as "autodefensas".

Formed in February 2013 as a response to the state's unwillingness and inability to safeguard its people, these self-defense forces have succeeded in "liberating" a number of areas from cartel control, and have refused to comply with orders to disarm.

According to an AP report titled "Mexico Gov't Faces Vigilante Monster It Created", the US State Department "said that the warring between vigilantes and the cartel is 'incredibly worrisome' and [that it is] 'unclear if any of those actors have the community's best interests at heart'".

This is a curious assessment coming from an entity that prefers to …

Cut Off the NSA’s Juice

By Norman Solomon

 - The National Security Agency depends on huge computers that guzzle electricity in the service of the surveillance state. For the NSA’s top executives, maintaining a vast flow of juice to keep Big Brother nourished is essential -- and any interference with that flow is unthinkable.

But interference isn’t unthinkable. And in fact, it may be doable.

Grassroots activists have begun to realize the potential to put the NSA on the defensive in nearly a dozen states where the agency is known to be running surveillance facilities, integral to its worldwide snoop operations.

Organizers have begun to push for action by state legislatures to impede the electric, water and other services that sustain the NSA’s secretive outposts.

Those efforts are farthest along in the state of Washington, where a new bill in the legislature -- the Fourth Amendment Protection Act -- is a statutory nightmare for the NSA. The agency has a listening post in Yakima, in the south-central part of the sta…

The State of Georgia Has its Own Mideast Policy

By Michael McGough

 - Israel has many well-wishers in Congress, and on some matters — such as how best to pressure Iran not to develop nuclear weapons — those U.S. legislators are closer to Israel’s position than to the Obama administration’s.

Another example: Congress passed a law ordering the State Department to allow U.S. citizens born in Israel to list their birthplace on their passports as “Jerusalem, Israel,” even though successive U.S. presidents have refused to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, believing that the status of the city must be decided in negotiations. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the law unconstitutionally infringed on the president’s authority to recognize foreign states.

Congress was pushing the constitutional envelope with the passport bill, but no one would dispute that it has some say over foreign affairs. But where did the Georgia state Senate get the idea that it could pronounce on issues of Middle East diplomacy? That body recently adopt…

El Salvador's Durable Gang Truce

Members of MS-18 in a jail yard in Izalco, El Salvador. (Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images)


El Salvador holds a presidential election Feb. 2 in which gang violence and a truce between the country's two main criminal organizations, Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18, has become a central campaign issue. The cease-fire, however, depends little on the government. It will last as long as both groups see more benefits to cooperation than to conflict, despite the Salvadoran opposition's heated political rhetoric claiming otherwise.


Norman Quijano, the presidential candidate for the right-wing opposition Nationalist Republican Alliance, said Jan. 21 that he would declare a state of emergency to target the gangs, and he has repeatedly stated his opposition to the truce the gangs reached in March 2012. Quijano's statements reflect his party's previous strategy toward the gangs, involving mass arrests and a refusal to negotiate with gang leaders. Meanwhile, Salvador Sanch…

Rising Financial Risks in China's Coal Sector

Workers at a coal chemical factory in Anhui province, China, in August 2013. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)


Once again, China's financial system appears to have averted a potential crisis. China Credit Trust Co. and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China announced Jan. 27 that they have arranged for a third-party investor to take control of a $496 million wealth management product that was expected to default Jan. 31, thus offering investors in the original product an opportunity to recoup most or all of the principal on their investment. Funds from the product had been channeled to Shanxi-based Zhenfu Energy Group, a coal mining company with a history of financial troubles and that, according to one Chinese source, is already technically bankrupt, with total assets of around $82 million.

Technical defaults on such products have thus far been contained by emergency maneuvers to repay investors, while the impact of bankruptcies in coal and other heavily indebted sectors has rem…

The Ukrainian Government Faces Pressure At Home and Abroad, Despite Making Concessions

A banner depicting Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov (R) and President Viktor Yanukovich behind prison bars Jan. 28. at an opposition protester camp in Independence Square in Kiev. (VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)


The Ukrainian government has followed through with significant concessions to the opposition in a bid to defuse the ongoing political crisis that has spread throughout the country. Regardless of agreements made, profound challenges remain for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich as he tries to balance the demands of protesters, the hostility of right-wing fringe groups and mounting external pressure.

The Ukrainian parliament voted Jan. 28 to repeal the recently passed anti-protest laws that sparked demonstrations across the country, while Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov tendered his resignation on the same day. Although opposition leaders hailed the moves, the government still faces major constraints from the more radical demonstrators and from rival i…