Daily Archives: February 21, 2009

Activists ‘shocked’ at Clinton stance on China rights

AFP | Feb 21, 2009

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Amnesty International and a pro-Tibet group voiced shock Friday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.

Paying her first visit to Asia as the top US diplomat, Clinton said the United States would continue to press China on long-standing US concerns over human rights such as its rule over Tibet.

“But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,” Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by Clinton’s remarks.

“The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues,” he said.

“But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future US initiatives to protect those rights in China,” he said.

Students for a Free Tibet said Clinton’s remarks sent the wrong signal to China at a sensitive time.

“The US government cannot afford to let Beijing set the agenda,” said Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of the New York-based advocacy group.

China has been pouring troops into the Himalayan territory ahead of next month’s 50th anniversary of the uprising that sent Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama into exile in India.

“Leaders really need to step up and pressure China. It’s often easy to wonder whether pressure makes a difference. It may not make a difference in one day or one month, but it would be visible after some years,” Dorjee said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had sent a letter to Clinton before her maiden Asia visit urging her to raise human rights concerns with Chinese leaders.

Before she left, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said human rights would be “an important issue” for Clinton and that she would “raise the issue when appropriate.”

China has greeted President Barack Obama’s administration nervously, believing he would press Beijing harder on human rights and trade issues than former president George W. Bush.

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Hillary Clinton: Human rights not a priority for US

Independent.ie | Feb 21, 2009

By Richard Spencer in Beijing

Hillary Clinton told China’s leaders yesterday that America considered human rights concerns secondary to economic survival.

Arriving in China on her first visit as US secretary of state she promised a new relationship between the two countries, a relationship she considered to be the world’s most important of the 21st century.

Mrs Clinton landed in Beijing from South Korea, where she criticised the “tyranny” of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. However, she offered a hand of friendship to Mr Kim’s ally, China, contradicting hostile policies both she and President Barack Obama promised in campaigning before the presidential election.

She said she would continue to press China on issues such as human rights and Tibet, but added: “Our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.”

Mr Obama’s campaign pledges to protect American jobs from competition from low-wage economies and to force China to revalue its currency were received badly in Beijing.

However, Washington has been left with little choice but to improve ties in the wake of the financial meltdown, in which the huge trade imbalances between the two have led to a debt crisis in the US and an export crisis in China. Mrs Clinton referred to a Chinese aphorism that “when you are in the same boat, you should keep the peace on the crossing”. China now owns more than $600bn (€467bn) of US government debt, and will be called on to buy more as President Obama’s stimulus package inflates the budget deficit. Jim McGregor, the former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said that where US leaders once came to Beijing to hand out lectures now they came to “kiss up”.

Church

US state department officials said Mrs Clinton was likely to go to church in Beijing on Sunday, something President George W Bush did when visiting to highlight lack of religious freedom in China.

But they said Mrs Clinton’s churchgoing was “private” and, unlike that of Mr Bush, would not be open to the media.

Banks Panic Over Nationalization Fears

Citigroup, Bank of America cut some of their losses before the U.S. Treasury takes them over.

Forbes | Feb 20, 2009

The U.S. government is trying to ease investor worries about nationalizing the banking sector, allowing Citigroup and Bank of America, which just hit their lowest levels in decades, to cut some of their losses. The slide came despite protests from the banks that they are in reasonably good health.

On Friday afternoon, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration continues to “strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go.” Shares of financial bellwethers Citigroup (nyse: C – news – people ) and Bank of America (nyse: BAC – news – people ) fell to their lowest levels in decades earlier in the day, on mounting fears that the Treasury Department was planning to nationalize the banks, which likely would wipe out common shareholders.

Shares of Citigroup were down 56 cents, or 22.3%, to close at $1.95, well off its intraday low of $1.61. Bank of America’s stock was down just 14 cents, or 3.6%, to close at $3.79, after touching $2.53 earlier in the afternoon. Still, the banks have lost 92.3% and 91.1% from year-earlier prices, respectively.

“Right now, people are looking at the worst-case scenario, which is either a complete nationalization or Bank of America and Citi having to raise so much common equity that they dilute shareholders. It seems to me either one is a possibility,” said analyst Keith Davis of Washington-based Farr, Miller & Washington. “There’s just so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen to these two companies … No one wants to get involved with these banks,” he added.

The banks are suffering as a result of the financial dislocations that began in the U.S. housing sector’s subprime mortgage crisis. Yet the pair claim they are sufficiently healthy not to need government bailouts.

Citigroup spokesman Jon Diat said his bank’s capital base is “very strong,” and its Tier-1-capital-to-assets ratio is “among the highest in the industry,” adding that “we continue to focus and make progress on reducing the assets on our balance sheet, reducing expenses and streamlining our business for future profitable growth.” Citi is selling noncore assets, likely including its stake in a Brazilian credit-card business. (See “Citigroup Continues Slow Breakup.”)

At Bank of America, Chief Executive Ken Lewis commented, “Our company continues to be profitable. We see no reason why a company that is profitable with strong levels of capital and liquidity and that continues to lend actively should be considered for nationalization. Speculation about nationalization is based on a lack of understanding of our bank’s financial position as well as a lack of appreciation for the adverse ramifications for our customers and the economy.”

Investors expect details next week on the Treasury’s future moves to stabilize the financial sector. “It’s going to take a bold move by the new U.S. administration to stop this resurgent hemorrhaging of world markets – and with bailouts being interpreted as signs of economic weakness there are no quick fixes,” said Anthony Grech, market strategist at IG Index in London.

The Associated Press and Thomson Reuters contributed to this article.

Obama tops poll of heroes — including Jesus

Hudson River airline pilot beats out Mother Teresa and God

politico.com | Feb 20, 2009

By ANDY BARR

obama_jesusWhen asked who they admire enough to call a hero, more Americans named President Barack Obama than any other figure. Even Jesus Christ.

A new Harris interactive poll of 2,634 adults placed Obama on top of a list that also including George Washington, Mahtma Gandhi and God.

After Obama and Jesus (who finished second) the top 10 is rounded out by Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger and Mother Teresa.

George Washington, Bill Clinton and Colin Powell tied for the sixteenth spot in the poll.

Other politicians in the poll’s top 25 include: Hillary Clinton (12), FDR (13), Condoleezza Rice (12) and Sarah Palin (21).

God ranked eleventh, between Mother Teresa and Hillary Clinton.

UN Security Council Expansion Gets New Boost From Obama

UN-POLITICS-RICE-BAN

The US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice(C)sits across the table from the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (not shown)on January 26, 2098 at the United Nations in New York. by AFP/Getty Images

Bloomberg | Feb 19, 2009

By Bill Varner

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — The global financial crisis and the Obama administration’s openness to expansion of the UN Security Council gave new impetus today to negotiations on the first changes in the panel’s makeup in 40 years, diplomats said.

“The United States believes that the long-term legitimacy and viability of the United Nations Security Council depends on its reflecting the world of the 21st century,” Ambassador Susan Rice said on the first day of a new round of talks on how to expand the UN’s principal policy-making body.

Rice, who advised President Barack Obama during his election campaign, said the U.S. would make “a serious, deliberate effort” to expand the 15-nation Security Council and added that the new administration doesn’t link the process to other proposals to improve UN management and oversight.

The U.S. under former President George W. Bush resisted changes in council membership, backing only Japan for a new permanent seat, and tied expansion to other improvements in the world body.

The Security Council includes five permanent members with a veto — the U.S., the U.K., China, France and Russia — and 10 nations elected to two-year terms. The makeup largely reflects the post-World War II world order.

Brazil, India, Japan and Germany are pushing for permanent seats, based on their growing economic power, and African nations say the need for better geographic representation calls for one or more governments in their region to assume a veto- wielding seat. Proposals have included as many as 12 new members.

Formal Negotiations

Progress in a debate that began 20 years ago was made possible by an agreement last year to move beyond speeches to formal negotiations under a timetable calling for talks on all of the major hurdles.

Negotiations on categories of membership are scheduled to be held on March 4, followed by discussions of the veto, regional representation, size of the council and working methods. The talks are to conclude by the end of April.

“The prospects are better against the backdrop of the international financial and economic crisis,” German Ambassador Thomas Matussek said. “Everyone is talking about global governance, whether we want the world run by the G-13 or G-20, or do we want it run by the only legitimate global institution we have, which is the United Nations. If this drags on, the focus will shift to the G-20, and that will weaken the institution.”

The G-20 comprises the largest economies in the world, including major emerging markets.

Indian Ambassador Nirupan Sen called the new U.S. stance “excellent,” while cautioning that it was too soon to tell whether the negotiations would break the previous stalemate.

Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin, who is leading the talks, called today’s opening session “historic” and said there was “no return” to former intransigence.

China, for example, has blocked Japan’s permanent membership, saying it hasn’t sufficiently atoned for atrocities committed in China during the prelude to World War II.

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Related

Susan Rice – From Wikipedia

susan_rice_1201Susan Elizabeth Rice (born November 17, 1964) is an American foreign policy advisor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice served on the staff of the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Bill Clinton’s second term. Rice is the United States’ third woman ambassador to the UN, following Madeleine Albright and Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Rice was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the Shepherd Park area. Her father, Emmett J. Rice, is a Cornell University economics professor and former governor of the Federal Reserve System.

She and Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, are both female foreign policy experts of African American descent who have ties to Stanford University; however, they are not related.

Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, Rice attended New College, Oxford, where she earned a M.Phil. in 1988 and D.Phil. in 1990. The Chatham House-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation titled ” Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe , 1979-1980: Implication for International Peacekeeping” as the UK’s most distinguished in international relations.

Rice’s classmates and professors at Oxford included advocates of the role of the United Nations and international law (Sir Adam Roberts, Benedict Kingsbury), of global economic governance and international economic cooperation (Ngaire Woods, Donald Markwell…

Rice married Canadian-born ABC News producer Ian Officer Cameron (born in Victoria, British Columbia) in 1992; they met as students at Stanford. They reside in Washington, D.C. with their two children.

Rice was a foreign policy aide to Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential election. She was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm, in the early 1990s. While at McKinsey, Rice was affiliated with the Firm’s Toronto office.

Rice served in the Clinton administration in various capacities: at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997; as Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping from 1993 to 1995…

Assistant Secretary of State

Secretary of State Madeline Albright is a longtime mentor and family friend to Rice, who urged Clinton to appoint Rice as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997. Rice was not the first choice of Congressional Black Caucus leaders, who considered Rice a member of “Washington’s assimilationist black elite”.

Rice was considered “young, brilliant, and ambitious”, and she worked to “integrate Africa in the global economy while at the same time aiming to increase U.S. national security”. At the same time, she was criticized by detractors who considered her “authoritarian, brash, and unwilling to consider opinions that differ from her own”, and reportedly having disputes from some career diplomats in the African bureau. Newsweek national correspondent Martha Brant wrote that:

Some complained that she had the same problem as many Clinton appointees: youthful arrogance. “She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” says one Africa expert who deals with her. “And she doesn’t tolerate dissenters.”

Outside government

Rice was managing director and principal at Intellibridge from 2001 to 2002. In 2002, she joined the Brookings Institution as senior fellow in the Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development program. At Brookings she focuses on U.S. foreign policy, weak and failing states, the implications of global poverty, and transnational threats to security. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Rice served as a foreign policy adviser to John Kerry.

Obama Administration

Rice is currently on leave from the Brookings Institution, having served as a senior foreign policy advisor to Senator Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. On November 5, 2008, Rice was named to the advisory board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project. On December 1, 2008, she was nominated by President-elect Obama to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a position which he also upgraded to cabinet level.

Affiliations

Susan Rice serves on the boards of several organizations, including the National Democratic Institute, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, board of directors of the Atlantic Council, advisory board of Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, the board of directors of Bureau of National Affairs, board of directors of Partnership for Public Service

She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Strategy Group.

Awards

Recipient, Walter Frewen Lord prize, Royal Commonwealth Society, 1990

Association prize, Chatham House-British Internat. Studies, 1992

Criticism

In a 2002 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, former Ambassador to Sudan Timothy Carney and news contributor Mansoor Ijaz implicated Rice and counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke in missing an opportunity to neutralize Osama bin Laden while he was still in Sudan. They write that Sudan and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were ready to cooperate on intelligence potentially leading to bin Laden, but that Rice and Clarke persuaded National Security Advisor Sandy Berger to overrule Albright.

Similar allegations have been made by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose and Richard Miniter, author of Losing bin Laden, in a November 2003 interview with World.

While the writings of Carney, Ijaz, Rose and Miniter each claim that Sudan offered to turn bin Laden over to the US and that Rice was central in the decision not to accept the offer, The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States (the 9-11 Commission) concluded in part “Sudan’s minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Laden over to the United States.

Obama backs Bush: No rights for Bagram prisoners

AP | Feb 20, 2009

By NEDRA PICKLER and MATT APUZZO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration, siding with the Bush White House, contended Friday that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights.

In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys.

“The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we’d hoped,” said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Airfield. “We all expected better.”

The Supreme Court last summer gave al-Qaida and Taliban suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention. With about 600 detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and thousands more held in Iraq, courts are grappling with whether they, too, can sue to be released.

Three months after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Guantanamo Bay, four Afghan citizens being detained at Bagram tried to challenge their detentions in U.S. District Court in Washington. Court filings alleged that the U.S. military had held them without charges, repeatedly interrogating them without any means to contact an attorney. Their petition was filed by relatives on their behalf since they had no way of getting access to the legal system.

The military has determined that all the detainees at Bagram are “enemy combatants.” The Bush administration said in a response to the petition last year that the enemy combatant status of the Bagram detainees is reviewed every six months, taking into consideration classified intelligence and testimony from those involved in their capture and interrogation.

After Barack Obama took office, a federal judge in Washington gave the new administration a month to decide whether it wanted to stand by Bush’s legal argument. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says the filing speaks for itself.

“They’ve now embraced the Bush policy that you can create prisons outside the law,” said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented several detainees.

The Justice Department argues that Bagram is different from Guantanamo Bay because it is in an overseas war zone and the prisoners there are being held as part of a military action. The government argues that releasing enemy combatants into the Afghan war zone, or even diverting U.S. personnel there to consider their legal cases, could threaten security.

The government also said if the Bagram detainees got access to the courts, it would allow all foreigners captured by the United States in conflicts worldwide to do the same.

It’s not the first time that the Obama administration has used a Bush administration legal argument after promising to review it. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a review of every court case in which the Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege, a separate legal tool it used to have lawsuits thrown out rather than reveal secrets.

The same day, however, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter cited that privilege in asking an appeals court to uphold dismissal of a suit accusing a Boeing Co. subsidiary of illegally helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists to allied foreign nations that tortured them.

Letter said that Obama officials approved his argument.

National Guard training in door-to-door gun searches

“We really want to get as much information out there as possible, because this operation could be pretty intrusive to the people of Arcadia.”

The primary phase will be done Saturday, April 4, when convoys will be deployed from Carroll to Arcadia. Pictures of a suspected arms dealer will be shown in Arcadia, and soldiers will go door to door asking if residents have seen the suspect. … The drill will culminate in the apprehension of the suspected arms dealer.

Daily Times Herald | Feb 17, 2009

Guardsmen to conduct urban training at Arcadia in April

By BUTCH HEMAN

The Carroll National Guard unit will train on urban military operations by holding a four-day exercise at Arcadia.

The purpose of the April 2-5 drill will be to gather intelligence, then search for and apprehend a suspected weapons dealer, according to Sgt. Mike Kots, readiness NCO for Alpha Company.

Citizens, law enforcement, media and other supporters will participate.


Troops will spend Thursday, April 2, staging at a forward operations base at Carroll. The next day company leaders will conduct reconnaissance and begin patrolling the streets of Arcadia to identify possible locations of the weapons dealer.

The primary phase will be done Saturday, April 4, when convoys will be deployed from Carroll to Arcadia. Pictures of the arms dealer will be shown in Arcadia, and soldiers will go door to door asking if residents have seen the suspect.

Soldiers will knock only at households that have agreed to participate in the drill, Kots noted.

“Once credible intelligence has been gathered,” said Kots, “portions of the town will be road-blocked and more in-depth searches of homes and vehicles will be conducted in accordance with the residents’ wishes.

“One of the techniques we use in today’s political environment is cordon and knock,” Kots explained. “We ask for the head of the household, get permission to search, then have them open doors and cupboards. The homeowner maintains control. We peer over their shoulder, and the soldier uses the homeowner’s body language and position to protect him.”

During this phase of the operation, troops will interact with residents and media while implementing crowd-control measures and possibly treating and evacuating injured persons.

The unit will use a Blackhawk helicopter for overhead command and control, and to simulate medevacs.

The drill will culminate in the apprehension of the suspected arms dealer.

Alpha Company will conduct a review of the drill on Sunday, April 5.

A meeting to give residents more information and accept volunteers will be held 7 p.m. Monday, March 2, in the Arcadia American Legion hall.

Kots said the exercise will replace Alpha Company’s weekend drill for April.

“We have a lot of extended drills this coming year,” he added.

In addition to surveillance, searching and apprehension, the exercise will also give the troops valuable experience in stability, support, patrol, traffic control, vehicle searches and other skills needed for deployment in an urban environment.

“This exercise will improve the real-life operational skills of the unit,” said Kots. “And it will hopefully improve the public’s understanding of military operations.”

The pre-drill work with residents is as important at the drill itself.

“It will be important for us to gain the trust and confidence of the residents of Arcadia,” said Kots. “We will need to identify individuals that are willing to assist us in training by allowing us to search their homes and vehicles and to participate in role-playing.”

“We really want to get as much information out there as possible, because this operation could be pretty intrusive to the people of Arcadia.”

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The American President:

“You cannot address crime-prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, and I’m gonna get the guns!”

The Untold Story of Gun Confiscation After Katrina