Thursday, September 30, 2010


30 September 2010 Last updated at 07:57 E
Opium production in Afghanistan has almost halved in the past year, a United Nations report says.
The sharp drop is largely due to a plant infection which has drastically reduced yields, says the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
But it warns that production is unlikely to stay low, with rising prices tempting farmers to cultivate more opium poppies.
The UNODC's 2010 Afghan Opium Survey showed production in 2010 was at its lowest level since 2003, estimated at 3,600 tonnes - a 48% decrease from 6,900 tonnes in 2009.
"This is good news but there is no room for false optimism; the market may again become lucrative for poppy-crop growers so we have to monitor the situation closely," said Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC.
Organised crime

With opium prices rising again after years of steady decline, the UNODC has warned that production is unlikely to stay low.
It is concerned that a rise in opium prices combined with a fall in the price of wheat could push farmers back into poppy cultivation.
The report found that after a steady five-year decline from 2005, prices were rising again - with opium's price up 164% from $64 (£40) per kg in 2009 to $169 per kg this year.
The total area of the country used for poppy cultivation remains unchanged despite government eradication programmes, and Mr Fedotov has called for a comprehensive strategy to counter the opium threat.
This price increase meant that while less opium was produced, its value rose by 38% to $604m. This is six times the value of the country's wheat crop, and represents about 5.5% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product (GDP).
Most of the poppies are grown in the restive southern and western provinces, the report says, with production in Helmand alone accounting for more than half the country's total opium cultivation.
"This underscores the link between opium poppy cultivation and insecurity in Afghanistan."
But Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal praised a 7% drop in poppy cultivation in Helmand - the province's second year-on-year reduction.
"We are providing a safer and more stable environment for the local people ensuring a more secure and prosperous future free from the problem of drugs," said Mr Mangal.

Lindy Cameron, head of the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Helmand, said this was a sign of progress being made between Afghan and international security forces.

"Reducing poppy cultivation denies the insurgency of an important source of funding, helping the Afghan government provide stability and security for the people of Helmand," said Ms Cameron.


With New Surge, One Thousand U.S. Soldiers and $300 Million for Every One al Qaeda Fighter

Dec. 2, 2009 —

As he justified sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan at a cost of $30 billion a year, President Barack Obama's description Tuesday of the al Qaeda "cancer" in that country left out one key fact: U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told the approximate estimate of 100 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan reflects the conclusion of American intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. The relatively small number was part of the intelligence passed on to the White House as President Obama conducted his deliberations.

President Obama made only a vague reference to the size of the al Qaeda presence in his speech at West Point, when he said, "al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same number as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border."

A spokesperson at the White House's National Security Council, Chris Hensman, said he could not comment on intelligence matters.

Obama's National Security Adviser, Gen. James Jones, put the number at "fewer than a hundred" in an October interview with CNN.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., referred to the number at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October, saying "intelligence says about a hundred al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

As the President acknowledged, al Qaeda now operates from Pakistan where U.S. troops are prohibited from operating. "We're in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country," he said.

Intelligence officials estimate there are several hundred al Qaeda fighters just across the border in Pakistan.
An Obama administration official said the additional troops were needed in Afghanistan to "sandwich" al Qaeda between Pakistan and Afghanistan and prevent them from re-establishing a safe haven in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan has been stepping up its efforts," the official said.

"So the real question is will Pakistan do enough," said former White House counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant.

"What if they take all the money we given them but don't really follow through? What the strategy then?" said Clarke.

With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.

al Qaeda's Ideological Influence

Other counter-terror analysts say the actual number of al Qaeda in Afghanistan is less important than their ability to train others in the Taliban and have ideological influence.

"A hundred 'no foolin' al Qaeda operatives operating in a safe haven can do a hell of a lot of damage," said one former intelligence official with significant past experience in the region.

At a Senate hearing, the former CIA Pakistan station chief, Bob Grenier, testified al Qaeda had already been defeated in Afghanistan.

"So in terms of 'in Afghanistan,'" asked Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., "they have been disrupted and dismantled and defeated. They're not in Afghanistan, correct?"

"That's true," replied Grenier.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


In September 2008 President Bush spoke with the American Public about the necessity of having the government, listen for yourself --->
Democrats to stuff 20 bills into post-election lame-duck session
By Alexander Bolton 09/28/10 06:00 AM ET
Democrats are considering cramming as many as 20 pieces of legislation into the lame-duck session they plan to hold after the Nov. 2 election.
The array of bills competing for floor time shows the sense of urgency among Democratic lawmakers to act before the start of the 112th Congress, when Republicans are expected to control more seats in the Senate and House.
But, given the slow pace of the Senate, it also all but guarantees that Democrats will be hard-pressed to pass even a small part of their lame-duck agenda.
The highest-profile item for November and December is the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, passed under President George W. Bush, which expire at year’s end.
Democrats have promised they will not allow tax rates to rise for families making less than $250,000 a year.
  • Democratic leaders have also prioritized the defense authorization bill, which includes a repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military.
Democrats and gay-rights activists fear repeal could prove impossible if Republicans control the House or additional Senate seats.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, has promised to push for a vote on the DREAM Act, which would give the children of illegal immigrants a chance to earn legal residence.
That bill would have much less chance of passing if Republicans controlled the House.
Democratic leaders also view an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a freeze in scheduled cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements as must-pass legislation.
Lawmakers could spend much of the lame-duck session haggling over these two expensive proposals, which sucked up weeks of time in the Senate earlier this year.
Thousands of laid-off workers will begin to lose unemployment benefits after Nov. 30, and doctors are scheduled to see a 23 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements on Dec. 1.
Conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House may demand the cost of the so-called doc fix to be offset with spending cuts.
The limited amount of time in a lame-duck session has only heightened competition among Democrats pushing different pet priorities.
  • Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wants the Senate to consider a package of tax-relief extensions he has been working on all year.
“The fully paid-for bill Sen. Baucus introduced this month cuts taxes for families paying college tuition and state and local sales taxes, for teachers who purchase supplies for their classroom and for many employers, which frees up cash and creates jobs,” said a Finance Committee aide. “These tax cuts will create jobs and provide the support our economy needs, and they should be passed this year.”
  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is intent on passing a renewable electricity standard.
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, says his cybersecurity bill should also come up for a vote, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has called for ratification of the New START arms-control treaty with Russia. 
  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) says he intends to hold Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to a promise to schedule a vote on legislation that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from taking action to curb carbon gas emissions for two years.
Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce Committee, has also pushed for the Senate to complete mine-safety legislation.
 “Sen. Rockefeller feels very strongly that both his mine and workplace safety bill and EPA suspension bill need to be brought before the full Senate,” said an aide to Rockefeller. “He will continue to work to see the passage of both as quickly as possible and is committed to moving them forward. He continues to evaluate acceptable vehicles to do so.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, told reporters Friday that leaders would also bring up a bill to address Chinese currency manipulation.
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, hopes Congress will pass food-safety legislation Reid tried to bring to the floor last week. Democratic leaders pulled the bill even though they could have had enough votes to stop a Republican filibuster.
Durbin, who has made food safety a high priority, later told reporters that it could have taken nearly a week to jump through the procedural hoops necessary to pass the bill.
House leaders have some of their own priorities.
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters last week that she hopes to take up child nutrition legislation, a favorite item of liberals that may set less generous levels of assistance if passed by a GOP-controlled House. (The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent in August.)
  • Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the Education and Labor Committee and one of Pelosi’s lieutenants, wants Congress to act on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.
Bills that have been painstakingly negotiated may have to be overhauled if Republicans control the House next year or pick up half a dozen Senate seats.
Deals that were made to satisfy retiring senators will become moot, and an incoming class of as many as 19 freshman senators could raise fresh objections.

All pending bills die at the end of a Congress and must be reintroduced at the start of a new two-year term.
This means lawmakers will have to repeat the laborious process of holding committee hearings, markups and rounds of private negotiations before legislation is brought to the floor again in 2011 or 2012.
 If Congress returns to Washington the week after the election and works right up until Christmas, it would have six weeks to pass legislation — assuming a week off for Thanksgiving, as is tradition.
Julian Pecquet contributed to this article.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It's Obama vs. Israel

Why did President Obama choose to turn a gaffe into a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations?
And a gaffe it was: the announcement by a bureaucrat in the Interior Ministry of a housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem. The timing could not have been worse: Vice President Biden was visiting,Jerusalem is a touchy subject and you don't bring up touchy subjects that might embarrass an honored guest.
But it was no more than a gaffe. It was certainly not a policy change, let alone a betrayal. The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.
Nor was the offense intentional. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not know about this move - step four in a seven-step approval process for construction that, at best, will not even start for two to three years.
Nonetheless the prime minister is responsible. He apologized to Biden for the embarrassment. When Biden left Israelon March 11, the apology appeared accepted.
The next day, however, the administration went nuclear. After discussing with the President specific language she would use, Secretary of State Clinton called Netanyahu to deliver a hostile and highly aggressive 45-minute message that the Biden incident had created an unprecedented crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. Clinton's spokesman then publicly announced that Israel was now required to show in word and in deed its seriousness about peace.
Israel? Israelis have been looking for peace - literally dying for peace - since 1947, when they accepted the United Nations' partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. (The Arabs refused and declared war. They lost.)
Israel made peace offers in 1967, 1978 and in the 1993 Oslo peace accords that Yasser Arafat tore up seven years later to launch a terror war that killed 1,000 Israelis. Why, Clinton's own husband testifies to the remarkably courageous and visionary peace offer made in his presence by Ehud Barak (now Netanyahu's defense minister) at the 2000 Camp David talks. Arafat rejected it. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered equally generous terms to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Refused again.
In these long and bloody 63 years, the Palestinians have not once accepted an Israeli offer of permanent peace. They insist instead on a "peace process" - now in its 17th post-Oslo year and still offering no credible Palestinian pledge of ultimate coexistence with a Jewish state - the point of which is to extract preemptive Israeli concessions, such as a ban on Jewish construction in parts of Jerusalem conquered by Jordan in 1948, before negotiations for a real peace have even begun.
Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its GDP is growing at an astounding 7% a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called "unprecedented."
What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.
Indeed, long before the Biden incident, Abbas refused even to resume direct negotiations with Israel. That's why the Obama administration has to resort to "proximity talks."
And Clinton demands that Israel show its seriousness about peace?
Now that's an insult.
So why this astonishing one-sidedness? Because Obama likes appeasing enemies while beating up on allies - therefore Israel shouldn't take it personally (according to Robert Kagan)? Because Obama wants to bring down the current Israeli coalition government (according to Jeffrey Goldberg)?
Or is it because Obama fancies himself the historic redeemer whose irresistible charisma will heal the breach between Christianity and Islam or, if you will, between the post-imperial West and the Muslim world - and has little patience for this pesky Jewish state that brazenly insists on its right to exist, and even more brazenly on permitting Jews to live in its own ancient, historical and now present capital?
Who knows? Perhaps we should ask those Obama acolytes who assured the 63% of Americans who support Israel - at least 97% of those supporters, mind you, are non-Jews - about candidate Obama's abiding commitment to Israel.

Monday, September 27, 2010




Toxic River Becomes Path To USA   By Valerie Alvord

CALEXICO, Calif. - The New River gushes north out of Mexico into California's Imperial Valley at enormous speed - a viscous ribbon of green, churning up mounds of white foam from industrial waste, pesticide runoff and raw sewage. Its eye-stinging, toxic stench is overpowering as it swirls by, carrying clogs of trash.
At night, this river also carries people.

Migrants from Mexico float in the New River to enter the U.S.A.     By Jeffrey L. Brown, Aurora
During the past few months, thousands of migrants desperate to cross the heavily patrolled U.S.-Mexico border have stripped to their underwear and slipped into the murky water on the Mexican side. Clutching inner tubes and plastic bags filled with dry clothes, they ride the current past the helpless la migra, their word for the U.S. Border Patrol, and into the USA.

By Genevieve Lynn, USA TODAY
"They know we aren't going in after them," says Roger Carpenter, a Border Patrol supervisor. Though agents aren't prohibited from going into the polluted river, it's generally agreed that it is too dangerous for all concerned. "Until recently, the river was a deterrent. Now they use it as an entry point, and there's very little we can do."
Mostly men, the migrants come in groups of ten to 20. Often they lock arms around one or two tubes and float down the river behind a couple of scouts.
Frustrated Border Patrol agents can only run alongside, dodging thickets and tree branches, trying to guess where the human flotillas might disembark.
Discarded: A photo lies amid piles of clothes, shoes and tire inneer tubes along a riverbank where migrants climb out of the New River after entering the USA.

Taking samples: Water control engineers Kola Olatunbosun, left, and Rafael Molina wear double sets of gloves as they check pollution levels.

Because of the danger of tripping in the dark of night and tumbling into the poisonous water, only a few of the most determined agents will venture close enough to the edge to try to coax out the migrants. That rarely does any good.
If pressed by too many agents, the migrants hide in the cover of muddy, polluted coves for hours. Once they come out, they quickly dress and make the short run to a housing development or a nearby strip mall in Calexico.
"At that point, they're essentially home free," Carpenter says.
Agents estimate that anywhere from 50 to several hundred people use the toxic river each night as a floating freeway into the USA. "It's a thorny problem, in that we have found no way to address it," says Tom Walker, Calexico Border Patrol chief. "We thought of installing a grate that would go all the way to the bottom (of the river). But trash would collect, and anything we pull out of there we have to handle as toxic waste. That means we'd have to find a toxic dump - where, I don't even know."
Clumps of pollution: the sewer system of Mexicali, Mexico, often overflows into the New River.

Cauldron of poison: Refuse covers the surface of the New River, which flows from Mexico into the USA near Calexico in southeast California.
A Toxic Waterway
Calexico hugs Mexico at the tip of the Imperial Valley in the southeast corner of California, about 150 miles east of San Diego. It is a flat, desert city of about 30,000, straddled by mountains. Irrigation water from the Colorado River transforms the valley into a verdant agricultural hub.
Directly across the border is Mexicali, a sprawling metropolis of about 1 million. It's a popular location for foreign-owned factories, calledmaquiladoras. The New River runs through it, collecting industrial waste and agricultural runoff. The city's sewer system, overwhelmed by growth, routinely overflows into the river.
The waterway slices through a Mexican truck-and-auto storage lot and crosses the border at a closed industrial port of entry before continuing 60 miles through the Imperial Valley in California to the Salton Sea. The river has long been a bubbling cauldron of local controversy. Politicians have dubbed it "the dirtiest river in America" and want it cleaned up.
Plans for a new Mexicali sewer system are in the works, funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, completion is years away.
The river presents significant health hazards, says Jose Angel of the California Water Quality Control Board, who has monitored the waterway since 1975.
"It's not a river that carries fresh water," Angel says. "It's dominated by wastewater, indicated by the high levels of coliform bacteria, which are measured there in the millions (per milliliter of water). Around 400 is considered the upper level of safe."
High levels of coliform bacteria, Angel says, are indicators of the presence of bacterial and viral diseases, including typhoid fever. "It seems like a miracle to me that we haven't had an outbreak of something," he says.
No one knows exactly what health problems might result from a long dunk in the river, he says, because these illegal immigrants meet up with smugglers and disperse throughout the USA. And while there is no direct connection, recent government reports have noted that California's immigrant populations have the highest rates of tuberculosis in the nation.
Angel says it only stands to reason that people using the river to float into the USA run a tremendous risk of getting sick.
The migrants don't see it that way. When Carpenter asks them why they do it, he always gets the same answer. "They tell me, 'I need to get a job so I can send money home to my wife and children.'"

Treacherous journey: Migrants keep their clothes dry in plastic bags as they travel up the New River.
Operation Gatekeeper
For years, the line of demarcation between Calexico and Mexicali was a broken-down, wire-mesh fence that was easy to cut through. Back then, migrants climbed through a hole in the fence about half a mile from the closed port and made a dash across a flat field to the highway. The river was their main obstacle; they had to swim it to reach the road.
Now, there's a sturdy, corrugated-steel fence. It's part of the border crackdown known as Operation Gatekeeper, which has directed more Border Patrol agents and resources to the U.S.-Mexico border to deter illegal immigration.
Gatekeeper started in San Diego in 1994 and has steadily moved east. A Gatekeeper-type strategy has also been deployed in Texas. The theory is that if the United States closes off easy points of entry, the flow of illegal immigrants will slow to a trickle.
That hasn't happened.
From 1985 to 1995, the Border Patrol in the Calexico sector averaged between 27,000 and 37,000 arrests each year. As Gatekeeper shut down easy routes closer to San Diego, more migrants began trekking through mountains and deserts to the east. In Texas, where the Rio Grande runs almost the entire length of the border, a rising death toll from drownings is an indication that Gatekeeper is pushing more illegal migrants to that state as well, Smith says.
Arrests in the Calexico sector skyrocketed to more than a quarter-million a year. Since the beginning of Gatekeeper, apprehensions in San Diego have gone down, but the combined total of arrests across the California border continues to climb.

The death toll of migrants has also skyrocketed. California Rural Legal Assistance, a migrants' rights group, keeps tally. The year before Gatekeeper started, there were 115 deaths along the border from California to Texas. Last year there were 356, or, about "one a day," says the group's director, Claudia Smith.
Angel: 'It's not a river that carries fresh water. It's dominated by wastewater, indicated by the high levels of coliform bacteria.'

Many died from exposure and heat exhaustion while crossing the mountains and desert.
In Calexico, the fence stretches two miles, from the border to another waterway, the All-American Canal, which parallels the border and acts as an impediment. For years, smugglers using commercial-quality rafts have set up nightly ferries across the 50-foot canal.
Riding the river is a new phenomenon, Carpenter says, "a trend, if you will."

"Until recently, the river was a deterrent. Now they use it as an entry point, and there's very little we can do."
--Roger Carpenter,
Border Patrol supervisor
In The River
On a recent night, in the glare of high-powered lights trained on the fence, agents watched the 30-foot gap where the river breaches the border.
"They're getting a late start," says Carpenter, who is standing next to his van on a bluff about 100 yards away. It is exactly 9:01 p.m. when the first scouts, dressed in swim trunks and black muscle shirts, skirt a narrow path from the auto storage lot down to the river.
A few minutes later, a parade of men in white underwear follows.
"Thirteen in the river," says a voice on the Border Patrol radio.
"Eight more in the river," the radio announces 20 minutes later. "Ten in the river," the voice soon adds. As each group floats by, the men look up to the bluff and watch the agents watching them.
Meanwhile, attempts to intercept the first group have failed. Four came out dressed, but when they saw an agent, they dove back in.
Carpenter drives to a bend in the river. He spots an empty inner tube floating by. "They're home free," he says.
He drives back to the bluff and looks at his watch. It's 10 p.m.
"Well, that's 30 in one hour," he says. "And we still have eight more hours 'til dawn. Do the math."
His shift is ending, and he heads back to the station.
"Twenty more in the river," the radio cackles as he drives off.

To the Top


"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled,
public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be
tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should
be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to
work, instead of living on public assistance."
                                                                        - Cicero - 55 BC
So, evidently nothing!


As Obama hits the campaign trail, 'Mourning in America' ad greets him, recalling the Reagan era

September 27, 2010 |  4:44 am
These videos pretty much speak for themselves.
The first one is the classic "Morning in America" ad that helped ensure Ronald Reagan'soverwhelming reelection in 1984 over some Democrat from Minnesota.
Watch it. And then scroll down to the next one.
Now here's a powerful new ad that you'll soon be seeing on TVs across the country.
Its title is different by one letter: "Mourning in America."
Democratic President Obama and his sidekick from Delaware head out on ambitious cross-country campaign swings starting this week, trying to stem what polls indicate is a serious hemorrhaging of political support for their administration, their expensive policies and their majority party that has controlled Congress since 2007.
Obama's not on any ballot on the Nov. 2 elections. But this slow-paced visual....
...message by Fred Davis of Strategic Perception for Citizens for the Republic is aimed smack dab at him -- and by implication all those who support the incumbent's "grand experiment" that has so regrettably failed.
However, Obama's not angrily attacked. And he's mentioned only once.
But as Kathleen Parker so eloquently notes, that's enough with the parallel, contrasting Reagan era images to tap into, not the ubiquitous anger we hear so much about abroad in the land these days, but instead into the nation's surging sense of sadness over the failure of so many hopes in the last two years.
Now, tell us below what you think of these two commercials.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Sunday, September 26, 2010


US asserts state secret in Awlaki targeted killing case

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's administration has invoked the state secret privilege to avoid a lawsuit on behalf of Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whose father charges the US government of targeting him for assassination.
Nasser al-Awlaki last month asked two civil rights groups to sue the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency for placing his son on a list of people targeted for killing.
The younger Awlaki is considered a dangerous terrorist by the US government and is currently believed to be hiding in Yemen.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the court action seeking to force the US government to say how it decides to target US citizens for murder far from any armed conflict without due process.
The lawsuit names Obama, CIA director Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and seeks an order to "prohibit the government from carrying out targeted killings outside of armed conflict."
Panetta filed a declaration Friday before a federal court in Washington "to formally assert and claim the state secrets privilege... to protect intelligence sources, methods and activities" that may be implicated in the Awlaki case.
"It is my belief that... this case cannot be litigated without risking or requiring the disclosure of classified and privileged intelligence information that must not be disclosed," wrote Panetta.
The ACLU and CCR, in an email to AFP Saturday slammed Panetta's reasoning.
"The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy.
"In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check."
Born in the southwestern US state of New Mexico, Awlaki, 39, rose to prominence last year after he was linked a US army major who shot dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25.
In April, a US official said the Obama administration had authorized the targeted killing of Awlaki, after American intelligence agencies concluded the Muslim cleric was directly involved in anti-US plots.
In July, the US government said Awlaki was a key leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, placing him on its list of terrorism supporters, freezing his financial assets and banning any transactions with him.



Saturday, September 25, 2010




Friday, September 24, 2010


Comedian Stephen Colbert, host of the Colbert Report, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, before the House Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law subcommittee hearing on Protecting America's Harvest. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP
Right now illegal migrant workers suffer and have no rights ... 

Bush: 'Significant Hurdles' Remain on Immigration Reform

Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush & Associates LLC; former Governor of Florida
Toni Johnson, Staff Writer,
July 8, 2009
Jeb Bush
The changing demographics of the United States, with fewer workers and more retirees, should compel Washington to make comprehensive immigration reform a top policy priority, says former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, co-chair of the Council of Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S. immigration policy. As Congress begins to look again at reform, a number of significant hurdles will impede reform efforts, Bush says. But he adds that conditions for creating a legal and economic system to overhaul immigration policy are slightly more promising than past attempts. "We have to have a legal system of immigration that accounts for the fact that we have fewer workers that are producing the resources to take care of a growing number of people who aspire to be retired," the former governor says. "There's no possible way we can sustain our entitlement programs without having a strategy in place that recognizes that the legal flow of immigration matters."
Immigration reform is back in the news. Members of Congress met at the White House in late June to discuss the issue. Congress has tried a number of times in the last few years to reform immigration. Why has it been so difficult?
I would say the principal problem is a lack of confidence that the federal government was capable of protecting the borders. We've had immigration reform every decade. Commitments were made about enforcement, and clearly they haven't [been] delivered. So there's a lot of frustration, a lot of anger regarding that and that has made comprehensive immigration reform difficult. The last two efforts, while they got very close, broke down on that basic point.
Today the conditions are a little different because there has been a major effort to enforce the border, particularly the Mexican border. There's been a significant deployment of border patrol agents, [and] there is new technology that now is on the border between Mexico and the United States. There is evidence that there are fewer people crossing. So that creates an opportunity.
What has to happen to get things going in Congress this term? Are there still big hurdles to overcome?
There are some significant hurdles. It's very complex for starters. It's not a simple policy discussion. The [Council on Foreign Relations] Task Force has made a series of very thoughtful recommendations. If you read them in their totality, you get a sense that this is a very complex issue. We have to reform the administration of immigration flows; we have to reform the legal immigration system that is quite cumbersome; we have to deal with employer sanctions in a different way; and [we have to] deal with the very difficult issue of what to do with the twelve million people that are here illegally--what means will they have to be able to find a path of legalization? So it's very complex, and anything this complex makes it difficult. When you combine that with the fact that the Obama administration has embarked on some incredibly complex initiatives beyond immigration related to climate change and health care and trying to deal with a down economy, all of this makes it quite difficult to imagine this happening immediately.
You've been part of the CFR Task Force on immigration reform. There are several other reports out there. Many have called for things like tougher border enforcement, finding a path to citizenship for those here illegally, allowing families to stay together, and loosening caps for skilled-worker visas. What's in this report that goes beyond these standard recommendations?
We have to have a legal system of immigration that accounts for the fact that we have fewer workers that are producing the resources to take care of a growing number of people who aspire to be retired.
Given the fact that this was the Council on Foreign Relations, there was an emphasis on how immigration is an important foreign policy issue, not just a domestic policy issue. There are significant things we can do to enhance the position of the United States around the world. For example, the visas that allow foreign students to come into the United States--we've lost a bit of our market share in the last four [or] five years, because of security issues. The Task Force recommended a pretty dramatic extension of [student visa stay lengths] and that makes all the sense in the world. That's just but one example of how you can enhance the foreign policy interests of the United States by changing the immigration laws and policies to make sure we have more interaction with the next generation of opinion leaders and leaders of countries.
Apart from that you have the economic issues. It's important to recognize that given the demography of the United States, we've got to get immigration right. We have to have a legal system of immigration that accounts for the fact that we have fewer workers that are producing the resources to take care of a growing number of people who aspire to be retired. Given the birth rates of the U.S. population, there's no possible way we can sustain our entitlement programs without having a strategy in place that recognizes that the legal flow of immigration matters. These are issues that really are not typically topical when you hear the conversations on television, or when you hear the conversations in Congress, but they're important.
What happens if there's no reform?
We miss an opportunity in the foreign policy arena. We certainly miss a huge opportunity as it relates to the competitive posture of the United States. One of the real weapons we have in competing economically is our ability to absorb immigrants--legal immigrants--that make huge contributions to our country. And then we ignore an issue that needs to be solved, which is what do we do with people who are here permanently, who have made contributions, who  if given a path to citizenship would do what's right and take the necessary steps to achieve legalized status and citizenship. We just can't ignore these problems.
The Task Force report talks about U.S. immigration as a key component in the economies of developing countries, especially through remittances. Can you talk a little bit about what's working on the development side and what still needs to be accomplished?
Particularly in Mexico and Central America there are push factors that, if they were mitigated, would have a dramatic impact on illegal immigrants for sure. So if Mexico could develop a long-term strategy with the United States -- certainly not dictating on how to do this but playing a supportive role to expand economic opportunities for those that are forced to leave to be able to provide for their families--that would have a very positive long-term impact on the border issues that are a huge challenge for Mexico and certainly a challenge for us as well.
The point the report makes [is] how important remittances are for our neighbors. It's the largest export for every one of the countries other than Mexico, and it's a huge number for Mexico as well. Recognizing that and recognizing the importance of the region for our security, as well as our long-term economic interests, is important. My personal belief is that we save jobs by having stronger economies in Central America and Mexico. That [in] the United States, our workers benefit when there are growing economies because we're their largest trading partner, [and] the ability for the United States to be competitive with other regions in the world is directly related to how successful Central America and Mexico are in terms of creating policies that on a long-term basis will create sustained growth.
There are some labor groups who complain that illegal immigrants drive down wages for low-skilled workers in the United States. Economists differ on how true that claim actually is, but the perception remains, and a similar argument is made about trade. What do policymakers need to do to overcome fears about influxes of cheap labor and goods into the United States?
One of the real weapons we have in competing economically is our ability to absorb immigrants--legal immigrants--that make huge contributions to our country.
I've seen studies that make the exact opposite cases on both those subjects. So I'm not sure that'll ever be resolved. People seem to have a conclusion and then work backward to find ways to justify that conclusion. In my mind, the best way to lessen people's fears is to educate in tangible ways--to show how cooperation economically creates opportunities for both sides. It's not a zero-sum game. If you look at trade and economic development as a threat, I would say the threat would be larger from Asia. Together the United States and Mexico and Central America can create a win-win, and avoid significant dislocation of investment, plants, and equipment for jobs that we've seen go to China, for example. A case has to be made that it's in the United States' interest to have a stronger growing relationship with our neighbors to the south. The net benefit of that is you would see a subsidence of immigration flows, but equally important it would allow us to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive world.
What's your feeling on the border fence? What image does it project to the rest of the world and how effective do you think it's going to be?
The fence in certain areas has proven to be effective and more appropriate to protect our borders for national security purposes. But there are other options that make a lot more sense. Using technology, for example, [and] greater cooperation between Mexico and the United States will yield a better result. Clearly the image of having a fence in the minds of people outside of the United States is a negative one. No doubt about that. So recognizing that, finding other options where appropriate makes sense. That's what we proposed here. This report does a good job of describing the need to continue the efforts on border enforcement. In order to create a climate where comprehensive reform can happen, there needs to be a continued effort on protecting the border, and the means by which we do that need to be based on the conditions in those localities. I don't think it should be a fence across the entire border because [it] makes us look strong, or whatever the advocates have claimed. Nor do I think we should ignore the protection of the border. We should use the proper means based on the conditions on the ground.
Is there anything else in this debate that you think has harmed the U.S. image?
It's been a domestic policy issue, highly politicized, where the tone of the debate has not yielded the kind of climate to get something done. That's where the focus needs to be: to lessen the emotions of this and look at the clear need for us to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. I can't tell you, to be honest with you, how much people are watching around the world on this. The fact is that our immigration policy has been a huge benefit to our country [in the past] and to get it right gives us a competitive edge economically, and it also helps our country to continue to be dynamic, ever-changing in a positive way. In the long run, this is really important for our country to get right and that should be where the focus is. I worry less about what people think of us than how effective our policies are.
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