Thursday, October 30, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
A decade ago, when Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, the world reacted with immediate, nearly unlimited generosity. Two weeks after that disaster, the U.S. already had pledged $263 million. Soon thereafter, Sweden hosted an international pledging conference that produced pledges of $9 billion to rebuild smarter and better.
By contrast, in barely three weeks beginning in mid-August, four hurricanes -- Fay, Gustav, Hannah and Ike -- lashed Haiti and the Caribbean, and the international response has been eerily muted. In Haiti, roads are still blocked, bridges are down, and the country's agricultural heartland is flooded. More than 800 were killed, 100,000 people are displaced and another 130,000 families suffered serious damage to their farms and homes. Local businesses are crippled. Food distribution to rural communities is critical but is nearly impossible because of the continuing mudslides. In hard-to-reach areas, there is a real danger of famine.
Despite the devastation, the U.S. has committed just $30 million for Haiti. The U.N. has sent out a humanitarian appeal for $107 million, but only $20 million has been received. In fact, the most significant pledges came from private philanthropies at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York last month. A number of private individuals and relief agencies are already struggling mightily with the challenges, but they are overwhelmed and under-supported.
The risk goes beyond humanitarian concerns. Haiti is so fragile today that it requires a U.N. peacekeeping force (MINUSTAH) to keep it afloat. Recall that food riots resulted in several deaths and occupation of public buildings in February and forced one Haitian government out of office. Political unrest and violence loom if there is not a rapid and extensive response to this natural disaster.
Not only was the economic infrastructure destroyed by the hurricanes, but public services were hard-hit as well. Police cars in Gonaives were swept away. In other cities and towns, courthouses were flooded. Without these basic tools in place, ongoing efforts to reform the security sector by vetting police, establishing standards for judges and responding to overcrowded jails will grind to a halt.
With school starting, many children will not be able to attend classes because dozens of school buildings are still being used as shelters, while others were simply washed away. Most families will be unable to pay school costs in a country where free public education exists for barely 20 percent of school-age children. Donors need to construct an urgent safety net by helping those families pay to enable the children to attend school.
A vast rebuilding and transformation is needed in virtually every sector. The same kind of comprehensive donors meeting that was held in Stockholm a decade ago should be organized by the international community to provide Haiti, which is far more desperate today than Central America was a decade ago, with a 10-year multibillion dollar pledge of recovery and reconstruction. That conference should also address the needs of other Caribbean countries harmed by the hurricanes, including Cuba.
Another immediate step that the Bush Administration should take is to order Temporary Protective Status for Haitians, which would ensure that current illegal migrants would not for now be forced back into an already overburdened Haiti.
If Haitian families cannot send their children to school, if their farms cannot produce, if roads and bridges are not repaired, and if electricity and clean water remain scarce, even the U.N. peacekeeping force may find it difficult to control the next riot.
Mark L. Schneider is the senior vice president of the International Crisis Group.
Photo: Members of the Jordanian battalion of the United Nations StabilizationMission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) rescue children from an orphanage destroyedby hurricane "Ike," Port au Prince, September 2008 (UN photo by Marco Dormino).
Bishop Thomas G. Wenski meets with Haiti's President Rene Preval July 16 at the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. Bishop Wenski, who was in Haiti recently, said the country needs political stability to combat its extreme unemployment and poverty. Photo Father Andrew Small,OMI
Hitting a Wall on Immigration
By Thomas Wenski
Monday, October 20, 2008; A15
As the presidential election heads into its final days, the issue of immigration remains largely unaddressed. It was not examined during the debates and is not high on either candidate's list of talking points. Congress has left the issue on the table. Sadly, this congressional reluctance has created a policy vacuum that has widened America's political divisions and left us with an inconsistent, ineffective and, in many cases, inhumane national policy.
The failure of comprehensive immigration reform last year, when Congress bowed to a vocal minority, unleashed a torrent of initiatives designed to demonstrate that the U.S. government can enforce our laws and secure our borders. In truth, intermittent work site raids, increased local law enforcement involvement and the creation of a wall along parts of our southern border, among other efforts, have done little to address the challenges presented by illegal immigration.
Instead, they have caused dislocation and disruption in immigrant communities and victimized permanent U.S. residents and citizens, including children. The sweeping nature of these raids -- sometimes involving hundreds of law enforcement personnel with weapons -- has made it difficult for those arrested to secure basic due-process legal rights, including access to counsel. Some families have been split up indefinitely.
The involvement of local law enforcement in immigration enforcement, most prominently in Arizona and parts of the South, has greatly harmed the trust between immigrant neighborhoods and law enforcement and has diverted police from the work of apprehending criminals. The border wall and an unprecedented immigration enforcement buildup along our southern border have failed to deter new entrants to the United States and have discouraged immigrants from leaving.
Perhaps most damaging are the adverse, long-term effects these policies have had on immigrant communities. The overriding emotion many immigrants feel is fear. Not only do legal immigrants worry that a loved one may be swept away in a work site raid or after a knock at the door at home, they are fearful for their own futures -- and the futures of their children -- in the United States. This is not the way to encourage integration and responsible citizenship.
While some organizations that oppose immigration are delighted by this and hope such an atmosphere will lead to a mass exodus of illegal and legal immigrants, they are likely to be disappointed. What they do not acknowledge is that 70 percent of the undocumented have lived in this country for five years or longer and have no home to return to. These people identify themselves more as Americans than anything else and would rather live here in the shadows than take their U.S.-citizen children back to a place they do not know.
Opponents like to argue that our economy does not need the work of immigrants, now or in the future. Again, they are wrong. The Labor Department predicts that in the years ahead, despite the current economic slowdown, a shortage of low-skilled labor will exist in several important industries, for some beginning as early as 2010. As baby boomers begin retiring, immigrants will help support them by paying billions into the Social Security system.
To many elected officials, immigration has become the new "third rail" of American politics. Refraining from addressing this pressing domestic issue, however, will elevate tensions in states and localities, further alienate immigrants and their communities, and tacitly affirm the acceptance of a hidden and permanent underclass in our country.
The silver lining of this dark cloud upon our immigrant history is that it demonstrates that an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration is ineffective and contrary to our national interests. A new administration and new Congress will be forced to act -- this time in a broad and balanced manner. Otherwise, the American people will be left pondering a wall and wondering why it is not working.
The writer is the Catholic bishop of Orlando and a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.
Block the Vote
By ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. & GREG PALAST
"I don't think the Democrats get it. All these new rules and games … could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."
Rolling Stone Magazine is making this important investigative story available on the net in its entirety, free of charge.
Read this excerpt, then read it all on-line at www.RollingStone.com Or download it all, with the Kennedy-Palast voter guide, Steal Back Your Vote, at www.StealBackYourVote.org.
“The new registrations thrown out, the existing registrations scrubbed, the spoiled ballots, the provisional ballots that were never counted - and what you have is millions of voters, more than enough to swing the presidential election, quietly being detached from the electorate by subterfuge.
"Jim Crow was laid to rest, but his cousins were not," says Donna Brazile. "We got rid of poll taxes and literacy tests but now have a second generation of schemes to deny our citizens their franchise." Come November, the most crucial demographic may prove to be Americans who have been denied the right to vote. If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls - they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering.
- From the current Rolling Stone
These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80 percent of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.
Maez was not alone in being denied his right to vote. On Super Tuesday, one in nine Democrats who tried to cast ballots in New Mexico found their names missing from the registration lists. The numbers were even higher in precincts like Las Vegas, where nearly 20 percent of the county's voters were absent from the rolls. With their status in limbo, the voters were forced to cast "provisional" ballots, which can be reviewed and discarded by election officials without explanation. On Super Tuesday, more than half of all provisional ballots cast were thrown out statewide.
This November, what happened to Maez will happen to hundreds of thousands of voters across the country. In state after state, Republican operatives - the party's elite commandos of bare-knuckle politics - are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats. If this year's race is as close as the past two elections, the GOP's nationwide campaign could be large enough to determine the presidency in November. "I don't think the Democrats get it," says John Boyd, a voting-rights attorney in Albuquerque who has taken on the Republican Party for impeding access to the ballot. "All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."
Download the rest – and get the Kennedy-Palast comic book/voter guide – at http://www.stealbackyourvote.org/.
Or, read it on-line, and watch the video, at www.Rollingstone.com/issue1064
Friday, October 17, 2008
HONORS FROM THE CHAIRMAN Senator John McCain presenting Freedom Awards from the International Republican Institute to Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001; Condoleezza Rice, now the secretary of state, in 2004; and President Bush in 2005.
Donald Steinberg* in the Haitian Times, 9 October 2008
In December 2000, just before a newly elected George Bush took office, former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and I went to see Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Port-au-Prince. Haiti was still in a state of confusion following flawed elections, tarnishing the mandate under which Aristide would return to the presidency. Already, Jesse Helms had publicly warned Bush that Aristide had surrounded himself with “narco-traffickers, criminals and other anti-democratic forces.” Helms’ aide, Roger Noriega, slated to become US ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), had a visceral hatred of Aristide, whom he frequently derided as a “defrocked psychopath.”
Our message to Aristide was simple: to have a shot at a reasonable relationship with the new Bush team, he had to commit publicly to restore democracy to Haiti and address American concerns about illegal migration, human rights abuses and drug trafficking.
Aristide got it. He quickly wrote to President Clinton and pledged to redress the faults of the flawed elections, bring opposition members into his government, invite the OAS to oversee political negotiations, permit international monitoring of human rights, work out an economic reform package with the IMF and World Bank, and cooperate with the US to stem the flow of boat people and cocaine across the Caribbean to Florida. See rest of commentary at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5723&l=1
* Donald Steinberg, deputy president of International Crisis Group, served as the State Department’s Special Haiti Coordinator from 1999-2001.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Date: 14 Oct 2008
Gonaives is a mess. Haiti is a hard-pressed country on a good day. I used to work in the slums in Port-au-Prince, but I've never seen this amount of destruction. The water was a huge problem at first. It rose past the first floor levels of the buildings at the center of town. People who worked in Ache described it like the Tsunami effect, but the water didn't come from the sea.
Now with the water receding, the silt is settling and the mud is becoming more of a problem. I've never seen a place so choked by debris. The UN has calculated 2.5 million cubic meters of mud have been deposited in the city alone. I estimate it would take removing about 400 truckloads of mud a day, every day for a year to clear Gonaives
People are already cleaning the mud out of their homes and business, but the problem is, there is nowhere to dump the mud. So they put it in the streets and it piles up and hinders mobility. If it rains again before the streets are cleared their houses will effectively be turned into swimming pools. This is because their buildings are at a lower level than the streets around them. Since there is no drainage, the water just stays there.
October 2, 2008
Haiti: Survivors in Flooded Village Stranded with No Help
One month after storms, needs remain huge; people being forced from shelters
Port-au-Prince/New York, October 3, 2008 — A month after the last tropical storms and hurricanes hit Haiti, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams have found a whole village partially submerged and its 2,400 remaining inhabitants stranded with no help.
READ REST OF STORY BY CLICKING http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/pr/release.cfm?id=3135
Monday, October 6, 2008
Graphic 8 minute news video by France 24 and Le magazine de l'action humanitaire
Par FRANCE 24 (texte) / Nicolas Ransom et Mary McCarthy (vidéo
Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in Custody by Nina Bernstein, May 5, 2008)
by Nina Bernstein
The New York Times, October 5, 2008
The death last year of Boubacar Bah, a Guinean tailor held in a New Jersey jail for overstaying his visa, showed immigration detention to be one of the most secretive corners of American life. But now Mr. Bah’s story is being retold in an unusually public way: in an online video game.
The game at (http://www.homelandgitmo.com/)— created by Breakthrough, an international human rights organization in New York that is trying to get the public behind efforts to strengthen oversight, due process and medical help in immigration detention — uses Mr. Bah’s story to walk players through a simulated detention center, and into the documented ordeals of other detainees. They include a pregnant woman kept in shackles during labor and an Army veteran held for three years while he fought deportation.
The video game (which can be found at http://www.homelandgitmo.com/) casts the player as a reporter seeking clues in the death of Mr. Bah, 52, who suffered a skull fracture and brain hemorrhages in the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey. A cartoon guide leads the way to actual video testimonials of former detainees and information that unlocks the mystery of Mr. Bah’s fate.
CLICK ON http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/nyregion/05detain.html?_r=1&oref=slogin to read rest of article.