novembro 29, 2008

‘Bombaim: uma mensagem para Obama‘ in Asharq Alawsat, 28 de Novembro de 2008

por Tariq Alhomayed

Over the past few years, it has been easy for most people in most places to attack US President George W. Bush, who is preparing to leave the White House, as they attributed mistakes and crises to him forgetting that the war on terror is still in its early stages. Not only did they criticize him for the methodology in dealing with terrorism, rather they have made him a scapegoat for everything.

The one to benefit the most from all of this was US President-elect Barack Obama. However, the Mumbai terrorist attacks in India that have left over 130 people dead represent a clear message to Obama, if not the entire world. It is a message for one person specifically whose positions are still being formed.

The Mumbai operation is a message to President-elect Barack Obama to say: you have dreams of a better world but this is the real world that you must deal with. In spite of how you have arranged your priorities, terrorism will always be at the top of the list.

The coordinated terrorist attacks that targeted roughly ten places in Mumbai including a hospital, cafes, restaurants, hotels as well as communication outlets, and foreign tourists, are evidence that the serpent of terrorism is still alive and strong.

Moreover, the methods that were used in the terrorist operation prove that [fighting] terrorism is not the responsibility of one country, it requires international efforts. According to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the attackers came from outside India “to create havoc in India’s commercial capital.”

As the hostages of various nationalities remain in captivity in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai, global interest of the event continues to grow and when the terrorist operation is over, the facts that cannot be ignored will remain.

India is an influential country politically, economically, and even with regards to technology. It has international weight as it is not a marginal country that the world can overlook. In addition, there are other significant meanings to the statement that the perpetrators came from outside India.

This reminds us of the raging battlefronts in Pakistan and Afghanistan where there is open confrontation with Al Qaeda and the Taliban and this is an issue that President-elect Obama has spoken about several times on the basis that the foundation of the war on terror is Afghanistan.

But the questions remain: Can America fight terrorism on its own? Can it rebuild Afghanistan that has been destroyed essentially since the Soviet invasion? Can Washington ignore Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan?

The problem of terrorism does not only afflict the country in which it exists; the danger lies in ignoring it. For the countries that believe that they are distant from the issue of terrorism, it will soon catch up with them; in fact it is on their doorstep. The danger of what is happening in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan is that it is concentrated in a region in which ignorance, tribalism and nuclear weapons come together.

However it is important here to highlight that the terrorist incident in India may be indicative of greater danger to come. On Wednesday, a warning was issued that terrorists might target the New York transit system and this reminds of the circumstances the surrounded 9/11 – it started with the targeting of American embassies and the USS Cole bombing in Yemen and then came the New York attacks that shocked the world – bearing in mind that America is going through transition of power.

Therefore, we must say that those who love peace and who want to wipe out terrorism are countless…but the road to its elimination is a long one.
JPTF 2008/11/29

novembro 27, 2008

‘Terroristas pretendiam destruir símbolo do esplendor indiano‘ in Times, 27 de Novembro de 2008

It felt like India’s 9/11. Even in a country whose experience of terrorism dates back to its independence in 1947, the sight of Bombay’s Taj Mahal Palace hotel in flames after last night’s attacks was something that no one could ever have imagined.

For this was one of the nation’s most famous landmarks, an iconic building that encapsulated both the pomp and grandeur of the British Raj and the enduring vibrancy of India’s film and financial capital.

It was built in 1903 by Jamsetji N. Tata, the Indian industrialist, who believed that Bombay needed a grand hotel to take its place among the great cities of the world.

As thick black smoke billowed from its domed roof, and flames poured through its gothic arched windows, one Indian television anchor summed up the feelings of millions of watching Indians. “If America cannot forget the images of the World Trade Centre, this image of fire billowing out of this beautiful structure which represents Mumbai and its free spirit will not be forgotten here,” he said.

The symbolism was clearly no accident. The gunmen who stormed into the Taj last night appear to have set off a series of explosions with the specific intent of destroying the building.

Police suspect that they arrived by boat, mooring by the Gateway of India that was built in honour of King George V and Queen Mary in 1928.

They began their audacious assault at around 9.30pm by bursting into the hotel that was built in the Moorish, Oriental and Florentine styles on the waterfront overlooking the Arabian Sea. They opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd of well-heeled Indians and foreigners milling around the ornate lobby, with its famous cantilever stairway, onyx columns and crystal chandeliers.

As the masked gunmen started to move through the hotels’ corridors looking for foreigners, staff managed to warn many of the guests to stay in their rooms.

At 2.30am the army surrounded the building and began to storm it. At about 3.30am the fire started on the top floors of the hotel after a series of explosions and intermittent gunfire.

Firefighters tried to douse the flames but they were still raging by around 5am when there was a pause in the shooting.

Police said that nine gunmen were arrested and two were killed at the Taj. As about 100 terrified guests were finally evacuated from the hotel, the firefighters emerged too and described the scenes of devastation inside the pride of Bombay, with up to 100 guests still unaccounted for. “There’s major damage inside,” a fireman said as he emerged from the heritage wing of the hotel.

These were the rooms that had entertained everyone from Maharajahs and foreign heads of state to rock stars and billionaire industrialists.

The Beatles stayed in the hotel during their obsession with India, and John Lennon famously stayed with Yoko Ono in the hotel’s Rajput Suite, eating only from a macrobiotic menu specially prepared by the Taj’s chefs.

Royalty has often used the hotel, and members of the British royal family including Prince Charles, Prince Edward and Prince Phillip have stayed there, as have the King and Queen of Norway.

Other pop royalty has checked in, including Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley. Bill Clinton, the former US President, was also a guest.

Last night the corridors echoed with the sound of gunfire and explosions as the gunmen battled with the Maharashtra state police’s elite Anti-Terrorism Squad.

Hement Karkare, the squad’s head, was shot in the chest in the operation and soon succumbed to his wounds near the spot where Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, founded the Goa Liberation Group in the 1950s to demand the return of the Portuguese colony.

In its opulence, the hotel was often cited as an example of the contrast between the poverty-stricken slums of Bombay and the lavish grandeur of hotels that charge up to £2,000 per night for a room, over double the average annual income of an Indian citizen.

But even to ordinary Mumbaikers, as Bombay’s residents are known, it was a source more of pride than of envy — a majestic reminder of their city’s place in the world.

“Home to the royalty, heads of states, tycoons, captains of industry, corporate nomads and jet-setters, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower is a living tribute to Mumbai’s cosmopolitan ethos and dynamic spirit,” says the Taj’s website.

Now it stands, perhaps, as a monument to Indian terrorism — and the thousands of victims it has claimed since the country’s independence.
JPTF 2008/11/27

novembro 14, 2008

Em visitas de estado, pode-se apoiar o Tratado de Lisboa mas não ter dúvidas sobre este... in The Economist

The Czech president, whose country takes over the rotating EU presidency in January, has caused quite a stir on an official visit to Ireland. Vaclav Klaus, a critic of the Lisbon treaty that Irish voters rejected in June, was rebuked by the Irish foreign minister for "inappropriate intervention" after he criticised the treaty at a press conference organised by Libertas, a group actively involved in the "no" campaign. The Irish Times reports that Mr Klaus, who opposes greater EU integration, responded by calling the minister "a hypocrite".

For a treaty that has been declared dead multiple times already, Lisbon certainly seems to be kicking up an ongoing fuss. For opponents who keep talking about it, the real point seems to be the desire to make the EU more democratic and open.

Accusations and counter-accusations have been flying around Dublin. The foreign minister, Micheal Martin, is just one of several Irish politicians to blast Mr Klaus for inappropriate behaviour during his state visit. There are also charges that the government had excluded Irish journalists from a press briefing given by Mr Klaus (a spokesman blamed the Czechs).

At least some guests attending a dinner last night in honour of Mr Klaus said they were there to show annoyance at the Irish government's attempts to suppress his views. The dinner, hosted by the Libertas founder Declan Ganley, a rich and controversial businessman, drew a crowd of about 100, including what were described as "leading opponents of EU integration, anti-abortion campaigners and prominent figures in the Irish news media." They included Jens-Peter Bonde, a former Danish MEP; Anthony Coughlan of the National Platform; Hans-Peter Martin, an Austrian MEP; and Philippe de Villiers, a French MEP and former presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, talk of Libertas running candidates in next year's European parliamentary elections (reported earlier on this blog) were further fueled by a report that members of France's Mouvement pour la France, a eurosceptic party, have said they are prepared to represent Libertas. Mr de Villiers, the MPF leader, said he is among those willing to run "to enable this large pan-European movement to be present in France."

While the controversial Mr Klaus does not speak for the entire Czech government (indeed has been widely criticised in Prague over the visit to Dublin), his country is one of the few that has not accepted the Lisbon treaty. There is said to be growing concern at home over whether this will undermine its presidency of the EU.

Was it inappropriate for the Czech president to express his personal views on the Lisbon treaty during a state visit, especially given his country's upcoming leadership stint? And how might a series of Libertas candidates, if successful, change the face of European politics?

JPTF 2008/11/14

A Eurozona já está em recessão in BBC, 14 de Novembro de 2008

Analysts predict the 15-nation area's economy will shrink in the third quarter of this year, following a 0.2% reduction during the second quarter.
On Thursday, government data showed Germany slipped into recession.
But France has escaped that fate, with the economy growing 0.1% in the third quarter, official data showed.
Ahead of the figures, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde unveiled the news in an interview on French radio.
She told RTL radio that the French economy had expanded by 0.14% in the third quarter, thereby escaping the technical definition of a recession which is two quarters of negative growth.
France's economy shrank by 0.3% in the second quarter.
Ms Lagarde welcomed the news.
"The figure is astonishing because everyone was expecting a negative figure and preparing for a recession," she said, pointing out that stable consumption and company investment helped to support the economy.
Separate figures for Spain and Italy out later are expected to show both in recession, joining Germany which announced it was in recession on Thursday.
The BBC's Ben Shore says that if those numbers are confirmed, the employment and pay prospects for 320 million Europeans look grim, but it will also serve to focus minds in Washington where leaders of the G20 developed and emerging economies will begin talks over the weekend.

Economic summit
The group, representing 85% of the world's economy and two-thirds of its population, is to discuss how to contain the financial crisis and agree on longer-term reforms to reduce the risk of a repeat.
Ahead of the summit, Gordon Brown called for worldwide tax cuts and spending increases to prevent the global economy from slipping into recession.
"We need to agree on the importance of co-ordination of monetary and fiscal policy," he said.
"There is a need for urgency. By acting now, we can stimulate growth in all our economies. The cost of inaction will be far greater than the cost of any action."
US President George W Bush insisted the financial crisis was not a failure of free-market capitalism.
Speaking in New York, he said the surest way back to sustained economic growth was not to reinvent the system, but to reform it.
"The answer... is to fix the problems we face, make the reforms we need, and move forward with the free-market principles that have delivered prosperity and hope to people all across the globe," he said.
Critics say Mr Bush's words are unlikely to convince those who see the crumbling US economy as an indictment of his own policies.
On Thursday, data showed the number of US workers drawing unemployment benefits had hit a 25-year-high of 3.9 million in the week to 1 November.
Protracted slowdown
Official EU figures for the third quarter are expected to show that the eurozone has slipped into recession - defined as two quarters of negative growth - with forecasts of a 0.1% drop in GDP, following a 0.2% contraction between April and June.
On Thursday, official figures showed the German economy, one of the world's largest, had shrunk 0.5% in the third quarter, following a 0.4% drop in the second quarter.
On Wednesday, the Bank of England said the British economy was probably already there.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says economic activity is expected to fall 0.5% in the eurozone next year as the world's leading economies enter a protracted slowdown.
In further evidence of the deteriorating economic climate, new car sales were down 14.5% in October, the sixth month in a row of declines.
'Human crisis'
Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said his country and the EU could "speak with one voice" at the G20 summit hosted by US President George W Bush.
"Russia is ready, together with the EU and other partners, to participate in working out the parameters of a new financial architecture," he said.
The G20 meeting will bring together both leading industrial powers such as the US, Japan and Germany, and emerging market countries such as China, India and Brazil.
The heads of the World Bank and the IMF, the UN secretary-general and the chairman of the Financial Stability Forum have also been invited to attend.
The leaders are scheduled to dine at the White House on Friday evening and hold two plenary sessions on Saturday, followed by a statement by President Bush.
They hope to agree on a common set of principles for future reform, including changes to the organisations charged with regulating the world economy. Later summits will focus on working out the details of the reforms needed.
In an open letter to the G20 published on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged them to prevent the economic slowdown causing a "human tragedy" among the poor, particularly in developing countries.
"If hundreds of millions of people lose their livelihoods and their hopes for the future are dashed because of a crisis they have absolutely no responsibility for, the human crisis will not remain just economic," he warned.
Mr Ban said that even though more than 170 countries would not be present in Washington, he stressed "they also face grave difficulties" and that immediate action was more vital for them than reform of global financial institutions.
Japan has announced it is prepared to lend up to $100bn to the IMF to help emerging economies hit by the financial crisis.
The loan offer is a part of a package of measures that the Japanese Prime Minister, Taro Aso, intends to present at the G20 summit.
The IMF has already provided more than $30bn of emergency loans to Iceland, Hungary and Ukraine.
JPTF 2008/11/14

novembro 11, 2008

‘Seis biliões de Euros pagos indevidamente pelo orçamento europeu‘ in Times, 11 de Novembro de 2008

Six billion euros was paid out wrongly by the European Union last year, the highest cash total yet called into question by the European Court of Auditors’ annual review.

There were numerous cases of overclaiming from the EU’s budget of €114 billion (£93 billion), especially in regional projects designed to raise living standards in poorer areas, as well as “serious failures to respect procurement rules”, the auditors said.

At least 11 per cent of the €42 billion budget for regional and social funds should not have been paid out – the largest area of mismanaged expenditure and one for which the 27 member states and the European Commission are jointly responsible. There were also “irregularities” of between 2 per cent and 5 per cent in the €51 billion agriculture budget.

For the 14th successive year, the Court of Auditors was unable to state that the EU accounts were clean for “most spending areas”, although they gave the European Commission praise for producing a reliable set of figures for the first time.
“The court still finds that payments made to financial beneficiaries, such as farmers and project promoters running EU-funded projects, have a too high level of error,” they said.

Agricultural spending to encourage rural development was singled out for criticism for a “disproportionately large part of the overall error rate”.

While avoiding the label of fraud for most of the irregularities, one area of overpayment came in farmers claiming for nitrate reduction. In random checks on 13 claimants, 9 were found not to have met the criteria. Once again olive farmers, mostly in Italy, were singled out for criticism, for “errors such as unreliable data leading to overpayments.”

The auditors added: “In general, errors are often due to farmers over-claiming and/or entitlements being wrongly calculated. The court found errors related to farmers overclaiming or exaggerating land area or the number of animals.”
While the estimated level of “irregular” regional spending fell slightly from at least 12 per cent to at least 11 per cent, this led to the highest cash total because of the leap in the EU budget from €107 billion in 2006 to €114 billion last year. In all, there were material errors in 92.4 per cent of the EU budget.

Danita Hubner, the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, said that her department had clawed back €843 million in irregular payments this year, with €1.5 billion more in the pipeline for recovery, including €243 million from Britain.

“Let’s not lose sight of the big picture – EU money helps to transform regional and national economies, invests in people’s skills, infrastructure modernisation, innovation and the environment,” she said. “Forecasts suggest that by 2013, it will increase GDP in Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic by around 8.5 per cent.”

Mark Francois, the Shadow Europe Minster, said: “This depressing annual ritual has got to stop. As taxpayers across the EU feel the effects of the credit crunch they may well ask why the European Union is still failing to put its financial house in order.”

Where the money went

— Overpayments and lack of paperwork mean the European Commission will demand back £190 million from Britain this year

— £42 million of this is for projects in Northern Ireland, £31.5 million from Greater Manchester and Lancashire, £13 million from the Highlands and Islands and £12 million for errors in handling projects in South Wales

— Certified organic olives were found to be growing in a 10m high waste dump in the Puglia region of southern Italy. Four people were reported to the police for fraud after allegedly sending false certificates to the funding body, claiming that the olive oil was “produce from organic farming”

— The owners of a charitable horse-riding school received €400,000 (now £326,000) in EU funds from the Lombardy region of Italy. But the number of pupils on training courses for the disabled were allegedly inflated, with participants’ signatures forged to reach the number required to secure funding.
JPTF 2008/11/11

novembro 10, 2008

‘A próxima queda dos mercados‘ in Wall Street Journal, 10 de Novembro de 2008

The global credit crunch has now hit emerging economies, including those in Asia, which many had hoped or expected to be able to "decouple" from developed economies. There will be no escape, and even worse, the super typhoon that is now battering emerging markets will in turn deepen the global recession.

The global credit contraction will affect emerging markets in several ways. First, their exports and imports (of raw materials) will fall as excess demand is eliminated in the over-leveraged rich economies of Europe and North America. There will also be a reduction in capital flows to developing economies in all forms (credit, portfolio investment and foreign direct investment) as a result of deleveraging. At the same time, household and corporate wealth will be destroyed as a result of falling liquidity supply from both domestic and foreign sources. Those emerging economies with large foreign-currency bank loans and liabilities face debt deflation, while many corporations in Asia will find it difficult to grow because they are unable to roll over their excessive foreign loans and bonds.

Many emerging-market current accounts will turn from surplus to deficit, private capital inflows will drop precipitously and residents will run down their assets and take their capital out. So these economies will have a huge external financing problem next year. Their foreign exchange reserves will fall sharply along with their currencies and financial assets.

How will all this misery come about? In the great credit boom of the last decade or so, global liquidity took strange new forms. Credit supply and demand were multiplied by the advent of securitized debt and derivative instruments that facilitated almost limitless expansion of credit beyond the traditional balance sheet capacity of lending institutions. This is the phenomenon I call New Monetarism.

The credit bubble was the financial circuitry of excess consumption in many rich economies. Excess consumption was the appetite on which the factory economies of Asia fed. Like Cleopatra's beauty "they made most want where most they satisfied." In turn, other emerging markets that produced food and energy benefited from the insatiable appetite created by the economic boom of the factory economies. Thus emerging-market demand for commodities and energy was derived from growth in demand from rich economies.

But now excess credit is being removed. While this is happening, demand in rich economies will fall and savings rates will rise. So developing-world factory economies will see export demand cave in and this will cut their own demand for inputs. It has already fed through into lower commodity and oil prices.

Most emerging markets don't have sufficiently robust domestic demand to offset the impact of falling exports as well as an overhang of surplus capacity in the export sector. Their domestic economies are just too small. In China, for example, the consumer accounts for only 36% of demand and investment for 42%, much of it export-related. In the U.S., the figure for the consumer is 70%.

Emerging-market exports were not the only beneficiary of excess credit growth. Capital flows were just as important. Excess liquidity flooded into these economies in the form of portfolio and FDI inflows. This boosted currencies and bloated domestic money supply and credit. In turn, this drove up asset prices and so created more wealth and more demand. Unsurprisingly, the private sector in these countries spotted the opportunity to borrow cheap money in weak currencies and built up massive amounts of dollar and yen debts and foreign exchange derivative liabilities.

So excess credit creation in the U.S. spilled over into both capital inflows to developing countries and demand for their exports. The former created big current account surpluses; the latter boosted capital account surpluses. Both sent international reserves, particularly of dollars, through the roof.

The sum of the twin surpluses -- trade and capital -- was too big for developing countries to absorb. And the rise in international reserves, which was converted into domestic currency by the locals who receive it, was too big to be sterilized by the central banks issuing bonds. So it flowed into the lake of local currency, causing asset prices and inflation to rise.

Emerging-market central banks were accumulating so many dollars they didn't know what to do with them. If they sold them, the falling dollar could wipe out the value of their existing dollar holdings. So they sent their excess dollars back to Uncle Sam, where they generated even more credit expansion.

But now, as exports fall and inflows of liquidity dry up, the emerging markets' net external financing requirement -- the sum of their current account balance, net FDI and annual net debt repayment -- will rocket. From being awash with surplus liquidity, many emerging markets will be parched of it, particularly emerging Europe, Latin America and central Asia.

The international financial institutions will try to avert the worst, but they won't succeed. The U.S. Federal Reserve has offered $30 billion in swaps to four big emerging markets: Mexico, Brazil, South Korea and Singapore. This is in addition to IMF emergency loans to Hungary and Ukraine and a promise to lend five times their entitlement to emerging markets with a record of sound economic management.

In reality the countries being chosen for such aid are those that are strategically important to the donors. But the international authorities can't defend even the economies that are considered "strategic." The cost will be greater than the resources of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other agencies.

The thinking behind the bailout is also misdirected. When bubbles burst, asset prices have to find their own level at which they can be liquidated and sold off creditors' balance sheets. Injecting dollar liquidity into emerging markets will not prevent this because the problem is one of the solvency of excessive private sector foreign currency liabilities. It is an earnings and balance sheet issue, not a currency one.

Moreover, there are many more deficit-ridden emerging markets that won't be helped. In Asia, they include Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Globally the big and the ugly who lie outside the "defensive layer" established by the IMF, Fed and European Central Bank include Russia and Argentina. As they get hit, those that are being helped will be re-infected in turn.

The ebbing tide of global liquidity will test the perceived virtues of emerging markets. In reality, the above-average growth rates depended on an unsustainable credit cycle elsewhere that was amplified at home. The huge accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves was just an appendix of excess global liquidity. Budget arithmetic and external accounts were beneficiaries of the same phenomena.

As these winds of good fortune die out in the deserts of recession (or worse), I suspect that many measures of emerging-market fundamentals will prove mediocrity rather than excellence. That means that risk appetite for these assets will be very slow to return.
JPTF 2008/11/10

novembro 09, 2008

Livros: ‘A Revolta do Primitivo. Uma Investigação nas Raízes do Politicamente Correcto‘ de Howard Schwartz

Deliriums philosophicus num mundo pós-moderno

‘Os fracos e os falhados devem perecer: primeiro princípio da nossa caridade. E há mesmo que os ajudar a desaparecer! O que é mais nocivo do que todos os vícios? – A compaixão da acção por todos os falhados e fracos [...]‘. (Nietzsche, O AntiCristo, 1888, p. 16, 2).

novembro 08, 2008

Visões politicamente correctas do extremismo religioso

Livros: ‘É um mundo PC! O que significa viver numa terra que se transformou em politicamente correcta‘ de Edward Stourton

O livro do jornalista Edward Stourton, apresentador do programa Today da BBC Radio 4 propõe-nos a uma visita guiada ao fantástico mundo do politicamente correcto (PC), através de um relato... neutral?! (Note-se que, com alguma honestidade intelectual, o autor reconhece ser tão fácil ser neutral neste assunto como escrever livros ‘imparciais‘ sobre o conflito do Médio Oriente...). A leitura adivinha-se estimulante para a intelligentzsia portuguesa, habitualmente tão fascinada com as ‘inovações‘ e ‘boas práticas‘ dos países mais desenvolvidos. Um dos lugares mais vibrantes deste ‘admirável mundo novo‘ é, sem dúvida, a cidade britânica de Luton (um cenário inimaginado, apesar de tudo, pelo escritor Aldous Huxley nos anos 30 do século XX). Esta exemplifica o novo paradigma da sensibilidade PC made in UK e as boas práticas de gestão autárquica do século XXI. A falta de atenção dada ao mesmo no livro, pode constituir, por isso, um motivo de desapontamento. Trata-se de um caso de estudo, a nível nacional britânico, mas também internacional, para os ‘profissionais da diversidade‘ e para todos os que se preocupam com a sensibilidade do ‘outro‘. Entre as ‘boas práticas‘ implementadas pelo executivo municipal encontram-se, por exemplo, o fim das iluminações de Natal nas ruas da cidade e o abandono das decorações com motivos alegóricos à Natividade (ver o artigo de Oliver Burkeman no jornal Guardian, intitulado The phoney war on Christmas). Ah, esta crise onde nos está a levar... Não, não é a crise financeira, é a ideologia multiculturalista, estúpido!

JPTF 2008/11/08

‘O Hamas (também) quer reunir-se com Obama‘ in El País, 8 de Novembro de 2008

Hamás se ha postulado para entablar conversaciones con el futuro presidente de EE UU, Barack Obama, enfocado como un cambio de rumbo en las relaciones entre Washington y la milicia palestina para resolver el problema de Oriente Próximo. Bajo la presidencia de George W. Bush, EE UU ha rechazado mantener cualquier contacto con Hamás.

Portavoces del movimiento islamista han asegurado que están dispuestos a hablar con Obama siempre y cuando respete "sus derechos y opciones políticas", según ha informado el líder Khaled Meshaal. "Estamos preparados para dialogar con Obama y con la nueva Administración americana que tiene una mente abierta", Meshaal ha añadido desde la capital siria de Damasco.

"Es un gran cambio, político y psicológico, y nos congratulamos por la llegada del presidente Obama", ha dicho el líder islamista, que ha puntualizado: "La Administración estadounidense tiene que buscar un acuerdo en la región, en el conflicto palestino y arabe-israelí. No tienen otra opción que un acuerdo con Hamás porque somos una fuerza real y efectiva en esta situación".

Obama visitó Israel el pasado mes de julio y minimizó los cambios en las negociaciones con los islamistas si el grupo no renunciaba a la violencia y reconocía el derecho de Israel a existir como Estado. Las negociaciones en Oriente Próximo se encuentran en punto muerto después del fracaso diplomático del Gobierno de Bush y la situación política incierta de Israel tras la dimisión del primer ministro, Ehud Olmert, y la convocatoria de elecciones anticipadas para el próximo febrero.

De visita por Oriente Próximo, la secretaria de Estado de EE UU, Condoleezza Rice, aseguró esta semana que "será muy difícil" alcanzar el acuerdo de paz entre Israel y Palestina antes de este año, tal y como se había acordado en la Cumbre de Annapolis (Maryland) promovida por el Gobierno norteamericano. Rice justificó esta falta de consenso por la "situación diferente" que vive ahora Israel tras la convocatoria de elecciones anticipadas.
JPTF 2008/11/08

novembro 07, 2008

O fim (previsível) da Obamania na Europa: ‘de facto também vamos odiar Obama‘ por David Aaronovitch in Times

It amuses me that some of those who criticise the present US Administration for its Manichaeism - its division of the world into good and evil - themselves allocate all past badness to Bush and all prospective goodness to Obama. As the ever-improving myth has it, on the morning of September 12, 2001, George W. and America enjoyed the sympathy of the world. This comradeship was destroyed, in a uniquely cavalier (or should we say cowboyish) fashion, through the belligerence, the carelessness, the ideological fixity and the rapacity of that amorphous and useful category of American flawed thinker, the neoconservative. They just threw it away.

But there isn't anything that can't be fixed with a sprinkling of genuine fairy dust. What Bush lost, Obama can find. Where the Texan swaggered, the Chicagoan can glide. Emotional literacy will replace flat iteration, persuasion will supplant force as the preferred means of achieving what needs to be achieved, empathy will trump narcissism. Those who hate America may find their antipathy waning, those who were alarmed by unilateralism will warm to softer, moral leadership. A new dawn will break, will it not?

Some on the Left are getting their count-me-outs in already, realising that Mr Obama is, after all, a big-game hunter, a full-trousered American candidate. They, I think, are more realistic than those who manage on one day to laud the Democrat as not being a real politician, and on the next to praise him for his sensible left-trimming when seeking the party's nomination and his equally sensible centre-hugging once it was in the bag. I say the antis are more realistic because, eventually, we will hate or ridicule Mr Obama too - provided, of course, that he is elected and serves two full terms.

George W.Bush, of course, represents a particular kind of offence to European sensibilities. He blew out Kyoto, instead of pretending to care about it and then not implementing it, which is what our hypocrisies require. He took no exquisite pains to make us feel consulted. He invaded Iraq in the name of freedom and then somehow allowed torturers to photograph each other in the fallen dictator's house of tortures. He is not going to run Franklin Roosevelt a close race for nomination as the second greatest president of the US.

But even if he had been a half-Chinese ballet-loving Francophone, he would have been hated by some who should have loved him, for there isn't an American president since Eisenhower who hasn't ended up, at some point or other, being depicted by the world's cartoonists as a cowboy astride a phallic missile. It happened to Bill Clinton when he bombed Iraq; it will happen to Mr Obama when his reinforced forces in Afghanistan or Pakistan mistake a meeting of tribal elders for an unwise gathering of Taleban and al-Qaeda. Then the new president (or, if McCain, the old president) will be the target of that mandarin Anglo-French conceit that our superior colonialism somehow gives us the standing to critique the Yank's naive and inferior imperialism.

Often those who express their tiresome anti-Americanism will suggest, as do some of the more disingenuous anti-Zionists with regard to anti-Semitism - that they, of course, are not anti-American, and that no one really is. But, coming as I do from an Anti-American tradition that wasn't afraid to proclaim itself, I think I know where the corpses are interred. For example, the current production of Bernstein's Candide at the English National Opera is a classic of elite anti-Americanism, in which we are invited to laugh at the philistine invocation of “Democracy, the American Way and McDonald's”. The laughter that accompanied this feeble satire showed our proper understanding that we, the audience, had a proper concept of democracy, and would never soil ourselves with an Egg McMuffin.

The true irony went way above the sniggerers' heads, which was that Leonard Bernstein was the American cultural import that we were, at that very moment, enjoying. But the prejudice is that American culture has had a negative influence on the world, tabloidising our journalism, subverting the gentle land of Ealing with the violent pleasures of Die Hard 10 and commercialising our most intimate lives. And so we have ever complained; my father, back in the early Fifties, once wrote an entire communist pamphlet about the terrible effect of Hollywood and jazz on the land of Shakespeare and Elgar.

This week you could hear the author Andrew O'Hagan on Radio 4, reading from his collection of self-conscious essays, The Atlantic Ocean, in which - despite his own claims - every impact of American life on Britain is somehow configured negatively. He writes of an exported popular culture “born in the suburbs of America” and defined as “Spite as entertainment. Shouting as argument. Dysfunction as normality. Desires as rights. Shopping as democracy.” This in the country that has sent Big Brother, Pop Idol, Wife Swap and Location, Location, Location over the Atlantic in the other direction, while taking delivery of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Wire.

I should admit that I am irked by O'Hagan's dismissal of the “idiots who supported that bad and stupid war (ie, Iraq)” and am willing to match my idiocy against his intelligence in any debating forum that he cares to name. More interesting, though, is the desire to blame America. For all that O'Hagan claims that the US has lost its purchase on the world's affections, it remains the chosen destination for the most ambitious of the planet's migrants. For all that he claims that this change in sentiment is recent, I can't help recalling those - the most honest - who commented, in journals he writes for and on the very day after September 11, that the Americans had had it coming.

In part I think that anti-Americanism is linked to a view of change as decline. The imagination is that dynamic capitalism, associated with the US, is destroying our authentic lives, with our own partly willing connivance. It is a continuing and - at the moment - constant narrative, uniting left and right conservatives, which will usually take in the 19th- century radical journalist William Cobbett (conveniently shorn of his anti-Semitism), and end with an expression of disgust over the Dome, the Olympics or Tesco. Just as bird flu is a disease from out of the East, runaway modernity is a scourge originating to the West.

So Barack Obama, en fête around the world, will one day learn that there is no magical cure for the envy of others. What makes America the indispensable power (and even more indispensable in the era of the new China), is precisely what makes anti-Americanism inevitable.

OBS: Artigo originalmente publicado a 22/07/08
JPTF 2008/11/07

novembro 06, 2008

Remake mediático: A 13 de Setembro de 2001 éramos ‘todos americanos‘, a 6 de Novembro de 2008 ‘somos todos Obamas‘...

Dejà vu! Aujourd'hui, nous sommes américains (parte 2). Na política, tal como no cinema, o segundo filme normalmente é pior do que é primeiro, desde logo porque o argumento e o desenlace se tornam, desde o início, bastante previsíveis para o espectador mais atento... Para quem não se recorde da parte 1 deste remake mediático a que estamos a assistir actualmente na imprensa portuguesa e internacional, reproduz-se aqui o ‘filme original‘ (não legendado em português) publicado há 7 anos atrás, na edição de 13/09/2001 do jornal Le Monde, por Jean-Marie Colombani. Aceitam-se apostas até quando seremos ‘todos Obamas‘.

‘Dans ce moment tragique où les mots paraissent si pauvres pour dire le choc que l'on ressent, la première chose qui vient à l'esprit est celle- ci : nous sommes tous Américains ! Nous sommes tous New-Yorkais, aussi sûrement que John Kennedy se déclarait, en 1962 à Berlin, Berlinois. Comment ne pas se sentir en effet, comme dans les moments les plus graves de notre histoire, profondément solidaires de ce peuple et de ce pays, les Etats-Unis, dont nous sommes si proches et à qui nous devons la liberté, et donc notre solidarité. Comment ne pas être en même temps aussitôt assaillis par ce constat : le siècle nouveau est avancé.

La journée du 11 septembre 2001 marque l'entrée dans une nouvelle ère, qui nous paraît bien loin des promesses et des espoirs d'une autre journée historique, celle du 9 novembre 1989, et qu'une année quelque peu euphorique, l'an 2000, que l'on croyait pouvoir se conclure par la paix au Proche-Orient, avait fait naître.

Un siècle nouveau s'avance donc, technologiquement performant, comme le montre la sophistication de l'opération de guerre qui a frappé tous les symboles de l'Amérique : ceux de la surpuissance économique au coeur de Manhattan, de la "puissance" militaire au Pentagone, et enfin de la puissance tutélaire du Proche-Orient tout près de Camp David. Les abords de ce siècle sont aussi inintelligibles. Sauf à se rallier promptement et sans précautions au cliché déjà le plus répandu, celui du déclenchement d'une guerre du sud contre le nord. Mais dire cela, c'est créditer les auteurs de cette folie meurtrière de "bonnes intentions" ou d'un quelconque projet selon lequel il faudrait venger les peuples opprimés contre leur unique oppresseur, l'Amérique. Ce serait leur permettre de se réclamer de la ''pauvreté'', faisant ainsi injure aux pauvres ! Quelle monstrueuse hypocrisie. Aucun de ceux qui ont prêté la main à cette opération ne peut prétendre vouloir le bien de l'humanité. Ceux-là ne veulent pas d'un monde meilleur, plus juste. Ils veulent simplement rayer le nôtre de la carte.

La réalité est plus sûrement celle, en effet, d'un monde sans contrepoids, physiquement déstabilisé donc dangereux, faute d'équilibre multipolaire. Et l'Amérique, dans la solitude de sa puissance, de son hyper-puissance, en l'absence désormais de tout contre-modèle soviétique, a cessé d'attirer les peuples à elle ; ou plus précisément, en certains points du globe, elle ne semble plus attirer que la haine. Dans le monde régulé de la guerre froide où les terrorismes étaient peu ou prou aidés par Moscou, une forme de contrôle était toujours possible ; et le dialogue entre Moscou et Washington ne s'interrompait jamais. Dans le monde monopolistique d'aujourd'hui c'est une nouvelle barbarie, apparemment sans contrôle, qui paraît vouloir s'ériger en contre-pouvoir. Et peut-être avons-nous nous-mêmes en Europe, de la guerre du Golfe à l'utilisation des F16 par l'armée israélienne contre les Palestiniens, sous-estimé l'intensité de la haine qui, des faubourgs de Djakarta à ceux de Durban, en passant par ces foules réjouies de Naplouse et du Caire, se concentre contre les Etats-Unis.

Mais la réalité, c'est peut-être aussi celle d'une Amérique rattrapée par son cynisme : si Ben Laden est bien, comme semblent le penser les autorités américaines, l'ordonnateur de la journée du 11 septembre, comment ne pas rappeler qu'il a lui-même été formé par la CIA, qu'il a été l'un des éléments d'une politique, tournée contre les Soviétiques, que les Américains croyaient savante. Ne serait-ce pas alors l'Amérique qui aurait enfanté ce diable ?

En tout état de cause, l'Amérique va changer. Profondément. Elle est comme un grand paquebot, glissant longtemps sur une même trajectoire. Et lorsque celle-ci est infléchie, elle l'est durablement. Or même si le langage est galvaudé, les Etats-Unis viennent de subir un choc sans précédent. Sans remonter à la toute première agression sur son territoire, celle de 1812 où l'armée britannique détruisit la première Maison Blanche, l'épisode le plus proche qui s'impose est celui de Pearl Harbor. C'était en 1941, loin du continent, avec des bombardiers contre une flotte militaire : l'horreur de Pearl Harbor n'est rien en regard de ce qui vient d'arriver. Elle est au sens propre sans commune mesure : hier 2400 marins engloutis, aujourd'hui bien plus de civils innocents.

Pearl Harbor avait marqué la fin d'un isolationnisme, ancré au point d'avoir résisté même à la barbarie de Hitler. Quand en 1941, Charles Lindbergh faisait une tournée de conférences en Europe pour plaider contre toute implication américaine, une large partie de l'opinion outre-Atlantique rêvait déjà d'un repli sur l'espace latino-américain, laissant l'Europe à ses ruines et à ses crimes. Après Pearl Harbor tout a changé. Et l'Amérique a tout accepté, le plan Marshall comme l'envoi de GI's sur tous les points du globe. Vint ensuite la déchirure vietnamienne, qui a débouché sur une nouvelle doctrine, celle de l'emploi massif et rare de la force, accompagné du dogme du "zéro mort" américain comme cela fut illustré pendant la guerre du Golfe. Tout cela est désormais balayé : nul doute que tous les moyens seront utilisés contre des adversaires restés à ce jour insaisissables.

La nouvelle donne qui s'esquisse dans le sang comporte à ce stade au moins deux conséquences prévisibles. Toutes deux ont trait aux alliances : c'en est bel et bien fini d'une stratégie tout entière conçue contre la Russie alors soviétique. La Russie, du moins dans sa partie non islamisée, va devenir le principal allié des Etats-Unis. Mouvement que le président Poutine a saisi dès le soir du drame. Peut-être en est-ce fini aussi d'une alliance que les Etats-Unis avaient esquissée dès les années trente et solidement établie dans les années 1950 avec l'intégrisme musulman sunnite, tel qu'il est défendu notamment en Arabie saoudite et au Pakistan. Aux yeux de l'opinion américaine et de ses dirigeants, l'islamisme, sous toutes ses formes, risque d'être désigné comme le nouvel ennemi. Certes, le réflexe anti-islamiste avait déjà donné lieu, aussitôt après l'attentat d'Oklahoma City contre un immeuble fédéral, à des déclarations ridicules, sinon odieuses. Mais, cette fois, la haine inextinguible qui nourrit ces attentats tout comme le choix des cibles et le caractère militaire de l'organisation nécessaire limitent le nombre des auteurs possibles.

Au-delà de leur apparente folie meurtrière, ces derniers obéissent malgré tout à une logique. Il s'agit évidemment d'une logique barbare, d'un nouveau nihilisme qui répugne à une grande majorité de ceux qui croient en l'islam, dont la religion n'autorise pas plus le suicide que le christianisme ; à plus forte raison le suicide couplé au massacre des innocents. Mais il s'agit d'une logique politique qui par la montée aux extrêmes veut obliger les opinions musulmanes à "choisir leur camp", contre ceux qui sont couramment désignés comme "le grand Satan". Ce faisant, leur objectif pourrait bien être d'étendre et de développer une crise sans précédent dans l'ensemble du monde arabe.

A long terme, cette attitude est évidemment suicidaire. Parce qu'elle attire la foudre. Et qu'elle peut l'attirer sans discernement. Cette situation commande à nos dirigeants de se hisser à la hauteur des circonstances. Pour éviter aux peuples que ces fauteurs de guerre convoitent et sur lesquels ils comptent d'entrer à leur tour dans cette logique suicidaire. Car on peut le dire avec effroi : la technologie moderne leur permet d'aller encore plus loin. La folie, même au prétexte du désespoir, n'est jamais une force qui peut régénérer le monde. Voilà pourquoi, aujourd'hui, nous sommes américains‘.
JPTF 2008/11/06

‘Mercados afundam-se enquanto investidores ponderam a presidência de Obama‘ in China Daily, 6 de Novembro de 2008

A case of postelection nerves sent Wall Street plunging Wednesday as investors absorbing a stream of bad economic news wondered how a Barack Obama presidency will help the country weather a possibly severe recession. Volatility returned to the market, with the Dow Jones industrials falling nearly 500 points and all the major indexes tumbling more than 5 percent.

The market was expected to give back some gains after a six-day runup that lifted the Standard & Poor's 500 index more than 18 percent. But investors lost some of their recent confidence about the economy and began dumping stocks again; light volume helped exaggerate the price swings.

And in Asia, stock markets tumbled Thursday, following Wall Street lower as US presidential election euphoria gave way to worries about the global economy and company profits.

apan's Nikkei stock average retreated 6.5 percent to 8,899.14, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 7.5 percent to 13,727.50

South Korea's benchmark Kospi index broke a five-session winning streak to dive 7.6 percent. Markets in Singapore, Australia and the Chinese mainland also dropped sharply.

The pullback was in line with weakness on Wall Street, where investor optimism surrounding the election of Democrat Barack Obama as president quickly evaporated in the face of gloomy economic news. The U.S. service sector, the largest component of America's gross domestic product, contracted sharply in October as new orders and employment fell.

"I think what is happening in the market is a continuation of really the last few weeks," said Subodh Kumar, global investment strategist at Subodh Kumar & Associates in Toronto. "The markets are still incorporating the slowdown in the global economy."
Worries about the financial sector intensified after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. began to notify about 3,200 employees globally that they have been lost their jobs as part of a broader plan to slash 10 percent of the investment bank's work force, a person familiar with the situation said. The cuts were first reported last month. Goldman fell 8 percent, while other financial names like Citigroup Inc. fell 14 percent.

Commodities stocks also fell after steelmaker ArcelorMittal said it would slash production because of weakening demand. Its stock plunged 21.5 percent.

Although the market expected Obama to win the election, as the session wore on investors were clearly worrying about the weakness of the economy and pondered what the Obama administration might do to help it. Analysts said the market is already anxious about who Obama selects as the next Treasury Secretary, as well as who he picks for other Cabinet positions

Analysts said investors were also uneasy in advance of the Labor Department's October employment report, to be issued on Friday. Economists on average expect a 200,000 drop in payrolls, according to Thomson/IFR. Employers have been slashing jobs after a freeze-up in the credit markets crippled many companies' ability to get financing.

Late-day selling by hedge funds helped deepen the market's losses during the last hour. More selling by the funds is expected to weigh on the market ahead of a Nov. 15 cutoff for shareholders to notify fund managers of their intent to cash out investments before year-end.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 486.01, or 5.05 percent, to 9,139.27.

The S&P 500 index fell 52.98, or 5.27 percent, to 952.77. Through the six sessions that ended Tuesday, the index, the one most closely watched by market professionals, rose 18.3 percent.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 98.48, or 5.53 percent, to 1,681.64, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 31.33, or 5.74 percent, to 514.64.
JPTF 2008/11/06

Rússia também festeja eleição de Obama... com anúncio de instalação de mísseis em Kalininegrado in EU Observer, 6 de Novembro de 2008

The European Commission has put pressure on EU capitals to approve next week the resumption of talks on a new EU-Russia partnership treaty, put on ice due to Russia's military presence in Georgia.

"These negotiations should continue, first because this would allow the EU to pursue its own interests with Russia, and secondly because this is the best way to engage with Russia on the basis of a unified position," the commission stated on Wednesday (5 November).

Brussels says that the next negotiating sessions should be agreed as soon as Monday (10 November), when 27 EU foreign ministers gather for their regular monthly meeting.

The move cannot be seen as a gift to Russia, external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said, AFP reports. "This does not mean business as usual because we cannot accept the status quo in Georgia."
Talks on an EU-Russia strategic deal were postponed on 1 September until Russian troops withdraw from Georgia's territory to positions held before the short war over South Ossetia in August.

Some post-Communist countries such as Lithuania and Poland - strong allies of Georgia in the conflict - claim that Moscow has not lived up to its committment.

Russian troops have withdrawn from the zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but they continue to operate in the Akhalgori district and the upper Kodori valley - zones inside the breakaway regions, but previously controlled by Georgian authorities. Russia is also building up troops inside the rebel-held zones and has refused to let OSCE monitors back into South Ossetia.

Earlier this week, Lithuanian and Polish presidents - Valdas Adamkus and Lech Kaczynski - issued a joint statement, expressing deep concern over the lack of will on the Russian side.

Russian threat

Meanwhile, Moscow has renewed its threat to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad - the Russian enclave between Lithuania and Poland - in response to US plans to place components of a missile shield in central Europe.

"What we've had to deal with in the last few years - the construction of a global missile defence system, the encirclement of Russia by military blocs, unrestrained NATO enlargement ...The impression is we are being tested to the limit," Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Russian TV.

The Czech Republic has described the threat as "unfortunate," while Poland said it was "a new political step."

But the timing of Mr Medvedev's address suggests another message, coming just hours after US president-elect Barack Obama gave his victory speech and taking the European Commission by surprise after its recommendation.

The Russian move could be seen as an attempt to gain greater respect from the incoming US administration as well as to revive the EU's internal rift over the controversial project.

OBS: Artigo originalmente publicado com o título ‘Brussels seeks Russia talks amid missile threat‘
JPTF 2008/11/06

A terra está a aquecer!! A terra está a aquecer!

novembro 05, 2008

‘Para o vencedor os despojos — um mundo cheio de problemas‘ in Times, 5 de Novembro de 2008

The problems that will confront Barack Obama beyond the United States make a nonsense of the metaphor of an in-tray. That suggests bureaucratic neatness, a stack of problems waiting for attention that can be dispatched one after the other.

Instead, he will inherit a worldwide map of problems that demand more time, military commitment and money than America can possibly deploy. It is wrong to lay all of those problems at the door of George W. Bush. Many were there before his presidency – Iran, North Korea, the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock, to name just three.

But it is still true that President-elect Obama will take on a challenge different in nature from recent predecessors. The US is engaged in two live wars and Afghanistan is getting worse just as Iraq gets better. More than that, he takes over at a point when US leadership is questioned. In the US’s foreign policy, it has suffered the greatest blow since Vietnam to its reputation for military success and its claim to legitimacy. In economic policy, its recent decisions and even its principles of economic organisation have been challenged.

Around the world, people expect him to change this. The expectations are impossibly high, as the President-elect has already acknowledged. In Europe, many of those who have cheered him seem to expect a US president who will use all of the US’s power and financial weight to solve the world’s problems, regardless of its own interest. They will be disappointed.

Iran has been strengthened as a regional force by US struggles in Iraq. It has not walked out of the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty, but nor has it given an inch to pressure from the European Union and the United Nations Security Council in its determination to enrich uranium. It says this is for nuclear fuel but the US and EU argue that it conceals military aims. The notion of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, either by the US or Israel, looks as dangerous as ever. It would be unlikely to do permanent damage and would provoke retaliation on Israel and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Obama could decide to negotiate with Iran – a route President Bush ruled out on principle. There is common interest in stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it might take a change of Iranian president to make progress. The fall in the oil price helps to weaken Iran’s hand.

Middle East
Israel is heading for an election, and Palestinian leadership is split between Hamas and Fatah, so conditions for progress are not ideal. The old basis for hope is still valid: that most Palestinians and Israelis would settle for a two-state solution. There is new urgency: the spread of Israeli West Bank settlements and of Palestinian extremism will be increasingly hard to reverse. The Gulf’s wealth may play a greater role in US corporate finance, and politics, than in the past.

Iraq and Afghanistan
The fall in violence in Iraq has given the US a glimpse of the exit. So has the desire of Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, to set a date for US troops to go home. But the conflict in Afghanistan is worsening and the next president must decide whether a troop “surge” would help as it did in Iraq.

Before a Nato summit in April, Mr Obama will ask allies for more troops for Afghanistan: it will be hard to deny him completely.

North Korea
North Korea’s on-off agreement to freeze its nuclear weapons work cannot be neglected, though it is more China’s problem to solve than that of the US. The issue is a crisis just as some other fire blazes.

The country that has most wrongfooted the US since the fall of the Soviet Union is China. Identical interests in securing energy supplies have led many to predict a clash, but China’s decisions to sign up to international rules and trade talks show that it will work with others. The US faces the same choice. The last two years of President Bush showed a change of tone: more conciliatory, keener on the UN, free of the insults the early Bush team showered on old allies. Mr Obama won’t meet all the world's hopes, but a change of tone would go a long way.

The first decision is over tone, not actions, but is hard to get right. Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, who is gauging the extent of Central and Eastern Europe’s commitment to the US may try to test Mr Obama’s clarity.

After Afghanistan, Pakistan should come next. But it may not. One of the weaknesses of US foreign policy has been the neglect of Pakistan, a country that slips off the agenda and out of news reports. Facing a deepening mood of anti-Americanism, which blends easily into militancy, Pakistan’s leaders need help in demonstrating the value of US support. That means money, spent visibly. The US will need to be more sophisticated than during President Musharraf’s military rule in backing leaders who are good for Pakistan’s democracy, not just those who support US aims.

Mr Bush won little credit for the money and time he poured into Africa, because of his damaging objection to some contraceptive programmes and nonsensical promotion of abstinence. But the need for a US role is clear, in aid and perhaps in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s new turmoil.
JPTF 2008/11/05

‘Barack Obama: o novo Jimmy Carter‘ por Greg Guma in ZMag

Since Barack Obama emerged as the Democrat's choice for president, the national mood has frequently been compared to the late 1960s, another time when an unpopular war polarized the nation. A recent ad for Republican candidate John McCain makes this explicit, starting off with clips of 60s protesters and "flower" children before warning that hope can be a slippery slope. But the dynamics in 2008 may have more in common with 1976, when a GOP discredited by Watergate, Richard Nixon's resignation (under the threat of impeachment) and his pardon by Gerald Ford was defeated by a newcomer to national politics, Jimmy Carter.

Carter, an obscure but charming agribusinessman, became Georgia's governor in 1970 with the support of an Atlanta establishment in need of someone who could talk populism while remaining in tune with corporate interests. Similarly, Obama looks like an "anti-establishment" politician but has played ball during most of his career with the Chicago political establishment. He ran for the state and US Senate as an outsider while operating like an insider, supported by Mayor Richard Daley and the city's wealthy Gold Coast.

By the mid-70s, Carter was the darling of Eastern opinion-makers, meeting with David Rockefeller and lauded as a leader of the "New South." In 1973, he was recommended for membership in the newly formed Trilateral Commission, a private international group that brought together leaders from the North America, Western Europe and Japan. Joining Carter on the North American section of the Commission were Rockefeller, Time Magazine Editor Hedley Donovan, corporate lawyers Cyrus Vance and Warren Christopher, Bendix Corporation chairman W. Michael Blumenthal, IBM20director Harold Brown, UAW president Leonard Woodcock, and eight other business, union, and political figures. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a close friend of Rockefeller, became director of the Commission.

Carter subsequently used Commission sources for much of his presidential campaign strategy. A key document produced during this period was The Crisis of Democracy, co-authored by Brzezinski associate Samuel Huntington, who advised Carter during the campaign and subsequently coordinated security planning for Carter's National Security Council. Brzezinski became National Security Advisor.

Huntington advised that a successful Democratic candidate for president would have to emphasize energy, decisiveness, and sincerity while coming across as an outsider. But the real lesson of the 1960s, he added, was that political parties "could be easily penetrated, and even captured, by highly motivated and well-organized groups with a cause and a candidate."

The appeal of Carter to the establishment was a combination of charm, an "interesting" family, traditional values, and his outsider image. But they knew he was essentially a "centrist" eager to be all things to all people, as Laurence Shoup explained in The Carter Presidency and Beyond. The same can be said of Obama.

Like Obama, Carter went from local curiosity to national phenomenon in less than four years, during a period when the public lost faith in the presidency and other national institutions. By 1975 The New York Times was regularly publishing pro-Carter editorials, articles and columns. Time Magazine was even more enthusiastic, in one feature describing him as looking "eerily like John Kennedy from certain angles" - and hammering the point home with a cover rendering. The drumbeat continued right through primary season with coverage that belittled competitors like Fred Harris, a real populist, with headlines like "Radicalism in a Camper." Carter meanwhile received cover hypes like "Taking Jimmy Seriously." The rest of the mainstream media soon came on board.

Why was it happening? As Brzezinski recently noted in an interview, there is no need to believe in hidden conspiracies. Groups like the Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations don't conceal their intentions, he noted; you can easily find out what they hope to see happen. Huntington's diagnosis and prescriptions were blunt, and remain relevant. The authority of government depends on confidence and trust, he explained, and when these decline both participation and polarization increase. "If the institutional balance is to be redressed between government and opposition, the decline in presidential power has to be reversed..."

Describing the surge in democratic aspirations as a form of "distemper," Huntington advised that some of the problems "stem from an excess of democracy." It's just one way to exert authority, he argued, and sometimes should be overridden by "expertise, seniority, experience and special talents." He also explained that "the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups." People sometimes make too many demands, thus making democracy a threat to itself, he wrote. The basic prescription was to restore respect for authority, particularly in the presidency as an institution, and lower the general level of expectations about what government can do.

When Carter became president, he packed his administration with members of the center and liberal wings of the Eastern establishment. At least 27 high level officials were members of the Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations, including Vice President Walter Mondale, Vance, Brzezinski, Blumenthal, Christopher, Brown, and Donovan. Pointing to an "alarming deterioration" in international relations and the threat of "long-term disaster," Brown - as Secretary of Defense - prescribed leadership that would persuade people "to make sacrifices of individual and group advantages in order to produce long-term benefits of international economic and political partnership abroad." Carter's job was to restore trust and "renovate" the domestic and international system while leaving its basic structure intact. The fact that he failed in many respects is beside the point.

Now that Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee, it's becoming apparent that his administration would have many things in common with Carter's. The leader of his foreign policy team is Susan Rice, an assistant Secretary of State for African affairs in the Clinton administration and, more to the point, a current member of the Trilateral Commission's North American Group. Until recently, Trilaterial member James Johnson was on Obama's vice presidential vetting team. He stepped down after questions surfaced about loans he received from Countrywide Financial Corp., a key player in the U.S. housing crisis.

Other North American Trilateral members in Obama's inner circle include Brzezinski, former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Michael Froman of Citigroup, and former Congressman Dick Gephardt, along with Dennis Ross, Middle East envoy for Clinton and the first President Bush, and James Steinberg. Additional Trilateral members of team Obama include Warren Christopher and Clinton National Security Advisor Anthony Lake.

According to a recent New York Times article, Ross, who accompanied Obama to the Middle East in July, is often asked by Rice and Lake for help in framing Obama's comments on Iran and Israel. Steinberg, a Dean at the University of Texas and member of both the Commission and CFR, authored a white-paper titled, "Preventive War, A Useful Tool." In this telling essay, he wrote, "Unilateralism is not the only alternative... regional organizations and a new coalition of democratic states offer ways to legitimize the use of force when the council fails to meet its responsibilities." The problem, he says, isn't the Bush doctrine of "preventive force but that it too narrowly conceives of its use."

The renewed prominence of Brzezinski - architect of the "secret" war in Afghanistan three decades ago - along with the appointment of James Rodney Schlesinger, CIA director and Secretary of Defense during the 1970s, to lead a senior-level task force on nuclear weapons suggests that the process of moving from a neo-con to a Trilateral approach is already underway. The prospect of a military showdown with Iran would decrease during an Obama presidency, but confrontations with Pakistan, China and Russia become more likely.

Faced with such harsh realities, some conclude that an Obama presidency is still preferable to the disaster that is likely with John McCain. O thers contend that the evidence reinforces the need for a third party alternative. Both arguments have merit. Despite Carter's surrender to Trilateral logic, his presidency was a necessary reprieve from morally and ideologically bankrupt Republican rule. And it's certainly vital to look beyond the two-party monopoly, however long the road may be. But the truth is that, in Obama, a worried establishment has found the vessel through which they hope to restore international and domestic stability.

What do they hope to accomplish? Part of the agenda was revealed during an April meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington, DC. During panel discussions, the "suggestions" included increased foreign aid - especially for Africa, paying back UN dues, intervention on behalf of "financial institutions under stress," and a more liberal immigration approach. On the other hand, there was much rationalizing about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And what does Obama say? While he pledges to end the war in Iraq, he wants to leave behind a "residual" force of about 50,000 troops. He says his administration will emphasize diplomacy, yet describes Iran as a terrorist state and pledges to use "all elements of American power" to deal with it. "If we must use military force," Obama told the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), "we are more likely to succeed, and will have far greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our diplomatic efforts."

As far as Afghanistan and Pakistan are concerned, he wants to send at least 10,000 more U.S. troops to reinforce the 36,000 already there, taking unilateral military action inside Pakistan if necessary, whether its government agrees or not. "This is a war that we have to win," Obama explains. In Berlin last week, he called on Europe to provide more troops to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The size of the US military is likely to grow during an Obama presidency, and the projection of US force, combined with diplomatic carrots and sticks, will certainly continue.

Still, Obama's Trilateral-influenced vision embraces reforms that may bring some relief from the theocratically-infused Bush approach. Supreme Court appointments will be more centrist, the health care system may improve, and some of the worst abuses of the Bush years could be rolled back. These are not insignificant changes, and the pragmatic wing of the establishment, rapidly shifting in Obama's direction, seems to recognize that relief is essential if trust in government is to be restored.

As Huntington noted more than 30 years ago, "democratic distemper" makes allies nervous and enemies adventurous. "If American citizens challenge the authority of the American government, why shouldn't unfriendly governments?" So, Obama - like Carter - can be useful in calming things down and re-establishing confidence in the legitimacy of the current political order. In short, he can reinforce the argument that "the system" still works. For those who want real change, he's bound to be a disappointment. But perhaps, along the road to inevitable disillusionment, at least he may do a bit to ease the pain.

OBS: artigo publicado originalmente no ZMag a 28/07/08
JPTF 2008/10/05

novembro 04, 2008

Regresso ao Al-Andalus: ‘Filho de Osama Bin Laden pede asilo a Espanha‘ in El País, 4 de Novembro de 2008

Omar Osama Bin Laden, de 28 años, uno de los 19 hijos de Osama Bin Laden, el terrorista fundador y jefe de Al Qaeda, pidió ayer asilo político en España nada más aterrizar en el aeropuerto de Barajas (Madrid). El vástago del hombre más buscado de la tierra, se bajó en la terminal 4 de un avión procedente de El Cairo que se dirigía hacia Casablanca (Marruecos) e hizo escala en Madrid.

Omar Osama Bin Laden, de 28 años, uno de los 19 hijos de Osama Bin Laden, el terrorista fundador y jefe de Al Qaeda, pidió ayer asilo político en España nada más aterrizar en el aeropuerto de Barajas (Madrid). El vástago del hombre más buscado de la tierra, con quien convivió durante 20 años (en Sudán y Afganistán), se bajó en la terminal 4 de un avión procedente de El Cairo que se dirigía hacia Casablanca (Marruecos) e hizo escala en Madrid, según fuentes conocedoras de los hechos. Omar Osama Bin Laden se autodefine como "el hijo pacifista" del terrorista y repudia el terrorismo de su padre.

Omar Osama, casado con la ciudadana británica Zaina al Sabah (antes conocida como Jane Felix-Browne), de 52 años, ya había solicitado con anterioridad, en abril de este año, asilo político en la Embajada de Reino Unido en El Cairo, pero las autoridades británicas se lo denegaron al entender que sería "una considerable inquietud pública". Sin embargo, las fuentes consultadas aseguraron que España, tras la sorpresa inicial por este hecho, ha decidido tramitar "con celeridad" el expediente de asilo. Mientras tanto, Omar Osama permanecerá en la sala de tránsito e inadmitidos del aeropuerto de Barajas, indicaron las mismas fuentes.

El peticionario de asilo nació en Arabia Saudí, hijo del ahora terrorista más buscado y la siria Najwa Ghanem. Estuvo durante 10 años con su padre en el exilio en Sudán y, posteriormente, vivió en Afganistán, donde hasta el año 2000 fue incluso entrenado en un campo de terroristas. Cuando sucediron los ataques del 11-S, el hijo de Bin Laden se encontraba en Arabia Saudí.

Su nombre completo es Omar Bin Osama Bin Muhammad Bin Awad Bin Laden y en declaraciones públicas se ha mostrado dispuesto a refutar las ideas occidentales sobre los árabes y sobre que todos los hijos de Osama Bin Laden son terroristas.

El hijo de Bin Laden se casó con Jane Felix-Browne, quien ya tiene tres hijos y cinco nietos, en Egipto en septiembre de 2006. Ambos se conocieron en dicho país cuando la mujer acudió a El Cairo para someterse a un tratamiento de esclerosis múltiple. La primera vez que se vieron ella estaba montando a caballo. "Nos enamoramos y nos casamos en dos ceremonias islamicas en Egipto y Arabia Saudí. Fui yo quien le propuso matrimonio", declaró la mujer en julio de 2007 al diario británico The Times. Para ella éste es su sexto matrimonio. Él, supuestamente, ya había celebrado con anterioridad otros dos matrimonios, y hasta ahora se ganaba la vida como comerciante de chatarra en Yida. En The Times, la ahora llamada Zaina al Sabah declaró que Omar Osama ignora si supadre perpetró los ataques del 11-S.
JPTF 2008/11/04

novembro 03, 2008

‘Visita do Primero-ministro Erdoğan provoca ira da minoria curda no sudeste da Turquia‘ in El País, 3 de Novembro de 2008

La visita del primer ministro turco, el islamista moderado Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a una región de Turquía de mayoría kurda ha derivado en graves enfrentamientos entre manifestantes y la policía, que ha recurrido al uso de gases lacrimógenos para anular las protestas.

Los choques más graves han tenido lugar en la ciudad de Yuksekova, en la provincia de Van, cerca de la frontera con Irak. Alrededor de 3.000 personas han tomado las calles de esa localidad y se han enfrentado con los agentes policiales que han disparado al aire antes de usar gases lacrimógenos para dispersar a los manifestantes. Se desconoce si se han practicado arrestos. Donde sí ha habido detenciones, un total de 27, ha sido en Estambul. También en la capital turca la policía ha usado gases lacrimógenos.

Durante su visita a la región de Van, Erdogan ha llamado a la unidad y ha prometido la inversion de dinero para desarrollar la emprobrecida provincia. "Hay que proteger nuestra paz y mantenernos unidos", ha proclamado Erdogan durante la inauguración de un hospital en Yuksekova. "Si incrementamos nuestra solidaridad, también incrementaremos nuestro desarrollo", ha añadido.

Durante las últimas semanas se han producido un creciente número de protestas antigubernamentales en el sureste de Turquía, poblado principalmente por kurdos. Han influido en la extensión y virulencia de las manifestaciones los rumores difundidos este fin de semana en los que se asegura que el líder histórico del ilegal Partido de los Trabajadores del Kurdistán (PKK), Abdalá Ocalan, ha sido torturado en prisión, donde cumple cadena perpetua.

La minoría kurda de Turquía vive principalmente en el sureste, una de las zonas más pobres del país. Se han quejado históricamente de discriminación y falta de oportunidades de trabajo. Ahora, cuando se acercan las elecciones municipales, previstas para marzo, el Gobierno multiplica los gestos y las inversiones.

Las tensiones en esta zona se han visto alimentadas en los últimos meses por los ataques guerrilleros contra soldados turcos y las incursiones militares de Ankara en el norte de Irak para bombardear las bases del PKK.
JPTF 2008/11/03

novembro 02, 2008

O lado divino das eleições norte-americanas: O ‘messias‘ Barack Obama chega a 4 de Novembro a Washington D.C.

Já conhecíamos a crença messiânica da parte mais radical de certos grupos cristãos evangelistas, anti-aborto, anti-mães solteiras, anti-casamento dos homossexuais, anti-teoria da evolução das espécies de Darwin, etc., e o seu pecado mortal de apoiarem o partido Republicano e a administração de George W. Bush. A grande novidade desta campanha eleitoral é que os republicanos estão em sérios apuros para manterem o seu domínio nesta matéria. O Partido Democrata está em ascensão nas bençãos divinas e, mais importante do que isso, tem o seu próprio messias. Notoriamente este tem mais perfil para o cargo do que o já fora de prazo John McCain. Recorda-se que a idade para para ser messias se situa entre entre os 30 e os 40 anos e, entre e outros requisitos, ser bom comunicador ajuda muito a converter os incrédulos. Quem já sentiu o apelo do novo ‘messias‘ foi o radical líder da Nação do Islão, Louis Farrakhan (ver vídeo no Youtube). A avaliar também pelos apoios da revista de The Economist e do jornal Financial Times, esperam-se grandes milagres económicos e financeiros nos próximos quatro anos. Inshallah!

JPTF 2008/11/02