Archive for the ‘assistance’ Category

Even if Obama’s Perfect, Economy May Continue to Drag

November 9, 2008

This is one hell of a way to win.

Barack Obama owes his victory in large measure to the prospect of the longest and deepest economic downturn in a quarter-century and perhaps since the Great Depression. If he performs well, he could become a great president. If he flubs it, he could get the same reception as Jimmy Carter. In the crassest political terms, it was good luck to have the financial crisis hit so close to the election. But Obama’s lucky streak will end in a hurry if he can’t find a way out of this mess. He will also have to manage expectations: Even if he does everything perfectly, we probably won’t turn the corner for 18 months, and the downturn could last far longer than that.

By Joseph Stiglitz
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 9, 2008; Page B03

The first task facing President-elect Obama, after eight years of misguided economic policies, will be to begin the recovery — or at least forestall a further decline. It won’t be easy. Some 1.2 million jobs have already been shed this year, and some three-quarters of a million Americans are about to exhaust their limited unemployment-insurance benefits. By October, only 32 percent of unemployed Americans were receiving unemployment checks. To make matters worse, when Americans lose their jobs, they typically lose their health insurance, too. Meanwhile, 3.8 million homes are under foreclosure, and states are facing massive revenue shortfalls; without assistance, they will have to cut spending, plunging the economy deeper into recession.

Obama keeps people guessing on missile shield amid Russian threats
AFP/File/Stan Honda

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Six Months after Myanmar Cyclone, Rebuilding Lags Due To Government Hastles

November 2, 2008

After the cyclone devestated Myanmar last May, the military junta governing the former Burma was so uncooperative and unhelpful that even international aid groups were delayed and hastled….

From the Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar – Six months after Cyclone Nargis smashed into Myanmar‘s coastline, killing tens of thousands of people, aid groups say once-lagging relief efforts have picked up pace but the task of rebuilding and recovery is far from finished.

Foreign aid staffers were initially barred from cyclone-affected areas and the ruling military junta was criticized for its ineffective response to the May 2-3 disaster. During a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in late May, it agreed to allow in some foreign aid workers and formed a “Tripartite Core Group” made up of the government, the U.N. and Southeast Asian countries to facilitate the flow of international assistance.

A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed ... 
A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed monastery in Kaunt Chaung. Six months since Cyclone Nargis lashed the secretive state of Myanmar – killing 138,000 people – the initial despair over the ruling junta’s inaction has been replaced by cautious optimism that more aid is reaching the country’s needy, the UN has said.(AFP/File/Lisandru)

Despite the slow initial response, “the relief effort for the first six months has been successful,” said Ramesh Shrestha, the representative in Myanmar for UNICEF, which has coordinated aid to women and children. “However, we cannot stop now.”

The U.N. said in a statement issued Sunday on behalf of the Tripartite Core Group that “there is a continued need for emergency relief, as well as support for early and long-term recovery efforts.”

Only 53.3 percent of the $484 million in relief money sought by a U.N.-coordinated appeal has been raised, it said.

The official death toll is 84,537, with 53,836 others listed as missing. Some 2.4 million people were severely affected by the storm, with the total damage estimated as high as $4 billion.

A major pressing issue is how survivors will be able to support themselves.

Recent visitors to the Irrawaddy Delta, the area worst hit by the storm, report that most cyclone victims have cooking utensils, mosquito nets and other basic necessities. But they express concern about opportunities to earn enough money to buy food.

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North Korea: “massive long-term malnutrition”

October 17, 2008

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea is willing to give the North unconditional food aid but the communist state must fundamentally change its system to end massive long-term malnutrition, a senior official said Friday.

Chief nuclear negotiator Kim Sook also said a decade of engagement under previous liberal Seoul governments had largely been a failure.

This photo released by the World Food Programme shows a mother ... 
This photo released by the World Food Programme shows a mother holding her malnourished twins in a hospital in Hoiryong City, in North Hamgyong Province in June 2008. South Korea is willing to give the North unconditional food aid but the communist state must fundamentally change its system to end massive long-term malnutrition, a senior official said Friday.(AFP/WFP/File)

He was speaking a day after the North threatened to cut all ties with the South in protest at what it termed a hostile policy by the new conservative government.

“The real solution to the chronic food shortage is North Korea’s commitment to fundamental change. However, there is little sign the North is moving toward the right direction,” Kim told a seminar in the southern island of Jeju.

He said “structural inefficiencies” had contributed to “massive malnutrition” which left children aged under 14 almost 14 centimetres (5.6 inches) shorter than their South Korean counterparts.

Kim said the current Seoul government had offered Pyongyang unconditional food aid but it had refused to respond to an offer of 50,000 tons of corn.

He described the food shortage as serious but said it was unlikely to become a full-blown famine, as in the mid- to late 1990s.

The South formerly provided the North with some 400,000 tons of rice a year but the North has not requested the aid this year as relations soured.

Pyongyang has already cut almost all exchanges in protest at conservative President Lee Myung-Bak‘s decision to link economic projects to progress in nuclear disarmament.

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China vows to help cash-strapped Pakistan

October 16, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) – China vowed Thursday to do what it could to help cash-strapped Pakistan avert financial disaster as Islamabad’s leader continued an official visit aimed at rustling up crucial Chinese investments.

The promise came as Premier Wen Jiabao met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who is on his first official visit abroad after being elected in September.

“As a long friend of Pakistan, China understands it is facing some financial difficulties,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

An employee counts Renminbi banknotes at Bank of China branch ... 

“We’re ready to support and help Pakistan within our capability.”

Zardari met Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on Wednesday in a meeting in which the two sides pledged to strengthen decades-old ties and signed 11 bilateral agreements, one on unspecified economic cooperation.

The Financial Times newspaper has reported, without citing sources, that Zardari would seek a soft loan of between 500 million and 1.5 billion dollars from China to help Pakistan avoid looming bankruptcy.

However, Qin offered no specifics on the form that Beijing‘s financial help would take.

China’s state news agency Xinhua late Thursday released the full text of a joint statement between China and Pakistan which covered economic cooperation and foreign policy issues but was short on details.

“Pakistan appreciated the strong support and assistance provided by the government and people of China to Pakistan in its economic development,” the joint statement said.

Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khan, said earlier this week in an interview with Pakistan television station Geo an agreement on a civilian nuclear pact with China could be reached during the trip.

But Qin declined to give any details….

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Pentagon, State Seek Shift of Role with Allied Militaries

April 16, 2008

By Sara A. Carter
The Washington Times
April 16, 2008

Pentagon officials are seeking authority, now held by the State Department, to oversee funding for foreign militaries.
The State Department agrees with the change, but some lawmakers are concerned.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday asked members of the House Armed Services Committee to approve the change.
“For a long time, programs like the State Department’s foreign military financing were of minimal interest to the U.S. armed forces,” Mr. Gates told the committee. “That our military would one day need to build large amounts of partner capacity to fulfill its mission is something that was not anticipated. … The attacks of 9/11 and the operations that have followed around the globe reinforced to military planners that the security of America’s partners is essential to America’s own security.”

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From Muhammad: Ungrateful Pakistanis

March 28, 2008

By Muhammad
March 28, 2008

It always remain an irony in Pakistan as its leaders and journalists have been getting dollars from the United States, but still they have been speaking against it. Most the tribesmen think the US must change its policy and if possible dump these ungrateful Pakistani leaders and journalists.

Politician-cum-journalist from Chakwal Ayaz Amir has been telling the new leadership to abandon war on terror in which Pakistan is a frontline state. He has forgetton that Pakistanis and tribesmen are being killed by terrorists. If the United States is coming to the help of tribesmen and poor Pakistanis then he has been opposing the move.

Just read the latest article of Ayaz Amir, who has won National Assembly seat on Pakistan Muslim League ticket. He is playing the role of agent of evil forces. The following is the article published in The News International.It isn’t and never was and if our newly-inducted political leadership is dumb enough to swallow all the fiction about the so-called ‘war on terror’ that our American friends (friends?) seem keen to push down its throat, God help us.

This is George Bush’s war. This is the war, or a front in the war, orchestrated by those strategic crazies going by the name of neocons, the same geniuses who wanted to reshape the world – beginning with the reshaping of the Middle East – and gave their own people, the American people, two un-winnable wars: in Iraq and, wait for it, Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was supposed to be the more ‘doable’ affair, the one they thought they had wrapped up in 2001. But it is proving as tough and intractable as Iraq, with the Taliban, alas, not finished and the war, far from being over, stretching into the remote distance.

This is not even America’s war because most Americans who care to have an opinion about their country’s foreign policy – and there are millions of Americans who don’t give a damn, this section of the American population having a hard time deciphering a map of the world – are opposed to Bush’s adventure in Iraq. And although Afghanistan doesn’t loom as large across American radar screens as Iraq, it is beginning to assume a larger presence.

Indeed, the one thing saving American and NATO forces from utter disaster in Afghanistan is the Pakistan army on this side of the Durand Line. This is the buttress shoring up the American position and that is why, with new winds blowing across Islamabad, our friends in Washington are alarmed.

Their policy towards Pakistan was shaped around one man: their favourite general, Pervez Musharraf. And now that after the recently-concluded elections his position has crumbled, and is visibly diminishing by the day, the war party in Washington is worried that Pakistan may not be as zealous as it has been in taking American orders in the ‘war on terror’.

Small wonder John Negroponte, deputy secretary of state and holder of many dark secrets about American policy in Latin America, and Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state and a familiar face in Pakistan, were so quick to descend on Islamabad, basically wanting to get a feel about the new guys about to enter the corridors of power.

Despite what some of the headlines have been suggesting Negroponte and Boucher shouldn’t be too worried because while the new guys may have waxed eloquent about ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ – very much the new buzzword in Islamabad – no one has suggested that Pakistan is about to cut its strings with America or is about to change course dramatically.

Pakistan is hardly in a position for a radical shift all at once because the Americans are all over the place and there are so many things tying us to America that a sudden application of the scissors is simply out of the question.

Let’s not forget that the army is the key player in this equation and any rethinking of the American alliance will have to come as much from General Headquarters as from the new National Assembly. Would the army like to forego American military assistance, the five-year ‘aid’ package which has enabled it to go on an extended arms’ shopping spree? Would it like to forego the nearly hundred million dollars a month it gets for services rendered in the ‘war on terror’? Where does this money go? Does anyone even know?

Such ‘aid’ once you are hooked on it becomes an addiction. Vested interests develop and lifestyles come to depend upon this bonanza. Overcoming such an addiction is not easy.

Islamabad is a town of dealers, fixers and commission agents anyway: well-off parasites living off the inflow of American dollars. Any talk of cutting the American connection and this razzle-dazzle crowd will point accusing fingers at the new guys in town and say that they are acting ‘irresponsibly’. Deep pockets after all are not easy to fight.

Let’s not also forget that parliamentary sovereignty in this country is a bit of a fiction. We may like to think parliament is a sovereign institution but when was the last time parliament took a sovereign decision?

All our great foreign policy adventures, our various jihads and wars, never had anything to do with parliamentary debate or approval. We must rethink our American connection, and as a result of that connection the sentry and bag duty our army performs along the Afghan frontier, but for anything to come of this exercise the rethink has to be a joint undertaking between the army command and the new guys in town (actually all old guys but making a reappearance on the national scene after the extended disaster of the Musharraf years… indeed after Musharraf anything, even recycled stuff, would look new).

Unless the army command is re-educated, unless it gets rid of the strategic and war-on-terror-related nonsense which under American tutelage has become part of its collective thinking, Pakistan will know neither peace nor harmony.

Yes, there are elements in Pakistani society keen on turning the clock back, who believe passionately that the way to go forward is to return to biblical times (biblical here a metaphor for their overdrawn simplicities about the fundamentals of life). Yes, there are elements in the tribal areas who think that it is their holy duty to come to the aid of the Taliban, or anyone fighting the Americans, in Afghanistan.

We should be discouraging such elements, interdicting their movement across the border. On no account must Waziristan, north and south, become a Taliban sanctuary, a staging post for the anti-American resistance. But we shouldn’t let the Americans tell us how to go about this business. Because there is a whole history of American interference—from Vietnam and Cambodia to Iraq and Afghanistan – which testifies to that great American talent for touching a problem and turning it into a first-rate catastrophe.

Let the Taliban fight their own wars. By the same token let the Americans also fight their wars. We should have nothing to do with either of these undertakings. The Lord knows we have enough of our problems of our own to settle.

Musharraf was America’s loyal ally, Pakistan’s Ngo Din Diem and Pinochet rolled into one, and because he acted under American orders and in his zeal to please his American protectors paid no heed to the sentiments of his own people, this whole terrorism business, far from being squashed, has ballooned out of control. A problem (or call it a virus) confined to the tribal areas has spread to other parts of Pakistan. There were no suicide bombings in 2001. Now it is a phenomenon we are all familiar with.

This entire strategy, if one can dignify it thus, has backfired. Pakistan is now in the crosshairs of terrorism precisely because Musharraf hitched his wagon, and the nation’s, to Bush’s failed and imploding star. Across the globe, and this includes America, Bush is considered little better than a moron. And to think that because of one man – Musharraf –

Pakistan and its army have been tied to the apron strings of this moron.

We don’t need to court American hostility. We should be friends with America but not its lackey or satellite. We should learn to live without the high of American ‘assistance’. At any rate, it is the parasitic classes who have benefited the most from this assistance, not the majority of the Pakistani people. So what are we talking or complaining about?

If terrorism has to be fought we must do it on our own. The Americans, as we have seen, will make the problem worse. Thus the first condition of fighting terrorism is getting rid of American advice and assistance. The Frontier Corps doesn’t need to be recast by the Americans (as they propose to do). Is the new Iraqi army any better for being outfitted by the Americans?

There is even – and this is really silly – a USAID programme for the ‘capacity-building’ of MNAs and MPAs. As part of this programme there is a ‘capacity-enhancing’ centre (with newspapers and computers, etc.) right in the Parliamentary Lodges in Islamabad. Madam Speaker, your urgent attention please.) Goes to show how busy our American friends have been, and what unlikely corners they have penetrated, these past seven years.


Cheney Tells Karzai U.S. Urges More NATO Soldiers

March 20, 2008
Holly Rosenkrantz 1 hour, 22 minutes ago

March 20 (Bloomberg) — Vice President Dick Cheney, assessing the security situation during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, said the U.S. will press NATO allies to step up their military engagement in the country.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, left, speaks as Afghan President ...
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, left, speaks as Afghan President Hamid Karzai looks on during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, March 20, 2008. Cheney said Thursday the United States will ask NATO countries to step up their commitment to help Afghanistan recover from years of tyranny and war.(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

“America will ask our NATO allies for an even stronger commitment in the future,” Cheney said following a meeting with President Hamid Karzai about the battle against the Taliban.

President George W. Bush wants a report from Cheney on progress in the country in advance of the NATO summit next month in Romania, Lea Anne McBride, the vice-president’s spokeswoman, said.

The U.S. and NATO are struggling against a resurgence by the Taliban, which was toppled by the U.S. in 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks. U.S. intelligence chief Michael McConnell concluded last month that the militant Islamic group controls 10 percent of the country.

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