As Barack Obama heads to Mexico, U.S. involvement in Mexico's battle against drug cartels is getting a lot of press. But it's worth noting that Mexico's notorious narcotics trade isn't just Mexico's problem anymore. And Obama should be well aware of that, considering that this past February Chicago declared Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán its first "Public Enemy No. 1" since Al Capone. "While Chicago is 1,500 miles from Mexico, the Sinaloa drug cartel is so deeply embedded in the city that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are on the border," Jack Riley, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago office, told CNN.
The infiltration of the Windy City shows the extent to which Mexican drug syndicates have made inroads in the United States -- the Associated Press and others have reported that cartel cells are operating in Atlanta, Ga., Louisville, Ky., Columbus, Ohio, and rural North Carolina. In fact, according to an excellent National Post infographic based on data from a U.S. Justice Department report and other sources, it's much easier to list states that don't have a drug trade tied to Mexican gangs. There are only twelve that haven't reported the presence of one of four Mexican cartels since 2008: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Mexican drug trade is everywhere else.
Detected cartel operations range from traditional drug-running to using a horse ranch as a front for laundering drug money, as one group did in Oklahoma. The Sinaloa cartel, which has emerged as Mexico's dominant syndicate, has carved out new territory in the United States by controlling 80 percent of its meth trade (Mexican cartels have come to dominate the U.S. market by aggressively bumping up the purity of their meth while dropping the price per gram).
All told, Mexican cartels reside in 1,200 American communities as of 2011, up from 230 in 2008, according to the Associated Press. Below is a map that shows just how many states have been penetrated, according to the National Post's special report on the topic.
View Cartel Penetration in the US in a larger map
Fraying cooperation in the drug war will surely be top of mind as President Obama meets with his counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico this week. And perhaps nothing encapsulates Mexico's growing impatience with America's heavy-handed approach to combating drug trafficking than this nugget from a New York Times report on Tuesday. Apparently, the United States has been subjecting Mexican security officials to regular polygraph tests in an effort to identify rotten apples. But that could soon change:
Shortly after Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, took office in December, American agents got a clear message that the dynamics, with Washington holding the clear upper hand, were about to change.
"So do we get to polygraph you?" one incoming Mexican official asked his American counterparts, alarming United States security officials who consider the vetting of the Mexicans central to tracking down drug kingpins. The Mexican government briefly stopped its vetted officials from cooperating in sensitive investigations. The Americans are waiting to see if Mexico allows polygraphs when assigning new members to units, a senior Obama administration official said.
While the practice is not widely publicized, it has been an element of the two countries' security relationship for some time. In a 1997 article on U.S.-Mexican plans to join hands in the drug war, the Associated Press noted that Mexican counternarcotics agents would undergo the "kind of extensive background, financial, and polygraph tests required of U.S. drug agents." The plans came after the arrest of Mexico's drug czar, Gen. Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, for taking bribes from drug traffickers.
What's more, the United States hasn't just applied this policy to Mexico. In 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that Washington has given elite Colombian counternarcotics agents polygraph tests as well.
The bad blood over polygraph tests isn't the only sign that U.S.-Mexican cooperation on the drug war is deteriorating. In an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE on his new book, the Mexican journalist Jesús Esquivel claimed that the Mexican military recently waved off a U.S. offer to capture famed drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Gúzman. The United States had the Sinaloa cartel chief's location and said the operation would take only 15 minutes. So why the hang-up? Mexican military officials reportedly didn't want the American military to lead the operation.
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If Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is to be believed, Russia has stopped worrying about U.S. missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. In a speech delivered Tuesday at the Russian embassy in London, Rogozin claimed that the American missile shield no longer poses a threat to his country -- a statement that contradicts years of Russian officials howling about the presence of U.S. missiles near the Russian border.
"We have solved the issue of penetrating the missile shield," Rogozin said, according to RIA Novosti. "We regret that the United States waste their money on missile defense and compel us to do the same. The missile shield is nothing for us, it's a bluff. It poses no military threat, but remains a political and economic problem."
American officials have repeatedly tried to assure the Russians that the missile defense system is intended to counter the missile threat from Iran, but this has done little to assuage the Russians. In his remarks Tuesday, Rogozin called the system "excessive" and "provocative by nature" -- attributes that made Russia feel "compelled to search for a wise and asymmetric response."
Could it be that Russia has found a way to circumvent the missile defense system?
If so, Rogozin would certainly be in a position to know. Prior to his elevation to deputy prime minister, Rogozin served as the Russian envoy to NATO and as President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to the alliance on missile defense issues. In his current role, Rogozin oversees the Russian defense industry, a position that would certainly give him the insight to comment on innovations in Russian missile technology.
While Rogozin's comments may amount to nothing more than bluster, he has previously alluded to Russia's desire to create an effective military counterweight to U.S. missile defense systems. In February, he replied to comments by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen defending the alliance's missile shield by writing on Twitter that "we also feel responsibility for protecting our population from your missile threat and will create a reliable air and space defense." In June, 2011, Rogozin wrote in the International Herald Tribune that for "Russia it is a matter of principle to remove any threat to its strategic capabilities, which guarantee our sovereignty and independence."
But until now, there has been no indication from Russia that it has found a way to counter U.S. missile defense systems through technical means.
Interestingly, when in March the United States chose to bolster its missile defense systems in the Pacific region in response to threats issued by North Korea, it effectively canceled the final phase of the missile system the Russians opposed. That development led to hopes that Russia and the United States might reach a rapprochement on the issue -- one that did not appear.
Perhaps that was because Russia has been waiting to unveil a military breakthrough to render the issue irrelevant.
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If confirmed as an act of terrorism, the two explosions that struck the Boston Marathon's finish line on Monday, killing at least two people and injuring dozens more, would represent the first such attack to strike the city in recent history.
Authorities initially declined to label the incident an act of terrorism; when asked by a reporter immediately after the explosions whether he would classify the incident as a terrorist attack, Boston Police Chief Ed Davis said, "You can reach your own conclusions." But CNN is now reporting that federal officials have classified the bombings as a terrorist attack and have moved on to investigating whether its origins were foreign or domestic.
According to the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database, 16 acts of terrorism -- two of which resulted in injures, another two of which resulted in fatalities -- have occurred in Boston since 1970, and no acts of terrorism have occurred in the city since 1995.
According to the University of Maryland, the most recent lethal terrorist attack in Boston was the 1995 killing of Paul R. McLaughlin, a gangland prosecutor who was shot to death execution-style in his car. The only other Boston terror attack to have resulted in a fatality was the 1992 killing of Iwao Matsuda, the president of Chukyo University, who was shot to death in his hotel room while visiting the city to sign an exchange agreement with the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Over the course of its history, Boston has witnessed several bombings carried out by a variety of leftist groups, black nationalists, and abortion activists. But only one such bombing -- carried out by the obscure Marxist group United Freedom Front -- resulted in serious casualties. In that attack, on April 22, 1976, 22 people were injured -- including a man who lost a leg -- in a bombing that targeted the Suffolk County Courthouse.
In more recent years, Boston has had an ignominious connection with the major terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil. Two of the hijacked airliners in the Sept. 11 attacks -- American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 -- originated at Boston's Logan Airport, and the attacks that day claimed the lives of 206 people from Massachusetts or with strong ties to it. Still, in the decade that followed, Boston managed to avoid a major terrorist attack. Until, it seems, today.
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The 85th annual Academy Awards are this Sunday, and as folks in Hollywood begin to prepare with juice cleanses and facials, international contenders have a somewhat different if equally complicated road to awards night. Wednesday, Palestinian director of 5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat, was detained in LAX, where security threatened to deport him if the Oscar-nominated filmmaker couldn't provide physical evidence of his invitation to the awards show.
The West Bank olive-farmer turned director is the first Palestinian ever to be nominated in the documentary category after he used cameras to chronicle his nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. Traveling with his wife and son, Burnat was held by immigration for 45 minutes and only released after he sent a text message to fellow filmmaker, Michael Moore, who later tweeted about the incident:
"It's nothing I'm not already used to," he told me later. "When u live under occupation, with no rights, this is a daily occurrence."— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 20, 2013
Detaining a Palestinian filmmaker who happens to be buddies with Michael Moore probably wasn't the best PR move on the part of US Customs and Border Patrol. In addition to tweeting frantically about the occurrence, Moore has also updated his website with the statements of both directors.
This isn't the first time a foreign participant has had trouble getting to the show. In 2009, Indian singer Sukhwinder Singh, who was set to perform "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire, was unable to make it to awards night after the Academy failed to send the requisite letter of invitation he needed to obtain a visa.
In a different category, there's Roman Polanski's infamous no show when he won best director for The Pianist in 2003. The director feared being arrested if he entered the US after fleeing from a sexual abuse charge in 1978.
This year, Rachel Mwanza, the Congolese star of the Canadian nominated feature film, War Witch, had to interview with U.S. authorities to prove she wouldn't remain in the country illegally after the show. The sixteen-year-old actor was only just granted a visa, three days before the ceremony -- incidentally the same amount of time it takes to complete a pre-Oscar juice cleanse.
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To everyone's surprise, 2013 might prove a historic year for women in the U.S. military, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that the Pentagon will remove the ban on women in combat.
All the attention is focusing on ground troops, but it's actually on the high seas that the last glass ceiling, or in this case high-strength alloy steel hull, is being shattered. Last October, the Navy announced that beginning in January, women will be allowed to serve on attack submarines for the first time, and the number of women in crews on Trident-class submarines will also be increased.
And the United States isn't alone. Britain has also said that this year will see the beginning of female participation on Royal Navy submarines, and countries such as Canada and Australia have already seen successful integration of women in submarine crews.
While these changes are being welcomed by men and women around the United States, the question remains: Why have submarines proved the final stubborn frontier? Out of the 42 countries that use submarines, only six allow women to serve.
According to the BBC, the British Navy banned women's participation for their own good, citing "health concerns about carbon dioxide." Unsurprisingly, two years ago, a study by the Institute of Naval Medicine deemed these concerns unfounded. The U.S. Navy, on the other hand, raised questions about cramped quarters and privacy:
On fast-attack submarines, approximately 150 personnel live in space the size of a three-bedroom house. Officers sleep in three-person staterooms, each the size of a small closet, and all 15 of them share a single shower, sink and toilet.
For female officers to live on the submarines, some three-person berths would be reserved for them and they would share the bathroom -- known as a "head" -- with men in a time-sharing arrangement.
But logistics and CO2 aside, the Navy has always been a bit behind the times when it comes to female participation. In the United States, it wasn't until 1978 that women were allowed to participate in surface warfare, and many of them left in the 1980s because of the lack of opportunities available. Now, as the Navy suffers from lack of personnel and women become more dominant in fields like engineering, they are finally being allowed below the surface.
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It seems babies (or the lack thereof) are on everyone's mind these days -- not just at Foreign Policy. While the United States may not have made this list of countries with the lowest fertility rates in the world, it may not be that far from the threshold.
The United States' total fertility rate, or TFR, which is measured as the average number of children that would be born to a woman if she lived to the end of her childbearing years and bore children according to given age-specific fertility rates, hit a record low in 2011. American women now have fewer children than their British and French counterparts, and half as many as they did during the baby boom.
According to a recent New York Times article (printed on the front page on Jan. 1), the decline is largely due to the fact that Hispanic women (both immigrant and native-born), who have traditional had the most children in the country, are having fewer and fewer kids each year. CBS.com cites a Pew Research Center study: "Since 2007, the birth rate for U.S.-born women fell by 6 percent, and the rate for foreign-born women dropped 14 percent. For Mexican immigrants, the birth rate fell by a staggering 23 percent."
No doubt the sluggish economy has played a role in the fertility decline (Latinos have been hit particularly hard by the recession). But, the economy doesn't completely explain the accelerated decline amongst Hispanic women (compared to non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians), and why the decline has remained so persistent for so long.
The New York Times suggests that the TFR is declining as young Latinos are increasingly choosing to pursue education and careers rather than to have large families. This generation is also less strictly Catholic than their parents and grandparents were. They are educated about contraceptives, they use them (when they can afford them), and they think having one or two children is just fine.
Also, as another piece in the new issue of FP argues, a country having fewer babies is not necessarily a bad thing in the long run.
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In June, when Mohamad Morsi was elected president of Egypt, replacing the military transition government, he claimed that he would fulfill 64 promises within the first 100 days. That very same day, the website MorsiMeter was up and running to keep track of his progress. It's been about a week since the 100 day mark has passed and the weighing in has begun.
MorsiMeter is the creation of social entrepreneurs Amr Sobhy, Abbas Ibrahim and Safwat Mohamed, modeled after PolitiFact's Obameter. By crowdsourcing through their mobile app and website, MorsiMeter compiles information from a variety of sources (official, opposition and social media) in addition to direct communication with the presidential office to document initiatives implemented or in progress. MorsiMeter is as 2012 recipient of the U.N World Summit Youth Award which the team also won in 2011 for the anti-corruption initiative Zabatak. They consider MorsiMeter to be a "data tool" and strive to "empower the average citizen through sharing of information about crimes and corruption" while staying as neutral as possible.
Their report is now out and according to MorsiMeter, the baseline stats say that the president has achieved 10 out of 64 goals and that another 24 are in progress. This leaves 30 more promises "not spotted", to use to their terminology.
To provide a more nuanced look at what has actually been done, objectives are broken down into five categories: Traffic, Security, Fuel, Bread and Environmental Cleanliness. Many plans in progress are geared toward using financial incentives tied to citizen satisfaction to promote performance in civil servants and police, coordinating between the government and civil society, or using social institutions such as Friday sermons to promote civic behavior such as not throwing trash on the street.
The president's achievements include cracking down on fuel smugglers, providing waste disposal services for reasonable fees, using radio reports to decrease traffic congestion, and increasing the nutritional value of bread while subsidizing bakeries for potential crises.
Several of the "not spotted" promises, such as building new government centers out of urban areas, are additionally large undertakings that couldn't be accomplished in a 100 days. And to be honest, even if there are campaigns to make people follow road rules and traffic lights, it's not going to take effect immediately.
Is it fair to judge Morsi based on 100 days alone? Maybe, maybe not. Online voters at MorsiMeter have an overall satisfaction level of 39 percent. But given the recent clashes and all the hype surrounding this rather arbitrary deadline, Egyptians need to figure out what their real expectations are.
The New York Times reported today that New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority voted 8-0 to change its rules on what advertising it will accept after the furor created by Pamela Geller's anti-Islam ads. Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, won a court case last month, compelling the MTA to post her ads, which read, "In the war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
A wave of public outrage over the ads, which were posted in New York City subway stations, has lead to incidents of vandalism, with activists and angry citizens defacing the posters. On Tuesday, Egyptian-American activist and journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for defacing one of the ads with pink spray paint.
Ostensibly in response to the vandalism, the MTA stated that they would, from now on, prohibit advertising which "would incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace, and so harm, disrupt, or interfere with safe, efficient, and orderly transit operations." Geller's ads won't be taken down just yet, since the rule change doesn't apply ads that are currently posted; however, the new guidelines might prevent her from renewing them once they have expired. The new rules will also require that all ads featuring political, religious, or moral expressions prominently feature a disclaimer stating that the MTA does not endorse the views expressed.
Protestors at the committee meeting held signs reading "The subway belongs to the 99 percent. Take the racist ads down." According to the New York Times, Geller attended the meeting and urged MTA officials to "have the courage of your convictions." She was "repeatedly shouted down."
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Prominent Egyptian-American journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy, author of FP's May/June cover story, was arrested on Tuesday in New York City and jailed overnight following a scuffle over American Freedom Defense Initiative leader Pamela Geller's anti-Islam subway ads. In a video shot by the New York Post, Eltahawy is seen defacing one of the ads with a can of pink spray paint, until Pamela Hall, a supporter of Geller's initiative, throws herself into the line of fire.
"Mona, do you have the right to do this?" Hall yells.
"I think this is freedom of expression," Eltahawy counters before letting loose with her brightly colored weapon of choice.
Things continue in this vein until NYPD officers intervene and promptly handcuff an indignant Eltahawy, who is clad in a coat almost the same shade as her paint.
"This is what happens when you nonviolently protest in America!" she shouts to the gathering crowd.
Eltahawy was later charged with criminal mischief, making graffiti, and possession of a graffiti instrument, all misdemeanors.
Geller's ads, which read "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man" and conclude with "Support Israel. Defeat Jihad," have been the cause of a legal and political firestorm in recent weeks. In late August, a federal court ruled that the Metropolitan Transit Authority couldn't prevent the ads from being posted. This order was unaffected by the spate of violent anti-American protests over the anti-Islam film "The Innocence of Muslims" currently taking place across the globe.
"Our hands are tied," Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, told the New York Times. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the decision on Sept. 21, saying that Americans often have to tolerate things they find offensive because of the First Amendment.
Geller later blogged her version of the pink spray paint spat, calling Eltahawy a "thug" and correctly predicting that "This criminal behavior and fascism will be lauded in Leftist circles." The flurry of celebratory tweets from Eltahawy's many Twitter followers following her arrest would seem to confirm Geller's fears.
Today, only the squat silhouette of a woman outlined in pink serves as a reminder of the confrontation, but Eltahawy's arrest has become something of a social media legend, inspiring the hashtags #freemona and #proudsavage as well as an online parody.
"As an US citizen I know that non-violent civil disobedience is one of many ways to fight racism," Eltahawy later tweeted.
If only Gandhi had thought of acquiring a can of pink spray paint.
Those hoping for an Iran-Israel Judo showdown will be disappointed after a "critical digestive system infection" prevented Jahvaad Majoob -- the only Iranian athlete scheduled to compete alongside an Israeli -- from boarding the plane to London. Yet, from the North Korean flag mix up to the ongoing controversy over a Saudi Arabian judo fighter's headscarf, those itching for some geopolitical proxy battles will have their fill. Here are another seven matches to watch:
Table Tennis: North Korea vs. South Korea
August 3, 2:00 pm EST
For big tension on a very small court, viewers should tune in to the first found of men's team table tennis where North Korea will face off against its archenemy South Korea. The nations remain technically at war despite a July 27, 1953 armistice, and the demilitarized zone remains one of the most dangerous borders in the world with Pyongyang threatening to turn Seoul into a "sea of flames." In this match at least, paddles are certain to fly.
Lightweight Double Sculls: South China smackdown
July 29 5:40 am EST
Poor Germany is stuck in the middle of China, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea in the women's lightweight double sculls. As the Asian nations squabble over islands in the East and South China Seas and the potential for naval war looms, the title of best rower may mean more than just a medal.
Handball: Britain vs. Argentina
August 2, 11:15 am EST
Despite insisting in February that her country would not boycott the games, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced this week she will not attend the opening ceremony. Her absence is a protest against Britain's claims to the Falklands, which Argentine maintains at their rightful territory despite their military defeat in 1982. As the island nears a referendum to determine its political status, Argentinean and British Olympic teams will have the chance to fight it out on men's handball court. If the losing country isn't satisfied, it will get another chance -- they're scheduled to play in field hockey too.
Pair Rowing: Greece vs. Germany
July 28, 7:00 am EST
Blood pressure will be high as Greece's Nikolaos Gkountoulas and Apostolos Gkountoulas race Germany's Anton Braun and Felix Drahotta in the men's pair rowing race. As debtor faces creditor, viewers should hope it'll be a repeat of the 2012 Euro Cup. Team loyalty got political when creative German fans mocked the Greeks "Without Angie, you wouldn't be here." Not to be beat, the Greeks struck low: "We'll never pay you back. We'll never pay you back." The question remains-if Greece wins, who gets the gold?
Soccer: U.S. vs. North Korea
July 31, 12:15 pm EST
Opponents on every issue ranging from human rights to nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea will face off in match 15 of the women's group G. Though the United States won the FIFA 2008 Championship title after defeating North Korea in the final round, their 2010 quarterfinal losses prevented a rematch. It remains to be seen if young leader Kim Jong Un is as harsh as his dad when it comes to international soccer failure.
Fencing: China vs. Japan
August 5, 5:30 am EST
While Beijing and Tokyo diplomats have so far limited themselves to lobbing rhetorical barbs over the latest territorial row, fencers Kenta Chida, Ryo Miyake, Lei Sheng and Jianfei Ma will face off in the men's team foil. Though fencing is lauded as a game of strategy, not force, the fighters' long history is certainly bloody.
Basketball: U.S. vs. China
August 5, 11:45 am EST
The U.S. women's basketball team faces China in game 52. U.S. - Sino relations have begun to sour as the United States pivots its forces to Asia and populist rhetoric has entered the U.S. presidential race. Bruised by an embarrassing 62-100 loss to the U.S. in May, seventh-ranked China is thirsty for revenge.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
As some Americans scramble to purchase more arms to defend themselves and the media combs through every detail following last week's mass shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, Toronto is also reeling in the aftermath of the city's largest ever mass shooting which left 2 dead and 23 injured on July 18.
Despite having far stricter gun control laws than their Second Amendment-loving southern neighbors, Canada is not immune from gun violence. And while you would be hard pressed to find a Canadian in public office willing to promote concealed carry as a solution, Canada is certainly not immune from the inevitable politicking that follows such events.
In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, Toronto mayor Rob Ford declared his intention to banish gun offenders from the city -- effectively pushing the problem outside his jurisdiction. According to the CBC:
Critics said the mayor's comments were confusing, and it wasn't clear why he appeared to be zeroing in on immigration as an issue when it comes to gun crime.
Ford didn't specify how he thought he would be able to move residents out of the city by persuading the federal government to change immigration laws.
"A lot of people just said: 'Rob, why are they living in this city?' No matter who they are, I don't care if you're Canadian born, I don't care if you're a Canadian citizen. I don't care if you're an immigrant, I don't care if you're refugee. It doesn't matter to me," he said.
"If you're convicted of a gun crime, I don't want you living in this city. And the only way I can find out whether that's legal or not or whether we can enforce that is through the [Prime Minister's Office], and that's what I'm doing."
Freedom of movement is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal government quickly signaled that it was not on board.
"Obviously we can't tell people which city [they] can and can't live in," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said.
Prime Minister Steven Harper, meanwhile, took the shootings as an opportunity to plug for the mandatory jail sentence minimums his government controversially pushed through as part of an omnibus crime bill earlier this year.
"I think these events in Toronto underscore why these penalties are essential," he said. "This is not a theoretical problem."
As recently as July 6, an Ontario court struck down the mandatory minimums for gun crimes included in the bill as unconstitutional. Mandatory minimums have been on the books in the U.S. since the 1980s as part of the country's ailing war on drugs. Critics argue that they result in overcrowded prisons and a loss of judicial independence.
Even before the Toronto shootings, the Harper government's approach to violent crime legislation could be characterized as a "lite" version of the American model which combines tougher penalties with lighter arms control. Harper abolished Canada's long-gun registry in April, amidst howls of protest from the left -- particularly out of Quebec.
The registry - which required documenting licensed ownership of all rifles, long-guns and shot guns -- was established largely in reaction to the 1989 Polytechnique shootings, an event which horrified the country as a whole and is still vividly remembered in Quebec. A decade before Columbine, a lone gunman entered a Montreal, Quebec, engineering school and, shouting his hatred for "feminists," shot 14 female students before turning the gun on himself.
So far, it appears that the Canadian response to this spate of violence has been a series of backwards steps.
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The first six months of this year have been the hottest on record since 1895. In June alone, we smashed more than 3,000 temperature records across the United States. It was the 328th consecutive month in which the average global temperature exceeded the 20th century mean. As Bill McKibben put it, "the odds of [that] occurring by simple chance were [one in] 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe."
But if that much is obvious to most people who don't harbor deep suspicions about the value of science, the rate at which global warming is changing life on this planet may still come as a shock. Not only are the 3.7 million Americans living within a few feet of the coastline already experiencing more frequent flooding -- the result of rising sea levels -- but unusual weather patterns are likely to make food more expensive, and fast.
Figures released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture predict substantial increases in food prices as a result of weather patterns in the Midwest -- the worst drought in nearly half a century.
The prices of chicken, beef, dairy, and eggs are all supposed to rise between three and five percentage points this year. Corn futures have already spiked nearly 50 percent over the last month to roughly $8.00 a bushel on fears that crops will be ruined. (The Department of Agriculture estimated that 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop is in poor or very poor condition as a result of the drought.)
And it's not just the U.S. market that will be affected. The U.S. is the world's largest producer of corn -- exporting millions of tons every year to countries like Japan, Egypt, and China. In 2000, for example, Egypt imported 76 percent of its corn from the United States.
In 2011, revolutions erupted across the Arab world at least in part because of rising food prices. Recall that protesters in Tunisia wielded loaves of bread and Egypt suffered a spate of "bread riots" when grain prices spiked between 2007 and 2008. Now, more than a year after the uprisings, many Arab economies are struggling to get back on their feet. Significant increases in global food prices might well plunge them back into chaos.
But bad weather and worse crop yields in the U.S. are not the only forces driving grain prices skyward. Southern Europe, which typically supplies 16 percent of global corn exports, is having its own ecological disaster. Temperatures in the band that runs from eastern Italy to the Black Sea averaged about five degrees higher than normal last month, according to Bloomberg, baking corn crops that are in the critical pollination phase. Cedic Weber, whose company advises about 5,000 farmers in Europe, told Bloomberg, "in Europe we'll need to import a lot of wheat and corn...That's just adding to the problems we've got everywhere."
That doesn't bode well for the Egypts and the Tunisias of the world -- or for any other net importer of food, for that matter. As it happens, that's practically all of the Middle East and Africa, and much of Southeast Asia.
In a press release issued this morning, Human Rights Watch slammed Yale University, criticizing the administration for "betraying the spirit of the university as a center of open debate and protest by giving away the rights of its students." The statement indicts Yale's agreement to enforce Singapore's restrictive laws regarding freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly on its new joint-venture with the National University of Singapore -- the first new college to bear the New Haven university's name in three centuries.
The Yale-NUS college's new president, Pericles Lewis, has repeatedly defended the decision, arguing that students "are going to be totally free to express their views" before admitting the campus "won't have partisan politics or be forming political parties on campus." Unsurprisingly, Yale students and faculty (whose 22 registered student political organizations will be barred from founding sister organizations on the NUS-Yale campus), were less than reassured. Already riled by accusations last spring that special confidentiality arrangements for General Stanley MacCrystal's class were a violation of intellectual freedom, student newspapers have openly mocked the administration's decision while professors have organized protests warning the restrictions limit academic freedom and negatively influence faculty hiring and research programs.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, agreed, calling Singapore's laws restricting political groups and demonstrations "draconian" before warning "Yale may find that many of the freedoms taken for granted over its 300 year history are against the law in Singapore. If it truly values those freedoms, and expects its students to, it will need to fight for them."
Something for U.S. universities to keep in mind as more and more expand into international campuses.
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Canadian scientists and supporters staged a mock funeral in front of parliament in Ottawa yesterday to protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper's proposed cuts to scientific research.
The July 10 event, called the "death of evidence" rally, drew an estimated 2000 protesters from across the country. Led by a participant dressed as the grim reaper, lab coat wearing mock-pall bearers carried the casket containing the "body" of evidence up the steps to Parliament Hill.
The Harper government's budget cut millions of dollars and 12,000 government positions from basic research in Canada. Major slashes will impact institutions such as Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, the National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
According to the Globe and Mail, protesters "decried the Conservative government's overall economic agenda, which they say puts the environment at risk for the sake of creating jobs." This includes the closure of research stations such as the Experimental Lakes Area - which provides cutting edge research on acid rain and phosphate pollution.
A great slide show of photos from the rally by Trevor Pritchard is available here at OpenFile Ottawa.
Trevor Pritchard/ OpenFile Ottawa
In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling upholding President Obama's sweeping health care reform package, there have been some rumblings around the Twitterverse about a movement to emigrate to Canada.
As one such Tweeter put it:
#SCOTUS holds up free healthcare for everyone?! Screw this commie country, I'm moving to #Canada #whoswithme.
Apparently Canada's alleged death panels -- frequently featured in right wing rhetoric during the debate surrounding the passage of the health care bill in 2009 -- were not a factor in the decision to relocate.
As a citizen of Canada, I feel it is my duty to clarify some points before a wave of disgruntled anti-Obamacare immigrants arrives at the border
Canada has one of the most comprehensive single-payer public healthcare systems in the world. Everyone is covered, and there is no opt-out option. In the higher tax brackets, we pay nearly 50 percent of earnings in income tax in order to fund health care and other social services.
So, consider yourself warned: If you move to Canada, you will be heavily taxed. Then we will pay for your doctor's appointments. We will heavily subsidize your medications. We will cover your chemotherapy. We will stuff you with poutine and then pay for your coronary bypass.
The poutine, however, is on you, unless you qualify for our welfare system. In which case, we'll cover that too.
Kris Connor/Getty Images
Nearly 24 hours of voting, 425 pages of legislation, over 800 proposed amendments: This is the marathon from which Canadian members of parliament (MPs) emerged on June 15.
The session, characterized by the Globe and Mail as "22-plus hours of consecutive spanking" of the dissenting opposition parties by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative majority government, will allow the government to push through omnibus bill C-38.
Canadians are up in arms about the bill because it includes legislation that will weaken and threaten the legal status of leading environmental groups.
Because Harper is determined to build a new pipeline out of the Alberta tar sands, the center of Canada's oil industry with known reserves that rival Saudi Arabia's. And he is not about to wait for November to get it done.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would have funneled Canadian oil down to refineries on the Gulf Coast, remains in political deadlock after the Obama administration blocked the deal in January.
Incensed by Obama's decision, Harper claimed the pipeline process was being "held hostage" because "certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America."
In the meantime, Harper's government, as well as impatient oil exporters and Asian markets hungry for Canadian crude, are determined to find new ways out of land-locked Alberta in order to increase oil export volumes.
"Enbridge, a transporter of Canadian oil exports, announced a $3 billion plan called Eastern Access. It is seeking permission to build a new "Northern Gateway Pipelines" network, to bring 525,000 barrels a day to Canada's Pacific Coast. Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based energy company, said it will nearly double the capacity of an existing pipeline network along a different route."
All of these options will have to overcome staunch opposition by indigenous groups and well-entrenched environmental interests on both coasts. Which brings us back to the reasoning behind the Conservative government's push to pass the omnibus bill with the intent of weakening these groups' legal footing.
In order to further quell dissent, Harper's government has also been going after anti-pipeline charity and advocacy groups. A variety of groups, including Tides Canada and ForestEthics, have been threatened with having their charity status revoked. Canadian regulations have long maintained that charities cannot devote more thant 10 percent of their budgets to advocacy. Additional laws pushed through as part of the C-38 package "will bring more scrutiny to foreign funding for charities and also how they use money for political purposes. Charities will also have to take more responsibility for the political activities of groups to which they give money."
The government has also insinuated that shadowy foreign entities are responsible for funding charities in their efforts to derail Canada's well-oiled ascendance to the status of petrostate. The Conservatives' new efforts to regulate "transparency" in Canadian charities has gone so far as to alarm large foundations with names like Bronfman, Asper and Bombardier on their letterheads.
Turns out even Canada is not immune to the lure of "black gold."
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
Two years ago today, British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded, causing the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Though BP reached an "estimated multibillion-dollar settlement" with lawyers representing individual and business plaintiffs in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Gulf Coast is strill struggling to recover from the disaster. Fish are dying, Louisiana's seafood industry is reeling, and Gulf Coast residents and cleanup workers continue to experience health problems tied to the spill.
After taking measures such as sacking then-CEO Tony Hayward, running an aggressive advertising campaign throughout the region, and settling on the multibillion-dollar payout, BP continues to shower the Gulf Coast with goodwill. According to Mike Utsler, president of BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, the company is still spending "millions of dollars" on the cleanup operation, and even offering guided tours of the recovery efforts.
Millions of dollars, of course, is just a drop in the bucket for BP, which Forbes recently called "one of the greatest corporate survival stories in history":
"Since last year BP has risen a remarkable 379 spots to 11th place in The Forbes Global 2000 survey. Key to the climb is a return to profitability in a big way. In 2010 BP took a $41 billion charge against earnings, giving shareholders their financial whipping all at once rather than dribbling it out over years. In 2011 BP reversed the previous year's $3.3 billion net loss, posting $26 billion in income, with promises of a further profit surge in the years ahead, thanks to high gasoline prices and a new slate of projects coming online."
One of the 15 new projects that BP plans to bring online by 2015 is its first post-spill well, Kaskida, located 250 miles southwest of New Orleans. If anything goes wrong, one hopes CEO Bob Dudley won't be as insensitive as his predecessor.
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Swedish furniture giant IKEA has begun work on a 26-acre self-contained neighborhood in Stratford, East London - just in time for the 2012 Olympics.
The town will be called Strand East and will contain 1,200 new homes, 480,000 square feet of office space, and a 350 bedroom hotel. The development's canal side location -- nicknamed "mini Venice" -- will feature a water-taxi service and floating cocktail bar. It is the first major development for LandProp, which owns the intellectual assets of the furniture company. The development group already operates in Holland, Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia, according to the Daily Globe and Mail.
The announcement comes shortly after the British government's agreement last month to slim down urban planning laws in order to encourage more sustainable projects, like this one. In what was a bitter dispute with countryside campaigners, the reforms represent a huge step along the way to reviving Britain's struggling rural economy.
Andrew Cobden, a spokesman for the project, also described a 40-meter illuminated tower that will be visible across the East London skyline - meant to emulate the Olympic torch. Like all things IKEA, the tower will be made from relatively "simple" materials, a wooden lattice of 72 diagonal laths, 16 horizontal steel rings, and held together by 32,000 trusty steel bolts.
The development will accommodate residents at a range of income levels. IKEA's first pre-fabricated home debuted last month in Portland, at an all-inclusive price of just $86,000. You might need more than a tiny Allen wrench to build this one.
Just days after announcing that it would back deputy leader Khairat El-Shater as a presidential candidate in Egypt's upcoming election, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party made a pit stop at Georgetown University on Wednesday as part of a "charm offensive." FJP representatives repeatedly emphasized the Islamist party's commitment to fulfilling "the demands of the young people who revolted in Tahrir Square" through promoting democracy, justice, freedom, and human dignity, and insisted that they intend to be "as inclusive as possible."
"With the new Egypt, it doesn't matter anymore what the party wants," said businessman and FJP adviser Hussein El-Kazzaz. "Our compass is not a movement that's internally inward-looking, our compass is now with the revolution.... Our distinct belief is that the country cannot be be run by one faction."
That's why, he explained, the Muslim Brotherhood flip-flopped on its decision to field a presidential candidate:
"We didn't want to nominate someone ... because we didn't want to be monopolizing positions of power at that time..... It's a very different reality now than it was 10 months ago."
Even though the FJP holds over 47 percent of the seats in Egypt's parliament, Member of Parliament Abdul Mawgoud Dardery from Luxor acknowledges that the parliament itself hasn't exactly been smooth sailing:
"It's very tough [to negotiate].... All of a sudden now we are expected to decide ... the fate of our country through a very, very democratic process from which traditions and figureheads are and history and so on are being created as we go."
He added that the members have tried to do "traditional things," like holding meetings and using mediators, but that it's not working "100 percent."
El-Kazzaz also argued that the Freedom and Justice Party seeks to take a "middle ground" when it comes to the existential struggle between secular liberalism and traditionalism:
"We have a tradition that needs to be respected ... but we cannot ignore human civilization ... Europe has great things to offer, the United States has great things to offer, let's look at them and choose what we like, leave what we don't like."
If only it were that easy. Unfortunately for the FJP's philosophies of inclusion and finding a middle ground, it appears that Islamists are set to dominate Egypt's constitutional committee, a crisis that's already alienating the country's minority groups.
KHALED ELFIQI/AFP/Getty Images
The theme at this year's J Street conference was "Making History," and that's exactly what happened on Monday evening when Barukh Binah, the deputy chief of mission at Israel's Washington embassy, became "the first Israeli diplomat to attend a conference of the liberal pro-Israel group since its establishment in 2008."
Binah, who confessed in the beginning of his address that he has only held this post for two months, also revealed that it was his his first public appearance in the United States. Perhaps it was his condescending tone, or maybe it was just the fact that he spoke on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is wildly unpopular among J Street's constituency, but the Washington newcomer's speech was less than well-received. He began with a very Netanyahu-esque reminder that the past (read: the Holocaust) is "alive and scorching."
The unpopular message continued as Binah accused the audience of not standing with the Israelis:
"We share your democratic values, but...our borders are curved and dusty and made of missiles and mayhem, and as we continue to face incurable threats we have to make decisions of life and death...At the end of the day it is we the Israelis who must bear the ultimate burden and may have to pay the ultimate price...We need you to stand with us. It is as simple as that and someone ought to say it. Internal activism is a central part of democratic society, but pressures on the elected government of Israel can present us with a problem, davka when we need you the most."
Davka is a notoriously untranslatable Hebrew word that in this sense means "especially."
He also applauded J Street for its "repudiation" of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS), noting that "our shared view in that respect is that BDS is not a form of criticism, but a blatant...attack."
No Israeli diplomatic presence would be complete without a reference to Iran, and Binah repeated the popular line that "while we seek and support peace, the ayatollah's of Iran call for our annihilation." Convincing a room full of peaceniks that the Palestinians should be blamed for thwarting negotiations was also a tough sell:
"We're willing to put contentious issues on the table, but we find that the metaphorical table was...blown up."
His talk exploding tables and rabid Ayatollahs was somewhat grim, but at least he threw in a Harry Potter reference, saying "This is not a game of political quidditch."
Despite the audible booing and hissing throughout, Binah told me after he spoke that he thought the speech was well-received, and that the embassy sent him there because of the "ripeness of time."
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert (fending off corruption charges back home) had a message more the crowd's liking, discussing the peace plan he presented to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas:
"I thought then and I think now that there is no alternative to what I proposed and one day...when we celebrate peace with the Palestinians, this peace will be identical to what I proposed to Abu Mazen finally and formally and officially on September 16, 2008."
The Olmert peace plan, to which Abbas did not respond, called for a two-state solution whose borders are based on the 1967 pre-Six Day War lines.
Olmert ended his keynote speech with the adamant affirmation that Kadima, the centrist Israeli political party he helped create in 2005, is the best alternative to Israel's political status quo. Unfortunately for Olmert, the heated race for the Kadima premiership between current chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Member of Knesset Shaul Mofaz has become just as divisive as the America's Republican candidate tug-of-war.
Between a Netanyahu talking head and an embattled politician who continues to advocate for a peace plan past its prime, the evening was a bizarre and disconnected affair that seemed to reinforce the frustrated and pessimistic mood at this year's conference.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
J Street, the "political home" for pro-Israel, pro-two state solution (read: anti-AIPAC) American Jews, kicked off its third annual conference in Washington on Saturday night. But despite its massive efforts to mobilize behind President Obama, executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami doesn't seem to be terribly satisfied with the commander in chief's track record in a press roundtable:
"We would like to see the president do more, we'd like to see the administration take a more proactive role in outlining the parameters for a resolution of the conflict, and to build an international coalition of supporters beyond the Quartet."
Ben-Ami also invoked Libya and Iran as examples for the White House to follow as it builds consensus for a two-state solution.
"The way the world was brought together around Libya and around the Iran sanctions, that's the kind of mobilization of international support that the administration will need to do if it wants to re-establish American credibility in foreign policy making."
A panel discussion held during the conference on Sunday about the current prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace took on a bleaker tone. According to Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, the current administration is simply exhausted:
"They were serious, but realized that they didn't have the political stomach...They thought they had the will to see it through, but they got exhausted."
Nadav Eyal of Israel's Maariv newspaper added that the president does not appear to be invested in the issue:
"Obama needs to come into this personally, and he has not done that."
Leila Hilal, co-director of the New America Foundation's Middle East Task Force, even questioned the viability of the two-state solution itself:
"This is the time to think about new strategies. Two states is a largely hollow and abstract notion, and the Palestinian public has no interest in dead-end talks...Conditions are not ripe, and the U.S. administration cannot force proposals."
For an organization that's supposed to rally support for a peaceful two-state solution, this year's attendees seem fairly pessimistic about the chances of achieving that goal. Ben-Ami may be optimistic that the stars will someday align, but for now J Street's timing is all wrong.
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images
While the United States has only recently made tentative efforts to engage with Myanmar, India has, controversially, had decent relations with the country's government for quite some time. Human rights activists criticized Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with Than Shwe in 2012, calling it "unbecoming" for a democracy to welcome the Burmese military ruler.
At a time when relations are being renewed between Myanmar and the West, there's been a flurry of recent activity along India's 1,019-mile northeastern border with the country. The seven states of northeastern India are currently at their lowest period of insurgent violence in decades, and the shift in relations with their neighbor across the border could have enormous socio-economic implications for India, China and Southeast Asia.
On Feb. 22, India's foreign minister met with Myanmar's construction minister in New Delhi to speak about expanding both aviation and highway transportation between the two countries. The bridge in question would pass through the Naga region, inhabited by the tribal Naga people in the hilly district of Tamenglong in Manipur. For months, the United Naga Council -- an organization based in northeastern India -- had resisted such developments.
According to Samrat of the New York Times, several old routes cross the border between northeastern India and Myanmar. Some, like the World War II Stilwell Road, built under the U.S. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, had become "ghost roads," used mainly by Naga and Kachin insurgents to transport weapons and drugs, chiefly poppies to make and smuggle heroin across the border. But these roads have gradually returned to relatively law-abiding uses. Nonetheless, Indian officials claim Burmese authorities do not actively work to curb the flow of drugs and weapons into India.
In 1991, India's central government implemented a ‘‘Look East Policy'' to forge closer ties with the country's eastern neighbors. Critics say that Indian officials have made little attempt to put the policy into practice, but now the government is clearly looking to pick up the pace. During its many years of self-imposed isolation, Myanmar's only major economic partner was China, giving Beijing a strategic advantage in a nation that borders five countries.
The protestors of London's "Occupy" chapter have chosen to camp out in the forecourt of St. Paul's cathedral. The site of the tent city was originally to be further down the road at the home of the London Stock Exchange and rightful equivalent to Wall Street, but Paternoster Square is privately owned property and, right now, it's heavily guarded. But the cathedral locale has become a flashpoint of a larger, unexpected controversy: a schism in the Anglican Church.
A lawsuit has been filed by the City of London Corporation (CLC) to evict the protestors on the grounds that they are blocking traffic. While the demonstrators aren't actually occupying the streets or, more specifically, the highways which are the jurisdiction of the CLC's Planning and Transportation Committee responsible for the suit, committee member Michael Wellbank explained that "encampment on a busy thoroughfare clearly impacts the rights of others."
In fact, the iconic St. Paul's Cathedral closed its doors to worshippers and tourists last week due to safety concerns for the first time since WWII and joined the CLC's lawsuit last Friday. But since the court action could lead to the forceful removal of protesters, and ultimately violence, the cathedral proceeds without three of its clergymen who have already resigned in protest. One of them, Canon Chancellor Giles Frase, explained his decision to the Guardian:
St. Paul was a tentmaker. If you looked around and you tried to recreate where Jesus would be born -- for me, I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp. It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent. The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence.
Church leaders seem divided between general sympathy for the protesters' goals, and a desire to have them advocate those goals somewhere else. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams addressed the controversy for the first time today, saying, "The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St. Paul's remain very much on the table and we need -- as a Church and as society as a whole -- to work to make sure that they are properly addressed."
Meanwhile, the bishop of London, Rev. Richard Chartres, was called a hypocrite by angry protestors as he tried to walk a fine line with his remarks supporting both their causes and their peacefully disbanding. On Sunday, he told the crowd, "You have a notice saying, ‘What would Jesus do? That is a question for me as well."
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
Yes, James Traub's in-depth profile of Senator John Kerry in the New York Times Magazine this week is interesting for a number of reasons (the takeaway -- Kerry is a shadow secretary of state), but the quote that makes the article is this gem from Vice President Joe Biden, which Traub calls a "Bidencentric view of Kerry's status":
I don't think there's ever been a chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who's had as close a relationship with the vice president who's had as close a relationship with the president ... John can see the president any time he wants, but we have all three found that the best interlocutor is me.
Ironically, "The best interlocutor is me" is also the likely title of the vice president's forthcoming autobiography -- at least, that's the one we're lobbying for.
AFP/ Getty Images
There's no relief in sight for the embattled 80-year-old media tycoon. Today, British analysts grappled with a question many have called unprecedented -- what power, if any, does the Parliament have to compel Rupert Murdoch to testify? Murdoch, an American citizen, declined an invitation to attend a parliamentary hearing next Tuesday (though he said he will participate in a separate inquiry set up by Prime Minister David Cameron).
The chair of the committee said if Murdoch doesn't show on Tuesday, he would be in contempt of Parliament -- though there was confusion about what that actually means since its rarely ever been implemented. The BBC said it was "unchartered waters,"given that Murdoch is a non-Brit.
"If they have any shred of sense of responsibility or accountability for their position of power, then they should come and explain themselves before a select committee," the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said today (referring to Murdoch and his son James, who has also declined to testify Tuesday).
The Murdochs are most likely trying to buy some time, hoping the media frenzy dies down a little before they are forced to talk publicly -- in what is likely to be a very hostile setting. (James said he'd be willing to testify in August).
In the meantime, things aren't going any better for Murdoch in his home country -- the United States -- nor in Australia, his place of birth. The scandal has truly taken on a global dimension.
United States: Today, there were more calls for a congressional investigation. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), a powerful member of the House oversight committee, accused Murdoch's company of potentially engaging in "political espionage or personal espionage."
He joined Republican Peter King, who yesterday called on the FBI to look into whether journalists tried to tap into the phones of 9/11 victims. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said earlier in the week he suspected a U.S. probe would "find some criminal stuff."
A U.S. criminal investigation -- though unlikely -- would be disastrous for Murdoch, who's empire is based in the United States. It would put the company -- and its many holdings, including the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the New York Post,under a microscope like never before. Even beyond illegal activity, embarrassing or less-than-exemplary practices could be exposed.
Eliot Spitzer, for one, believes more shady dealings will emerge -- and will likely include Murdoch properties based in the United States. "Given the frequency with which he shuttled his senior executives and editors across the various oceans-Pacific as well as Atlantic-it is unlikely that the shoddy ethics were limited to Great Britain," the former prosecutor, governor, CNN anchor, and expert on shoddy ethics wrote in Slate.
Australia: Speaking of the Pacific, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today said she was open to initiating a probe of Murdoch's Australia holdings -- which comprise nearly 70 percent of the country's print media and a good chunk of its TV market.
Gillard said she was "disgusted" by the extent of the scandal in Britain.
The head of News Limited, Murdoch's Australian media arm, John Hartigan, said there would be an internal review of the company's practices, but said it was "offensive and wrong [to] connect the behavior in the UK with News Limited's conduct in Australia."
So, where does that leave Murdoch? Maybe China, where he's been expanding his footprint lately, is looking like a good refuge. His wife, Wendi, just produced a movie that is a hit there.
In fact, she told the Los Angeles Times -- apparently without any sense of irony -- that she had little trouble raising money for the movie: "Everybody in China wanted to give us money," she told the paper. "In China, everybody knows who I am. It definitely helped. They have confidence in me."
Obama tries to shore up Jewish support, while poll shows he doesn't have much to worry about
A new gallup poll released today shows that despite recent remarks by President Obama that the 1967 borders should be the starting point in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians -- a position that angered pro-Israel hawks -- most American Jews still approve of the president. His approval rating among American Jews in June averaged 60 percent, down from 68 percent in May (a change that corresponds with declining numbers among other groups, reflecting the president's inflated rating in May, post-bin Laden raid, Gallup said). Thirty-two percent of American Jews disapproved of the president's job in June.
By comparison, Gallup found that his approval rating among all groups in June averaged 46 percent.
The Washington Post reported last week that Obama's team will "go on the offensive against critics of his stance on Israel," with the help of Jewish supporters, including community leader Alan Solow, former Congressmen Mel Levin and Robert Wexler, and business executive Penny Pritzker.
Obama's supporters say the plan is in effect an acknowledgment that conservative attacks on Obama's Israel stance have made defections among Jewish voters and donors a possibility they must take seriously. Obama's advisers see a need to push back even harder on the attacks than they did in 2008, in part because Obama now has a record on the issue to defend - a record that even Obama's supporters concede has not been adequately explained.
Obama won close to 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. Politico reported last week that some Jewish Democratic Party donors were worried that Obama's stance on Israel could cost him support in 2012 in the Jewish community.
In its analysis, Gallup challenged the Politico article, saying its conclusions may apply to "certain politically active members of the Jewish-American community," but are "not reflective of the views of Jewish Americans more generally."
Romney heading to London this week to raise money, may meet with PM Cameron
Pawlenty won't name the ‘isolationists'
In a decidedly hawkish foreign policy speech this week at the Council on Foreign Relations, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty called out members of his party who "now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments. This is no time for uncertain leadership in either party."
Last night, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren asked Pawlenty to name names. The former governor wouldn't get into specifics, but said "there are several candidates for president and several leading voices in the party beyond that in Washington arguing for going further than the president in terms of an accelerated withdrawal, arguing that we have no business and he has no authority in Libya, arguing we should do nothing in Syria, arguing that we should not have any role in Iraq and beyond," he said.
On the campaign trail, several contenders have raised doubts about the extent of our mission in Afghanistan and Libya, including former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and -- to a lesser extent -- former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
The Huffington Post quoted Rep. Paul's son, Senator Rand Paul, attacking Pawlenty's use of the word isolationist.
"It's not a valid term. It's a pejorative term. It's name calling," Paul told the website. "Isolationism would mean that you're nowhere any of the time and you're completely within a walled-in state. I don't know anybody who's for that."
Americans largely support Obama's Afghan plan
Though the GOP field is somewhat divided on the president's Afghanistan withdrawal plan, a majority of Americans polled recently by Gallup, backed what he's doing. 72 percent supported his plan, while 23 percent opposed it. 50 percent of Republicans said they agreed with his decision to pull 10,000 troops out this year.
When the poll got into specifics of numbers, it found that 29 percent wanted more troops to come home, 19 percent said the number of troops Obama mentioned was too high. 43 percent thought the figure was just right.
NYT/CBS Poll on Republican candidates: Great news for "Anyone else"
Meanwhile, in another poll, likely Republican voters seemed unimpressed with their field of candidates so far. Only 23 percent said they were satisfied with the people in the race. 71 percent said they wanted more choices.
67 percent could not name a single candidate they were excited about. While Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann both had 7 percent saying they were enthusiastic about their candidacies.
The poll wasn't all bad news for Republicans. It found that Democrats are less enthusiastic about the race in general than Republicans. Only 24 percent of Democrats said they were more excited for 2012 than they were for 2008. 33 percent of Republicans were more excited this year and self-described Tea Party supporters were 44 percent more excited.
Perry to Justice Department: Stop Gaza flotilla
Gov. Rick Perry hasn't announced he's running for president yet, but he's already wading into international issues and sounding a lot like a candidate. This week he sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to do more to stop a planned flotilla of ships to Gaza, which are carrying humanitarian supplies. Israel has a maritime blockade against Gaza.
"As an American citizen and governor of one of its largest states...I write to encourage you to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies to enjoin and prevent these illegal actions, and to prosecute any who may elect to engage in them in spite of your preemptive efforts," Perry wrote.
Perry said participating in the flotilla would violate U.S. law because it would provide "material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization," meaning Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Perry has visited Israel several times in the past and "has touted what he calls its ‘special kinship' with Texas."
Newt to Obama: ‘Tide of war' isn't receding
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attacked President Barack Obama's assertion in his June 22 speech announcing the troop drawdown in Afghanistan that the "tide of war is receding." He said the country is facing a "tsunami of violence building offshore," according to Politico.
"I want to challenge the president to withdraw the phrase because it totally misleads the American people, and presents a delusional version of the world," he said at a Maryland Republican Party dinner in Baltimore.
Gingrich said the White House should have taken stronger action against Pakistan after it reportedly arrested CIA informants who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden.
"We should have taken extraordinary actions against Pakistanis -- within 24 hours," Gingrich told the crowd. "We should have said if you don't release those people you can assume we have no relationship and we'll chat with you from India."
He also accused the president of "sleepwalking" through the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Romney to fundraise in London
One of Mitt Romney's favorite knocks on Obama is that he is too European. In the words of the GOP frontrunner, the president takes "his inspiration not from the small towns and villages of New Hampshire but from the capitals of Europe." So, it might strike some people as a little surprising that Romney is planning to travel to London next month -- which, after all, is one of those "capitals of Europe" -- to attend a fund-raiser, according to the Boston Globe. Very few presidential candidates have held fundraisers on foreign soil. Rudy Giuliani was the first in 2007 -- also in London -- and Obama held one in the London home of Rupert Murdoch's daughter, Elizabeth, in 2008.
According to the Globe, suggested contributions for the July 6 party at Dartmouth House -- "a building not far from Hyde Park that has marble fireplaces, Louis XIV walnut paneling, and a painted ceiling by Pierre Victor Galland" -- is $2,500 a person.
Santorum and Beck discuss Israel
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was on Glenn Beck's Fox News show yesterday, and the pair discussed more than just kissing "on the mouth" -- though they did discuss that too.
Israel -- and specifically efforts to delegitimize Israel -- came up. Santorum said the United States should not force Israel to take part in negotiations since the "Palestinian Authority [and] others in the Middle East refuse to accept Israel's right to be there."
"Do you think America has enough courage to turn the tide on Israel," Beck asked the presidential candidate."
"If we had a strong leader who had the respect of the world," Santorum said. "We see now...a president backing away, who is an internationalist, someone who sees his role as almost transcending the presidency...and sees his role as to work with the international community to their ends. Not to the ends of the national security interest of our country. Not to the end of supporting allies who are strategic for us. But to the ends of some greater goal."
Whenever the two get together, the Middle East seems to come up. In April, they agreed that there is a coalition of "Sunni, Shia, socialists, and Islamists and jihadists working together [to form] a caliphate," Santorum said. Beck said the caliphate "begins with Turkey, Egypt and Iran."
Afghanistan was obviously front and center on the minds of the Republican hopefuls today. With the race for the nomination heating up, the potential candidates wasted little time weighing in on Obama's plan. Here's a look at where they came down -- plus, some of today's other foreign-policy news from the field.
GOP Candidates: Obama went too far... or he didn't go far enough
The candidates' reactions to Obama's Afghanistan troop drawdown speech has been overwhelmingly negative. But they've been critical for different reasons.
Newly declared candidate Jon Huntsman wants a more rapid drawdown, and Ron Paul said Obama's plan is "too little, too late."
On Obama's right, Tim Pawlenty seemed to go the farthest, saying on Fox News after the speech he was deeply concerned about Obama's plan. "When America goes to war, America needs to win," he said. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, and Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, agreed. "President Obama speaks of winding down our engagement in Afghanistan, but he does not emphasize the need for victory," Santorum said. Cain said Obama's plan "could embolden our enemy and endanger our troops."
Front-runner Mitt Romney took a more middle-of-the road view in a statement after the speech. "We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn't adhere to an arbitrary timetable," he said.
Sarah Palin not going to Sudan
The former Alaska governor was supposed to travel to war-ravaged Sudan next month on a tour with the evangelical leader Franklin Graham and Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, but she pulled out this week. Sources close to her told the Washington Post it was because of scheduling conflicts, but it might also have had something to do with security concerns. One U.S. official told the paper that safety would prove to be a challenge. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might be forced to cancel a trip there -- planned to coincide with South Sudan's independence ceremony next month -- for security reasons.
Graham told the Post he hoped Palin could reschedule the trip soon. "She would be a very good person to help draw attention to the plight of the Christians in South Sudan," he said. "We've got George Clooney, we've got some Hollywood-type people. I'm very grateful for what Mr. Clooney has done. But we need everybody we can find."
Palin previously traveled with Graham to Haiti to tour the earthquake devastation there.
Jon Huntsman consults with Republican heavyweights
In an interview with Politico, the former ambassador to China and the newest entrant into the presidential field reveals he has been consulting with some heavy-hitters of the Republican national security establishment. According to Politico, the list includes former National Security Advisor to George H.W. Bush Brent Scowcroft, former Deputy Secretary of State to George W. Bush Richard Armitage, and former director of policy planning for the State Department under W. -- and current head of the Council on Foreign Relations -- Richard Haass. All three are known for their realist views and past criticisms of the Iraq war. The nature of the consultation wasn't characterized, but their foreign-policy philosophies would seem to mesh with that of the candidate, who also said in the interview he would support a fast drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. Huntsman didn't give numbers, but said he would lay out his plan when he gives a "major foreign-policy address" later this summer.
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