Latest articles of Ami Field High-Speed Ahead2012-04-16T12:09:18Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="High Speed Rail in China " src="/s3/cache%2F10%2F50%2F10502dee2dafe8fbd30ecf2c3049aee2.jpg" alt="High Speed Rail in China " width="580" height="310" />China has faced a lot of criticism about its new high-speed rail service, especially after a train derailed in July 2010, killing 40 and injuring 192. But a new <a rel="nofollow" href="">World Bank study</a>&nbsp;found that the service is already larger in volume than that on the entire French high-speed rail network, and is rivaling the volume on the Japanese high-speed rail system.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The report forecasts that rapid growth in traffic on China&rsquo;s high-speed rail system will continue, as new lines currently under construction are completed, urban incomes rise, and the movement of the population from rural areas to cities continues.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">High-speed rail services have now been operating in China for three years, and the sheer speed with which the rail system has been built is <a rel="nofollow" href="">awe-inspiring</a>. As many as 100,000 workers per line have built about 5,000-miles of track in just six years&mdash;sometimes ahead of schedule. The Beijing-to-Shanghai line not originally expected to open until 2012, opened early. The entire system is set to be completed by 2020.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;A general picture is emerging in which high-speed rail, as in other countries, is competing strongly on short and medium-distance routes up to 1,000 km while air remains dominant over longer distances,&rdquo; said Richard Bullock, a railway expert and consultant to the World Bank and an author on the report.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">For the United States and Europe, the implications are huge. China&rsquo;s manufacturing and global export abilities are likely to grow as more cities are connected and workers can move faster. The United States has had trouble getting bipartisan support for a high-speed rail service, although President Obama is a strong supporter.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Many thought rail ridership in China would come from passengers moving from air to high-speed rail. But this has not been the case. Instead, a larger source of ridership has been &lsquo;generated&rsquo; trips, or new trips by passengers who are traveling because of the greater convenience of a high-speed service.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Evidence suggests that high-speed rail can compete with air travel at distances up to 1,000 kilometers, but not over longer distances.&nbsp;For shorter distances, it seems to be able to take almost all of the market share from buses as long as train stations are conveniently located. But there are still more new passengers, who have never traveled these routes before,&nbsp;using high-speed rail,&nbsp;than former bus or air passengers switching to the train service. This implies a very high demand for high-speed rail service - a positive sign.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The report is &ldquo;cautiously optimistic&rdquo; about the long-term ridership and economic viability of the major high-speed&nbsp;railway network in China. &ldquo;However, this optimism is tempered by the need to develop a sustainable financing mechanism in the short to medium term and to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of the peripheral extensions of the network,&rdquo; the report concluded.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Meanwhile, <a rel="nofollow" href="">last month</a>, heavy rain caused a section of a 180-mile high-speed rail link in central China, set to open in May, to collapse, state news agency Xinhua said.&nbsp;There were no reports of any injuries from the collapsed track.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">China's cabinet criticized the railways ministry last December for poor safety standards.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo in homepage &copy;&nbsp;DR)</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy; Bombardier Transportation)</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;"><br /></span></p> Gross National Happiness: Too Good To Be True?2012-04-16T11:34:58Z<p><img style="vertical-align: text-top; margin-top: 9px; margin-bottom: 9px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Un Conference on Happiness" src="/s3/cache%2Ff5%2F30%2Ff530e7e47f7dcfa229c4fbcc28c7dba5.jpg" alt="Un Conference on Happiness" width="580" height="400" />Are you happy?</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">While this may sound like a frivolous question, in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and increasingly around the world, happiness is serious business.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Last month for the first time ever, the <a rel="nofollow" href=",8599,2110914,00.html">United Nations held a conference</a> on happiness, with over 600 global delegates. This came after a happiness resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly last summer. The leader in this movement was Bhutan.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In 2005, the Royal Government of Bhutan developed Gross National Happiness (GNH) indicators in order to measure happiness in the way that many other countries measure economic progress. In 2007, the first Gross National Happiness survey was completed in Bhutan with about 950 participants, with the survey questionnaire including about 750 variables &ldquo;which are objective, subjective, and open-ended in nature,&rdquo; according to the <a rel="nofollow" href="">Gross National Happiness website.</a> Then in 2010 another GNH survey was completed in Bhutan with 7,142 participants across both rural and urban settings. The most recent survey was based on 72 different indicators across nine domains, which include community vitality, time use and psychological wellbeing.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The idea behind GNH is that progress should not only be measured economically. The richest countries in the world aren&rsquo;t necessarily the happiest, or healthiest, and the reverse is true as well. The success of our societies should be measured on &ldquo;people's overall quality of life, not just their standard of living,&rdquo; urged Dr. Mark Williamson, director of Action for Happiness, a movement of people taking action to create a happier society, in <a rel="nofollow" href="">an article in The Guardian</a>. &ldquo;Economic growth can of course be beneficial, for example, by lifting people out of poverty; but it can also come with unwanted side-effects, like increases in inequality, mental illness and environmental damage. The economy is a means to an end; the ultimate end is the happiness of the people.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">At the United Nations Happiness Conference last month, Bhutanese prime minister, Jigmi Thinley, said in his opening address that the world was &ldquo;deeply troubled&rdquo; and that the focus on wealth creation at any cost was not healthy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke of happiness as a fundamental human goal and aspiration, but warned that many are just trying to survive, making happiness an unachievable goal.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">US economist Jeffery Sachs, who is a special advisor to Ban Ki-Moon, pointed out that although the United States has had a threefold increase in GNP per capita since 1960, there has not been a corresponding increase in happiness. Meanwhile, other countries, he said, have much greater levels of happiness and much lower per capita income. In conjunction with the conference, Sachs and colleagues <span>John Helliwell and Richard Layard released the World Happiness Report, which said that happiness could be achieved independently of economic progress.<br /></span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The outcome of the conference was a commitment from the delegates to put happiness and wellbeing at the forefront of global discussions of Sustainable Development at the major Rio+20 conference this June in Brazil. This includes ensuring that wellbeing forms part of the new Millennium Development Goals, which will be revamped and renamed Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo AFP)</span></p>Pro-Democracy Parties Win Through In Senegal & Myanmar2012-04-10T11:03:27Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="float: left; margin: 5px 9px;" title="Senegal elections" src="/s3/cache%2F86%2F95%2F8695a3c7216442dfa3f9f66c78ed79bc.jpg" alt="Senegal elections" width="300" height="200" />In two very different parts of the world, pro-democracy election victories gave activists hope that peaceful political transitions and the acceptance of opposition candidates into military parliaments are a very real possibility.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a rel="nofollow" href="">On March 25</a>, Senegalese&nbsp; president Abdoulaye Wade conceded defeat peacefully, after he tried to win a third term (despite the fact the Senegalese constitution expressly forbids more than two terms). The peaceful transition was a welcome relief&nbsp; to many on a continent where elections often lead to riots and drawn out spates of violence. To be fair, Senegal&nbsp; has been held up as an example of peaceful elections a number of times in the past, especially given the history of turbulence of its neighbors. Free elections have been held here since the late 19th century.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Wade had spent the past few months announcing that he was invincible and saying he would seek a third term. Which is why it was surprising to so many when he quietly left office last month after telephoning his opponent - Macky Sall, a former prime minister -&nbsp;to congratulate him, according to the Senegalese Press Agency.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the days leading up to the first round of voting in February there were Arab Spring-like protests led by opposition politicians and Senegalese youth who wrote rap songs criticizing the 85-year old president.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Although 50-year-old Sall finished second in the first round of voting, he came back to beat Wade in the second round after other contenders gave him their backing.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">By conceding defeat so quickly, Wade may have been trying to avoid the trauma that has afflicted neighboring Mali. Last month, Mali seemed to regress back to a military dictatorship after a coup saw power change hands.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;Senegal, in a transparent election, has proven once again that it is and remains a great democracy, a great country,&rdquo; Mr. Wade&rsquo;s press secretary said in a statement on Sunday announcing his concession.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a rel="nofollow" href="">Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons</a>, reporting from Dakar, said: "A lot of people could not envisage Abdoulaye Wade ever standing down. He was going for a controversial third term, insisting the constitution could be changed against the will of many, many people. He really misjudged the electorate&hellip;but within an hour of the polls closing we were told by a special adviser to the presidency that if it is a defeat he will do the honorable thing and make a phone call to his opposition candidate and basically concede defeat. Then, within an hour-and-a-half that phone call was made and people were already on the streets celebrating.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Then on April 4, political activist and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi won her seat in Myanmar's by-elections and her party claimed a landslide victory, with the National League for Democracy (NLD) winning all but one of the seats it contested.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">While the country&rsquo;s pro-democracy movement cheered, the military establishment&nbsp;and its proxy party, the USDP, must have been surprised. The USDP didn&rsquo;t even win all the seats in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, a city created by military generals and populated by government civil servants, <a rel="nofollow" href="">according to the BBC</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Despite the excitement, there are also ripples of tension - given that Myanmar's parliament is still dominated by the USDP and the block of seats still reserved for unelected members of the armed forces.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Those interviewed by the BBC after the election pointed out that 66-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi could not be expected to change the country on her own. Especially given that she now takes her seat in a parliament dominated by men who served the autocratic regime she fought against her whole life.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Yet the US and other Western nations are cautiously optimistic and want to show support to the reformers within the government.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;We are prepared to match positive steps of reform in Burma with steps of our own,&rdquo; US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters in Washington.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Others aren&rsquo;t so sure.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;The US and EU should not reward the regime simply because the NLD has some seats in the parliament,&rdquo; Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, warned. &ldquo;They should wait until we see clearly how these newly-elected MPs are treated by the USDP and the military in parliament.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo in frontpage &copy; AFP)</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy; AP)</span></p>When Is The Cure Worse Than The Disease? Haiti's Cholera Crisis2012-04-09T08:44:45Z<p style="text-align: justify;">What completely preventable disease can kill someone in a matter of hours through dehydration and is caused by contaminated water and food?</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The answer?&nbsp; Cholera. And it&rsquo; is ravaging the Caribbean nation of Haiti as I write.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Earlier this week, the U.N.&rsquo;s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced in a monthly bulletin that health officials in Haiti recorded 77 new cases of cholera per day in early March, when the annual rainy season began, and the disease begins its usual downward spiral.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Seventy-seven cases per day may sound like a lot - and it is - but in June 2011, aid workers were seeing over 1,000 cases per day, <a rel="nofollow" href="">according to the Associated Press</a>. Partners in Health said the number of cholera cases nearly tripled from almost 19,000 in April 2011 to more than 50,000 in June of the same year.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Medical teams are trying to stop the spread of the disease, but without central co-ordination or salaries paid to those working in cholera treatment facilities, it is an uphill battle, says the U.N. <a rel="nofollow" href="../../../../article/view/477/">Partners in Health </a>wants to distribute a cholera vaccine, but the effort is being held up while an ethics committee decides whether to allow it.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="vertical-align: text-top; margin: 8px auto; display: block;" title="cholera prevention" src="/s3/cache%2F27%2Fc7%2F27c7991c4e1f4e4b39fb7d9850a96eb6.jpg" alt="cholera prevention" width="560" height="346" />Haiti is considered to have the largest cholera outbreak in the world, killing over 7,000 people and sickening another 530,000, health officials say.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It is now believed that the disease was introduced to Haiti by a U.N. peace-keeping unit from Nepal, when Nepalese peace-keepers arrived in the country to help clean up several months after the January 2010 earthquake.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The <a rel="nofollow" href="">Associated Press did an investigation</a>, alongside a team from Harvard and a French-led team of epidemiologists, to try to pinpoint the cause of the cholera outbreak. The investigation found a slew of evidence that showed the U.N. base as the source of the outbreak. Even Bill Clinton, the U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, <a rel="nofollow" href="">seemed to admit</a> as much when asked who was to blame for the outbreak.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a rel="nofollow" href="">The New York Times</a> also wrote a cover story pointing fingers at the U.N. It is a terrible tragedy when those sent to help actually do more harm than good.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Now the question is: will anyone be held accountable?</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The reality is: probably not. As Bill Clinton said: &ldquo;No, but maybe next time&rdquo;.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Next time could come sooner than any of us wants to believe. The key is that when it does we need to ensure that the aid workers and peace-keepers we send into a country are not harboring diseases themselves that could afflict the local population.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Maybe next time, the U.N. will follow its own recommendations from the U.N. panel report of May 2011, which singled out the peace-keepers and recommended that the U.N. change its rules so that another half a million people don&rsquo;t have to suffer from a potentially deadly disease.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy; Partners in Health) </span></p>WEF Calls For Governments To Expedite Adoption of Mobile Financial Services2012-03-30T19:33:51Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 8px; margin-right: 8px; float: left;" title="WEF" src="/s3/cache%2F01%2Ffc%2F01fc43fe0803ae1062735cfde7df0276.jpg" alt="WEF" width="280" height="186" />In <a rel="nofollow" href="">Fast Company magazine</a> this month, Irin Carmon wrote about 32 year-old Nehemias Navas-Perez, a landscaper from New York who sends a couple of hundred dollars to his family in Guatemala every month.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Remittances, she says, account for approximately 11 percent&nbsp;of GDP in small countries like Guatemala. In fact, in 2011 the World Bank reports there were $483 billion in remittances worldwide.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In a <a rel="nofollow" href="">new report</a> released earlier this month, the World Economic Forum stated that not only can (WEF) widespread adoption of financial services help individuals feel financially included, but it can save billions of dollars a year. The report,&nbsp;entitled <a rel="nofollow" href="">Galvanizing Support: The Role of Government in Advancing Adoption of Mobile Financial Services</a>&nbsp;was developed in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Yet despite the understanding of the benefits of mobile financial services, wide-scale adoption has yet to be achieved. One reason: no-one has stepped up to the plate to co-ordinate activities across the various actors and ensure integration.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;Mobile financial services represent a fundamentally transformational opportunity to connect billions of people to the formal economy,&rdquo; said William Hoffman, Head of the Telecommunications Industry, World Economic Forum USA. &ldquo;A renewed commitment by all stakeholders to not only discuss the potential of mobile financial services, but to actually use it, is needed to ensure the promise of this opportunity is realized.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It&rsquo;s not only individuals who send money abroad through wire transfer companies such as Western Union. The report shows that, within emerging economies, government disbursements account for about $1 trillion per year - and an estimated 20 per cent&nbsp;of those funds (or $200 billion) -&nbsp;fails to reach the intended recipients due to mismanagement, fraud and/or corruption.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">That&rsquo;s why mobile financial services are so critical. By using mobile phones to transfer money, the transaction is secure, authenticated, reliable and personalized, which minimizes the chance of leakages, the report says.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The report further&nbsp;highlights key strategies governments can adopt with regards to mobile financial services to help reduce costs and risks and connect individuals to the formal economy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">One of the benefits of mobile financial services is that governments can use them to distribute money for welfare programs and salaries of government employees who do not possess bank accounts.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;Governments in the developing world have a huge opportunity on their hands. However, it needs dedicated focus from government and private sector alike,&rdquo; said Neeraj Aggarwal, a New Delhi-based partner at BCG. &ldquo;A few countries, like India for example, have started taking steps to enable the full potential of mobile financial services, but there is still a long way to go. These first experiments can have significant learnings not only for India but also for other developing economies.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy;&nbsp;&nbsp;Jolanda Flubacher for&nbsp;World Economic Forum)</span><br /><br /></p>U.S. Sends Out Mixed Signals on Russia2012-03-29T12:43:15Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 8px; margin-right: 8px; float: left;" title="Putin's" src="/s3/cache%2Ff6%2Fba%2Ff6ba67db9e4683975708fef1dcf16a02.jpg" alt="Putin" width="280" height="213" />After Vladimir Putin won Russia&rsquo;s presidential election earlier this month, ripples of disappointment spread throughout Russia and the rest of the&nbsp;world.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Given the rockiness of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia in recent months, many were surprised to hear that President Barack Obama is maintaining his current policy towards the Kremlin despite the fact that Putin based his election campaign on anti-Americanism and has pursued policies that are against vital U.S. interests, such as his military support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">An <a rel="nofollow" href="">editorial in the Washington Post</a> lambasted Obama for playing nice with Putin.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It didn't help that just this week, President Obama was <a rel="nofollow" href="">caught on a microphone</a> telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he will have more &ldquo;flexibility&rdquo; on nuclear defence missile negotiations once the election year is over - a sign some see as Obama putting his own political future ahead of democratic change in Russia. <a rel="nofollow" href=""></a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Not to mention that, after Putin&rsquo;s election -&nbsp;one that was by all accounts not free or fair -&nbsp;the White House <a rel="nofollow" href="">released a statement</a> saying that Obama telephoned Putin &ldquo;to congratulate him on his recent victory in the Russian presidential election.&rdquo;&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href=""></a> Again, there was no talk of the protests, the fraudulent election or, more generally,&nbsp;democracy in Russia. Or discussions about Syria, which&nbsp;ought to&nbsp;be at the top of the administration&rsquo;s mind since only last month Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Moscow&rsquo;s obstruction of action by the U.N. Security Council on Syria was &ldquo;just despicable.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Nonetheless, Putin seems to realize he is on shaky ground with his own constituents. Hundreds of thousands of Russians took to the streets earlier this year to protest against what they see as fraud in the presidential and parliamentary elections, and to demand political reform. Many experts believe Russia&rsquo;s economic and political policies are unsustainable, and that Putin will not finish his six-year term unless he makes changes to his regime.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Meanwhile, in a move to fend off more protests, <a rel="nofollow" href=",0,7879420.story">on Wednesday</a> the Russian parliament <a rel="nofollow" href=",0,7879420.story"></a>approved legislation intended to simplify the registration of political parties.<br /> <br /> The aim is that the legislation should help divide power instead of all of the power being in the hands of Putin and the governing United Russia party. But others are concerned that the new rules could result in such a profusion of political parties that elections will be confusing. <br /> <br /> Officials said 85 new parties are already on the waiting list for registration, among them at least four pro-monarchy parties, several socialist parties, several nationalist parties, one religious party, a pirates' party, a beer lovers' party, a party against everything, a party of love and a party &ldquo;without a name.&rdquo;<br /> <br /><span style="color: #888888;">&nbsp; (Photo &copy; DR)</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p>Liberia's Sirleaf Risks Clash With U.S. Over Gay Rights2012-03-28T17:08:00Z<p><img style="float: left; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 8px; margin-right: 8px;" title="Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf" src="/s3/cache%2Fa8%2F1b%2Fa81b7bfe83b996f99c2863d84196afee.jpg" alt="Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf" width="203" height="220" /></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Only three months after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf&nbsp;is being criticized for remarks she made about gay acts at a time when the country is considering strengthening punishments for homosexuality.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper,&nbsp;reportedly said, &ldquo;We've got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve,&rdquo;&nbsp;continuing &ldquo;we like ourselves just the way we are.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">These statements caused an uproar in the Obama administration, since the United States has given Liberia hundreds of millions of dollars in aid since the end of its 14-year civil war in 2006 and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton travelled to Liberia in January to attend Sirleaf's second inauguration. An article in the <a rel="nofollow" href="">Associated Press</a> pointed out that President Barack Obama recently told officials to use foreign assistance and diplomacy to promote gay rights globally. The Obama administration has asked Congress for more than $211 million in aid for Liberia for 2012.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that the U.S. would be speaking with Liberian officials to &ldquo;find out whether the reporting is accurate and express some surprise and concern.&rdquo; Nuland did not say how two bills on homosexuality under consideration by Liberian law-makers would affect U.S. assistance to Liberia, but she suggested that they could lead to a re-evaluation of certain programs.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;I think if there were major pieces of legislation that discriminated against any group, we would have to take that into account in our relationship,&rdquo; Nuland added.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Sirleaf is in a tough position. On the one hand, the U.S. holds the purse strings to hundreds of millions of dollars&nbsp;in aid, butthis is dependent on Liberia living up to certain human rights standards, including gay rights. On the other hand, most Liberians -&nbsp;like most of Africa -&nbsp;believe homosexuality is taboo and a form of Western cultural imperialism. Sirleaf has to decide whether she wants to offend the U.S.&rsquo; sensibilities or her own peoples'.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The situation brewing in Liberia is reminiscent of Uganda in 2009, when a legislator there introduced a bill that would impose the death penalty for some gays and lesbians.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In December, President Obama issued a policy encouraging countries to stop criminalizing homosexual activity, although he didn&rsquo;t specify any consequences for those who didn&rsquo;t oblige. Secretary of State Clinton then gave a speech in Geneva stating that &ldquo;gay rights are human rights.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy;&nbsp;The Nobel Foundation 2011)</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Frontpage Photo &copy;&nbsp;Erik F. Brandsborg)</span></p>Clinton: It's All About Jobs2012-02-23T10:43:54Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="float: left; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 8px; margin-right: 8px;" title="Clinton " src="/s3/cache%2F17%2F9f%2F179f5c1d6aa09e0461ffff9899694d48.jpg" alt="Clinton" width="340" height="227" />In this interconnected world, what happens in one country has a ripple effect throughout the global system.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton understands that, which is why she convened a global business conference in Washington, D.C. this week to discuss how America&rsquo;s foreign policy can help U.S. businesses abroad and in return spur an economic recovery in the United States.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It&rsquo;s all about jobs, she says. Which also helps to strengthen America&rsquo;s global leadership.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Now, here at the State Department, we call this 'economic statecraft'," Clinton said on Tuesday. &ldquo;And we have worked to position ourselves to lead in a changing world where security is shaped in financial markets and on factory floors, as well as in diplomatic negotiations and on the battlefield."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Clinton emphasized that over 1,000 economic officers are working with American companies, chambers of commerce, local businesses and local and national governments to open markets and find new customers on six continents. These officers are also forming new partnerships with companies, universities, NGOs, and philanthropies in order for the private sector to help solve the most difficult global challenges and drive sustainable development.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Five thousand jobs are supported in the U.S. for every $1 billion of goods the country exports, Clinton says. This is why President Obama set a goal of doubling America&rsquo;s exports over five years. And now with the passage of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, Clinton believes the U.S. will be ahead of schedule.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">America understands that economic strength and global leadership are key if it wants to remain competitive. "Our power in the 21st century depends not just on the size of our military but also on what we grow, how well we innovate, what we make and how effectively we sell," said Clinton. "Rising powers like China, India and Brazil understand this as well, and we can&rsquo;t sit on the sidelines while they put economics at the center of their foreign policies."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Clinton coined the term "jobs diplomacy", which she defined as being effective diplomatic champions for prosperity and growth. This means improving training for diplomats in economics, finance and markets,&nbsp; and directing senior diplomats to conduct business outreach and advocacy when they travel overseas. In order to do that the State Department has created a new under-secretariat for economic growth, energy and environment and will name Heidi Rediker as the first-ever chief economist at the State Department.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Clinton also talked about the need to push for reforms that allow more women to participate in the formal economy globally. She also called out China for not playing by trade rules - and criticized other administrations for not being as tough on China as Obama&rsquo;s administration has been. In fact, the Obama administration is establishing a special new Trade Enforcement Unit to go after unfair trading practices.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Clinton wants the U.S. business community to see America as their ally, something that has not happened before now. "We can&rsquo;t help you if you&rsquo;re not hungry enough to get out there and compete for the business that is going to be available," she said. "So it&rsquo;s up to American business leaders to hire, to train - retrain - your employees, to invest, to support education in America - all of which are key factors in our future success, our innovation, the kind of economy we&rsquo;re creating for the 21st century&hellip;We need to recapture America&rsquo;s dynamism and sustain our global leadership."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy; DR)</span></p>Is The U.S. Financing Chaos In Egypt?2012-02-21T15:05:03Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;" title="Egypt" src="/s3/cache%2F3c%2F6f%2F3c6fe4fdef0a18a8ebea9a8fd6b8a376.jpg" alt="Egypt" width="580" height="430" />Egypt has accused American groups of financing chaos in Egypt after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak&rsquo;s regime last year.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Cabinet Minister&nbsp;Faiza Abu El-Naga&nbsp;said in testimony in October that Washington was to blame for street protests throughout Egypt and for using the spread of discontent to strengthen U.S. and Israeli interests in the region.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">This week, Egypt announced it will begin hearing the criminal trial of 19 Americans and 24 others (February 26) in a case against foreign-funded pro-democracy groups, according to MENA, the country&rsquo;s state news agency. Analysts are worried that this is the deepest crisis in U.S.-Egyptian relations since the Camp David accords were signed over 30 years ago.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have called on Egypt to halt the criminal investigation, but Egypt's ruling military council has refused. American officials have threatened to hold back the $1.3 billion in U.S. aid that Egypt receives, mostly to its military. In return, Egyptian leaders of the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party have threatened to review the country&rsquo;s peace treaty with Israel.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The 43 people set to go on trial in Egypt, including Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, are accused of illegal foreign funding as part of a crackdown on NGOs. They are also being charged with operating local offices of international organizations without the necessary licenses. The NGOs have said they were working with Egyptians to build democracy and hold free elections, but the MENA report claims they were seeking to "infringe on Egyptian sovereignty".</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Americans work for four U.S.-based groups: the National Democratic Institute; the International Republican Institute; Freedom House and the International Center for Journalists.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">On Monday,&nbsp;Islamist presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail launched a campaign calling on Egyptians to donate their own money in order to be self-sufficient and abandon U.S aid, according to the Los Angeles Times.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The prosecutions come at a time when there is rising xenophobia and anti-U.S. sentiment from Egypt&rsquo;s top officials, who have stated that the country's problems are the work of the U.S.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy; Ga&euml;l Favari)</span><br /> <br /></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p>Will Putin's Plan to Buy Votes Pay Off?2012-02-15T10:46:15Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="float: left; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="Putin's Call for Democratic Change" src="/s3/cache%2F43%2Ff9%2F43f9f1ff51ebcbcb51ffae0a0927499d.jpg" alt="Putin" width="300" height="224" />It appears that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is trying to buy votes in the upcoming presidential elections in three weeks.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">This week, Putin promised to increase the wages of teachers and doctors and improve the healthcare and education systems in the country as a way to win over the middle class, after tens of thousands protested in freezing temperatures in December to show their dissatisfaction with the status quo.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">And last week, opponents of Putin hung a huge yellow banner facing the Kremlin with a giant "X" daubed across Putin&rsquo;s face, next to the words "Putin Go Away" in Russian.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"The sheer brazenness of such protests and the anger at Prime Minister Putin among the urban middle classes were unthinkable a year ago," said <a rel="nofollow" href="">New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Nevertheless, Putin is still expected to win the elections, which would mean 12 more years of his rule.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the meantime, Putin is trying to win over voters. This year, Putin has already increased wages for military and law enforcement personnel.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><a rel="nofollow" href="">According to the Financial Times</a>, Russian analysts said Putin&rsquo;s promises would not do away with the discontent brewing among the urban educated classes, given Putin&rsquo;s reputation for corruption and vote-rigging.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">But that won&rsquo;t stop Putin from trying. Last week he tried to woo Russia&rsquo;s internet activists by saying he would broaden Russia&rsquo;s political life.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The challenge for Putin, Mikhail Dmitriev, head of the government-connected Centre for Strategic Research, told the Financial Times, will be paying for the pledges he is making. Russia&rsquo;s budget is already in deficit this year.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Putin said the cost of fulfilling his promises will be about $30 billion. Economists say Putin will have to either raises taxes or cut social spending in&nbsp; years to come if he is going to slash the deficit.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Putin also called for a "workers' aristocracy" that would provide professional training, create broader public ownership of Russia&rsquo;s biggest companies, improve access to affordable housing and increase handouts to low-income families so they will continue to have children and counteract Russia&rsquo;s declining population.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy;&nbsp;RIA Novosti / Sergey Mamontov)</span></p>