Saturday, April 29, 2006
Newsflash: Mexico legalizes drug use… may have to put up wall to keep Americans out!
Ok, the headline is bit of a stretch. but I can see it as one solution to a major problem that Mexico has been unable or unwilling to contend with.
i can also see Jay Leno's Tonight Show and those guys from Comedy central's writer's pool and a lot of Hollywood getting ready to write punch lines to jokes; With the same message I had in my headline. While others will be doing it in hotel rooms in Mexico to be there when the bill is signed into law.
" The only remaining step was the signature of President Vicente Fox, whose office indicated he would sign it. Supporters said the law would let police focus on drug smuggling, rather than on busting casual users. The bill also would stiffen many drug-related penalties: for trafficking, for possession near schools, and for possession of even small quantities by government employees." - FOXNEWS.com reports.
I do expect if the law is enacted; a lot of those using and abusing the "personal use" law will be Americans and people from other countries who use and abuse drugs.
I can imagine those drums along the Border in "TJ" where people can dump contraband oin return to the USA will be full of "personal use" items of people returning to the USA.
But; the bottom line, it is a surrender to drug barons and drug dealers in way - however domestic consumption in Mexico is a problem that is encouraged by the huge demand across the Border.
The major problem is Mexican jails are filled with tens of thousands of people who technically are addicts in need of rehabilitation. They need to do a Malaysia and Philippine solution which is to save the user- "rehab" them - and kill the pusher- as provided in the death penalty for drug lords and drug barons.
Read the rest on the website link to FNC.
In light of recent ruling in the United States where a Federal ruling has overturned some states use of medical marijuana it may be way for those who suffer from ailments to seek treatment and may be a move to cash-in before US "smoke rooms" are shut down .
Do not get me wrong; I do not use drugs; I said no a long time ago - nor do I condone the use of the illicit drugs mentioned above for sale illegally or as is now legally allowed in Mexico when Fox signs it into law.
To do such is a surrender; A failure to being able to enforce drug laws effectively or failure to be able to stop the trade.
But what I am saying is it a sad day for those engaged in fighting the sad social scourge and I am sure will be abused extensively by many who are in the drug trade.
Vicente Fox could still Veto the measure; but it is unlikely seeing it is an election year in Mexico.
In fairness to Mexico; in the Netherlands, a similar law was introduced. It was not successful and later redrawn with stricter policies and change as drug abuse and drug tourists visitors escalated to levels many could not tolerate.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Threat of May One violence confirmed in Police RaidMilitant Extremists of the Abu Sayyaf and not military rebels may have thier own "G plan" for the upcoming may day rallies in the Philippines. a total of six granades five hand granade and a rifle granade as well as a unfinnished IED and blasting cap fuse wire were recovered by Philippine Police.
When operatrives led by Lt. Col. Nelson Yabut of the CIDG NCR ; raided a compound in the suburban city of Marikina where at 21 champaign street in residence village in Marikina they found the weapons cache.
I know Nelson - he was Lt. Yabut of the WPD or Manila's western Police district when I first met him a long -long time ago- myself- like other reporters used to sneak into his office to get instant coffee! (what does that tell you about how long ago that was!) All I can say it was a much happier if not interesting time. A lot of us - learned quite a bit from Nelson... i dont know why but - a watering hole in front of WPD's press center comes to mind - spent many late nights there learning the trade in what now seems - a long time ago.
Now Lt. Col or perhaps Col. Yabut - he should be General soon I hope; I know many Cops; not Yabut, Nelson is a "Police Officer".
Anyhow he explained to reporters the purpose of the raid - and the need for a higher level of vigililance by all groups in the days ahead.
Among those seen at the compund were higher ups in the ASG - they believe that a plot to throw grandes into crowds of rallists protesting this labor day- may have been the purpose of the group that reports say numbered anywhere for four to six men. Who are "at large" by the way at this time.
A trademark of the groups here though - was seen at the site- the blast wire- I can't go into details but perhaps I can talk about it in another blog.
"Fusewire" was found at the site as well as wrapping paper for more - alert levels have been raised. Police in the City of Manila are on a high level of alert to deal with anything untoward other groups attempt to create chaos in the days ahead.
the six men included a cousin of the Abu Sayyaf leader Kadaffi Janjalani.
I'll keep an eye on this one...
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
4G - defined - the plot not the phone
April 26th, 2006
A new plot to seek violent end to the current dispensation running the country is reported to be in the works in time for the May 1st Labor Day;
"anti-government groups are hatching plans dubbed "Oplan: 4G" to destabilize the Arroyo administration on May 1."
Ok, this is not to be confused with ‘3G’ the new cellular service advertised by Smart and Globe in the country - that offers video calling,
‘4G’ however is also being used to describe the next level of cell-phone service being designed which gives better data rates and a high end of user interface for communications devices such as phones and entertainment and information services..
So- With that out of the way what is this “4G”
This Oplan ‘4G’ comes on the heels of “Oplan Hackle”; and earlier plats and plans and the like.
I wonder when the groups come together to name these plots - do they have a registered trademark? I mean is 4G a working title? Or is there some meaning behind it? Like 4 is the number of people involved and the names all start with G?
Or Is it religious - 4 God perhaps? Or something like a throw back to the Marcos era 4 - ‘Galun-gong’; .
No Perhaps this ‘4G’ means the ever old saying of 4 gold or 4 glory?
Could it also be a sudden shift and be plan to suddenly declare sexuality long hidden in the closet 4Gays? Uh in this case, Don’t ask – Don’t tell comes to mind.
What does 4G mean - who thought it up?
Perhaps it is just one of many quickly thought out names during a meeting and has no meaning other than a plan and a number. Perhaps there should be incorporated into the PMA classes a "Subversion Oplan naming ‘short course’ for would-be plotters" one journalist I talked to said.
A little raz-ma-taz of Madison Avenue on the topic. Some more catch words and key designs. In the meantime a local correspondent seeing a foreign influence noted the number "4" in Fung Shie or numerology is the number for Death. But death for whom? Government… Goons… Gratitude… Greed… what else starts with "G"… lest I be dragged somewhere and given too much water to drink I just want to say I'm writing this to pass the time and cure boredom while waiting for an interview. I have no idea- and am merely looking at this in a cynical way- albeit “callus” mindset most journalists have after years of coverage.
"intelligence reports that showed destabilizers plan to carry out Oplan: 4G by infiltrating street demonstrations during celebrations to mark the International Labor Day."
- A website story on the subject points out - so it could simply mean 4-Gulo.
Other groups have their own opinion on the topic at hand.
"The labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno, however, said the supposed security threat is the administration's way of discouraging people from joining street rallies on May 1.They invented the security threat to discourage people to join the protest on May 1," KMU leader Elmer Labog said in Filipino on ABS-CBN".
.So in that essence to them the 4G stands for a hope people will "4-Go" attending the mass actions and rallies and be "4-ever Grateful" to the Military for warning them.
All most people hope is another 4G happens and those people behind this 4G plot; "4-Get" So we can all go "4-golf" Saturday.
Oh and 4-Goodness sake…. 4-give my silliness on a serious topic. By now this may all be a 4-gone conclusion.
Most of the quotes above come from ABS-CBNNews news the country’s most trusted name in news online. But the humor is mine!
Nokor - supernotes linked to JI "trade"
By Mike Cohen
Manila - Officials in the region are worried that North Korea may be financing regional terrorist groups in Asia using “mass produced high quality Super-Note forgeries and fakes of US and other currencies” A senior counter-terrorism official in Asia says, “increasingly we are seeing a link between the Korean fake notes, and groups like Jemaah Islamaih and Al Qaeda backed groups in Asia.”
“Ideologically the groups are opposites” the regime in Pyongyang and the groups who operate in the Southern Philippines do “share” things in common and “trade” in other ways “Arms made in North Korea are often found in camps of the extremists and also there are reports of Methamphetamine “crack” and “Ice” produced in large quantities allegedly in North Korea and Burma; "Being sold by the Extremists groups who are strapped for cash.” The official who requested anonymity said
Super-sized notes: 2.8 Million served
The Bills called “Super-notes”, since 1989 where first discovered by the Central Bank of the
“A U.S. secret service official claimed Tuesday his agency has made “definitive'' connections between North Korea and its counterfeiting of U.S. currencies, saying Washington has confiscated “Super-notes'' worth $2.8 million on a yearly basis.” The
“The Super-notes” A US Treasury report on the Super-notes says “Are printed using the same methods the U.S. Bureau of Engraving uses to produce genuine notes,.”
Michael Merritt, a deputy assistant director of the
“High-quality, counterfeit $100
Korean Won, Euro, Japanese Yen also "Super-sized"
But the further other regional and International currencies are also coming out of the North Korean “Super Fakes” treasury units from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East but he declined to give estimates to reporters as the extent of the spread of the fakes of other currencies targeted by
“Super-notes” Merritt says are detectable with minimal training. adding that; “There are also machines which are commercially available that can detect the Super-note,'' he claims.
In Asia; regional Terrorism analysts are worried as the presence of “super-notes” increasingly are found in the money changer shops and along the drug trails they believe where the Terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah is working "An indication of trade links - but not formal ties between regional militant extremists and the regime in Pyongyang.”
A simple “rogues-alliance” and does not indicate formal support of each other the official said. The notes are believed to used along the lines of the former Baathist regime in
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
" Assistant U.S. Attorney Karl Bush, for the first time publicly named them and former Philippines President Estrada, Senator Panfilo Lacson, former House Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella as alleged participants in the plot." a report in the New Yersy based Satr-Leger reported. " The names of the political officials emerged as the court-appointed attorney for Michael Ray Aquino, the only person indicted so far, sought a judge's permission to depose the three men in the Philippines." meaning the defense lawyer for the only person really left in the case -Michael Ray Aqunino - since Lean Aragoncillo "
Records in the case say he is negotiating a plea deal." in the report by John Martin of the Star-Ledger
I am expecting reaction from former President Estrada who if he is to be "subpoenaed" and deposed in a US "spy case" versus his alleged "Godson" FBI analyst, and EX-Al Gore, EX-Cheney, Ex-Condi aide Lean Arragoncillo and co-accused Michael Ray-Aquino;
Plans for defense seems to be have the hinge on they testifing in a recorded deposition.
Now all along - the Philippine opposition leaders claim in several interviews that the person appointed "their point man" in Washington was a President; But not a Philippine President but one who liked Cigars and Interns- Now the local opinion - and I admit this is not written in stone is - "The role served was as a back channel though the popular Marine guard- something that when Estrada and others in the opposition were ousted continued -" in an effort to keep ties with all key players on the ground" was reportedly the allegation made by some people here in Manila."
In the mind-set of people here - if this is to be believed is - "someone is being made to be scapegoats" they allege.... I think it might be interesting to watch this case more closely and see where it may lead and to whom.
Monday, April 24, 2006
At about forty minutes after midnight last night a "Diplomat" frantically called me to seek clarification on a column he saw in the Philippine daily inquirer online of Neil Cruz, with the banner Grino Honasan at Kapiahan tomorrow.”
The event at the Manila Hotel is a regular get together for Journalists and Columnists one many media forums that run throughout the week where "The elite meet for meat" ok maybe not meat but coffee and something filled with meat.
I look at the column; a jpeg copy of it. I then informed my desk in
I was satisfied and had covered my bases...
If indeed he would resurface. I was ready for it and would have a fair chance versus the competition. But at the back of mind- I wondered- So I went out and down to the Port Area - where the newspapers are often ready by 12mn - I looked at the masthead- there was an "Ear" on "Gringo" in surrender feelers.
Same paper - so I called my local part-time cameraman, got him ready. I called to check for availability of the three "optional feed" uplink service providers. Checked the status of points for video "I could go live if needed..." the alert was issued. Sat coordinates set.
I even checked if our regional correspondent in
But all along with a veiled feeling I and the readers had been had - I knew the bunch at the Kapihan had done something before like this and a impersonator had showed up.
Yet; it seemed something was amiss as the one line was at the bottom of the column almost mater-of-factly inserted.
But then there was the ear; So I had a friend who is columnist also call up Neil- his cell phone was off- but of course- "The man wants the scoop all for himself." offered the other columnist- in a few minutes (he drove fast considering he lives in Alabang!)
He was there with me and about a dozen other reporters - by sunrise- all of us had bloodshot eyes- we noticed another group.
It was the Intelligence people... and those guys from the embassies near-by... AH... it true
A quick run into the lobby a few very tips to waiters- nothing - that proves it they tipped the waiters more to say he's not here! My fellow foreign correspondent mussed.
It was around 830... when we saw the first glimpses of the doom of
Radio reporters from all the stations in manila where there- so were so many others... A few fans of gringo where there as well.
Bomb sniffing dogs... mulled about- ok they're always there anyway... but still I have to ad to the drama of this tale! finally laughter and it was obvious- Comedian Willy Nepumaceno was the impersonator.
Later in the day - Honasans Attorney issued a statement –
on ABS-CBN television -
"The talks reported in today’s PDI (Philippine Daily Inquirer) are not entirely accurate. In fact I just talked to Senator Honasan an hour ago and he disclaimed any initiative on his part over such talks," said attorney Daniel Gutierrez. - Gutierrez added that considering the actions of the prosecutorial bodies of the government, his client would prefer to remain "inaccessible."
Well at least other "Gringo" was more forthcoming his jokes fun filled all for a new show he's set to launch - Pinoy's Big Brother – ah; it was all in good fun... time to go home and get some sleep.Till the next rumor of a apparition; see even us “hacks” get hoodwinked every now and then; hmmmmm…. Did I tell my cameraman he could go home and climb down from that tree…. Better check.
New Bin Laden Mssage
After hearing numerous times that, "We don't know if Osama Bin Laden is
still alive," Osama himself decided to send a letter in his own handwriting
to US President George Bush, just to let him know he was still in the game.
Bush opened the letter, which contain a single line of a coded message:
Bush was baffled, so he forwarded it to Condi Rice. Condi and her aides had
no idea either, so they sent it to the FBI. No one could solve it at the
FBI, so it went to the CIA, then finally to the NSA.
With no clue as to the meaning of Osama's letter, the Bush Administration
eventually asked Britain's MI-6 for help.
Within a minute, MI-6 cabled the White House with this reply:
"Tell the President he's holding the message upside down".
Thursday, April 20, 2006
The rich multiply in the USA
More Rich in the USA in the last ten years...
The Rich in the USA are getting richer- and their numbers increasing says a study on the number of households with $5m or more in investable assets Âthis is in above and " excluding the family home " Â says a report.
Overall a "26 per cent to a record 930,000, according to a study bspectrumem Group.' That's the highest level sincspectrumem began its survey ten years ago.
I wonder if a similar study on wealth and the wealthy would show about the Philippines? I mean considering the number of new high rises and the increase in incomes after the influx of BPO's to the
If in India the levels of new rich in areas where outsourcing was present boomed anskyrocketed leading to entirely new areas of development more catered to that side of the services and the BPO economy that has brought a higher level of new wealth on the sub-continent.
It only goes to expect to see some of those same figures here in the country where more and more people flock to the BPO sector in large numbers.
Overall the middle class is better of than they were in 2000 ; that was when the stock market flopped on thoverdevelopednt of dot-coms and sudden flux to those types of web based only companies that haunbelievablele growth projections - but in the end flopped when incomes did not match the potential and services offered where lagged down by lower levels of infrastructure to provide the offered internet based companies developments on a wider scale.
In another look at the survey figures another area to note -
The overall affluent market Â households with $500,000 or more Â rose by 7 per cent to a record 14m. Further the survey said - This group fared the worst in the wake of the stockmarket collapse, with their numbers falling sharply from 2000. Last year was the first time their total passed that of their peak in 1999. Catherine McBreen, a managing director at Spectrem, said: ÂItÂs been a great couple of years for AmericaÂs millionaires .."
Data from FTonline report found here: http://news.ft.com/cms/s/3dcb3438-cfd4-11da-80fb-0000779e2340.html
Beyond call centers... BPO's need to look for value added service clients.A report points to the ideas of The National Economic Development Authority which says - it wants companies to diversify outsourcing work and services "beyond call centers" and for employers to "take advantage of the job opportunities presented by other business process outsourcing companies.". The shift can be to higher value added to higher levels of work that will allow people to use ore higher billing services offered and compete more on the global market in areas like drafting, design, accounting, puiblishing, graphics design, website support and mangement.
Much of this can be focused in areas that seek employment and need only the proper broadband environment to build up the pool of avaialbe workers. But there-in lies the catch much of the infrastructure in the country is at best T1 level or 100MBPS .
While a new higher level of fiber cable to bring to Country up to full T3 standards has been laid out to Batangas - the new connection will primarily be focused on regional providers and large scale users of data stream services.
What is needed is for government to take the iniative - make available to other regions programs and projects to upgrade all major cities at least to a T1 or T3 level for the three major metropolitan areas.
This could fuel a shift to "home source" or telecommute services for workers on larger jobscale pool. meaning by laying out the infrastructure- more and more people could be available for work on larger scale and more people could be seen as accesible to the world wide web.
the infrastructure is there - but - the gateways are charing too much to allow for wider access.
not realizing that by lessening costs they can fuel the same income thrust that fueled the telco's massive growth and income with sms mesaaging.
Now while- NEDA Director-General Romulo Neri feels that " call centers are at the forefront of the outsourcing industry, " and is showing the entry of other players in the industry as major facotrs. Such as with the entry of "BPO companies such as HP Global delivery Center, Manulife and Deutsche Knowledge Services." He said that more jobs and careers can be offered "the educated workforce of the country as these companies are hiring language-proficient professionals in Information Communication Technology and finance sectors. "
The 2006 forecast of the Board of Investments, Business Process Association of the Philippines and the Commission on Information, Communication and Technology show " That outsourcing jobs will rise by 44 percent, revenues by 52 percent and investments by 42 percent.
That means "Around 233,000 Filis are now employed by outsourcing companies. The number is expected to reach 1.2 million by 2010." In my view that is a consrvative estimate-
" A study conducted by McKinsey Global Consultancy shows that there are at least 120 outsourcing companies in the country today, and projects that by 2010, revenues from BPO will reach $10 billion. According to industry estimates, the country's revenues from BPO in 2006 will bring in $3.8 billion, almost four times higher than in 2001 at $1 billion. In Bacolod City, three call centers will start operations this year - Teleperformance, I/O Asia and Focus Communications. The Bacolod IT Team said that aside from call center agents, also in demand are accountants, data encoders and software developers.*
Story quotes Daily Star- Visayas
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Iraq: worlds kidnapping capital - KFR and Politcal kidnappings top 20,000 in 12 monthsA Non-Government Organization combined report published on violence in war-torn Iraq says nearly 20,000 people have been the victims of KFR groups and political violence and vendetta.
In the report, which details the insurgency's effect and increasing sectarian conflict, did not go into specific number of fatalities; However, in March 2005 to March 2006 - 15,462 people have been wounded.
The shocking number is the reports figure "of 19,548 people kidnapped among these 4959 women and 2350 children," The combined survey by 125 non-governmental organisations based in Iraq - made thier report public in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala.
While the News Organizations have focused on high-profile kidnapping's of foreigners in Iraq estimated to number "a few hundred since the practice began two years ago and is usually aimed at scoring propaganda points against the US-led occupation."
The report focuses on "Thousands of Iraqis being kidnapped are primarily the victims of political rivals and of common criminals seeking ransom."
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Ok now we know why....It is clear now Iran does not have nuclear ambitions - but really want to jack up the price of Oil. public state-run Tehran radio reported. "The global oil price has not reached its real value yet,"
No further clarification needed... the bottom line says it all.
Abolishing the death penalty is justice and redemption for the poor
By: Father Shay Cullen
(Published in the UK & Ireland, Sunday Examiner HK
The Sunday Times, Philippines and Worldwide by Internet
It was a happy moment and a surprise for many when Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced in a simple statement last Holy Saturday that the Philippines would change its policy of executing convicted criminals. The death penalty, abolished by the constitution, was strangely restored by an act of congress in 1993 amid much opposition by the church and human rights groups.
The chance to confess, repent and make restitution, no matter how heinous the crime, ought to be available for all who are justly convicted.
This is what Jesus of Nazareth taught and practised. Hanging on the cross himself a victim of an unjust conviction and the death penalty. He forgave those who caused his suffering and death. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, he prayed. He forgave the repentant thief, “This day you will be with me in paradise”. The other, who mocked him and was unrepentant was not reprimanded or condemned by Jesus.
Even though victims and their families may want the perpetrator to receive a just punishment can instead become vindictive and demand revenge. They want an eye for eye, a death for a death. No matter how it may seem justified is not the way Jesus would have us behave. Mercy, compassion, belief in repentance and redemption is what we must strive for. Jesus, innocent executed in extreme agony, did not seek revenge but the redemption of the world and the conversion of sinners. We ought to seek no less.
Of the 1205 inmates on the Philippines’ “death row”, many have been wrongfully convicted according to human rights groups representing some of them. Only 230 of these convictions have been affirmed by the Supreme Court. One study citing a decision of the Supreme Court in July 2003 showed that the lower regional trial courts had close to a 72 per cent wrong conviction rate. In reviewing 907 death penalty cases, the Court admitted that 26 were dismissed, 555 modified, 65 acquitted, and 31 remanded. This underlines just how flawed is the system of justice in the Philippines, is that the justices have been trying to reform for years.
Most death penalty sentences are unsafe and those convicted are overwhelming the poor and unable to hire a lawyer. The public defender, no matter how dedicated, is inexperienced, under trained, has no resources or help to investigate the circumstances and uncover evidence that would exonerate his client and expose lies. Convictions are handed down despite the preponderance of reasonable doubt. The rich have the best of lawyers and the power and influence and bribe officials, police and scare off witnesses. They almost never get convicted.
The death penalty was reinstated in the Philippines not because it was a just punishment but because it was a high profile and desperate remedy to quench public anger at the rising tide of heinous unchecked crime.
Kidnapping, murders, rapes extortion rackets, drug trafficking, hold-ups and bank robberies were the daily headlines for many years. Much of it aided and abetted by corrupt police or military. Some even had their own criminal gangs. When they were suspected they eliminated the gang in a spectacular shoot out that solved the crimes and won them a medal. The crime wave of the 90’s abated, not because of the death penalty but because some of the suspect top cops and generals ran for pubic office and won-based on their crime fighting successes.
Despite the efforts of decent and honest politicians to curb crime, many others are linked to it. They are inept corrupt and protected by private armies and hit men. Their links to criminal gangs involved in gambling, drug trafficking and prostitution. They thus accumulate untold wealth and buy their way into office again and again. Thus the cycle of corruption, and the plunder of the treasury goes on and on. Poverty of the majority is a direct result.
The Philippines, despite it’s abundance of highly educated English speaking friendly people, abundant raw resources and skilled work force remains one of the most backward economies in Asia. Most flee abroad at every opportunity and contribute to the growth of the lucky nations who get them. The vastly rich two percent of the population own seventy percent of the land and wealth. What can change that?
The lifting of the death penalty gives children the opportunity to testify against their rapists and abusers whether they are relatives, parents or neighbours. The fear of being blamed by their family for the execution of a rapist father, brother or relative is too much for small children. No matter how they are protected and empowered by therapists and social workers to seek justice and healing the ordeal is too much. In prison the abuser can think about his heinous acts and repent. Now we need the Philippine congress to pass a law and make the President’s word a reality, not just a promise.
Counter terror - Shangri-la
It is billed as "The first Counter-Terrorism Experts Conference or (CTEC)" meaning it is the first time officials will discuss in a forum effective programs and failures in counter terrorism that are taking place all over the globe.
Setting it in a major resort - one of the most beautiful settings in Asia should focus the delegates attention to prime targets for terror groups in the region have been setting their eyes on.
This is not a time to wander about Mactan Island I can imagine the security level there will be high and traffic to and from the City a bit more than usual. The conference which runs for two days - April 20th Â 22 April that the Philippine Government is hosting at the Shangrila-Mactan Island Resort, Cebu.
Well considering the guests - I guess the Pool and beach will be relatively not too crowded.
" In a press statement, conference chairambassadorr Benjamin Defensor disclosed that more than 30 countries will be joining the event in the war against terror and terrorist."
The report release by Philippine Government went on to say - "The ConferenceÂs overall theme shall ÂDefeating Dilemmas in Counter-TerrorismÂ says Philippine information agency press release to media.
"Those present will be attending workshops with five sub-themes: Strengthening the Basics; Finding a Realistic Middle Ground; Understanding Regional and Sub-Regional Approaches; Bridging the Gaps and Balancing Assistance; Paving the Middle Way."
" The CTEC program shall follow a plenary Â panel discussion format and participated in by experienced counter-terrorism practitioners, policymakers, civil society leaders, renowned scholars, and joined by guests and representatives of participating countries."
Objectives set at this time:
(a) To identify key dilemmas and difficulties in fighting terrorism from global, regional and national perspectives;
(b) To map areas of convergence in counter-terrorism efforts through exploration of strategic and practical responses which address peculiar causes and conditions, harmonize CT capacity-building, and allow states to sustain peace and development strategies while prosecuting the war on terror;
(c) To come up with a declaration, establishing the common counter-terrorism position of experts, particularly the Âmiddle wayÂ for those that live with and take direct responsibility for dealing with the threat.
I'll post updates and information on this as I'm covering the events - albeit from a distance.
The numbers racket that is Jueting has for the most part been quashed in the Philippines - although reports persist of small operations still going strong in some places - Like far flung parts of central Luzon.
Its replacement- the Small Town Lottery- a legal lottery called STL creates dozens of taxable legal alternatives - But at the same time - Jueting rackets overseas...
Have come to light in the wake of a gruesome find in a mine shaft area in Saudi Arabia.
6 people were found grusomely murdered and dismembered in what KSA Police there are linking to "Jueting " ala Saudi - although all forms of gambling are tightly controlled or effectively banned in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
where there are scores of workers and a cash flow there will be rackets to keep people desperate enough to work in dessert heat and take risks abroad in a region with war raging nearby- where being a foreign worker can be a dangerous life- Some gamble further and set up "other ways" to augment income.
" Jueting " a simple lottery based game that is found in most parts of the Philippines based on combinations of two numbers drawn daily is a simple gambling lottery that can promise a small cash windfall of between 350-800 times the amount bet.
The chances of winning are small actually - as with most games of chance - odds show a cube formula of 1,879 to 1 as a ratio of hitting one number - so double that figure to hit two numbers- so who ever runs the game stands to gain large amounts of cash.
There are places overseas where OFW's and other overseas Pinoys can bet legally - in Saipan for example where Jeuting is legally run. Other parts of Micronesia also have similar set-ups to allow for cultural games of chance.
But in the KSA; setting up any form of illegal lottery- is tantamount to a state crime that could result in the death penalty or harsh prison terms. That workers in a gold mine would try this at all shows just how desperate many people are to earn and risk their lives to running a illegal lottery.
The "Jueting" export lotteries and other games of chance like - Sabong - cockfighting also have taken root where-ever Filipino communities can be found. In historic Filipino town in Los Angeles small scale "numbers rackets" do on occasion happen. In Iraq's worker bases illicit gaming rooms for off duty workers offering masons and card games also abound - little is done to stop them by the US military or Iraqi authorities who are busier with other larger problems of security. Jueting on a small scale also exists in nearly every major overseas worker area where large groups of OFW's are found.
But Jueting is based on trust - and secrecy- what happened to the six murdered victims is still unclear. The fact that they were chopped to bits could be seen as a violent reaction to a profit sharing scheme or failure to pay out winnings or an attempt to inform authorities or rival Jeuting organizations fighting over turf.
The entire incident is sometimes seen in fights over turf in the past when the Rackets kingpin's fight over territory -violence is commonly known to happen and deaths are not unheard of in the fight to control proceeds.
It will be interesting to note as this case develops what Saudi Police officials uncover. There is more to be seen here than a simple case of murder - the case could be a eye opener into the extent of organized crime groups popping up in the Middle East led by Pinoys and victimizing pinoys overseas.
The Jeuting killings comes as "The financial intelligence unit at the [KSA] Ministry of Interior has been monitoring several sources possibly offering financial support to terrorist operations in the Kingdom, press reports said ÂThe unit has received several reports of suspicious financial dealings and it is taking required measures to foil them,
The fact is also clear that rackets like Jeuting do create large amounts of cash - and - since it is highly illegal to engage in games of chance or gambling in the KSA some are wondering if the killing have come on last weeks intensified operations by Saudi police to crack down on illicit cash rackets like Jeuting "Saudi Arabia has been playing a leading role in the global campaign on combating terror financing and money laundering. The Saudi laws define as a criminal acts - money laundering, criminal activity, and, financing terrorist operations."
like I said there is more to be told in this story.. As the saying goes..."Abangan"
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Drifting through stories...
Drifting through different topics looking for stories... that could make news reports I produce for my clients overseas as foreign correspondent I often find truthful tales stranger than fiction...
First the good news...
For many months now the steady increase in BPO or business process outsourcing jobs and opportunities and jobs in the Philippines has been rising...
"THE number of job opportunities coming from the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Philippines is expected to reach 336,000 at the end of this year, higher by 44 percent than last year's 171,000. "
Over all the outsourcing job boom has become a major factor why attempts to destabilize the country has failed. Steady job increases from one sector has a trickle down effect for the informal sector of the economy - in simple terms one new formal employment job opportunity means up to 2.4 others are created - the new employees buy more products and pump up consumer spending.
Now the Bad news-
Proficiency in the English language is at a twelve year low - the Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported in it's March 2006 survey.
" Survey results showed there was a decline in all aspects of English proficiency, most notably in the ability to speak English, as compared to results of similar surveys conducted in December 1993 and September 2000. The latest survey showed that only 65 percent of Filipino adults said they understand spoken English as compared to 74 percent in December 1993 and 77 percent in September 2000. "
Misguided Nationalism is the primary reason - too many misplaced ideals in name of curing a so called colonial mentality.
The problem is insecurity; compounded by misguided principals of a formal education system that bred this into a student teachers in the 1980's part of their fight for social change.
Another concern also the export of competent teachers - in hindsight - Children in other Asian countries like Thailand, Korea, Japan, and China- children stay up late some even hiring tutors online to learn the language of news, science, and, business across the world. No one can question the their nationalism- yet they know- English is still a important part of communication across the globe.
Less stressful but still a strange story is....
The report for example in the Manila Times online edition for example today - it was simple police story about a man getting caught with Fake credit card- but it said so much.
" On Monday about 4:45 p.m. while using a fake Citibank Visa card with the name of the accused to buy P6,652.22 worth of groceries at the Shopwise Supermarket at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. " The Report went on to say and talk about the accused "had made past purchases totaling P800,000 using the same credit card at the same store, prompting its management to be on the lookout for ..."
At first I thought wow what a great "stupid crimnial" story for a show I sometimes put stories together for- then I realized what kind of store allowed nearly a 800,000 pesos in purchases before trying to nab the person with the fake card. - YIKES!!!
Another Story came out in the Sun Star newspaper about threats from the ASG or Abu sayyaf group versus a local broadcaster in Zamboanga city - who had been starting his morning show with a Ala-robin Williams style good morning Vietnam greeting to the band of extremists -
The didn't like the good morning greeting coming over the Airwave - "Alvarez's daily public affairs program "Good Morning Zamboanga" often starts with the journalist greeting criminals, drug syndicates, thieves and corrupt government officials, including the Abu Sayyaf, but the terror group resented this. "I am not discounting this threat to my life," said Alvarez, who is also the radio station's news chief." Talk about bad feedback from the audience... Threats however are often just a way to intimidate people - rarely do they mean anything more except this group is known to be extremely violent - So perhaps a change in greeting may be in order.
Dateline - Manila: Stories for today...May Day Protests expected - But no major plot seen; POLICE
Police in the Philippines say they don't expect large protests or actions to unseat President Arroyo this May 1st, Labor day, the current positioning so far Police intelligence sources say is that the focus of attention of most of the destablizers- is to lay low- most of their backers seem to be to focused on the current charter change - constitutional amendment public signature campaign - many of those who often back groups trying to stage protests and large mass actions versus President Arroyo seem to be marshalling their forces for the charter change fight- some others are looking at the charter change issue also a way to get ready for the next round of elections less than year away for many Politcal leaders and groups that is their focus right now.
While those groups engaged in open rebellion still pose a risk for the most part - along the lines of recent actions on February 24, revealed by the military for the most part the leadership of the Police and military feel those groups are not in a position anymore to carry out large scale action because - to them - the plotters backers have run and will attempt other action.
US Marine rape case - 1 principal accused- 3 face lower charges
And then there was one - Lance Corporal Daniel Smith; stand alone in the charge of rape of 22 year old young woman while on shore leave during a military exercise in the Philippine Port city of Olongapo
Today, Tuesday - Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales has downgraded rape charges versus three men who were first accused direct involvement in the rape of young woman from Zamboanga. The three identified in the charge sheets as US Marines, Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier. Are still facing criminal charges for dumping the woman along a road leading to a base - not coming to her aid even though her pleas for help they ignored. So he told news organizations here. The case has been moved to Manila and the trail is expected to resume in earnest soon. Earlier the judge in the case inhibited himself.
To me; I cannot understand why - few if any coverage is happening on this case in US media - in my opinion the majority of the media in the USA of late has become so parochial and xenophobic that it is ignoring this case- its that simple -To at least four news organizations I've talk to the reaction is the same "The victim was not an American. While her alleged accessed rapist looks like blond haired boy band boy next door as do his Co-accused now for a lesser The
Entire incident is a stain the very name of the Corps they represent - and a violation the code of US Marines. And a clear Article 134 violation of the US code of Military justice- why has that charge never been brought out? For conduct unbecoming?
If this had appended on US shores - or in another place and perhaps had the victim been American we might see the same focus of attention focused on the Halloway case in Aruba...
But not racial bias of the current "Lou Dobbs" attitude of US media esp. TV news organizations for whom this case goes un-noticed.
KSA Killing 10 men held for chopping up co-workers!
Meanwhile - A report out of Saudi Arabia is one that is chilling. That ten miners are reportedly now in custody for killing and dismemberment six co-workers after a fight.
The report claims that 10 men where somehow responsible allegedly for not only killing their co-workers at the Saudi Arabia mine company but later having those victims dismembered "in a gruesome way" one can not get too many details out of the KSA when things like this happen right away an investigation is one going.
One has to wonder what could have led to that kind of a crime. All the men both the alleged killers in custody and the six victims are from the Philippines.
Monday, April 17, 2006
"I wish to announce that we are changing our policy on those who have been imposed the death penalty. We are reducing their penalty to life imprisonment,"
An Easter move to end the death penalty that many in Europe have applauded and elsewhere,
However victims families have been expressing dismay - also among those reaction are communities in places where heinous bombings and kidnappings and attacks have taken place at the hands of outlaw bands.
I must say - it is move many are surprised at. The death penalty has always been seen a deterrent to rape, drugs, massive graft and corruption.
It is a shift back to the Christian-Social democrat route many have seen in the Arroyo Government of late. It is path few leaders chose - but after all a leader must lead.
If it is any consultation to those victims - life behind bars in a Philippine Prison - to many inmates I've interviewed over the years is often called a fate worse than death.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Analysis: Iran in Iraq
I got a few comments in emails from people asking me if there was any
If Iran was "ever" engaged in any actions versus the current govenrment in Baghdad and the insurgency. In some emails they pointed out to meeting between coalition partners and Iran as well as support given during the War with Iraq as proof Iran is actually in some form supporting the US and UK efforts in Iraq.
That may have been true during the time of saddens rule- there is much documented evidence that Iran provided a lot of information through other Arab states about the actions of Saddam. No other country except Kuwait in the region suffered under the Baathist regime in Iraq than did Tehran.
Of late- there has been much focus on Iran's actions might be if indeed there was any attempt to engage in a "force solution" to the Nuclear issue.
"... The Iranian polity [towards the Iraqi insurgency] - is fractured, with various power bases supporting their own interests. This was clearly apparent in the aftermath of the capture by Iran in June 2004 of a British patrol boat. After a number of contradictory statements, likely reflecting disagreement between Iranian elements, the crew were released. At the same time, sources within the hard-line Iranian revolutionary made plain that restraint in Iraq was contingent on international treatment of Iran." - Global Security.org
But even without any action it is clear that there is "Iranian involvement" in Iraq. If not in the insurgency - in political life and religious affairs. "the Iranian presence in Iraq is difficult to gauge, although it certainly exists. ... Several Shi'ite political parties (including SCIRI and al-Da'wa, both members of the United Iraqi Alliance, the country's dominant political coalition), have ties to Iran." Global Security.org
Earlier in the ongoing conflict inside Iraq come clear indications - aside from the Political and religious there is some form of "backing" for groups destabilize Iraq. For some it is also seen as payback - for the seven year war between the two countries and a attempt by some in Iran to not see a strong potential rival along its border.
The Interim Iraqi Government repeatedly expressed concern over Iraqi influence, Defence Minister Hazem Sha'alan claiming in mid-2004 that there was "clear interference in Iraqi issues by Iran" and that the latter supported terrorism in Iraq. " OSD report
Blair says enough... Will not back Military action vs. IranMonday April 17th, 2006
He backed military action all over the world by two American Presidents. But Tony Blair has been seen of late as not being willing to stand toe-toe with president GW Bush on Iran.
The EU seems to prefer diplomatic efforts - so for that mater does the white house - and most of the world. Iran's leadership knows this - and is enjoying pushing the envelope with inflammatory rhetoric; But reports like this send a mixed message to those seeking a common front on dealing with Tehran.
" TONY Blair has told George Bush that Britain cannot offer military support to any strike on Iran, regardless of whether the move wins the backing of the international community, government sources claimed yesterday. " BRIAN BRADY WESTMINSTER EDITOR for the Scottsman reports.
But the lack of support for any Military action does not mean the UK is backing away from other forms of pressure.
" Blair is expected to support the call for a "Chapter 7" resolution, which could effectively isolate Iran from the international community." Brady writes on.
Sanctions could work two ways - Iran is awash with Oil cash with the Iraqi oil fields out of reach and most Oil prices in the world rising with each new car sold in china! This winter analysts predict the prices of oil will rise further.
Its not the fault of China that capitalism has brought prosperity - a reduction in the number of un-fuel friendly SUV's by even twenty per cent in the USA could bring down the level of Oil prices faster than new oil fields, so , superego's downsizing needs to be the first order of business to keep fuel prices down.
Imagine the impact of a major airstrips or tension in Iran reaching a boiling point - Oil is currently hovering around $30 a barrel- try - to imagine Oil per barrel at $55 a barrel or higher if a major conflict were to engulf the gulf anew.
Perhaps knowing this - leaders in Iran are rattling the sabers a bit- to get a higher price for their primary export. Meanwhile Russia and more importantly China are expected to not offer cooperation if Iran is targeted more closely.
Iran is not Iraq - that is clear- Tony Blairs "I'm putting my foot down-" could also be for both domestic consumption and for Iran's viewpoint - playing a good cop-bad cop to mullahs and Ayatolla's.
In the meantime elements in Iran- with or without Government backing -are still engaged in supporting the attacking factions in Iraq, reports on CNN, BBC, Fox News, and even Al Jeezera clearly show some form of support from factions in Iran for some groups in Iraq.
It is expected also that some more support will flow eastward to Afghanistan from elements in Iran who fear stable Democratic secular neighbors allies of the country they see as allies of thier greatest threat - the USA.
So if Irans hardliners could hope for anything is the US go it alone - and or with Israeli backing to hit targets no one knows for sure and with the Iraq intel ficasco freash in peoples minds - no one is sure really exists around the world - then the hardliners could rally and create a situation that would make 9-11, Madrid, and London actions of al qeada seems like childsplay.
For now cooler heads remain in control. But- if it is a situation worth monitoring....
Easter Bomb-plot foiled?Easter Sunday Morning - 2006:
I was up to watch the "meeting" sulubong procession this morning on TV at about three thirty when I while waiting did my normal email search and saw something from a "stringer" of mine down in Zamboanga.
It seems in a set of Police and Military raids since last Thursday have uncovered two cache's of explosives. The first in a ice plant the second in another part of the city notorious for "illicit' activities.
C-4 explosives, 300pcs of blasting caps from of all places India and many more other electronic timers were uncovered.
A few days before in a clash a group of major ASG figures who were involved in the a 2005 bombing were "encountered" by the military on a small island off of Zambo- two were killed.
Sources in the police here tell me they believe the ASG is pushed to a new level of emulating "sectarian" violence directed at Catholics and Christians similar to activities in other areas in SE Asia like Poso and Suluwesi.
The War vs. Terrorism - is still a major story here even if in terms of attacks it pales in comparison to the battles and daily bombings in Iraq. But what is common here are arrests and seizures by Police and the Military vs. Those seeking to create violence. Success is measured in the number of arrests and devices seized.
Journalism being what it is- when ever I pitch stories about good jobs done- it winds up on some editors out pile in the USA- such a shame- with all the bad news success in the fight versus violence is something I think at least should be covered.
There is so much innovation and so much done right in keeping a lot of the attacks of balance- but - for some reason nobody - at least in the mainstream media world can seem to want to keep reporting on the good work done.
I'm cynical perhaps - but- I think this is where media seems to fail in a big way- by emphasizing only the failures - such as when a successful operation is carried out by those on the side of extremism - they fail to consider that they have become perhaps the biggest propaganda machine of the other side of the war. Ironic isn't it? Considering - that at least in my case - that's where this major conflict began for the USA.
Funny how hard it is to pitch a "good job done..." Story - perhaps its all the fault of those major journalism colleges concepts of reporting must place a high emphasis on failures first and finding conflict instead of looking for solutions along with the problems. Oh well... At least those blasting caps and devices found are out of circulation. For now police and the military here and in the southern Philippines are on renewed "heightened alert".
Thursday, April 13, 2006
A policy keeps families apart
Every time I see a story like this one- it makes me fume...
"Next month, visas will be issued to the Philippines sons and daughters of someone here in the United States, if a visa application was submitted on or before 1991. ..
Yes 1991 - meaning if a applicant applies now - it is normal to expect a 15 year wait if they are planning to apply for a Visa to immigrate to the USA.
The Department of State makes will you wait even longer to bring a brother or sister of an adult US citizen. In the case of the Philippines, that brother or sister would have had to submit an application back in 1983."
Yes - 1983 -
The story in a simplistic answers goes on to say - "It (the state department) wants to make sure people from all over the world are given the same opportunity to legally immigrate, which is why some visa applications take much longer."
So "the Department of State" makes it more difficult to come from certain countries is that it feels those countries are "Well represented there in the USA."
Meaning - in simple terms - they are holding back a flood - Go to the US embassy say in London, Berlin, Ireland Tel Aviv- head over to American services- at those locations there are "help desks" for applicants to fill out forms- even days when "part time free Para-legals" are present to help people figure out the laws and the fastest way to get families together.
At the US embassy in Manila - the visa section officers for example - at branch of American services are forbidden to give advice - the sign is there- when you ask a question - they say go online or worse yet- fill out the form- when you go to where the forms are there are - NONE-
So most US citizens on visa matters involving their families here often are referred to a list of lawyers - ironically- most of the Popular immigration lawyers for the US Embassy- for some reason once worked there... Or in very similar offices... Makes one wonder... Doesn't it?
Is not that... a clique- a racket- a organized form of manipulation to keep people from knowing the truth... Sure if one were to look at the websites that are out there for Visa advice- many based in Manila boast of former US embassy staff on the rosters?.
Many immigration law firms advertised online or in "ethnic community newpapers" in the US of A boldly proclaim the same.
Is that why is the law so complicated that has led to this backlog- the law is clear on who can go- but- the backlog in some places like the Philippines is bordering on criminal-conspiracy terms.
I wonder should the FBI be looking into why- indeed a organized form of making paperwork pile up be held back for so long... Or why no forms are available-I am not talking about the immigrant section- I am talking about an Area supposed to be for US citizens.
Also why are some law firms with former employees are on the Embassy "A" list then one looks at the backlog... Puts two and two together- and I see a great story I could do.
Any new investigator assigned here or in the US could also see a RICO level investigation into how those things could happen perhaps?
What set me off- was when one of my editors from Fox News called me up the other day from the Fox Washington DC bureau to check on a woman's story- she had told a reporter that her paperwork had taken twenty- yes- twenty years to process.
In disbelief- she called me to have me check on the facts- In a quick review and couple of phone calls we found out an average of 15-20 years is normal.... NO I AM NOT JOKING.
Now one understands why - There are strong lobby groups in Washington - many set-up by Law firms to keep the status quo in place- So allegedly- many immigration Law firms - some of whom advertise services in the USA are partly to blame- to them keeping the status-quo quo- means more work for them. The average consultation fee is $1,500 - to expedite paperwork- another $8,000 on the average a study of the Texas based southern poverty community center claims.
So go to any US city where there is a large immigrant community- Pick up any issue of any "ethnic" paper in the USA and you will find - pages after pages of legal centers - para-legal advisors - and immigration centers ... a entire industry built and kept in place to get around the dams and paperwork backlog that if the State department wanted could be erased in a few months.
Yes- a few months-
How? By putting more people on duty to verify documents. Cost too much?
No- Each application currently costs $480 to submit - multiply that by tens of thousands in the last few years - and poof - that's tens of millions of dollars of funds available.
Where could they find the people? Easy- hire newly graduated students in the USA - set up documentation verification centers and link them online - technology would allow them to verify each document from centers online on secure intranets-Then perhaps fill up the Seafront complex or hire out local hotel or convention centers and fill them with staff and local researchers -
Hire also local teams manpower teams to go over the paperwork. Scan - zap and send them over to the USA- verify- give people definite answers who ar languishing in long lines of red tape. Or deliberate red tape- legal lobbyist groups and yes- bigoted views of some sectors who want to keep a :false and illegal racial balance policy in place" says the report from the Southern California center for minorities and migrants.
In a few months by some estimates- the over estimated 700,000 pending applications could be processed and the backlog erased- all it would take is a team of several hundred people- using computer technology and field teams of people that could verify and erase the backlog.
In few months time there would be 700,000 new visas issued or denied - a backlog could be erased.
But some say it will never happen - why - "Bigotry" plain and simple - the purpose of the "policy rules" not laws... Per state department policy guidelines is to
"To make sure people from all over the world are given the same opportunity to legally immigrate, which is why some visa applications take much longer." - other words... Impose racial quota's - immigrants from Russia or European countries are fastracked- why- look at Los Angeles County for example - Hispanics make up 40% of the population - Asians 12% in America's largest city by population whites have become a minority- in many other US cities it is the same - hence- somebody is allowing countries with moslty "European" read "Caucasian" populations faster processing times - while holding back paperwork for people who are legally supposed to be in the USA - but happen to be a person of color.
So Mexicans, Filipinos, Asians, are pushed to the back of the bus or rear of the piles as it were in the eyes of some NGO's.
If the laws were just followed there would be no backlog - the purpose of the "rules"... At least in my eclectic view of this blog is simple - to keep the "ethnic balance" ... Meaning - racial segregation in immigration.
So... Long waits for Filipinos who on the average spend as much as Two decades!!! While waiting for paperwork approval is that could be done in days. Is nothing short of criminal bigoted policy that is no where found in US law.
Why? If the 700,000 or so pending applications were approved in say a few month- then they as new immigrants could petition a few more relatives - also in some cases one visa means - if the LIFE program - a earlier attempt to get backlogs erased - relatives of immigrants and citizens where cleared-up- and the deluge that followed - caused new policy changes to be put in place.
For instant immigration laws at present allow for minor children and spouses in most cases to accompany the legal migrant - now an average of four persons for each immigrant would be allowed in ... Meaning the 700,000 figure which is an estimate given by migration NGO's - would balloon up to 2.8 million.
Each expected to file in many cases for more relatives - who in turn will apply for more ... Meaning a nightmare for the racists who make these policies that conflict with Law.
remember this is an issue of Law! But a racist policy - set in place by people no different from people who set aside water fountains and disallowed certain races from Marriage in the USA in the early 1900's
These same Bigots are acting as "praetorians of a new Rome" - keeping the "hordes" as one diplomat once told me over one two many drinks, "in place."
Home of the.... worried?
Fewer tourists coming to the USA? Why?Fewer tourists are coming to the USA... hmmmmm.... Why?
With 300 Million people inside the USA; a backlog of millions more all legally planning to go there and over 12 million "undocumented" or illegally residing in the USA. America has made restrictions at getting visas and travel to America a major reason why so much fewer international tourist prefer other destinations- and it is not only tourism -but trade and investments as well.
The Xenophobia and new rules after 9-11 have hurt the US economy and it is losing billions of dollars in tourism related visitors as well as investors who are going elsewhere rather than have to do all the paperwork to even get a simple US visa to visit or do business.
MSNBC reported in a article of the financial times - " US tourism industry leaders and top government officials on Tuesday urged collaboration between the public and private sectors to stem shrinking US market share of international visitors."-
Lets face it - if anyone has ever tried to do the paperwork and go and do the process in any embassy overseas one understands why the numbers have dropped. In an effort to put on greater security - there has come to fold a wall of sorts over many travelers.
While - "Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told travel industry leaders at the Global Travel & Tourism Summit held in Washington that government is attempting to balance strong security with welcoming foreign tourists." In the MSNBC Post.
I bet the secretary has never had to apply to for US tourist or Business visa and wait ten months to year just to get an interview. In the long run the "Home of the brave..." Seems no longer the apt Term - make it maybe?
"Home of the New Wall or a new Iron curtain of fear!"
It is red tape and bureaucracy that has caused this problem- the pile up of a paper work mess that makes many choose Europe or places like even Vietnam or china over the Californians and Vegas or sleepless seattles or wonderful Oregon coast or beauty of Maine or city that never sleeps New York.
When Paris, may be burning with riots- but much of the Riviera was fine... Montecarlo beaconed and Cannes called. Tourism was down- but people still came...
Italy is always a wonderful stop... Single market worked well too- one currency - one price throughout made Europeans stayed home this last few seasons.
Yes, the higher cost of air travel did kick in- but the bottom line was to much of the world the USA seemed a unwelcome destination with too many problems just to get papers done.
When one talks to US officials about this- the common reply is- the world changed after 9-11, yes indeed it did - the beacon of freedom, the land of liberty, the home of the free and brave- became scared xenophobic and fearful of anything from beyond its shores.
Yes- the common ground is one of the worst terrorist attacks happened and in one day the New York, America's city became a place of victims - throughout the land people have suffered from wide spread traumatic stress since then
But in context- many of the worlds cities have suffered in this war of terror - albeit similar in types of attack but not in terms of scale- but loss of life over years of terror attacks just as much as New York. Look at Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or London or Madrid - where terror has long been used to attempt to change society.
Aside from Al Qaeda - there is Etta in Spain- the IRA in the UK- the various factions from all over the middle east in Israel... Who have bombed and hijacked over the decades- yes 9-11 rudely awoke America to these dangers it faces in this world begin an open democratic society.
Here where I am in Asia from Southern Thailand to Indonesia to the Southern Philippines even here in Manila - terror has often been a weapon of choice for "militants or rebels of whatever's the cause" for years
But overall the people have not changed their attitude that life indeed must go on - and people need to make sure that a bunker mentality and xenophobia over things and people different does not set in. Otherwise those seeking to make the world a unsafe place win.
There is an old saying that prejudice often starts with ignorance and misunderstanding - greatly indeed the USA has championed the teaching of understanding and respect and upholding the freedom of people of all races creeds and social standing... Yet watching the attitudes raised in the face of massive protests - one can see a major reason for the problem.
Many commentators and news networks have wrongly labeled huge massive protests as "marches of illegals" but nothing could be farther from the truth - 80 per cent of the people in those protests are born and raised in the USA.
Another problem is demographic shifts in numbers- take Los Angeles for example - 40 per cent of its population is Hispanic- they are the majority- in many other cities those numbers are rising rapidly- why?
Simple Hispanics as well as Asians have larger families- and lower divorce and abortion rates- so in a few years you may see WASP or White America protesting for "minority rights"
Add also lower immigration numbers from Europe has meant new arrivals - considering under the law - new citizens are allowed to petition for relatives and those come into the country by law in a few years- the numbers will rise from those larger and more recent groups.
But of late it has become a place where the welcome has worn out for even visitors- one need only look at the streets and see- millions protesting draconian laws that could never be enforced. America does not have enough jail cells at present for criminals- if those laws are put into place- where will the USA house or how can they in government even think of putting millions into jail?
Any attempt to do so would seem like NAZI era crackdowns in Germany- I need say what the jails would resemble- lets face it- most people in the world would not accept that "solution".
There is a failure to understand by very parochial congressmen of both the republican and democratic parties that blocked major investments the US Economy needed from China and Bahrain because of ownership issues - even if 99 per cent of those employed would have been Americans- while at the same time using leverage to open foreign industries to US ownership in closed industries in those very nations. Easing trade and investment laws means both ways on two way street.
It's the 1970's fuel and industry crisis all over anew in some ways -sadly those in both houses of the US congress- mostly Euro-centered American business and government officials can't seem to grasp that the weight of the worlds trade is on another shore in the pacific- that the focus of trade and issues should be following the sun west.
It is also from here where most of the worlds tourists are coming from- millions of travelers from china would love to tour America - but present laws and restrictive polices make it almost unreasonable. Perhaps a route that could be followed is Singapore and Hong Kong- say for places like Hawaii and Guam- which need the tourism more than any other part of the USA.
make those places perhaps America's free trade ports of entry and travel- and watch those economies boom! Imagine a free trade hub in the center of the Pacific in Hawaii - or on Guam - all under a US flag with US laws in place.
On the Mainland- or Continental USA - Los Angeles to San Diego could be open for free trade zones- on the east coast- New jersey or Manhattan - imagine the impact of people freely moving and trading and living- fee based it could solve any problems of social security or tax revenue shortfalls.
But those proposals are unlikely to ever be considered- Instead America continues to look toward old oceans and routes and methods of trade that focus far too much within traditional lines of trade and history.
Sadly there will be less and less tourists and more and angst over travel- Collin Powell recently said the USA once the home of the worlds best and brightest on it's University campuses have sadly become devoid of many foreign students who are going else where taking the world free market of ideas with them to other shores in Australia and Europe- which is courting traders, tourists, travelers of all nations in high numbers- one of the highest enrollments for example for foreign minds has been - you guessed it - Bahrain China and yes Russia...
it is ironic that while America declines and thinks of building up walls - Russia which tore down its is become a option for trade, investment, and ideas for many this new world brave enough to open its doors and economies to the world.
A new clock ticking...
200+ days to Iran?
Oh-boy another clock!!!!
209 days and counting down.... See it here - www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/Iran
looking at the site - a favorite site of mine when I was foreign producer/editor for a Philippine network's morning show something caught my eye. It probably was there before - a clock showing a count down to conflict or airstrikes versus Iran by the United States.
When I looked today it was a little over 200 days to conflict...
It may seem strange but looking at the present statements from Iran's leadership on the need to acquire nuclear technology one can expect the clock to speed up a bit.
It is clear no mater who you ask in Iraq that there has been support by Iranian interests for insurgents in Iraq- albeit - untraceable directly to government - a BBC report a few weeks back showed near the border at Basra interceptions of components that were believed to have been parts for IED's.
The same can be said for Afghanistan... Where reports increasingly are that some form of aid to hold-outs have been seen and heard and weapons and other goods transported into the afghan wilderness.
Looking at the clock, countdown, or, timer some dates were mentioned;
7 November 2006
The US Congressional elections of 2006 will be held on Tuesday, November 7, 2006. It is unclear how the United States election cycle would influence the timing of strikes against Iran. If the White House is risk averse, it would be unlikely to launch strikes in the run-up to the 2006 election [or the 2008 election]. However, as soon as the election concludes, risk averse domestic political inhibitions about the uncertain consequences of striking Iran might be greatly diminished. Alternately, it might be conjectured that the White House might judge that military strikes would rally the country around the President and his party. This would argue for timing the strikes as little as a week before the election, a pre-planned October Surprise.
Some analysts predict that Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon as early as 2006. As of mid-2003 the CIA reportedly assessed that Iran was two or three years away from developing nuclear weapons. IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei told Der Spiegel 21 February 2005 that if Iran was determined to have nuclear weapons - as the US believes it is - it was Âlikely to have a bomb in two or three yearsÂ. These estimates would seem rather pessimistic. A more realistic date would seem to be around 2010.
2007 The year 2007 begins to mark the closing of the window of opportunity for military strkes against Iran.I hope things come to better alternative than what has happened in Iraq- the consensus among many is that Iran's leaders feel trapped between Iraq on one side and Afghanistan on the other seeing a very likely scenario that the US can hit them from either side and of course the sea if needed.
The Gulf & Hormutz...
Iran however does have a Navy and recently did develop a version of rocket powered submarine launched torpedo that is a variant of russian design- the design - which is based on a rocket powered torpedo that exploded in tests causing the Kursk disaster.
The Iranian test was publicly broadcast and its obvious intent was to show their technological prowess and capability - Iraq did not posses- building weapon deigned ed for Naval warfare- Iraq has tiny coastline with the Gulf and this was never high on Saddams priority list.
Iran does have Six Kilo Class Submaries most have been recently delivered and are new... Iran's Naval forces are more advanced in both riverine and coastal warfare skills if the Iran-Iraq war were to be an example.
The only thing Iraq was better at was using it's Air Force and at that time Iran under US-UK-UN sanctions could do little except doing swap deals with the contra's for spare parts for its own air force.
But even thus hindred they were able to control Iraq's small coastal fleet.
But a rocket powered torpedoes aside - any phase of any air or ground operations is made difficult by Iran's more advanced weapon technologygy programs which have not - like Iraq's under Saddam - been saddled by sanctions over the last decade prior to the conflict.
Iran's Military Industrial complex is at least by report very advanced..Youou can see more on the weapons and development programs that include advanced fighter aircraft designs.
Iran also has very close ties and is the major consumer of Russian and Chinese arms industry firms making them very adapt and more modern itheirer capabilities - also - any actions would most likely not be supported by the UN or rest of the World - even America's mosstaunchestst allies in NATO might stand aside if a conflict were to develop.
So far it has all been talk- but a clock still is ticking..Letsts hope it's stopwatch that will be stopped and reset toward peace in a region too long in conflict!!!