Archive for March, 2011

LDC’s Still At Bottom Of Economic Barrel

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Interesting, the different perspectives on the ILO report on the LDC’s development. Terraviva emphasis is on the lack of change and New Kerala emphasis is on uneven growth. One gives the impression of no change, the other that change just needs to be tweaked. I have not been to any of the LDC’s, although I have been to India which has regions that are like as poverty stricken as the worst LDC.

The USA is retrenching and the Republican Congress wants to cut off financial aid to countries around the world. Not that the US gives much compared to EU countries, but if they have their way there will be even less aid to go around. What these countries need is to have debt relief. Let them wipe this debt off their books, and focus on development assuming they have governments in that are capable of taking advantage of such a windfall.

It is strange that a country like Angola, with all its oil wealth, is still an LDC, mostly a result of the long war perpetuated by the USA giving weapons and financial aid to the rebels for so long. It was one of the ironies of history that Cuban troops were protecting US oil wells in Cabinda province while the US was also funding the rebels who were trying to blow up those wells. Africa has long suffered from exploitation from outside and corruption from inside. It suffers from both an overabundance of do-gooders, rapacious rulers, and cynical manipulators. What it needs is a good dose of realistic disinterested leadership rising from within. Africans ultimately need to help themselves and the world would do best to let them. But it is a complex situation, like all things in the world and Africa is no longer an isolated entity, it is well integrated into the world economy and is essential to the running of the world economy if only as a source of raw materials. It is essential that the African people are acknowledged for their part in the world system and receive their fair share of the wealth created. We all participate in creating the total wealth of the world and there is no reason why it should be hoarded in a few nations at the expense of the rest of the world.

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From Terraviva

Least Developed Countries Stagnate Under Ailing Strategies
By Kanya D’Almeida

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 30, 2011 (IPS) - A report released Tuesday by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for the Fourth Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) slated to take place in Istanbul, Turkey in early May expressed a strong critique of the snail’s pace of development, but stopped just short of calling for radical new policies to be implemented.

The report, entitled “Growth, Employment and Decent Work in the Least Developed Countries”, solidified widespread fears that the “graduation” rate of LDCs was abysmally low, with only three countries out of 51 – the Maldives, Botswana and Cape Verde – moving out of the category since it was created by the United Nations in 1970.

Addressing a panel at the U.N. headquarters Tuesday, Jose Manual Salazar-Xirinachs, the executive director of the employment sector of the ILO, said that even the minor recorded growth was falling far short of acceptable economic and social returns, making the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the world’s poorest 48 countries an unlikely possibility.

“Productive capacity in agriculture and manufacturing remain limited, exports are too concentrated, employment grew at a mere 2.9 percent from 2000-2009 and the majority of workers in [LCDs] remain trapped in vulnerable forms of employment that cannot lift them from the poverty line,” Salazar- Xirinachs said.

He added that the ILO hoped to contribute solutions to these imbalances through a two-fold policy aimed at “accelerating sustainable growth while simultaneously improving the quality of growth” in a more a diversified production structure and a more socially-inclusive and job-rich pattern.

However, he did not elaborate as to how these slightly modified policies, which nevertheless constituted a “business-as-usual” approach, would suffice to address the devastating levels of poverty, economic degradation and mounting income inequalities in countries still suffering from the debilitating impacts of centuries of colonialism and decades of neoliberal development agendas.

“Business as usual is not sufficient,” Sir Richard Jolly, an honourary professor at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and a member of the U.N. secretary-general’s newly-appointed Group of Eminent Persons (GEP) on LDCs, told IPS.

“Trade reforms in agriculture are urgent and essential, especially because a high proportion of the poor in LDCs are dependent directly or indirectly on agricultural production…Strengthening agricultural production in these countries often means improving local markets and limiting cheap exports from COP 8 countries where agricultural production is subsidised,” he added.

A report released ahead of the summit in Istanbul by the GEP made clear that “increasing marginalisation of the LDCs is creating a future that we, as a global community, cannot afford.”

“Of course, economic growth alone is not the only test of progress. There is need for human development, which is sustainable, attention to the priority issues of poverty reduction, MDG achievement and attention to environmental sustainability for the medium and longer run,” Jolly told IPS.

While this rhetoric is hopeful, and possibly even inspiring to some, many experts believe that it is quickly becoming obsolete.

Kouglo Lawson Body, the director of economic policy for the International Trade Union Confederation-Africa, stressed that his organisation, which represents 16 million workers from 48 African countries, was less focused on finding solutions to community-level problems than it was in understanding and analysing global trends that lead to local challenges.

“We need real reform in global governance to free the LDCs from the dominion of international institutions and even from some of the emerging developed countries,” Body said.

“Giants like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are too concerned with influencing the decisions and strategies of LDCs, particularly in Africa – this is a trend that needs to change on systemic level,” he added.

Omar Dahi, a professor of Economics at Hampshire College, echoed Body’s words and stressed the need for more autonomy for former colonies.

“It’s possible for a country like Angola to achieve over 10,000 to 15,000 dollars per capita GDP in the next few years, but that means very little for the majority of the population,” Dahi told IPS.

“Additionally, recent events in the Arab world indicate that, regardless of development, people will rebel against authoritarian rule even if they are experiencing decent economic growth, such as in Tunisia. This should make everyone question the so-called ‘Chinese model’, which has become popular in the last decade,” he said.

“Neoliberal globalisation, with the trinity of liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation, has not delivered,” he added. “Instead, it has exposed the most vulnerable populations to the vagaries of the international market and rising commodity prices, while making LDCs more and more desperate for attracting foreign investment.”

Dahi insisted that LDCs needed to be freed from the constraints of structural adjustment policies, which work greatly to their disadvantage.

“Writing off LDCs’ debt (rather than debt relief) is a first step to reversing this legacy, since there are estimates that the poorest countries pay 90 million dollars daily in debt payments. Recovering an appropriate role for the state in those countries is another step. Once policy space and some autonomy are recovered, grassroots organisations can thrive,” he concluded.

http://ipsnews.net/newsTVE.asp?idnews=55071

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UN List of LDC’s

#Also LLDCs

Africa (33)

1
Angola
18
Madagascar

2
Benin
19
Malawi #

3
Burkina Faso #
20
Mali #

4
Burundi #
21
Mauritania

5
Central African Republic #
22
Mozambique

6
Chad #
23
Niger #

7
Comoros *
24
Rwanda #

8
Democratic Republic of the Congo
25
São Tomé and Príncipe *

9
Djibouti
26
Senegal

10
Equatorial Guinea
27
Sierra Leone

11
Eritrea
28
Somalia

12
Ethiopia #
29
Sudan

13
Gambia
30
Togo

14
Guinea
31
Uganda #

15
Guinea-Bissau *
32
United Republic of Tanzania

16
Lesotho #
33
Zambia #

17
Liberia

Asia (14)

1
Afghanistan #
8
Nepal #

2
Bangladesh
9
Samoa *

3
Bhutan #
10
Solomon Islands *

4
Cambodia
11
Timor-Leste *

5
Kiribati *
12
Tuvalu *

6
Lao People’s Democratic Republic #
13
Vanuatu *

7
Myanmar 14
Yemen

Latin America and the Caribbean (1)

1
Haiti *

* Also SIDS

http://www.unohrlls.org/en/ldc/related/62/

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From new Kerala.com

Economic diversification to boost LDCs: UN New York, Mar 30: Diversifying production rather than relying on commodity exports is crucial to boosting the economies of the least developed countries (LDCs), a quarter of the world’s total, according to a United Nations report slated to be issued on Tuesday.

“Growth in the last decade has been high but volatile because it has been based on exports of primary commodities rather than a diversified production structure,” the study by the UN International Labour Office (ILO) says, calling for sectoral and export diversification away from commodities to manufacturing.

The report – Growth, Employment and Decent Work in the Least Developed Countries – has been prepared for a conference on LDCs to be held in Istanbul from 9 to 13 May, which will seek to promote a 10-year programme for food security, decent work, disaster risk reduction, climate resilience and clean energy growth in the 48 LDCs.

Recognizing the potential for economic improvement in the LDCs, it stresses that learning lessons from “islands of success” in some countries is “critical to design and implement new policies to facilitate large-scale access to productive and remunerative employment.”

“The primary labour market challenge in the Least Developed Countries is not unemployment but productive employment and decent work for the large numbers of working poor,” ILO Director General Juan Somavia said.

“This is the main obstacle to the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and set the Lower Developed Countries on a sustainable development route,” he added, referring to the eight ambitious targets set at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, which aim to slash hunger and poverty, maternal and infant mortality, a host of diseases and lack of access to education and health care, all by 2015.

Providing figures and trends for 2000-2009 period, the report shows that employment in LDCs has grown at an annual average rate of 2.9 per cent, slightly above population growth but much weaker than the gross domestic product (GDP). Most of the increase took place in the services sector, with industry accounting for a mere 10 per cent of total employment in 2008, up from 8 per cent in 2000.

The share of wage and salary workers increased slightly, from 14 per cent in 2000 to 18 per cent in 2008 but the large majority of workers remained trapped in vulnerable forms of employment that cannot lift them above the poverty line.

“Massive deficits in public infrastructure, education and skills” are constraining a more sustainable and balanced growth strategy, resulting in a weak increase in productive employment, especially for young people, with a high level of working poverty, vulnerable employment, informality and low productivity.

The report stresses what it calls the “heterogeneity” of the LDCs, showing that some regions and some countries have done better than others in their patterns of growth, investment, reducing poverty and social protection, among others. “LDCs at least need to model themselves on their peers who are currently doing better,” it says.

It calls for coherence between macroeconomic frameworks promoting job creation and poverty reduction and policies to support the building of productive capacities in industry and agriculture, infrastructure and a critical mass of job-creating sustainable enterprises.

It also advocates better social protection as well as cash transfers schemes and public employment programmes targeting vulnerable groups, especially women and youth.

Among other policy suggestions, the report calls for implementing labour market and social policies that encourage the transition from the informal to the formal economy, protecting the incomes of the most vulnerable groups, and setting up a range of labour market institutions to cover areas such as employment protection legislation and minimum wages.

Collective bargaining and freedom of association have important developmental impacts, it adds.

Of the 48 countries currently designated by the UN as LDCs, 33 are in the African region, 14 in Asia and Oceania and one (Haiti) in the Caribbean.

–IBNS

http://www.newkerala.com/news/world/fullnews-178930.html

Plastic Chokes Oceans

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The plastic lobby doesn’t want us to stop polluting the oceans with tons of plastic debris. Gee I wonder why? Could it have something to do with profits? Plastic comes from oil, and oil is soon to be in short supply. We need to end our addiction to throw away packaging and go back to the way things were packed a century ago before the ubiquitous plastic container. Back then we wrapped in paper or carried in bulk containers. Reusable bags are a good start. Supermarkets need to stop plastic wrapping everything and remove the throwaway plastic bags. It is a small thing but it can make a significant difference.

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From Terraviva

Fight Against Marine Garbage Runs Into Plastics Lobby
By Stephen Leahy

HONOLULU, Hawaii, U.S., Mar 28, 2011 (IPS) - Every day, billions of plastic bags and bottles are discarded, and every day, millions of these become plastic pollution, fouling the oceans and endangering marine life.

No one wants this, but there is wide disagreement about how to stop it.

“Every time I stick my nose in the water, I am shocked. I see less and less fish and more and more garbage,” said Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the legendary marine ecologist Jacques Cousteau, who has spent four decades making documentaries and educating people about the oceans.

On trips to the remote and uninhabited northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Cousteau found miles and miles of plastic bottles, cigarette lighters, television tubes, spray cans, broken toys, and thousands of other pieces of plastic on the beaches and thousands of tonnes of derelict fishing nets in the reefs.

“We are using the oceans as a universal sewer,” he told some 440 participants from the plastics manufacturing, food and beverage sectors, environmental organisations, scientists and policy-makers from over 35 countries at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, which ended Mar. 25.

Humanity is risking its own health and survival in treating the oceans this way, Cousteau said. The oceans are the source of life on our planet. Through evaporation, oceans are the most important source of fresh water while phytoplankton generates at least half the oxygen we breathe.

“No one is away from the ocean. We are all intimately connected by every breath we take,” he said.

Sadly, the same is true for trash. The UNEP-Global Programme of Action (GPA) estimates that about 80 percent of the plastics and other human-produced debris originate from land-based activities. In some parts of the ocean, there are three to six kilogrammes of marine trash for every kilogramme of plankton.

Cousteau implored participants to collaborate and come up with a set of actions to reduce the amount of plastics and marine debris that are getting into the oceans.

California nearly became the first U.S. state to ban plastic bags, but a multi-million-dollar lobby effort by industry killed the proposed legislation as it came to a final vote, said Kirsten James, water quality director of Heal the Bay, a California environmental group.

“Less than five percent of the 19 billion plastic bags used in California every year are recycled,” said James.

Despite the broad coalition involving grocery store owners, unions, local legislators and the public, the American Chemistry Council, an industry lobby group, fought the ban with its own “save the plastic bag coalition”. It is now spending more millions on lawsuits to prevent towns and cities from instituting local plastic bag bans, she said.

However, some cities such as Los Angeles are instituting local bans, with about 10 percent of California to be bag- free by 2012.

Industry is always pushing public education and recycling, but that is clearly not enough, James said. She also acknowledged that banning plastic bags is the first step in trying to eliminate single-use plastic products. “We’re going to have to fight this fight for years to come.”

Part of the city of San Francisco’s effort to combat marine debris is to produce zero waste by 2020. The city already diverts 77 percent of its waste but still spends 40 million dollars a year cleaning up litter, said Robert Haley of San Francisco’s department of environment. The city has banned several types of plastic, including styrofoam.

“We’re working on a plastic bag ban but facing resistance from industry,” Haley said.

“Why doesn’t industry simply eliminate single-use plastic containers for food and beverages?” David de Rothschild, a British adventurer and environmentalist, asked the representative from the American Chemistry Council at a special panel discussion only for media.

The public should reduce their use of single-use containers and properly recycle them, responded Steve Russell, the Council’s vice president of plastics.

“Why does your industry spend millions on promoting plastic bags?” de Rothschild asked.

“It’s a material choice that the consumer makes, it is not about single-use,” Russell replied.

When IPS asked Russell, since seabirds, turtles, fish and other marine animals are dying because of single-use plastic, why not take the obvious step of replacing it with another product, Russell gave a similar answer.

“We incorporate environmental impacts into our life cycle analysis of our containers,” said April Crow, global sustainable packaging manager for Coca-Cola, another panellist.

When asked by IPS if that analysis included the ecological impact on seabirds with bellyfuls of plastic, she declined to elaborate.

“There is no single solution,” suggested conference organiser David Osborn of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Marine debris is a wicked problem, one that is difficult to define, multi-causal, socially complex with no clear solution,” Osborn said to conclude the panel.

“It’s a no-brainer. We have to stop putting plastic in the sea,” said Richard Thompson, a marine biologist at the University of Plymouth, in one of the scientific sessions.

“There is no reason for delay. Governments and industry need to take action and people have to stop pointing fingers at each other and get on with it,” said Thompson.

Jean-Michel Cousteau expressed a similar sentiment at the end of his opening remarks and noted that keeping trash out of the oceans would create many thousands of new jobs.

“Now that we know, we simply have to change,” he concluded.

http://ipsnews.net/newsTVE.asp?idnews=55029

Obama Speaks On Libya

Monday, March 28th, 2011

President Obama is convinced a failure to act in Libya would have a far greater price for America. Regime change is mistake he says. He wants to get rid of Gaddafi by means other than military means. Force to get rid of Gaddafi would entail putting American troops on the ground. That is what we did in Iraq. He seems pretty convincing in his oratory. The president always does. But what interests are served by the US involvement in Libya? There is no real interest other than supporting the French, British and Italians. The Italians in particular have a concern over immigration, and much of their oil comes from Libya, so does Spain and Serbia. But is it enough to go to war? I doubt it. Certainly the US has only a regional interest. in maintaining the oil supply and suppressing Al Qaeda. Otherwise, humanitarian concerns are simply window dressing. If we were such humanitarians we would have stopped the fighting in Ivory Coast and Yemen. With our navy in Bahrain we would have straightened things out there. No, there are geo-political interests at stake and Gaddafi is small potatoes in the scheme of things, but he is an irritant to the French who have to deal with his intervention in their part of Africa. Why the British are so bullish on Libya is a wonder, perhaps it is revenge for Lockerbie.

The only intervention that is justifiable is that which supports social democracy, and that is a s likely as the Easter bunny and Santa Claus. But since under capitalism we get self interest, and some would say that all there is, is self interest, such as Stirner and Egotist Anarchists promote, but most of us accept some kind of morality, social or spiritual. Thus we can expect a capitalist USA to promote Capitalist militarist oligarchy. These oligarchies often pretend to be democracies, some are even some kind of democro-ologarcho-capitalist hybrid, like the USA. The essence of them all is elite control of the wealth and direction of their country with some nominal popular support manipulated by the elite into subordinating a percentage of their personal self interest for that of the superstructure. Hmm, perhaps I am individualist anarchist after all… Got to think about that one, St Karl spent over 500 pages of the unexpurgated German Ideology satirizing St. Max. There must be something there unless it is like Oakland, in which case, there is no there, there.

The world is an interesting place. While things erode in Japan, they explode in Libya and in the USA people watch American Idol and hope it all goes away.

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From NPR

Obama Libya Speech: Striking For What Was Unsaid As Much As Said

09:59 pm

March 28, 2011

by Frank James

President Obama’s Monday night speech on Libya was probably as striking for what he didn’t say as much as what he did say.

For instance, he didn’t offer details for how much longer the U.S. military will be actively involved in the effort.

It’s not hard to see why he’d avoid that one. No one knows at this point how long it will take for Moammar Gadhafi to fall, if he indeed does.Weeks, months, more, who knows?

And with the military option being handed off to NATO that means the U.S. essentially handed the operation back to itself since it is the first among equals in the U.S.-European military alliance.

He didn’t promise to keep Congress or the American people informed with future updates.

Everyone knows the president and his aides would clearly rather be talking about the economy than the confused Libyan conflict. Gadhafi has already distracted from their domestic agenda any more than they’ve wanted.

He didn’t appeal to history, the actions of past presidents, to make the case that his decisions were in the long tradition of U.S. foreign or military policy.

Of course, the track record of U.S. armed humanitarian interventions is uneven. True, Bosnia and Kosovo went relatively well for the U.S. Somalia, on the other hand, with its “Blackhawk Down” debacle, was viewed as a disaster.

Placing his decisions in the context of what other presidents have done might have also helped him beat back accusations that he had exceeded his constitutional authority by ordering the military to act without more congressional input.

But clearly, the president didn’t feel compelled to do that.

For those reasons and more, the speech is unlikely to satisfy many of Obama’s critics, some of whom wouldn’t have been mollified even if he had accepted wholesale their suggestions for what to include.

What the president did say that may become the most analyzed part of his speech is how he will approach the use of military force during his presidency.

Like virtually all his predecessors, he stated unequivocally that he would use the military unilaterally if it was necessary to defend the nation from a threat.

But during his presidency the U.S. will act militarily not just when its security or vital national interests are at risk but also when its “interests and values” are threatened, Obama said.

But in these cases, for instance to stop genocide, the U.S. won’t act alone but with international partners to help rovide military personnel and money for such efforts.

Obama was putting the world on notice that protecting innocent civilian populations or the democratic aspirations of a people weren’t just the work of the American people but of other nations that share its values.

Obama said:

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act – but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.

But Obama made sure to state that even when it was part of such an international effort, the U.S. would still pick its shots. That’s because not every dire situation in the world can be made better through the limited means he was willing to use.

It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.

It was Obama’s way of saying in such instances, Americans shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

On the other hand, he had a message for the hawks who want U.S. troops to kick in Gadhafi’s door or give the dictator the opportunity to die for his country. That would come at too high a costs of American blood and treasure, Obama said.

It was one of those moments that was a reminder that in the Obama presidency is a reaction to that of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush.

Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gadhafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.

The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2011/03/28/134937078/obama-libya-speech-striking-for-what-was-unsaid-as-much-as-said?ft=1&f=1001

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From Washington Post

Big stakes for Obama in Monday’s Libya speech
By Dan Balz, Saturday, March 26, 5:57 PM
President Obama has used his rhetorical and intellectual skills in the past to get himself out of a jam or boost his standing when he needed it most. He did it with a speech on race when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright threatened his candidacy during the 2008 primaries. He did it in January after the Tucson shootings with a speech that helped him regain his balance after midterm election losses.

He will try to do that again with his scheduled speech Monday night on the Libyan conflict. His first obligation, as NATO assumes command, will be to speak with greater precision and clarity about the mission, what means will be pursued to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and what the U.S. role will be if and when that happens.

But precise rhetoric is only a partial answer to the problem that now presents itself. Obama must also speak with strength and conviction about where he is leading after sending signals that this is a conflict he wishes the United States could have avoided and a military mission that this country has little desire to lead.

The president and his most senior advisers have struggled to define the mission. They have relied on euphemisms — “time-limited, scope-limited military action” being the most widely quoted — to explain what the conflict is and isn’t, what the U.S. role is and isn’t. The results of their efforts have been mixed at best.

The seeming inconsistency between the stated goal of the military mission (to protect the civilian population and prevent a humanitarian crisis) and Obama’s statement of U.S. policy (that Gaddafi must go) may make sense to policymakers here and in some allied capitals. It may be deliberately inconsistent, given the differing views of coalition partners and the desire of the administration not to make this a U.S.-only intervention. But to some, it has seemed a muddle.

This is not the first time the president has appeared eager for others to take the lead on a difficult issue. He let House Democrats write his stimulus bill in the first weeks of his administration. He put more money into bank bailouts but said he didn’t like to do it. He bailed out automakers but said he wanted the government out as quickly as possible.

He declined to send Congress a health-care plan of his own and then waited months in the hope that senators could produce a bipartisan package. By the time it was clear they couldn’t, his presidency had been damaged and his health-care bill almost killed. When he finally committed to seeing the fight through to the end, he got his bill through Congress. The victory came at a high political price to Obama and his party.

He appointed a bipartisan commission to make recommendations for dealing with the long-term fiscal problems of debt and deficits. Then he stood back as the two leaders of the effort — former Republican senator Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles — tried to cobble together a supermajority of the membership that could have forced congressional consideration. He raised the commission’s recommendations in his State of the Union address but invited congressional Republicans to take the first step to confront the problem.

He has exhorted Congress to reach a compromise to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year but has so far declined repeated Republican demands to become more deeply engaged in the negotiations.

When Republicans, pointing to his health-care plan, his partial takeover of the auto industry and the size of his stimulus program, claimed he is a big government liberal, he rejected the label. When, after cutting a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for another two years, it was said he had moved to the center in the wake of the Democrats’ losses in the midterm elections, he rejected that assessment, too.

In 2009, he spent months presiding over an exhaustive review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, drawing criticism that he was indecisive. When he ultimately decided to sharply escalate the conflict with additional troops, he insisted that the announcement be coupled with a statement committing the United States to begin drawing down those forces in July 2011.

Administration officials can legitimately offer arguments in nearly all these cases.

Domestically, the president faced monumental economic problems that demanded shock treatment and extraordinary measures. Obama didn’t initiate the bank bailouts, they note, President George W. Bush did. He fought for health care, despite the political costs, because he believed there might not be another chance to make major changes in a system fraught with problems. He preferred a bipartisan solution but Republicans weren’t going to help, no matter what he tried. He is serious about tackling entitlements, but reviving the economy and getting the deficit under control must take precedence.

White House advisers said his Afghan policy was true to his campaign commitment to focus more resources on that conflict while bringing the Iraq war to an end. His decision, they argue, was an example of exercising presidential leadership by forcing the Pentagon to accept a start date for withdrawal and making clear he was not prepared to spend money there indefinitely.

The uprisings in the Middle East have come swiftly and unexpectedly. Libya is not Egypt or Tunisia — or Bahrain or Yemen. Policymakers are scurrying to stay abreast of unfolding events.

Gaddafi’s history as a tyrant and his threats to slaughter civilians required careful diplomacy to avoid a U.S.-only war on an Arab nation and, when the United Nations voted, required that a hastily implemented military plan that was, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, put together “on the fly.” Is it any wonder it has looked messy for a few days?

Results matter most. If Gaddafi is gone in a month, much of the criticism of the president could fade quickly.

Still, the president’s actions and style have raised anew questions about his leadership. Is his oft-stated patience a virtue, as his advisers claim, or does his down-stated approach convey tentativeness and uncertainty? Can he explain why he stands where he stands? That’s why Monday’s speech is important.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/big-stakes-for-obama-in-mondays-libya-speech/2011/03/26/AFAUeHeB_story.html

Anarchists Battle Cops In London

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

There was a march in London yesterday to protest the austerity measures. It was called the largest protest since the 2003 anti-war marches. Somewhere between 500 and 1000 anarchists according to the reports in the media battled with police for several hours in an effective display of unhappiness with the capitalist system. Go team!

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From Voice of Russia

200 arrested in London riots

Mar 27, 2011 07:00 Moscow Time

More than 200 people have been detained for complicity in Saturday’s riots in London. The arrests came after a peaceful demonstration against government-proposed austerity measures degenerated into violence in the city downtown.

Police say that the an estimated 1,000 or so people who went on a rampage on the city’s main Oxford Street smashing shop windows, ATMs and cafes were in no way connected with the protesters.

Saturday’s demonstration which, according to various estimates, brought together up to half a million people, was Britain’s biggest in eight years.

http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/03/27/48031148.html

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From News Daily

Rioters battle UK police after anti-cuts rally

By Stefano Ambrogi
and Tim Castle Posted 2011/03/26 at 7:20 pm EDT

LONDON, Mar. 26, 2011 (Reuters) — Black-clad, masked youths battled riot police and attacked banks and luxury stores in central London on Saturday, overshadowing a protest by more than a quarter of a million Britons against government spending cuts.

Police said they had arrested more than 200 people after anarchist groups splintered from the main union-led protest march and fought running skirmishes with riot police across the West End shopping and theater district.

They threw flares and paint bombs and smashed their way into branches of HSBC and Santander banks. Banks are blamed by many Britons for a financial crisis that helped prompt the government to implement the deepest spending cuts in a generation.

Hooded figures climbed on to the roof of luxury food store Fortnum & Mason while other protesters attacked the exclusive Ritz hotel and started fires at several locations.

Late in the evening, 200-300 protesters occupied Trafalgar Square where they tried to damage an electronic clock counting down to the 2012 London Olympic Games before helmeted riot police moved in to disperse them amid a hail of bottles.

The clashes deflected attention from a peaceful rally to protest against public spending cuts, tax rises and pension reforms introduced by the Conservative-led coalition.

Union leaders and police said over 250,000 people joined the biggest demonstration in the capital since protests against war in Iraq in 2003.

The coalition, in power since last May, is pushing ahead with a tough debt reduction program to virtually eliminate a budget deficit, running at about 10 percent of GDP, by 2015.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition says it is cleaning up a mess left by the previous Labor government and that failure to act would expose Britain to market turmoil.

“TOO FAR, TOO FAST”‘

Police were pelted with paint and what they said were light bulbs filled with ammonia in scenes which mirrored violence late last year over higher student tuition fees.

London police commander Bob Broadhurst drew a distinction between the rally attended by health workers, teachers and families and the actions of a violent hardcore of around 500.

“It’s really just criminality. They’ve attacked buildings, broken windows, thrown paint at them and not been afraid to attack police officers trying to protect those buildings,” he told Reuters.

Many European countries have seen mass protests in recent months as governments slash public spending to try to help their economies to recover from the global financial crisis.

Unions and the opposition Labor Party say the government is bringing misery to millions of Britons with unemployment at its highest level since 1994. The spending cuts are expected to result in more than 300,000 job losses in the public sector.

Labor leader Ed Miliband told a rally n Hyde Park that the government was taking Britain back to what he said were the divisive politics of the 1980s when Conservative Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.

“There is a need for difficult choices, and some cuts,” Miliband said. “But, this government is going too far and too fast and destroying the fabric of our communities.”

(Writing by Keith Weir and Olesya Dmitracova; editing by David Cowell)

http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre72p0yn-us-britain-protest/

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From the Journal.ie

London counts cost as over 200 arrested in post-demonstration riots27/03/11, 11:01

BUSINESSES IN LONDON’S city centre are counting the costs of riots in the city centre last night, which saw over 200 anti-capitalist protesters arrested following sustained clashes with riot police.

The disturbances, centralised around Trafalgar Square, followed a largely peaceful march with over 250,000 people demonstrating against what they saw as an overtly aggressive plan of spending cuts from the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Battles on London’s busiest shopping street, Oxford Street, also saw coordinated attacks on shopfronts, with mobs attempting to storm into major retailers.

The Daily Telegraph reports how a massive bonfire was started in the centre of Jermyn Street, just off Piccadilly, while a ‘Trojan Horse’ was also set fire to on Oxford Street.

The Ritz Hotel, meanwhile, was attacked by protesters flinging dustbins through main windows. This morning hoteliers and retailers had begun to wash off anarchist symbols and anti-government slogans that had been sprayed onto their buildings.

The earlier demonstrations – described by the left-leaning Guardian as a ‘family day out’ – had been organised by the UK’s Trades Union Congress, culminating in a rally at Hyde Park where Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed a quarter of a million marchers.

The BBC said a total of 201 people had been arrested, and quoted the TUC’s general secretary Brendan Barber as insisting that the actions of a “few hundred people” should not detract from the symbol of so many people marching.

Sky News reported, however, that the numbers arrested had reached 214. 66 people were injured in the protests, including 31 police officers – 11 of whom were hospitalised.

Yesterday’s demonstration was the largest in London since the anti-war marches of 2003.

http://www.thejournal.ie/london-counts-cost-as-over-200-arrested-in-post-demonstration-riots-2011-03/

Acid Hero Owsley Dead In Australia

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

I read about this a week ago. But I was too absorbed in the Libya mess to take much notice. But as a former acid head, and true believer in the psychedelic experience, I must note the passing of one of our heroes. Owsley is gone to the beyond. Joining Tim Leary in the realm where the body no longer matters, Augustus Owsley Stanley lll, is among the un-living, grateful dead. Somebody send me a tab or two and I will take them in honor of the passing of one of the greats.

==============================================
From Rag Blog

23 March 2011
Paul Krassner : My Encounter with Owsley

My encounter with Owsley

By Paul Krassner / The Rag Blog / March 23, 2011

[Owsley Stanley, an iconic figure from the Sixties who gained fame as a producer of LSD and as a sound man for the Grateful Dead, died March 13, 2011, in an automobile accident in Queensland, Australia. Stanley supplied what Rolling Stone Magazine once called “the best LSD in the world” to Ken Kesey, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles, and, through his work with the Dead, revolutionized the art of rock and roll sound engineering. See The Guardian’s obituary after Paul Krassner’s article below.]

In 1967, there was a concert in Pittsburgh, with the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground, the Fugs, and me, playing the part of a stand-up satirist.

There were two shows, both completely sold out, and this was the first time anybody had realized how many hippies actually lived in Pittsburgh.

Backstage between shows, a man sidled up to me. “Call me ‘Bear,’” he said.

“Okay, you’re ‘Bear.’”

“Don’t you recognize me?”

“You look familiar, but–”

“I’m Owsley.”

“Of course – Owsley acid!”

Fun fact: His nickname, “Bear,” was originally inspired by his prematurely hairy chest.

Now he presented me with a tab of Monterey Purple LSD. Not wishing to carry around an illegal drug in my pocket, I swallowed it instead.

Soon I found myself in the front lobby, talking with Jerry Garcia. As people from the audience wandered past us, he whimsically stuck out his hand, palm up.

“Got any spare change?”

Somebody passing by gave him a dime, and Garcia said thanks.

“He didn’t recognize you,” I said.

“See, we all look alike.”

In the course of our conversation, I used the word “evil” to describe someone.

“There are no evil people,” Garcia said, just as the LSD was settling into my psyche. “There are only victims.”

“What does that mean? If a rapist is a victim, you should have compassion when you kick ‘im in the balls?”

I did the second show while the Dead were setting up behind me. Then they began to play, softly, and as they built up their riff, I faded out and left the stage.

Later, some local folks brought me to a restaurant which, they told me, catered to a Mafia clientele. They pointed out a woman sitting at a table. The legend was that her fingers had once been chopped off, and she’d go to a theater, walk straight up to the ticket-taker, hold up her hand and say, “I have my stubs.”

With my long brown curly hair underneath my Mexican cowboy hat, I didn’t quite fit in. The manager came over and asked me to kindly remove my hat. I was still tripping. I hardly ate any of my spaghetti after I noticed how it was wiggling on my plate.

I glanced around at the various Mafia figures sitting at their tables, wondering if they had killed anybody. Then I remembered what Jerry Garcia had said about evil. So these guys might be executioners, but they were also victims.

The spaghetti was still wiggling on my plate, but then I realized it wasn’t really spaghetti, it was actually worms in tomato sauce. The other people at my table were all pretending not to notice.

It was, after all, the Summer of Love.

“Thanks for enhancing it, ‘Bear.’”

========================================================

Owsley Stanley, 1935-2011:
Prolific LSD producer and
icon of the 1960s counterculture

By Michael Carlson / The Guardian / March 15, 2011

The American psychologist Timothy Leary’s famous invitation to “tune in, turn on and drop out” changed a generation. The key element was “turn on” and it was Owsley Stanley who provided the means to do just that. Stanley, who has died at age 76, produced millions of doses of “acid”, the psychedelic drug LSD, which fueled the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, and spread around the world.

Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze was the consequence of Stanley’s Monterey Purple acid; his varieties included White Lightning and Blue Cheer and aficionados called the best acid simply “Owsley”. He supplied the Beatles at the time of their Magical Mystery Tour television film (1967), and provided the acid to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest novelist Ken Kesey and his “Merry Pranksters”, whose 1964 bus trip across America was chronicled by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968).

Stanley’s acid turned hippies on and he also tuned them in. The band on Kesey’s bus was the Grateful Dead, with whom Owsley began an instantly synergistic relationship. The Dead took to his acid with such enthusiasm that Jerry Garcia became “Captain Trips”, while Stanley funded their career and became their sound engineer, creating their unique live sound and, by recording each concert, providing the most complete archive of any band of the era. Along with Bob Thomas, he designed the band’s “Steal Your Face” lightning bolt and skull logo, originally so his masses of sound equipment could be identified easily.

Stanley was also the quintessential drop-out. Born Augustus Owsley Stanley III, his grandfather of the same name had been governor of Kentucky, a US senator and congressman. His father, a state’s attorney, was pushed by wartime experiences into alcoholism. After his parents separated, he lived first with his mother in Los Angeles, then returned to his father and was sent to military school.

Nicknamed “Bear” when he began sprouting body hair, he was expelled from school for getting his ninth-grade classmates drunk. He spent more than a year as a patient at St Elizabeth’s, the Washington psychiatric hospital that also housed Ezra Pound, and tried college, but eventually joined the air force. His electronics training there led to work on radio stations in Los Angeles, while studying ballet and working as a dancer.

In 1963 he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where he began smoking marijuana and selling fellow students morning-glory seeds for a legal high. The next year, he encountered LSD. He spent three weeks studying the then-legal drug’s chemistry, and began producing it himself. Quitting college and working at a local radio station, he set up the “Bear Research Group” to make acid. By the time he met Kesey in September 1965, he had become the first private producer of LSD on a grand scale.

Along with Tim Scully he set up a massive lab in Port Richmond, at the northern end of San Francisco Bay; when LSD became illegal in California in 1966, Scully moved to a location opposite the Denver zoo. Stanley stayed ahead of the law by keeping his acid in a small trunk which he shipped between bus stations, but after a 1967 raid his defence was that the 350,000 acid tabs police confiscated were for his personal use. He fought the case for two years, but his bail was revoked when he and the Dead were busted in New Orleans in 1970, and he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Once released, he resumed working for the Dead. His mentoring of the band had floundered in 1966, because while sharing his house in Los Angeles’s Watts ghetto they also had to share his carnivorous life-style. Stanley believed that carbohydrates poisoned the body and vegetables interfered with nutrition. Arguing with his fierce but erratic intelligence was challenging: “There’s nothing wrong with Bear that a few billion less brain cells wouldn’t cure,” said Garcia.

On a practical level, Stanley’s perfectionism meant that sound systems took too long to set up and take down, and he feuded with the business-first approach of Lenny Hart, the band’s manager and father of drummer Mickey. But in 1973 he delved into his archive to release Bear’s Choice, a tribute to the recently deceased Dead co-founder, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, and in 1974, at a concert in San Francisco’s Cow Palace, he inaugurated the 604-speaker Wall of Sound.

Owsley later organised sound for Jefferson Starship and Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s solo projects, and scraped a living selling marijuana and making jewelery, a trade he learned in prison. In 1985 he met his third wife, Sheilah, and they moved to the Australian outback, squatting on 120 acres of remote land outside Cairns, convinced there was an oncoming Ice Age which would be best survived there. He believed that global warming was part of a natural cycle, rather than man-made.

In 2005, Stanley contracted throat cancer, attributing his survival to starving the tumour of glucose through diet. He died and his wife was injured when his car ran off a road in Queensland, and crashed into a tree. He is survived by Sheilah; by two sons, Pete and Starfinder; by two daughters, Nina and Redbird; and is remembered in the Dead’s song Alice D Millionaire and Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne.

http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/paul-krassner-my-encounter-with-owsley.html

EU Trade Deal To Limit Access To Indian Generic Drugs

Friday, March 25th, 2011

What are we doing? We the people, in a world where we are a manipulated mass, get to watch the show put on by the media manipulators and try to participate in whatever way possible. Some of us are out there blowing up people in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. Some part of we support governments that are repressive and oppressive until they are about ready to collapse. Then they collapse, we act surprised, the experts make noises and then depending on the interest and opportunity, some part of we send in the marines, or not.

But I am not writing about wars with guns today. Instead I am writing about the robbing of lives though patents. The EU is preparing for a trade deal that might make it much harder for the poor to get access to generic drugs. If you are a pharmaceutical company in the west this is good news. There should be an increase in the stocks of these companies if the deal goes through as reported. After all, what matters in this world saving a few poor people’s lives, or increasing the value of the portfolio of the super rich? There is a song that goes “some will rob you with a six gun, and some will rob you with a fountain pen…you will never see an outlaw drive a family from their home” - From Pretty Boy Floyd by Woody Guthrie.

====================================================
From Terraviva

INDIA: EU Trade Deal May Curb Affordable Drug Supply
By Ranjit Devraj

NEW DELHI, Mar 24, 2011 (IPS) - As India prepares to seal a sweeping trade and investment deal with the European Union (EU) in April, civil society groups are campaigning to limit the agreement’s repercussions within the local generic drug industry here upon which millions of people around the globe depend.

India’s commerce secretary, Rahul Khullar, is expected to be in Brussels Apr. 6-8 to sign a comprehensive agreement that will lower tariffs on a range of goods, liberalise investment rules and expand the market for services.

The deal, in the making since 2006, is between the world’s largest economy and a developing country that is about eight percent of its GDP size. The EU’s GDP was estimated at more than 16.4 trillion U.S. dollars in 2009 when India’s stood at 1.3 trillion dollars.

“We hope that Indian negotiators will withstand pressures and ensure that the existing intellectual property rights regime is not tampered with to allow extension of patents, especially as a number of drugs are going off patent, this year,” said Mira Shiva, a member of the All India Drug Action Network.

“The World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] was bad enough but we are facing a TRIPS-Plus bilateral deal which may prove even worse for public health,” Shiva told IPS.

If the India-EU free trade agreement (FTA) introduces TRIPS-Plus measures, people on HIV treatment, for example, may not be able to access second-line treatment when they become resistant to medicines they already are on, Shiva said.

By refusing to recognise patents and by leveraging its large domestic market India has, in the decades since 1970, been able to build up a powerful pharmaceutical industry known for its cheap and efficacious generic versions of patented drugs.

After 2005, India has been implementing changes mandated by the WTO, but these are less stringent than the EU intellectual property regime.

UNAIDS, the joint United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS, notes that the flexibility afforded by TRIPS has brought down drug prices and helped lower the cost of first-line generic anti-retrovirals (ARVs) by as much as 99 percent in the last decade.

The EU can be expected to demand data exclusivity on drugs as it has done in the case of all its other FTAs, said Shiva. Data exclusivity will allow drug manufacturers a monopoly, based on clinical test data generated on the safety and efficacy aspects of a new drug.

“What this means,” explains Amit Sen Gupta, public health expert at the Delhi Science Forum, a voluntary organisation, “is that an Indian drug company planning to produce the generic version of a patented drug will have to conduct its own clinical trials before it can be licenced and marketed.”

“Fresh trials would naturally add to the cost of the drug, and delay its introduction into the market,” Sen Gupta said. Currently the EU grants up to 11 years of exclusive rights based on successful clinical trials and other test data.

So far Indian regulators and courts have refused to support international pharmaceutical companies trying to stop the manufacture of generic drugs by making token changes in the formulation of drugs or by finding and adding new uses for them.

In a celebrated case, the Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG failed to obtain patent protection in India for a new formulation of its anti-cancer drug, Imatinib, also marketed as Gleevec. In 2007, Novartis challenged India’s patent laws at the Madras High Court but found its writ petition dismissed. The Supreme Court in New Delhi is currently hearing an appeal.

Similarly, the U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories could not stop the manufacture in India of generic, heat resistant versions of the anti-AIDS drugs, Ritonavir and Lopinavir.

“The EU naturally sees India’s large and legal domestic market as well as its drug manufacturing base as a threat,” Shiva explains.

Between 2003 and 2008 Indian generic manufacturers provided more than 80 percent of drugs used in internationally funded AIDS treatment programmes, including 91 percent of the paediatric ARVs, said Sen Gupta.

Government programmes to provide anti-HIV treatment, such as those run in Brazil and South Africa, have depended heavily on Indian generic ARVs. Brazil’s remarkable turnaround in controlling the spread of HIV has been attributed to the import of affordable generic ARVs from India.

India’s generic drug-makers play a major role in the South African government’s HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment programme. Last year, when a 700 million dollar tender was floated for the supply of ARVs, the Indian manufacturer Ranbaxy cornered a 131 million dollar order. The UNAIDS report for 2007 estimated that 5,700,000 South Africans had HIV/AIDS - or just under 12 percent of the country’s population of 48 million.

Both Brazil and South Africa also produce significant amounts of generic drugs themselves and have stakes in the viability of an industry threatened by international intellectual property rights regimes and FTAs.

Leena Menghaney, legal expert and campaigner for the Paris-based Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), said the outcome of the India-EU deal was being closely watched by Brazil, South Africa and other generics manufacturing countries like Thailand.

Menghaney said compulsory licencing, allowed under TRIPS, is threatened by expropriation claims made under investment rules in bilateral agreements. Compulsory licensing would allow a government to override a patent in emergencies such as an epidemic and arrange for the manufacture or import of generic versions of patented drugs.

“Pharmaceutical companies have argued that compulsory licences are indirect expropriation and have resorted to claims under provisions in bilateral FTAs,” Menghaney says.

http://ipsnews.net/newsTVE.asp?idnews=54988

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From Bangkok Post

AIDS PREVENTION

Europe attacking access to affordable generic drugs
Published: 24/11/2010 at 12:00 AM

Millions of people in developing countries rely on affordable quality generic medicines produced in India to stay alive. In fact, Medecins Sans Frontires (MSF) sources more than 80% of the HIV medicines it uses to treat 160,000 patients across the world from India, and a recent study found that from 2003-2008, more than 80% of donor-funded purchases of HIV medicines came from India.

Children with Aids (above) are looked after at the child care centre in Phnom Penh. Below is a poster distributed by the Vineeta Foundation. Today’s innocent children born with Aids will also be affected by the difficulties associated with accessing vital treatment.

Manufacturers in India have been able to produce cheaper versions of drugs patented elsewhere because until 2005, the country did not grant patents on medicines and multiple producers competed for the market, driving prices for the most-affordable drug combination down by more than 99% over the last decade.

Since 2005, however, patents have been granted on medicines in India, in particular on newer drugs, as ones developed before 1995 do not deserve a patent under India’s pro-public health patent law. The future of access to newer medicines, urgently needed for the treatment of HIV/Aids, is therefore already in question.

Now the European Union is dealing another blow by pushing trade policies upon India through a free trade agreement (FTA) and through the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that will both severely restrict the ability of India to remain the key source of affordable medicines in the future.

There is a constant refrain from rich governments, pharmaceutical giants and the business press that developing countries’ intellectual property laws need to change and are unfriendly to business interests. What is talked less about is the consequence of the changes proposed.

Currently, the EU is negotiating an FTA with India in which they are demanding a number of provisions that extend big pharma’s protection from competitors and undermine the careful balance that India has created in its patent and drug registration laws.

One such provision _ the effects of which are little understood _ is the EU’s demand that India introduce a new protection for multinational pharmaceutical companies from normal price competition. It is called “data exclusivity”.

Data exclusivity would prevent the Indian drug regulatory authority from granting marketing approval for generic medicines for a period of time that could be up 10 years.

Currently, when a generic manufacturer applies to register another version of an already-registered medicine, they only have to demonstrate that their product is therapeutically equivalent to the original. To fulfil the efficacy and safety requirements, the drug regulatory authority relies on the registration file of the original manufacturer.

But data exclusivity prevents this, by allowing the originator company to keep its registration data private. In practical terms, data exclusivity prevents the registration of generic versions of a medicine for a set period of time, unless the generic manufacturer were to repeat the drug trials that the originator has done, even though such repeat tests are unethical and costly.

The EU claims data exclusivity is required under international law. It is not. It also claims that there will be no harm to access to medicines. But other countries have learned the hard way how harmful it can be.

The EU further claims that any harm will be limited because data exclusivity will be lifted if a compulsory licence is issued. But what they do not say is that data exclusivity will apply even when a medicine would not deserve a patent under India’s strict patent law that prevents companies from getting patents for making minor changes to medicines that have no added therapeutic value.

A second threat to generic medicines that is being aggressively pursued by the EU is ACTA, which has been negotiated in secret. The idea is that once signed, ACTA will be extended to developing countries. One of the justifications for the treaty is that it is needed to fight against the trade in counterfeit medicines. This was the same justification given for the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS agreement which developing countries have already agreed to.

But unlike TRIPS, ACTA does not contain protections against abuse by companies and indeed encourages overzealous enforcement.

In a windfall to big pharma, ACTA will use public money to enforce private rights. It widens the enforcement net so that legitimate medicines could be detained in transit or destroyed simply because their label looked similar to the originator product (commercial trademark infringement). This has nothing to do with protecting the public from fake medicines, and limits the courts’ ability to balance public health and profits.

On a mere allegation and not proof, including by a competitor, generic suppliers allegedly infringing a patent or a trademark may face the delay or destruction of goods, disproportionate damages, potential bankruptcy, and in some cases, even criminal proceedings.

And by extending liability to third parties, ACTA puts suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients used for producing generic medicines; distributors and retailers who stock generic medicines; non-governmental organisations such as MSF who provide treatment; funders who support health programmes; and drug regulatory authorities who examine medicines, at risk of injunctions, provisional measures, and even criminal penalties, including imprisonment and severe economic losses.

This could act as a significant deterrent to anyone involved in the production, sale or distribution of affordable generic medicines.

Even the United States is opposing a number of the provisions that the EU refuses to back down on, such as the inclusion of patents in the agreement and the increasing of the scope beyond wilful trademark infringement.

The spectre of harmful fake medicines is one of the concerns used to justify ACTA. Yet ACTA’s real purpose is not designed to deal with fraudulent, unsafe, and ineffective medicines; its purpose is to protect the commercial interests of multi-national companies.

Action against unsafe medicines requires a global solution developed through a legitimate process, in which all countries are involved. Developing countries have asked that such discussions take place at the World Health Organisation and other multilateral institutions rather than amongst a few countries, behind closed doors.

The sad truth is that ACTA would inhibit generic competition and increase drug prices, which actually incentivises the introduction of counterfeit medicines _ WHO has recognised that high drug prices are a cause of counterfeit medicines: patients demand low-cost alternatives, and counterfeiters respond.The EU claims it wants to safeguard access to medicines in developing countries. Unless the EU-India FTA and ACTA are changed to remove the threat to such access, these are empty words.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/207820/europe-attacking-access-to-affordable-generic-drugs

Computer Problems

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Internet problems. My email is messed up and cannot properly check my Email. The Cursor in the Yahoo and AOL program is stuck and does not scroll. Also the keyboard is starting to mess up and not work in upper case on certain keys. It looks like I might need a new computer. That is a drag. This computer is not even two years old. Last time I buy a Toshiba.

More Middle East Resistance Activity

Monday, March 21st, 2011

There is hardly time to even read the news it is happening so rapidly in the Middle East. CNN is obsessed with Libya and Japan. There is very little on Yemen or Syria and Bahrain is buried. Right now there is a brouhaha about Fox claiming that CNN and Reuters journalists are being used as human shields by Gaddafi. The CNN reporter, Nic Robertson, is talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. This is really sad, but then Fox is well known for its right wing propaganda. CNN is known for its war whoring, They are in love with Libyan Anti-Aircraft fire. But then they at least try to show some of the other side.

This is what I have picked up in the morning news about other countries, it seems that Syria has ongoing protests, the government in Yemen is collapsing and Bahrain is blaming protests on Iran. There was some talk on the American media Sunday trying to blame unrest in Bahrain on Iran. I don’t think it will fly, but I think that will be the line if the Bahrain rebellion is to be suppressed violently.

=========================================================================
From CNN

Yemen leader under pressure as generals and officials quit

From Mohammed Jamjoom,

CNNMarch 21, 2011 4:44 p.m. EDT

Tens of thousands of Yemeni protesters demonstrated again on Sunday, March 20 against the government in Sanaa.

President Saleh sends an envoy to the Saudi king with a letter

A source says the government sees early signs of a “bloodless coup” beginning
Saleh can hang on if he unleashes forces still loyal to him, a source says
Dozens of top officials resign in protest at a crackdown

(CNN) — Three top generals in Yemen declared their support for anti-government protests Monday as a wave of officials, including the deputy speaker of parliament, announced their resignations.

One of the generals who broke ranks will order his troops to protect civilians demonstrating against the country’s longtime president, he said in Yemen.

Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar’s announcement ramps up the pressure on President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is seeing cracks in his support after 32 years in power.

The general belongs to an important tribe whose backing is significant for Saleh.

Dozens dead in Yemen clashes RELATED TOPICS
Yemen
Yemen’s ambassador to Britain and the embassy’s entire diplomatic staff expressed their support Monday for the anti-government movement, the embassy announced.

The country’s ambassador to the European Union, Mohamed Jaffer, also threw his support behind the protesters and called on Saleh to “facilitate the peaceful transition of power.”

“We want peace and tranquility in the country,” Jaffer told CNN. “We don’t want any violence, any fighting, any civil war. We want the people in the country to live in a better situation and a peaceful atmosphere.”

A U.S. official said Monday that Saleh is losing the support of his political and military leaders. Although most of the top brass still supports the regime, the official said, their support is “tenuous.”

A high-level Yemeni source said Saleh can hang on to power if he unleashes the forces still loyal to him. The source did not know whether the president will do that, however, and was not sure a tipping point has been reached.

Saleh has been a key United States ally as al Qaeda turns his country into a base. Radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is believed to be hiding in Yemen.

The cleric has been linked to terror plots including the attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009, and he corresponded separately with a British Airways employee about trying to smuggle explosives onto planes.

Top American officials including U.S. President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism chief have traveled to Yemen to meet with Saleh, and leaked diplomatic cables suggest Saleh’s government helped disguise strikes by U.S. unmanned drones on terror targets in Yemen by calling them Yemeni actions.

In terms of U.S. counterterrorism efforts with Yemen, the U.S. official said it “doesn’t help when you don’t have government cooperation,” but there are “other things being done” to continue the work, including “dialogue with partners” as well as the use of other “multiple means to gain information on terrorist activities.”

The official would not be specific, but Saudi Arabia has been instrumental in monitoring terrorist activity in neighboring Yemen. For example, it tipped off the United States about a cargo bomb plot last year.

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen, citing continued political instability and uncertainty, urged U.S. citizens in the country to stay indoors Monday evening. The State Department already has warned against travel to Yemen and has authorized the voluntary departure of its embassy’s non-emergency personnel.

Meanwhile, Saleh may be reaching out to regional powers for support in the face of protests.

He is sending Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi to Saudi Arabia with “a presidential letter to the Saudi monarch,” the first Yemeni source said, adding that he did not know what is in the letter.

The Saudis did not respond to requests for comments about the message from Saleh.

“Government officials in Yemen see what’s going on today as having the signs of an early stage of a bloodless coup,” the Yemeni official said.

However, according to a government official who is not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named, Saleh is not showing any signs of resigning.

“I’m bracing myself for military clashes,” the official said.

Dozens more ambassadors and officials announced their support for the “peaceful revolution” Monday, the source said.

They included a provincial governor, members of parliament and the governing party, and an official in the prime minister’s office, plus top envoys to Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistan, and diplomats in the U.S. and Russia.

Yemen’s United Nations ambassador, who resigned Sunday, said Monday that Saleh should make a dignified exit for the good of the country.

“The president has done some good things, but everything has an end, and he should step down,” Abdullah Al-Saidi said.

Senior U.S. officials believe that Saleh may have a hard time holding on amid the defections.

The officials say Al-Ahmar has strong connections, not only in the security apparatus but with the tribes, which is a powerful combination. However, it isn’t at all clear what the youth and the opposition think of him, they said.

The European Union said Monday it “strongly condemns the use of force against protesters and deeply deplores the injuries and loss of life caused. It urges the security forces to refrain from the use of violence immediately.”

The EU and its members will “review their policies towards Yemen” if demonstrators are attacked again, it said.

Saleh dismissed his Cabinet on Sunday, after the weekend resignations of two top Yemeni officials to protest a government crackdown on protesters that left 52 people dead on Friday.

Saleh expressed his “deep regret” over the casualties, and asked the officials to stay on until a new Cabinet is appointed, according to Tareq Al-Shami, a spokesman for the country’s ruling party.

Yemen’s embassy in the United States said there will be an investigation into the deaths of the protesters Friday.

“The perpetrators of this heinous act will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the embassy said, expressing its “condolences and heartfelt sorrow for the loss of innocent lives.”

Yemen’s chief prosecutor has launched an investigation into the shootings in Sanaa and is questioning 17 people accused of orchestrating the massacre, the statement said.

Human Rights Minister Huda al-Bann resigned over the crackdown, according to an official in her office who is not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.

Senior ruling party member Mohammed Abulahoum said Sunday that Saleh “should seriously consider a good, safe exit strategy” to “prepare the foundation in Yemen for a good transfer of power from him to the next authority or president.”

Abulahoum “strongly” condemned Friday’s violence and, in protest, withdrew a plan he proposed to mediate between the president and the opposition.

Members of Saleh’s own tribe are also calling for him to step down, according to Yemeni ruling party officials who have asked not to be named as they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Tens of thousands of people also protested Sunday outside Sanaa University in the capital, eyewitnesses said. CNN was not able to confirm independently the size of the protests, which followed weeks of protests against Saleh’s government.

High unemployment has fueled much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty. The protesters also cite government corruption and a lack of political freedom.

The president has said he will not run for another term in the next round of elections. He also has pledged to bring a new constitution to a vote by the end of the year and transfer government power to an elected parliamentary system.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/03/21/yemen.protests/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

======================================================

From AP Via Washington Post

Yemen leader loses more of his eroding power base

y AHMED AL-HAJ and HAMZA HENDAWI
The Associated Press
Monday, March 21, 2011; 5:37 PM

SANAA, Yemen — A top military commander and at least 18 other senior officers defected Monday to the opposition movement demanding the ouster of Yemen’s embattled president, depriving the U.S.-allied ruler of most of his power base.

The looming collapse of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime throws into doubt the American campaign against a major al-Qaida wing that plotted attacks in the United States.

Monday’s defections led to rival tanks being deployed in the streets of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, creating a potentially explosive situation and prompting Saleh’s defense minister, Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, to announce the military remained loyal to the longtime leader.

The armed forces will counter any plots against the government, Ahmed declared on state television, following a meeting of the National Defense Council, which is led by Saleh and includes Ahmed, the prime minister and the intelligence chief.

The defection of Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a longtime Saleh confidante and commander of the army’s powerful 1st Armored Division, was seen by many as a turning point. It followed a major escalation in the regime’s crackdown on demonstrators, when more than 40 people were killed in bloody clashes Friday.

Speaking in Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called Saleh’s resignation “unavoidable” and pledged “support to all those that fight for democracy.”

Tanks, armored vehicles and soldiers directed by al-Ahmar fanned out around the Sanaa square that has become the epicenter of the opposition movement, moving in for the first time to protect demonstrators.

Al-Ahmar also sent tanks to the state television building, the Central Bank and the Defense Ministry. Just miles away, at least a dozen tanks and armored personnel carriers belonging to the Republican Guards, an elite force led by Saleh’s son and one-time heir apparent, Ahmed, were deployed outside the presidential palace.

The deployment of al-Ahmar’s troops in Sanaa was greeted by wild jubilation from protesters, many of whom posed with soldiers for photographs, greeted them with military style salutes or offered them roses.

Calling Al-Ahmar’s defection “a turning point,” Edmund J. Hull, U.S. ambassador to Yemen from 2001 to 2004, said it showed “the military overall … no longer ties its fate to that of the president.”

“I’d say he’s going sooner rather than later,” Hull said.

The 65-year-old president and his government have faced down many serious challenges in the past, often forging fragile alliances with restive tribes to extend power beyond the capital. Most recently, he has battled a seven-year armed rebellion in the north, a secessionist movement in the south and an al-Qaida offshoot that is of great concern to the U.S.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/21/AR2011032100854.html?wprss=rss_world/wires

======================================================

From Reuters Via Yahoo

Syria protests spread, authorities pull back

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis – 9 mins agoDAMASCUS (Reuters) – Unrest spread in southern Syria on Monday with hundreds of people demonstrating against the government in three towns near the main city of Deraa, but authorities did not use force to quell the latest protests.
Security forces killed four civilians in demonstrations that erupted last week in Deraa, in the most serious challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule since the 45-year-old succeeded his father 11 years ago.

An 11-year-old child died overnight from inhaling tear gas fired by security forces, activists said.

“This is peaceful, peaceful. God, Syria, freedom,” chanted the protesters in Jassem, an agricultural town 30 km (20 miles) west of Deraa.

Demonstrations also erupted in the towns of Nawa and Inkhel during which marchers held placards with the word “freedom.”

Leading opposition figure Haitham al-Maleh said on Monday a desire for democratic reform was near-universal in Syria.

“The revolution is at the door and the regime is still flirting with change,” said Maleh, an 80-year-old lawyer and former judge who has spent his life peacefully resisting the ruling Baath Party’s monopoly on power, much of it from prison.

Independent figures have long urged Assad to curb security apparatus, initiate rule of law, release thousands of political prisoners, allow freedom of expression and reveal the fate of tens of thousands who disappeared during repression in the 1980s.

The ruling Baath Party has banned opposition and enforced emergency laws since 1963.

ASSAD NOT A TARGET
The protests have demanded freedom and an end to corruption and repression, but not the overthrow of Assad.

The authorities appeared to adopt less heavy-handed tactics, choosing not to intervene against protesters, although at least five people were arrested on Monday.

France, which has been a strong proponent of rehabilitating Syria’s ruling elite in the West, urged Damascus “to respond to the Syrian people’s aspirations with reforms.”

The United States condemned the violence.

“We call on the Syrian government to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for the violence over the weekend must be held accountable,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

In Deraa, hundreds of black-uniformed security forces wielding AK-47 assault rifles lined the streets but did not confront thousands of mourners who marched at the funeral of 23-year-old Raed al-Kerad, a protester killed in Deraa.

“God, Syria, freedom. The people want the overthrow of corruption,” they chanted. The slogan is a play on the words “the people want the overthrow of the regime,” the rallying cry of revolutions that overthrew the veteran rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.

Security forces opened fire last Friday on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest in Deraa to demand the release of 15 children detained for writing protest graffiti.

Authorities released the children on Monday in a sign they were hoping to defuse tension in the border town, which witnessed more protests after Friday’s crackdown.

Protesters have also demanded the release of political prisoners, the dismantling of secret police headquarters in Deraa, the dismissal of the governor, a public trial for those responsible for the killings and the scrapping of regulations requiring secret police permission to sell and buy property.

Deraa’s secret police is headed by a cousin of Assad, who has emerged in the last four years from isolation by the West over Syria’s role in Lebanon and Iraq and backing for mostly Palestinian militant groups.

Assad has strengthened Syria’s ties with Shi’ite Iran as he sought to improve relations with the United States and strike a peace deal with Israel to regain the occupied Golan Heights, lost in the 1967 Middle East war.

But he left the authoritarian system he inherited intact.

His father sent troops to the city of Hama in 1982 to crush the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, killing thousands in the conservative religious city.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi and Leigh Thomas in Paris; editing by Janet Lawrence)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110321/wl_nm/us_syria_13

=========================================================

From AFP via Yahoo
Bahrain king says foreign plot against Gulf foiled

– Mon Mar 21, 3:26 am ETMANAMA (AFP) – Bahrain has foiled a “foreign plot” to target Gulf countries, King Hamad said in a possible reference to Iran, after security forces crushed Shiite-led unrest, the state news agency reported Monday.
He said there was a “foreign plot being prepared over a period of 30, maybe 20 years… so that if it works in one of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, it could spread,” the king was quoted as saying.
“I announce that this plot has been foiled,” he told officers of a Saudi-led GCC force that entered Bahrain last week ahead of a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in the Shiite-majority country that is ruled by a Sunni dynasty.
The so-called Peninsula Shield force was invited into Bahrain to help protect key facilities and not to boost “internal security,” the king said, refuting accusations Saudi troops had fired on Shiite villagers.
Tension has heightened between Bahrain and its Shiite neighbour Iran over Tehran’s strong criticism of the security forces’ bloody crackdown on Shiites in the Arab state.
Around 10 people, mostly Shiite protesters, have been killed in the unrest, which culminated in a police and military assault on a pro-democracy sit-in at Manama’s Pearl Square last week.
The United States, the United Nations and other Western countries have deplored the bloodshed in the tiny but strategic kingdom, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet.
Shiite power Iran said Sunday it had asked a Bahraini diplomat to leave in response to the expulsion of an Iranian diplomat from Manama. Both countries recalled their ambassadors last week.
Bahrain’s Al-Watan daily meanwhile reported an Iranian diplomat had been given 72 hours to leave the country over “violations” including smuggling arms into the kingdom.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, on Sunday insisted on “the necessity for foreign forces to leave Bahrain.”
Iran officially laid claim to Bahrain for 17 years until 1971, and since the Islamic revolution in 1979 the regime in Tehran has periodically encouraged Bahraini Shiites to rise against their Sunni rulers.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110321/ts_afp/bahrainpoliticsunrestgulf_20110321072629

Libyan Opposition Leadership Info.

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Stratfor has come up with their version of the Libyan resistance leadership. They are pretty reliable although they are geared to appeal to corporate clients, so there is a certain bias, but at least the information should be accurate.

The problem with this like all the reports I have read is that there is no ideological information. Perhaps these are pure pragmatists and it is very likely what they did to get French and British support was to promise the farm. They must have offered very good terms for future access to Libyan oil in exchange for military support. I can just imagine what it took to get Sarkozy and Cameron frothing at the mouth. Not that I want to be cynical, but there are reasons for everything and there is no reason to believe that the French and British would be so excited about helping the Libyan opposition unless there was to be a serious gain in access to the only thing Libya has that they want, oil.

————————————————————————–

From Stratfor

Libya’s Opposition Leadership Comes into Focus March 20, 2011 | 2222 GMT

Summary

Libya has descended to a situation tantamount to civil war, with forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in the west pitted against rebels from the east. One of the biggest problems faced by Western governments has been identifying exactly who the rebels are. Many of them, including former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and former Interior Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis, defected early on from the Gadhafi regime and represent part of the leadership of the National Transitional Council, which lobbied Western governments for support soon after its formation. Challenges posed by geography and lack of military capabilities remain, however, meaning that even with the aid of foreign airstrikes against Gadhafi’s forces, the rebel council will struggle to achieve its stated goal of militarily toppling Gadhafi and unifying the country under its leadership.

Editor’s note:This analysis was originally published March 8 but has been significantly updated with current, accurate information.
Analysis

Identifying the Opposition

One of the biggest problems Western governments have faced throughout the Libyan crisis has been identifying who exactly the “eastern rebels” are. Until the uprising began in February, there was thought to be no legitimate opposition to speak of in the country, and thus no contacts between the United States, the United Kingdom, France or others. Many of those who now speak for the rebel movement are headquartered in Benghazi. There have been several defections, however, from the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to the eastern rebel leadership, and it is men like these with whom the West is now trying to engage as the possible next generation of leadership in Libya, should its unstated goal of regime change come to fruition.

The structure through which the Libyan opposition is represented is the National Transitional Council. The first man to announce its creation was former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who defected from the government Feb. 21 and declared the establishment of a “transitional government” Feb. 26. At the time, Abdel-Jalil claimed that it would give way to national elections within three months, though this was clearly never a realistic goal.

One day after Abdel-Jalil’s announcement, a Benghazi-based lawyer named Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga held a news conference to refute his claims. Ghoga pronounced himself to be the spokesman of the new council and denied that it resembled a transitional government, adding that even if it did, Abdel-Jalil would not be in charge. Ghoga derided the former justice minister as being more influential in the eastern Libyan city of Al Bayda than in Benghazi, which is the heart of the rebel movement.

The personality clash between Abdel-Jalil and Ghoga continued on for most of the next week, as each man portended to be running a council that spoke for the eastern rebel movement in its entirety. It was significant only insofar as it provided just a glimpse of the sort of internal rivalries that exist in eastern Libya, known historically as Cyrenaica. Though Cyrenaica has a distinct identity from the western Libyan region historically referred to as Tripolitania, that does not mean that it is completely unified. This will be a problem moving ahead for the coalition carrying out the bombing campaign of Libya, as tribal and personal rivalries in the east will compound with a simple lack of familiarity with who the rebels really are.

The National Transitional Council officially came into being March 6, and — for the moment, at least — has settled the personal and regional rivalry between Abdel-Jalil and Ghoga, with the former named the council’s head and the latter its spokesman. Despite the drama that preceded the formal establishment of the council, all members of the opposition have always been unified on a series of goals: They want to mount an armed offensive against the government-controlled areas in the west; they want to overthrow Gadhafi; they seek to unify the country with Tripoli as its capital; and they do not want foreign boots on Libyan soil. The unity of the rebels, in short, is based upon a common desire to oust the longtime Libyan leader.

The transitional council asserts that it derives its legitimacy from the series of city councils that have been running the affairs of the east since the February uprising that turned all of eastern Libya into rebel-held territory. This council is, in essence, a conglomeration of localized units of makeshift self-governance. And while it may be centered in the east, the rebel council has also gone out of its way to assert that all Libyans who are opposed to Gadhafi’s rule are a part of the movement. This is not a secessionist struggle. A military stalemate with Gadhafi that would lead to the establishment of two Libyas would not represent an outright success for the rebels, even though it would be preferential to outright defeat. Though it has only released the names of nine of its reported 31 members for security reasons, the National Transitional Council has claimed that it has members in several cities that lie beyond the rebel-held territory in the east (including Misurata, Zentan, Zawiya, Zouara, Nalut, Jabal Gharbi, Ghat and Kufra), it has promised membership to all Libyans who want to join, and it asserted that the council is the sole representative of the whole of Libya.

The council’s foremost priorities for the past several weeks have been garnering foreign support for airstrikes on Gadhafi’s forces and the establishment of a no-fly zone. Absent that, the rebels have long argued, none of their other military objectives stood a chance of being realized.

It was the lobbying for Western support in the establishment of a no-fly zone that led the transitional council’s “executive team,” also known as the crisis committee, to go on a tour of European capitals in mid-March designed to shore up support from various governments and international institutions. Mahmoud Jebril, an ally of Abdel-Jalil, and de facto Foreign Minister Ali al-Essawi, the former Libyan ambassador to India who quit in February when the uprising began, comprise the executive team. The result of this trip was the first recognition of the transitional council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, which was provided by France on March 10. France, as we were to see in the following days, was to become the most vociferous advocate of the international community coming to the aid of the rebel council through the use of airstrikes.

Challenges
Before the decision was made to implement a no-fly zone, the Libyan opposition forces collapsed in the face of Gadhafi’s onslaught, and they have shown little sign of coalescing into a meaningful military force. While the loyalist eastward thrust was against a disorganized rebel force, Gadhafi’s forces have demonstrated that they retain considerable strength and loyalty to the regime. That means that even with coalition airstrikes taking out armor and artillery, there will still be forces loyal to Gadhafi inside any urban center the rebels might encounter in a westward advance, meaning that the rebels would be forced to fight a dedicated force dug into built up areas while operating on extended lines, a difficult tactical and operational challenge for even a coherent and proficient military force. So even though the coalition airstrikes have since shifted the military balance, the fundamental challenges for the rebels to organize and orchestrate a coherent military offensive remain unchanged.

It is important to note that little of the territory that fell into rebel control in the early days of the insurrection was actually occupied through conquest. Many military and security forces in the east either deserted or defected to the opposition, which brought not only men and arms, but also the territory those troops ostensibly controlled. Most fighting that occurred once the situation transitioned into what is effectively a civil war, particularly in the main population centers along the coastal stretch between Benghazi and Sirte, consisted of relatively small, lightly armed formations conducting raids, rather than either side decisively defeating a major formation and pacifying a town.

Just as the executive team represents the National Transitional Council’s foreign affairs unit, the council also has a military division. This was originally headed by Omar El-Hariri, but the overall command of the Libyan rebels has since reportedly been passed to former Interior Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis. Younis’ name arose early on as the man with whom the British government was engaging as it tried to get a grip on the situation unfolding in rebel-held territory. He was not included in the original transitional council membership, however, despite several indications that he did in fact retain widespread support among eastern rebels. This, like the clash between Abdel-Jalil and Ghoga, was another indication of the rivalries that exist in eastern Libya, which paint a picture of disunity among the rebels.

Younis, however, now appears to have been officially incorporated into the command structure and is presiding over a National Transitional Council “army” that, like the council itself, is the sum of its parts. Every population center in eastern Libya has since the uprising began created respective militias, all of which are now, theoretically, to report to Benghazi. Indeed, the most notable of these local militias, created Feb. 28, has been known at times as the Benghazi Military Council, which is linked to the Benghazi city council, the members of which form much of the political core of the new national council. There are other known militias in eastern Libya, however, operating training camps in places like Ajdabiya, Al Bayda and Tobruk, and undoubtedly several other locations as well.

Younis has perhaps the most challenging job of all in eastern Libya: organizing a coherent fighting force that can mount an invasion of the west — something that will be difficult even after an extensive foreign bombing campaign. More defections by the military and security forces in the west, like the earlier defections in Zawiya and Misurata, would perhaps benefit the transitional council even more than the bombing campaign under way. There is no sign of imminent defections from the west, however, which will only reinforce the military and geographic challenges with which the rebel council is faced.

Libyan society is by definition tribal and therefore prone to fractiousness. The Gadhafi era has done nothing to counter this historical legacy, as the Jamahiriya political system promoted local governance more than a truly national system of administration. Ironically, it was this legacy of Gadhafi’s regime that helped the individual eastern cities to rapidly establish local committees that took over administration of their respective areas, but it will create difficulties should they try to truly come together. Rhetoric is far different from tangible displays of unity.

Geography will also continue to be a challenge for the National Transitional Council. The Libyan opposition still does not have the basic military proficiencies or know-how to project and sustain an armored assault on Tripoli; if it tried, it would run a serious risk of being neutralized on arrival by prepared defenses. Even Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte — almost certainly a necessary intermediate position to control on any drive to Tripoli — looks to be a logistical stretch for the opposition. An inflow of weapons may help but would not be the complete solution. Just as the primary factor in eastern Libya’s breaking free of the government’s control lies in a series of military defections, the occurrence of the same scenario in significant numbers in the west is what would give the National Transitional Council its best chance of overthrowing Gadhafi.

http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110307-libyas-opposition-leadership-comes-focus?utm_source=SpecialReport&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=110320&utm
_content=readmore&elq=5f70bc8e7ad84ce4ab6fb34c87658b7a

Admiral Mullen Selling Libya Attack On Talk Shows

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

This morning Admiral Mullen hit the talk show circuit and was selling the war. His propaganda line was mostly based on repeating the line that Gaddafi is a known killer, without any evidence offered, and that this is a limited effort done in conjunction with allies. He emphasized that no US troops would be in Libya and no US planes would be flying over Libya. This was contradicted almost immediately when NBC reported that B-2 bombers had dropped bombs last night on Libya. US, British and French planes attacked Libyan armed forces outside of Benghazi and stopped the Libyan offensive against the rebels. Admiral Mullen also was trying to make sure the audience knew this was a limited, humanitarian effort and said it was not an attempt to get rid of Gaddafi.

Obama is speaking in Brazil about the future of the world and that the Arab world is changing. CNN decided to break away from the President’s speech to cover anti-aircraft fire in Tripoli. CNN is the war channel, when there is a war, they get excited and get out their experts and come up with a banner. More than any other channel, CNN exists for stuff like this. They are reporting 19 US warplanes struck Libya.

Qatar has commited to 4 planes according to the French on CNN. Not exactly a big Arab commitment to the coalition.

Traffic on the streets in Tripoli, at least from the Reuters video images seems to be normal. It is a surreal image with the sound of anti-aircraft fire in the background. Protestors are in the streets supporting Gaddafi in Tripoli being broadcast on Libyan state TV.

In Benghazi the CNN reporter is showing the blown up vehicles from the western air strikes on the Libyan military.
Several reporters noted that there seems to be a discontinuity in American policy, supporting the rebels in Libya and ignoring the rebels in Bahrain. Mullen said the US is trying to work thinks out there. Senator Kerry noted that Iran has some influence in Bahrain. One Helene Cooper on Meet The Press noted that National Security Advisor John Brennan said that the rebels in Libya had Al Qaeda contacts and some of them had fought against the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is exactly what Gaddafi has been saying and this is also what the media have been downplaying.

Clark is saying the US must not let Gaddafi turn this into a battle of crusaders against Islam. The CNN host gave little credence to Gaddafi’s claims that civilians had been killed by the American led air strikes. Clark is calling for bringing Gaddafi up on war crimes charges.

================================================================

From Radio New Zealand

Libyan leader vows ‘long war’ Updated 36 minutes ago
Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi says the country will fight a “long war” after Western air strikes against his forces to protect rebel-held areas.
Military officials are reportedly assessing the damage after at least 110 cruise missiles were fired by the United States and Britain, the BBC says.
Libya has said 48 people were killed in the attacks.

Cruise missiles hit at least 20 air defence sites in the capital, Tripoli, and the western city of Misrata, Pentagon officials have said.
The secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has criticised the attacks, saying what is needed is the protection of civilians not the bombardment of more civilians.

The BBC says his comments are significant because the Arab League’s support for the no-fly zone was a key factor in getting United Nations Security Council backing for the resolution authorising the move.

The UN Security Council on Thursday voted for a no-fly zone over Libya and approved the use of “all necessary measures” - code for military action short of an invasion - to protect civilians against troops loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.

The United Nations refugee agency says nearly 4000 people left Libya for Egypt the day after the attack - a considerable increase on the previous day before.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/world/70910/libyan-leader-vows-’long-war’

=======================================================
US bombers drop ‘40 bombs’ on Libya airfield
(AFP) – 7 hours ago

WASHINGTON — Three US B-2 stealth bombers have dropped 40 bombs on a major Libyan airfield, CBS News reported early on Sunday.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the attack.

On Saturday, the United States unleashed a barrage of Tomahawk missiles against the Libyan regime’s air defenses, but ruled out using ground troops in what President Barack Obama called a “limited military action”.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gHZTTX8FsdvMUYFQvq75HHbK9TIQ?docId=CNG.30929bbed886ca3041584a88b0537905.361

======================================================================

From ABC

Libyan No-Fly Zone Takes Effect as Arab League Criticizes Coalition Strikes
U.S. Bombers Destroy Libyan Targets, State TV Reports Civilian Casualties

By MARTHA RADDATZ and DEVIN DWYER
March 20, 2011

United Nations-backed no-fly zone took effect over parts of Libya today after a barrage of airstrikes by U.S. and European militaries destroyed Libyan defenses and rocked the capitol of Tripoli.

The Strategy of ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’”It’s had a pretty significant effect very early on,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said today of Operation Odyssey Dawn on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“The no-fly zone has essentially started to have its effects. We are flying over Benghazi right now. He hasn’t had any planes in the air the last two days,” Mullen said of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

American F-16s and AV-8 Harrier jets patrolled overhead, dropping bombs on pro-Gadhafi forces who are still continuing their offensive on rebel strongholds in eastern Libya, a Pentagon official said.

The opening salvo, in what military officials have described as a “multi-phase” operation to protect Libyan civilians, drew cheers from Libyan rebels in Benghazi and a defiant warning from Gadhafi, who said he is prepared for a “long war.”

“There is a big misunderstanding,” Gadhafi’s son, Saif, said on “This Week.” “The whole country is united against the armed militia and the terrorists. Simply, the Americans and the other Western countries, you are supporting the terrorists and the armed militia. That’s it.”

The U.N. Security Council authorized an international coalition of 22 countries, including several Arab states, to use “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Gadhafi and prevent a humanitarian crisis inside the country. President Obama has stressed that military action in Libya will be “limited” to protecting the Libyan people, and administration officials say U.S. forces will only play an active, leading role in operations for “days, not weeks.”

But the effort has also appeared aimed at hastening Gadhafi’s fall from power by creating a window for Libyan opposition forces to go back on the offensive. It’s unclear what would happen if they don’t immediately succeed.

“We want the Libyan people to be able to express their will, I’ve said… and we consider that it means that Gadhafi has to go,” said French Ambassador to the U.N. Gerard Araud on “This Week.”

Arab League support for international military action against Gadhafi, which had been a key factor in U.S. involvement in the effort, waned Sunday when the group’s leader criticized the coalition airstrikes as breaking with the objective of the mission.

“What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives,” Amr Moussa told reporters after cruise missiles and B2 bombers pummeled Libya overnight. “What we want is civilians’ protection not shelling more civilians.”

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/libya-us-bombers-pound-libyan-targets-gadhafi-defiant/story?id=13178174
===================================================


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