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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "France"

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No Military Solution in Mali, Emira Woods Says

January 15, 2013 ·

Emira Woods on PBS NewsHour

"There cannot be a military solution to this crisis in Mali," Emira Woods said on the PBS NewsHour. "The crisis has its roots in political and also economic processes, with people in the northern part of the country feeling completely marginalized from the rest of the country."

Woods is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. You may read the full transcript of her comments on the NewsHour's website.

VIEW THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE.

"So clearly what you had was an opportunity because of the intervention, the NATO intervention in Libya, unleashing weapons, both from Qadaffi's coffers as well as from the international community, weapons flowing from Libya, across borders of Algeria, into northern Mali, to be able to actually create a crisis, and further destabilize northern Mali," said Woods. "So I think what you have is a situation where unilateral intervention could create complications down the road, both for civilians that could be targeted in these airstrikes, as well as for further complicating a political crisis that may not be resolved militarily."

The G20 and the New World Order

November 2, 2011 ·

G20 finance ministers met in Washington earlier this year. China's actions are a crucial part of this week's conversations in Cannes, France. Photo by International Monetary Fund. Signs of a New World Order are everywhere here in the French Riviera, as the elite city of Cannes hosts the G20, the ultimate elite club.

The local business rag, the Riviera Times, trumpets a recovery of the tourism business during the 2011 summer season — thanks to a 50 percent increase in visitors from China. In my hotel lobby there are stacks of China Daily, but no such freebies from the newspapers of the Old World Order powers.

Walking by the kiosks, though, I see European headlines rejoicing at the likelihood that China will aid in the Greek bailout. The head of the European Financial Stability Facility, the pot set up to rescue basket case countries, traveled to Beijing last week and rattled a tin cup for donations from China's $3 trillion reserve fund. This comes amid news that Chinese investors have acquired distressed Swedish carmaker Saab. (They already own Volvo.)

How will China's juggernaut status affect the G20's agenda? In both positive and negative ways, in my view.

On the positive side, they could hold some of the other governments' most extreme free market tendencies in check. Take, for example, some of the positions the Obama administration is pushing in bilateral and regional free trade agreements. In the recently signed treaties with Panama and Colombia, it pushed through new rules that ban the use of capital controls, despite the fact that many countries are using these policy tools to combat financial volatility and the International Monetary Fund is recommending them in certain circumstances. The Chinese government, a capital controls user, would never go along with it if the Obama administration tried to push such nonsense at the global level.

In the nine-party talks for a Trans-Pacific trade deal, the Obama administration is apparently pushing for a rollback of Bush administration concessions to allow greater access to affordable medicines under the intellectual property rights rules of trade agreements. According to a Public Citizen analysis of leaked position papers, U.S. negotiators are seeking to increase the rights of pharmaceutical firms to challenge policies of New Zealand and Australia that are designed to keep down drug prices. Again, China would be highly unlikely to roll over if the U.S. pharmaceutical industry tried to obtain such rules at the global level.

On the down side, China's tremendous power will likely mean that all the G20 rhetoric to address current trade imbalances through "sustainable and balanced growth" will come to naught.

In a Financial Times commentary, President Barack Obama repeated the mantra that "for countries with large surpluses, it means working to boost domestic demand. A critical tool for accelerating that shift is greater flexibility in exchange rates, including exchange rates that are market-driven." This is all just diplomatic code language meaning that China should expand social programs, let wages rise by respecting basic labor rights, and stop undercutting competition by keeping the renminbi undervalued.

Chinese officials have dragged their feet on all of these fronts. And with their newfound status as a global rescuer, they are unlikely to take action any time soon. Li Daokui, a member of China's central bank monetary policy committee, told the Financial Times that the Chinese government might even condition their support for the Greek bailout on an end to European criticism of their currency policy.

It's ironic indeed to see the Old World Order powers now so eager to benefit from Chinese reserve funds. These funds were, after all, accumulated through the aggressive export strategy that has so rankled the West.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, and is a civil society observer at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France. This post also appeared on the Triple Crisis blog.

What about the Woman Strauss-Kahn Allegedly Assaulted?

May 17, 2011 ·

As details emerge in the case of International Monetary Fund chief and alleged assaulter Dominique Strauss-Kahn, my eye is on how his wrecked political clout is getting all the attention. The brutal assault of a hotel housekeeper that Manhattan District Attorney Artie McConnell described yesterday to a judge, who subsequently ordered that the IMF's managing director be held without bail at the Rikers Island jail complex? Not so much.

The IMF leader was (I think it's safe to use the past tense here because it’s doubtful he'll re-emerge in politics, regardless of the outcome of this apparently damning case) a very likely French presidential candidate. In fact, he was widely seen as the Socialist Party's best hope for unseating French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Within hours of the story breaking, comments about a "Sarkozy setup” flooded the comments sections of online news reports, and soon emerged as their own articles.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn speaking in Singapore. Photography by International Monetary Fund

As this story develops, it's all about Strauss-Kahn, instead of the woman (so far unidentified), who accuses him of brutally attacking her. At her workplace. This woman, who was cleaning a $3,000-per-night hotel suite, is a human being. She deserves compassion as the global punditocracy conjectures about what's going happen to the IMF without that French "rockstar" at its helm.

My work focuses on the trafficking and exploitation of immigrant domestic workers. Of course, I'm reading the news coverage with interest. Over the past days, I have been watching how HER story is covered, in light of her occupation, ethnicity (reporters say that she's an African immigrant), and status as a crime victim. Usually, housekeepers are treated as silent, anonymous machines of the household, hotel, or office building, if they're noticed at all. But surely a vicious attack would shed light on the fact that this is a real person…right?

While I mostly work with household workers in private homes, the life of a hotel chambermaid is very similar. Being a housekeeper at a hotel (or anywhere else) doesn't exactly put you on equal footing with the wealthy and powerful when you are in "their" space. So when you're stuck in a bedroom (or private household) with them, what are your defenses?

Statistics about the frequency of sexual assault of hotel maids are difficult to find, but here's what I know about New York City's household workers, from a 2006 report by the Data Center and Domestic Workers United: "Thirty-three percent of workers experience verbal or physical abuse or have been made to feel uncomfortable by their employers. One-third of workers who face abuse identify race and immigration status as factors for their employers’ actions." What we do know about the conditions of hotel housekeepers is that immigrants comprise the majority of that workforce, as do women of color, and that their workplace is dangerous on its own, let alone with the additional risk of sexual assault. Rushing to keep up with demand, hotel housekeepers have an injury rate 40 percent higher than workers in the overall service sector.

I have many other questions too. The two that come to mind immediately are:

  1. Do Europeans and North Americans just assume that being subjected to sexual aggression is a given if you're a woman working as a maid in a wealthy man's home or hotel suite?
  2. Why would anyone assume that a working-class woman would lie about a sexual assault to get money from a settlement?

I can't fathom why anyone would believe these things, but here we are in the comments section in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and ABC News where every fourth word is "setup" and where the maid's getting very little empathy. I don’t think the people writing these comments or news stories are malicious. It's just a symptom of the way household workers are treated in the United States and around the world. They are servants, and therefore — for hotel guests and the people who can afford to have them clean their homes — barely human.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer Benjamin Brafman said that he represents "good people who have gone astray…that doesn’t mean their lives should be destroyed." The themes of many of the reports and commentaries I have read center around the feeling that it would be a tragedy for this politician's career, and his removal would put the global economy at risk.

Because this "just" involves a hotel housekeeper, there's not a lot of conjecture about the tragedy she'll face as she tries to put her own life back together. Even if the reason that reporters aren’t covering her story with humanity is that they want to respect our legal system's promise of "innocent until proven guilty," they're missing the broader point: this storyline isn't uncommon. No one is talking about the countless other household and hotel workers who have endured sexual harassment and assault at the hands of wealthy (or even middle-class) men around the world.

Why? Perhaps because it's supposed to be a fact of life that poor women’s bodies are collateral damage of war, prizes for global accomplishment, or simply a means to an end. Women who are household workers or "servants" are even more vulnerable to dehumanizing sexual assault than others because their relationships are inherently unequal to their employers. We don’t have scientific studies of the relative risks, but we have hundreds of testimonies of household workers who have been trafficked, exploited, and assaulted, and our common sense that tells us there are many more out there.

Of course it isn’t uncommon that famous/wealthy men who assault women usually dominate the news. What will Strauss-Kahn do next? Even when their conduct is deemed improper without being illegal, there's a lot of hand-wringing over how prominent men such as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and former Sen. John Edwards, will suffer for their indiscretions.

Poor guys.

But I feel worse for the woman Strauss-Kahn is accused of assaulting.

French Government Advises its Citizens to Stay Away from Tokyo, Japan Stays Silent

March 15, 2011 ·

In the aftermath of the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, and in light of the possible radioactive fallout from the nuclear power plants in partial meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, on March 13 the French Embassy advised all French citizens in Japan to leave Tokyo for the next few days. In a communiqué, the embassy warned that fallout could settle on Tokyo in "three to four hours" in a worst case scenario and cause widespread contamination.

The communiqué outlined two possible scenarios: The first, more optimistic, scenario involved controlling the various defective nuclear power plants in Fukushima. "In that case, the risk is of a residual contamination from the controlled release of radioactive gas and poses a negligible risk for the Tokyo region. This scenario is favored by the Japanese authorities and a large number of scientists." However, the second scenario would involve an explosion of the reactor, unleashing  a radioactive cloud. "That cloud could arrive in the Tokyo region in a matter of hours depending on the direction and speed of the wind. The risk is of widespread contamination."

The memo went on to say: "The Japanese Weather Report Agency just announced a probable repeat of a magnitude 7 earthquake. The probability is up to 70 percent within three days and 50 percent over the next two days.

"Because of the above (the risk for a strong earthquake and the uncertainty regarding the nuclear situation), it seems reasonable to advise those who do not need to stay around Tokyo to go away from the Kanto region for a few days."

The memo strongly advised all French citizens living close by the nuclear plants "to remain at home (venting systems should be shut down) and to, whenever possible, stock bottles of water and food for many hours. When venturing outside, a breathing mask should be worn."

On the use of potassium iodide tablets as a prophylactic measure, the French embassy wrote: "We remind you that the absorption of iodine is not a benign gesture. Excessive repeated use can be harmful to your health. It is therefore very important to choose carefully the appropriate timing of the absorption when necessary. There again, it is recommended to follow the Japanese authorities recommendations as well as our own recommendations when communicated."

It's ironic that the French are giving such strong advice to their citizens in Japan while the Japanese government has yet to utter such dire warnings for their citizens. France derives 79 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest share in the world. Japan derives 30 percent of its energy from nuclear power.

Here in the United States, we get 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear power. In the aftermath of what appears to be the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown, the White House has reaffirmed its commitment to nuclear power as a "clean" energy resource that the U.S. should  ramp up. President Barack Obama made clear in his State of the Union address that nuclear power was a key facet of a so-called "Clean Energy Standard" which would require power companies to produce 80 percent of their electricity from a variety of sources including nuclear power by 2035.

Obama continues to support nuclear power, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday, even as Germany boldly heeded Japan's tragic wake-up call. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that seven German nuclear reactors will be shut during a three-month review of their safety. There are 23 reactors in the United States that are the same model as the General Electric Mark 1 models that are in partial meltdown in Fukushima  -- about one in four that are in operation today.

Four reactors in California are on or near earthquake faults, as are others in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and elsewhere around the country. In addition, geologists warn that there appears to be a strong correlation between earthquake "swarms" and nearby natural gas hydro-fracturing of rock and the subsequent high-pressure reinjection of wastewater deep underground. Hydro-fracturing for natural gas -- or "fracking" -- is an increasingly common if controversial U.S. and global practice.

Robin Hood 2.0

February 18, 2011 ·

Forget Russell Crowe. Global campaigners for financial transactions taxes have done way more to bring back Robin Hood's spirit of equity.

Activists in 25 countries, many of them sporting green tights and feathered caps, carried out coordinated actions this week to increase pressure on governments to adopt small levies on trades of stock, currency, and other financial instruments as a way to curb speculation while raising hundreds of billions of dollars in newfound revenue for urgent needs.

Images from these actions have been mapped out to illustrate the global breadth of this campaign, from Nepal to Mexico in the global South and from Canada to Japan in the North.

  • In Germany, a merry band of Robin Hoods and Maid Marians blended in with celebrities at the Berlinale film festival, arriving in a white limousine with their own red carpet.
  • In London, pensioners, public sector workers, students, and unemployed people affected by the UK government's spending cuts joined campaigners dressed as Robin Hood to hand a giant "final demand" notice into a number of banks.
  • In Washington, activists drummed up support for the Investing in our Future Act of 2011, a just-introduced bill by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) that would tax currency trades to raise money for U.S. deficit reduction and climate and global health programs.

IPS joined a wide range of environmental, labor, faith and other groups in a letter to President Obama endorsing the bill and staged a photo-op in front of the White House. They also visited the French embassy, where charge d'affaires Francois Rivasseau expressed appreciation for the efforts by global civil society to "make noise" in support of financial transactions taxes. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the current head of the G-20 and has vowed to push for action on this issue within that group of the largest economies.  

The Global Day of Action for Financial Transactions Taxes coincided with the G-20 finance ministers meeting this week in Paris. While G-20 consensus in support of financial transactions taxes would be ideal, much more likely is a "coalition of the willing approach" in which France, Germany, and other countries agree to lead the way.

Once they begin generating significant revenue, the Obama administration may wonder why they're missing out.

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