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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 since January 2011

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An Opening for Progressives? Obama to Step up Outreach to Africa in 2011

January 6, 2011 ·

Earlier this week, the AP reported that Obama is

[Q]uietly but strategically stepping up his outreach to Africa, using this year to increase his engagement with a continent that is personally meaningful to him and important to U.S. interests.

This story and the statement from Obama represent an opening for progressives in the United States. and in Africa to begin to push the Obama Administration on its short-sighted Africa policy. The last two years have been more or less a honeymoon where folks were so enthralled by a son of Africa in the White House that there was not enough hard criticism of the Administration’s policies, which continued rather seamlessly from Bush.

As you know, extractive industries - oil, gas and mining remain the dominant lens through which U.S.-Africa policy is set. AFRICOM and the expansion of U.S. militarism in Africa is a tool through which the United States can secure its narrow interests in Africa’s resources. In addition, the Obama Administration is pushing hard on its “Feed the Future” Initiative – which translates on the ground into land grabs for biofuels and genetically modified foods.

The key in the coming year will be the degree to which progressives can position ourselves to challenge harmful policies while pushing forward alternatives on food sovereignty (local food), land rights, human rights, environmental justice, economic justice (debt cancellation) and peace (stop the flow of weapons and military contractors). Many of these themes will be featured at the World Social Forum in Senegal next month.

The article focuses on elections noting that,

The administration is monitoring more than 30 elections expected across Africa this year, including critical contests in Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Out of the 30, there will be 12 key elections in Africa this year (including the referendum in Sudan and Presidential elections in Nigeria, Uganda, Liberia – all of whom now have oil). This will bring more sustained mainstream media coverage to Africa than in other years.

An Obama trip to Africa will intensify that coverage. Rumors are flying as to where Obama will go and when. My bet is on the UNFCCC which will be in South Africa in December.

But Big Oil and other powerful U.S. companies and the negative impact of U.S. guns and training will remain a serious challenge to peace and stability on the continent.

A New Attack on the 14th Amendment

January 5, 2011 ·

In yet another waste of their own time, and ours (seriously, have these people heard of the unemployment crisis or what?), some eager lawmakers took to the National Press Club in DC today to unveil a fresh attack on immigrants, this time dragging the US Constitution down into the dirt with them. The 14th Amendment, which guarantees that kids who are born in America are American citizens (something we all take for granted with our children), is their target.

It would be a logistical and bureaucratic nightmare of epic proportions, requiring a bigger government (I am sure the tea partiers would LOVE that!) to manage it, and folks to dig up proof of grandpa's citizenship (my great-grandmother was Cherokee, do you think they would count that?), yet this scary proposal does little to address what Americans are really asking for: sensible immigration reform.

Immigration reform, you've heard of it... a real plan to value the economic and social contributions of immigrants, helping to preserve the unique cultures they bring to the melting pot while at the same time helping them assimilate, learn English, pay taxes, and become citizens. Other than riling up some anti-brown people hatred, what is the goal of this proposal? All we're doing here is distracting lawmakers from existing, constructive ideas for reform and improvement of our immigration system.   

While the idea probably doesn’t stand a chance of getting the 2/3 majority in Congress required to alter the Constitution (despite the popularity of racist laws like Arizona’s SB1070), it still takes away time and attention from the real issues that Americans care about… like the economy (stupid). We don't have time for this stuff!

And now for a fun video of some activists interrupting the press conference, via ABC News. I particularly liked the woman chanting “sit down” so no one could hear the protesters speak, and then saying they, the protesters, needed to respect First Amendment rights:


You can find information about the history and importance of the 14th Amendment via the Congressional Research Service

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