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Send The Warrior Angels Dear Lord!
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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Top 10 'Hells On Earth


Oklahoma City Makes Top 10 'Hells On Earth'
Mayor Says Ranking Slam Over NBA Team Relocation Effort
OKLAHOMA CITY -- What does Oklahoma City have in common with the likes of Chernobyl and Baghdad? They're all "Hells on Earth," according to AskMen.com.
Oklahoma City was the only American city to make the
Web site's list, at No. 5, more hellish than cities like No. 10 Baghdad, Iraq; and No. 6 Chernobyl, Ukraine; but less hellish than No. 4 Pyongyang, North Korea; and No. 1 Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
While Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said the city's ranking on the list could be somebody's slam over the relocation situation regarding the Seattle Supersonics, the creator of the list said that couldn't be further from the truth, reported KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.
Nick Clarke said from Marbella, Spain, that his
travel feature was merely about Oklahoma City's wide variety of severe weather.
"I visited (Oklahoma City) a few years ago. It's nice. Not one of my favorite places, but I enjoyed my time," he said.
Of Oklahoma City, Clarke wrote:
"While it may be all hunky-dory on the musical front, Oklahoma City isn't the kind of place you'd want to hang out in for too long if you like to keep your feet on terra firma. The weather is frighteningly unpredictable, with blizzards often descending on the city and winds that could knock a high rise clean off its feet. It is, after all, located in the direct path of 'Tornado Alley.'
The worst time to visit would be from March to August, when The Day After Tomorrow-style weather is pretty much expected. In fact, the severe weather season makes Dorothy's Kansas look positively calm, with Oklahoma City being the city worst affected by tornadoes in the United States. One of the most powerful tornadoes on record -- an F5 with wind speeds of 320 mph -- devastated much of the city in 1999, securing its place on our list of hells on earth."
Of the feature's most hellish place on Earth, Clarke wrote:
"With over 115 new HIV and AIDS cases diagnosed every month at Port Moresby General Hospital, the capital of Papua New Guinea isn't at the top of this list for much except being the 'worst place to live in the world,' according to a 2004 vote by the Economist's Intelligence Unit. With the population expanding at an uncontrollable rate, employment levels have rocketed, income levels have plummeted and cases of rape, robbery and murder have reached new heights (the murder rate is 23 times that of London).
Gang members, known as 'raskols,' have been known to carry out bank robberies with M16 machine guns, hijack cars wielding machetes and, in one case, drag an injured nurse from a car wreck to rape her. Clearly, the 'rascal' tag does them a disservice. If you don't have time to pick up some souvenirs, don't worry; you'll almost certainly have picked up a disease or two to take home with you."
"It's one person's, one company's opinion. You have to take everything with a pinch of salt," the British-born Clarke said. "It's not a knock on the people, crime or possible pollution in Oklahoma. It was strictly about the weather."
Clarke, 23, is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture and travel. He said the list was a collaboration between him and the AskMen.com staff. The "Hells on Earth" feature was aggregated to an online Web site from AOL Travel; however, AOL has since removed Oklahoma City from its list.
However, Cornett told KOCO-TV that he's not convinced. He said he believes Oklahoma City's inclusion in the list was generated by somebody who has a grudge over the Sonics' relocation to Oklahoma City.
Cornett said he would watch to see how the story progresses.
KOCO-TV contacted James Bassil, AskMen.com's editor-in-chief, and he stressed that the site's "Hells on Earth" feature was meant to be humorous.
"AskMen.com included Oklahoma City on a tongue-in-cheek list of travel destinations because of the constant weather challenges that the city faces. This list was written in a lighthearted, humorous tone and was not meant to disparage Oklahoma City as a place to live, work or raise a family," Bassil said.
The other cities making the list were No. 9 Dhaka, Bangladesh; No. 8 Yakutsk, Russia; No. 7 Mogadishu, Somalia; No. 3 Bujumbura, Republic of Burundi; and No. 2 Linfen, China.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Opposition to Plan Merida

















In Mexico, Opposition to Plan Merida Emerges



This week, high-level US and Mexican officials spoke out in favor of Plan Mérida, the three-year, $1.4 billion anti-drug package designed to assist the Mexican government in its ongoing battle with violent drug trafficking organizations. But at the same time officials like Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were visiting Latin America to seek support for the plan, at a forum on drug policy in Culiacán, Sinaloa, home of one of the most feared of the drug trafficking groups, the Sinaloa Cartel, there was little but criticism of the proposed aid package.


Since he took office at the beginning of last year, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has deployed some 30,000 Mexican army troops in the fight against the so-called cartels, which provide much of the cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana coming into the United States. US officials have praised Mexican President Felipe Calderón for his aggressive efforts against the cartels and seek to reward his government -- and especially the Mexican military -- by providing high-tech equipment, training, and other goods to the Mexican armed forces.
But despite the massive military deployments in border cities from Tijuana in the west to Reynosa and Matamoros in the east, as well as in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, and Sinaloa -- all traditional drug-producing areas -- and the high praise from Washington, Calderon's drug war has not gone well. Roughly 2,000 people were killed in Mexico's drug war last year, and with this year's toll already approaching 1,000, 2008 looks to be even bloodier. Yet the flow of drugs north and guns and cash south continues unimpeded.
Bush administration and Mexican officials met over a period of months last year and early this year to craft a joint response that would see $500 million a year in assistance to Mexico, primarily in the form of helicopters and surveillance aircraft. Known as Plan Mérida, after the Mexican city in which it took final form, the assistance package is now before the US Congress.
Congressional failure to fund the package would be "a real slap at Mexico," Secretary of Defense Gates said in Mexico City Tuesday as he met with General Guillermo Galván, the Mexican defense minister, Government Secretary Juan Mouriño, and Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa. "It clearly would make it more difficult for us to help Mexican armed forces and their civilian agencies deal with this difficult problem," he told reporters.
The same day, Attorney General Mukasey was in San José, Costa Rica, where in a speech to justice ministers from across the hemisphere, he, too, urged Congress to approve the aid package. Drugs, gangs, and violent crime on the border are "a joint problem -- and we must face it jointly," he said. "By working together, we can strengthen the rule of law and the administration of justice, and we can combat transnational criminal threats," Mukasey said.
That is what the Mexican government wants to hear. It negotiated the aid package, and although President Calderón's ruling National Action Party (PAN) does not hold a majority in the Mexican congress, it can count on the support of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) on the aid deal. Of the three major parties in the Mexican congress, only the left-leaning Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) is raising concerns about the package, but the PRD is not strong enough in the congress to block it.
But while official Mexico may want passage of the package, a number of Mexican intellectuals, academics, political figures, and former military officers attacked the plan to beef up the Mexican military for US drug war aims at a forum this week at the
International Forum on Illicit Drugs hosted by the Culiacán weekly newsmagazine Ríodoce.
"The US wants to fight drugs, crime, and terrorism. Bush and Calderón have been talking about a new Plan Colombia, but the anti-drug policies pursued so far have been a failure," said Ríodoce managing editor Ismael Bojórquez, as he opened the conference. "The phenomenon of drug trafficking is very complex and reaches deeply into the fabric of our society. The system benefits from the drug trade; the profits from it enter into our economy and have benefited many businesses. Few sectors have been able to resist the easy money. In a country that has not been able to improve conditions for poor Mexicans, the drug trade is an attractive alternative," he explained.
"Our government has authorized the use of federal police and even soldiers to attack the drug trade, but this strategy is mistaken and the government has wasted million of dollars that could have gone to productive ends," Bojórquez added.
"Our foreign policy has been subordinated to that of the Americans, the policemen of the world," said Mexican political figure Jorge Ángel Pescador Osuna, the former Mexican consul general in Los Angeles. "Fortunately, this Plan Mérida initiative has yet to be approved by the US Congress, and hopefully, the voice of Mexico will be heard in this debate. We think there are real solutions that are within the grasp of the government and civil society," he said.
"They want to spend $500 million the first year, half of which will go to buy military equipment and advanced technologies," said Pescador Osuna. "My first response is how nice. But then I have to ask why we should use the military in areas that are outside its competence. What we need here is to strengthen our democracy, and we will not accomplish that by using the military for civilian law enforcement."
"These kinds of anti-drug policies that focus on policing are overwhelmingly simplistic," concurred Colombian economist Francisco Thoumi, director of the Center for Drug and Crime Studies at the University of Rosario in Bogota. "They do not attack the problem at the base," he argued. "The drug trade is a capitalist industry, and it accepts the losses of interdiction and eradication as a cost of doing business. This kind of enforcement looks good on TV and makes politicians and police happy, but the industry goes on, and this doesn't solve the problem."
"The idea with this is to give power to the armed forces," said Luis Astorga, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City and head of a UNESCO program devoted to understanding the ramifications of the international drug trade. "Calderon is doing nothing more or less than reconfiguring the anti-drug struggle in Mexico by putting it in the hands of the military. One question is how long this will last," he noted.
General Francisco Gallardo, a leading advocate of human rights within the Mexican armed forces, was also critical. "The context for Plan Mérida is this new world order where the US struggle for hegemony with China and the European Union," he argued. "The US has militarized its foreign policy, and it wants us to militarize our drug enforcement. But the function of the army is to defend the sovereignty of the state, not to fight crime. That is the job of the police," he said.
"Involving the military under the auspices of Plan Mérida does not respond to Mexican interests," Gallardo said. "It has a bad effect on the institutional and judicial order of the nation. The soldiers who kill innocents are absolved; they have impunity," he said, citing the cases of several mass killings by soldiers in Sinaloa, including an incident in Santiago de Caballero in the mountains above Culiacán in late March, in which four unarmed young men in a Hummer were killed by soldiers on an anti-drug mission. "The drug trade is a matter for police and the justice system, not the military," Gallardo concluded.
While the Bush and Calderón administrations are seeking to steamroll opposition to the proposed aid package, it is clear that Plan Mérida is drawing heated criticism in Mexico. What is less clear is whether that opposition can successfully block the initiative on the Mexican side. Right now, the best prospects for that appear to lie in the US Congress
.





There are some interesting comments on this article also. Have a great week.

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