Thursday, May 11, 2006

Weekly Roundup

Some of the most interesting news and analysis I've come across in the past week:
[Hilary MacGregor, "When diversity adds fairness," Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2006]
"Juries with white and black members are more likely to share information and challenge assumptions, a study finds."
Janet Schofield, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, said the study contradicts the idea of a "colorblind" society. Juries made up of one ethnic group can let stereotypes shape their assumptions, she says, but juries with at least two ethnic groups are more likely to broaden their perspective.
"There is an awareness that other jurors may be watching you and judging you," said Schofield, who specializes in integration and interracial behavior. "It might make people be, or appear to be, particularly careful. It could be that they really are, or they want to look that way, so they are not open to charges of having been unfair or racist."

[Ruth Conniff, "Halliburton's Immigrant Detention Centers," April 17, 2006]
KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary recently reprimanded for gross overcharging in its military contracts in Iraq, won a $385 million contract to build the centers. According to the Halliburton"the contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."

Emad Mekay, "Rich Nations Use IMF-World Bank Meet to Advance Own Agenda," IPS News, April 24, 2006]
"They (IMF) were the big enforcer of a very powerful creditors' cartel, and that's almost broken down completely for the middle-income countries, and it is not nearly as relevant in the low-income countries," said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
"So that's what they are trying to figure out: how to make it relevant again and do the things that really matter to the G7 (Group of Seven most industralised nations) and the U.S., most importantly," Weisbrot said.
But long-time observers of the IMF and World Bank say that even with some voice, the harm done by the IMF to the economies of poor nations will hardly ebb as long as it continues its policies of excessively low inflation and deficit ceilings required of borrowing nations to remain eligible for loans.

[Alister Bull, "America's rags-to-riches dream an illusion - study," Reuters, April 26, 2006; backup link]
The likelihood that a child born into a poor family will make it into the top five percent is just one percent, according to 'Understanding Mobility in America', a study by economist Tom Hertz from American University.
By contrast, a child born rich had a 22 percent chance of being rich as an adult, he said.
"In other words, the chances of getting rich are about 20 times higher if you are born rich than if you are born in a low-income family," he told an audience at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank sponsoring the work.
He also found the United States had one of the lowest levels of inter-generational mobility in the wealthy world, on a par with Britain but way behind most of Europe.
"Consider a rich and poor family in the United States and a similar pair of families in Denmark, and ask how much of the difference in the parents' incomes would be transmitted, on average, to their grandchildren," Hertz said.
"In the United States this would be 22 percent; in Denmark it would be two percent," he said.
"This debunks the myth of America as the land of opportunity, but it doesn't tell us what to do to fix it," said Bhashkar Mazumder, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland who has researched this field.
Recent studies have highlighted growing income inequality in the United States, but Americans remain highly optimistic about the odds for economic improvement in their own lifetime.
A survey for the New York Times last year found that 80 percent of those polled believed that it was possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich, compared with less than 60 percent back in 1983.
Hertz examined channels transmitting income across generations and identified education as the single largest factor, explaining 30 percent of the income-correlation, in an argument to boost public access to universities.
Breaking the survey down by race spotlighted this as the next most powerful force to explain why the poor stay poor.
On average, 47 percent of poor families remain poor. But within this, 32 percent of whites stay poor while the figure for blacks is 63 percent.
It works the other way as well, with only 3 percent of blacks making it from the bottom quarter of the income ladder to the top quarter, versus 14 percent of whites.
"Part of the reason mobility is so low in America is that race still makes a difference in economic life," he said.

["Women Risk Rape, Death in U.S. Journey," THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 27, 2006]
The increase in women migrants comes as beefed-up border security has funneled migrants through one of the world's most forbidding deserts, and as smugglers adopt increasingly violent tactics.
Some cross with their children. Others leave them behind with relatives. Pregnant women, like the one who gave birth this week, walk for days through the desert in the hope that their children will have a better life as U.S. citizens.
Rape has become so prevalent that many women take birth control pills or shots before setting out to ensure they won't get pregnant. Some consider rape ''the price you pay for crossing the border,'' said Teresa Rodriguez, regional director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women.
If caught by the U.S. Border Patrol, women are often deported to Mexico's violent border towns in the middle of the night, despite a 1996 agreement between the two countries that promised women and children would only be returned in daylight hours, according to directors of migrant shelters along the 2,000-mile border.
"The normal rule, according to women who migrate, is that before leaving their countries they have to take the pill for at least one to three months to ensure that they will not get pregnant after a rape," said Aguilar, of the group Carecen Internacional.
Many Central Americans crossing Mexico hop cargo trains, where Aguilar said "there's almost a 99 percent chance that a woman will get raped."

[Stephen Zunes, "The United States, Israel, and the Possible Attack on Iran," Foreign Policy in Focus, April 29, 2006]

Public opinion polls show that a majority of Israelis oppose the idea of an Israeli strike against Iran. Policy analyst Steve Clemons was quoted in the Washington Monthly as saying, "I have witnessed far more worries about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's anti-Holocaust and anti-Israel rhetoric in the U.S. than I did in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem … Nearly everyone I spoke to in Israel who ranged in political sympathies from the Likud right to Maretz left thought that … Israel thought it wrong-headed and too impulsive to be engaged in saber-rattling with Iran at this stage." He added, "Israeli national security bureaucrats -- diplomats and generals -- have far greater confidence that there are numerous potential solutions to the growing Iran crisis short of bombing them in an invasive, hot attack."
One Israeli analyst was quoted as saying in the Washington Post during the Iran-Contra scandal, "It's like Israel has become just another federal agency, one that's convenient to use when you want something done quietly." Nathan Shahan wrote in Yediot Ahronot that his country serves as the "Godfather's messenger," since Israel "undertakes the dirty work of the Godfather, who always tries to appear to be the owner of some large respectable business." Israeli satirist B. Michael describes U.S. aid to Israel as a situation where "My master gives me food to eat and I bite those whom he tells me to bite. It's called strategic cooperation."
Just as the ruling elites of medieval Europe used the Jews as money-lenders and tax collectors to avoid the wrath of an exploited population, the elites of the world's one remaining superpower would similarly be quite willing to use Israel to do their dirty work against Iran. That way Israel, not the United States, will get the blame. (In fact, there are those who blame Israel even when the United States takes military action itself, such as the various conspiracy theories now circulating that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was done on behalf of Israel.)

[Roee Nahmias, "Turkey Refuses U.S. Request To Allow Attack On Iran From Turkish Base," YNetNews, 04/30/06]
Report: Turkey won’t let U.S. attack Iran from its land
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Sunday that his country refused a request from the United States to attack Iran from its Air Force base in Incirlik, despite the U.S. offer of a nuclear reactor, according to a report in Al Biyan.
In an interview for the United Arab Emirates newspaper, Gul noted that America’s efforts to attack Iran are "imaginary" and that Turkey’s stance is "strategic" and refuses the use of its land for any belligerent activity against neighboring countries.

This is one of the best contributions to the debate over the power of the "Israel lobby" that I've seen:
[NORMAN G. FINKELSTEIN, "It's Not Either/Or: The Israel Lobby,", May 1, 2006]
Another British official judged retrospectively that, however much Arab resentment it provoked, British support for Zionism was prudent policy, for it established in the midst of an "uncertain Arab world a well-to-do educated, modern community, ultimately bound to be dependent on the British Empire." Were it even possible, the British had little interest in promoting real Jewish-Arab cooperation because it would inevitably lessen this dependence. Similarly, the U.S. doesn't want an Israel truly at peace with the Arabs, for such an Israel could loosen its bonds of dependence on the U.S. , making it a less reliable proxy.
*** terms of trying to broaden public discussion here on the Israel-Palestine conflict the Lobby makes a huge and baneful difference. Especially since U.S. elites have no entrenched interest in the Israeli occupation, the mobilization of public opinion can have a real impact on policy-making ­ which is why the Lobby invests so much energy in suppressing discussion.

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