Government & International Affairs

Is Political Difference Biological?




Refugee Olympic Team







1. Trump is suggesting the US and NATO might not come to the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics in the case of a Russian invasion — an important issue to Putin.

2. The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the Republican Party platform, with one exception: They changed the party platform to eliminate assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. Not incidentally, this is the single most important issue to Putin.

3. Trump’s debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. At the same time, he’s been blackballed by all major US banks.

4. Post-bankruptcy, Trump has become highly reliant on money from Russia — most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

5. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager and top advisor, spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close ally of Putin.

6. Trump’s foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom, which, in turn, is part of Putin’s financial empire.

7. Over the course of the last year, Putin has aligned all Russian state controlled media behind Trump.

Will Russia hack and release ‪#‎TrumpTaxes‬? Your guess is as good as mine. Feel free to share. ‪#‎TrustTrumpTaxes‬.

Credit: Robert Reich, 7/26/2016.


Michelle Obama speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in support of 

first lady Michelle Obama’s full speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention


This Is Europe’s Last Chance to Fix Its Refugee Policy

The EU’s piecemeal solutions are coming apart. Only a surge of financial and political creativity can avoid a catastrophe.

JULY 19, 2016

The refugee crisis was already leading to the slow disintegration of the European Union. Then, on June 23, it contributed to an even greater calamity — Brexit. Both of these crises have reinforced xenophobic, nationalist movements across the continent. They will try to win a series of key votes in the coming year — including national elections in France, the Netherlands, and Germany in 2017, a referendum in Hungary on EU refugee policy on Oct. 2, a rerun of the Austrian presidential election on the same day, and a constitutional referendum in Italy in October or November of this year.

Rather than uniting to resist this threat, EU member states have become increasingly unwilling to cooperate with one another. They pursue self-serving, discordant migration policies, often to the detriment of their neighbors. In these circumstances, a comprehensive and coherent European asylum policy is not possible in the short term, despite the efforts of the EU’s governing body, the European Commission. The trust needed for cooperation is lacking. It will have to be rebuilt through a long and laborious process.

This is unfortunate, because a comprehensive policy ought to remain the highest priority for European leaders; the union cannot survive without it. The refugee crisis is not a one-off event; it augurs a period of higher migration pressures for the foreseeable future, due to a variety of causes including demographic and economic imbalances between Europe and Africa, unending conflicts in the broader region, and climate change. Beggar-thy-neighbor migration policies, such as building border fences, will not only further fragment the union; they also seriously damage European economies and subvert global human rights standards.

What would a comprehensive approach look like? It would establish a guaranteed target of at least 300,000 refugees each year who would be securely resettled directly to Europe from the Middle East — a total that hopefully would be matched by countries elsewhere in the world. That target should be large enough to persuade genuine asylum-seekers not to risk their lives by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, especially if reaching Europe by irregular means would disqualify them from being considered genuine asylum-seekers.

This could serve as the basis for Europe to provide sufficient funds for major refugee-hosting countries outside Europe and establish processing centers in those countries; create a potent EU border and coast guard; set common standards for processing and integrating asylum-seekers (and for returning those who do not qualify); and renegotiate the Dublin III Regulation in order to more fairly share the asylum burden across the EU.

The current piecemeal response to the crisis, culminating in the agreement between the EU and Turkey to stem refugee flows from the Eastern Mediterranean, suffers from four fundamental flaws. First, it is not truly European; the agreement with Turkey was negotiated and imposed on Europe by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Second, the overall response is severely underfunded. Third, it has transformed Greece into a de facto holding pen with inadequate facilities. Finally, it is not voluntary: It is trying to impose quotas that many member states strenuously oppose and requires refugees to take up residence in countries where they are not welcome and where they do not want to go while returning to Turkey others who reached Europe by irregular means.

The agreement with Turkey was problematic even before the July 15 coup attempt that has plunged Europe’s future into even greater uncertainty. On one level, the agreement seems to be a success, since the Balkan route is largely blocked and refugee flows to Greece have fallen to a trickle. But refugee flows have surged on the more dangerous Mediterranean routes. At the same time, the very premise of the deal — that asylum-seekers can legally be returned to Turkey — is fundamentally flawed. Greek courts and asylum committees have consistently ruled that Turkey is not a “safe third country” for most Syrian asylum-seekers, a perspective likely to be reinforced after the coup attempt. The recent reorganization of the asylum appeals committees in Greece to make them more government-friendly is liable to be challenged in the courts, as will the European Commission’s July 13 proposal to override the decisions of national courts.

Meanwhile, the EU-Turkey deal, built on the premise that refugee rights can be traded for financial and political favors, is now being used as a template more broadly. Last month, the European Commission called for making development funds contingent on the implementation of migration controls by African partners. This violates the values and principles that ought to guide the European Union, constitutes a break with decades of practice in development funding, and degrades the treatment of both migrants and refugees. The grand bargain with countries in Africa and elsewhere cannot simply be: If you stop migrants from coming to Europe, you can do anything else you want. This approach damages everyone, morally, politically, and economically. A true grand bargain would focus on development in Africa — real development that over a generation would actually address the root causes of migration that so many politicians frequently invoke in their rhetoric and just as frequently disregard in practice.



LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: The Chancellor George Osborne prepares to announce the Autumn Statement as he discusses the allocation of LIBOR fines to the Armed Forces with members of the Armed Forces at 11 Downing Street on December 2, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 02: The Chancellor George Osborne prepares to announce the Autumn Statement as he discusses the allocation of LIBOR fines to the Armed Forces with members of the Armed Forces at 11 Downing Street on December 2, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin – WPA Pool/Getty Images)



Britain’s Finance Minister Is on Wall Street Asking for Money




George Osborne wants big investors to stick with Britain despite last month’s vote to leave the EU.
British finance minister George Osborne will meet some of Wall Street’s biggest investors in New York on Monday to urge them to stick with Britain despite last month’s vote to leave the European Union, his office said.

The vote for Brexit has pushed the pound to 31-year lows against the dollar and many investors have warned that Britain—until this month the world’s fifth-largest economy—faces years of uncertainty over everything from trade to investment.

“While Britain’s decision to leave the EU clearly presents economic challenges, we now have to do everything we can to make the UK the most attractive place in the world to do business,” Osborne, who backed staying in the EU, said in a statement.
“Pursuing a stronger relationship with our biggest trading partners is now a top priority … my message to the world is that Britain may be leaving the EU but we are not quitting the world. We will continue to be a beacon for free trade, democracy and security, more open to that world than ever.”

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Osborne said he wanted to strengthen trade ties with the United States, Canada and Mexico, and had spoken several times in the past two weeks to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.

“As I will tell Wall Street, we want more finance in London, not less,” Osborne wrote, adding Britain and the United States were the biggest foreign investors in each other’s country.

Last month’s vote has forced Britain, which has negotiated its trade deals through the EU for decades, to rethink its ties with the rest of the world, but reaching any new deals may prove hard while Britain’s relationship with the EU is in flux.

At a meeting with Osborne last week, five U.S. investment banks promised that they would try to help London keep its top spot as an international financial center—though one bank at the meeting privately warned that uncertainty about Britain’s future EU trade ties made further investment hard.

Osborne’s visit to New York will be the first of a series of trade missions to key global financial and political centers, including Singapore and China later this month, his office said.

He is also due later this week to meet U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in London and hold talks with other EU members’ finance ministers in Brussels.

Last week British Business Secretary Sajid Javid began preliminary talks with India about a bilateral trade deal, and Osborne met senior Chinese officials, agreeing to work to foster stronger ties between the two countries.

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said on Monday he wanted to negotiate a trade deal with Britain but timing would depend on discussions Britain first needed to have with the EU.
British finance minister George Osborne
Photograph by WPA Pool/Getty Images

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What went wrong for Hillary Clinton in Michigan?

What went wrong for Hillary Clinton in Michigan?

(CNN)Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss in Michigan raises an urgent question for her campaign: What went wrong?

Michigan was supposed to be a clean victory for the former secretary of state, proving that she could win across the country and put her on a quick path to the Democratic nomination. But when polls closed and it became clear that the race against Bernie Sanders would be a nail-biter, the second-guessing among Clinton’s allies kicked into full gear.

In the days ahead of the primary, Clinton repeatedly hammered Sanders over his 2009 vote against a bailout for the U.S. auto industry, calculating that the line of attack would resonate in a state that’s home to the country’s largest car manufacturers. But by Tuesday night, some Michigan Democrats aligned with Clinton’s campaign said privately they think that strategy did not work as they intended.

Clinton: Campaigns should be about results, not insults

Clinton: Campaigns should be about results, not insults 01:47

READ: Clinton vs. Sanders: What Michigan means for Ohio and beyond

CNN exit polls showed that Sanders outperformed Clinton among voters who are “very worried” about the U.S. economy, 56% to 40%. Among voters who believe international trade takes away American jobs, Sanders also led Clinton, 56% to 43% — a sign that Sanders’ populist economic message resonated in Michigan.

In another troubling sign for the Clinton campaign, among voters who said their most important priority in a presidential candidate is that they are honest and trustworthy, Sanders overwhelmingly outperformed Clinton, 80% to 19%.

Some supporters pointed to the fact that, in contrast to Sanders, Clinton had only campaigned in Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids. After campaigning tirelessly in Nevada and South Carolina, Clinton’s schedule in Michigan seemed less packed.


The hand-wringing inside the Clinton circle also included the concern that perhaps the campaign had lost sight of winning the Democratic nomination — and started looking ahead at the general election too soon.

“They didn’t take Sanders for granted as much as voters,” said one top Democrat close to the campaign.

Clinton told supporters on Monday that “the sooner I could become your nominee, the more I could begin to turn my attention to the Republicans.”

Clinton’s aides seemed to anticipate the potential of a Michigan loss. A memo last week from Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook noted “even if Sen. Sanders were able to eke out a victory (in Michigan), we would still net more delegates in Mississippi, which holds its election on the same night.”

Indeed, Clinton actually won more delegates than Sanders on Tuesday, according to a CNN estimate, picking up 84 to Sanders’ 67. She now has 1,234 of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination. That figure includes super delegates, party officials and office holders who have said they will back her.

Sanders has 567 delegates overall.

As it began to dawn on the Clinton campaign that the Michigan contest would be much tighter than it had anticipated, Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communication director, said that demographics were partly to blame.

“Michigan looks a lot like states that Sen. Sanders does well in. The Democratic vote is only about 75% white — that is always coming in at a disadvantage to us,” Palmieri told reporters Tuesday night in Ohio.

Palmieri added that at the end of the day, the campaign still felt “confident she is going to be the nominee.”

Hillary Clinton wins Miss. as exit polls favor Trump

Hillary Clinton wins Miss. as exit polls favor Trump 00:55

Sanders’ performance in Michigan gives the senator’s campaign a fresh boost of optimism. Particularly after losing by big margins to Clinton in a state like South Carolina, where he had made aggressive outreach to the African-American community, one of his main challenges is to show that he can win over a more diverse electorate.

Clinton’s struggles in Michigan will be particularly worrisome as the campaign aims to win neighboring Ohio on March 15.

But on Tuesday night, Palmieri denied that the tightness in Michigan indicates potential problems for Clinton in Ohio, arguing that Clinton’s message on jobs, the auto bailout and the Republican Party can deliver them the Buckeye State.

“We think that she came into Michigan with a very strong economic agenda and message about how she would create jobs and put manufacturing sector around clean energy, also how she would help create small businesses, very future-oriented,” Palmieri said. “We don’t think Senator Sanders offered that and we think that that will be effective in Ohio.”

Sanders acknowledged that the Michigan vote was close but thanked voters for “repudiating” polls that indicated Clinton had stronger support in the state.

“What tonight means is that the Bernie Sanders campaign, the people’s revolution that we’re talking about, the political revolution that we’re talking about, is strong in every part of the country,” Sanders said. “And, frankly, we believe our strongest areas are yet to happen.”

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Media Contact: Linda Formella (202-565-3200)
For Immediate Release: Friday, April 10, 2015
Ex-Im Bank Approves Financing for Sale of American-Made Helicopters for Use in Colombia’s Offshore Oil and Gas Industry

Transaction will support an estimated 200 aerospace-related jobs in Pennsylvania

Washington, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has approved a $22.4 million loan guarantee to finance the export of U.S.-made AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters to North Pole Investments in Panama for leasing and use in Colombia’s offshore oil and gas industry. The lender is Apple Bank for Savings of New York, N.Y.

According to Ex-Im Bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology, the Bank’s financing will support an estimated 200 jobs at AgustaWestland’s manufacturing and operations facility in Philadelphia, Pa., and in the company’s U.S. supply chain.

Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg made the announcement today while participating as a member of the U.S. government delegation to the Summit of the Americas conference being held in Panama City.

“We are pleased to finance the exports of these quality, American-made helicopters because of the jobs in Philadelphia that will be sustained as a result,” said Chairman Hochberg. “This transaction will empower AgustaWestland to continue to grow in Latin America while maintaining good-paying aerospace jobs here at home.”

Ex-Im Bank plans to co-finance this asset-backed transaction with Italy’s export-credit agency, Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero, S.p.A. (SACE), which is anticipated to provide a guarantee for a portion of the financing covering foreign content. The majority of the export is the U.S. content, which consists of manufacturing activities, assembly, customization, avionics and instrumentation.

North Pole Investments is an aviation lessor headquartered in Panama City. The company leases aircraft mainly to Helistar S.A.S., a civil charter services operator based in Colombia. The AW139 helicopters being financed will be leased to Helistar and will be deployed for offshore oil and gas crew transport in the Colombian Caribbean continental shelf.

AgustaWestland’s manufacturing and operations facility in Philadelphia employs nearly 600 U.S. aerospace and administrative support workers. In February 2008, the company opened a second AW139 assembly line in Philadelphia to meet the growing demand for its helicopters, particularly in expanding markets in the Western Hemisphere.

The transaction is Ex-Im Bank’s fourth financing of exports of U.S.-made AgustaWestland helicopters to Latin America. In August 2009, the Bank assisted in financing the export of AW139 helicopters to the government of Trinidad and Tobago for use in search and rescue operations. In December 2012 and in July 2013, the Bank approved loan guarantees financing AW139 helicopters for export to Omni Taxi Aéreo to meet its transportation contracts with the oil and gas industry in Brazil.


Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that supports and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, direct loans and export-credit insurance, to promote the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad. Ninety percent of its transactions directly serve American small businesses.

In fiscal year 2014, Ex-Im Bank approved $20.5 billion in total authorizations. These authorizations supported an estimated $27.5 billion in U.S. export sales, as well as approximately 164,000 American jobs in communities across the country.

Small-business exporters can learn about how Ex-Im Bank products can empower them to increase foreign sales byclicking here. For more information about Ex-Im, visit


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Webinar: Opportunities in the European Rotorcraft Industry

Join the U.S. Department of Commerce, Reed Exhibitions, and Frost & Sullivan for an informative free webinar about opportunities in the European rotorcraft industry and how to access them. This webinar will be held on Wednesday, April 22nd, at 12:00-1:00pm Eastern.

The webinar will include the following topics:

• An overview of the European rotorcraft industry
Aman Pannu, Aerospace, Defence and Security, Frost & Sullivan

• An overview of the helicopter market in the UK
PJ Menner, Commercial Specialist, US Commercial Service London

• Information on the 2015 Helitech International Event
John Hyde, Helitech International Exhibition Director

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This webinar is free, but you need to register:

Questions?  Please contact Melissa Grosso at or 860-638-6955

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Saudi Arabia and Iran Compete in Yemen

MARCH 25, 2015 | 08:58 GMT

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While the al-Houthi movement struggles to manage multiple regional challenges to its north, its rise to power in Yemen is a setback for Saudi Arabia on its southern flank. After the fall of the Yemeni government, Riyadh will have to capitalize on the al-Houthis’ need for political and financial support to re-establish its influence in the country. But because Iran is trying to fill that support gap, too, Yemen has become another battleground where the two sectarian rivals will struggle against one another.


After being driven from the capital of Sanaa in September, Yemen’s government is at war with itself. President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi issued a statement March 19 denouncing the airstrikes on his compound in the southern port city of Aden as an attempted military coup by forces loyal to his predecessor and one-time ally, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Earlier that day, soldiers and militiamen loyal to Hadi battled their way into Aden’s airport and stormed a nearby military base, both of which were under the control of Gen. Abdel-Hafez al-Saqqaf, a Saleh loyalist.

The infighting in Aden comes after Ansar Allah, the pro-Iranian Zaidi group led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, emerged as the single largest force in the country after taking over large swathes of territory in north and central Yemen. The al-Houthis represent a change in the balance of power in Yemen and even the Arabian Peninsula that has opened the door for Iran to become a major player in what was the exclusive domain of Saudi Arabia not too long ago.

The Rise of the al-Houthis

A number of factors facilitated the al-Houthis’ power grab in Yemen. First, Saudi Arabia’s attempts to manage the Yemeni government in the wake of Arab Spring protests did not go as planned. Saleh stepped down in favor of his one-time vice president, Hadi, but the move exacerbated intra-government fissures along tribal, ideological, political and military lines. By the time Hadi took over, Riyadh’s method of playing the various Yemeni factions against each other had undermined the old system to the point where the al-Houthis could take advantage of and align enough tribes to push beyond its northern stronghold of Saada and make their way down into areas south of the capital.

While Saudi Arabia has long meddled in Yemen and focused on combatting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Riyadh lost sight of developments in Yemen while focusing on other regional fights. Saudi Arabia has been trying to stem chaos in the region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, especially threats from transnational jihadist groups such as the Islamic State. It has also been occupied with supporting Bahrain’s pro-Saudi Sunni monarchy as it faces a democratic uprising from its Shiite minority. It was not that Saudi Arabia was not paying attention to Yemen, but it was not expecting Iran to gain ground on its southern frontier via a movement that is not a traditional Shiite one and in fact is theologically closer to Sunni Islam.

Also, Saudi Arabia did not do enough to prevent Saleh from returning to Sanaa, where he could plot against those he felt were responsible for his fall from power and execute his own return. His plotting weakened the Yemeni government and diminished its ability to combat the al-Houthi insurgency.

Finally, it appears the al-Houthis have learned lessons from when they clashed with Saudi border guards in 2009. Now the al-Houthis are taking caution to steer clear of any direct engagement with the Saudis along the border and have instead focused inward. They are consolidating the nascent power they have accumulated and are weakening groups that might resist them.

The strategy appears to have worked. The Saudis have focused on the conflicts to their north and have not reacted aggressively to the power shift that has taken place in Yemen. Now it is too late to reverse course — at least in the short term. Riyadh lacks the military capabilities to directly intervene in the country and impose order like it did in Bahrain. Also, the different political factions they used to operate through by proxy do not have the same power they once did, making any efforts less effective.

Even if it had the means to intervene, it is not entirely clear the Saudis would want to. The al-Houthis do not pose a major threat to Saudi Arabia; on the contrary, the rebels’ control over north and central Yemen insulates Saudi Arabia from the chaos in other parts of the country and especially from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is a more immediate threat. The Saudis would rather have the al-Houthis on their southern border instead of a jihadist quasi-state that is hostile to them. While the Saudis would prefer not to have al-Houthi control of such a large piece of Yemen so close to their border, the situation seems to be the best outcome in a situation where all options are bad — as long as the al-Houthis do not start pushing northward.

Potential Border Incursions

Even if the al-Houthis decided to change course, Saudi Arabia would be able to defend itself. It already has a fence — though it is nothing more than a concrete-filled pipeline — with surveillance equipment in place along long stretches of the border. Nonetheless, Zaidi militiamen were able to penetrate the border in 2009, but they did not make it past the mountains. The Saudi military was able to contain them there and used airstrikes to eliminate them.

The eastern part of the border in Hadramawt is open desert with little cover to conceal an incursion force. Surveillance aircraft can spot ground vehicles from long distances, and reaching a Saudi city or even a road would require traversing hundreds of miles of desert.

The west appears to be the only place where an incursion could have success because there are mountains, roads and people there. The area also happens to be adjacent to the al-Houthi stronghold of Saada. However, the Saudi military has enough capacity to deploy forces that outnumber al-Houthi fighters. Fighting could possibly last for a while, but in the end, the al-Houthis would not be able to withstand or break through the Saudis, who have artillery and air support.

Financial Aid Is Key

The biggest factor keeping the al-Houthis from antagonizing Saudi Arabia is their need for financial support. The country’s poor financial and economic situation means the al-Houthis — or any other governing group for that matter — cannot maintain order in country without external assistance. Without long-term financial support, Yemen’s water shortages could turn into a humanitarian crisis that draws in Saudi Arabia, creating the need for Sanaa and Riyadh to cooperate. The al-Houthis are aware of this, explaining why they have reached out to Riyadh to participate in indirect talks.

While it would seem logical for the al-Houthis to seek more aid from Iran, they know that Tehran is not capable of matching Saudi aid, even if the West were to lift economic sanctions. Iran can provide military, intelligence, logistical, and political support, but it has little hard cash to offer. Besides, Iran is more than 1,950 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Yemen, while Saudi Arabia is just on its northern border. Saudi Arabia can also help the al-Houthis gain international recognition as the legitimate government of Yemen.

Implementing the Hezbollah Model

The al-Houthis find themselves in a situation fairly similar to that of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both groups are the biggest force in their respective countries, but they exist within political and demographic conditions that keep them from running their countries alone. Ansar Allah is trying to emulate Hezbollah in terms of getting other factions to work with it and form a government like the confessional democracy in Lebanon.

Ansar Allah, however, is where Hezbollah was in the 1980s, and it will need time to translate its military prowess into political power. Also, the Saudis will try to prevent the group from going the route of Hezbollah. Unlike Lebanon, Yemen is not under Israeli occupation, and it does not have a neighbor like Syria that the Iranians can use as a conduit to nurture the al-Houthis.

Negotiating Yemen’s Future With Iran

Saudi Arabia knows the threat is not pressing and has decided to abstain from any formal diplomatic talks with Yemen. Riyadh also knows Tehran wants to use the al-Houthis to gain a seat at the negotiating table and become a stakeholder in Yemen, so it is being cautious. Ultimately, serious geographic and political limitations prevent Tehran from undermining Riyadh in Yemen.

Though the Saudis see the situation as ultimately favorable, they cannot become too comfortable and allow the al-Houthis to take hold in Sanaa. Riyadh must ensure that the opposition improves its position enough to sufficiently counter the al-Houthi movement. At the same time, Riyadh will need to engage Ansar Allah in talks at some point, especially while the opposition is weak from infighting — and jihadists reap benefits from the struggle.

Many of Ansar Allah’s opponents — including tribes, religious Sunni elements and members of the ousted government’s security establishment — are open to cooperating with jihadist forces to fight the al-Houthis. The Salafists and jihadists are the most eager to engage in a sectarian battle because they see it as a way to enhance their position. Saudi Arabia cannot allow al Qaeda or the Islamic State to emerge as the most effective forces against Ansar Allah.

In fact, the United States has already indicated that it will work with the al-Houthis to fight jihadists in Yemen, another sign of the shift in the United States’ position in the Middle East. Washington sees Iran, Hezbollah and even the Syrian government — except for President Bashar al Assad — as partners in the fight against the Islamic State, a development Saudi Arabia feels threatened by.

If the al-Houthis successfully consolidate their power in Yemen, the southern Saudi provinces of Jizan and Najran will become vulnerable to al-Houthi expansion in the long run because of the significant Shiite Ismaili populations that live there. Certainly the Iranians would welcome this outcome, influencing their support for the Zaidis.

The Saudis see the al-Houthis as a possible threat from Iran. How the Saudis engage with the group and try to put distance between them and Iran will be a key factor to watch. Nonetheless, Yemen’s deteriorating security situation has created another Saudi-Iranian geopolitical struggle that will last for the foreseeable future.


Inter-American Foundation Update

International Women’s DayOn March 8, the world marks International Women’s Day, a time to reflect on women’s contributions, the challenges they face and how they fit into institutional agendas. Women have always had a strong presence in the IAF’s portfolio. Almost every grant includes an objective to incorporate women into its activities and nearly a quarter of the IAF’s current grantee partners focus specifically on issues of women’s health, education, entrepreneurship, leadership and rights, including to live safe from violence. More… Bolivian Grantee: Los Masis - International Women's Day
Awards GaloreMarch has already been a great month for IAF’s partners. Several of them won awards presented at ceremonies around the world for their efforts to alleviate poverty, include marginalized peoples and protect the environment. More… 
E-Learning: Corporate Social Responsibility (in Spanish)RedEAmerica, a network of 70 corporate foundations located in 11 Latin American Countries, and Costa Rica’s INCAE Business School are offering an online course on how to best invest CSR resources to make a difference at the grassroots. Click here for detailed course description and registration info (in Spanish).
Year in ReviewYear in Review 2014 includes summaries of all grants awarded last year by the Inter-American Foundation. Check out the types of grants we fund and share with grassroots and nonprofit organizations that may want to apply. Visit Call for Proposals on our website for more information on submitting an application.


Media Contact: Office of Communications (202-565-3200)

For Immediate Release: Friday, March 6, 2015

Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred P. Hochberg’s Statement on the Release of Export Data from the Commerce Department

U.S. Exports Reach $189.4 Billion in January


Washington, D.C. – Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg issued the following statement with respect to January’s export data released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Commerce Department. According to BEA, the United States exported $189.4 billion of goods and services in January, 2015.

“American exporters, when competing on a level playing field, will always excel,” said Hochberg. “At Ex-Im Bank, we will continue to support American exporters so they can introduce their goods and services to new global markets and create more middle class jobs here at home.”


Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that supports and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees and export credit insurance, to promote the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad. Ninety percent of its transactions directly serve American small businesses.

In fiscal year 2014, Ex-Im Bank approved $20.5 billion in total authorizations. These authorizations supported an estimated $27.5 billion in U.S. export sales, as well as approximately 164,000 American jobs in communities across the country.

Small business exporters can learn about how Ex-Im Bank products can empower them to increase foreign sales by clicking here. For more information about Ex-Im, visit



President Obama Renews Charge to Help Rural Companies and Communities Compete Globally

February 27, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Spiral candles proudly made in North Dakota.Yesterday, President Obama announced new commitments in the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, which is charged with bringing together federal trade-related resources for rural communities and businesses. This announcement reflects the Administration’s strategy for ensuring workers and businesses of all sizes, from communities large and small, benefit from the nation’s economic resurgence.

The Department of Commerce also released data yesterday that show 26 states set new export records in 2014, and many of those states are in the nation’s heartland.

The Administration’s next steps in the “Made in Rural America” initiative build on input received from rural businesses and communities throughout the past year.  Following the President’s announcement of the initiative in February 2014, agencies led several regional forums across the country, a Rural Opportunity Investment conference last summer, and new partnerships to help more rural businesses – making everything from amphibious vehicles to aquaculture products – plug in to export assistance.

Last year, we confirmed that rural businesses have the products and services in demand worldwide, and the drive to export – just like urban businesses. The challenge is improving their access to information and export services, including financing and logistics. U.S. Commercial Service – North Dakota Director Heather Ranck and rural companies spoke about that in this “Export Experts” video released last October.

Highlights from yesterday’s announcement include the following:

  • The International Trade Administration has established a new National Rural Export Innovation Team to help more rural businesses access export-related assistance, information and events. The team already has 74 members nationwide.
  • Through the support of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority and others, we will double the number of rural businesses served by these partners that international trade shows and missions.
  • The Economic Development Administration (EDA) will launch a new i6 Rural Challenge, based on the previously successful i6 challenges, which will focus on providing funding to rural communities to build capacity for commercializing technology.
  • EDA will establish a mentor-protégé program for rural communities that will help all communities involved learn how to leverage their own assets, build their resources, and foster a culture that drives innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.
  • Agencies will work with state and local partners to raise awareness of federal resources with rural businesses and community lending institutions.  This includes commitments from the Ex-Im Bank, SBA and the Delta Regional authority as well as the U.S. Postal Service’s commitment to host internationally-focused “Grow Your Business” day-long events across the country.
  • The Department of Agriculture and its partners will lead reverse trade missions and ITA will conduct outreach events for rural businesses to meet foreign buyers and commercial experts.

Many at the county, state, and national level responded to the President’s “Made in Rural America” charge, as we saw first-hand in Canonsburg, PA; Memphis, TN; Cortland, NY; Tuscaloosa, AL; Cedar Rapids; Gila County, AZ and Clackamas County, OR. In addition, the Administration has made efforts like Made in Rural America a key priority in our national export strategy, NEI/NEXT.

For more information, visit


Commercial Service Top Image - Join CS at our upcoming event

The British & International Franchise Exhibition London (BIFEL) 2015

The British & International Franchise Exhibition London (BIFEL) takes place on March 1314, 2015 atOlympia in London. As one of the UK’s leading international franchise events, it has been granted Trade Fair Certification by the U.S. Commercial Service UK (CSUK) in 2014 and 2015. The event is held exclusively in association with the British Franchise Association (bfa) who maintain quality and standards in the UK franchising industry. This annual exhibition attracts large audiences of serious potential franchisees from across the globe via a big-budget marketing campaign encompassing TV, radio, PR, social media, email and direct mail. The British & International Franchise Exhibition London is organized by Venture Marketing Group (VMG).

DGM Register Button - ITA Red

For U.S. brands seeking to recruit a master or multi-unit franchisee, VMG has created its first ever U.S. Pavilion. VMG will promote the U.S. Pavilion to potential investors via email campaigns, Twitter, LinkedIn, within the printed Show Guide, within the printed Event Preview, and via their website. A series of packages, from a simple exhibit shell through to a schedule of qualified appointments, is available.

If you are interested in the U.S. Pavilion, please get in touch with Helen Wood of VMG or +44 208 394 5207.


On Gaza’s border, an unexpected haven for mentally-handicapped Israelis

A factory in Sderot provides mentally-disabled people in Israel with work and a social environment where they can feel accepted.

By , Staff writer / May 20, 2013

Adults with various intellectual disabilities come to work in small factories such as this one in Sderot, where several workers were stuffing envelopes with advertising magnets on a recent day.

Christa Case Bryant/TCSM



Since moving to Israel, I have periodically found mysterious green envelopes in my mailbox. They include nothing but a flimsy magnet, advertising some business that I had never heard of.

Jerusalem bureau chiefChrista Case Bryant is The Christian Science Monitor’s Jerusalem bureau chief, providing coverage on Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as regional issues.

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Now I have solved the mystery, and gained a new appreciation for the folks behind this marketing front.

While reporting on Sderot’s resilience in the face of persistent rocket fire from nearby Gaza, I discovered a very different example of resilience: a factory full of adults diagnosed with various intellectual disabilities, working steadily away on various projects. One of them was stuffing those now-familiar green envelopes with flimsy magnets.

Even this, the simplest of jobs, appeared to require some serious concentration from a petite woman working that day. I gained a new appreciation for the periodic presents in my mailbox.

These individuals are paid only a nominal amount for showing up here, since they already receive considerable government stipends – even though they are doing work for corporations, not the government. In that light, the companies that contract with this factory could perhaps be seen as taking advantage of cheap labor from a disadvantaged population.

But on the other hand, it’s a haven from a society that, according to advocates for individuals labeled mentally-disabled, is uncomfortable with these individuals.

“I used to think it was just a sweatshop,” says Miriam Fouks, a young social worker who had heard about such factories before coming to work here. “But they love being here, it gives them a social life.”

For some, the social life is the only reason they come. One man in particular can never be bothered to repackage Made-in-China menorah candles into Israeli boxes, or help with any of the other projects the 60 or so folks here are involved in.

So Ms. Fouks has just come up with a new job for him: current affairs guy. He loves reading the news, so she assigned him the task of getting up to speed every day and then sharing the highlights with his fellow workers.

Maybe he will enjoy reading about himself and his colleagues in an American newspaper.


The Week

Will Hezbollah tip Syria’s civil war to Assad?

By Peter Weber | The Week – Mon, May 20, 2013


The Lebanon-based Shiite militant group is getting very involved in the battle for a strategically valuable city in Homs province

The Syrian army is pummeling the rebel-held town of Qusair, about six miles from the border with Lebanon — and they have help. While the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bombard the town with airstrikes and artillery from the north and east, the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah is launching mortars and rockets from the southwest, rebels say, and Hezbollah militants are fighting their way into the city alongside Syrian government troops. (See a map below.)

Everyone agrees that Qusair, in central Homs province, is an important city to hold. “The region’s strategic value is twofold,” says The Associated Press‘ Jamal Halaby:

It links Damascus with the Mediterranean coastal enclave that is the heartland of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam; and rebels smuggle weapons and supplies fromLebanon across the porous frontier to opposition fighters in Syria. [AP]

Furthermore, Assad “believes that reasserting his hold in Homs Province is crucial to maintaining control of a string of population centers in western Syria, and eventually to military campaigns to retake rebel-held territory in the north and east,” say Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad in The New York Times. Plenty of neutral analysts don’t think that’s likely, but believe the latest assault could lead to the capture of the rebel-held city of Homs and cement Assad’s control of the west, effectively splitting Syria in two.SEE MORE: 10 things you need to know today: May 20, 2013

The battle for the city, in heavily contested Homs Province, is viewed by both loyalists and government opponents as a turning point that could, in the words of one activist in Qusayr, “decide the fate of the regime and the revolution…. If Qusair is finished, it will be the end of the revolution in Homs.” [New York Times]

The situation on the ground is somewhat murky, though both sides say the Assad-Hezbollah combo made serious headway into Qusair on Sunday. Syrian state media claims that government forces have taken most of the city. Al Jazeera‘s Rula Amin says that appears to be true. “It seems the government is able to control most of Qusair,” Amir says from Beirut. “It has been a rebel stronghold for about one year.”Some opposition sources in Qusair tell Reuters that they have repelled the government forces, killing about 30 Hezbollah fighters and 20 government troops. The combined Assad-Hezbollah forces “made incursions into Qusair but they are now basically back to where they started,” local activist Tareq Murei said early Monday. A pro-opposition group says that at least 48 rebels and four civilians have been killed since early Sunday.

SEE MORE: Today in history: May 20

Hezbollah’s critical role in the battle highlights its growing involvement in Syria, and the contagion of the civil war to neighboring countries. Of course, not everyone in Lebanon, or even Hezbollah, thinks it is a good idea for the group — Lebanon’s strongest political party as well as a U.S.-designated terrorist organization — to involve itself fighting fellow Arab Muslims. Still, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has recently more explicitly involved his group in Syria’s war, saying he can’t let Syria fall to rebels he views as tools of the West and Israel.

In reality, say Reuters‘ Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Dominic Evans, the “deepening intervention in Syria by the guerrilla group set up by Iran in the 1980s to fight Israeli occupation troops in south Lebanon” makes this “a proxy war between Shi’ite Iran and U.S.-aligned Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which back Assad’s mostly Sunni foes.” The U.S. and its allies are mostly pushing for peace talks with Assad-aligned Russia, and Israel isn’t so much taking sides as launching quick strikes against Syrian arms apparently bound for Hezbollah.

SEE MORE: Making money: Shopping for disability insurance, and more

With the growing Hezbollah casualties, the shift away from focusing on Israel, and risks of a broader Middle East conflict, some Lebanese Shiites are warning Hezbollah to get out of Syria. “Our jihad is in Lebanon and that is to build our country amid national unity,” Ali Al-Amin, the Shiite former mufti of the city of Tyre and Mount Amil in southern Lebanon, told Al Arabiya. In Sunni areas of Lebanon, people strongly back the Syrian rebels.

Now that Hezbollah’s in, however, the chances of pulling out seem pretty slim. After the rebels reasserted control over some parts of Qusair on Monday, the loosely organized rebel Free Syrian Army taunted Hezbollah. Congratulations to the “brave heroes” who “have defended their land and their honor from the impurity of the criminal terrorist members of Hezbollah,” the rebel group said. “We know very well how their gang is constructed and we know how to take it apart and we will take it apart. We see heads that are ripe for the picking.”

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Created and Organized Two Spring Break Study Aboard Trips to Cuba  with Pofessor Harry Vanden and Maura Barrios.

Feed back about Trip from Braulo Colon and Daniela Issa.


Russian Revolution -Dr. Mohsen Milani

Nuclear Deterence- Dr. Steve Tauber


Workd with Current Mayor Bob Buckhon with Democratic pary Coordinated Campaign.


Is Saudi Arabia on the edge?

By , Published: August 5

By appointing Prince Bandar bin Sultan as its new intelligence chief, Saudi Arabia has installed what looks like a war cabinet at a time of rising tensions with Iran and growing internal dissent from its Shiite minority.

The Saudis have also heightened their alert level in other ways to prepare for possible regional conflict. Some Saudi military and security personnel were mobilized last month — called back from summer leave or told to cancel planned vacations. One explanation of the mobilization making the rounds in Riyadh is that the Saudis expected that Turkey might retaliate against Syria for the shoot-down of one of its fighters in late June.

The installation of a new intelligence chief came as Saudi Arabia was stepping up its support for insurgents in Syria seeking to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. In this covert effort, the Saudis are working with the United States, France, Turkey, Jordan and other nations that want Assad out.

Bandar will succeed Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, who was barely visible in the West during his years as Saudi intelligence chief. This led to widespread comment that Muqrin had been fired, but he is said to retain the confidence of King Abdullah, who will use him as a special emissary to Pakistan and other Muslim nations where Muqrin’s traditional Saudi demeanor will be useful.

Bandar, the flamboyant former ambassador to Washington, had appeared to be sidelined in the past several years because of poor health and personal issues. His appointment now as intelligence chief probably signals the desire of both King Abdullah and the new Crown Prince Salman to have an experienced covert operator to handle sensitive foreign contacts at a time of sharply rising tensions.

Bandar would be a useful intermediary, for example, if Saudi Arabia sought nuclear weapons or ballistic missile technology from China to defend against such threats from Iran. Bandar was the go-between in a secret 1987 missile deal with China, known as “East Wind.” Bandar has also been active in secret missions with Syria and Lebanon for decades, and the Wall Street Journal reported that he helped arrange a recent visit to Saudi Arabia by Gen. Manaf Tlass, the highest-ranking Syrian defector.

Bandar is especially well-placed to manage intelligence liaison with the United States, given his two decades here as ambassador. Bandar maintained close relations with the CIA during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and was said to have helped organize secret funding for joint Saudi-American covert actions in the Middle East. During the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, Bandar was so close to President George H.W. Bush that he became known as “Bandar Bush,” a moniker that continued under President George W. Bush.

Bandar continued to play a behind-the scenes role even after he left Washington in 2005. He was said, for example, to support Vice President Dick Cheney’s confrontational policy against Iran, to the consternation of Prince Turki al-Faisal, his successor as ambassador, who was working with less hawkish members of the Bush administration.

Interestingly, Bandar has been a special target for Iranian media attacks in recent days. Iran’s Press TV on Aug. 2 described him as “the linchpin in the ‘dastardly subterfuges’ of the CIA and Mossad against Syria.” Press TV also carried an uncorroborated report early last week claiming that Bandar had been assassinated; the rumor was rebutted Friday by a source who said that Bandar had been in telephone contact with non-Saudis.

At home, the Saudis have been struggling to contain Shiite protests in Al-Qatif, in the kingdom’s oil-rich eastern province. Those protests, which the Saudis believe are Iran-inspired, led to two deaths in early July, according to a July 9 BBC report. The demonstrations continued last week and there were reports of more casualties.

The Saudis haven’t been able to stop the insurgency in Al-Qatif; indeed, it appears to be worsening. The protesters may hope to provoke the Saudis into a bloody crackdown, which would leave scores dead and encourage much wider demonstrations and international outcry. So far, the Saudis have avoided such an escalation through relatively restrained tactics. Saudi reformers argue that the best way to quell Shiite protests is to give them the full economic and political rights of citizenship.

Iran’s Press TV on July 27 featured an interview with an analyst headlined: “Collapse of al-Saud regime becomes more realistic than before.” The information may have been Tehran’s propaganda, but it helps explain why the Saudi monarchy is going to battle stations.


Wednesday’s Daily Pulse

What you need to know about Florida Today

Will Short Gorham | 8/22/2012

Florida remains one of the most “financially distressed” states

Three of the nation’s five most financially strapped communities are in the Sunshine State with Orlando being the nation’s most distressed followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg and South Florida. That assessment comes from CredAbility, a nonprofit credit counseling agency that surveyed the nation’s 77 largest metro areas on their employment and housing as well as families’ credit, household budget and net worth for its Consumer Distress Index. Read more from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and see the CredAbility report.


Joven Latino Reflecciona Sobre La Convencion Nacional De Su Partido(GOP) En Tampa

Laracuente Ve Los Valores Y El Mensaje Llevado Por El Partido Como La Clave Hacia Una Victoria En Noviembre

Rodrick Colbert presenta una entrevista con el activista estudiantil, Luis Raúl Laracuente, un estudiante con especialización en Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad del Sur de la Florida en Tampa. Luis ocupa el cargo de secretario en la junta directiva nacional de La Asociación de Estudiantes Estadistas de Puerto Rico (PRSSA por sus siglas en Inglés) un grupo que promueve la Estadidad para la isla.¿Con cual partido político estás afiliado y por qué?Yo estoy afiliado con el Partido Republicano.La razón por la que elegí a involucrarme con el Partido Republicano es porque creo que sus valores son similares a los mios Los republicanos siempre motivan a las personas a ser mejores, a esforzarse y alcanzar sus sueños. El partido también cree en el espíritu empresarial, que es algo que considero importante para el futuro de este país.¿ Cree usted que el Partido Republicano se ocupa de las necesidades de la comunidad latina?Los valores de el Partido republicano son similares a los de la mayoría de los hispanos. Los hispanos son un grupo de personas trabajadoras y dedicadas que vienen a este país en busca de una vida mejor para ellos y sus familias. Nosotros como republicanos tambien creemos en buscar lo mejor para asi dar lo mejor que podamos por el bien de nosotros mismos, nuestra familia y el país.¿El Partido Republicano de baja del voto latino?No lo creo. Aunque, lo que tenemos que hacer es mejorar la manera en que presentamos nuestro mensaje a este grupo de votantes
¿Estás emocionado de ver el RNC en Tampa? ¿Por qué crees que eligieron a Tampa y será afectivo para ayudar a Romney en la Florida?Por supuesto, al igual que todos en la región de Tampa Bay. Es una oportunidad para la ciudad de brillar y mostrar al país y al mundo lo que tenemos para ofrecer.Esto se debe al I-4 Corridor Hay un alto porcentaje de votantes independientes y de minorias en esta zona del estado. Por lo tanto, si Romney quiere ganar en noviembre este es un grupo por el cual debe estar apoyado .Para obtener más información acerca de la asociacion no-partidista Asociación de Estudiantes Estadistas de Puerto Rico (PRSSA por sus siglas en Inglés), ver


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