Focal Points Blog

Croatia’s Unpopulist Party Wanted No Part of EU

Daniel Srb, leader of the Croatian Party of Rights.

Daniel Srb, leader of the Croatian Party of Rights.

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com. John is currently traveling in Eastern Europe and observing its transformations since 1989.

The Party of Rights in Croatia traces its lineage back to Ante Starcevic, who is sometimes referred to as the father of Croatia. In 1861, when his country was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Starcevic co-founded the Party of Rights as a vehicle for creating an independent Croatia. The long “springtime of nations” was still in effect, and many independence movements at the time aimed to break out of an empire that was called “the prisonhouse of nations.”

But independence didn’t come with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Instead, Croatia joined together with other southern Slav nations to create Yugoslavia. Only with the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941 did an opportunity for a sort of independence arise. Under Ante Pavelic, this “independent” puppet state of the Nazis ruled for four brutal years. Like Slovakia, independence for Croatia had a most unfortunate link in the mid-20th century with fascism, persecution, and war crimes.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (8/13/13)

Gen. Augusto Pinochet

Gen. Augusto Pinochet

So Much for Drones’ Redeeming Qualities

Larry Lewis, a principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, a research group with close ties to the US military, studied air strikes in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2011, using classified military data on the strikes and the civilian casualties they caused. Lewis told the Guardian he found that the missile strikes conducted by remotely piloted aircraft, commonly known as drones, were 10 times more deadly to Afghan civilians than those performed by fighter jets.

US drone strikes more deadly to Afghan civilians than manned aircraft – adviser, Spencer Ackerman, the Guardian
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Egypt: The Deck Reshuffled (Pt. 3)

Egypt revolts against Britain in 1919.

Egypt revolts against Britain in 1919.

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News. Read Parts 1 and 2.

The situation unfolding in Egypt is confusing to many Americans trying to follow the events. A number of questions have emerged in the aftermath of the Mohamed Morsi’s removal from power and the blow suffered thereby to the Muslim Brotherhood.

What are the questions people are asking?

Was the United States involved – in conjunction with the Egyptian military, supported by the vast masses of the Egyptian public in Morsi’s removal?

Isn’t the Muslim Brotherhood allied with the United States? Don’t they support U.S. Middle East policy economically (neo-liberalism) and politically (trying to bring down the Assad government in Syria)? And if indeed the Brotherhood is a U.S. political ally, why would the United States not just support, but actively participate (as they did) in Morsi’s removal?
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The 13 Imams and Religious Freedom in Bulgaria

Yonko Grozev

Yonko Grozev

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com. John is currently traveling in Eastern Europe and observing its transformations since 1989.

The “case of the 13 imams” sounds almost mythic. But the current case the Bulgarian government is prosecuting against 13 imams from the area of Pazardzhik – west of Plovdiv on the way to Sofia – is very real. They stand accused of preaching radical Islam, with potential criminal sentences of up to five years. It has become a test case of the limits of religious freedom in this country on the eastern edge of the European Union.

The trial began against last week after several delays. Prosecutors allege that three of the accused spread religious hatred while the other 10 have worked with a Saudi charity that the Bulgarian government banned in 2003.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (8/8/13)

AssadPrivacy: Destined for the “Dustbins of History”

Civil libertarians can protest about how the government will track us on these devices, too, but as long as the public and the political Establishment of both parties remain indifferent, the prospect of substantial change is nil. The debate would be more honest, at least, if we acknowledge our own responsibility for our “choices as a society.” Those who complain about the loss of privacy have an obligation to examine their own collaboration, whether by intent or apathy, in the decline and fall of the very concept of privacy. We can blame terrorists for many things that have happened since 9/11, but too many Americans cavalierly spilling TMI on too many porous public platforms is not one of them.

When Privacy Jumped the Shark, Frank Rich, New York Magazine
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Tanzania to Export Electricity While Most of Its Citizens Lack Power

A map of Tanzania in Chinese.

A map of Tanzania in Chinese.

Following the signing of an agreement between the Tanzanian energy company TANESCO and China Power Investment corporation (CPI) to build a gas-fired power plant, Tanzania’s Minister for Energy and Minerals announced that Tanzania planned to export electricity by 2015.

The importance of increasing Tanzania’s capacity to produce electricity is difficult to overstate. The Tanzanian Private Sector Foundation, which compiles an annual report concerning barriers to investment in the country, reports that inadequate and unreliable power sources has been the most frequently cited obstacle to investment for the past four years.
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Israel Continues to Stonewall Arab States About Its Nukes

International Atomic Energy flag

International Atomic Energy flag

Double standards can only be endured, as well as enforced, for so long. Eighteen Arab member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to request that “Israeli nuclear capabilities” be included on the agenda of the 57th IAEA General Conference to be held Sept. 16-20 in Vienna. As Reuters reported

The IAEA meeting “must take appropriate measures to ensure that Israel places all its nuclear installations under agency safeguards and accedes to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” the letter, dated in June, said.
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Labor Rights Remain a Dream Unrealized for Colombia’s Workers

Meeting of fired sugarcane workers.

Meeting of fired sugarcane workers.

On Wednesday, July 10, a district court in Buga, Colombia, absolved six labor leaders of “conspiracy to commit a crime.” The accused—four sugar cane cutters and two Colombian Senate staffers—were originally charged for attending a 2008 meeting where it was alleged that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) were present (WOLA was also at the meeting, and can attest that it was a meeting about labor rights violations, and no FARC members were in attendance). The labor leaders, the prosecution alleged, were conspiring to commit a violent act.

Their acquittal is little short of historic; in a country where union organizing has often been equated with terrorism and union leaders are regularly declared “military objectives,” the court’s decision that the meeting was part of a legitimate, legal struggle for labor rights is a major step.
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If Iran Had a Nuke Research Program, It May Have Been Rogue

Rouhani

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Even informed Americans are loath to accept the unlikelihood of a nuclear-weapons program on the part of Iran. Why? They may just wish to maintain their credibility in the face of prevailing opinion. Also, they fear being played for fools since Iran isn’t as forthcoming as the West would like. (That what’s asked of it is beyond the parameters of its safeguards agreement with the IAEA is an issue for another day.)

Nevertheless, among them are those concerned that the United States and/or Israel will attack Iran or, in the interim, sanction it to the point of human rights abuses. (Okay, that horse has long left the barn.) Turns out, now they can have their cake and eat it, too.
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Chinese Mother’s Sex-Crime Protest Morphs Into Labor Camp Reform

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

“The 2,000 something yuan state compensation will be of help to my poor family but it’s really not a lot of money. The main reason for my appeal is to prove my innocence,” Tang Hui, mother of a rape victim, told the South China Morning Post. On July 15, Hunan Provincial People’s High Court ruled for Tang Hui to receive compensation for having spent nine days of unjustified detention in a labor camp. The ruling holds important and promising implications, for both reform of the labor camp system and for the power of the Chinese public.

In October 2006, Tang Hui’s daughter was kidnapped, raped, and forced into prostitution for two months before she was rescued and returned to her home. Of the seven kidnappers tried in June 2012 at the Hunan Provincial Higher People’s Court, two [P1] were sentenced to death, while four received life sentences and the last was sentenced to serve in prison for 15 years.
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