Foreign Policy

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  111 Nations, Minus The U.S., Agree To Cluster-Bomb BanMay 28, 2008 20:06 More than 100 countries reached agreement Wednesday to ban cluster bombs, controversial weapons that human rights groups deplore but which the United States, which did not join the ban, calls an integral, legitimate part of its arsenal.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose personal intervention Wednesday led to final agreement among representatives of 111 countries gathered in Dublin, called the ban a "big step forward to make the world a safer place."

In addition to the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan -- all of them major producers or users of the weapons -- did not sign the agreement or participate in the talks.

The weapons consist of canisters packed with small bombs, or "bomblets," that spread over a large area when dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. While the devices are designed to explode on impact, they frequently do not. Civilians, particularly children, are often maimed or killed when they pick up unexploded bombs, sometimes years later.
  Biden calls Bush comments 'bulls**t'May 15, 2008 10:59 The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden, D-Delaware, called President Bush’s comments accusing Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats of wanting to appease terrorists "bulls**t” and said if the president disagrees so strongly with the idea of talking to Iran then he needs to fire his secretaries of State and Defense, both of whom Biden said have pushed to sit down with the Iranians.

“This is bullshit. This is malarkey. This is outrageous. Outrageous for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, sit in the Knesset…and make this kind of ridiculous statement,” Biden said angrily in a brief interview just off the Senate floor.

“He’s the guy who’s weakened us. He’s the guy that’s increased the number of terrorists in the world. His policies have produced this vulnerability the United States has. His intelligence community pointed that out not me. The NIE has pointed that out and what are you talking about, is he going to fire Condi Rice? Condi Rice has talked about the need to sit down. So his first two appeasers are Rice and Gates. I hope he comes home and does something.”

He quoted Gates saying Wednesday that we “need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them.”

 
  Terminal Operators Say West Coast Cargo Traffic HaltedMay 01, 2008 19:05 West Coast cargo traffic came to a halt Thursday as port workers staged daylong anti-war protests, terminal operators said Thursday.

Thousands of dockworkers did not show up for the morning shift, leaving ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle, Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug said.

Workers were expected to return for the start of the evening shift, he said.

"There's no work happening so that means there's no cargo being unloaded and certainly being loaded either," Getzug said.

Getzug could not immediately say how much the walkout would cost employers or how many dockworkers failed to show up to work.

In a statement Thursday, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union defended its members' right to take off work to protest the U.S. war in Iraq.

"Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren't loyal or accountable to any country," said Bob McEllrath, the ILWU's international president. "But longshore workers are different. We're loyal to America, and we won't stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war."

The West Coast ports are the nation's principal gateway for cargo container traffic from the Far East. In a typical day shift, about 10,000 cargo containers are loaded and unloaded from ships coastwide, Getzug said.

Longshore workers handle everything from operating cranes at port marine terminals to clerical work like coordinating truck cargo deliveries.

A total of about 25,000 of them work at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington. About 6,000 were working the day shift last Thursday, handling cargo from 30 ships coastwide, Getzug said.
  Immigrant Worker: No More Money To MexicoMay 01, 2008 10:39 As he fixes a broken sliding glass door at an apartment in Anaheim, California, Eduardo Gutierrez worries about his parents in Mexico.

He can no longer afford to send the $200 to $300 a month he had been sending back home to support his ailing father.

"I kind of feel bad that I can't help my parents," said Gutierrez, a legal immigrant who has worked in the United States for 20 years. "I try. But I can't these days, and it's a tough situation."

Gutierrez said he earns $18.50 an hour as a glazier, installer and fixer of glass in all shapes and sizes.

But with the U.S. economy sagging, his hours have shrunk -- even as his gas and grocery bills have skyrocketed along with other expenses. He's struggling just to support his wife and three children.

Bank of Mexico, Mexico's equivalent to the Federal Reserve, says stories like these are becoming more common. Deceleration in the U.S. construction industry resulted in $100 million less "remittances" -- money from workers in the U.S. to their relatives in Mexico -- in January this year, the most recent available stats. The overall figure went from $1.7 billion in January 2007 to $1.6 billion this January, according to Bank of Mexico.