Foreign Policy

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  Bush Administration Wants Open BordersAugust 30, 2007 07:43 The Bush administration urged a federal appeals court Thursday to let Mexican cargo trucks cross the border and freely travel anywhere in the United States, arguing that to do otherwise could strain diplomatic relations between the two nations.

The Teamsters Union on Wednesday had asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the program, which the administration said would go into effect on Sept. 6. The plan would let as many as 100 registered Mexican truck carriers drive their cargo anywhere in the country for the next year as part of a "demonstration project."

The court did not indicate Thursday afternoon when it would rule.

The union, along with the Sierra Club and the nonprofit Public Citizen, argues that the plan would endanger public highways because safety issues have not been resolved.

But in its filing Thursday, government lawyers said that the trucks enrolled in the program meet U.S. regulations and that the program is a necessary part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Participating Mexican carriers must comply with all legal requirements governing operations of domestically owned carriers, and in some cases stricter requirements," wrote Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler.

NAFTA requires all roads in the United States, Mexico and Canada to be opened to carriers from all the three countries. Canadian trucking firms have full access to U.S. roads, while Mexican trucks can travel only about 20 miles into the country at certain border crossings, such as San Diego and El Paso, Texas.

The government's filing said some 4.5 million of those short trips across the U.S.-Mexico border are made each year.

"With respect to those operations, Mexican carriers are maintaining a regulatory compliance record that meets or exceeds that of United States carriers," the government said in its Thursday filing.

  U.S. Judge OKs Noriega Extradition To FranceAugust 28, 2007 09:16 A federal judge on Tuesday approved the extradition of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to France, where he faces a 10-year sentence on a conviction in absentia on money-laundering charges.

Magistrate William Turnoff agreed with the government's case for extraditing Noriega to France and issued a "certificate of extradability."

Noriega's lawyer, Frank Rubino, said he would continue to fight the extradition. He had said Noriega hoped to return to Panama to be closer to his family.

The issue has emerged because Noriega is scheduled to complete his Florida prison term on September 9.

The former Panamanian strongman was captured in the 1989 U.S. military invasion of Panama and was convicted in 1992 of racketeering for accepting bribes to allow drugs to be shipped through Panama destined for the United States.

His attorneys had argued that his status as a prisoner of war meant he should be returned to Panama, but a separate court ruling last Friday rejected that argument.

"This court never intended for the proclamation of defendant as a POW to shield him from all future prosecutions for serious crimes he is alleged to have committed," Senior U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler wrote in Friday's 12-page opinion. "It appears that the extradition proceedings should proceed uninterrupted."

Hoeveler noted that Noriega "has not always sought repatriation," and had, at one time, asked to be allowed to go to a third country.

  Playtime'S Over As Toys Are Sent HomeAugust 18, 2007 15:32 With the latest recall of millions of unsafe toys by the world's biggest toy company, Mattel, a stark truth has come home to roost for the £30bn global toy industry: you cannot have dirt cheap production thousands of miles away from home in China without incurring huge risk.
It is a truth that could cost the industry dearly, not just in immediate costs - possibly as much as $100m (£50m) for Mattel - but in the extra steps it must now take to protect its products in future and in the hammering to its reputation. The upside is that the recall, combined with the suicide of one factory owner whose export licence was revoked, will hopefully alert western consumers to the conditions endured by the millions of young migrant girls who actually make 80% of the world's toys. Their treatment, often abysmal, is part and parcel of the same system that has resulted in the unsafe toys.
  Womens and Nature Groups in Viet NamAugust 04, 2007 10:45 The US embassy in Hanoi has provided almost $40,000 to two local organizations for projects to support women’s rights and environmental journalists.
Ambassador Michael W. Marine presented the grants to the Center for Promotion of Education and Empowerment of Women (CEPEW) and People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) at a ceremony in Hanoi Friday.

The CEPEW, together with the Women's Union in the northern Ha Nam Province, has been selected to implement a $19,962 program to strengthen the role of women in politics and decision-making in the province’s Duy Tien dis­trict.

A grant of $19,965 to PanNature, a non-profit organization, is meant for a project to pro­mote equal access to the country's natural resources, particularly by disadvantaged communities, through an independent online media.

Both projects will run until June 2008.
  Bush Makes 35-Minute Comfort Call To MushAugust 04, 2007 08:48 President Bush made a 35-minute phone call to Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Friday, offering comfort to a besieged dictator reeling as much from domestic political attacks as blunt military threats from US presidential candidates.

The White House offered no details of the call, but according to Pakistani officials, whose accounts may be self-serving, Bush told Musharraf that recent statements by US presidential candidates about possible American military strikes inside Pakistan were ''unsavory'' and ''often prompted by political considerations in an environment of electioneering.''

There has been a flurry of remarks in recent days from US officials, analysts, lawmakers and presidential candidates, suggesting direct military action inside Pakistan if it failed to address US concerns about terrorist hideouts and activity.

A formal foreign policy address by Democratic candidate Barack Obama promising this line of action should he be elected president touched off a firestorm with several leading lights of the establishment cautioning this was something to be done quietly, not discussed publicly.

In a statement relating to the phone call, the Pakistani foreign office said President Bush assured Musharraf ''that the United States fully respected Pakistan’s sovereignty and appreciated Pakistan's resolve in fighting Al-Qaida and other terrorist elements.''