Foreign Policy

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  U.S. Seeks Way Out Of India Nuclear Deal ImpasseAugust 29, 2008 09:21 The United States has told six nations its bid to lift a global ban on nuclear trade with India has stumbled over their objections and pressed them at a New Delhi meeting to relent, diplomats said on Friday.

Members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group have balked at approving a waiver to its rules allowing business with India without conditions to help finalise Washington's 2005 civilian nuclear cooperation deal with New Delhi.

An Aug. 21-22 NSG meeting dissolved inconclusively after up to 20 member states called for changes to the U.S. waiver draft to ensure Indian access to foreign nuclear markets would not indirectly benefit its atomic bomb programme.

The U.S.-India deal has dismayed pro-disarmament nations and campaigners since India is outside the global Non-Proliferation Treaty and developed nuclear bombs in the 1970s with Western technology imported ostensibly for peaceful atomic energy.

Washington had been expected to rework the waiver draft in consultation with New Delhi for consideration at a second NSG meeting set for Sept. 4-5 in Vienna.

Indian officials said they were hoping to get a clean waiver in the next meeting.

"We have made it quite clear that we are interested in clean waiver from the NSG," Pranab Mukherjee, India's foreign minister told reporters in New Delhi. "We have presented our case. We have made our position clear to interlocutors".
  The Great American Yard SaleAugust 18, 2008 21:59 When Belgian-based, Brazilian-controlled InBev launched a hostile offer for American beer king Anheuser-Busch last month, xenophobia quickly foamed to the top. Beer drinkers in St. Louis, Mo.--A-B's home--vowed to swear off Bud if those foreigners bought "our" beer.

They'll get over it. A-B's shareholders sure did, considering the $52 billion price tag, which at $70 a share was a 27% premium for a stock that had gone flat. The ruling Busch family ultimately faced up to the fact that the U.S. is for sale, and foreigners are buying. It's everything from the St.-Tropez crowd buying up condos in Palm Beach, Fla., to Asian and Middle Eastern governments sinking billions into U.S. banks to Europeans taking over U.S. pharmaceutical and infrastructure companies. Even tourists are busy using their euros and pounds to snap up iPhones, jeans, shoes and everything else they can stuff into the empty suitcases they carry along for just that purpose, damn them.

The weak dollar and our weakening economy are underwriting the great American yard sale. Investors from Dubai are behind the June purchase of the General Motors Building in New York City for $2.8 billion. The Abu Dhabi Investment Council's sovereign wealth fund bought a 90% stake in the landmark Chrysler Building. General Electric's plastics division is gone, and its famed appliance unit could soon be in the hands of China's Haier or South Korea's LG. Chrysler is hoping to hook up with India's Tata Motors or Italy's Fiat. Switzerland's Roche Holding is offering about $44 billion to acquire the 44% of the biotechnology outfit Genentech that it doesn't own.

The surge of foreign buying spans the economy. Since 2003, foreign-led mergers and acquisitions have increased more than sixfold. Last year there were over 2,000 foreign-led acquisitions of U.S. companies in deals worth some $405.4 billion, twice the value of deals in 2006 and up from $60.8 billion in 2003, according to Thomson Reuters, the financial-information company. Unlike the 1980s panic about the Japanese buying up American landmarks like Rockefeller Center, the response of the financial establishment has been to welcome the latest rush of foreign investment. "The U.S. needs these flows, particularly now," says Bank of America chief market strategist Joseph Quinlan. "It helps create income and jobs for Americans."

That would include Anne Marie Moriarty, a vice president at Corcoran Real Estate Group, who shuttles between New York City and European capitals, tempting foreign buyers with choice American properties. Moriarty is brokering the $16 million sale of an apartment in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood to an Italian buyer, just one of the latest in her run of foreign deals. She says that since March 2007 her residential sales to foreigners have doubled, which is part of the reason that New York's real estate prices have held up in an other wise tanking market. "It's bucking the trend," says Moriarty. Foreigners "see it as a long-term investment. Part of [real estate] for them is owning a piece of New York."

Foreign companies were also the buyers in four of the top U.S. commercial real estate deals in 2007, according to Real Estate Alert newsletter. Rome-based investor Valter Mainetti has been building his Michelangelo Fund around trophy properties, ones that have historical or architectural value beyond their location and square footage. In 2006 he acquired a minority share in New York City's Flatiron Building, a property that today is valued at $180 million. In June he raised his holdings to a 53% share of the famous building. "The Flatiron is expensive, but with the [cheap] dollar, it made sense to increase our share," says Mainetti. "The stability of the New York real estate market is unique. This current crisis will pass, and the dollar will re-establish itself. We are confident."
  U.S. Christian Protesters Detained, Pro-Tibet Activists Deported - Live Coverage -August 07, 2008 22:07 Three American Christian activists calling for greater religious freedom in China were kneeling to conduct a prayer vigil in Tiananmen Square earlier today when plainclothes security guards dragged them off their knees and took them away.

Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, was able to speak to a small group of reporters before he was apprehended. "We have come here today to speak out against the human rights abuses of the Chinese government," he said, according to Reuters.

The group had briefly protested on Wednesday in the same place but were stopped by police when they held up a yellow banner that said "Jesus Christ is king" in English and Mandarin and asked to leave the square.

Meanwhile, the four foreign activists who unfurled giant Tibetan flags outside the Olympic Stadium yesterday were deported from China and are scheduled to arrive at home today, according to a statement released by Students for a Free Tibet.

In the first major protest in the weeks leading up to the games, the protestors--two Americans and two British citizens--scaled an electricity pole outside the sports venue before Chinese security personnel apprehended them.
  Stop The 'War' On TerrorAugust 06, 2008 08:34 Military might against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups isn't working – and no wonder. After studying the record of 648 terrorist groups between 1968 and 2006, we've found that military force has rarely been effective in defeating this enemy.

Indeed, the US reliance on military force – especially conventional military forces – has often been counterproductive.

Take Al Qaeda: Despite suffering a setback in Iraq and several senior operatives killed or captured, it has carried out more terrorist attacks after Sept. 11 than it did before, and these attacks have spanned a wider geographic area across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The group's methods – from improvised explosive devices to increased suicide attacks – have grown more sophisticated. Its organizational structure has evolved as well, including encouraging a grass-roots approach by members while maintaining strategy and operations from a central location in Pakistan.

This resurgence is reason enough to trigger an overhaul of US counterterrorism strategy.

History offers some critical guidance.

Since 1968, more than three-quarters of terrorist groups have ended because of a political settlement or joint policing and intelligence efforts. But a political solution is not in the cards with Al Qaeda. Its goal – to take down multiple state regimes to create a pan-Islamic caliphate – is too radical to lead to any sort of negotiated settlement with Middle Eastern governments.

A good start toward peace, though, would be for Washington to stop thinking of this as a "war" with a battlefield solution.

Most US allies, such as Britain and Australia, already have. In Britain, for example, the government shuns the phrase "war on terror" despite a long history of dealing with such terrorist groups as the IRA.

And rightly so. Military force often has the opposite effect from what is intended. It is often overused, alienates the local population by its heavy-handed nature, and is a boon to terrorist recruiters.
  Texas Executes Mexican National In Defiance Of World CourtAugust 06, 2008 08:20 Authorities in the southwestern U.S. state of Texas have executed a Mexican-born inmate for the rape and murders of two teenage girls 15 years ago.

Jose Medellin was put to death late Tuesday night by lethal injection, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution in a 5-4 vote.

Medellin's attorneys had argued their client was denied assistance from the Mexican consulate after his arrest, which is granted under the 1963 Vienna Convention.

Texas authorities insisted Medellin's arrest, trial and sentencing complied with state, U.S. and international laws.

The International Court of Justice ordered the U.S. government last month to grant a stay of execution to Medellin and four other Mexicans facing execution.
  Bush To Open New U.S.Embassy In Beijing On 1St Olympic DayAugust 05, 2008 08:12 U.S. President George W. Bush will formally open the new U.S. Embassy here on Friday, the opening day of the Olympics.

"This is a moment I have long waited for. After more than 15 years of discussions and four and a half years of construction, our magnificent embassy will be officially dedicated by the president," U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt told reporters on Tuesday.

Built on 4 hectares in a new diplomatic zone in northeast Beijing, the 46,000-square meter compound is second in size only to the embassy in Baghdad.

"This spectacular new embassy complex will provide the United States government with a platform appropriate for the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century, the U.S.-China relationship," Randt said.

"Our new embassy, together with the impressive new Chinese embassy in Washington D.C., which was unveiled on July 29, are tangible symbols of the growth and importance of our bilateral relationship," Randt said.

The complex, which cost 434 million U.S. dollars, includes five buildings designed with traditional Chinese elements. All buildings are enclosed in bullet-proof transparent or opaque glass.