September 30, 2008
Hat tip- Nicholas Bretagna II
September 30, 2008
British children as young as nine are being forced to marry against their will by their families, campaigners have warned.
Charities supporting victims of forced marriages report growing numbers of young teenagers and children seeking help.
They are urging schools to take tougher action where they suspect pupils are at risk, and to monitor their rolls carefully and raise the alarm when children disappear.
Thousands of Britons – mainly young women from the Asian communities – are thought to be victims of forced marriage each year, but concerns are increasingly focused on the plight of underage girls who are being offered for marriage to foreign men when they have barely left primary school.
No accurate figures exist for the scale of the problem, although the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit has helped rescue around 60 children aged 15 or under in the past four years – including 11 so far in 2008 – and experts fear that may represent only the tip of the iceberg.
Typically victims are taken overseas by their families on a false pretext and forced to marry. Extreme cases where women rebel against their family’s plans and try to run away have led to so-called ‘honour killings’ or suicides.
Ministers angered campaigners two years ago by dropping plans to make it a criminal offence to force someone to marry, after Muslim groups objected strongly to the plans.
A charity operating a national helpline on forced marriage, Karma Nirvana, yesterday highlighted one incident where a nine-year-old girl from a Pakistani family in the east Midlands was taken into care after her parents told her she was to be married.
Director Jasvinder Sanghera said that on average one child a week aged under 16 had sought assistance since the helpline launched in April.
‘The youngest child we have dealt with was nine years old,’ she said. ‘The girl told her teacher she was going to be forced to marry someone and initially she was not believed.
‘Ultimately, with the help of the Forced Marriage Unit, she was dealt with through child protection procedures. She was assessed and, thankfully, taken into foster care.’
The Forced Marriage Unit, jointly funded by the Home Office and Foreign Office, deals with around 5,000 calls and 300 known cases a year, while a third of all inquiries come from under-18s. Some 15 per cent of cases involve boys being forced to marry.
The youngest victim rescued and repatriated to Britain by the unit was an 11-year-old girl who was flown back from Bangladesh last year after her parents tried to make her marry a local man.
Ms Sanghera, who herself fled home after being threatened with forced marriage at the age of 15, said: ‘I currently have cases involving four children aged 11 to 14 who were forced to marry or were at risk, and have now been made wards of court.
‘You don’t just get forced into a marriage at 16 or 17. This is happening to very young children. We certainly have had cases of minors being sexually abused.
‘But we have no idea how many children under 16 are at risk, and this is compounded by a reluctance of schools to engage with the issue. Many schools shy away due to supposed cultural sensitivities.’
She added: ‘These marriages can be prevented by identifying the signs in school or teachers believing pupils when they raise it.’
The problem is believed to be particularly prevalent in Pakistani communities, she said, where many parents arrange to marry their children to first cousins.
The charity is calling for a formal system of headcounts before and after summer holidays, so that schools can identify children who disappear without explanation.
A report by Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this year said more than 2,000 pupils were unaccounted for in just 14 local council areas across England and Wales.
Plans to make forced marriage a specific crime were dropped by ministers in 2006 following a Muslim community backlash, although new laws passed last year gave courts new powers to issue injunctions preventing a young person from marrying or being taken abroad – any breach of which by parents would constitute a crime.
September 30, 2008
Rival Somali pirates arguing over what to do with a hijacked Ukrainian ship and its cargo of 33 tanks engaged in a shootout on board, killing three of their number, a maritime group said on Tuesday.
In the most high-profile of this year’s wave of hijackings off lawless Somalia, pirates seized the MV Faina six days ago and have demanded $20 million in ransom.
U.S. navy ships are shadowing the boat, whose capture has sparked controversy over the destination of its cargo and thrown a spotlight on rampant piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping areas connecting Europe to Asia and the Middle East.
Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, said factions among the roughly 50 pirates on board had argued over whether to free the cargo and 20-man crew.
“The radicals on board do not want to listen to anyone,” said Mr. Mwangura, whose Kenya-based group is monitoring the saga via relatives of the crew and the pirates. “The moderates want to back-peddle. The Americans are close, so everyone is tense. There was a shootout and three of the pirates were shot dead.”
The U.S. navy has said the ship, which was heading for Kenya’s Mombasa port, was carrying T-72 tanks, grenade-launchers and ammunition ultimately bound for south Sudan via Kenya.
Such a shipment could violate the terms of a north-south peace pact in Sudan unless specifically authorised by both sides who signed a 2005 truce after more than two decades of war.
Kenya says the armoury was for its military.
Taking advantage of chaos on shore, where an Islamist-led insurgency has raged for nearly two years, Somali pirates have seized more than 30 ships this year and attacked many more.
Most attacks have been in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and north Somalia, a major global sea artery used by about 20,000 vessels a year heading to and from Suez, including Gulf oil shipments. The pirates have also struck in the busy Indian Ocean waters off south Somalia.
With U.S. and French military bases in the area, many are unhappy with the lack of international action.
“If civil aircraft were being hijacked on a daily basis, the response of governments would be very different,” top shipping trade bodies and transport unions said in a joint statement.
“Yet ships, which are the lifeblood of the global economy, are seemingly out of sight and out of mind.”
As well as building new homes and taking new wives onshore, the increasingly rich pirates have bought speedboats, satellite phones and other equipment to aid their trade. They, and middlemen acting as financiers, are making millions in ransoms.
“There is a striking similarity between the actions of these unscrupulous pirates and the activity in ‘blood diamonds’ in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the civil wars in these countries,” said U.N. envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.
“No ship, big or small, civil or military, is spared. With the seizure of the Ukrainian ship, a new line has been crossed.”
He said higher insurance prices for goods coming to the region were adding to hardships around the Horn of Africa.
U.S. analyst J. Peter Pham, of Madison University, called for a united international naval response, more attention on solving Somalia’s civil conflict, and better protection equipment on board commercial vessels.
“Many have done little aside from being prepared to pay ransoms which only perpetuate the cycle of violence,” he wrote in a new report on the Somali piracy phenomenon.
September 30, 2008
Anger runs deep. It is aimed at financiers, who first earned huge and conspicuous bonuses and now successfully force taxpayers to pay for their mistakes. It is also aimed at financial markets, whose merits have been oversold.
The mantra that financial markets always allocate resources better was never true. Financial markets suffer from very serious failures, chiefly information asymmetry. The subprime saga started with beneficial risk diversification until it became a channel for contagion. The saga also revealed the depth of herding among financial institutions – the exact opposite of risk diversification among them. Having followed the same strategy, they all suffered simultaneous losses.
Financial operations are about risk-taking, which means uncertainty and, occasionally, crashes.
On this ground, anger is universal. US congressmen compete with themselves to lash out at the financiers who created this mess. But, outside the Anglo-American world, we see an outburst of resentment against the US and British approach to finance and banking. With people angry and scared at what may happen next, political leaders find it more difficult than usual to resist populist tendencies and seek to distance themselves from a possibly serious downturn. With market failures crudely in the limelight, they feel pressed to reassert the role of government. Nationalism is always a convenient spare wheel for difficult times.
Once again, Anglo-American capitalism is a bad word and globalisation is next in line. Speeches at this year’s United Nation General Assembly by leaders from every continent reveal the depth of contempt that has been lying low, buried underneath the apparent success of the globalisation process.
A first reason for this backlash is the delicate balance between individualism and solidarity. Americans are famously known to encourage and practise individual responsibility. In many other countries, solidarity is more highly valued and individualism is seen as the other side of egoism. Generous welfare states do not just reflect this view, they also create incentives to support collective insurance arrangements, even if they are inefficient. Adam Smith’s invisible hand, the assertion that individualism delivers the common best, is not popular: we know that his assertion is only approximately correct because it assumes that markets are perfect, which is not the case in practice.
Where individualism is considered a virtue, deviations from the ideal outcome are seen as a regrettable side-effect. But in most parts of the world, where individualism is considered morally wrong, the law of the market is tolerated as long as it delivers prosperity. When it fails, its legitimacy is soon questioned. The world’s major financial markets are in New York and London. No wonder, then, that anger is aimed at Anglo-American capitalism.
The second reason is related to the way financial markets operate. The US and the UK have championed arm’s-length finance, the financing of corporations through issuance of shares and bonds to anonymous stakeholders. Continental Europe – and south-east Asia – has long favoured face-to-face deals between entrepreneurs and bankers. Deals can be shoddy and cliquish, but they provide for some stability. Over the past two decades, arm’s-length finance has made headway in continental Europe, beating back the old boys’ networks. No wonder that the old boys are now hitting back.
Strikingly, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister, have both announced the end of Anglo-American financial supremacy. It is not clear what their prediction is based upon.
They have denounced excesses, such as bonuses, but that does not even begin to address the root cause of the crisis. They have described financial markets as unregulated. This is simply wrong. Financial markets are tightly regulated. The problem is not just that the regulation is inappropriate, but also that supervisors have not enforced it.
We knew of the hundreds of billions of dollars in dubious claims parked off bank balance sheets in a clear effort at circumventing existing regulations. Regulatory arbitrage, as this is called, has gone unchecked for years.
Both leaders had harsh words for “speculation”, but this misses the fact that finance is speculation. Both zeroed in on short selling. Short selling is like cars. Drivers can be reckless; disciplining them seems more reasonable than banning cars. Denouncing market short-termism runs against evidence that markets better predict companies’ long-term performance than their own managers.
Mr Sarkozy and Mr Steinbrück may be simply captured by their own old boys, but the fate of Fortis, the Belgo-Dutch banking and insurance group, may give them second thoughts. Pain is travelling across the Atlantic and could hurt more good European banks. Mr Sarkozy promised that no French depositor would ever suffer any loss from any French bank. He might soon find the price tag pretty steep.
So will Anglo-American capitalism fade away? Maybe, but that will be decided in Washington, not Paris and Berlin. One thing is sure, neither France nor Germany can mount a serious challenge, at least as long as their people and leaders mistrust and misunderstand finance.
September 30, 2008
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered her Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn, to essentially not do his job in the runup to the vote on Monday for the negotiated Wall Street bailout plan, according to House Democrat leadership aides.
“Clyburn was not whipping the votes you would have expected him to, in part because he was uncomfortable doing it, in part because we didn’t want the push for votes to be successful,” says one leadership aide. “All we needed was enough to potentially get us over the finish line, but we wanted the Republicans to be the ones to do it. This was not going to be a Democrat-passed bill if the Speaker had anything to say about it.”
During the floor vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Democrat Conference chair Rahm Emanuel could be seen monitoring the vote on the floor, and gauging whether or not more Democrat votes were needed. Clyburn had expressed concerns, says the leadership aide, of being asked to press members of the Black and Hispanic caucuses on a bill he was certain those constituencies would not want passed.
“It worked out, because we didn’t have a dog in this fight. We negotiated. We gave the White House a bill. It was up to the Republicans to get the 100 plus votes they needed and they couldn’t do it,” said another Democrat leadership aide.
Emanuel, who served as a board member for Freddie Mac, one of the agencies that precipitated the economic crisis the nation now finds itself in, had no misgivings about taking a leadership role in tanking the bill. “He was cheerleading us along, mothering the votes,” says the aide. “We wanted enough to put the pressure on the Republicans and Congressman Emanuel was charged with making it close enough. He did a great job.”
Pelosi and her aides have made it clear they were not going to “whip” or twist the arms of members who did not want to vote, but they also made no effort to rally any support for a bill they attempted to hijack over the weekend.
Further, according to House Oversight Committee staff, Emanuel has received assurances from Pelosi that she will not allow what he termed a “witch hunt” to take place during the next Congressional session over the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the economic crisis.
Emanuel apparently is concerned the roles former Clinton Administration members may have played in the mortgage industry collapse could be politically — or worse, if the Department of Justice had its way, legally — treacherous for many.