Allyssa Monks 2007






















Fuente: Alyssa Monks.

Syria: ‘Shoot to Kill’ Commanders Named - Siria: Identificados los comandantes que dieron las órdenes de “disparar a matar”

Human Rights Watch.



(London) – Former Syrian soldiers identified by name 74 commanders and officials responsible for attacks on unarmed protesters, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report names commanders and officials from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies who allegedly ordered, authorized, or condoned widespread killings, torture, and unlawful arrests during the 2011 anti-government protests. Human Rights Watch has urged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and impose sanctions against the officials implicated in abuses.


The 88-page report, “‘By All Means Necessary!’: Individual and Command Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Syria,” is based on more than 60 interviews with defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies. The defectors provided detailed information about their units’ participation in attacks, abuses against Syrian citizens, and the orders they received from commanders and officials at various levels, who are named in the report.


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(Londres) – Ex soldados sirios identificaron por nombre a 74 comandantes y oficiales responsables de ataques contra manifestantes desarmados, Human Rights Watch señaló en un informe publicado hoy. El documento nombra a comandantes y oficiales del Ejército y las agencias de inteligencia de Siria que presuntamente ordenaron, autorizaron o toleraron numerosos homicidios, torturas y detenciones ilegales durante las protestas de 2011contra el Gobierno. Human Rights Watch ha instado al Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) a que remita el caso de Siria a la Corte Penal Internacional (CPI) e imponga sanciones contra los funcionarios implicados en los abusos.

El informe de 88 páginas, ‘By All Means Necessary!’: Individual and Command Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Syria”(“‘¡Por todos los medios necesarios!’: Responsabilidad individual y de mando por los crímenes contra la humanidad en Siria”), está basado en más de 60 entrevistas con desertores del Ejército y las agencias de inteligencia de Siria. Los desertores suministraron información detallada sobre la participación de sus unidades en ataques y abusos contra ciudadanos sirios y las órdenes que recibieron de jefes y oficiales de diferentes rangos, que son nombrados en el documento.

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  • Africa needs biotech crops


    In a strongly worded editorial in Science magazine this week, Calestous Juma, the director of the Agricultural Innovation in Africa program at Harvard's Kennedy School, called for a government-led initiative to introduce biotechnology into Africa. "Major international agencies such as the United Nations have persistently opposed expanding biotechnology to regions most in need of its societal and economic benefits," he wrote.
    Genetic modification has had a huge impact on agriculture worldwide. More than 15 million farmers now plant GM crops on almost 370 million acres, boosting yields by 10% to 25%. Despite opponents' fears that the technology would poison people, spread superweeds and entrench corporate monopolies, it's now clear that the new crops have reduced not only hunger but pesticide use, carbon emissions, collateral damage to biodiversity and rain-forest destruction.
    Yet, while much of North and South America, Australia and Asia are expanding the use of GM crops, only three African countries have adopted them (a further four are conducting trials). Mr. Juma argues that Africa is the place that most needs a boost from biotech: Many of the continent's farmers cannot afford to buy pesticides, so corn and cotton that are genetically insect-resistant could make a big difference there. Over the past five decades, while Asian yields have quadrupled, African yields have barely budged.
    Yet political squeamishness abounds. In an article this week for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), John Kufuor, the former president of Ghana, argued that "Africa's agriculture has been cut off from the scientific advances which have transformed yields in many other parts of the globe"—but he did not mention GM crops. AGRA, whose chairman is former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, says that the group "does not fund the development of GM crops."
    Africa grows a diverse range of crops as staple foods: not just corn, rice and wheat but cassava, yams, black-eyed peas and bananas. Genetic modification has so far focused mainly on the big commercial crops. Ironically, this is because of immensely complex biosafety regulations demanded by environmental pressure groups in the West, which don't apply to crop varieties produced by other means, including mutation by irradiation.
    Only big firms can afford this ordeal by red tape, and only for big crops. The pioneering Swiss biologist Ingo Potrykus, who has watched his not-for-profit invention of vitamin-enhanced "golden rice" tied up for 13 years by regulatory procrastination, is no longer in the mood to mince words. He recently wrote that he holds "the regulation of genetic engineering responsible for the death and blindness of thousands of children and young mothers."
    Biotechnology's potential in Africa is illustrated by the case of the black-eyed pea, a crop that is attacked by an insect called the Maruca pod borer, which causes $300 million in annual losses to small-scale farmers there and can be controlled only with expensive pesticides that many cannot afford. A university in Nigeria has developed an insect-resistant GM black-eyed pea, but Nigeria does not allow the commercial use of GM crops.
    In Uganda, where people often eat three times their body weight in bananas a year, a GM banana that is resistant to a bacterial wilt disease, which causes $500 million in annual losses and cannot be treated with pesticides, is being tested behind high security fences. The fences are there not to keep out anti-GM protesters, as in the West, but to keep out local farmers keen to grow the new crop.
    "By creating institutions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity that seek to smother biotechnology at birth," Calestous Juma tells me, "sections of the U.N. are no more than the Pontius Pilate of innovation."

    Allyssa Monks 2008














    Fuente: Alyssa Monks.

    A History of Violence Edge Master Class 2011

    By Steven Pinker.



    STEVEN PINKER: Believe it or not—and I know most people do not—violence has been in decline over long stretches of time, and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence. The decline of violence, to be sure, has not been steady; it has not brought violence down to zero (to put it mildly); and it is not guaranteed to continue. But I hope to convince you that it's a persistent historical development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars and perpetration of genocides to the spanking of children and the treatment of animals.

    I'm going to present six major historical declines of violence; in each case, cite their immediate causes in terms of what historians have told us are the likely historical antecedents in that era; and then speculate on their ultimate causes, in terms of general historical forces acting on human nature.

    The first major decline of violence I call the "Pacification Process." Until about five thousand years ago, humans lived in anarchy without central government. What was life like in this state of nature? This is a question that thinkers have speculated on for centuries, most prominently Hobbs, who famously said that in a state of nature "the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." A century later he was countered by Jean Jacques Rousseau, who says, "Nothing could be more gentle than man in his primitive state."

    In reality, both of these gentlemen were talking through their hats:  They had no idea what life was like in a state of nature. But today we can do better, because there are two sources of evidence of what rates of violence were like in pre-state societies.

    One is forensic archaeology. You can think of it as "CSI Paleolithic". What proportion of prehistoric skeletons have signs of violent trauma, such as bashed-in skulls, decapitated skeletons, femurs with bronze arrowheads embedded in them, and mummies found with ropes around their necks?

    There are 20 archaeological samples that I know of for which these analyses have been done. I've plotted here the percentage of deaths due to violent trauma. They range as high as 60 percent, and the average is a little bit more than 15 percent.

    Let’s compare that rate with those of modern states, and let's stack the deck against modernity by picking some of the most violent eras that we can think of. This is the United States and Europe in the 20th century. This is the entire world in the 20th century—and I've thrown in not only the wars, but also the genocides and the manmade famines. It's about three percent, compared to the 15 percent rate in pre-state societies. And here is the world in the first decade of the 21st century. The bar in the graph would be less than a pixel, about a three one-hundredths of one percent.


    Cheap energy means jobs

    Por Matt Ridley.



    WHEN is a job not a job? Answer: when it is a green job. Jobs in an industry that raises the price of energy effectively destroy jobs elsewhere; jobs in an industry that cuts the cost of energy create extra jobs elsewhere.
    The entire argument for green jobs is a version of Frederic Bastiat’s broken-window fallacy. The great nineteenth century French economist pointed out that breaking a window may provide work for the glazier, but takes work from the tailor, because the window owner has to postpone ordering a new suit because he has to pay for the window.
    You will hear claims from Chris Huhne, the anti-energy secretary, and the green-greed brigade that trousers his subsidies for their wind and solar farms, about how many jobs they are creating in renewable energy. But since every one of these jobs is subsidised by higher electricity bills and extra taxes, the creation of those jobs is a cost to the rest of us. The anti-carbon and renewable agenda is not only killing jobs by closing steel mills, aluminium smelters and power stations, but preventing the creation of new jobs at hairdressers, restaurants and electricians by putting up their costs and taking money from their customers’ pockets.
    We now have an estimate, from meticulous work in a new report by the Renewable Energy Foundation, of just how costly those subsidies are going to get in a few years’ time: £15bn a year, or 1 per cent of GDP. Ouch. That’s more than this year’s growth.
    Contrast that with news from the United States that, according to a report from IHS Global Insight, the cheap shale gas revolution now in full flow has created 148,000 jobs directly within the gas industry and – by making energy cheaper – has created at least another 450,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy. By 2015, the total impact of shale gas will be 870,000 new jobs, says the report.
    Shale gas now provides more than a quarter of American gas from a standing start about five years ago. Its effect has been dramatic. Whereas gas prices rose sharply here in the last two years, pushed up by oil prices, the Libyan civil war (which constricted supply) and the Japanese earthquake (which boosted demand), by contrast they stayed low in the United States.
    This is the first time in decades gas prices on opposite sides of the Atlantic have diverged so sharply. Cheap gas in America has caused a rush into using gas for electricity generation, the cancellation of coal and nuclear plants, the mothballing of gas import terminals, the revival of the US chemical industry, a fall in the price of farmers’ input costs (nitrogen fertiliser is made with natural gas) and the beginning of the conversion of some urban transport fleets to running on natural gas.
    Oh, and by the way, with one exception in Wyoming, shale gas drilling has still not caused any verified cases of groundwater contamination. The environmental risks of gas are real but small compared with the documented impact that wind power has on eagles, bats, landscapes and pollution in Inner Mongolia (where the metals that go into their magnets are mined and refined), or that biofuels have on hunger and rainforest destruction.
    Britain can get some of these benefits of the shale gas revolution whatever happens. We already have. Last Christmas, when all wind turbines stood helplessly still during the great freeze, three cargoes of liquefied natural gas heading for the United States from Qatar actually turned around and came to the Isle of Grain instead; that kept our boilers going, kept prices from rising faster than they did and in the long run staved off job losses.
    Thus, if we were the only country – or part of the only continent – not to exploit the new resource of shale gas within our own borders, we might still get some of the indirect benefits. But we would also lose the revenues and the direct jobs that come with gas drilling. We would also lose competitiveness to countries with cheaper energy.
    Back in 1800, Britain was becoming the richest country in the world with the fastest economic growth and the fastest job creation – the China of its day. That was not because we had suddenly become cleverer than everybody else at inventing things. It was because we had stumbled upon limitless, dense and above all cheap energy in the form of coal, and harnessed it to mechanise industry, cheaply amplifying the labour productivity of each person so much that he could be paid high wages.
    That lesson – that cheap energy is an employment multiplier, while costly energy is an employment divider – has been forgotten. Please let us recall it before the green jobs myth causes more unemployment.

    A por la cartilla de racionamiento

    Por Juan Ramón Rallo.



    ¿Puede una asociación creada para defender a los consumidores oponerse a aquello que define el objeto fundamental de lo que dice defender, es decir, el consumo? Sí, aquí y en 1984 sí puede. Facua Madrid, ONG “con un carácter marcadamente progresista, democrático, plural y participativo” (sic), rechaza de nuevo la liberalización casi total de los horarios comerciales que acaba de incluir el Ejecutivo de Esperanza Aguirre en el Anteproyecto de Ley de dinamización del comercio por fomentar un consumo “irracional e impulsivo”.
    Ay estos cretinos de los consumidores, si es que no se les puede dejar solos; abres un poquito la mano y se te descontrolan. Tan irracionales e impulsivos se vuelven, que la mejor manera que atina Facua para defender sus derechos es imponiéndoles caenas, esto es, arrebatarles el más elemental de esos derechos que es el de elegir.
    No ya sólo para protegerles de sí mismos sino también porque en su vorágine despilfarradora los consumidores van dejando otros muertos por el camino: a saber, si no se les prohíbe comprar en ciertos horarios, asestarán un “severo golpe” a “buena parte del pequeño y mediano comercio, restándole capacidad competitiva”. ¡Una asociación para defender a los consumidores mutada en lobby promotor de los crematísticos intereses de aquellos empresarios que peor satisfacen a los consumidores! Menos mal que Facua, según su declaración de principios, es “independiente de gobiernos, partidos políticos, confesiones religiosas e intereses empresariales“; mas algunos de esos intereses parece tenerlos muy en cuenta cuando le conviene.
    Sucede que la irracionalidad, la impulsividad o los falsos perjuicios al pequeño comercio son meras excusas para cargar contra lo que Facua verdaderamente detesta, que no es ni el consumo excesivo, ni el consumo dominical, ni el consumo nocturno, ni el consumo suntuario, ni el consumo en grandes superficies, sino el consumo libre.
    He ahí la clave del asunto, aun cuando quede feo –muy feo– decirlo: los consumidores (y los vendedores) deben ser reprimidos por el Estado para impedirles formalizar transacciones voluntarias y mutuamente beneficiosas. ¿Por qué? Pues porque lo digo yo. Un peligroso paso desde el legítimo paternalismo asesor hasta el bochornoso paternalismo opresor. Al cabo, una vez nos empezamos a cuestionar si consumidores y comerciantes son lo suficientemente mayorcitos como para llegar a acuerdos sobre cuándo comprar y vender, ¿acaso no se impone plantearse lo mismo con respecto a qué partido político votar? ¿O es que un ciudadano puede escoger sin problemas las siglas de aquellos que van a ejercer la coacción sobre 47 millones de españoles pero, al tiempo, puede no ser lo bastante maduro como para optar entre comprarse un par de zapatillas ora el viernes ora el domingo?
    Ya puestos, ¿por qué no avanzar hacia la reintroducción de las cartillas de racionamiento, auténticos centinelas contra el consumo irresponsable, impulsivo e insostenible? Al menos así se caerían las máscaras y ya tendríamos claro que los chicos de Facua no aspiran a promover nuestro consumo responsable, sino a ser los responsables de nuestro consumo.

    Lo impensable: ¿Cuba al FMI?

    Por Andrés Oppenheimer.



    Un viejo chiste que escuché por primera vez hace más de 20 años en La Habana dice que los tres logros más grandes de la revolución cubana son la salud, la educación y la baja tasa de mortalidad infantil, y que sus tres fracasos más grandes son el desayuno, el almuerzo y la cena.

    Ahora, un nuevo estudio del centro de estudios Brookings Institution, titulado “Tendiendo puentes: la nueva economía cubana y la respuesta internacional”, demuestra que dos décadas más tarde y a pesar de los anuncios de reformas económicas del régimen de Raúl Castro, las cosas están igual de mal, o peor.

    El estudio fue escrito por Richard E. Feinberg, un ex funcionario del gobierno de Bill Clinton que respalda una creciente cooperación de las instituciones financieras internacionales con Cuba, y que viajó a la isla y se entrevistó con funcionarios de gobierno, economistas y académicos. Entre sus conclusiones:

    • A pesar del aumento del turismo, algunas inversiones en minería y enormes subsidios de Venezuela, la economía cubana sigue en crisis. El principal obstáculo económico no son las sanciones comerciales de Estados Unidos, sino el anacrónico modelo económico de Cuba, heredado de la ex Unión Soviética y basado en la planificación central, dice el estudio.

    • El ingreso promedio de Cuba es uno de los más bajos de Latinoamérica: 448 pesos mensuales, o $20 al cambio oficial. Los graduados universitarios buscan frenéticamente empleo como porteros de hoteles, camareros y otras ocupaciones con acceso a moneda extranjera, o tratan de emigrar, añade el informe.

    • El ingreso per cápita medido como paridad de poder de compra de Cuba es de $6,000 anuales. En comparación, el de la República Dominicana es de $8,000, el de Brasil $11,000, y el de México como en Chile y Uruguay, respectivamente, de $14,000, según cifras de las Naciones Unidas.

    • La producción industrial de Cuba está al 43 por ciento de su nivel de 1989, y se reduce al 10 por ciento de la fuerza laboral. Las exportaciones son una cifra irrisoria, entre $3,000 millones y $4,000 millones anuales, apenas por encima del subsidio petrolero de Venezuela a la isla.

    • La deuda externa cubana es “alarmante”. Según el Banco Central de Cuba, la isla debe $8,900 millones, además de unos $7,600 millones de “deudas congeladas” que no han sido reestructuradas en más de dos décadas, afirma el estudio.

    • Cuba ha estado intentando compensar estos problemas desarrollando industrias de servicios como el turismo, que ha crecido hasta registrar 2,5 millones de visitantes por año, y la exportación de médicos a Venezuela por medio de programas gubernamentales de “petróleo por médicos”. El sector de servicios representa ahora el 81 por ciento de la economía de la isla, pero no alcanza para balancear el presupuesto, dice el estudio.

    • Pese a las reformas económicas pro-mercado recientemente anunciadas por Castro, incluyendo la posibilidad de comprar propiedades, la implementación de dichas reformas es lenta y errática por las disputas entre ortodoxos y reformistas dentro del régimen.

    Feinberg propone alentar las reformas económicas en Cuba por medio de una creciente participación de las instituciones financieras internacionales como el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI).

    Según el estudio, los funcionarios cubanos expresaron cierto interés en iniciar contactos con el FMI y el Banco Mundial, especialmente porque esas instituciones han aceptado que “no hay un único modelo de desarrollo” y recientemente han ganado valiosas experiencias asesorando a países como Vietnam y Nicaragua, afirma el estudio.

    “Cuando el autor preguntó cuál era la postura de Cuba con respecto a su posible ingreso al FMI, un funcionario de alto rango del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba respondió: ‘Cuba no tiene una postura principista en contra de las relaciones con el FMI o el Banco Mundial’ ”, dice el estudio. Fue la primera vez que Cuba ha hecho una afirmación semejante, añade.

    Mi opinión: Si la dictadura militar de Castro quiere ayuda del FMI, después de décadas de atacar a la institución, debería recibir un ofrecimiento de asistencia técnica. Eso ayudaría a poner al día a los sectores reformistas dentro de la isla, y confirmaría el colosal fracaso de los octogenarios generales cubanos en todos los frentes.

    Los que aún creen que los hermanos Castro son populares en Cuba, y que la isla todavía mantiene un sistema educativo modelo, deberían preguntarse por qué motivo los Castro no se animan a convocar elecciones libres, o por qué no permiten que Cuba participe en las pruebas internacionales PISA de estudiantes de 15 años. No lo hacen porque saben que su farsa propagandística quedaría expuesta en un minuto.

    El viejo chiste que escuche en La Habana hace dos décadas ya no funciona. Hoy, Cuba está mal por donde se la mire: no tiene ni buenos servicios sociales, ni desayuno, almuerzo y cena.