The Global Note: Mexico’s Sea Change…Austerity Blues…Africa’s Cry For Help…A Marathoner’s Gift

By Tom Nagorski

Apr 24, 2012 11:10am

MEXICO IMMIGRATION: “TIDE TURNS”

It’s a statistic not seen in half a century. Net migration from Mexico has plummeted to zero thanks to changing demographic and economic conditions on both sides of the border, a new study says, even as political battles over illegal immigration heat up and the issue heads to the U.S. Supreme Court. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, after four decades that brought 12 million Mexican immigrants— more than half of them illegally—to the U.S., the curtain has come down on the biggest immigration wave in modern times. “The net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed,” says the report, which is based on an analysis of U.S. and Mexican government data by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center. The standstill, according to the report, results from declining immigration from Mexico paired with a rising number of people returning south from the U.S. Those trends recently converged, and between 2005 and 2010 about as many Mexicans left the U.S. as flocked here. Meanwhile, the Senate subcommittee on Immigration discusses Arizona’s controversial immigration law at 10am ET. Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer has been invited to testify. The Supreme Court takes up the law Wednesday.

EURO CRISIS BACK? AUSTERITY BACKLASH

Several dangerously-worded articles out today (Financial Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal) about the return of the gloom. Around Europe, many voters, politicians and investors are fretting about economic weakness and high debts, and searching for the right balance between growth and fiscal discipline. A New York Times analysis writes that from Paris to Prague, Europeans are beginning to resent Germany’s “holier-than-thou” attitude towards austerity.

BIN LADEN’S PLAN FOR A FOLLOW-UP TO 9/11 

This came up in a Brooklyn court – but flagged by Muhammad LILA in Islamabad. A British man trained to be a shoe bomber testified that Osama Bin Laden told him shortly after the 9/11 attacks that a second attack would cripple the American economy. “So he said the American economy is like a chain,” Saajid Badat said. “If you break one – one link of the chain, the whole economy will be brought down. So after Sept. 11 attacks, this operation will ruin the aviation industry and in turn the whole economy will come down.” Badat was planning to bring down an airplane simultaneously with convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid, but backed out at the last minute.  His testimony was played during the federal trial of a man charged with plotting to blow up NYC subways.

AFGHAN WAR

-NATO’S VOTE OF CONFIDENCE…NATO commanders offered a startlingly buoyant assessment of security gains across the country at yesterday’s press conference. A senior NATO official said: “By December 2014… we are very confident that we can hand off responsibility to them.” The Washington Post also has an interesting, humanizing story today about an Afghan soldier who bought eight pairs of boots for local Afghan workers.

-ON A REMOTE OUTPOST, ONE U.S. SOLDIER’S GIFT…A nice story from the Washington Post: Army Spec. Cherry Maurice believed that one small gesture could make a difference. Temperatures at her mountain base plunged to 20 degrees below zero in January, and snow covered the ground. Maurice noticed that the eight Afghan workers on the outpost were coming to work in rubber flip-flops. The 35-year-old soldier labored with the men in the outpost’s kitchen, which is not much bigger than a walk-in closet. She dug into her personal savings and spent $135 to buy them eight pairs of boots. “They are humans like us,” Maurice said of the Afghans. “And friendship means a lot to them.” Maurice, who stands a little over five feet tall and favors shiny pink lip gloss, is one of the lowest-ranking and lowest-paid soldiers at this base in Wardak province, south of Kabul. Her life is a glimpse into the American-Afghan partnership at the bottom rungs of the U.S. military, where even the simplest acts of kindness do not easily translate across a wide linguistic and cultural divide.

-LESSONS LEARNED…APPLIED IN COLOMBIA?…Defense Secretary Leon Panetta got a glimpse into how America’s military’s experience in Afghanistan is contributing to the U.S. counterinsurgency training in Colombia. U.S. military and defense officials said they can learn from Colombia’s battle with FARC, while Colombia can learn from NATO’s battle with Taliban IEDs.

PANETTA CONTINUES SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR

Secretary Panetta continues his South American tour today, traveling to Brazil.

SYRIA

-ANNAN’S REPORT…International envoy Kofi Annan is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council today, as reports of carnage in Syria mount despite the council’s agreement to boost the number of monitors there.

-UN MONITORS PROVE LITTLE DETERRENT…A sharp rise in the number of deaths in the Syrian uprising is casting fresh doubt on the success of a UN peace plan. Alex MARQUARDT reports that according to activists, nearly 70 people were killed on Monday, most of those in a government crackdown in the city of Hama.

-THE CAB DRIVERS…Meanwhile, UAE’s the National interviews a slew of Damascus cab drivers in an effort to tap into the mood of the capital.

-ASSAD, “DEAD OR ALIVE”…Also today, Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki said that Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad is “finished” and will eventually leave power “dead or alive.”

 PENTAGON REVAMPS INTEL GATHERING

The Wall Street Journal (and NYTimes) report that the Pentagon is revamping its spy operations to focus on high-priority targets – including Iran and China – in a reorganization that reflects a shift away from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan that have dominated America’s security landscape for the past decade.

IRAN: OIL TERMINAL HIT BY CYBER ATTACK

The country’s main oil export terminal and other oil facilities have come under cyber attack, the Mehr news agency reported. The Kharg Island terminal in the Gulf – which handles 90% of exports – was disconnected from the internet along with other facilities. It didn’t disrupt exports, officials said, but an oil ministry spokesman said that “data related to some of the users have been compromised.” In response, Mehr reported that a “cyber crisis committee” has been set up.  INSA said the virus was called “wiper.”

EGYPT SAYS NO TO U.S. NGOs

From Alex MARQUARDT: American civil society groups – including the Carter Center – have been denied licenses to operate in Egypt. The Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry ruled that the groups’ activities violate “the state’s sovereignty on its lands”. The ban comes a month before the first round of elections.

WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST, SEX IN IRAN

Alex MARQUARDT again - flagging a powerful piece by columnist Mona Eltahawy – who was arrested, beaten and groped during the Cairo protests last year. Eltahawy pens a piece on women in the Middle East for Foreign Policy. “Why Do They Hate Us?” Worth a read.  And while you’re on the site, a good piece on the politics of sex in Iran.

HACKERGATE: JAMES MURDOCH TESTIFIES

The Guardian is live-blogging this morning’s Leveson inquiry with James Murdoch. His father, Rupert, will face questions tomorrow. Our take here.

GOOD GLOBAL HEALTH NEWS

The number of measles deaths worldwide has dropped by about three-quarters over a decade, according to a new study by the World Health Organization and others. Health officials estimate about 9.6 million children were saved from dying of measles from 2000 to 2010 after big vaccination campaigns were rolled out more than a decade ago.

PLEA FOR FOOD AID IN THE SAHEL

From Bazi KANANI in Nairobi: International relief organizations are battling donor fatigue as they make another plea for help to raise the necessary donations to stave off a famine.  A coalition of aid organizations including Oxfam, World Vision, and Save the Children say a $200 million funding gap threatens to leave millions hungry in the Sahel region bordering the Sahara desert.  Drought in the region has led to a food crisis in Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The relief groups say they are seeing people turn to increasingly desperate measures including eating wild leaves and searching anthills for grains. Earlier this year, the EU and US pledged millions of dollars in emergency aid for the Sahel.

PERU MULLS VAN DER SLOOT EXTRADITION

A lawyer for Joran van der Sloot says Peru is evaluating a request by the United States to extradite the jailed Dutchman, who is the main suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

OLYMPICS TRIAL RUN

Four-thousand people, including Game organizers, the British government, emergency services and transport operators will take part in the three-day test that kicked off overnight. Its aims to mimic this summer’s August 4 – 6 when 26 sports will be taking place across 14 venues.

KENYA WELCOMES REUTURNING MARATHON CHAMPIONS

KANANI again: After Kenyan runners took 5 of the top 6 spots in Sunday’s London Marathon, those returning today will be greeted with jugs of traditional sour milk as part of a homecoming celebration in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret. The London marathon has been considered unofficial trials for this summer’s Olympic Games, and Kenyan sports fans are now feeling confident their long-distance runners will again bring home the gold.

ONE MARATHONER’S FINAL GIFT

From Dimitrije STEJIC in London: People dying during marathon races is not unusual but what is happening in this case is rather remarkable. Clare Squires was a healthy 30-year-old running in the London marathon to raise money for the Samaritans charity, a depression/suicide hotline. When she collapsed and died  a mile from the finish on Sunday she had raised only $800 but now donations in her name are sky-rocketing (at last look – more than $800,000). The family said in a statement today: “Words cannot explain what an incredible, inspirational, beautiful and driven person she was. She was loved by so many and is dearly missed by all of us.” They urged people to continue making donations.

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