The Obama Administration's Cuba policy will get some high-level scrutiny at Boston University on Friday, from leading political players as well as prominent academics. The timing is excellent: policy makers are debating whether to lift the US ban on travel to Cuba and whether to ease the trade embargo.
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the influential Foreign Relations Committee, will deliver an opening address, followed by Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt, who has a longstanding involvement with Latin American issues through his seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The event, open to the public but with limited seating, runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Trustees Ballroom, 9th Floor, 1 Silber Way (formerly 1 Sherborn Street) in Boston. More details are at the site of the co-sponsoring Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer Range Future.
Congress is considering legislation to lift the 46-year-old travel ban. Growing numbers of Cuban-Americans, who had long supported it, now favor lifting the measure, thinking that more American travel to Cuba would help persuade the country to embrace change. But the Cuban-American delegation in Congress still supports the ban as necessary to isolate Cuba and pressure it to embrace reforms. There appears to be less support to lift the economic embargo, but its usefulness is also being debated intensely.
Delahunt introduced the House bill to lift the US travel ban to Cuba, noting that Americans have the right to travel to Vietnam, Iran and North Korea, but not to Cuba. He frames it more as a matter of freedom to travel than of US-Cuba relations. In September, Obama lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling back to their native country, but other Americans still may not travel to Cuba.
Academics at the conference include Harvard Professor Jorge Dominguez, a Cuban-born expert in Latin American politics and economics who visited Cuba earlier this year. In a recent article in Harvard magazine, Dominguez offers vivid impressions of the changes in Cuba since Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel as president in February 2008.
The conference will be cochaired by BU Professor Paul Hare, a former British diplomat who was ambassador to Cuba from 2001 to 2004, and BU Professor Susan Eckstein, who has written extensively on Cuba.
In the G section of today's Globe, Bella English writes about Elizabeth Sheehan, and her imaginative effort to transform old cargo containers into clinics for poor Third World countries.
A former physician's assistant who has lived and worked in many developing countries, Sheehan created Containers2Clinics, a non-profit, to turn the idea into reality. The first clinic will be delivered to Bani in the Dominican Republic in January. Sheehan, who grew up in Plymouth and lives in Dover, hopes that will be the first of 50 such clinics in five years.
The Dominican clinic will be run by Waltham-based Infante Sano, (Spanish for "Healthy Infant"), another impressive non-profit in the Boston area. Infante Sano was founded by Bill Haney, a filmmaker and biotech entrepreneur, and since 2006 has set up training programs in three Dominican communities to improve the skills and resources available to doctors and nurses to treat mothers and infants. Infante Sano works with Children's Hospital and other partners.
Haney describes the work done so far on the Infante Sano website: "In Bani, San Cristobal and La Romana we've now trained hundreds of doctors and nurses in neonatal resuscitation, emergency obstetric care, and care for newborn babies - reaching over 35,000 mothers and infants. We've remodeled and re-equipped three hospitals' infant and maternal care facilities, shipping almost $2 million dollars of supplies and equipment for a mere investment of $50k. We've opened two clinics for impoverished mothers and children and had more than 5,500 visits annual from them. Our local staff numbers 14 and we've built critical partnerships with the Dominican Ministry of Health and clinical partners across the country. We are confident that our programs are improving the health and wellbeing of women and children and we are poised to spread our model across the DR and build partnerships to implement in other countries."
Harvard's School of Public Health is mounting a powerhouse conference this week on the worsening global problem of breast cancer.
Dr. Julio Frenk, who took up his post as dean of the school in January, previously served as Mexico's health minister and as a senior World Health Organization executive. Frenk's wife, Felicia Knaul, is a Harvard-trained global health economist and a breast cancer survivor who is the principal organizer of the conference.
Knaul's personal experiences with the disease prompted her to examine the increasing prevalence of breast cancer in the Third World -- and she has produced acclaimed research showing that breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer as a threat to women in Mexico, and probably in other developing countries. She also has created a foundation in Mexico to improve awareness of the disease and the need for early detection. I wrote an article in the Globe in April about her life and work.
Frenk told me at the time that he hoped to encourage even greater focus at the School of Public Health on how Harvard can foster action programs as well as research into health-based obstacles to growth in poor countries. The symposium, from Tuesday through Thursday, is clearly a major expression of that commitment. The conference events are open to the Harvard community but registration is required and space is limited, and some of the sessions are already full. Here is the agenda and contact information is here.
The conference will be opened on Tuesday by Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust. Speakers include Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning Harvard economist who has studied global development constraints; Lawrence Shulman, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Geeta Rao Gupta, President, International Center for Research on Women; Marina A. Njelekela, Chairperson, Medical Women´s Association of Tanzania; Alejandro Mohar, Director, National Cancer Institute of Mexico; Peter Piot, Director, Institute for Global Health, Imperial College London and former Executive Director, UNAIDs; and, John Seffrin, CEO, American Cancer Society.
The number of immigrants living in Massachusetts increased slightly in 2008, Globe immigration reporter Maria Sacchetti writes on today's front page. While the national proportion of foreign-born residents fell by 0.26 percent, it rose in Massachusetts by 2.54 percent.
(In passing, let me note that it's eternally disheartening to read some of the vitriolic, mean-spirited and anonymous on-line comments triggered by almost any article on immigrants, including one that simply reports the findings of a government census study and tries to explain a trend.)
For those who want to look at the raw data and draw their own conclusions, here's a link to the key Massachusetts page of the US Census Bureau 2008 American Community Survey. This page provides the core data and quite a bit more to chew on in thinking about the Massachusetts immigrant population and other demographic issues.
Among the findings:
--The immigrants living in Massachusetts come from all over the world, and most have been here a number of years. Of the state's 6,497,967 residents at the time of the 2008 survey, 937,000, or 14 percent, were foreign born. Of those, 68 percent have been here since before 2000, and 32 percent, or 301,000, arrived in 2000 or later.
In identifying their region of origin:
--35 percent of the foreign-born residents said they were born in Latin America
--28 percent were from Asia
--25 percent were from Europe
--8 percent were from Africa
Asked to identify their ancestry, Bay Staters showed themselves to be from an equally vast array of home countries. At the top of the list:
--Irish -- 1.53 million, or 23.5 percent.
--Italian -- 907,000, or 14 percent
--English -- 745,000, or 11.5 percent
There's no ancestry category for Hispanics, but another page from the survey, on the state's demographics, shows how people identified themselves by race, and that indicates the proportion of people of Hispanic descent in Massachusetts..
White -- 82.5 percent
Black or African American -- 6.7 percent
Asian -- 5 percent
Hispanic -- 8.6 percent
On language, the survey notes on its very useful 'narrative' page: "Among people at least five years old living in Massachusetts in 2008, 21 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Of those speaking a language other than English at home, 35 percent spoke Spanish and 65 percent spoke some other language; 41 percent reported that they did not speak English "very well.""
Summer is clearly over. The calendar is once again overflowing with international events in Boston.
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government already has a full array of events and speakers in coming days and weeks, some of them related to the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly this week. These events are public, but some need RSVPs and have space limitations, so check in with the organizations directly.
I'll try to post more such events in bulletin-board fashion as I learn of them, so email me with any announcements of upcoming talks.
--Today at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy School's Forum, sponsored by the Institute of Politics, a discussion on Iran, with Elliot Abrams, former senior foreign policy adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and Karim, Sadjadpour, a Middle East specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The moderator is Kennedy School Professor R. Nicholas Burns, who was deputy secretary of state and a former US ambassador to NATO who knows US Iran policy better than just about anyone. (And sorry for the last-minute notice).
-- Thursday at 6 p.m., at the Harvard Divinity School, European Union international policy representative Javier Solana will speak on Europe's role in the world. The event, which runs until 8:30 p.m., is sponsored by the Kokkalis Foundation at the Kennedy School; the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard; the Karamanlis Chair, Fletcher School, Tufts University; and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard,. This is part of the “Challenges of the 21st Century: European and American Perspectives Series.”
One of Europe's most senior diplomats and political leaders, Solana was a player in Spain's transition to democracy after the Franco era, and was a Spanish cabinet member for 13 years. He was secretary general of NATO from 1995 to 1999, when he took up a senior role in the EU leadership. He is due to conclude his term as Europe's de facto foreign minister next month.
--On Friday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy School, Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, will speak at the Forum. First elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006, Uribe has taken a hard-line stance against the country's leftist guerrillas, and has achieved dramatic military gains, although he also has faced criticism on human rights issues.
--On Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m., Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will speak at the Kennedy School's IOP forum. Yudhoyono became Indonesia's first directly elected president in 2004, after a military career. He has won applause at home for taking on corruption, ending the Aceh insurgency with a peace deal, and effectively handling of the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami. He won re-election in the first round in July.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his Republican colleague Richard Lugar today introduced a bill to overhaul the US government's system for providing global development aid.
The bill would make numerous changes in the way American aid is handled, and would strengthen the US Agency for International Development, the key foreign assistance agency that has withered in recent years as aid programs were shifted to other departments, including the Pentagon.
It is widely expected that Dr. Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School, founder of Boston-based Partners in Health and a leading global health activist, will be appointed to head USAID. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained publicly this month that the onerous vetting process of candidates for presidential nominations has delayed filling the USAID post and other senior positions.
The legislation co-sponsored by Kerry, Lugar and other senators from both parties would require increased coordination and transparency in US aid programs. It would reestablish a bureau for strategic planning within USAID, and give more authority to USAID staffers in the field. It would also create an executive-branch council that would evaluate US assistance programs.
Oxfam America, the Boston-based non-profit relief and development group, welcomed the bipartisan Senate bill.
Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said in a statement, “Over the last two decades, USAID has had its legs cut out from under it – its resources and staff have been slashed while more development capacity has been shifted to the Department of Defense. Along with rebuilding USAID, the US must shift its focus from development projects that meet short-term political and security goals back to long term development goals that not only help more people escape poverty, but in the long run, create greater stability and good will for the US. Rebuilding USAID gives the US and its development policy a start down the right path.”
Many development groups have pushed the new Obama Administration to push fast to address the fragmented foreign aid process. Clinton said recently she would work to elevate foreign development to the level of defense and diplomacy in US foreign policy strategy. Legislation has also been introduced in the House to require a more strategic approach to development assistance.
As the debate heats up in the Obama Administration on the United States' global health and development priorities, consider a pair of recent reports from two member organizations of the Global Health Council:
WaterAid America and PATH, two non-profit global health and development groups, issued reports in May that after two decades of major progress in cutting mortality from diarrheal disease, there are signs that the severity of the problem is rising again. These diseases kill 1.6 million children under five a year -- 17 percent of all deaths in that age group -- but are getting "significantly less funding than other diseases," according to the reports.
PATH recently published "Diarrheal Disease: Solutions to Defeat a Global Killer", while WaterAid America issued: "Fatal Neglect: How Health Systems are Failing to Comprehensively Address Child Mortality." Here's the announcement, with links.
Studies and recommendations are coming thick and fast as the Obama Administration weighs how to revamp global health and development assistance. I wrote an article in the Sunday Globe about the global health priorities dilemma facing the new administration.
For those who want to wade into this debate, resources abound. Start with a report in January by Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow on global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, titled, The Future of Foreign Assistance Amid
Global Economic and Financial Crisis
The Institute of Medicine published recommendations in May on how to restructure and energize the American international health iniatitive.
The Global Health Council's resource pages offer an array of rich materials.
Also useful: the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, an alliance of organizations committed to restructuring the US aid system. Also see The Center for Global Development and its aid-effectiveness section.
Among politicians, Rep. Howard Berman of California has been a leading advocate of reform, along with Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois. They have introduced a bill requiring the administration to create a new strategy for global development and structures to implement it. Here's a summary of the bill, HR 2139, on the Bread for the World non-profit's website.
Oxfam America, which is headquartered in Boston, has a helpful introduction to how foreign aid works, called Foreign Aid 101. Oxfam America's president, Raymond C. Offenheiser, is among the leading agitators for reforming foreign assistance.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has a very comprehensive and usable global health policy website . Check out the very cool global map where you can roll your cursor over any country and see its basic health data.
Kaiser also produced a poll in May on Americans' attitude toward supporting global health. Some will be surprised to see that more Americans favor maintaining or increasing global aid than want to cut it.
Boston-area supporters of Fair Trade are gathering on Saturday for break-dancing, soccer and live music -- as well as some serious discussion on how to promote more use of fair-trade products and services in greater Boston.
The international fair trade movement supports development in poor countries by getting consumers to buy goods that were made according to strict fair trade standards. Those include paying workers a living wage in decent conditions, and making sure the products are environmentally friendly. More details on fair trade here.
The Boston event, organized by Fair Trade Boston, is being held from noon to six p.m. at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter at 100 West Second Street, South Boston. Speakers include Jonathan Rosenthal, who has been involved in fair trade for more than 20 years and was a cofounder of Equal Exchange, the most successful fair-trade coffee company to date.
Also speaking will be Diego Brenes, a Costa Rican national who is an executive with Root Capital, a Cambridge-based nonprofit social investment fund that supports fair trade projects in the developingt world; and Omar Mejia, the director of Café Conciencia, an international non-profit organization that works with worker-owned cooperative communities in Guatemala.
But beyond the talk, much of the day looks like fair fun. An ethical fashion show, a silent auction of fair-trade products and short videos on fair trade initiatives will be available all day. And of course, fair trade coffee, brownies and bananas will be on sale.
I wrote an article in yesterday's Globe about a forum featuring the work of Felicia Marie Knaul, a prominent global health economist, and her husband Dr. Julio Frenk, the new dean of Harvard's School of Public Health.
The forum took place at the school's Boston campus last evening, with a panel including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute specialist Dr. Lawrence Shulman, as well as the School of Public Health's Dr. Jennifer Leaning, a global health expert from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Dr. Walter Willett, who has looked at breast cancer factors in developing countries.
The webcast and links to relevant articles should be available shortly on the school's webpage on the new forums.
Knaul, herself a breast cancer survivor, explained her research in Mexico showing the relentless advance of breast cancer among younger and poorer women, overtaking cervical cancer as a cause of death. The website of the non-profit group she founded there, Tomatelo a Pecho, contains many reports on the worsening problem, and the efforts to improve early detection in clinics across the country.
The panelists emphasized the critical importance of early detection to be able to offer a reasonable chance of effective treatment and to add years of quality life for the patient. There's no primary prevention, and self-exams are not effective in detecting breast cancers early; mammography remains a critical tool in diagnosis and treatment.
Shulman said expanding the use of digital mammography in Third World countries would allow more long-distance diagnosis. But he said it won't be of much use if treatment isn't available locally.
Willett took note of the paradox that the decline in family size in Third World countries has coincided with the rise in breast cancer, echoing patterns in the developed world. He said a pilot study now under way in Mexico, which will enroll 50,000 to 100,000 women, will provide more data to enable better comparisons between developed and developing countries.
Leaning said that confronting cultural prejudices, especially in countries in conflict, remains an underlying priority. Until women are valued as more than vessels for reproducing and caring for children, she said, they won't earn the protection and care they need and deserve.
Frenk concluded by saying the goal should be to focus not on breast cancer in isolation, but to address it as part of a broader research agenda combining science and development. He recalled that two decades ago, the School of Public Health joined a global effort to confront another unexpected health crisis -- HIV/AIDS -- with a similar concerted approach, and the result has been "a triumph of public health," with three million people now on anti-retrovirals worldwide. "It was thought impossible. Now it's a reality," he said.
A report issued today by Amnesty International USA says the number of immigrants being held in US detention facilities has tripled since 1996, from an average 10,000 per day then to more than 30,000 in 2008.
The human rights group issued the report on the eve of its annual conference, being held in Boston from Friday through Sunday. Amnesty is organizing a march on Friday afternoon from the conference site, the Park Plaza Hotel, to Government Center in downtown Boston to protest the US government's immigrant detention policies.
The report launches a new Amnesty campaign on behalf of the rights of immigrants. It puts the cost of detaining an immigrant at $95 per day, whereas alternatives to detention cost as little as $12 per day -- while maintaining very high appearance rates in immigration courts on the scheduled dates. But fewer judges are willing to release immigrants on their own recognizance or with limited bail, the report says, fueling the buildup in detention numbers.
The report, "Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA," says many of those detained struggle to retain a lawyer to help them navigate the complex legal waters of immigration laws and regulations -- leaving some so desperate that they accept deportation even if their cases don't warrant it.
See a full account of the report in today's San Francisco Chronicle.
The Amnesty conference kicks off with a plenary session Friday night featuring leading women human rights activists, including Jenni Williams, the firebrand Zimbabwean rights campaigner who has been jailed repeatedly for challenging President Robert Mugabe's human rights violations and suppression of dissent.
The Brandeis University International Business School today is recognizing the work of Linda Rottenberg, who founded a non-profit called Endeavor that has won global praise for mentoring entrepreneurs in developing countries.
Rottenberg is receiving the 2009 Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship, a prize named for Leonard J. Asper, the Canadian media magnate. The title of Rottenberg's acceptance address suggests the tenor of her approach to the challenges of building businesses in Third-world economies: "Global Crisis? Opportunity for Entrepreneurs!"
Rottenberg frequently makes it onto lists of "Young Leaders to Watch," acknowledging the impact of her non-profit Endeavor. She formed the organization in 1997 to support the development of "high-impact entrepreneurs" in emerging markets. The model uses private-sector mentors to work with promising entrepreneurs. She began her work in Latin America, focusing initially on Chile and Argentina, and expanding to Colombia, Mexico and beyond this hemisphere, to countries including Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and India.
Endeavor says it has screened 18,000 candidates in selecting 400 emerging-market entrepreneurs, who in turn have generated more than 90,000 jobs and reported 2.5 billion in revenues in 2007. She went to Harvard and then to Yale Law School. The paperback edition of Thomas Friedman’s "The World is Flat" has a new chapter on Rottenberg, and calls Endeavor “the best anti-poverty program of all.”
UPDATE: In the text of her remarks at Brandeis today, Rottenberg -- who grew up in Newton -- told the business school students in her audience that it may turn out to be very lucky for them that the financial climate has turned so sour. For one thing, it may encourage them to go another route than Goldman Sachs or Boston Consulting Group.
She suggested that the MBAs she works with may not have gotten rich but they have earned "psychic equity," worth "priceless personal satisfaction and fulfillment."
"Well, today in a world where bonuses are under siege and the stock market is at its lowest point in over a decade, that psychic equity is looking even better! Hey, it doesn’t devalue! (And as my husband pointed out while watching the AIG imbroglio, bonuses paid in psychic equity can’t be clawed back!)"
"Through this financial crisis, certain doors have been closed on, or rather for, you – and that’s a GREAT thing." Rottenberg declared. "I’ve always believed too many options were a distraction – I hated the mantra that was sold to me throughout undergrad and grad school, to “always keep your options open....”
"I would encourage you to look around and start asking questions: Where’s the need, the gap, the pain point? What’s currently being overlooked by both the government and the private sector? Where’s the opportunity to bridge a gap?"
Cambridge activist David Grosser had worked for this day for more than two decades. And when it finally came – when the left-wing FMLN party won the presidency in El Salvador on Sunday – “it was one of the sweetest days of my life,” Grosser said.
Grosser is one of five Boston-area members who traveled to El Salvador to support the FMLN and help it guard against election tricks that might deny it victory, despite a big lead in opinion polls. The ruling right-wing party, ARENA, had won every presidential election since it was formed in 1982. Backed by the United States, the ARENA government battled the FMLN guerrillas in a 12-year civil war that claimed more than 70,000 lives until a peace treaty in 1992.
But this time, Mauricio Funes, the FMLN candidate, defeated ARENA's candidate, Rodrigo Avila, by just a couple of percentage points, in what international analysts widely described as a relatively clean election.
|President-elect Mauricio Funes|
In a telephone interview from the capital, San Salvador, Grosser said the change in US policy toward El Salvador since President Obama's election played a key role in the outcome. Grosser said CISPES had joined in calls for the United States to make a clear declaration of neutrality, and to break from the Bush Administration's open support for the right-wing governing party.
Before the vote, a group of Republicans in Congress said an FMLN victory should prompt restrictions on remittances from the United States; Democrats responded with a letter demanding US neutrality. Indeed, the US embassy and the State Department made public declarations of neutrality in the days before Sunday's vote.
"Basically, the system is structured so that the capacity to commit large-scale fraud only resides with ARENA," Grosser said. "So a level playing field allowed the Salvadoran people to make their choice clearly and without fear."
Grosser, 55, has worked with CISPES since he helped Cambridge establish sister-city ties in 1986 with San Jose las Flores in the Chalatenango District of northern El Salvador, one of the hardest-hit in the civil war and an FMLN stronghold. CISPES was the target of lengthy Reagan Administration surveillance and allegations of inappropriate involvement with a foreign "terrorist organization," which were later dropped without any action against the group.
Grosser had thought the FMLN's victory would come in the previous election in 2004.
"I was here then and I was bitterly disappointed, and infuriated by the role our government played, intimidating voters, threatening to retaliate economically. That was not the only reason why they held onto power, but it was significant."
He said CISPES would reexamine its own role now that the FMLN will hold the presidency for the next five years -- the latest in a series of left-wing parties to win power in elections in Latin America. The Salvadoran National Assembly will still be controlled by right-wing parties, so Funes will need to compromise to get legislation adopted, and to cope with terrible problems of gang violence and drug trafficking.
"We’re certainly hopeful that the kind of positive outreach that the Obama administration has shown will continue, and we won’t have to be as vigilant against our own government as we did under Bush," Grosser said. But he added: "We do not expect the right here to give up."
' We expect the kind of social reconstruction that the FMLN will carry out will be extremely inspiring. I don’t think the FMLN is really interested in provoking conflict where it doesn’t exist. They are extremely pragmatic. They know that they face a lot of difficulties with a bankrupt state apparatus thanks to the outgoing administration, and with the world economy teetering on the brink. So they are treading somewhat cautiously."
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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