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Today is World Refugee Day

For much of the last decade, the number of refugees and displaced around the world has been steadily decreasing. But last year, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees assisted the highest-ever number of refugees and displaced in the organization's history. Today, there is a total of 11.4 million refugees outside their countries, as well as 26 million others displaced internally by conflict or persecution at the end of 2007. The reason for the sudden increase is the conflict in Iraq. So, in honor of World Refugee Day, Ken Bacon of Refugees international writes us a guest delegates lounge post in which he explains why it is imperative that the United States take on with urgency the Iraq refugee crisis.
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Big Banks Muscle In On Microlending?

yang1.jpg Contributed by Sean-Paul Kelley This really is an important story that deserves wider coverage. Microlending is very profitable. In the past those profits have always been plowed back into the local community to be used to lift even more people out of poverty. But that may be changing:
Scott Jagow: There's a big conference in Europe today on microfinancing. That's when you give people, usually women, in developing countries very small loans to help them run a business. It might be something as simple as selling crafts on the street. But some of the world's largest banks are attending this conference. They want to get into microfinancing. Michaela Walsh founded Women's World Banking back in 1975. I asked her why the big banks want a piece of this. Michaela Walsh: It can be a very profitable business. It is more labor-intensive than say commercial credit. Our role is to make sure that microfinance doesn't become consumer credit.
Is there a possibility that big banks will come in a depersonalize what has been one of the world most successful ways of alleviating poverty and empowering women? Yes:
Michaela Walsh: Personally, I have always had a concern that small loans that are given in a local community, whether it's rural or urban, and when paid back there needs to be some kind of a guarantee that those profits and those benefits are reinvested in that local community and not just computerized and centralized in a capital city or in a global network. Recently Harvard University and two other universities did a study saying that because the large banking institutions have the capacity to get out more loans, that we ought to put more and more money into the big institutions. My concern about that is we need to make sure those loans are not consumer loans and that they are going to be shared with local women's institutions to ensure that woman are making the decisions about how to run microfinance in the most effective way to serve the largest number of clients.
The big banks will turn it into a credit issue and then have even more wage slaves, globally too!
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Stirling Newberry: Two Houses

TWO HOUSES By Stirling Newberry April 5, 2005 Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Prologue The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long William Shakespeare, King Lear Act V Scene III The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has sent shockwaves through the fragile political system of Lebanon, hence in its wake Prime Minister Karami resigned, was asked to form a new government, and has reigned again. The fears of the kind of violence which rent the country in its long Second Civil War (1975-1990) reached into the highest international diplomatic circles, and it placed renewed pressure on the international community to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1559, the resolution which demanded that Syria remove its troops, long stationed in Lebanon, first as part of the "Arab Deterrent Force" and then under its own flag. The state of Lebanon has not been able to govern the country of Lebanon for much of its existence as an independent entity, and the sectarianization of the conflicts in Lebanon dates back even further, to 1820, when powerful Druze families, outraged at how the emir of Mt. Lebanon was favoring the Maronite Christians and thus mounted a rebellion against him.
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GUEST POST: George Lopez on Interim Volcker Committee Report

"I am both surprised and encouraged by the far-reaching interim report of the Volcker Committee. Surprised in that at this stage of a complex investigation the Report provides us with such a thorough description into certain irregularities. The Report carefully documents how the failure of a few officials to follow established UN procedures combined with a weak, under-staffed auditing system to lead to the awarding of certain contracts in the Oil for Food system. I am rather encouraged, however, that in this report the Committee has not found the 'system' to be corrupt or incompetent. Rather, with a number of new reforms that the Secretary-General can put in place, member states can be assured that procurement, monitoring and other important aid procedures will proceed with integrity and transparency at the UN. George A. Lopez co-author The Sanctions Decade Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame