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Kosovo: Specious Logic (6/99)

During a recent conversation with an old friend – once an anti-war activist, now a congressional staffer – I suggested that the decision to bomb the former Yugoslavia had more to do with NATO’s credibility and US influence in Europe than protecting Kosovo Albanians or defense of human rights. Be that as it may, he responded, "Milosevic is a brutal dictator and something had to be done to stop genocide. I’m not a pacifist."

Such arguments among progressives have been common since late March, with both sides marshaling "facts" to support their positions. Opponents of the war note that NATO and the US didn’t negotiate in good faith, or take steps to deal with the refugee flow that would inevitably follow military action – though they probably expected it. Supporters point to the mass removal of Albanians before the bombing, Milosevic’s past betrayals and crimes, and evidence of atrocities since March. To this extent, both sides are right. But equating opposition to bombing with pacifism, along with the argument that military action was justified by the charge of genocide, betrays the myopic thinking of those who support "diplomacy backed by force." read more

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US-EU Trade: The Next Frontier (6/99)

Those who thought the French government blocked the European Commission’s crusade for the New Transatlantic Marketplace (NTM) last spring were surprised when the results of the European Union-United States Summit were announced. At their press conference in May, US President Clinton, Commission President Santer, and UK Prime Minister Blair revealed the birth of a creature called the New Transatlantic Economic Partnership (NTEP). As Clinton put it, using this comprehensive trade initiative, the EU and US "will work to dismantle trade barriers, both bilateral and multilateral … in about a dozen areas in all." read more

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Romania: Breaking Our Own Heads (11/98)

Last summer, on the eigth anniversary of the June 13-15, 1990 coal miner’s massacre of Romanian anti-government protesters, a hunger strike was held at University Square in downtown Bucharest. The strikers staged their protest at the location of the bloodshed beneath the twenty-two story, luxury Intercontinental Hotel and across from the fountain colloquially known as Tianemen Square II. The idea was to draw attention to the government’s reluctance to prosecute those responsible for the three days of violence that killed 60 people and injured over a thousand. read more

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Second Class Refugees (11/98)

A humanitarian disaster looms on the horizon in Kosovo. As winter approaches, thousands displaced by the fighting live out in the open, running the myriad risks associated with exposure. Meanwhile, safe within the walls of fortress Europe, efforts are underway to reinforce barriers to entry through an Austrian proposal to "harmonize" European Union (EU) immigration and refugee policy.

Not only would that plan mean greater difficulties for those seeking asylum, it also threatens to set a precedent for countries outside the EU, and even redefine the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. By limiting the definition of who can be considered a "true" refugee, it could restrict the rights of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. read more

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The Real Meaning of Kosovo (8/98)

During a popular morning show in Hungary, police revealed the images of suspects in the high-profile murder of a prominent businessman earlier this year. As the news report continued, the camera zoomed in on the face of the key suspect until his face covered the entire screen, continuing until all one saw were his eyes, staring menacingly. The announcer’s tone of voice reinforced the effect, searing into viewers’ consciousness that this was a Kosovo Albanian.

Ever since the murder, the Hungarian media has taken every opportunity to reiterate that the suspects were thought to be — and are now positively identified to be — Kosovo Albanians.While such media techniques may be suitable for art or entertainment, they’re not appropriate for news. In terms of propaganda, however, they’re very effective, coming precariously close to brainwashing. read more

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Hungary: Access Deferred (3/98)

It’s no secret that Eastern Europe is still struggling under the burden of its transition from communism. Internet usage reflects both the pace of change and the attitudes toward it. And particularly in Bulgaria, the prospects don’t look promising.

Many Bulgarians tend to approach their problems by insisting at the outset that the situation is hopeless. This overriding apathy permeates society, which partly explains why the Internet has so far made very little impact here. People live basically from day to day. Most of their plans are short-term at best. They’re wary of trying anything new unless financial rewards are high and immediate. In the West, Internet activity is viewed by many as vaguely anti- establishment. This is fine when a society’s development is sufficient to tolerate — and even accommodate — anti-establishment attitudes and activities. However, in the developing democracies, still within a period of transition (i.e., from past to present; dictatorship to "democracy"), these attitudes are noticeably absent. But Bulgaria not only lags behind Western countries, but other developing democracies: With the exception of Albania, it’s one of the most undeveloped. As a result, rather than developing an anti- establishment "telematic culture" (one that uses telecommunications and information technology), people devote most of their energy to being part of the establishment in hopes of attaining a certain amount of economic security and social mobility. read more