Posts filed under ‘Washington’

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 24-August 30, 1814) PART 2

PART II

Washington Ablaze.

British burn the Capitol, a mural by Allyn Cox in the U.S. Capitol. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol via Wikipedia)

British burn the Capitol, a mural by Allyn Cox in the U.S. Capitol.
(Photo: Architect of the Capitol via Wikipedia)

Within a few hours after winning the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, British forces are on the march to Washington. Vice Admiral George Cockburn, commander of the naval forces in the expedition, wants to wreak havoc and vengeance on the Americans by burning their capital city (Pop. 8,000). But the Army commander, Major General Robert Ross, a battle-tested veteran of the Napoleonic Wars is adamant, only public buildings will be burned and personal property will be respected.

That standing order is put to the test almost as soon as Ross and Cockburn enter Washington on horseback, accompanied by less than 200 soldiers, sailors and Marines. Most of the 4,000-plus troops in the raiding expedition are resting from their long, hot marches from Benedict, Maryland on the Western shore of the Chesapeake to Bladensburg and the outskirts of Washington over the past two days in the heat and humidity of a Maryland August.

Gunfire erupts from a three-story private home near Capitol Hill, killing two British soldiers, wounding several others and killing the horse Ross is riding. Luckily for Washington, the general is unhurt. Ross, who initially thought he didn’t have enough men to capture a national capital, now wants to keep most of them out of the city to avoid looting, and worse. Three Americans are captured in the house where the shots came from and they turn about to be some of Commodore Joshua Barney’s flotilla sailors who gave the British a rough time during the Bladensburg scrap. Impressed by the dogged defense Barney’s men put up — when the rest of the Americans ran or were ordered to withdraw — Ross and Cockburn do not order the men hanged, even though others in their party are calling for blood.

Most of Washington’s inhabitants fled in panic when word came down about the defeat at Bladensburg. And the British were confronted by a virtually empty city.

First stop in the chastisement of the U.S. government for declaring war on Britain while it was battling Napoleon is the U.S. Capitol. British troops pile tables, chairs and desks in the House of Representatives chamber and set it alight with torches and gunpowder. They repeat the process over in the Senate but the sheet metal roof defeats their effort to start the blaze with Congreve rockets. So the troops have to ignite the Senate chamber the old fashioned way. At the time, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Library of Congress were house in the Capitol, so they went up in smoke, too.

Major General Robert Ross (National Portrait Gallery Website)

Major General Robert Ross
(National Portrait Gallery Website)

Ross, Cockburn and company head down to the president’s mansion (it wasn’t called the White House back then) which they find empty but with the dining room table set to accommodate a dinner party or 40 — including chilled wine. The British officers make themselves at home, tuck into the food and toast “Jemmy” Madison and his wife, Dolley Madison.  After leaving the battlefield when the outcome seemed certain, Madison stopped off a the White House for a glass of wine, and to re-consider the wisdom of relying on state militias rather than a large, well-trained standing army. President James Madison cleared out about an hour before the British arrived. The First Lady left with the White House silver, china, a few knickknacks accompanied by family friends and some cabinet members an hour or so before the president arrived. Contrary to popular belief, Mrs. Madison did not take the famous Gilbert Stuart oil portrait of George Washington with her. She ordered White House staff to take it with them or destroy it to keep such a symbol out of British hands. Again, luckily the men were able to break the heavy frame and whisk the canvas to safety.

Except for some souvenirs, like Madison’s ceremonial sword, the British burned everything in the executive mansion: furniture, rugs, books, government papers, clothes and linens. Cockburn also  took some time out to wreck a local newspaper, the National Intelligencer, a pro-Madison paper that excoriated Cockburn for raiding and torching several towns up and down the Chesapeake Bay the previous summer. Cockburn wanted to burn the place down but when informed the newspaper was only a tenant, not the building owner, Cockburn — respecting the Irish-born Ross’ no damaging private property edict — settled for dragging all the paper and printing equipment into the street and burning or breaking it.

Under orders, the few sailors and Marines left in the city, torch and blow up the Washington Navy Yard on the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River (Anacostia River today), including two nearly completed new ships, the frigate Essex and the sloop-of-war Argus. The glow from the fire can be seen for miles in either direction.

The next day, August 25, the British send troops to destroy the Greenleaf  Point Arsenal on the Potomac close to where the Eastern Branch flows into it. During the demolition, a well in which full barrels of gunpowder had been dumped is accidentally touched off — blowing the well, the arsenal and many British soldiers to smithereens. A few more British troops are killed when a savage storm — they called it a hurricane at the time — lashes Washington with thunder, lightning, high winds that uproot trees and a torrential downpour that snuffs out some of the fires and knocks down structures on the British. Later, Washington residents say the storm was sent by Divine Providence to save the city.

That night, just a day after entering Washington, Ross — fearing the Americans might reorganize the scattered militia and regular troops to counter-attack — orders a withdrawal, first to Bladensburg to drop off the most seriously wounded, and then back to Benedict, where the British fleet was waiting. There is no risk of an American counter attack. Brigadier General William Winder, who performed so abysmally at Bladensburg, has withdrawn his troops to Montgomery Court House in Maryland and is trying to find enough food and shelter for them. On the morning of August 26, Winder gets word that the British are heading for Baltimore and by late morning is moving out with the militia and regular Army regiments that fought at Bladensburg along with new troops from Western Maryland.

The Washington Post has a wonderful retelling of what happened in Washington after Ross and Cockburn left and Madison and his cabinet returned.

But wait, there’s more …

On August 27, a British naval squadron commanded by Captain James Gordon is sailing up the Potomac River, approaching Fort Washington, a star-shaped structure completed in 1809 on a Maryland  bluff overlooking the river, south of Washington. Gordon’s little fleet of seven ships was sent by Cockburn 10 days earlier as a diversion to draw U.S. forces away from Ross and his troops attacking from the East. The squadron was also supposed to offer an escape route for the British troops if the raid on Washington went awry, but squalls, unfamiliar currents and shoals, stalled Gordon’s ships for days.

Now Gordon faces what is considered the main U.S. defense installation guarding the nation’s capital. But the U.S. commander has only enough men to man five of the fort’s 27 cannon. He is also low on ammunition. He’s also hearing (untrue) rumors that the British force that burned Washington is marching to attack him from the land.

The American commander and his officers decide to spike the guns, withdraw and blow up the fort — without firing a shot.

Gordon’s squadron sails  to Alexandria, Virginia, the port where George Washington brought his tobacco to ship to England before the Revolution. Lacking any defense or useable cannon, the city fathers vote on August 28  to surrender to Gordon to avoid destruction.  On August 29, Gordon demands all of the ships in the city — including those that have been scuttled to avoid capture — be surrendered to the British as well as all the supplies in Alexandria’s warehouses. By September 1, all 21 ships under Gordon’s control are stuffed full of supplies and merchandise like tobacco and he’s ordered to rejoin the fleet in Chesapeake Bay.

British operations in the Washington-Baltimore area 1814. (Map: West Point History Dept.)

British operations in the Washington-Baltimore area 1814.
(Map: West Point History Dept.)

The night before, August 30, a party of about 200 British sailors and Marines launch a raid on Maryland’s Eastern shore, across the Chesapeake near Chestertown, to chase off Americans on the Eastern Shore who might be planning to reinforce Baltimore. The British are commanded by Sir Peter Parker, who has been leading another Royal Navy squadron on a diversionary mission on the Upper Chesapeake. But the Maryland militia, led by Lieutenant Colonel Philip Reed, is waiting for Parker and his men. They open up with cannon and musket fire, killing 14 British — including Parker — and wounding another 27. The Americans withdraw when they run out of ammunition. They suffer only three wounded and none killed.

Sources for this post:

1812: The War that Forged a Nation by Walter R. Borneman, 2004

1812: The Navy’s War by George C. Daughan, 2011

Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence by A.J. Langguth, 2007

The Dawn’s Early Light by Walter Lord, 1972

Through the Perilous Flight: Six Weeks That Saved The Nation by Steve Vogel. 2013

Our Flag Was Still There: The Sea History Press Guide to the War of 1812 by William H. White, 2012

 

 

 

August 28, 2014 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 24-August 30, 1814)

PART I

Bungled Battle.

Last Stand at Bladensburg by Charles H. Waterhouse (Collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps) (

Last Stand at Bladensburg by Charles H. Waterhouse
(Collection of the National Museum of the Marine Corps)

August 24, Major General Robert Ross and nearly 4,500 British troops – veterans of the wars against Napoleon in Europe – are nearing the small Maryland town of Bladensburg on the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River (known today as the Anacostia River) and a main road that leads to Washington about 8 miles away.

On the other side of the shallow river, U.S. Army Brigadier General William Winder, is trying to organize a defense line after days of marching his troops back and forth, reacting to one rumor after another about which way the British are going: north to attack Baltimore or south to attack the young nation’s capital.

All spring and summer, despite warning signs that Britain – with the Napoleonic Wars at an end – is pouring troops into Montreal and Caribbean to launch multiple attacks on the United States, President James Madison and his cabinet keep sending U.S. troops to attack Canada along the Niagara Frontier. Now those troops are scattered across northern New York State from Fort Erie on the Canadian side of the Niagara River to Plattsburg on Lake Champlain.

Winder has few regulars to defend Washington. Instead he must rely on poorly trained militia from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. A recent change in Pennsylvania law prevents militiamen from leaving the Keystone State.

Secretary of War John Armstrong, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a political schemer since 1783, according to “1812, The Navy’s War,” by George C. Daughan, is convinced Washington – a “city” of 8,000 with a few large but isolated government buildings – isn’t big enough to warrant attack. Armstrong gives Winder no direction, refusing to let him call out the militia until mid-July — almost the last minute in an era without railroads and the telegraph. And Winder, a political appointee (his uncle is governor of Maryland) without a strategic plan, immerses himself in minutia in the seven weeks since his appointment as commander of the Tenth Military District, which includes Washington. Neither he, nor Armstrong, reinforce Bladensburg or Fort Washington, the capital’s main defensive position overlooking the Potomac south of the city.

Now on the day of battle, Winder starts the morning with about 2,500 men – mostly militia. More militia groups start arriving at Bladensburg from all directions, Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington, topping out at between 5,000 and 6,000 troops. But most are poorly trained, ill-equipped and have never seen action.

Commodore Joshua Barney, a tough sailor who has been tying up the British Navy with his flotilla of row-galleys in the Chesapeake Bay since June, has marched his men and cannon to Washington after scuttling his fleet two days earlier when he is cornered on the upper Patuxent River north of the capital. Before riding out to Bladensburg, Winder orders Barney and his men to stay behind and guard a  bridge into Washington – not on the route being taken by the British. The old seadog doesn’t want to be left out of the fight, and Barney forcefully persuades Madison — also on his way to the battle — to let his men march to Bladensburg with their heavy cannons. He leaves a token force behind to defend or destroy the bridge if the British break through, according to “Through the Perilous Flight,” by Steve Vogel.

Map of the Battle of Bladensburg  (About History.com)

Map of the Battle of Bladensburg
(Military History About.com)

Secretary of State James Monroe, arriving at Bladensburg before Winder, doesn’t like what he sees and takes it upon himself to re-order the deployment of the troops without consulting the Maryland militia commanders. Units are placed so far apart they cannot support each other in battle, according to Walter Lord’s 1972 classic on the Chesapeake campaign,  The Dawn’s Early Light.” The ambitious Monroe even moves a regular Army unit of Light Dragoons to a ravine where they can’t even see the battlefield. Winder arrives on scene only a little before the British and doesn’t have much time to undo Monroe’s handiwork.

At noon, Ross’s force of three brigades enters Bladensburg after a killing march through the blistering August heat in wool uniforms and carrying 18-pounds of cannon balls per man — they have no supply wagons. Many soldiers succumb to exhaustion and sunstroke. Ross thinks he is facing between 8,000 and 9,000 enemy soldiers. He has just three cannon, the Americans more than 20.

Nevertheless, Ross attacks. The first British rush across the bridge is broken up by cannon, rifle and musket fire from the Maryland units in the first line of defense. But the battle-hardened British attack across the bridge again and again. In addition to their cannon, the British have a Congreve rocket unit. The less-than-precise rockets do little damage but they unsettle the already jittery Americans. Members of the British 44th Regiment ford the shallow river above the bridge and threaten the American left flank. Confused orders and the rocket barrage eventually break the first American line.

The second American line holds out for a while and even tries to counter attack but then retreats in the confusion of the firs line running past them. As the battle begins to turn into a rout and militiamen flee the field in what would become known as the Bladensburg Races, Winder orders the third line of militia and Army regulars on Barney’s left flank to retreat. The Maryland militia on his right flank also evaporate after firing two or three rounds at the advancing British.

Word of the retreat doesn’t get to Barney and his 400 Marines and sailors covering the road to Washington on the right flank. They continue firing their five cannon—two Navy big guns and three Marine wheeled guns—into the attacking British and then counterattacking, crying “Board ‘em, Board ‘em” and driving the British back, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

The recently unveiled Bladensburg Battle monument featuring (left to right) A U.S. Marine, Commodore Joshua Barney and Charles Bell, a freed slave and one of Barney's flotilla men. (DC War of 1812 blog)

The recently unveiled Bladensburg Battle monument featuring (left to right) A U.S. Marine, Commodore Joshua Barney and Charles Bell, a freed slave and one of Barney’s flotilla men.
(DC War of 1812 blog)

But the teamsters driving the supply wagons take off with the militia, taking Barney’s ammunition with them. Barney is shot through the thigh and as the British close in from three sides, he orders his men to retreat and join the forces needed to defend Washington. By 4 p.m. the battle is over. The British have lost 64 dead and 185 wounded. Only about 20 Americans are killed and 50 wounded but more than 100 are captured. Madison and his cabinet leave the battlefield when things start going sideways, heading for Washington and Virginia.

Barney is sitting under a tree when the British forces reach his position. Ross and Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, commander of the naval units transporting and supporting Ross, congratulate the commodore on his unit’s fighting spirit. They see that his wound is treated at Bladensburg and grant him parole rather than take him prisoner.

Ross rests his men for two hours and then begins the march to Washington, just 7 miles away, at 6 p.m. August 24, 1814.

NEXT: Washington Burning

August 25, 2014 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (August 17–23, 1814)

August Build-up .

Niagara Frontier 1813-1814 (Map courtesy Parks Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographic Association)

Niagara Frontier 1813-1814
(Map courtesy Parks Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographic Association)

While the guns are largely silent this week, armies are in motion in northern New York and  Lower Canada, along the upper Mississippi River and in and around the Chesapeake Bay all in preparations  for major battles  on Lake Champlain,  outside Washington and Baltimore and  on the Niagara Frontier and Illinois  Territory.

FORT ERIE

The British siege of the U.S. held fort continues in Canada just across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York. After their failed  three-column assault on the fort August 15, the British forces settle in for a long siege,  firing cannon balls into the stronghold.

The British have no tents and the soldiers suffer in the heavy Autumn rains  under crude shelters made from bark and branches. Reinforcements from the 6th and 8th regiments of foot, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, arrive to replace the nearly 900 troops killed, wounded or captured in the  Aug. 15  attack.

*** *** ***

FORT SHELBY

Major Zachary Taylor with more than 350 U.S. regulars and militiamen is preparing to sail and row up the Mississippi River  to recapture Fort Shelby, near present day Prairie du Chien,  in the Illinois Territory.

A small number of British and Canadian troops are awaiting the attack, along with many Indian allies, mostly Sauk warriors under Black Hawk.

The fort, where the Wisconsin River joins the Mississippi, is a vital outpost for controlling the fur trade with the Indians in the region.

*** *** ***

LAKE CHAMPLAIN

In Montreal, preparations are underway for a British attack on Northern New York. Sir George Prevost, Governor General of Canada, is assembling an army of 10,000 to march  on Plattsburgh, New York, accompanied by a hastily constructed British fleet  to seize control of Lake Champlain, opening the way for the British to march down to New York City

A force of  3,400 mostly green troops under General Alexander Macomb await them in Plattsburgh, Four small ships and 10 gunboats are poised for action under Master Commandant  Thomas Macdonough in the waters off Plattsburgh.

*** *** ***

CHESAPEAKE BAY

Commodore Joshua Barney (Maryland Historical Society)

Commodore Joshua Barney
(Maryland Historical Society)

After  almost two years of raiding both sides of the Chesapeake Bay, the British are ready to strike at Washington and Baltimore. Major General Robert Ross begins landing a force of  4,000 soldiers and sailors August 19 at Benedict , Maryland on the Western shore of the Chesapeake. Ross’ troops veterans of the wars in Europe, march toward  Bladensburg, Maryland where they would have to cross a bridge over  the Eastern Branch of the Potomac River to reach Washington.

Commodore Joshua Barney, who has  harried the British in the Chesapeake with a tiny fleet of  gunboats, rowed like galleys,  during June and July is pursued up the increasingly shallow Patuxent River  by the British. Under orders from Washington, he scuttles his flotilla August 22 and has his sailors and Marines drag the vessels’ cannons  overland to Bladensburg where Brigadier General William Winder is trying to set up a defense.

But Winder, a political appointee, has no realistic plans and by August 23 he has gathered only about 6,000 Maryland and Virginia militia to defend the bridge at Bladensburg.

August 19, 2014 at 2:29 am Leave a comment

AFRICA: Mali President on Northern Region’s Woes

Completely Lawless.

Mali's President Keita at an African-European summit in Dakar in April (Republic of Mali website)

Mali’s President Keita at an African-European summit in Dakar in April
(Republic of Mali website)

Before heading home from the U.S.-Africa Business Forum that ended Wednesday (August 6), President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Keita told an overflow crowd at CSIS Thursday (August 7)  that international intervention – especially military logistics — had helped bring his country back from the brink following a 2012 military coup and rebellion in Mali’s northern deserts by nomadic Tuaregs and radical Islamist militants. But the threat to Mali, the region and the world isn’t over, Keita warned. “We’re at a strategic nexus. This is a completely lawless region,” Keita said, according to simultaneous translation of his remarks given in French.

Compounding the problem in the north — an area bigger than Texas — a flow of heavy weapons out of neighboring Libya, and Tuareg mercenaries who know how to use them, after the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

For more on Keita’s talk at CSIS, see an UPDATE to yesterday’s AROUND AFRICA blog posting.

 

 

 

August 7, 2014 at 12:50 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Washington Summit, Mali President, Ebola Update, Boko Haram Attack UPDATE

UPDATES with Mali president’s discussion of security issues in the Sahel at Washington think tank appearance.

Africa on the Potomac.

President Barack Obama poses for a group photo with African leaders at a three-day business forum in Washington. (White House photo)

President Barack Obama poses for a group photo with African leaders at a three-day business forum in Washington.
(White House photo)

Leaders from nearly 50 African nations are heading home after a three-day business forum with U.S. corporate executives in Washington organized by President Barack Obama.

Obama did not meet privately with any of the African leaders but  addressed the U.S.-Africa Business Forum and hosted a dinner for the African dignitaries on the South Lawn of the White House, the New York Times reported.

Obama also announced $12 billion in new funding for his administration’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to provide electricity to households across sub Saharan Africa. He also promoted $14 billion in new investments by American companies in Africa, including $5 billion from Coca-Cola, according to the Times.

The White House said those and other new commitments “amount to more than $33 billion, supporting economic growth across Africa and tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.”

The gathering was overshadowed in part by the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa and ongoing violence in a number of countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. Some African leaders bristled at press questions about the Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 900 lives in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone skipped the business summit to deal with the health crisis in their countries.

One of the delegates to the business forum,  President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali will be speaking Thursday (August 7) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The topic is Security in the Sahel, where military coups, revolts, kidnappings of foreigners and terror attacks by Islamist militants have rocked the arid North Africa region south of the Sahara. Your 4GWAR Editor monitored his talk and the ensuing question and answer session. See next item.

*** *** ***

Mali President

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao in the drive against Islamist fighters in Mali. (Copyright Frenh Ministry of Defense)

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao in the drive against Islamist fighters in Mali.
(Copyright Frenh Ministry of Defense)

Before heading home from the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Keita told an overflow crowd a CSIS that international assistance – especially military logistics — had helped bring his country back from the brink following a 2012 military coup and rebellion in Mali’s northern deserts by nomadic Tuaregs and radical Islamist militants. But the threat to Mali, the region and the world isn’t over, Keita warned. “We’re at a strategic nexus. This is a completely lawless region,” Keita, who spoke in French and sometimes English, said through an interpreter.

For decades, the Tuaregs have rebelled against the government in Bamako, claiming their health, education and economic needs were being ignored in the southern capital. Because of the harsh physical and economic landscape of the north. “rebels are in a situation of despair” and that makes them receptive to the message of outsiders  armed with cash as well as guns and preaching jihad against westerners and Bamako, he said. “New jihadists may be trained in that region” and that poses a danger for world peace, said Keita, who was elected president in July 2013. Compounding the problem, a flow of heavy weapons out of neighboring Libya and Tuareg mercenaries who know how to use them after the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011

He said Bamako wants to assist the north and has pooled “millions of dollars” for that purpose, but asked how could the government develop the region or build a school amid constant fighting. “We have no other choice but to move toward peace. We need peace to rebuild Mali,” Keita said.

Mali's President Keita at an African-European summit in Dakar in April (Republic of Mali website)

Mali’s President Keita at an African-European summit in Dakar in April
(Republic of Mali website)

*** *** ***

Ebola Toll Rises

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. (Centers for Disease Control)

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.
(Centers for Disease Control)

In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking on national television she said some civil liberties might have to be suspended, the BBC reported. The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 930 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria — where a second death has been reported, according to the Voice of America.

World Health Organization (WHO) experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss a response to the outbreak. The two-day meeting will decide whether to declare a global health emergency, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, President Obama said it is “premature” to send an experimental medicine for the treatment of Ebola. Obama said Wednesday (August 6) that he lacked enough information to green-light a promising medicine called ZMapp that was already used on two American aid workers who saw their conditions improve by varying degrees, Al Jazeera America reported. There is no known cure for the virus which has a fatality ate between 60 and 90 percent.

*** *** ***

Attack in Cameroon

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(CIA World Factbook)

Ten people were killed and a child was kidnapped in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on a remote part of northern Cameroon.

Police said the militants gunned down nine civilians and a soldier in the town of Zigague. State-run radio reported the kidnapped child is he daughter of a local chief, the Voice of America website reported.

Boko Haram extremists have killed thousands of people in its five-year campaign to turn northern Nigeria into a strict Islamic state. Their violence often spills over into neighboring countries like Cameroon. The latest attack follows the deployment of more than 1,000 soldiers along Cameroon’s long and porous border with Nigeria last month.

Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya last week dismissed two senior army officers leading the battle against Islamist militants just two days after militants abducted the deputy prime minister’s wife and  her maid from the northern town of Kologata, according to the BBC. The raiders also kidnapped a local religious leader who is also the town’s mayor

 

August 6, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: On the Border, Gaza Fallout, Argentina Bonds, Venezuela Spy Chief

National Guard, Immigration Bill.

Border Patrol agents observe an Arizona National Guardsman training in the desert. (U.S. Army photo by

Border Patrol agents observe an Arizona National Guardsman training in 2010.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

Texas Governor Rick Perry has ordered up to 1,000 National Guardsmen to the border with Mexico to help deal with the crisis of thousands of children crossing over from Mexico.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have crossed illegally since October, reports USA Today, noting the influx of children has overwhelmed federal detention centers and Border Patrol offices.

The state acion is estimated to cost Texas taxpayers $12 million a month once it gets underway. No starting date has been set yet. Most of the children are reportedly fleeing  drug trafficking and gang violence in their home countries.

Meanwhile, at immigration bill meant to deal with the illegal child immigrant issue is on life suport on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner  called off a vote on a border assistance bill until Friday (August 1). The day Congress was supposed to take off for a month-long recess, according  to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. And a vote on the Senate version of the bill was blocked until after August.

*** *** ***

Gaza Fallout in Latin America

The fighting in Gaza beween the Israel Defense Force and Hamas may be a world away, but it is starting to have diplomatic repercussions in Latin America.

This week El Salvador became the fifth Latin American country to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and not because of safety and security fears. San Salvador recaled its envoy to protest the  IDF’s continued operations in Gaza and the disastrous effect it is having on civilians.

Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have previously called their ambassadors, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Israel’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep disappointment with what it called  with their “hasty decision” to call diplomats hom for consultation. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the ministry, told Haaretz that such actions “constitutes encouragement for  Hamas, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by many countries around the world.”

*** *** ***

Bond Battle

Argentina’s rocky economy may be in for another shock as the country is on the verge of defaulting on billions of dollars of government bonds. If Buenos Aires doesn’t  pay up, it will be country’s second default in 13 years.

Argentina has been battling a group of hedge funds since it defaulted on its bond obligations in 2001. Argentina offered new bonds worth much less than the orginal ones  but has been its obligations on them. A small group of bondholders want to be paid in full and the Argentine government has resisted. But a judge in New York has ruled  that banks using Argentina’s money to pay the holders of the lesser bonds would be in violation of a previous court order.

The dispute, which weighs heavilly on the Argentine economy, has most likely “pushed up borrowing costs for Argentine companies and depleted economic confidence in a country  that is already facing high inflation and sagging growth,” the New York Times explains.

*** *** ***

Venezuelan Official Faces Drug Charges

Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia image

Aruba, Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia

The former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence is accused of corruption and drug dealing by the United States. Hugo Carvajal was arrested on request
of the U.S. State Department when he got off a plane in Aruba last week.

But officials in the Caribbean Island nation had to let him go — because he had diplomatic immunity — and sent him back to Venezuela even though the U.S. wanted to extradite him. Indictments unsealed after his arrest accused him of being on the payroll of drug traffickers and coordinating massive cocaine shipments, the New York Times reported.

The indictments “open a window onto accusations of ties between Venezuelan military and law enforcement officers and Colombian drug traffickers, a connection that officials in Washington  have long warned about and that has been roundly dismissed by authorities” in Venezuela, according to the Times.

Carvajal was traveling on a diplomatic passport as Venezuela’s new consul in Aruba. He was a long-time confidant of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

August 1, 2014 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC: Ex-Coast Guard Chief Named U.S. Special Arctic Envoy

Getting Serious.

Arctic ice in Greenland. NASA photo by xxxxxxxx

Arctic ice in Greenland. (NASA photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Papp’s appointment Wednesday (July 16). Admiral Papp retired as commandant in May after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Among his accomplishments was restoring the heavy ice breaker Polar Star to service. “I could not be happier that he agreed to postpone his well-deserved retirement and join our effort in a cause about which he is both passionate and wise,” Kerry said in a statement.

The United States is one of eight nations with territory in the Arctic that make up the Arctic Council, which deals with issues such as climate change, the environment, shipping, oil and gas and indigenous peoples.  The Arctic is growing hotter faster than any part of the globe. Global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic, according to the Associated Press.

Next year the U.S. will take over the revolving chairmanship of the council. “The United States is an Arctic nation and Arctic policy has never been more important,” Kerry said. U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer was also named special adviser of Arctic Science and Policy.  She is currently chair of the President’s U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

July 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

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