Saturday, April 30, 2016

Iran moderates eye more gains in run-off parliamentary election

 Islamic Republic of Iran is set to hold a second round of elections for the parliament. Although moderates and reformist  have acquired  a significant amount of seats with a gain of 90 seats  from last election,   the majority of parliament is still dominated with  hard liners with a lead of over 112 seats,  are know for stanch anti western views critical of the nuclear deal that was passed last  year. Despite a high turn out of 62 percent last  election, both the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei   and Former president  of Iran and  Mohammad Khatami, know for his reformists views, called for a high turn out.  Although the majority of Reformations  candidates are prohibited from running  the Guardian Council  , it is  expected that independents who are not affiliated with the either the reformations or the hardliners  would acquire the new seats. Iranian Women are also expected to run for parliamentary seats with a possible victory of obtaining 20 seats out of 320 seats.

Thomas Baggot

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Missile Strike on Syrian Hospital Kills 50

At least fifty people--all civilians--lost their lives Wednesday when a pediatric hospital was hit by an airstrike. The death toll could continue to rise, but so far six of the dead are hospital workers. 

John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State, quickly condemned the strike, pointing to Syria as the culprit. Russia and Syria both released similar statements denying any responsibility. 

According to one official with Doctors Without Borders, the munitions used in the attack have been used in the past by the Syrian Government: "We cannot be certain who is responsible for this attack," he said. "What we know is it is the Syrian government that has been usually using these barrel bombs in the past."

The attack ironically came mere hours before the Pentagon announced it had disciplined 16 service members for mistakes that led to an inadvertent airstrike on a doctors without borders medical facility that left 42 dead.

Adam Poklop

There will be a huge new 'Panama Papers' data dump

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the group behind the Panama Papers, is promising another release on May 9.
All of the data behind the Panama Papers has been complied into a searchable database. It will not be a collection of released documents or documents still being reviewed. Instead, it will show the corporate information of over 200,000 offshore companies - including their true owners and the countries/territories involved (over 200 of them).
The documents will continue to be reviewed and released, but the raw information behind them will be readily available on May 9.

--Melissa Widel

All Belgians to be given iodine pills for nuclear safety

The BBC reports that all Belgians will be given iodine pills in order to combat possible nuclear infections due to issues found within their nuclear reactors.  The German government called for Belgium to close all nuclear reactors, but Belgium has refused.  The pills will be distributed next year.

Dayo Ajayi

ISIS internal docs show struggle to retain fighters, cut costs

ISIS is facing some serious issues - from cash flow obstacles to manpower shortages, ISIS may be on the decline. The deputy commander of the counter-ISIS coalition spoke on Tuesday about some documents they had recently discovered that told of the many problems facing the terrorist cell. The documents show that some ISIS members' salaries were cut by 50%. Additionally, the group is facing manpower shortages from men who are faking doctors' notes to stay away from the front lines. Yet, more doctors are fleeing the country due to the mistreatment from the terrorist cell - therefore these notes may not be a permanent solution. The article also discussed where ISIS gets their money from and what they spend it on - both equally disturbing. ISIS obtains money from seized banks, ransom payments, and a few other sources. They use this dirty money to not only purchase sex slaves, but pay their members per each sex slave they have. There are additional allocated funds for cars and such, however these were also cut back - members have been warned to not use their cars for "personal use." While this is a hopeful sign, experts claim that this will not incite a revolution just yet.

Haley Kuck

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Migrant crisis: Austria passes controversial new asylum law

In Austria, following successes by the far-right party, a new law has been passed that changes how asylum works in the country. The major controversy is that the law allows a state of emergency in regards to the migrant crisis. This means that a much larger number of applications can be rejected immediately. The law also shortens asylum time to 3 years. This is somewhat of a shock as it signals that European countries are taking legal actions to prevent the influx of migrants. There have even been proposals to build a fence along the Italian border to restrict access into Austria, an idea that seems almost reminiscent of Donald Trump to me.

Blake Mitchell

Australia Buys 15 SUbmarines From France as a Result of the DPRK and China's Swaggering

Expanding on what we spoke of in class, Australia is building their military might and are spending more than they historically have on military expenses. CNN Money reports that Australia's most recent purchase, 12 new submarines, are pretty clearly a response to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and China's recent swaggering of submarine warfare in the region.

Australia has beefed up their military spending in preparation for possible defensive measures, where due to their geographic location, they cannot rely on U.S. forces to back them up. With China expanding their military might as well as the DPRK's recent advances, it makes sense that Australia would feel the need to beef up their military. This can be seen as an example of the security dilemma, where China and the DPRK improving their security via submarines weakened the national security of Australia, causing a reaction by Australia.

Kevin Oyakawa

Refugee Sets Himself on Fire in Austrailia

On Wednesday, at the refugee camp Nauru in Australia, during a visit from a UN refugee agency a man set himself on fire.

The man was a refugee seeking asylum in Australia who was being held at an island camp, Nauru, off of Australia for refugees who had attempted to enter Australia by boat.

Nauru is a "refugee center" where the Australian government sends refugees who are seeking asylum in their country, but have tried to enter the country by boat. The camp is one of two islands where Australia has sent refugees. The island holds almost 450 refugees.

The man was said to have lit himself on fire in order to protest the conditions on Nauru. It is probable that he committed this act when the UN agency member was there in order to bring more attention to the issue.

The UN as a whole has disapproved of Australia's tactic of using an island to keep refugees and have urged the Australian government to stop this process. Australia claims it is to protect not only their country, but protect refugees from trying to enter the country by boat, which can be a very dangerous journey.

Australian Human Rights Watch Director is urging the Australian government to stop this inhumane treatment of refugees and help coordinate placements of the refugees in safe places such as Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Ashley Clayton

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Yemeni Troops, Backed by United Arab Emirates, Take City From Al Qaeda

Yemini soldiers were able to take back control of the city of Al Mukalla from the Al Qaeda. Little to no firing was done by either side as the Yemini soldiers with the help from United Arab Emirates soldiers drove out Al Qaeda fighters. Al Mukalla had been a very important stronghold for Al Qaeda in the past few years. Up until this point Al Qaeda forces had not seen much opposition from any force, but with the surprise of the United Arab Emirates helping Yemini soldiers, Al Qaeda decided to leave.

Jacob Razo

Turkish Seizure of Churches and Land Alarms Armenians

"The Turkish government has seized the historic Armenian Surp Giragos Church,… and large swaths of property in the heavily damaged Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.”  This is yet another of many examples of how the current Turkish government led by president Erdogan is reverting to its old, more oppressive ways. They are taking steps backward, away from the progressive steps that had been made by the previous Turkish heads of state. 

Armenian citizens are becoming scared for their safety, almost as they had been preceding the Armenian genocide. The concept of a pure Turkish State is returning, and minorities such as Armenians and Kurds are being forced to live in constant fear and tension. 

The Turkish government, furthermore, is buying a lot of property in primarily Kurdish cities such as Diyarbakir with the intent of rebuilding them, and making them more developed, and modern to attract a wealthier population, and tourists. This may sound nice at face value, but it will push out many of the minorities that generally have a lower income than the Turkish, and now Syrian refugee majorities. Ultimately, minorities such as Kurds and Armenians in Turkey are being terrorized, killed, and pushed out of their homes and cities with no where to go, and no where to turn to. 

Their cultures were stripped from them, and now their land, and safe spaces, sacred spaces are being threatened. Expressing the importance of the Armenian Surp Giragos Church, an Armenian Kurd said,“For us, it’s not just a building or a place of worship. It’s where we would come to put together the pieces of our history and identity together.” 

~Livia Gazzolo

North Korea Minister Defends with Jailltime

North Korea defends the conviction of the American student sentenced to 15 years in a hard labor camp. This was in result of the student trying to steal a propaganda poster to take home. The minister says it was a good time to think about what he had done. The minister also added that most sentences are cut short.

Obama Calls a Meeting With His European Counterparts to Discuss International Challenges

President Obama intends to meet with political leaders from Germany, France, Italy, and Britain to discuss issues that affect Europe and by extension America. Obama made it known that he does not seek to interfere with European affairs, but stated  that America's interests would be furthered by a "strong, united, democratic Europe". He is wishing to discuss how to confront issues like the Trans-Atlantic Trade Pact, intelligence sharing on terrorism, containing and holding firm against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Civil Was in Syria. He's also scheduled to speak in Germany on Monday as well. This speech would focus on trade, sustainable growth, and the global economy. I believe this is a good decision because with America being increasingly/completely dependent upon a global economy our nation's leader needs to show interest in other countries' affairs without trying to micromanage them.

- by Tyler Linthakhanh

France’s young protesters: Whatever it is, they’re against it.

Since March 31st, the Nuit Debout or "Stand Up at Night" movement has spread across Parisian city squares to protest the newly proposed labor reforms. These new reforms would essentially make it easier for an employer to fire an employee and also challenge France's famous 35 hour work week. However the article points out that while the policy change has inspired the grass roots movement, there seems to be no clearly articulated program or goals in place. For many this movement is more so an opportunity to show and demonstrate the need for change in their government style from an aristocratic representative system to a democracy of the people and by the people. The movement has been characterized as a persistent and tolerant expression of what citizens seek to change about their country's leadership style. 

--Kassie Whaling-- 

Australian teen charged with plotting alleged terror attack

For the second year in a row, the Australian authorities have thwarted an alleged terrorist attack on their Veterans’ Day parade held Monday, April 25th in Sydney.  A teenager was arrested because police believed he was planning to attack Monday’s parade.  After searching his home, police declined to tell the press whether they had seized anything.  Authorities are very concerned because a similar incident occurred last year involving a larger group of teenagers.  Authorities believe the young man arrested this year acted alone, but the group arrested last year are suspected of being Islamic extremists. 

Peter Olache

Ecuador Earthquake: State of Emergency Declared After at Least 272 Killed

This morning, Ecuador was in a state of national emergency after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck provinces of Esmeraldas, Los Rios, Manabi, Santa Elena, Guayas and Santo Domingo one hundred miles from the country’s capital.  It killed at least seventy-seven people and wounded nearly six hundred more.  President Rafael Correa said this earthquake was the worst to strike Ecuador since 1979.  Thousands of police and military troops have been deployed to the affected areas.  These troops had trouble reaching the worst areas because of the damage done to roads. 

Peter Olache

Obama Urges Britain to Remain in the E.U.

Obama on Friday began a four day visit to Great Britain. Great Britain would like to leave the EU because it doesn't like sharing sovereignty with the rest of Europe and the United States wouldn't understand their concern. Obama responds saying that the U.S. faces the same challenges as Great Britain and Europe needs to stay collective to fight those challenges. The EU faces security threats and economic turbulence that require greater cooperation and unity. This includes the Paris and Belgium attacks, War in Syria, and Russian-backed aggression in the Ukraine that spotlight shortcomings in gathering and sharing of intelligence. Obama's four days of meetings should provide a greater sense of unraveling of the European project.

Rebecca Goeders

Tensions continue to rise with Russia

The chilling echoes of the Cold War seem to be rising consistently in volume as of late with tensions increasing between Russia and the United States. Continuing with the subject of my last post, this New York Times article details Russia's expansion in number, power, and technology, of its submarine fleet in particular. Not only this but Russia seems to be putting on quite the show by moving their new attack submarines around the coastlines of Europe. Their intent is thought to be quite clear, contest the power of Western, particularly American, 'undersea dominance'. Taking into account their recent actions towards the United States, and the interaction of some planes and a US Navy warship in particular, it seems that Russia is quite literally testing the waters. Whether this behavior and tension between the two countries will result in conflict; only time will tell. For now though the standoff seems a far too eerie reminder of the Cold War.

McKenzie Parlatore

Brazil Sweeping the Nation of Street Children in Preparation for the Olympics

The home of the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio, Brazil, is currently in the process of sweeping the area of street children. The means by which they are doing so is rather unclear, but in the past, the government has often times resorted to mass incarceration. Human rights activists are horrified by the recent revelations, as they state that the claim that all these children are being detained in order to keep tourists safe is unwarranted. The main argument that these activists bring up is that it violates basic human rights when the government detains people because they may commit a crime.

In general, this is just a really bad situation for Brazil to be in right now. They are currently in economic and political turmoil, along with the fact that they are second in the world in child homicides. The Brazilian government is clearly wary of possible international repercussions if the Olympics highlights the true troubles that their state is facing.

Kevin Oyakawa

Chinese Tourists Paid $10,000 For a Vacation Circled Around Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant's last basketball game was certainly a national phenomenon, but also created quite a stir in China. Tourists from China recently spent up to $10,000 on a vacation that allowed them to meet and greet the basketball star, as well as watch his final professional game. Chinese tourists are now becoming less of a vague opportunity and more actual paying consumers for grand vacations circled around major events. Basketball, and Kobe Bryant in particular, have been generating support in China for many years now, with the sport now one of the most popular in the country. Bryant has played a huge part in creating this strong relationship over the years, hosting training camps in China, devoting attention to his fans, and creating an overall decent correspondance with international fans in that area. This recent event shows that there is a great and very high possibility for great opportunities for the United States in similar types of partnerships in China, especially with China usually favoring their own brands and technologies.
Sarah Beck

Japan ranked 34th out of 41 developed nations in UNICEF child poverty index

Jake Kazmierczak

There is not much I can say about this article in terms of personal experience, despite having been to Japan multiple times. The issues discussed here do not seem at all prevalent and some of the stats are just simply shocking, to say the least. I have no doubt that these are all true statistics though and I really wonder where this insane poverty could be happening in Japan. The article claims that the poorest families with children in Japan make ~800,000 yen a year.... which is just insane, that's about equal to $8,000 in the US. All I can suspect is that these families are rural and survive mainly off of their own crops, though having visited a farming village in the middle of nowhere, I must say that despite living modestly, these families seemed to be rather well off. The article says Japan ranked 34 out of 41 with a 60% income gap meaning that the annual household income of the poor families was less than 40% the average income. I still struggle to understand Japan, and this is a prime example of that struggle. When comparing what I know about  the Japanese system I naturally compare it to the US, and see it in many ways as better. That being said, considering that the US scored 30th on the same test, how much of a difference really is there? What might this say about the cultural differences between both nations? I think poverty is framed completely different in both countries and taxes are used in very different ways... Then again maybe I'm missing something because I don't live there yet.

North Korea launches missile from submarine

In recent news, North Korea has really turned up their game when it comes to nuclear missiles and warheads. They have begun firing missiles off of submarines off their eastern coastline and having them land further in the Pacific ocean. This is a serious matter for the United States and the rest of the world because North Korea's submarine military system has gone from a joke to a very serious matter which is beyond disconcerting. Although their long range ballistic missiles are still not up to their full capabilities, the progression of the technology has the rest of the world in a state of panic, especially South Korea and for good reason! It does not help one bit that North Korea slams all opposition and condemnation by saying they can and will destroy cities and reduce them to nothing but the sea and ashes. Words such as these need to be corrected as they have no place being said in the 21st century. World powers still exist but one inciting mass violence should not by any means.

-Chris Kucinsky

Turning the Tide in the Yemeni Civil War

Yemen has been in the midst of a deadly civil war since March of 2015, with a faction of al-Qaeda fighting against troops backed by Saudi Arabia. In attacks earlier today, these Saudi-backed forces mounted a major offensive to drive out al-Qaeda backed militants in areas in the southern portion of the country. The attacks took place in the city of Mukalla, an important port city that al-Qaeda is using as its de facto capital. The conflict has claimed over 6,000 lives and the United Nations has described the area as a "humanitarian catastrophe."

-William Dawes

Mexican Police Tortured Suspects in Students' Case

The police force in Mexico continues to be a problem as alleged suspects in the disappearance of 43 Mexican students have been said to have been assaulted by police. The human rights expert groups claim that at least 17 suspects show signs of beatings with bruises and scrapes. This isn't the first case in Mexico of police brutality and seems to be a cover up for a bigger issue. It is said that the 43 students that were missing were taken by corrupt police officers. If the problem lies within the police department, why isn't the Mexican government doing anything to help the situation? It is said that the government just wants to push the disappearance of the students under the rug. How long will these problems go on in Mexico before something is done? It makes me wonder if Mexico is going to be able to solve it's problems on its own or if it is going to take the help of other countries or organizations to end the problems.

Lauren Whelan

Al-Shabaab child soldiers captured in Somalia firefight

A terrorist group from Somalia known as Al-Shabaab launched an attack on Puntland, semi-autonomous state in Somalia, on March 14th, 2016.  This attack proved very disturbing for a number of reasons.  This was the first time that Al-Shabaab had attacked from the sea instead of a land attack.  The authorities also found the number of child soldiers in the terrorist ranks disturbing.  Finally, the location of the attack caused uneasy because not many attacks have been focused around that region so far. 

Peter Olache