Friday, January 30, 2009

How do we do to trust? Who should we trust?

By Fiorella Bafundo
A controversy article on January 23rd in the radical newsletter Dissident Voice points out that behind the humanitarian help of the NGOs and the UNHCR Gimme Shelter campaign in Central Africa, there is a whole organization of multinational corporations, like Sturbucks, and even governments, as the United States’, which the only goal is making profits at the expense of the innocent people struggling in Central Africa in the middle of civil wars and poverty. The central point is that these international organizations that “say” to exist to help over there, use the fundraising campaigns as a mean to make money while using only a minimum percentage of it to cover their “business” in the international community.
The accusations also point at the famous Hollywood actor Ben Affleck, as a political actor in Congo and asking the question of his intentions over there, "Is Ben Affleck being paid for his silence? Or is he just another victim being used by, and benefiting from, a hopelessly corrupt system? "
The writer also highlights the role of the propaganda and the distortions of reality that these campaigns create to raise money around the world. He said “In establishment narratives, war is peace, slavery is freedom, and language is used to criminalize the innocent, just as it is in the so-called ‘war on terror’.” Are we living in that world???

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Education System of America Finally Finds Some Relief

Miraculously, President Obama has been the first president in decades to look this much toward aid for the education system of America. With an assortment of school programs and child education programs in mind, Congress will pass a vote in order to invest for two years, a $150 Billion investment in the education programs. Obama has proposed this "bailout" for every type of education, including school renovation, special education, Head Start and grants to needy college students. This is also a major response to the Democratic governors of America whom pleaded for $79 billion to save education programs from being cut. This large investment will help out an assortment of over 15,000 education programs. Of course, you have the Republicans complaining on whether or not this bail out is a good idea. These Republicans feel like maybe this much money will not improve education for children across America. People are also looking toward the lending aspect of this bailout. Clearly this will increase the amount of children's whom cannot afford to go to school, attendance in school. Each state will be awarded a certain budget that will be lent to those children. Overall the educational spending budget was $60 billion. It has risen to a total sum of $135 billion this year, with a noted increase to $146 billion in the year 2010. On an even more exciting note, this raises special education funding from $11 billion to $17 billion. Educators around the world are finally pleased that laws are being enforced, ones like "No Child Left Behind" (instilled by the Bush Administration.) The bill layout is as such, "The bill would, for the first time, involve the federal government in a significant fashion in the building and renovation of schools, which has been the responsibility of states and districts. It includes $20 billion for school renovation and modernization, with $14 billion for elementary and secondary schools and $6 billion for higher education. It also includes tax provisions under which the federal government would pay the interest on construction bonds issued by school districts." Lastly, higher education will rise to $27 billion from it low $19 billion this. A lot of this funding is geared towards federal student aid. This is all very exciting and new for the education system, as well as, the first time federal government is taking a real interest in the education system of America.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Listen

Amanda Dominguez

On Thursday January 28, President Obama took one giant step in creating better relations with the Middle East. He started off his presidency with an interview with a moderate news station, Al-Arabiya, based out of Dubai. After watching his interview on youtube.com, we can already see a shift in foreign policy. He directed his comments to the Muslim world, stating that what we (the United States) need to do is listen not dictate. This is already a change from the isolation tactic that the previous administration used causing the even bigger divided between the United States and the Muslim world.
Statistic from CNN political analyst, Reza Aslan, said that 62% of the Muslim world thought that this new presidency was not going to change anything, however, Obama has done more in a week in regards to reaching out to the Muslim world, then G.W ever did in 8 years as president. A CNN. com article said that how he handles the Gaza crisis will determine how much we really will accomplish with closing the gap between these two different worlds.

Iranian Leader Demands US Apology

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke out against the United States in an address to the western region of Khermenshah. He called for an apology from the United States. "Those who speak of change must apologize to the Iranian people and try to repair their past crimes," he said.

On Monday President Obama talked about the possibility of chance in US policy towards Iran that would be less hostile. In his inauguration speech, however, he said America would only extend a hand if Iran unclenched its fist.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said the United States is guilty of supporting an Iranian coup in 1953 as well as supporting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. He also criticized the U.S. support of Israel.

Tensions have always been high between the U.S. and Iran, but they have increased since the U.S. has tried to curtail Iran's nuclear program over worry of nuclear weapons. Iran insists the nuclear program is only for energy to be used by civilians.

Mr. Ahmadinejad also said that he hoped George W. Bush was in Hell.

The New Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva , He's gonna have a lot of work to do!

Soch Mel

Thailand's new Prime minister Abhisit Vejajiva, endorsed by his majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has so much political drama to deal with. With the complicated and most interesting removal of his previous PM via Thai cook show, Vejajiva has a lot of issues to overcome.

In my other post, there is the refugee crisis and how that has been bothering Thais for so many year and that the Thai government has not been living up to it's standards of humanitarianism as it has promised.

Then there is the whole free press issue which involve an Australian writer on charges of insulting the monarchy in his self-published book which only sold seven copies. Just and FYI, NEVER EVER insult the Royals of Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Japan, and wherever else there is one in Asia. Monarchs hold great religious and spiritual importance to the people; even if the kings have down wrong which I know has happened with Cambodia, Japan, not sure about Thailand, just don't insult them in the slightest. This is a big TABOO never meant to be broken.

The author Harry Nicolaides has served three years in prison in Thailand; this of course has prompted condemnation by the world community as this punishment seems to us very harsh to us. But as I stated before, Thais are ignorant of other ways of thinking and the perspective of its neighboring countries; some still wonder why Cambodians has a huge irke towards Thailand? I can list it off of the top of my head.

These basic essence of democracy are undermined currently in Thailand. But Vejjajiva is from the opposition Democratic party, so he may be able to bring changes about. But the current situation in Thailand does not look pretty, the temple conflict at Preah Vihear, which is Khmer hence Cambodian staking claim, ignorant Thais to a certain degree, that people shut down the international airport in Bangkok for a while, that coup several years ago, usually removal of PM from power, what is going on here!

I'm sorry to say that this is the side of Thailand I didn't want to see, but people need to be aware that a tropical paradise can hold many problems. To Abhisit Vejjajiva, I say use your background and Oxford education to promote better relations with Laos, Burma, Cambodia, and everyone else, promote peaceful solutions, and cool everyone's jet down! Welcome to Politics! (He's really young, about 44 years old and actually is good looking.)

Just for the Hell of it, Happy Chinese New Years! Gong Xi Fa Cai



Hey Look, Hungry Caterpillars affecting National Policy of Liberia and Beyond?


Soch Mel

"Liberia's president has declared a state of emergency after hordes of ravenous caterpillars infested the country."

Tens of millions of the worm-like larvae have been appearing in the northern part of the country, the Liberian counties of Bong, Lofa, and Gbarpolu, where they are eating at an alarming rate the crops. Cabbages, collard greens and well as the water becoming contaminated are having damaging effects on the tiny nation.

The Liberian Information Minister Laurance Bropleh told CNN this.
"I am not aware that they have been here before, ever, and certainly not in this great number.....That is why it was so overwhelming initially when we first discovered it."

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the legislators that about 350,000 people in 62 communities may be affected by the unexpected arrival of hungry, hungry caterpillars. And guess what, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast could be facing the same problem if these critters are on the move. So far, the species has not been identified yet but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are working on that.

I say, it's on, take them out quickly because the people don't have enough to eat anyway and the water has gone bad, or even worse. Something needs to be done fast or the repercussions could be endless. And all of us are aware of the many possibilities that could happen.

Refugees from Burma about to Face Trial in the Thai Courts





Soch Mel

There has been for while in Thailand a mass influx of people fleeing the military government of present-day Myanmar. Recently about 78 men of the Rohinya minority group fled in boats from Myanmar where they are being persecuted because of their ethnicity. Many of the refugees have burns marks and wounds when they arrive in Thailand. A refugee named Mohamed told CNN that his boa had been at sea for a month and been attacked and detained by Myanmar's military before being set on fire!

Currently, 62 of them will fact the Thai court system, 4 other are hospitalized, and the remaining 12 who are younger than 18 will have separate legal hearings according to Thai officials. Many refugees are concern that if they go back to Myanmar they will be killed because of their minority status and their ethnicity. They lack enough bribe money to obtain identifications cards!

Refugees are unwelcome in Thailand where Thai authorities say about 20,000 have settled illegally. Local villages claim that the refugees are stealing from them as well as threating them. Because of this, would it be surprising if I were to tell you that the Thai military towed hundreds of refugees into open water where they are abandoned. Though the government and military denies this, one source in the Thai military confirms this dump-at-sea-policy; the source also stated the the Thai authorities have ensured that there is enough food and water for them to make it out in the open sea.

The Thai government still insists that "there is no reasonable ground to believe" that the Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar because of persecution.

All I have to say is how ignorant is the Thai government! Thailand did not have good relations with any of its neighbor especially Cambodia and Burma, but I feel that the Thai should either help out the refugees more by adequately taken care of them or pressure the government of Myanmar to cooperate with other nations to have peace and progress for its people. But Thailand refuses to take on that role which is shame as Thailand has the capacity to be an influencing policy maker in the region.

The government and the Thai people don't really understand history, or choose to ignore history of it neighbors who have affected Thai history, and current political situation. Thailand has a lot of trouble brewing which is odd for a nation never colonized by Europeans! Even though Thailand is concerns with its own problems they cannot ignore what is going on with all of it neighbors.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'Uranium For Iran Nuke In 2009'

By Josh Emberton

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) reports that Iran will have enough low-enriched Uranium to make a nuclear bomb sometime this year. The specifics on the exact date are hard to say however it is important to note that having low-enriched Uranium is different than having a nuclear bomb. This is key point because often times people confuse this development with having a nuclear bomb. Making weapons of this magnitude isn't as easy as some may led to believe because the United States has so many.

The article goes on to expresses doubt over the US report that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program six years ago. A rather unnerving claim especially since we have already had some major intelligence failures over the last decade.

Furthermore, Iran has been working long-range missiles that can reach Israel and beyond. There could very well be a correlation between the two programs. The IISS 'recommends a mixture of a carrot and stick response from the international community.'

The importance of this article is that this is the very subject we were talking about in class and is rather ironic to have just developed on the same day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The indigenous spoke out in Bolivia

By Fiorella Bafundo

Yesterday, (Sunday, January 25) the “yes” won in Bolivia. After a lot of struggles and negotiations the population of Bolivia chose to change the constitution, which was perceived by the majority of Bolivian population as unfair and aimed to benefit the wealthiest. The new constitution has 411 articles, which includes as the key elements:

Re-election: Allows Mr Morales to stand for re-election in Dec 2009

Indigenous rights: Stresses importance of ethnicity in Bolivia's make-up. A whole chapter devoted to indigenous rights

Autonomy: Power decentralized, four levels of autonomy - departmental, regional, municipal and indigenous

Resources: Sets out state control over key economic sectors, state sovereignty over vast natural gas fields

Judiciary: Indigenous systems of justice same status as official existing system. Judges will be elected, and no longer appointed by Congress.

Land: New limit on ownership 5,000 hectares (12,355). But measure not retroactive.

On one hand, the majority of people who are happy about the change, emphasize the recognition to indigenous rights and their empowerment, and the idea of protecting the poor to make the Bolivian society more equal, as it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. On the other hand, the opposition claims that with these changes, the Bolivian society is more divided than ever and that Morales only wants to be reelected.

To that claim, Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera (who was one of the main writers of the new draft)says "I am not saying there will be no more conflict, there will be tensions for a while, I say a decade... but we will have built a state on three principles: the economy under state control, equality, and the territorial decentralisation of power."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sri Lankan Forces Capture Last Major Rebel Base in Northeast

By: Josh Emberton

There have been 26 years of Civil War in Sri Lanka but the last rebel base has finally been captured. The rebels are also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While this does not mean that the fighting is entirely over, this does display that the country has made steps towards stability.

The Sri Lankan military is targeting all the bases of the LTTE commanders. It has been reported that the leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has fled the country and all of Malayasia is on alert for him.

The Sri Lankan government has set up three facilities for displaced civillians and the United Nations is pleading with the Tamil Tigers to let the civilians out of conflict zones. However, the Tigers have planted mines in order to prevent civilians from leaving. This keeps an estimated 200,000 civilians trapped.

The tigers fight for a separate homeland.

The importance of this event is not only that it is different focus on the World's events, but it seems to mirror an issue in the Middle East with Hamas. However, this conflict doesn't seem to get as much spotlight for reasons unexplained in this article.

Israel moves to protect its military officers

In an effort to provide a safeguard to its military officers, the government of Israel has passed legislation which would give them legal protection in the case of war crimes charges involving the invasion of Gaza. The government of Israel took these steps in an effort to show their support for their officers, and to maintain that they will protect their officers in the same way the officers have protected the state of Israel.


Justices in Israel are preparing legal defenses and answers to possible questions over these issues, and will defend their assault into Gaza and its execution. There is a concern among government officials that officers may face lawsuits alleging war crimes. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has ordered an independent investigation into the conduct of Israeli military officials following damage to the U.N. humanitarian compound with white phosphorous shells. The use of this substance is illegal under international law.


These actions by the Israeli government follows a 22 day assault on Gaza, in which more than 1300 Palestinians were killed as well as 13 Israelis. Israel has declared a unilateral ceasefire and pulled troops out on January 21st.

Obama Takes First Miliatry Action as President

President Obama took his first military action Friday, approving two missile attacks on terrorist targets in the tribal area along Pakistan's border, according to The Guardian. Reportedly, twenty two people were killed, with civilians among them. There have been 30 such missile attacks in the past year. The action is an affirmation that Obama will not shy away from the pursuance of high level Al Qaeda targets. Meanwhile, a separate U.S. operation that claimed the lives of fifteen armed militants has been painted by Hamid Karzai, Afghani President, as the killing of sixteen civilians. The loss of "civilian" lives has caused a wave of anti-U.S. sentiment, and has garnered much critcism. One critic said that the killing of civilians "is strengthening the terrorists".
Despite regional opposition, the Obama Administration has planned a doubling of the number of troops in Afghanistan from 30,000 to 60,000. As a result, they have told the publice to expect a rise in U.S. casualties in the area. The article also points out the political risk that the war effort poses to his new administration, were it to become as unpopular as the war in Iraq.

Obama and Iraq: Exit Strategy

By: Ally Pawelczyk

According to Christan Science Monitor's website, President Obama's campaign promise of leaving Iraq within 16 months may run into several logistic problems. The Bush administration had signed an agreement which requires most of the troops to be out of Iraq by 2011. The question is whether or not troops will stay as non-combatant forces. Troops is not the only issue, but the supplies, aircraft, or vehicles in Iraq will either need to stay there or be shipped back. Gifting humvees and old generators is always an option.

The main point of the article that I found intriguing was the distinction between being the public's president and the army's commander in chief. Each role demads a different goals, relations, and means to the end. I can imagine how difficult it is for the President to find a medium, or make a choice to fulfill both roles while keeping them happy as well. The commander in chief's issue is security, domestic and overseas, and realistic methods. The role of President, on the other hand, would obviously adress security, but ended a commonly believed unpopular war as quickly as possible. Politics are always interesting.:)

Report: Child abuse on rise in Jamaica

By: Latoyia Kimbrough

Child abuse in Jamaica is on the rise according to a CNN article. The reports of child abuse have risen dramatically in Jamaica according to the nation’s Office of Children's Registry (OCR). In 2007 the office only received 425 complaints compared to 2008 where there were 3,784 child abuse reports made. This is such a significant climb not only because that number is almost nine times the previous year but also because the population of the nation is only about 2.8 million. The citizens of Jamaica are concerned about child protection because of recent trends of violence against minors in the country. A police report made late in 2008 stated that between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2008, 73 children were murdered and 383 cases of carnal abuse were reported. According to Dorothy Lightbourne, who is a Justice Minister, flogging and other forms of physical abuse are a part of the Jamaican culture. She goes on to say that "there are many parents who even threaten to 'murder' their children, some as young as two years old”.

On Saturday, OCR Registrar Carla Edie told the Jamaican governmental news service (JIS) that the people of Jamaica have become "increasingly mindful of their legal responsibility to report such incidents". He also states that, "if someone has information of suspected child abuse and fails to make a report to the Registry, that person can be charged a maximum fee of $500,000 or-and six months imprisonment". Edie believes that the growing number of reports can be credited to the growing awareness of the Office of Children's Registry. The public is the becoming aware that the OCR is the department responsible for tracking and acting on the reports not other government and police agencies that have handled the reports in the past. The OCR will increase its operating hours and staff to respond to the growing number of reports.

Afghans Protest Over Civilian Deaths

This article discusses how thousands of Afghans recently protested the killings of innocent civilians. The accidental killings of Afghan civilians has been a major cause for the disapproval of the Karzai government and the foreign troops backing it. The operation causing the latest controversy happened this week in eastern Laghman province. The U.S. military said on Saturday that troops, backed by air support, had killed 15 militants in an overnight operation.
Assadullah Wafa, a Karzai adviser investigating the deaths, said on Sunday that "16 civilians, many of them children and women, were killed" in the operation. A spokesman for the U.S. military said it planned to jointly investigate the incident with the Afghan government this week. Malik Hazrat, one of the protest leaders said, "If the foreign troops do not put an end to their operations, we will launch jihad." This is a complicated situation on one hand innocent civilians are being killed and on the other a large number of dangerous terrorists are still intermingled with the general population making any kind of effort to bring them down that much more complicated.

By: Brian Meents

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2009/01/25/world/international-us-afghan-protest.html?hp

China Jittery About Obama Amid Signs of Harder Line

Posted by Justin Bresolin
China experts foresee a time of nervous tension between China and an Obama-run United States, based on Obama's taking a "harder line" on many Chinese policies. The main area of concern comes from the accusation that China "manipulates" its currency in an effort to gain an international trade advantage, but other causes for concern include Obama's vows regarding environmental issues and international trade concerns relating to new Secretary of State Clinton's emphasis on human rights.

China's vice governor of the national central bank, Su Ning, denies the treasury's accusations of currency manipulation, remarking that such assertions "sidetrack" efforts to find the real cause of China's financial crisis, along with making the veiled threat of possible "trade protectionism."

With the repairing of our country's image in other parts of the world after the Bush Administration being one of President Obama's key objectives, China stands as one of the most significant and complicated challenges in that regard. Without close cooperation and diplomacy between the two countries, relations could further sour and critical trade relations might be reduced.

Cartel 'stewmaker' says he dissolved 300 bodies


A suspect in police custody calls himself a "stewmaker" for a Mexican drug lord, saying he disposed of about 300 bodies by dissolving them in acid. Santiago Meza Lopez was arrested Thursday in Ensenada, Baja California, but it took police 24 hours to identify him. He says he works for drug lord Teodoro Garcia Simental, also known as "el Teo," a powerful drug trafficker.

Officials say seven brothers and four sisters of the Arellano-Felix family inherited the Tijuana, Mexico-based drug cartel from Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo in 1989, after his arrest for drug trafficking.
Today, the notorious cartel is split into two factions that have engaged in brutal fighting that has accounted for nearly all the violence in Tijuana, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 400 people were killed last year in drug-related violence.

Bolivia votes on Indian rights

Amanda Dominguez

President Evo Morales of Bolivia is making significant changes within his constitution that are creating for a more socialist and secular state. Along with working to grant more rights to the indigenous peoples of Bolivia, Catholicism is not longer the official language.
He wants to take control of Bolivia's natural resources and give the countries indigenous people more autonomy over the lands their lands. He wants to change the inequalities that have been caused by colonization, but he is facing strong opposition, especially from the countries elite.
This is just one example of decolonization. Its refreshing to at least hear the developing world speak of human rights and economic expansion.
BBC News

Landless Brazil?

By Angrette M. Merced Cruz

For 25 years the landless movement of Brazil, directed by the social movement known as MST, has carry out a wide range of protests, including land occupations. Families try to make what they can out of the land, growing vegetables and fruits, and raising animals. Constant fear has arise as a consequence of forced removal by the police after 2007. The 25th anniversary of the MST is marked with the plans of a weekend demonstration in the state of Rio Grande Do Sul. Their strategy has become controversial given to the amount of prosecutions and deaths of its members. This is due to the origin of the organization, which lacks existence as a legal entity. Brazil still has one of the highest levels of inequality of land distribution in the world. It is estimated that 10% of the largest farmers still hold 85% of the land. Even if the MST had been able to bring the agrarian reform on the political agenda, the residents of this "occupied" lands are still poor and are not autonomous farmers. The growing tensions with the government suggests that the MST is fighting many battles in many fronts. Its nature has changed given that it is fighting no only for land, but for social reform and transformation in a world that is becoming more and more globalized. Many hold the opinion that " the government cannot take productive land off farmers who lawfully own it and redistribute it to people who are landless and poor." It seems like the road ahead for the MST is uncertain and difficult, but they have the assurance that the agrarian reform must be address in order to prevent an bigger economic crisis.
By Angrette M. Merced Cruz

Ciudad Juarez, one of the borders cities in Mexico, is only a couple of minutes away from El Paso, Texas. They are so close in fact that the mayor of El Paso can see Juarez's downtown from his office. In other ways however the two cities are a world apart. El paso still enjoys the reputation of being one of the safest cities in the United States, in the other hand Ciudad Juarez has become the battleground for drug cartels. This conflict has taken a toll of more than 1, 500 lifes in just this past year. This growing violence has also increase the awareness of the possibility of it spilling toward the American side of the border. Some has gone as far to suggest the legalization of drugs to stop the turf battle on Juarez and prevent it's expansion. About 25,000 of the residents of El paso that have to work in Juarez are afraid at ever cross, and this fears are not unfounded given to the increase of violent crimes in broad daylight on the border.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Air Pollution and Health

By Stephanie Chennell

According to a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine, reduced air pollution leads to a longer life expectancy. The study attributes air pollution to aiding in and causing lung and breathing problems, as well as heart disease. This 20 year study done from 1980 to 2000 across 51 U.S. cities, found that by the year 2000 people were living an average of 2.7 years longer, 15% of which these scientists believe was due to the reduction in air pollution. The study focused on "PM 2.5" pollution, which consists of very small particles that can worsen heart disease and asthma. It found that by reducing 10 micrograms per cubic meter of "PM 2.5," the life expectancy of an individual increased by about seven months.

In the U.K. scientists estimate that air pollution in their cities contributes to a reduction in a person's lifespan by eight months. It is believed that a reduction in air pollution could reduce that eight months by half; however, the estimates made in the U.S. seem a bit high to one U.K. scientist, but he does not doubt that reduction in air pollution will benefit both the environment and public health.

Pope Lifts Excommunications of Four Bishops

By: Mike Bozee

The Pope recently lifted the excommunications of four bishops. One of these bishops, Richard Williamson, has outraged Jews by claiming the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust never existed. Understandably, the Pope's action of pardoning Williamson will have negative implications toward the relationship between the Jews and the Catholic Church. The is particularly unfortunate, given that the relationship has been strained in recent history. Despite Williamson's view, the Church has made efforts to distance itself from his remarks. The Vatican's spokesman, Rev Federico Lombardi, ensures that the Pope's recent action of lifting the excommunications of the four bishops is unrelated to Williamson's opinion of the Holocaust. As of now, the success of the Catholic Church's efforts to disassociate itself from Williamson's view will have a major impact on the relationship between the Jews and the Church.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Japan and U.S. to Launch Greenhouse Satellites; Different Missions?

Sherri Siegele

Today, Japan launched a satellite named Gosat (Global Greenhouse Observation by Satellite) that will orbit the earth for five years collecting data about greenhouse gasses and the earth’s climate change. The United States intends to launch its own satellite in February of 2009 called the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory). Both are attacking the same problems but with different end-goals. The atmosphere absorbs 50% of carbon emission while the earth’s sinks (forests & oceans) absorbs the other half. In addition, a project collaborator from the University of Edinburgh claims there is a large missing sink. Both satellites are intended to measure emission output and to locate and quantify the CO2 sinks. According to the article the two countries have different goals. The U.S.’s main goal is to locate the CO2 sinks but Japan’s main goal is to enforce treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol through its findings.

I’m sure there are many possibilities at play but here’s one theory. Let’s start with the fact that Japan’s goal is adherence to treaties and the U.S. is in breach because it won’t ratify the Kyoto treaty. The knowledge Japan will gain from the satellite should also bring power. As a response to Japan’s satellite the U.S. may have felt it necessary to have its own set of data giving it just as much power as Japan. Additionally, regardless of how it all started, it’s possible that Japan and the U.S. will act as silent allies intending to put collective pressure on China. Japan’s self-interested is its economy and nearness to the world’s largest carbon emission output; China. The U.S.’s self-interest is that it wants China as part of Kyoto so it can ratify its own membership without doing economic harm to the U.S. With new information from these satellites Japan and the U.S. will have the ability to do a sound global campaign rallying other countries to pressure China into some degree of accountability for emissions output. Time will tell!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama orders Gitmo closed within one year

On Thursday January 22, 2009, President Obama made the formal decision to shut down Guantanamo Bay. He has signed an order that has put an end to extreme interrogation tools such as waterboarding. Different from President Bush, Obama claims that the closing of Guantanamo Bay is in the best interest of the US, and therefore is trying to send a message to the world that the United States will not cease in their fight against terrorists, but will be fighting from the "high ground." In addition to the terrorist prison, the order called for an immediate stop to secret CIA terrorist prisons. The question that arises from the closing o this prison is: What do we do with the 250 prisoners being detained? Many conservatives agree with the closing, but do not agree with the ultimate release of prisoners, nor letting them across US borders. Slowly but surely, Barack Obama and his cabinet will rebuild America's rapport. Yes, Guantanamo Bay is wrong in many different lights, but our country feared what these prisoners were capable of. I believe that fear led this tragic dark spot on America's reputation. With change in every one's minds, and a President who is already acting towards a world of change for America, America's repertoire will be cleaned up. The pressing question still remains, what are we going to do with 250 terrorist fugitives? There has been an attempt to put them in other countries, however; the countries that received that proposal, turned it down. We will just have to keep reading updates on Gitmo.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A New Hope

Barrack Obama has promised this country, and the international community, much. How many of these promises will come to fruition? It is a valid question considering this last completely debacled presidency.
We can, however, already begin to see the changes that Barrack Obama has promised to bring to this nation. Where George Bush preferred to keep internal matters “close to the vest,” so to speak, Obama has already signed executive orders that have established ethical guidelines for staff members of his administration, vowing to open his presidency to greater transparency.
Obama has also pushed the passage of an $825 billion economic recovery package, promising over 4 million new jobs, set in motion the steps towards closing Guantanamo Bay, extended his hand to middle eastern leaders, and has reaffirmed his dedication to withdrawing troops from Iraq within 16 months.
This is not to say, however, that Obama can accomplish all of these goals. The $825 billion recovery package has been met with some resistance from house Republicans. Who is to say that this new found transparency has the ability to last or that the hand that has been extended will be taken, or that the United States can finally close the doors of Guantanamo Bay?
No one can see what this presidency hold, what our future holds, but I can say with complete confidence that this future looks brighter than yesterday. The promise of tomorrow is greater than that of yesterday. For at least today, there is not a feeling of desperation or hopelessness, but rather a new, tangible feeling of hope, if not deliverance, seething through our great nation.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/21/obama.business/index.html

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

UN demands flow of good to Gaza

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes says Israel needs to fully open all borders with Gaza in order for reconstruction to begin. The recent truce between Israel and Gaza did not include any provisions about opening the borders.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was appalled at the destruction within Gaza and that those who were responsible should be held accountable. He then visited an Israeli town. For him, the attacks on Israel were human rights violations due to their indiscriminate nature.

Israel has been letting some resources into Gaza, such a food and medicine, but until they allow building materials, reconstruction cannot begin.

The immediate violence may have come to a halt between Israel and Gaza, but tensions are still high. Adding to the confusion, neither side appears to be in the right, and the world is having difficulty in choosing who to blame. When one side in a conflict is clearly in the right, it's easy to make decisions and judgments. However, both sides in the conflict have been condemned by the international community, but no one in the international community really knows how to respond.

What poeple around the world think about the new President Elected of U.S.A. Barack Obama

By Fiorella Bafundo

With the Barack Obama inauguration as the President of the United States of America, a lot of repercussions around the world took place. A BBC article tried to collect the different feelings around the world.
In Kenya and Indonesia, for example, where he has lived before, there is a felling of proud and hope showed in festivities and celebrations. In Kenya, banners say “congratulations our son, our hope."
In Jerusalem and Iraq the people can not deny their feelings of hope about Obama’s presidency; in Jerusalem there is a “a sense of what he is not: he is not George W Bush, the president often described as "Israel's best friend".And in Iraq, its support was based on the anti-war policy Obama expressed during his campaign. “Now he faces the challenge of making good on that pledge”, a BBC correspondent in Iraq said.
In Russia, however, almost no one expects a better relation neither between Russia and the U.S.A, nor with the rest of the world , where indifference seems to be the common reaction. Some poeple say that may be they are more realistic, and a BBC correspondent over there pointed out “The Kremlin still views diplomacy as a zero sum game - any American gain is a Russian loss”.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tensions Rise on Korean Peninsula

This article from the New York times discusses the rising tensions between North and South Korea in the wake of the many new developments that occurred on Saturday. South Korea has begun to strengthen it's military force along the demilitarized border it shares with North Korea along with the waters surrounding it country. This increase in force comes after North Korea threatened naval engagement and stated an "all-out confrontational posture" towards the South. These statements were made after reports came out in international news that North Korea has enough plutonium weponized for use in at least 4 nuclear bombs, North Korea maintains that it has only continued in it's pursuit of nuclear weapons because of the threat it feel from the United States and other nuclear armed states. It has not been proven the North Korea has built a nuclear device other than their precived test of a nuclear bomb in 2006. Tensions among the two Korean countries have worsened since the election of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Myung-bak has taken a firmer and more agressive approach when dealing with the North. The way the threat was delivered also spoke to the seriousness of the situation as the statements were broadcast several times over the national television and radio network in North Korea. These statements and development come at an interesting time as President elect Barack Obama is about to take office and the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is still very much in question. Only time will tell the true aim and motives of North Korea in these bold moves.

Guantanamo Bay

At its peak Guantanamo Bay held over 770 prisoners. Today Guantanamo Bay houses over 200 suspected terrorists. Recently, six prisoners were released after “many years of captivity” without actually ever being formally charged with a crime.

As most of us probably know, there have recently been allegations of “waterboarding” brought up against the United States government in particular reference to Guantanamo Bay. For those of you who do not know, waterboarding is a severe form of torture where the prisoner is held under water for extended periods of time, depriving them of oxygen. This is a tactic that is used by our government in an attempt to gather information from suspected terrorists.

It does not, however, end here. This “torture” that is executed on the detainees is done so without any semblance of due process of law. These men are given no opportunity to represent themselves in a court of law, the phrase “innocent till proven guilty” simply does not apply to people.

My question to you is, that is the supposed greatest country in the world, a country that is supposed to be a shining beacon of hope to other citizens of the world, how is it possible that we allow such atrocities to occur? Are these action not blatant denials of the rights that we, as Americans and citizens of the world, outlined? To what extent to we infringe upon the rights of these individuals at the expense of our “safety”?

The people that have recently been released from Guantanamo Bay were never formally charged of a crime, yet they were held there for years. These are years that these men will never get back, years that could have been spent with wives or children or just living, years that have been brutally and deliberately stripped away. How can we condone this?

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/01/17/gitmo.detainees/index.html


Moscow and Kiev strike gas supply deal

After 12 days of conflict over the supply of gas between Russia and Ukraine a deal has finally been struck. The agreement between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko states that Ukraine will allow Russia to use themselves as a transit for gas supplies to Europe in exchange for a 20 percent discount on gas supplies. This agreement does not solve the all the issues that has arisen between these two countries, but it allows the gas to be turned back on.

Tensions are still high. It remains to be seen if Russia and Ukraine can play nice with eachother. However, Russia is disappointed at the EU for not being a little more 'proactive.' What he means by 'proactive' is forcing Ukraine to concede to Russian demands.

The topic is yet to be closed however. It is unlikely if Russia will adopt the European Energy Charter which would force competition onto the energy market and possibly prevent a crisis like this from happening again.

This article is an update on a previously post and is a major issue that Europe has been faced with. This shows just how far Russia can possibly extend their reach, especially in times of extreme cold. Russia seems to have more power than the world would like to believe.

But is it a crime?

This article deals with the situation of the ongoing war in Gaza and rather or not Israel is actually breaking any laws. It starts out by describing a situation where a 16-year-old boy, "broke into tears as he told a television interviewer how several members of his family had been killed in an Israeli strike. “My brother was bleeding so much and right in front of my eyes, he died. My other brother Ismail, he also bled to death. My mum and my youngest brother, they are gone. Four brothers and my mother, dead. May God give them peace." This description helps to describe the horrible things that some of the innocent people are going through as a result of the violence. Also discussed is how Israel is "allegedly" prevented Palestinian paramedics from helping survivors of an attack for two days. Isreals response was, "that its army has looked into the claims and found no record of the incident." They claim that they are targeting Hamas only, and promise to improve “co-operation and co-ordination” with the ICRC (we will see). Rather or not they are breaking any laws or not (which I feel they definitely are) one thing is for sure, the violence has to stop soon or more and more peoples lives are going to be completely destroyed.

http://www.economist.com/world/mideast-africa/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12957301&source=most_commented

As atheists roll out London ads, believers unruffled



Around 800 of the famous red double-decker buses which cruise around London, now carry a message that is a little bit out of the norm. Atheists and Christian fundamentalists have come together and organized the message which reads, "There's probably no God, Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Although one would think that these buses are extremely controversial, the article provides a different explanation. It delves into the messy concept of remaining religious while keeping an open mind. It also explores the scientific explanations of faith and God, while keeping an open mind itself. I am no theologian, and never expect to fully understand every argument regarding this topic, but I find it interesting to see that atheists are coming out and expressing their beliefs just as other religious have been doing for centuries. My favorite quote is, ""One of the wonderful things about astronomy [is that] our understanding of the galaxy around us undergoes a significant shift, and the only real change is the new terrain that opens up inside our heads.' (from the New York Times)."

Bird Flu confirmed in China

World Health Organization officials have confirmed that a 2 year old girl has tested positive for bird flu, making it the second confirmed case this month. The girl fell ill in a central province of China, but has been moved to her home province in the north. The girl fell ill on January 7, just two days after the first confirmed case of January died after handling poultry in Beijing.

The bird flu is caused by the H5N1 virus, which has been found in birds in over 60 countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Birds in North and South America, including the Caribbean, have not tested positive for the virus, and remain uninfected.

Since 2005, China has reported 30 cases of the virus in humans, with 2/3 of them being fatal. Human to human transmission is rare, as most cases come from handling poultry, but scientists fear a mutation of the virus could cause a global pandemic.


Zimbabwe President Mugabe to Meet with Opposition One Final Time

The stakes are at an all time high as President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai prepare to meet Monday to discuss the future of a shared power agreement for the Zimbabwe government, according to the New York Times. In a general election last year, Tsvangirai had more votes than Mugabe, who has held power for the past twenty years. A run off was then called, and Tsvangirai pulled out in June due to state sponsored beatings and 180 murders of opposition party members. An agreement was signed by the two men in September without discussing the division of control of the government ministries. Since then, Mugabe has insisted on retaining control of the army, police, and intelligence agencies. The talks scheduled for Monday are the last that will be had on the issue. According to Mugabe, "This is the occasion when it’s either they accept or it’s a break". Tsvangirai's willingness to negotiate hinges on the immediate release of opposition party activists that were abducted by state security agents and the fair distribution of governmental power. The South African Development Community, a regional bloc of nations, has encouraged the opposition party to sign an agreement and address their issues as part of the government instead of an oppostion party. Should the opposition party decide not to come to an agreement with Mugabe, they would have to mobilized the public in questioning his legitimacy.
While the two parties have squabbled over power, the country has fallen into a state of despair due to an absence of a legitimate government. Over 2,000 people have died and 43,000 have been infected with cholera due to, "the collapse of water, sanitation, and health services". The article also points out that, "Over half the population is currently dependent on international food aid".

Thailand Is Accused of Rejecting Migrants

According to an article in the New York Times, Thai authorities have detained as many as 1,000 boat people from Bangladesh and Myanmar in the past month. Many human rights groups report that these boat people were sent back out to sea in boats without engines and at least 300 people are reported to be missing at sea. These boat people are migrants from the ethnic Rohingya minority who are mostly stateless people that live in a continuous cycle of poverty, repression, escape, capture and exploitation. Reports tell of instances in the last month where 410 Rohingya migrants were forced out to sea on a Thai Navy vessel and left on board of a barge with just four barrels of water and two sacks of rice. After drifting for two weeks, about 100 of the migrants were rescued and about 300 remain missing after trying to swim to shore. Chris Lewa and expert on Rohingya issues, reported on a second case in which 580 migrants were apprehended off the Thai coast aboard three overcrowded fishing boats. These boats were reportedly towed back out to sea after their engines were removed and only two of these boats reached shore while another one is missing.
Thailand officials deny the accusations of the expulsions saying that all the migrants are processed through the legal channels. Although these reports correspond with separate allegations that Thailand has committed human rights abuses when combating Muslim rebellion in the south. In past incidents the Thai military has forced out groups of refugees which sometimes results their deaths. Although all of these expulsions were reported last week in the South China Morning Post, Thai officials still denied on Friday that any expulsions had occurred. One of the officials Lt. Col. Tara Soranarak claims that Thai officials never pushed the migrants back into the sea and they followed the necessary procedures when processing the migrants.

Pope to get his own Google channel




The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI is getting his own channel on Google.
It says the Vatican TV Center and Vatican Radio are collaborating with Google on the project.
The Vatican's press office said Saturday that texts and video of the pope's speeches as well as news about the pontiff would be posted directly onto the channel. What does this mean for the world? A global connection! The Pope will now be accessed by millions of people around the world in their homes, jobs, and in the car. This is a giant step for the Vatican in its efforts to globalize the papacy. Now you can visit the Pope, without having to travel to Italy or to wherever he may be speaking.




The Vatican began using its Web site widely to publish teachings and pronouncements under the late Pope John Paul II.

Suicide bomber hits Kabul diplomatic district

On Saturday, an Afghan car bomb exploded on a heavily crowded street in Kabul. A rounded 25 civilians were wounded, and four people were killed. Among the four people was 1 America soldier, and four Afghan civilians. Another attack happened later that day at noon. Another suicide bomber rammed his minibus into a convoy. This convoy had both Afghan police and U.S. soldiers on it. The result of this attack was one Afghan civilian was killed, ad nine others were injured. The first attack happened in the late morning on Saturday. The explosion was so great, that an Afghan soldier looking out for a U.S. base was injured in his watchtower. The Taliban took immediate blame for these attacks, however; they threatened more attacks to come. Although Afghan forces have tamed suicide bombings in the last few months, there are still many threats held against the forces. In addition to the bombing, the first suicide bomber's vehicle crashed into a truck and many other cars, causing more injury and blood. When will this Afghanistan "conflict" end?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Uganda’s LRA Atrocities Are Spreading

Sherri Siegele

Uganda’s two-decade-old Lord’s Resistant Army (LRA) is spinning out of control with its presence now in 4 countries; Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and DR Congo. Additionally, the LRA has recently established a base in DR Congo.

As a result of the International Criminal Court refusing to drop LRA arrest warrants, the LRA would not sign a peace treaty last year. In response, joint government forces from Uganda, Congo and Sudan attacked the LRA. In retaliation and since Christmas Day the LRA has gone on a rampage and is viciously attacking villages in their path. According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) there are reports of houses being torched, villages being destroyed and abandoned, vicious killings, and people living in extreme fear without necessary resources. With lack of security it is not possible for humanitarian aid to reach these people. It is estimated that over 500 people have been murdered and over 100,000 have abandoned their homes.

At this time it appears that the International Criminal Court, local joint government forces, and the LRA are in an unending power struggle. If local government forces are unable to control the LRA this could lead to a large-scale genocide. Should the situation continue to escalate in favor of the LRA it will be interesting to see how much news coverage it will receive and, how many people will have to die before further international intervention occurs, if at all.

North Korea Says It Has ‘Weaponized’ Plutonium

Posted by Justin Bresolin

North Korea has declared “all-out confrontational posture” against neighboring South Korea, announcing that they have “weaponized” 30.8 kilograms of plutonium, sufficient for approximately 4-6 bombs. The threat has prompted heightened vigilance by South Korea on the fortified border.

Such threats have seen an increase since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office one year ago, vowing a tougher stance against North Korea, a departure from his long-held efforts to provide economic aid to the country. The recent statement is unusual in that it was delivered by a uniformed military official, and not a press officer. Purpose behind North Korean threats and statements are typically difficult to decipher, but it is suspected to be an effort to drive a wedge between South Korea and Washington, establishing negotiation terms in reaction to newly-elected US President Obama, as well as possibly indicating a desire to keep its nuclear arms, in spite of a 2005 agreement with 5 countries, including the US, to disarm.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Plane Crash in the Hudson

US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River Thursday afternoon. The plane was in route to North Carolina from New York when one of its engines failed. A goose had apparantly been caught up in the engine causing engine failure to one or more engines. The pilot, Sullenberger, called the control tower warning that he did not have enough time to make it back to the airport and a crash landing was necessary. The pilot lined the plane up with the Hudson River and notified the passengers of the change in schedule. Due to the pilots experience the landing was a success. The pilot was the last off the plane to ensure that his plane of 150 passengers and crew members arrived safely to land. The crash landing caused much commotion and worry to arise, but do to the pilots quick thinking no one died in this terrifying ordeal.