Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Greener American

According to the Christian Science Monitor's website President Obama has made a greener America and energy an important topic in many of his speeches and proposed policies. The article provides passages from several different speeches which address that issue of energy. What I found as a common thread in all of these speeches is the passive mention of providing jobs to Americans. For example,
"Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either."
"And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills."
And in response to the recent Kansas tornado and their effect on their economy
"as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.

Even if the passages did not intentionally tie together to two issues of providing more jobs for our economy and exploring alternative or green solutions to our current energy crisis, I feel that this connection helps to calm American minds. We love proficiency and if one policy step, being a boost in the research and practice of alternative energy, can help begin to solve two issue at once, the better! It is probably much easier to get this policy across the public with the promise of new jobs and a stimulated economy. I'm not saying that going green will solve the nation's economic crisis, but it would help boost the number of jobs open to unemployed Americans. Also, with new research and hopefully with a quicker solution, energy costs will go down and new, revived American industry will be boosted.

(I have no idea what happened to the text!?!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Grass Roots Efforts in Kenya

Sherri Siegele

During class we discussed the relevancy of student (grass roots) organizations and their effect on policy change. Although indirect, they do raise awareness and with this comes pressure on politicians to change policy. Similarly, one man stands to raise awareness of corruption and policy change in Kenya. In 2005 John Githongo, former advisor to the president, former journalist, and former founding director of Transparency International brought corruption charges to the steps of cabinet ministers. Ultimately Githongo lost the battle and fled to the UK in fear of his life. But last year’s disputed presidential election in November, 2007, which caused the death of 1,500 people, brought Githongo back to Kenya. He believed himself no less safe than fellow Kenyan’s. A few weeks ago he published a book that offers in-depth information about Kenya’s corruption. Nairobi bookstores won’t sell the book. They fear legal action from the government. But, Kenya’s national newspaper has published exerts, a British author published the book, and the BBC is reporting on the book. It shouldn’t be too difficult for interested Kenyan’s to get their hands on a copy.

Awareness is being raised in Kenya and from this awareness the possibility of policy change exists. Sadly, there have been more corruption scandals since the election but I hold hope that Githongo has paved the way for other interested parties to slowly push Kenya’s government into some degree of “policy” change when it comes to corruption.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Competing Interpretations of Terrorism

By Muck: Building on Patrick's post below, the New York Times ran a fascinating article today looking at the multiple and often competing interpretations of the term terrorism. The United States and others in the "West" label groups like Hamas and Hezbollah as "terrorists." Yet following the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza, the prevailing opinion in the Arab world is that Israel is the one guilty of terror. The article quotes former Egyptian ambassador to Britain-Muhammad Shaker: "Public opinion views what happened in Gaza as a kind of terrorism. And on the other side, they see Hamas and other such organizations as groups who are trying to liberate their countries." I strongly believe that history is best understood as a battle over ideas. What we are witnessing here is simply the next stage in the attempt to define and understand terrorism.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Many nations and many individuals rise to Israel’s defense regarding the past months in Gaza, or the past four decades of Palestinian persecution. I, however, cannot completely justify Israeli actions, not just for the past months, but over the last decades, in reference to the Palestinians.
I cannot imagine being a displaced population, with the country that was once called home stripped form me. I cannot imagine being persecuted merely for my origin of birth. I say this not just in reference to Palestinians, but the Israelites as well. Both know persecution and oppression and displacement. However, the acts of the Israeli persecution, oppression, and displacement have been supported by the biggest nations of the world. Israel has been given the proverbial “get out of jail free card.” Israel has been able to commit acts without the fear of repercussion. It is no wonder that Hamas has been created and grown over the years.
I am not saying that anyone can condone “terrorism,” but has anyone stopped to think that terrorism is merely the perception of the act, depending completely on which side you conform to. Palestinians do not recognize themselves as terrorists, but as freedom fighters. And, at times, it is difficult for me to disagree with the statement.
I just find it so hard to understand why the American Revolution, French Revolution, and every other fight for independence or freedom are classified as a just cause rather than an act of terrorism. Is it so hard for us to understand that what these people are fighting for are the very same rights that so many Americans fought, and died, for- the right to have a place to call home, the right to make their own laws, form their own culture, the right to life, and the right to liberty. They fight for the things that we have so often referenced as inalienable rights. What is happening in Israel is not justice, but rather the product of politics, as has been too often the case in recent history.

Attacks on Al Qaeda concentrate its threat to Pakistan

The war against Al Qaeda continues on Pakistani soil. With the killings of 80 Qaeda soldiers in the last year, Pakistani and American troops continue to fight. However the problem with all this fighting on Pakistani soil is that is is raising conflict with the Al Qaeda and Pakistani people. Also, with addition of about 17,000 American troops coming to help Pakistan, more Taliban are expected to disperse into Pakistan. After assessing the Al Qaeda recently, Dennis Blair- director of American Intelligence, claims that the attacks against American military by the Al Qaeda are not as significant as they once used to be. However, the attacks are not estimated to stop. The Al Qaeda cells have split. Because of the killings of their leaders, the consistent American troop involvement, and any support of the Pakistani government has led the Al Qaeda to reach out to more soldiers whom have the main goal to kill. In the article, it explains the Taliban leaders are reaching out to younger, more impatient soldiers who would like a more immediate attack to happen in Pakistan. They are not interested in long-term global attacks, they want death now. The Al Qaeda are a smart group. They are adapting to the attacks by Pakistani government groups, and they are growing across Pakistani land. The article puts it very clearly, "The Al Qeada is morphing into a monster and growing uglier." Therefore, there should not be more troops deployed to Pakistan because these AL Qaeda and Taliban are not stupid people, they are catching on to our plans, and our attacks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

North Korea is Ready to Launch a Satellite

Soch Mel

As recently as this morning when I woke up at 6:00 am, I saw a news report on CNN about N. Korea next's possible action. North Korea will be launching a satellite into space. It will be launch from the Northeastern coast; North Korea is denying that it is attempting to launch a long-range missile.

Here is a quote from a representative of the project in N. Korea.

"Full-scale preparations are underway at a satellite launch site,'" a North Korean space committee spokesman said through the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
"If the satellite is successfully launched, our country's space technology will take a great step forward into becoming a strong, economic country."

The view on this launch is that it gives some hope and validation of the North Korean government. They are conducting such measures to stay in competition with its neighbors as well as portraying that the government can be a strong force.

The North Korean government is claiming that it is their right as a sovereign nation to pursue space technology. Such statements have been made before and are concerning to the American government. Recently tensions between the North and the South have been rising; North Korea is scrapping peace agreements and talks with the South. If this does not calm down, the potential for war will increase.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton states that the tensions in Northeast Asia can stay at the same level as it has before. North Korea can make as many threats possible to the South; however North Korea is dependent on South Korea for its economy in terms of food, supplies, etc.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Administration Draws Fire for Report on Guantánamo

Posted by Justin Bresolin

The recent pentagon inspection on the behalf of the Obama Administration that declared Guantánamo Bay prison as adhering to humane conditions is being criticized by both human rights groups as well as lawyers of the detainees as being false, accusing the report of being a public relations gesture to lessen criticism of the actions taken place their while the new presidency works to shut the prison down.
Admiral Walsh, the inspector appointed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, admitted to the widespread accusations of human rights violations, but determined after interviews with prisoners and staff that Guantánamo complied with standard set by the Geneva Conventions. The report addressed 27 categories of human treatment as they related to the Convention’s ban on “humiliating and degrading treatment,” citing areas for improvement.
Detainees’ lawyers, however, issued their own report along with letters by their clients, citing human rights violations such as severe isolation, brutality by the staff, and despair to the point of self-injury by detainees. Critics note the fact that the pentagon reports came from a senior official of the department in charge of the prison’s management.
The clash of viewpoints demonstrated here can lead to more problems for the fledgling Obama Administration, and the closing of this infamous facility can lead to increased scrutinizing of the United States’ upholding of human rights policies, a country whose influence has frequently allowed them to avoid such investigation (or prosecution) in the past.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The collapse of manufacturing

by: Brian Meents

We all know that the economy is bad and that the industrial industry in particular has been hit very hard. This article provides some very interesting statistics that show just how bad some areas have been effected. Some examples include : In Germany December’s machine-tool orders were 40% lower than a year earlier. Half of China’s 9,000 or so toy exporters have gone bust. Taiwan’s shipments of notebook computers fell by a third in the month of January. The number of cars being assembled in America was 60% below January 2008. Industrial production fell in the latest three months by 3.6% and 4.4% respectively in America and Britain (equivalent to annual declines of 13.8% and 16.4%). But on the bright side I am guessing that air pollution also declined pretty significantly.

Brown: World needs 'global New Deal

The world needs a "global New Deal" to haul it out of the economic crisis it faces, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom said Sunday. "We need a global New Deal -- a grand bargain between the countries and continents of this world -- so that the world economy can not only recover but... so the banking system can be based on... best principles," he said, referring to the 1930s American plan to fight the Great Depression.
Brown was speaking as the leaders of Europe's biggest economies met to try to forge a common position on the global financial crisis ahead of a major summit in London in April.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the world's response to the global financial meltdown had to be profound and long-lasting, not just tinkering around the edges.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the host of the meeting, urged nations of the world to work together to fight the problem

So what is the significance of all this? Well this is going to prove whether or not the world can actually come together and put something together. We have discussed how states discuss, either by self-interest or with the end in mind. The world will only come together because of self-interest, everyone is going through economic difficulty. However, we have to ask ourselves did the New Deal actually work? Some argue that the New Deal sent as further in debt and hardship. WWII is what truely brought us out of the Depression. Prime Minister Brown wants to have a set of rules and norms for banks, so everyone can agree on it. The New Deal solution poses a lot of problems. Where does all the money come from? How can every state come to agreeance? New Deal policies may not even work on a global scale. Is it worth trying? I don't think so. I feel that every state should worry about itself in its own borders.

Secret U.S. unit trains commandos in Pakistan

By Josh Emberton

Pakistan, a nation possessing nuclear weapons, is in a very sensitive situation with how they choose to combat their weak control over their country. In class, we talked about the situation their government faces and what their ties with Washington may mean for them. On the one hand, becoming to close to Washington can cause problems and increased Anti-Americanism. While on the other hand, if the government does not use US help they could lose the country to militants.

This brings the focus onto the article which introduces a third potential complication for Pakistan. With increased tensions with India, the military is becoming more focused on their neighbors then with fighting Al Qaeda or the Taliban. The country does not want to *feel* like they are leaving any openings for their arch-foes India.

Despite the potential problem of Anti-Americanism, Pakistan and the US have been increasing their sharing of information capabilities. This has lead to better Predator strikes on militants, increased captures (including 5 high-ranking commanders), and preventing attacks on American unmanned aircraft flying in the same area. These are significant strides which the article claims are starting to show 'significant results.'

This is an important to the topic of global governance because of the previously mentioned status of Pakistan. They are a nuclear-armed country and any spark that could involve the use of the weapons would significantly impact the world. Furthermore, the success of these efforts in pakistan could weaken or strengthen the two main terrorist groups which would ultimately, effect the Middle East and the world in general.

It is important to note that this cooperation hasn't been completely positive. US strikes seem to encourage retaliation against the Pakistan Military as well as seemingly undermining their ability.

India's Homegrown Terror Dilemma

The whole of India is still reeling from the terrorist attacks committed just three months ago. No place is more effected than that of Mumbai where over 170 lives were claimed. India has widely condemned Pakistan for allowing terrorist groups such as those who committed the attacks to gain a foothold within the regions. Still many people point to India's inner turmoil as a massive problem and possibly the cause of the widely publicised attacks on Mumbai. The fact the attacks were large scale and targeted at western passport holders as well as carried out in prominate tourist areas caused attention to be drawn to India's growing terrorist problems.

Tensions between Muslims and Hindus living within India and the region have always been on edge but have given rise to much of the terrorist activity in the last few years. Throughout India anti-extremist and anti-terrorist measures have been taken on all sides, insisting terrorism does nothing to aid religion. While politicians have said that Muslims within India should feel safe their are many who still feel the Muslim population is considered second rate and that they are often persecuted unfairly. The fact that some Hindu extremists groups are now being held accountable for similar bomb attack as those Muslim groups gives hope to the future of accountability on both sides. Religious leaders and politicians alike must continue to push an anti terrorism agenda with the hopes that India can settle its inner turmoil and look towards its ever growing future.

Clinton sets framework for U.S.-Asia relations

By Latoyia Kimbrough

According to an article on the CNN website the now U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to four different countries in Asia to emphasize that the United States is actively engaged with the region. She traveled to Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia to discuss a range of issues. The issues that Clinton sought to discuss were that of solving the global economic crisis, the prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation and reversing the global warming trend. Clinton introduced the issue of human rights with Chinese leaders on Saturday but she really sought out to stress that the global financial crisis and other international dilemmas were the more immediate priorities. She however did state that the United States will continue to address China on issues such as Tibet, Taiwan and human rights. China was the last stop on her tour of Asia and the most sensitive because human rights is an issue that is often the topic of discussion between the US and China. In this tour Clinton also discussed issues of the economy, the debt that China has with the US and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Clinton agree that dialogue between the two countries is essential in addressing these issues. Clinton stated to reports on Saturday that "it is essential that the United States and China have a positive, cooperative relationship". Clinton also met with other Chinese officials on the emission of greenhouse gases being that these two countries emit the most greenhouse gas. In this meeting they proposed to set up new strategies to deal with the issue of the environment.

Prisoners Escape in Greece

Stephanie Chennell

Two men escaped from the highest-security prison in Greece. This was not the first time the men escaped, nor the first time they used this method. The two men, a serial armed robber and robber and his 'side kick', escaped by way of rope ladder thrown from a helicopter off of a roof at the jail they were prisoners at. Their first escape was done in the exercise lawn, also by way of helicopter.
The helicopter was found abandoned on the side of a highway leading investigators to believe that the men have escaped into the mountains where they have previously found refuge.
The whole incident places much weight on Greece's prison system and security as the men have used the same technique to escape twice. This incident will likely lead Greece to reexamine their security techniques and focus more attention on their high risk prisoners.

Bomb Blast in Cairo

By Jacob Simkins

A bomb blast in Cairo killed one French tourist and injured 20 others, mostly foreign tourists, in an open-air hotel café in the Khan al-Khalili area, a prominent area known for its mosque. A previous attack in the same area killed 3 people, including one American and one French tourist in 2005.

The homemade devise was likely thrown from a balcony, killing the 17 year old French Woman. Those behind the attack have not been identified.

Those injured in the attack include 10 French nationals, 4 Germans, and 3 Egyptians. Out of the more than 20 injured in the blast, 6 are in serious condition.

The blast occurred in the early evening in the Historic Khan al-Khalili neighborhood, the location of the Hussein Mosque and a well-known bazaar. The area has narrow streets filled with people, which may have amplified the effect of the relatively small blast. The area has been blocked off, but confusion remains of the exact area where the bomb was thrown. Conflicting witnesses have stated it was thrown from an upper floor or from a motorcycle, while some Egyptian government officials maintain that the bomb exploded underneath a bench. A second device was defused after it failed to explode.

"Another Prisoners' Dilemma"

By Fiorella Bafundo

According to an article from the New York Times, a Pentagon report of the Guantanamo Bay prison says that the detention center fulfills the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, and gives some suggestions to improve some of the bad conditions of the detainees, such as human isolation. This report was asked by the President Obama in the middle of the discussion of the new administration in the attempt to close it by the end of the year because of the possible abuses and human rights violations that occur over there.
On the one hand, some critics say that this fact could change the orientation of the presidency, as it could for the first time defend it. In this sense, one official of the Pentagon “argued that the report showed that the Bush administration had created a humane detention camp,” and that “if the men were moved, they might “go from a humane environment to a less humane environment.”
On the other hand, some critics like Gitanjali Gutierrez (a lawyer of the prisoners) claims that these “moves” to improve the prison could be used to avoid “major alterations,” and that they are concerned that for example the fact of the recent increase in recreational time and interaction among detainees “were in anticipation of visits now being made by senior members of the new administration.” She said they are very worried and “[they] expect more of the new administration.”

Sudan Leader gets Egypt's support

Angela Hager

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has recently received support from Egypt. Bashir is currently waiting to see if he will be served with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Egypt believes that arresting Bashir, or even putting out a warrant will create further instability between the government and rebels.

Egypt wans the court to defer the arrest warrant for at least a year, giving Bashir more time to actually do something.

Up to 300,000 people have died in the six-year conflict, but Egypt believes that Bashir can continue to have "meaningful progress on the Darfur crisis."

The ICC has yet to make a decision.

African Union Base Attacked in Somalia

By: Mike Bozee

A group of Somalian insurgents attacked an African Union military base in Mogadishu, Somalia. Peacekeepers from the African Union used this base, and they remain in conflict with the Islamist militant group, al-Shabab. Al-Shabab admits to having ties to the recent attack, in that two of its member carried out the suicide car bombing. In the process of this attack, at least eleven Burundian soldiers were killed and fifteen others seriously injured.

This attack plays an important significance, because the AU's 3,500 Burundian and Ugandan peacekeepers represent the only foreign troops in Mogadishu. The al-Shabab group has committed itself to continuing the struggle against the peacekeepers inhabiting the area. Jean Ping, the highest-ranking AU diplomat, requested continued international support for Somalia's transitional government. The backdrop behind this request is one of reconciliation and lasting peace for Somalia and those who interact with it.

Severe droughts feed economic crisis in Argentina

By Angrette

Argentine farmers and cattle ranchers have begun four days of demonstrations and stoppages ahead of the crucial meeting with the government this Tuesday. As Argentina begins to feel the full force of the global turn down and the drop on demand for its agricultural products, farmers and cattle ranchers are calling for taxes on soy and grain exportation to be postponed for six months. They also want to export more milk, meat and wheat. In addition to the drop on demand, vast swathes of Argentina's agricultural land have been affected by a severe drought this year. Argentina is the third largest soy producer in the world, exporting mainly to China. Brazil has said that it will buy it's wheat from other countries this year because Argentina is unable to provide sufficient quantities. Some estimate the impact of the drought on agricultural productivity is worth 15 billion dollars. Though the Argentine government has declared a state of emergency and put extra measures to help with the drought producers said is too little, too late. They tried to get a meeting with the government for months without any reaction or response. As the global recession begins to bite in Argentina, it seems that political conflicts between the government and agriculture will continue to get in the way of creating emergency policies to help with this essential part of Argentine economy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Zimbabwe Workers Paid in U.S. Dollars

Sherri Siegele

With focus on the recent appointment of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a candid interview is conducted between a professional Zimbabwe woman and the BBC. The woman’s identity is kept secret and her code-name is Esther.

With its inflation rate of 10 sextillion per cent, Tsvangirai announced that Zimbabwe will not adopt the South African rand as its currency rather it is taking a multi-currency approach. More importantly, Tsvangirai has already begun paying soldiers and civil service workers in U.S. dollars in his first attempt to begin rebuilding the economy. He estimates the rebuild will cost $5b. He is looking to direct foreign investment but investors remain leery due to conflicting policy signals.

Esther reports that as a result of workers being paid in U.S. dollars, supplies are beginning to hit store shelves for the first time in ages, food prices have begun to drop, garbage is being picked up for the first time in months, water is flowing without interruption, some companies are beginning to pay employees in forex, and a sense of hope is running through its capital city of Harare. She also reports that in a situation like theirs (Zimbabwe’s), people make a choice whether to live or die. If they choose life then they adapt to their surroundings, make the best of it, and try living life as normally as possible. At the same time, some 80,000 people have cholera of which nearly 4,000 have died, President Mugabe is throwing himself a lavish birthday party with tax-payers money, hospitals are not functioning, torture camps are all around, farm land remains feral, and the nominee for deputy agriculture minister remains in jail where not only his cell-mate but many prisoners have died of starvation. Back to the good news, it’s only been a couple of weeks since Tsvangirai was sworn in and it appears that progress is being made.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Imminent Mexican Civil War

We always speak of the wars we fight in distant lands, whether they are for freedom or for protection, or for preservation. We rarely, however, speak of the wars that are waged here at home. Mexico shares a 2000 mile boarder with the United States and this boarder has been ravaged by violence, drugs, and illegality.

Just Tuesday another four people were killed, while another 7 police officers were wounded. How is it that these occurrences are not being recognized in the media or, more importantly, by our government…

Danger in knocking on the doorstep of this country- the violence is spilling across boarders and the drugs are spreading through our states, corrupting youth and adult alike. Yet our government takes no action… The boarder fence sits unfinished and the boarder patrol is largely ineffectual at protecting our boarder towns.

The question becomes this, what action will the US take as Mexico continues to spiral towards civil war?

US Federal Court will not let 17 Turkic Muslim from Gitmo to the US

Soch Mel

This past wednesday, the federal court ruled that the 17 Turkic Muslims who were cleared to be release must now stay at the prison. As we know, Obama is pledging to quickly shut down the prison and set the prisoners not accused of a crime free. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D. C Circuit believes that the judge who made the ruling back in November 2008 when too far ordering US entry of these men.

This three-judge panel suggested that the detainees may be able to seek entry by applying to the Homeland Security Department who administers US immigration laws. The court said right out that these detainees have "no constitutional right to immediate freedom after being held in custody at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without charges for nearly seven years."

Attorney Emi MacLean stated it Obama is really sincere about making the changes to Gitmo, he should release these uncharged prisoners and allow them entry into the US. So far, the Obama administration has been very silent on where many of the other uncharged prisoners are being held, or who would take them if they are released.

Beijing has warned other nations to not accept the men if they cannot enter the US. The issue with the Uighurs is that some are wanting independence for Xinjiang; as we know from other countries and China's current policy, these freedom fighters that some may called can also be labeled terrorists by the state in power.

As of now these men have no where to go. At least 20% of the men being held at Gitmo could possibly face torture or worse if returned back to their home country. It's time for Obama to take some sort of action that is clear and precise; let us see if he stands up for human rights.

And just today, Beijing is urging that the detainees be return to China.

"Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the men belong to a violent separatist group and would be dealt with according to Chinese law, which forbids torture."

"We are against any country accepting these people."

These two quotes are unsettling in that trusting China won't torture these men seems unlikely. They also claim that these men belong to a violent separatist group, but I don't know enough background information to even suggest that claim. What may happen is that the US will give them up so that the relation between China and the US continue to grow.

Personally, I love Chinese history and culture, but when it comes to politics there is a different ideology in place where it would to us Westerners seem cruel. According to some Chinese thinking, there is a logical reasoning for their actions. Still I have not seen a country who treats its minorities fairly and just, not even the US.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cocaine price 'set to fall more'

Angela Hager

Cocaine is becoming cheaper in Europe. According to the UN drug smugglers are using new routes through the Balkans and West Africa. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says that the price drops will continue unless the supply is curtailed.

The route switches were to avoid the British and US Naval Patrols.

Is this increasing amount of cocaine within Europe, thus making it cheaper, caused by the open borders within the European Union? If it was more difficult to get legal goods through borders, would it be more difficult to get cocaine through?

The costs and benefits must be weighed. It might be too dangerous to have such open borders with so many countries. However, is the ease of goods, services, and people through Europe worth the risk of cheap cocaine?

Venezuela's Chavez declares victory in term-limits referendum

According to CNN's website Hugo Chavez will officially be able to run for a third term in 2012. The referendum, which was voted on Sunday night, ended with a 54.4% vote supporting Chavez's power to run for a third term. The referendum grants this power not only to the president,but also governors, mayors, national and international legislators. This event is said to be "a victory for a people and a clear victory for revolution." The article claims that much of the people,mostly students who were opposed to the idea, will respect the decision nonethless. The students were opposed because 300,000 newly eligible voters were not able to register. The election is said to be a test of his influence; the candidates he supported won a majority of the seats. More recently, a Spanish member of the European Parliament was expelled after calling Chavez a "dictator."

Afghan Civilian Death Toll on the Rise

The death toll for Afghan civilians rose 40% last year (2008). In addition to the 1,500 civilians that died in 2007, another 2,100 died in 2008. On both ends of the spectrum this has created speculation. With the tolls rising, Afghanistan is lessening its support for war, and pressuring President Hamid Karzai to do something about it. On the other end, with the decision to deploy more groups, tension is rising for President Barack Obama. The survey, taken by the UN, established that most of these deaths were a result of Taliban trying to hurt American troops (through suicide bombing, attacks, etc.). However nearly a thousand of those civilians were killed by Afghan government troop and American troop-led air strikes. There is speculation of the special Forces from America that are in Afghanistan. Special Forces do not need to report to field commanders, therefore; leading their attacks unknown to anyone. In addition to Special Forces, some comment that the air strikes that killed many people, were usually called in by distressed troops. There are a lot of problems with planned attacks because when they are planned, the civilians are not taken into account. When the attack happens, more civilians die than these forces think. The saddest part is that both sides are trying to fight the Taliban, but all the Taliban want is to see a lot of death. These leaves Afghan civilians scared and on their toes more often than not. The Taliban are set out to kill anyone who has a connection to the Afghan government, including schools. At the end of the UN survey, sum 640 have been closed due to Taliban threats. This leaves almost 230,000 children stripped of education.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Minister Quits at Bad Time for Japan’s Economy

Posted by Justin Bresolin

Financial minister of Japan, Shoichi Nakagawa, has resigned in the face of criticism of his unusual behavior at a recent news conference in Rome, giving slurred answers and displaying sluggish behavior in front of reporters. Though he denies it, many suspect drunkenness to be the reason behind the minister’s performance.
In spite of his desire to remain in office until remain in office until Parliament passed a number of measures designed to aid Japan’s budget, minister Nakagawa’s Tuesday resignation represents a major setback for Prime Minister Taro Aso, having held the position for less than a year at this point. Nakagawa’s perceived poor management of Japan’s economy, combined with his own social mishaps, have plummeted his approval rating to an estimated 10%, and recent figures show the Japanese economy contracting at a rate unmatched since 1974.
With 2009 featuring new parliamentary elections, the recent damage of the Aso administration’s image could mean the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party is voted out of office, an event that can trigger far-reaching changes in the country’s political landscape. Economic/fiscal minister Kaoru Yosano, a known fiscal conservative, will double as the finance minister for the time being, and it is unclear how he may change Japan’s economic policy. Yosano has previously called for higher taxation to combat rising national debt.
A jumbled political system combined with a crashing economy means that the country is entering a period of considerable national crisis, and many wonder if the current government is capable of handling the increased stress.

Controversial article about Colombia and the FARC

By Fiorella Bafundo

In an article from the Counterpunch Newsletter, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera analyzes the situation in Colombia, and what he says to be an existence relationship between the government of Colombia, presided by Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and the FARC, which are pointed as terrorists. What he argues is that the government in the name of respecting human rights, tries to talk with the FARC and gives them time to organize and keep existing, while a professor from a Colombian Law School claims that “you don’t talk to terrorists; you hit them harder and keep hitting them until you knock them down. Peace talk, humanitarian agreements and so on are a dangerous distraction. It gives them time to breath.”
It is clear that this point of view comes along with the viewpoint of a small group of Colombian people which are said to be the wealthiest people, and are threatening the government they say, in its monopoly to manage this situation and the information. Something very controversial they also point out is that what Uribe is only managing the situation but not solving the problem, in other words that would “mean that the two parties have come to realize that their political existence and persistence depends on the existence and persistence of the other.” It is a very controversial point of view that could be true or not…

Sudan Update-Progress?

Amanda Dominguez

Over 300,00 people have died in the Darfur region of Sudan for the past 6 years. It is a war that, for a while, we were unsure of the outcome. Now it it looking like there are steps towards improvement and possible further peace talks
On Tuesday the rebel group, Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudanese government came to an agreement that dealt with prisoner releases. Even though this may seem like a small step towards a more stable region, it is still progress. The two sides have decided to take these talks further and in two weeks with continue with more detailed talks.
The CNN article suggest that it is due to the recent charges brought forth by the ICC against Al-Bashir, Sudans leader, for his involvement. It seems too good to be true, but maybe there is something to be said about institutions being able to have some enforcement. If these charges reason for the changes happening in Darfur, then maybe cooperation can happen, even in the most devisated parts of the wrold.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chavez wins vote to scrap term limits in Venezuela

By Joshua Emberton

As an update last weeks blog, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez just won the referendum that would eliminate term limits and allow him to run for reelection indefinitely. This is important not only for for Venezuela, but for the United States and the rest of the world. Venezuela has after all, been a controversial open to American power.

The purpose of this referendum was so that Chavez could complete Venezuela's transition to Socialism. Not even Chavez knows how long this process will take. Just to pose a question but is this a sincere claim or a typical political stunt to hold onto the Office of the President?

Supporters of this referendum believe that if Chavez leaves, all the efforts for the poor will go with him.

Opponents claim that Chavez already has to much power with the Courts and the legal system and giving him this will be going over the line indefintely.

In my personal opinion, it is not democracy if you keep pushing a referendum through until you win. A country isn't something to be shaped by one person alone just because they think they have a good idea. However, it will be interesting to see what road Chavez takes his country with all his power.

Japan's GDP Slumps

According to CNN's website, Japan's economy, which is the second largest in the world is still slumping from a downturn in December. The largest year-on-year fall since 1967 is said to be taking place. THe country's output of cars, buses, and truck is down 25.2%. 27,000 people have been laid off recently, which is a result of this economic slump. A few weeks ago Japanese banks bought $11 billion in shares to ease this financial crisis.
Althought I am not an economist and many of the concept are confusing to me, but I recall the conversation in class about how much of the world's economies are intertwined with one another. We are not the only one's experiencing this negative economic turn. It would be interesting to follow the subsequent steps taken by Japan in order to help appease their crisis.

First Female Appointed to Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers

By Jacob Simkins

In a move advocates are calling Saudi Arabia’s first step towards women’s rights, King Abdullah appointed Norah al-Faiz as deputy minister for the department of women’s education, making her second in command on this issue. What remains unclear is whether she will have any real significant power. While other women have been appointed to lower councils and given positions, they have never been heard from, raising questions of the actual amount of power given to women. Under Saudi law, women are not allowed to drive and are legally the property of men. Advocates argue that even in her personal life, Al-Faiz has little power over her affairs, which instead rests with her male guardian.

Her appointment was not the only change of ministers in the council. The ministers for the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, along with the ministers of health, justice, culture and education were also replaced, all in an effort to show that the king was serious about reform and progress. The King maintains that he is fully supportive of women, and that as leader, he has always been on the side of women

Zimbabwe accuses new minister of terrorism

Roy Bennett, the former Zimbabwean opposition activist who was arrested Friday shortly before he was due to become a Cabinet minister, has been charged with conspiracy to commit banditry, sabotage and terrorism, his lawyer told CNN.
The Movement for Democratic Change nominated Bennett to be deputy minister of agriculture in a national unity government with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, which has ruled the country since independence in 1980.
Bennett was arrested on Friday while on his way to South Africa, where he has been living for three years. Bennett, who is also the party's treasurer, was pulled from an aircraft at the airport in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, the MDC said.
Police accuse him of funding the acquisition of weapons to commit the crimes he is charged with. Bennett will appear in the Mutare magistrate's court on Monday.
This is an ungoing crisis in all Africa with many corrupt officials. We will see what happens in the upcoming days.

Military Drafting Immigrants and Offering Citizenship

With our abundance of immigrants, and our position in Afghanistan and Iran, the military needs more soldiers. Now that our country has a growing population of immigrants, the military is offering them a spot in the American Forces. Why would they want to join? They obtain citizenship! By signing up for the military, the military waives the naturalization fees, so it is easier to obtain citizenship. It is a granted perk in less than six months if immigrants join. If an immigrant is temporary and has lived in the US for at least two years, they are eligible to join. The military believes that some immigrants may have more education, and know more about culture in different parts of the world than other Americans. The plan is to be executed in steps. The first step of the plan is 1,000 enlistees for the military branch alone. If this plan works the plan will spread out to the other branches. These temporary immigrants have to pass a series of tests, an intense background search, and must show pride for America above their native country. With the recent announcement of the deployment of 30,000 troops, it has been hard for the American military to receive many people willing to sign up for the war. Therefore, it was time for them to turn to the temporary immigrants. One code that will not be broken while this program grows is that illegal immigrants are not allowed to join. They must have proof of a legitimate green card. They are looking for people who speak more than one language, and/or medical professionals. If Spanish is the only other language a person speaks, they cannot sign up either.

Amazon Indians accused of Cannibalism

By Angrette

City officials of the Brazilian village of Envira reported to CNN that five members of the Kulina tribe are on the run after being accused of murdering, butchering and eating a farmer in a ritual act of cannibalism. Apparently members of the tribe took the life of Ocelio Alves de Carvalho last week in the outskirts of Envira. The men escaped after being held for a few hours in the city's police station. No arrest warrants were issued given that Brazilian law does not allow military of civil police to enter Indian lands. It remains unknown how many people took part of the cannibalistic ritual. The village's chief of staff, Maronilton da Silva Clementino said that the victim was herding cattle when a group of indians invited him to their reservation. Clementino stated that " they knew each other and sometimes helped one another". Relatives of de Carvalho decided to go into the reservation where they saw his body quartered and his skull hanging on a tree. News of the incident came from the Indians themselves who were supposedly bragging about how they ate the man organs. Members the deceased family are very frustrated with law in Envira, which they think protect Indians, but do not protect non-indigenous Brazilians. They have also complained about the delayed action of outside authorities who arrived three days after Carvalho's death to Envira.

The Human Impact on Global Warming

By Stephanie Chennell

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the I.P.C.C. announced recently that by the end of the century temperatures are likely to rise by 3.2-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit and sea levels to rise by 28-43 centimeters. These estimates are the first that have been presented in a way that suggests that humans are responsible for a large part of global warming (as much as 90 percent). In addition to rising temperatures and rising sea levels the I.P.C.C. also indicated that a rise in temperature will lead to stronger and more intense tropical storms that will leave much devastation behind. However, the I.P.C.C.'s projections may be wrong just as they were in their most recent report from 2001.

The Journal of Science found that the I.P.C.C.'s 2001 projections of rising temperatures and sea levels may have been severely miscalculated. The report suggested changes of .27-.63 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving quite a large space of leeway. However, the actual findings are a rise in temperature of .57 degrees Fahrenheit. This is much closer to the upper end of the scale and much more dangerous for environmental health. The sea levels estimates were also off dramatically. The sea levels have risen much more than was originally projected. All of this information suggests that estimates made by scientists can be dangerously underestimated and lead to greater environmental devastation as well as human devastation if nothing to done to slow the process of global warming. If as indicated by the I.P.C.C, humans are as much as 90 percent responsible, then much has to done by people and their governments to combat global warming.

2010 US Census a Controvesial Issue?

Soch Mel

Based on the title of this article, it sounds absolutely silly that something like the US census would be an important issue. But to Republicans and other conservatives, this is a big issue. This will be the first time in 30 years that the US census will be conducted under a democratic administration. Originally, the Obama White House put a Republican to head the Commerce Department will oversees the Census bureau. This was done so that Obama can continue his plan to bring both parties together.

However, Democrats were upset with this appointment since they felt this person would not do a accurate report on the census. He may try to skew the data so that the GOP can hold on to something. He was later replaced by a Democrat which made all the Republican angry; they accused the Obama white house of "power grab." Either way, the Republicans will undercount the numbers of Democrats while Democrats will probably overcount.

Having an accurate Census is hard since it includes Citizens and non-citizens in the country; many illegals or minorities might be hesitate to answer respond to a government survey out of the fear that the government may misuse the data.

The census become important because of this quote.

"The redistricting of local districts and reapportionment of congressional seats is based on census counts — a state could gain or lose seats based on its population, and shifts within a state determine plans for redrawing political boundaries."

So, it appears to be controversial in that the GOP is afraid of losing its power and its seats in the House and Senate to the Democrats. It is silly that this high school type feud is what both sides seems so focused on rather than coming to together and cooperate. From examples discussed in class, cooperations works; so why can't our government do it? Because many of them were probable either losers or the "big man" back in high school; they rather put on a show than do something because non of them want their pride to be hurt. It's no wonder sometimes that we can't stand our representatives in government, the two-party world does not serve our country's interest.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Zimbabwe's Plight

Sherri Siegele

Although Zimbabwe’s dictator Mugabe yesterday implemented the power-sharing agreement signing Tsvangirai (Movement for Democratic Change) into office as prime minister, Mugabe had a couple tricks up his sleeve; he had Tsvangirai’s deputy minister of agriculture arrested on scandalous charges almost immediately following the ceremony. Also, he showed up with 7 additional posts to be sworn into office outweighing Tsvangirai’s number of posts. Not a good start.

Tsvangirai’s first goal in office is to fix Zimbabwe’s shattered and possibly unfixable economy. Zimbabwe’s infrastructure is in ruins, most schools and hospitals are closed, the IMF stopped assistance a decade ago, direct investment into the country has stopped, their four primary sectors of export are defunct, agriculture doesn’t produce enough to feed its own country, tourism is almost non-existent, and the EU and U.S. refuse to give aid or lift sanctions until some sign of economic change, rule of law, improved human rights, and true power-sharing are displayed by Mugabe. One solution is for Zimbabwe to adopt South Africa’s rand as its currency. Ultimately, this means Zimbabwe would give up its trade sovereignty and become a province of South Africa. This is not something Mugabe will consider but it is something Tsvangirai’s would entertain.

All the while, 7 million Zimbabweans are in need of food and there’s an AIDS and cholera epidemic. The situation has been out of control for quite some time and it appears Mugabe wants to keep it that way. Clearly, people are starving to death and dying of disease but numbers are not being reported. Is this yet another genocide in the making? At what point will the UN, ICC, NGO’s, etc. decided to give this deserved attention?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pakistani Involvement with Indian Attacks

By: Mike Bozee

There is reason to believe that Pakistan was involved with last year's attacks in Mumbai, India. A senior Pakistani official recently admitted that some of the planning for these attacks took place in Pakistan. Officials are already at work with prosecuting suspects, in that members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group are being held. However, Pakistan denied responsibility shortly following the attacks.

The Indian government is relieved about Pakistan's recent admission of its role in the attacks last year, and it is surprised at the Pakistani government's change to work at combating extremists groups within its own borders. In the perspective of the Western world, it is viewed that it view remain skeptical about Pakistan's commitment to control violent Islamic extremists located in Pakistan.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Patrick Michael Maloney

4242, a wholly insignificant number when looked at on its own, but when cast into a greater context, takes on a much larger meaning. 4242 American troops have died in the 6-year Iraqi war. One must ask the question, for what? What did these 4242 brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, die for? We can console ourselves saying they died for their country, fighting an unseen terror of distant shores. We can also say that in joining the military these brave men and women were well aware of the possible outcome of their decision. We can also say that the world is a better place for their sacrifice, that we, as Americans, are safer than before.
I am, however, not convinced. Much of my contention lies with my belief that military force was unreasonable and unjustifiable in Iraq. Admittedly, there were the makings of possible, years in the future, nuclear capabilities discovered. However, if one examines many of the countries around the world they will discover a situation much like that of Iraq, nuclear materials, but no way to manufacture a nuclear device. This preemptive strike was not merited, but merely the product of bad intelligence and an ever growing fear of terror in the United States. This attack was not the well planned out military operations that have ensued in the past, but a haphazard conglomeration of troops assembled, with no clear exits in sight, to fight a preemptive warfare where preemption was not required.
This war was unjust and the injustice clearly violates the agreement between soldier and nation. A soldier swears to uphold justice and maintain peace, while Iraq was a threat to neither, at least domestically. So how can we justly assert the necessity of the casualties? How do we justify these deaths, knowing that they have been for naught?
Furthermore, how do we justify the 800,000 Iraqi casualties? Has the US really left Iraq in a better situation than before? America ethnocentrically forced democracy on a nation that was unready for such a change. Then left that a nation to tear itself to shreds.
And are we really safer for their sacrifice? We leave in a constant state of fear, our liberties have been stripped away, soldiers have lost their lives, and we torture innocents in Guantanamo Bay, but are we really safer because of all of this or is everything merely a product of the Republican fear mongering in a post 9/11 world?
Sometimes situations like these leave us with more questions than answers, as is the case here. However, despite all the questions that we feel the need to ask of the past, there is only one real question about the future, what do we do now?

Countries face new UK visa rules

by: Angela Hager

It will now be tougher for people from five countries to visit the United Kingdom. South Africa, Bolivia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Venezuela all failed security tests by the UK's Home Office. Anybody from these countries will need to be fingerprinted and purchase a visa in order to enter the country, even if they are only visiting for a short time.

Six months ago the 11 countries were told they needed to improve their passport security, or they would enter this list. The five previously mentioned countries failed to prove that their security for obtaining passports had improved.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said that the government was going to get tough on security and that "Fingerprint visas make up one part of Britain's triple ring of security, alongside high-tech watch-list checks at the border and ID cards for foreign nationals."

South Africa is the fifth largest contributer of tourists after the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Japan.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

24 dead in Brazil plane crash

Twenty-four people died in a plane crash in Brazil's Amazon basin, civil defense authorities in western Brazil said Sunday.
Four passengers survived and were rescued by emergency teams after the plane -- a Brazilian-made Bandeirante turboprop -- went down Saturday afternoon.
The plane crashed in the Manacapuru River, a tributary of the Solimoes River, in Brazil's Amazonas state.
It had taken off from Coari, about 225 miles (360 kilometers) southwest of Manaus, the state capital.
This has been the latest of many airplane crashes in Brazil. Being Brazilian, it makes me wonder why there are so many crashes in Brazil? What is the world doing to help them? Brazil, though not a 1st world country yet, struggles in many areas, and aviation coordination is one of them.

Venezuela Campaign gets Rough

By Josh Emberton

Hugo Chavez, a name that doesn't bring with it much enthusiam to most American's is up and at it again. It is the final stretch before the country votes on a referendum that will allow Chavez to run for election indefinitely and things have turned rather ugly.

Chavez supporters have turned rather vigilant in their support of this referendum. The State owned media seems to be placing pressure on some of the opposition. Violent acts have erupted and intensified not only at the opposition, but groups that assist and shelter them. La Piedrita takes credit for a lot of the attacks at the student opposition, as if its something to brag about. The issue of rising violence and inflation are two issues that opponents of Chavez are highlighting.

The population seems to support Chavez more than his actual party. Possibly do to Chavez powerful voice and his support towards the poor class. His political skills are just extroadinary in my opinion even if you don't agree with him. However, without a suitable leader to challenge Chavez, if this referendum passes he will most likely remain in power for quite some time.

Personally, these repressive acts show just how dangerous Chavez, or at least his supporters have become. This alone should signify that Chavez needs to step down if only to mitigate some of the violence. However, since I am sure he is engaging in some of these repressive acts of the opposition, I doubt this courteous act will not happen..

26 Dead in Madagascar Violence

By: Ally Pawelczyk

An anti-governmental rally has left 26 dead and more than 80 injured in Madagascar's capital city of Antananarivo according to an article posted on CNN's website. Ban Ki-Moon has urged leaders to use democratic and peaceful means in order to resolve any domestic issue and called for "an exercise of responsible leadership." The main issue is the uncertainty of who should be running the government. Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo declared himself the nation's leaders, but President Marc Ravalomanana fired him. Rajoelina held a rally for supporters which turned violent; the source of the gunshots is still unknown. The World Bank claims that the average citizen of Madagascar makes an annual salary of $320 a year, while the current president has recently bought a $60 million airplane.

French Toxic Ship Docks in England

According to CNN, a French Naval vessel loaded with toxic material is going to dock in Northeast England for recycling.  The ship, active for the French Navy for over 40 years, contains "high levels of asbestos and other hazardous materials".  The ship has been at sea for years trying to find a location to be recycled at.  Originally it was turned away by Turkey and Greece.  Next, plans were implemented to turn the vessel into an artificial reef.  The plans were rejected based on environmental reasons.  The French then looked to dispose of it in India in 2006.  Greenpeace activists boarded the ship and hung flags on the masts saying, "asbestos carrier: stay out of India".  The French didn't have anywhere else to go until the British decided to take it.  The decommissioning of the vessel should create 200 jobs in the region.
The interesting thing about this article is the success that Greenpeace had in altering the French government's plans for the ship.  The issue of dumping hazardous materials is something that doesn't get addressed enough, with an NGO having to lead the charge to prevent France from taking questionable actions in waste removal.  I'm glad that this story had a happy ending, but some sort of international oversight is necessary.

Sweden aims to lift ban on neuclear ban

Amanda Dominguez

After almost 30 years of banning the development of their nuclear program, Swedan has decided to take steps twards lefting this ban and developing neuclear energy. The 1980 referendum was implemented to phase out nuclear development, but since then only 12 reactors have closed and 10 are still in place and supply about 50% of Sweden's electricity. The other percentage coming from hydro-power. This project, however, would not be a government funded. They hope by lifting this ban they will be able to do their part in the fight against global climate change. Center party leader said that he was doing this for his children and grand children, dispute his former skepticism towards nuclear power. Parliamnet has yet to vote on lifting the ban, but if they vote in favor, reactors will be updated and more will be built.

Ex-Leader of Iran Announces Candidacy

By Latoyia Kimbrough

According to an article in the New York Times there is a new Presidental Candidate in Iran. After many months of speculation, former President Mohammad Khatami, who favored more social and political freedom in Iran said that he would run in the presidential election held in June. He served eight years from 1997-2005 as President of Iran but his reformist allies in Parliament were banned from running for re-election. He announced his election at a news conference in Tehran saying that “I never had any doubts; it is possible to be indifferent”. Mr. Khatami has a broad base of supporters and he could pose a serious challenge to current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was going to seek re-election. Mr. Khatami stated in his announcement in Tehran that “the Iranian nation’s historical demand is to have freedom, independence and justice, and I will work for that”. Mr. Ahmadinejad overturned many of the social and political freedoms that Mr. Khatami had placed into law. Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the ultimate power on domestic and foreign policy and he has on occasion favored Mr. Ahmadinejad in his speeches but it is unclear as of now who is the most likely to win the presidential race.

Ecuador Expels US Diplomat

By: Jacob Simkins

BBC is reporting that Ecuador has expelled a senior US diplomat after accusations that he had suspended Aid to Ecuador's anti-drug program. Rafael Correa, Ecuador's popular left-wing leader, accused diplomat Armando Astorga, who had already left the country, of treating Ecuador like a colony. The US embassy has denied any wrongdoing on the part of Astorga.

However, Ecuador under Correa and the United States have decent relations with one another, and the conflicts that have occurred have been low-key compared to other left-wing governments in Latin America.

The past week, Correa has gone on a television campaign accusing the U.S. government of attaching conditions, including the right to appoint the head of the anti-narcotics department of the police force, with Mr. Astorga as the key negotiator. The U.S. and Ecuador have clashed over drug policy, most notable Ecuador's refusal to renew airbase leases, from which the US mounts anti-narcotic missions.

German economy minister will leave government

by: Brian Meents
from: BusinessWeek

Germany's economy minister said Sunday he will leave the government. The decision came after a chaotic weekend that did little for the image of Merkel's (Chancellor) conservative bloc, and the CSU in particular, before national elections in September. Glos has been involved in the government's efforts to steer Europe's biggest economy through the global crisis; notably a 50 billion euro ($64 billion) stimulus plan currently on its way through the parliament. The minister, Michael Glos (age 64) said that the reason he was leaving was due to his age and his lack of desire to stay in the Cabinet after the election.

Russia and Cuba rekindle old ties.

The presidents of Russia and Cuba signed a strategic partnership and several other documents aiming to rekindle an alliance that collapsed after the Cold War. This partnership will seek to expand cooperation in agriculture, manufacturing, science and tourism. This is part of a larger Russian push into Latin America to secure new markets. Russian officials promised the delivery of 25,000 tons of grain and a 20 million loan for the development of Cuba's construction, energy and agricultural sectors. However both leaders had avoid getting into details concerning a military alliance. Like Venezuela, Cuba had Russian military visitors lately, neither Medvedev or Castro speak publicly about matters concerning military cooperation. Since the start of Obama presidency anti-American sentiments have tone down considerably therefore critics think this sentiment is not the reason for renewing ties. Nevertheless the effects of the Global Economic Crisis have forced Russia to scale back it's plans in Latin America. Cuba has also been acting cautiously toward the agreements given to Moscow abandonment of the country in the 1990's leaving it impoverished and isolated. While the recent visit of Cuban President Raul Castro to Moscow does not carry the ideology weight evident at the peak of the Cold War vestiges of those day still remain.

Changes in Washington

The Munich Security Conference has paved new paths for the United States. For the first time in a long time, the United States promised to not only listen but to help with the global problems and to work more closely with Europe. It also promised to smooth things over with Russia, not promising to come to complete agreement over everything, but rather to come to agreements when they can. America's new found generosity and concern does not come without a price tag as BBC's article put it, for the United States is asking for help with closing Guantanamo Bay as well as to consider force when necessary to deal with global issues. The international community is a little hesitant of the United States and this sudden change of mood, but is interested to see where it will lead. Even in Russia where tensions have been high, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivano called the change the United States' is expressing an inspiring optimism.

China is not Free of the Current Economic Crisis

Soch Mel

In Guangzhou China many migrant workers are returning back to city ending their Chinese New Years celebration early out of fear that they many not have any jobs to return back too. Reported last Thursday the 5th about 3 million migrants out of a total 9.7 million had already return back to the urban centers. China in not recession proof as much as the government would like to think it is. Currently the government released data from a survey at estimates about 20 million Chinese Migrant workers are unemployed out of 130 million migrant workers total. About 10 million of these migrant workers lost their jobs during the third quarter as the crisis was unfolding and many factories closing.

To help combat this problem, the Prime Minister of mainland China Wen Jiabao hinted that the government will pursue a $585 economic stimulus plan to help smooth out the situation. This is just a little bit ironic to me as that is what we are trying to do too and now for roughly the same amount.

Still many factories are closing, or in the case of a factory in the city of Dongguan, right next to Guangzhou, reopening are delayed because there is a lack of demand for cheap Chinese good. One company owner stated that he has not seen this kind of situation since the early 1990s when China was slowly beginning to rise economically.

There have been small protest related to work by laborers, but many, including the government, are fearing that there could be record mass protest this year compared to last year and before. The rising tension and unhappiness is placing the government on alert as they are increasing security presence in all public places. Loud speakers are telling them not to litter, move quickly, not sit or squat which to us is just a bit funny but serious to the Chinese government.

Another issue is where will many of these migrant workers sleep? Many of the factories provided a place to rest for their employees, but the dorms had to be shut down because of the current economic situation. This could be a very scary image.

If we are to help each other get out of this situation, we need to increase non-essential spending up a bit so that capital continues to flow and that people can work and make a living. As bad as we may have it, these migrant workers have it really bad. This recession will most likely be here for a while, we need to coup and spend just enough so that every industry doesn't shut down.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Is the War in Gaza a "Real" War?

By Fiorella Bafundo

In one interesting article from a Palestinian Website, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), talks about the “unfair” war in Gaza, as one of the examples or the “genocide” (according to him) that “the world’s fifth-largest military industrial complex” (Israel) is carrying out against the Palestinian. He claims that the international community does not act and intervene because of the monopolization of the mass media by Israel, and he says that the media focuses on the “rare instances of Palestinian violence.”
He also argues that the international community is shown a “war” in Gaza by the Israel media, while at the same time is not a war but in his view (as Palestinian view) it is “an asymmetric massacre.” He compares what the Palestinians are doing fighting for their rights, freedom and democracy with the movements in the United States of America of the African Americans leaded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in the 1950s and 1960s. “If Americans were allowed to watch the daily brutality committed against peaceful protesters, they would immediately connect our plight to that of the African American Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Zimbabwe; A Lean Towards Democracy?

Sherri Siegele

I visited Zimbabwe a year and a half ago. The dinner tab for six of us was 65 million Zimbabwe dollars ($241). Since then, the dollar has eroded to almost nothing, a disputed presidential election ended with the incumbent dictator (Mugabe) as the winner, nearly half its people require food aid, the UN and Jimmy Carter were denied access to the country, and a cholera break-out has caused bordering states to protect their countries. In September of 2008 a power-sharing deal where the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition leader Tsvangirai would be granted a seat as prime minister yesterday became a constitutional amendment. Along with this came the release of Biti who last June was arrested and nearly sentenced to death for being accused of a coup against Mugabe. The MDC is also calling for the release of many MDC activists who were jailed as part of the election process.

During the election process Mugabe showed his muscle power. When it was first determined that Tsvangirai had won the election, Mugabe used the ZANU—PF militia to intimidate and commit violent atrocities against society forcing Tsvangirai to withdraw. Although Mugabe has agreed to this power-sharing government, time will tell whether or not it gives the MDC enough power have a positive effect on the country and/or to overthrow Mugabe.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


MONSTER SNAKE REMAINS FOUND!!! Scientists in Colombia unearther a snake that stretched almost 43 feet and wieghed almost 2,500 pounds. You may ask, at this point, what the relevance to international politics is. At first I was asking the same question. I will not lie, at first i was trying to fabricate some reason so I could just post about the giant snake, but out of my efforts have realized that the information the snake provides us with is very relevant today.
Snakes are cold blooded, meaning their matabolisms are powered by external heat. A snake of this magnitude must have had a lot of external heat in the environment to possibly have survived. Scientists estimate that the snake would have required a mean temperature of 91 degrees fairenhiet. This temperature, in Colombia, is a full ten degrees higher than what the mean temperature is today. So, over a period of 60 million years the worlds temperature has cooled a startling 10 degrees. Can we say global climate change anybody?
This is why we do not see giant reptiles anymore, the world is simply not warm enough to facilitate the monstrous proportions of old. In the case of the large killer snakes, this is a good thing, but in the case of the rest of the world, the results are not so favorable. This global climate change has already whiped out these historic species. Are human beings next?

Tension over British Council in Iran

By: Mike Bozee

Tension has been mounting as the result of the British Council operating in Iran. The Iranian government claims that the British Council has been operating illegally, despite the council being a non-political body. According to the council's chief executive, the council has suspended all activity and even let go of a handful of employees. The council is an independent non-profit charity aimed at improving relations between Iran and the UK. Despite Iran's mindset toward the council and its activities, the council's chief officer hopes that activities can resume as soon as possible. Some of Iran's tension toward the British Council, however, might be rooted in the fact that Britain is one of the countries urging Iran to comply with UN demands regarding its nuclear program. Until Iran and the British Council resolve their conflicts, this issue will only deteriorate relations between the two nations.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bolivia has lithium, and the president intends to make world pay for itBolivia has lithium, and the president intends to make world pay for it

Most countries are now moving towards making hybrid cars. However, half of the world's lithium is based out of Bolivia, and lithium is exactly what automakers need in order to make their cars. As Japanese and European automakers make their way to Bolivia to get lithium, Bolivia is aware that the US may soon make a move for Bolivia's lithium. Of course, Bolivia has not so nice feelings towards the US, and has already brought up the fact that they nationalized their oil for us. There is a goal to keep foreigners away for a while due to the fact Bolivia isn't quite sure how they are going to handle how much money will come from this business. Along with foreigners wanting their lithium, lithium farmers are also speaking up and saying that they want a share of whatever goes to foreign companies. Many car companies are keeping their eye on Bolivia's lithium because not only does it weigh less than a nickel, it is used in the batteries of the hybrid cars. US studies show that essentially 5.4 million tons of lithium could be extracted from Bolivia's salt deserts. Clearly, this makes the US very interested, especially since General Motors just took a dive in the market. However a quote from Saúl Villegas, head of evaporates, says Bolivia's expectation quite clearly, "Maybe there could be the possibility of foreigners accepted as minority partners, or better yet, as our clients." As one of South Americas least developed country, Bolivia now needs to find the funds to back a project that could potentially reestablish Bolivia's economy. We will just have to see what happens.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shoe hurled as Chinese PM speaks

by: Angela Hager

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was visiting the Cambridge in the United Kingdom to give a speech on the global economy.

A protester decided to show what he really thought of the PM by removing his shoe and throwing it. According to reports, the shoe landed about a meter (3 feet) from Mr. Wen.

Police confirmed that the protester had been arrested on suspicion of a public order offense. However, not every detail is clear. One news agency is reporter that the protester shouted "How can the university prostrate itself with this dictator," and another reported that the audience shouted "shame on you!" as police escorted him out.

Many protests about Chinese human rights violations took place during Mr. Wen's visit.

Mr. Wen is on a European Tour, and still has stops in Germany, Spain, and Belgium. In his visit to the UK, he talked with Prime Minister Gordon Brown about trade between the two countries and battling the economic crisis.

The incident is similar to when George W. Bush had a shoe thrown at him in Iraq.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Iceland's New PM Marks Milestone

Johanna Sigurdardottir is a 66 year old openly gay woman, she is also the new Prime Minister of Iceland. PM Sigurdardottir was elected as the first openly lesbian head of state in the world. This comes at a time when much of western Europe is changing its views on sexual orientation. Many people in Iceland feel that her sexual orientation is a non issue and indeed it seems the rest of the world is making a much bigger deal out of this historical moment than the country it occurred in. This is encouraging to the many government official that have recently come-out and other openly gay and lesbian people running in upcoming elections. A tide is turning in Western European politics when sexual orientation is no longer a concern for over 72% of Spanish voters; even with Spain being a predominately catholic country. With this latest election in Iceland many people were much more excited about the fact that men and women were now equally represented in parliament. While these examples show progress at it's best, their is still a long road ahead, particularly in eastern Europe. The former soviet counties are much behind the rest of Europe in the areas of civil rights and social progress. One can only hope that these significant milestones in gay and lesbian rights spread quickly throughout the whole of Europe and onto the rest of the world.

New Somali President

The beginning of Sheikh Sharif’s presidency raises more questions than provides answers. For one, how can this new regime change, or establishment in this case, possibly bring peace out of the chaos that has consumed the failed state of Somalia? How can Sharif possibly expect to bring hope to the people of his nation, with all the conflicting views and the absolute anarchic world that they live in? And dealing with an international trans-sovereign problem that more closely concerns the rest of the world, how Sharif deal with the Somali Pirates, or the rest of the organized crime that has been exerted upon the rest of the world? More importantly, will Sharif maintain any semblance of legitimacy within his nation?
As I said, we have arrived at questions that compound into deeper, more elaborate questions. Perhaps the questions that I have asked are not the questions that should be asked, however. Maybe we should ask ourselves if it is our duty, as a hegemonic world super power, to step in and provide the Sharif regime with the legitimacy that it so desperately needs to combat the crime and poverty and hunger that ravage its citizens. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if it is really a time of change, if it Americas time to become, or return to being, the beacon of hope and aspiration of the world. I tend to want to believe that we, as Americans, are good people. However, evidence over the past decades has demonstrated that America has chosen the path of isolationism when it should have chosen the path of interdependence, and, likewise, chosen the path of interdependence when that of isolation should have been taken. So, what is the right course of action, but, most importantly, what will the course of action or inaction be?

Senators work for bipartisan support on stimulus

by: Brian Meents

This article discusses how President Obama's stimulus plan will still need some work for the senate to pass it. The majority of the Republicans as well as a few democrats still oppose the proposal in its current form and want to slash what they call wasteful spending from the bill, so moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats will be more likely to vote for it. Some senators still feel that some of the proposed programs are unnecessary and won't create jobs. Some senators feel that it might be a good idea for the president to offer up two separate bills, one for job creation and another for programs Democrats think were neglected during the Bush years. The full Senate plans to vote on its version of the bill Wednesday. Should the Senate and House pass different versions, the two bills would have to be conferenced together. Then both chambers would have to vote on the conference version. The way it looks right now it will be a while before both agree, and the American people are in need of some help sooner than later.

Idling Factories Keep The Kremlin Occupied

Posted by Justin Bresolin

Ulyanovsk, a city well known for its automotive factories, has had its main plant and factories remain closed since the customary New Year holiday. Though its approximate 16,500 employees have been promised their jobs back this month, many worry that this will not be the case, and that the “administrative vacation” that has kept workers at home might develop into outright job loss, a fear shared with Russians across the country in what might be the first considerable authority challenge to the Russian government since Putin took power in 2000.

The Kremlin fears that the slowly growing concern and discontent might develop into full-blown protest across the nation, a severe problem to be added to an already slumping economy that has funneled around 200 of its $600 billion financial reserves into its failing bank system. Though Ulyanovsk remains calm at this time, in part due to government-provided financial aid to keep workers’ salaries going during their downtime, many wonder how long this might last.

They’re at it again! Israel and Hamas

Sherri Siegele

The power struggle between Israel and Hamas sparked again late this evening. As is often the case it’s difficult to determine who really started it and Israel has yet to comment on the incident. Either way, at least two Israeli bombs targeted a Hamas police station and underground tunnels. No casualties were reported primarily because advanced warning allowed people to clear the area. More meetings amongst Palestinian and Hamas spokespeople are being planned to further discuss cease fire. So far, the Egyptian’s attempt to mediate has failed. With Palestinian leader Abbas demanding supremacy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation before being open-minded enough to have a meaningful treaty it doesn’t look like this is going to stop any time soon. Gaza isn’t that big; are there any tunnels left to bomb?

Mayor Declares a Coup in Madagascar

By: Latoyia Kimbrough
An article in the New York Times discusses the Island of Antananarivo, Madagascar and the deadly antigovernment protests that threaten this democratic country. Just days ago one of the two politicians claiming to run the country Major Andry Rajoelina declared that he was now in charge, threatening the power of this country’s current president Marc Ravalomanana. Rajoelina and his supporters accused the president of being a dictator who cares nothing about the people in one of the poorest countries in the world. More than half of its 20 million citizens live on less than $1 a day. Rajoelina said before a crowd of 3,000 people on Saturday that “since the president and the government have not taken their responsibilities, I proclaim I will now rule Madagascar and set up a transitional government. A request for the immediate resignation of the president will soon be filed with Parliament in order to comply with the legal procedure”. The military of the country refused to choose sides and last week the hostility turned violent.
Last Monday, the conflict between the two politicians erupted when authorities battled anti-Ravalomanana demonstrators. More than 30 people died in a fire at a building full of small shops. Some estimate that there have been more than 100 people dead from the two days of protests and there is the possibility of more bloodshed ahead. Soldiers arrived to the rally on Saturday but left after being assaulted with rocks thrown from the crowd. American ambassador R. Niels Marquardt said that “they’re intent on keeping order, but their position now is they want to remain neutral”. He also believes that the solution is for the feuding politicians to exchange ideas and unity the country. They both claim that they are willing to communicate but there is always something that prevents them from coming together. The citizens are unhappy with the government and this is displayed by a woman’s comments made on the capital’s radio station. She states that “politicians always use the poor people to get into power, and then they forget us and I don’t believe them anymore.”

Kenyan Fires Dubbed National Disasters

By: Mike Bozee

Well over 100 people in Kenya have died due to recent fires. There were at least 25 casualties in a supermarket fire in Nairobi. The larger disaster consisted of a petrol tanker explosion that killed upwards of 111 Kenyans. These people, unfortunately, were gathered around in tanker trying to collect spilled fuel when the fire broke out. It has been pointed out that poverty is a contribution issue, since the people were desperately trying to save the fuel, despite potential physical danger. Kenyan authorities have been blamed, in that these tragedies were results of failure to address public safety. In addition, the emergency response system in Kenya has been criticized, since medical teams were slow to arrive at the scenes and offered inadequate care to the casualties. These two fires, occurring within a week's span, are being described as national disasters.

Iceland's New Prime Minister

A new prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, was announced in Iceland. Sigurdardottir is the first modern world's openly gay politician replacing the previous prime minister, Geir Haarde. Prior to her appointment she was a social affairs minister, member and creator of the National Movement party and finally a member of the Social Democratic Party. Her recent appointment was due to the economic crisis that looms in Iceland and around the world, but is only temporary until the May elections. Sigurdardottir has been openly gay for much of her political career, and remained popular with Iceland's residents even during times of political turmoil. She has many plans to help Iceland out of its crisis, among the list of priorities are to replace the board of governors and to discuss plans for entering the European Union.

Pakistan: 43 civilians die in Taliban crossfire

At least 43 civilians were killed Sunday when they were caught in the crossfire between Pakistani forces and Taliban militants, a Pakistani military official said.
The incident happened in Charbagh, a district of Swat Valley in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
The mountainous Swat Valley region used to be a popular destination for tourists and skiers, but today it is a Taliban stronghold.
The Pakistani government and the army have come under criticism in recent weeks for allowing the security situation in Swat to deteriorate in the past few months. Islamabad has said there are plans for a new strategy to fight the Taliban, but they have yet to offer details.
U.S. President Barack Obama has called Afghanistan the "central front" in the war on terror and has promised to make fighting extremism there, and in neighboring Pakistan, a foreign policy priority. He is expected to send as many as 30,000 additional U.S. troops to battle Taliban forces.