In the news…

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts (see ‘Sunday Times’ posts earlier), but I think I’ll try to get back to them.  The titles may take on some variations so please bear with me, after all this whole blog is a big experiment for me! Do you have any suggestions? What kind of stories do you mostly follow? If you have any links to add, please feel free to comment!

Central/South America 

Chavez is, in a way, the ultimate ‘politician.’  Half martyr, mostly calculating.  Always in power.

Middle East/North Africa

Because Ahmedinejad is that girlfriend you go to when you’re feeling down about something, ready with ice cream, junk food, and a hopeful message.

There’s no snark here about Syria.  The rebels advance on Aleppo, despite the repeated hits they have taken.

Do you remember that time Morsi kept getting in his own way?

Africa

Ghanaians as tired of election cycle as Americans; ‘technical difficulties’ adopted as well.  However, they do have a new President, John Mahama!

Because things aren’t dire enough in Sudan…

Asia/South Asia

At the COP18, United Nations Climate Conference this past week, the Philippines delegate was brought to tears over this, and rightly so.  Climate change has a very real impact.

Rampant poverty and corruption are like totes ok, cos, like, these kids were for realz posting crap on Facebook. Oh yeah, and giving in to fear after the death of Bal Thackeray was not at all akin to Stockholm Syndrome.  Not at all, because he was not the real-life Indian version of a Corleone.

Another tragedy in Afghanistan; for women.  What are men so scared of that they will kill as a result of it?

International Trade

I hope people realize every conflict probably starts with food.

Big Macs taste different in Moscow.

Sports

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Messi, but I bow down to this feat.  What a talent!

 

And your Laugh of the Day: He just went in for an end table

 

 

Delayed post: Obama wins! And the first few weeks…

Well, it’s been a little crazy in the world since President Obama was re-elected!  Unbiased journalism be damned, I’m very happy about this!  Yes, he’s not perfect, but can you imagine the alternative?

And honestly, who doesn’t love the First Family?! So amazing to see Sasha and Malia grow up before our eyes.

However, now the dust has settled and the real work begins.  Drones, the fiscal cliff, the foreign policy cliff, the fact that Obama didn’t win by an overwhelming majority of the popular vote are all issues that will need to be addressed.

Perhaps we’ve seen signs setting the tone for the next administration already.

The President at a recent press conference after being asked about Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsay Graham’s out right refusal to approve United Nations Ambassador for the position of Secretary of State should she be nominated:

And then there’s this whole General Petraeus MESS.  A ridiculous soap opera which has effectively ended the storied career of a man who was doing a solid job, by most accounts, commanding the war in Afghanistan.  There are some rumors about how the CIA would have had to have asked the FBI to investigate the General’s emails and..ahem…personal communications.  Why would they do this?  Well, from what I’ve read Petraeus was not well liked by some at Langley because he came in from the outside instead of an intelligence officer from within being promoted.  Of course, this might just be speculation from the reports I’ve read however.  There’s the other side of the story that Kardashian look-alike Jill Kelly and her shirtless FBI paramour were the ones who initiated and then pushed for the investigation.   Fact is, he has resigned and WE’RE STILL AT WAR.

Despite the the threat to national security secrets, a crime was not found to be committed.  To be honest, given his history, I don’t really care who he’s sleeping with as long as that information is kept where it needs to be kept.  It remains to be seen what kind of effect this will have in the future.

If you think this is confusing and ridiculous…it is. Via Washington Post

Further posts regarding Burma/Myanmar, Israel/Gaza, attending a sustainability/corporate social responsibility conference, Bal Thackeray’s death in Bombay, and much more.  I’ve been pretty lax in regaling you with information essential and in a feeble attempt to improve my writing speed, I’ve decided to do my own version of NaNoWriMo – 30 posts or more in the next 30 days.  Please pass on my blog to any and all interested!

Sunday Times

Here’s this week’s new stories I’m following:

Syria

As a Correspondent at the UN right now, I learned quickly that the organization has a massive reach and can be powerful, but when that power fails in concrete action the effects are deadly.  The United Nations Security Council has faced frustrating vetos from Russia and China and now the United Nations Supervisory Mission in Syria (#UNSMIS) is ending today, with no clear ceasing of violence.  With Kofi Annan’s resignation a few weeks ago, Mohammed El-Baradei was set to lead negotiations by the Arab League (Al Arabiya).  The UN has now named, Lakhdar Brahimi as the new envoy, a former Algerian foreign minister and man who helped end the war in Lebanon – a country that has seen Syrian violence creep across it’s border.

However, one interesting development is the disappearance of Farouq al-Sharaa (CNN).  I say ‘interesting’ rather than ‘progress and win for rebels’ because reports vary on whether his absence is due to defection or if the Assad regime predicted his dissidence and remedied it.  It sounds a bit conspiratorial perhaps, but I would not put it past any government willing to kill so many of their own children.

Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder and accused rapist.  But, if you look at the media coverage it seems that second fact seems to be lost in the overwhelming asylum issues and diplomat cable emails which were leaked by Assange and Wikileaks.

He says the United States should ‘stop their witch hunt for Wikileaks’ but what about those women in Sweden who want to face their accused rapist?  Is this another case of an ‘uncomfortable womens’ issue’ being subverted in the media for?  I wonder what would happen if Assange was not part of controversial Wikileaks.  I think those charges play a huge role in the asylum debacle Assange has gotten himself into at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.  Here’s a primer on the issue from CNN.

A Dark Day in South Africa

In Marikana, South Africa there is a mine owned by Lonmin (AllAfrica), a subsidiary of the world’s largest platinum producer – Anglo Platinum.  The country is home to nearly 80% of known platinum in the world.

Mining conditions throughout the country are notoriously hazardous and mining is a dangerous profession even here in the States.  On top of that, the Marikana miners felt they were underpaid, highlighting the already large and growing inequality in South Africa.   On August 10, approximately 3000 workers went on strike demanding a pay raise which would result in a monthly salary equivalent to approximately $1500 USD/month.

The clashes began between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the latter which considers themselves a distinct and apolitical faction of the former.

Eyewitness accounts differ according to what I have read, but approximately 500 members of the South African Police shot and killed 34 strikers miners and wounded almost 80 more.  Reports (South Africa Times) indicate some of the miners were armed with machetes, clubs, and possibly guns.  Reactions (Mail & Guardian – South Africa) are, as expected, angry, sad, and hint at the days of apartheid.

Here’s video from International Business Times UK, of that day (Warning: The video contains violent content):

On Trade:

The United States is now accusing Iraq of helping Iran circumvent trade sanctions (New York Times).  It’s my belief trade sanctions don’t work, but that’s for another post all together.

Back to the States:

This is a must-read piece, written about the horrible week religious institutions have faced this past week in America, the land of religious freedom (as long as you’re not Brown?)  (Written by @GhazalaIrshad)

I’m writing a piece regarding the foreign policy implications of a Romney-Ryan election win, so stay tuned for that.

Sunday Times (Afternoon edition)

As promised, here’s a roundup of news stories I have been following recently and will continue to monitor this coming week:

Olympics - I have an almost unhealthy amount of love for the Olympics, not just #London2012 but all Olympic Games.  I’ll provide a run down of my favorite and most memorable moments from these Games in a future post to prevent my inevitable post-Olympics depression – yes, it’s like that.

The Curious Case of SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) – It was just announced Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has sacked SCAF leader, Mohammed Husein Tantawi (Al Jazeera English).  A new Defense Minister, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has been appointed.  It was an unexpected move and questions are swirling as to whether this move is even allowed given the Constitution.  Was this a back-room deal, part of a bigger plan?  Is the Constitution annulled? What other minister positions could change?

Paul Ryan, Boy Wonder or Blue-eyed Blunder? On Saturday morning, well before my morning coffee and tea, U.S. Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney announced his Vice President running mate, House of Representaties Member from Wisconsin Paul Ryan (Daily Beast).

I get worried when a leader in a deeply politically divided country cites Ayn Rand as a large influence.  It shows inflexibility in approaching team work and bipartisanship for the good of forward progress.  At 42, he is quite young and unlike Romney, has spent all his career (PolitiFact) in politics.  He’s also particular bad news for womens’ rights and economic quality.  My thoughts are that he was brought on board because he seems slightly, only slightly, more accessible than Dresage ‘I have an elevator for my cars’ Romney.  Also, because his Ryan Plan for Saving the Rich, err, his economic plan, was better received by the public that the 59-point plan of vagueness by Romney.  On the heels of a gaffe-filled trip (The Gothamist) ignoring and insulting the media overseas to the London Games, Poland, and Israel – I feel Romney’s pick of Ryan further highlights his dangerous disinterest in foreign affairs (Foreign Policy) and push for isolationism.

ImageSyria – The rebels try to hold on as the United Nations Security Council makes no progress (Foreign Policy), with frustrating vetoes and blocks from the Russian and Chinese delegations.  According to the UN, the number of refugees from the Syrian conflict is over 145,000, with many in camps in Turkey and Jordan (New York Times).  The death toll has been reported as a shocking 18,000.  And yet, the rebels continue to try and fight  Assad’s forces, while Aleppo is decimated (Washington Post).

In any conflict of this nature, womens’ concerns and safety are too often ignored and they are subjected to a particularly cruel role.  The New York Times’ Samar Yazbek has a fascinating piece from the female perspective in the Syria.

And yes, there is still a war going on in Afghanistan and everyday lives of innocent people there and here in the States of military families are still being affected.  (Washington Post)

On a much happier note,

MARS - NASA may have had budget cuts and sadly retired space shuttles, but they haven’t lost the unique ability to amaze and inspire every human being on the planet with wonder and charm.  We landed on Mars!  It took a rover called Curosity, a dedicated team of scientists, and $2.6 billion but the landing and future exploration of Mars is a success.

 

 

 

 

 

Policy Mic: 4 Foreign Policy issues for the upcoming U.S. Presidential election

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Both Candidate Romney and the President will square off on more than just jobs and the U.S. economy in the coming months.  Here’s a very basic overview of what I think are the four main foreign policy issues that will, or at least should, come to question during the 2012 U.S. Presidential election.  Between the global economy, Afghanistan, the Arab Spring effects, and Iraq – both will have to answer tough questions.

Pay particular attention to the comments section as there is already an interesting analysis being brought up and please feel free to weigh in here or on the link’s site with your comments!

http://www.policymic.com/articles/9886/4-foreign-policy-issues-that-obama-and-romney-will-clash-on

Is it really over in Iraq?

Back on October 21, President Obama made the announcement that troops in Iraq would come home by the end of the year.  A DC cynic, I didn’t think it would actually happen despite having voted for the President thinking he could do it.  Surely, something would happen in Congress, messy economic policy fights would take precedence, blocks would be put up – I just couldn’t believe it.

Much to my delight the past few days have seen heartwarming footage of homecomings, vague hints of victory in speeches while highlighting grim death and injury tolls with financial costs attached, and appropriate thanks to the million plus who have served.  No ridiculous banners, no ticker tape parades, but still a sigh of well-deserved relief for many Americans.  From the 99% civilian population, we say thank you.  And, no one better than Mrs. O to have your back:)   

How some Republicans could think this a bad day, a bad idea, a failure, is literally beyond me.

Such a stark contrast to that 19th day of March 2003, memories of which came flooding back.  I was in London, adjusting the antenna on our 1970s television set in our glamorous, shag-carpeted and freezing cold, student flat.  Friends were clearly divided among the rooms.  Our living room was angry, upset; the flat down the hall of Americans seemed much more supportive of the war, citing American power.  We hadn’t voted for George Bush back in 2000, the first Presidential election for many of us.  It didn’t bode well for our generation to start off with that political legacy and we knew it.  My first Presidential vote wouldn’t be cast until a year later since I had only become a citizen after the first Bush victory.  I vowed then and there not to vote for him as I ate my Sainsbury bread, cheese, and a pint of Strongbow.

The month before I had a prime seat to watch and participate in the anti-war protest.  The BBC had stated it was attended by nearly a million people.  I thought, naively, if millions around the world had opposed the horrible undertaking of another war, it wouldn’t happen.  I had not actually completely opposed the siege on Afghanistan, despite my pacifist nature, understanding that attacking the first real place I knew as home required some sort of retaliation.  Iraq was just unnecessary, unproven, unpredictable.  There was a sick feeling in the room amongst the poli-sci students.

Once a place I had never thought about, never studied, I think I know names of more cities in Iraq than I do Wyoming.  I can’t believe that after nearly nine years, the situation appears to be as similar as it is different in Iraq and actually worse in the States.  Various reports of post-war Iraq have been filtering through the media over the past few days.  I hope people don’t forget about the country we invested so much of our national resources into simply because there’s no American bloodshed to follow.  Iraqis are still worried, still dying, building and still re-building.  Still dealing with an American presence as well, with thousands of ‘contractors’ staying behind.  Such a vague operational title, I’m wondering if their work will be as empty.  It doesn’t make sense to have 10,000 Embassy-endorsed people doing…well, what will they be doing exactly?

The pictures of Baghdad and Fallujah certainly look more peaceful than before, but you can still see the fear and confusion in people’s eyes about their future.  I want to say there is hope in some of their faces too, but it remains to be seen what will be done with that hope.  In a year that’s seen so many fresh starts, so many uprisings, Iraq should certainly one of the most closely watched.  Oil is always king in the Middle East, but will it actually reign supreme here?  In a country with frequent power cuts and the remnants of bombs from years ago still in a shattered state, infrastructure will have to become reliable and cooperation, even reluctantly, would most have to exist – two crucial items that seem to be missing.  Iran has certainly had a huge presence in their neighbor’s house for years, but the ‘guests’ are leaving now, leaving room for the neighbors to actually come over.  Does it now mean Sunnis will be in the position Shiites were in for the past thousand plus years?  I wonder if the borders will be more open now, for legitimate trade in goods and services.  I wonder if a more stable economy could overcome socio-political differences as much as an economic downturn highlights them.

Where were you when the war started?  What do you think will happen in Iraq?  Would love to hear everyone’s stories!