Friday, August 29, 2014

Another Ukraine Post

If you are reading this post I assume you have some back story on the events that have transpired over the past year over Ukraine and her neighbor Russia. I will not go into exuberant detail about Crimea or the "Ukrainian" rebels.

Most of Eastern Ukraine has a Russian majority and of course there is discourse and some fighting, but to the scale of anti-air to down jets, or stem pro-Kiev forces from making inroads on sparsely populated areas. Finland and other neighboring countries are on edge after Russian military exercise, and most of the former Warsaw Pact countries are looking to NATO or the UN to step in.

The rebels in Ukraine have been heavily armed and even trained to the handling of the weapons that have come out of seemingly the air. A good quantity of the international community is pointing at Russians to stop supplying and cease any operations close to the border.Ukraine is worried, they see their land and their people under threat from an oppressor that kept Europe under an Iron Curtain for close to 50 years. To just answer the question on how desperate Ukraine is getting they recently Applied for NATO membership, and leaving their neutrality in the dust, as more confusion grows at the borders of Ukraine. And more confusion grows from the U.S. to Kiev to straight to the minds of Russian citizens themselves. With no formal declaration of war or even a press conference to state where soldiers are being sent many families are wondering what happened to their sons, and are they at war with Ukraine? A question everyone has been asking for the last few months.

Obama recently said we would keep military intervention on the back-burner for Ukraine but would declare formal war if Poland or any other NATO country is threatened, should we protect Kiev and deeply scar Russian ties?

What are your views on Putin? What is your reaction toward this new "Premier" or new "Savior" depending on your views.

Beijing Continues to Threaten Hong Kong

In 1997 the People's Republic of China and Great Britain signed a deal allowing the city of Hong Kong to fall under China's rule on a set of conditions. These conditions set up that the merger would create one country but two systems, giving Hong Kong a pseudo-City State within Chinese borders. As a result Hong Kong as remained as a much freer part of China as it did not have to comply with Beijing's orders, creating their own currency, maintaining their own trade, taxes, and even the ability to drive on the left. They are 7 million strong in a relatively small area and

In more recent times pressures has been mounting on Hong Kong from all sides of life from the PRC. People in surrounding areas frequently try to sneak into Hong Kong's borders to take advantage of the stricter regulations placed on baby formula and also to try and get medicare from the HK hospitals. The PRC's state owned media outlets have continuously published stories slamming the democratic Hong Kong labeling them as unruly children and Dogs of Britain. Currently HK's political system is 12,000 business owners who vote on how the city should be managed, a pro-business wet dream, but in more recent years these owners have set up shop or have delicate ties to mainland China leaving them skewed to give up liberties to keep operation in the newest emerging consumer base. HK has staged several protests this summer with some in attendance of 800,000, the PRC has become more blatent that they would not allow universal elections in HK and has staged counter protests, sent in pro-Beijing quell the huge supporters. There is going to be another pro-democracy rally in september and the PRC has prepared by Sending in PLA forces to remind Hong Kongers who has the power. Most of us remember how domocile and forgiving the PRC can be when it comes to peacefully putting down protests.

It seems that the days of democratic Hong Kong may be numbered, should we as a nation or as a people say anything to protest China's human rights abuse?

What might go down if things turn for the worst during their next march or occupy?

Ebola Breakout

The "Ebola Outbreak" has graced the front pages of many of our news sources, yet the degree in which it has affected the people of West Africa has seldom crossed our mind. The tragedy happening in West Africa has attracted a lot of attention and hopefully this attention is used in order to combat this deadly disease. Not only is it a tragedy that the disease has occurred in concentrated areas which lack proper and basic medical care, but many of the people who contracted Ebola aren't aware that they have it. As a result of insufficient information on Ebola and it's rapid increase, it has spread like wildfire and many are concerned that it will spread even faster due to the congested living quarters in many places of West Africa. The disease continues to spread throughout West Africa and has taken the lives of approximately 1,552 people in the region.

What can we, as an international community, do in order to combat this deadly disease?

Also, feel free to discuss any other means of helping the people in West Africa that you think will be most effective.
 CNN article

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Black Rage

The image of a mother mourning her child is an image that evades racial and cultural differences. It speaks every language and it also speaks a language of its own. It speaks to the heart rather than being processed through the brain. I have seen that look before on my own mother's face and I have dealt with the emotions behind it. And somehow we have become distracted from the fact that a child has lost his life, and a mother has lost a child. Consumed by controversy and overwhelmed by an extensive array of opinions and personal beliefs, we forget that we have lost a child to a color. We have lost a child to the dispute over a color, and as ignorant and simple-minded as that sounds, it is true. We have lost so much and so many to the fight over color, the pigmentation of our skin. We have used the concept of color to try and differentiate between people. In order to fit the complexity of humankind into our small and sheltered brains, we have separated ourselves in every way we could.We have conditioned ourselves to see DIFFERENCES, yet we neglect our greatest common factor, our humanity.
This is only a small glimpse into the hell that is Racism, still very potent in America. It lies under the skin of our country, hidden by a cloak of oblivion and denial. It has created an African American culture that responds to the suppression with sometimes anger and resentment. Through music, fashion, art, behavior and attitude, this culture has thrived on retaliation. A veteran musician, Lauryn Hill, released a song responding to the events happening in Ferguson titled "Black Rage". The song samples the sound of music song "Favorite Things". It presents a powerful and deep insight into the deep scars and wounds left in the black community.

Listen to it.

China's Anti-Corruption Efforts Slowed by International Politics

In recent years, China's government has begun to escalate its efforts to hold corrupt government officials accountable. In what China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection calls a "Fox Hunt", 762 people were extradited to China on corruption charges in the last year. Almost 1 billion dollars worth of stolen Yuan (Chinese unit of currency) were confiscated. The campaign has thus been successful to a degree. However, China has had major difficulties extraditing officials from certain countries including the US, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia. In the US alone, more than 150 "economic fugitives" avoid accountability to Chinese courts.

China belongs to an intergovernmental organization (IGO) called INTERPOL, which works to facilitate cooperation among the world's police forces. This IGO is useful for purposes such as extradition of criminals. It currently has 190 member countries, including the US. However, two countries being members of INTERPOL does not guarantee extradition from one to another. Extradition treaties are necessary to ensure that, and China does not have any with the above four western countries. These countries are also unlikely to cooperate with China's extradition efforts due to their distrust in China's justice system. Concerns over torture and capital punishment are the main reasons for this reluctance.

Discussion Questions:

1. Are these western countries justified in intervening this way? Is letting criminals go unpunished worse than subjecting them to a system of justice that western countries see as inhumane?

2. Could this protection of corrupt officials encourage further government corruption in China?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

U.S. and Iran, Hit and Run missions in Iraq against ISIS

ISIS has been working withen Iraq for sometime under several different names with the mission of creating a truly Islamic State, a nation that adheres strictly to the Quran, in the Middle East. They struck a huge power gain due to the instability in Syria and took mass swaths of land and have become so much of a new threat that President Bashar al-Assad has fallen off of western media's radar.

Their recent incursions into Kurd dominated Iraq have left the U.S. and it's allies a bit ticked off and Iran worried over it's borders. Separately both the U.S. and Iran have sent strikes to cripple Iraqi's ISIS and both have sent military advisors and equipment in order to support the current recognized leadership in Iraq. During this coordinated attacks, that have had close contact with each other, Iran and the U.S. have never had official open channels.

We hate them. Not as much as ISIS! Unfortunately we still have soured feelings toward Tehran and the feeling is mutual. Embargos, condemnations and overall bad mouthing have been exchanged between the two nations and the fact that we are fighting a common enemy and not taking this opportunity is despicable.

Do you think that we should extend an olive branch and be the ones to open channels toward ending this cold war we have with Iran?

How would some of our most important Middle Eastern allies deal with a joint mission against ISIS with Iran as an official ally?

U.S. Iran Daily Beast
USA Today

Hamas Agrees to Long-Term Truce with Israel

On Tuesday August 26, 2014, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire following a two-month escalation in their conflict which led to the deaths of more than two thousand people, mostly civilians. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas announced this agreement, hopeful that this ceasefire may allow the occupation and violence to end.

In this agreement, Israel made certain concessions. Israel agreed to reduce restrictions on border crossings from Egypt into Gaza. Additionally, Israel agreed to lift certain restrictions on fishing off the coast of Gaza, allowing fishers to fish up to six miles off of the coast.

Hamas considers these concessions to constitute a victory for itself and for Palestine. Many Palestinians also agreed with this sentiment, with thousands celebrating on the streets. However, Israeli officials noted that Hamas had previously rejected this settlement, and that this ceasefire could thus be seen as a victory for Israel.

Discussion Questions:

1. Both sides have reasons to believe they have "won" with this accord. Did the terms of the ceasefire favor either side? Which side?

2. Israel's enemies have broken ceasefires many times in the past. Is this ceasefire doomed to a similar fate, or does the Palestinian celebration of this ceasefire indicate a lasting peace?

AlJazeera - A Middle-Eastern Source
CNN - A Western Source

Russia and Ukraine Part 2

Hours before President Putin of Russia met with the President of Ukraine in Belarus, Ukraine released videos of captured Russian soldiers which challenges Putin's claim that Russia had nothing to do with the conflict in East Ukraine. This puts new pressure on Putin to halt the "accelerating flow of military personnel and hardware" into East Ukraine. This is part of Russia's offensive against Ukrainian forces and in support of the rebels.

Despite being hypocritical, Putin continues to advocate for a cease-fire between the rebels and Ukrainian forces as perhaps a way to alleviate the stringent sanctions placed by the US and Europe on Russia's ability to tap into it's oil reserves after the annexation of Crimea 

What do you guys think? Is this another move by Putin to gain leverage like he did with the Crimea? Should the United States and other Western powers take a more forceful stance this time?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Should Schools Start Later for Teens' Health?

A little tangent from my usual content because I think this is relevant to all of us:

Pediatricians support many parents in pushing for a later start in the school day for teenagers. They say that making middle and high schoolers attend school before 8:30 "threatens children's health, safety and academic performance." Dr. Breuner states that teenager only get about 6-7 hours of sleep when they should be getting 10. On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics began calling on school districts to move start times to 8:30 or later.

Pushing school start times has its pros and cons. One benefit is more sleep. Increased sleep can decrease risk of car accidents and chances of depression and obesity while also improving performance academically. However, shifting start times would also require shifting after school activities and jobs. Additionally, elementary schools would still start at the same time, offsetting start times which might prove troublesome for siblings.

What do you think? Should school start later?

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates Team Up Against Islamist Militants

Twice in the past seven days, Egypt and the UAE have launched airstrikes on Islamist militants fighting to control Libya. The United States government was caught by surprise as Egypt and the UAE acted without informing the United States. Egyptian diplomats have been denying any involvement while Turkey and Qatar are firmly backing the Islamist militants.

The strike highlights the power struggle between the old Arab autocrats and Islamists in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have formed a block to exert influence over surrounding countries and to oppose the competing Islamist movements. Libya is the latest region of contention between the two sides.

I just wanted to raise a few questions:
Should the US constantly be informed about the operations and decisions of other countries?
The US is shying away from military intervention, but the United Nations and Western powers are seeking to broker a peaceful resolution. How extensively should other nations intervene if at all?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Im Awesome"

A few days ago I decided to follow Rick Perry on twitter because of a few inspirational words he shared with the citizens of Iowa, "I'm Awesome". Nothing is more reassuring than a public figure's absolute certainty and belief  in themselves. While this phrase may be out of context, Perry continues to show his strong belief in himself and his actions as he battles an indictment by the Grand Jury. Perry is charged/accused of "coercion and abuse of official capacity" because he decided he needed to veto funding for a program associated with Travis County's District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg was arrested for a DUI in 2013. He took to twitter in order to explain himself and his video is reminiscent of Law & Order in which it starts out with clips of a severely intoxicated Lehmberg doing the infamous "walk a straight line" test and continues to show her resisting her arrest and a very disturbing clip of her being restrained. But then Rick Perry emerges out of a dark screen, reassuring Texas that he stands behind his decision.

 All of my obnoxious sarcasm aside, Rick Perry is being indicted for something that his position as governor gives him the full right to. But I think the problem is that his issue is with the Lehmberg, not the Public Integrity Unit, and his intentions are not to affect the PIU but threaten Lehmberg to resign. There is also "evidence" (which has not been released yet) that Perry tried other ways in which to convince Lehmberg to resign. This "evidence" has not been revealed to the public yet and the case against Perry seems to weaken as he becomes more confident in his decision. While his intentions seem shady, Lehmberg did show a disturbing lack of good judgment and ethics and Perry just wants to protect his beloved state from such behavior. DON'T mess with Texas.

Do YOU believe Perry's only intentions are to punish Lehmberg for her reckless behavior?

Please discuss the validity of the indictment, and also discuss Perry's cinematic gem found on his twitter (@GovernorPerry), or anything else that needs to be explored.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Should the Line Be Drawn Between Our Military and Our police?

This past Monday, President Obama pushed for a re-examination of programs that have equipped law enforcement departments with military-grade gear. Obama stated, "There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those lines blurred," This was in response to the recent use of police force in dealing with the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri where police officers were seen carrying military-grade equipment.

This raises the question, "Is this necessary?" Many argue that the police should be using a proportional response and that Ferguson is an example of overwhelming force, a military doctrine. However,there is also the argument that the issue lies not only with the use of military equipment, but the lack of training and discipline that is seen in the military. The desire to give the police maximum protection is understandable and the Posse Comitatus Act limits the use of military personnel in enforcing state laws except under the most extreme circumstances. Therefore, providing military-grade equipment to state police departments provides a way to circumvent the issue, but does giving a much less disciplined and experienced group these kind of weapons really help in keeping order?

The psychological factor of having armored trucks and completely armed police officers must also be taken into account. Won't this just aggravate the population even more?

What are your opinions: Is this amount of force necessary? or will it just escalate the issue?