Wednesday, May 27, 2015

FIFA Inquiry Yields Indictments

As one of the most watched events around the world, it's safe to say the FIFA World Cup generates millions of viewers (and billions of dollars) around the globe each year. Discoveries about the 2010 World Cup, which was held in South Africa have lead to investigations that have yielded facts that South Africa was chosen due to high officials being bribed for their votes on where it should be held. The arrests of the officials involved did not come as a huge surprise, as the FIFA organization has been bombarded with accusations of bribery for decades. Like the Olympics, hosting a huge event such as this can bring great economic growth to a country: tourism, infrastructure building, and creating jobs for their people. Clearly the voting process ought to be more tightly regulated. How do you guys think they should go about having a clean vote? Who is supposed to make sure the officials stay on track?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

US Holds Back to Prevent Harming Civilians

While it appears that the US has successfully identified some buildings that seem to be the headquarters of the Islamic State, the buildings have remained untouched by airstrikes and heavy military assualt. The reson for this is that the US fears civilian casualties, and has elected to wait until the area is clear of innocents before attempting a full on strike. Leaving the buildings intact has its drawbacks, however as it was reported that Islamic State fighters successfully drove out Iraqi soldiers, handing another round of victory to the Islamic State. The possibilty of killing civilians would "hand the Islamic State propaganda" and is cited as one of the main reasons that airstrikes are being withheld. While I'm not totally convinced, I do think this is the proper way to go, even if their cited reason isn't exactly why I'm supporting holding off on the airstrike. However, I can also see the urgency in the situation because wait too long, and the headquarters will be moved and disappear into thin air. What do you guys think? How clear of civilians should an area be before an airstrike is commenced? Do you think it's more dangerous to let the Islamic State soldiers run free?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Campaign Launched to Prosecute UN Sex Offenders

Earlier this month, international advocacy group AIDS Free world launched a campaign to end impunity for UN personnel who commit rape on peacekeeping missions. This is not a new problem by any means, as peacekeepers have been accused of abuse in several African nations over the past couple of decades, and it was recently revealed that French troops committed systematic rape on children in the Central African Republic during a peacekeeping mission. The reason this keeps occurring is because the law protects perpetrators as long as they work for the international body, meaning that no peacekeeping forces may be prosecuted by the country in which they commit abuse. Only the nation that the peacekeeping troops belong to have the authority to prosecute them for crimes while on duty, but countries have rarely handed out repercussions for soldiers committing rape. In order to prevent such abuses from further occurring in the future, the UN must eliminate laws that grant perpetrators immunity. Putting pressure on countries to prosecute their offenders may turn out to be a good collective way to solve the problem.

What is the most suitable way to approach this issue?

FBI and Law Enforcement resold to plane threats

U.S. Law enforcement received around 10 phone calls this weekend that threatened incoming flights. NORAD resorted to sending two F-15 fighter jets to assist Air France Flight 22 to JFK airport from Paris after Maryland State Police contacted the FBI regarding the phone threats they received surrounding the flight. US police officials contacted the flight crew through radio to ask them if anybody on the flight was sick, and when the crew responded that there were not, they ordered the plane to be evacuated and searched. Once the entire plane was deboarded, a search was conducted, but nothing of importance was found. Threats have been reported by authorities in big cities all along the east coast, but so far searches have not turned anything up. Police know not all threats are legitimate, but they must handle every one in a professional manner to avoid missing anything. It's a good thing that all planes landed safely this memorial weekend, but law enforcement and the FBI will continue to investigate the threats to make sure there is no danger.

Did the NORAD make the appropriate decision in bringing out fighter jets or was it a bit of an overreaction to a nonexistent threat?

If law enforcement continues receiving phone threats on flights, what would be a best way to take care of them?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Chinese Island Building Raising Eyebrows

China's continued island building since early 2014 by transforming submerged reefs into artificial land has been catching the eyes of its regional neighbors. Although neighboring countries like Taiwan and the Philippines also lay claim to some islands in the spratly islands where most of the artificial islands are, their work is raising eyebrows because in the past year China has managed to construct 2000 acres of islands. China has stated that the islands will primarily be used for civilian purposes, but has also admitted that they are of military value as well. However, it would be in violation of international law to use those islands for military purposes as they are artificial. This means that the Chinese have already violated international law, but not much can be done by the international community. Much of the worry stems from the fact that Chinese authorities have not formally addressed the public on what it's true intentions with the islands are, along with the fact that they are very wary of unexpected visitors coming near their islands, as an American patrol jet recently was shooed away from the area.

Congress Reports Isis Making Gains

This week members of Congress and a former member of the Defense Department reported that extremist Islamic terrorist organization ISIS have been making strategic gains as they continue to maintain control of their share of territory. According to Michele Flourney who served Defense Department under Sectetary of Policy for OBamas previous term, ISIS poses a significant threat to countries all over the world, especially with their international recruitment numbers rising. "This is a terrorist problem that affects us and we have to take a more forward leaning posture." said Flourney. Her remarks were appropriately timed as ISIS captured the city of Ramadi last week, which was pretty depressing for the US military as they had just assisted the Iraqi troops in recapturing the city a little while earlier. Senate Member McCain called out the Obama administration regarding what he views as a lack of US Governmental action over the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq. He believes the president should not hesitate to deploy more troops to the war zones. "We need to have a strategy," McCain said. "There is no strategy. And anybody that says that there is I'd like to hear what it is. Because it certainly isn't apparent now." Current Defense Department Secretary Carter urges resources to be sent to the Sunni tribes in the provinces where they can more of a difference since the tribes have political interests in fighting the group. Hawaiian Democrat Gabbard agreed with Carter, saying that the persecution of Sunnis by the Shia Iraqi government military has forced entire families and communities to take refuge in ISIS

How should the international community respond to the the territorial gains?

What is the best way for the US and Iraqi governments to collectively dismantle ISIS?

Friday, May 22, 2015

43 Killed in Major Offensive Against Drugs

A few days ago, Mexican officials clashed with the Jalisco New Generation, one of the countries largest and most violent drug cartels. While the majority of the deceased were cartel members, the fighting lasted for hours and dozens of guns were recovered. The scale of the offensive calls into question the efficacy of the War on Drugs in the US. It is generally accepted that millions of tonnes of illicit substances are smuggled over the US American Border every year, but US law enforcement usually does not begin until it reaches the cities. In my opinion it would make more sense to try to attack the root of the problem instead of allowing cartels to grow to this huge scale where massive assaults are needed in order to hurt them. I am aware that jurisdiction laws complicate things, but it seems narrow minded to leave our neighbors to themselves. What do you think? Should we let the Mexican Authorities handle a problem they cant control? Or should the US step in? 

Senate Rejects NSA Bill

With the "Compromise bill" falling 3 votes short of passing in the Senate, the NSA domestic spying program is threatened with expired authority. Meaning, if a law is not passed soon that remediates the issue, the NSA as we know it will cease to exist. However many people believe that would be a good thing. With time being eaten up by filibusters from the likes of Senator Rand Paul, senators describing the program as an illegal abuse of power, there are others who claim the program is vital for national security. What do you think? Should the NSA be kept in existence or in some other form? Or should it be completely dissolved? 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Little More Than a Misunderstanding

Roughly 8 months after the TMZ video initiated a media firestorm, the former Baltimore Raven, Ray Rice, walks free with all charges dropped. His two game to indefinite suspension has been lifted by league officials and is now free to sign with whatever team is willing to sacrifice moral integrity for his talent on the field. Despite his wife stating that she is very much against the punishment aimed towards her spouse (which helped lead to the dropped charges) this upholds a very dangerous precedent in professional sports. The idea that the superstars are above the law and should not be subjected to moral scrutiny due solely to their physical abilities is not something we need. Society needs these spotlighted athletes to be a moral compass for today's youth; we don't need kids aspiring to be the next Ray Rice or Suh. Not only that, but it also brings into play the gravity of the domestic violence issue in the United States. His lawyer states that it was all just a big misunderstanding, but the video very unambiguously depicts Rice assaulting his wife. he got off with a slap on the wrist and a little training seminar that I'm sure amounted to "please do not hit your wife or other people." Personally I think Rice should be banned from the NFL and I'll be rather disappointed if a team picks him up in the following years. What do you think? Do you think Rice was punished adequately for what he did? Or was it all really just a misunderstanding?

It Wasn't as Bad as it Could Have Been

Earlier this week another massive oil spill occurred in the Santa Barbara area. While not on the scale of the likes of the BP spill which dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of crude into the oil, this recent spill is far from a small matter. Despite the pipe line only spilling 100,000 gallons of crude, the environmental impact is still very real and the long term ramifications are staggering. However I would like to focus less on the ecological issue and more on the business side of it. As stated in the article, this particular company, Plains All American Pipeline, has had over 175 different violations of federal safety and maintenance regulations, yet has still been allowed to operate. The pipeline has recently been inspected, meaning the companies process is either woefully inadequate or purposefully neglectful, neither one of those are good. The title focuses more on the fact that the pipe was not operating at full capacity instead of the spill itself suggesting that people should be grateful that it wasn't worse. However a spill is a spill. The damages are irrefutable, and the companies responsible pay a petty fine, doggedly clean up and then continue to exploit the world and its resources for profit. Hardly seems fair, especially not with the declining status of the environment.
What do you think? Am I just grasping at straws?

"We're not losing"-Obama 2K15

Image result for ISIS
With the Islamic militant group, ISIS, seizing control of the last border crossing between Iraq and Syria, the massive collation of World Powers assures the public that this is merely a tactically setback. While the US does admit that pushing ISIS out of the 95000 sq km (roughly 50% of Syria) would be difficult, experts insist that the majority of this territory holds no significant strategic value. I suppose this is too serious a topic to joke about. This extremist group has been responsible for over 17000 civilian deaths in the last year. They are guilty of numerous atrocities and crimes against humanity, yet despite US-Iraqi efforts, their ranks have only swelled. The failure to adequately deal with a small splinter cell and to allow it to grow to this extent calls into question the US' effectiveness in the Middle East and the validity of its involvement. The half in, half out methods of "no boots on the ground" doesn't seem to work very well. Though the military advisers placed reek eerily of the Vietnam War, I doubt a large scale escalation is anywhere on the radar.
What do you think?
Should the US send more than just advisers?
Or how else should we address the issues in the region?

Boy Scouts Debate on Gay Adult Leaders

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is going through a debate the we are a country are muddling through right now as well: what their stance on gay marriage is. While they allow openly gay youth to be members as scouts (as decided in 2013) at the moment gay males are not allowed to be leaders in the organization. The head of the BSA Robert Gates has claimed that its ban on gay adult leaders is unsustainable, and his words ring true in New York, where a chapter has hired an openly gay male as a leader, as a message that they are flaunting the rule. Gates says that while he could revoke that chapter's charter for disobeying the rules, doing so would only hurt the scouts in that area, so he is not going to make any move against them. He also says that he would be open to having a "chapter by chapter" form of decision making where geographically each chapter could decide for themselves whether to keep the ban on gay leaders or not. I, for one, agree with Gates that the ban is unsustainable, especially in more liberal places and just in general because it seems to me if gay scouts are allowed to participate, but not allowed to lead, it sends a negative message about gays being able to hold positions of leadership.
Thoughts on this? Are they better off going chapter by chapter or keeping an overlying position on it? Think of chapters as "states" and the organization as the federal government. Is your position the same? Why or why not?

'Droughtshaming' Hopes to Cut California Water Cheats

It's no secret that California is the middle of an extreme drought, and lots of people think that water conservation should be mandatory, not "encouraged." As we learned about in economics, as long as the conservation isn't mandatory, I think lots of people will continue to take advantage of the free rider effect present in this situation. A new social media trend has local people playing vigilante justice by taking photos of water wasting and posting them to twitter, facebook, or instagram with the #droughtshaming. While I do think that some people aren't making enough of an effort to do their part, I'm not so sure about trying to shame people into changing their habits and routines and there's no proof that these postings make people save any more water either. What do you guys think? Do you think this trend might actually make people save more water? Even if it does, is it socially acceptable?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Record Fines for Currency Market Fix

5 of the largest influential banking institutions are facing massive fines for a variety of criminal charges such as maipulating the foreign exchange market, rigging benchmark interest rates and have been doing so for possibly up to 5 years. Due to the widespread nature of these large corporations that include JPMorgan, Barclays, CityGroup, and RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) their actions have affected countless investors and institutions around the globe. The majority of the fines are being extracted under anti-trust laws that are supposed to prevent businesses from working together in this way. Now I'm not sure exactly why it's solely the US that's demanding fines from these companies, because the effect of their cartel reaches far beyond the United States, but do you think it's right that the US is the main plaintiff? How should a situation like this be prevented in the future? Why was the cartel able to fly under the radar for so long without getting caught?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

NJ Bridge Closure: What Effect on Christie's Presidential Aspirations?

Wall Street Journal Article

In September 2013, the George Washington bridge connecting New Jersey and New York City had several lane closures, causing severe back-ups and incredible traffic. It came to light that these closures were engineered to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ for not supporting Governor Chris Christie in his campaign for governorship. Fort Lee was severely effected by the closures.
Source: Washington Post

On Friday, three people were indicted for the closures. The governor, who is considering a run for the Republican Presidential nomination, was not. He maintains that he did not know about the political retribution, and fired those involved as soon as he found out. Critics claim that even if he did not know about the specific incident, it illustrates his managerial style. Governor Christie is also known for his aggressive tendencies and willingness to pick a fight. At the moment, the New Jersey Governor is not a leader in the polls for the nomination, and he has not official his candidacy.

How do you think the incident will affect Christie's campaign? Do you think this is illustrative of how Christie would be as as president?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Charges for Six Police in Baltimore

Friday morning, the Baltimore chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced the charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Grey while in police custody. The charges range from second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter to false imprisonment and misconduct in office. Freddie Grey died a week after being arrested from a spinal cord injury, thought to be received while in police custody. The investigation and the charges focused around Grey's ride in the police van, where he was shackled at his feet, but unrestrained. He was unconcsious when they reached the police station.

The recent investigation showed that the police made another stop on the way to the station and picked up another prisoner. Mosby has also said that the arrest was illegal.
The charges comes after a week of protests in Baltimore that received lots of coverage due to the outbreak of violence that occurred. The protests were calling for the charges, as well as other measures to stop this from occurring again. Baltimore is the latest city to have an outbreak of protest after a death of a Black man in the hands of the police. The police also did not release the report to the public in fear that it would lead to more violence.

How do you think that the police should handle protests in order to best serve the community? How do you think that deaths while in police custody should be handled?