11.6.2014

Thousands protest missing Mexico students despite mayor arrest

Mass protests engulfed Mexico City on Wednesday, November 5, railing against the federal government’s weak response to the notorious kidnappings of 43 student protesters in Iguala. Despite the arrest of Iguala’s “Imperial Couple” – the mayor and his wife – in connection with the kidnappings and other cartel-related crimes, the people of Mexico express immense discontent with the way that their authorities handle (or are handled by) the organized crime problem.

After long years of criminal violence and intimidation throughout the nation of Mexico, amounting to 22,000 missing since 2006 alone, will it be possible for a popular movement to peacefully upend the powers that be in favor of a fairer and more secure society?

The Lost Children: France Takes Stock of Growing Jihadist Problem

Since the rise of the Islamic State, a surprising number of European citizens – including many young women and girls – have begun filtering toward Syria and the Middle East to join the jihadist cause there. France has seen the most emigration at over 1,000.

Has our socially atomized yet highly interconnected global society led to such a need for belonging that even children of nonreligious families have begun to seek meaning in violent sectarian extremism? If the disenfranchised citizens of the West so badly need a compelling narrative, then what can our liberal democracies and corporate oligarchies do to compete with the passion, sense of history (false or true), and missionary conviction of sectarian zealots?

China Says It Will Build An Ebola Hospital in Liberia

China’s recent contribution to the struggle against Ebola comes just as Liberia sees a drop in cases. The UN fund remains dangerously underfunded, but this new assistance seems to indicated the Asian superpower’s readiness to pitch in.

Recent decades have seen China extending more commercial influence over the Indian Ocean, to the extent that some African states have a significant and growing Chinese minority. Does this medical mission represent a Chinese incursion into the Atlantic seaboard? Would ensuing Chinese commerce and influence see a more highly developed and versatile West Africa? And by that token, could we see China consolidating an Atlantic foothold in the near future, leveraging its economic and cultural power in this vulnerable region not only to offset its inevitable return to normal domestic growth, but to claim a share in the Atlantic sphere? 

Gaza Flotilla Raid: No Israel charges over Mavi Marmara

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has decided not to press charges against Israel for the 2010 raid on Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. The ship, attempting to break an Israeli blockade to get supplies to Gaza, was boarded and suffered nine civilian casualties when Israeli commandos allegedly encountered resistance and opened fire. In her ruling, Bensouda said that “the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of ‘sufficient gravity’ to justify further action by the ICC.”

In the humanitarian puzzle presented by the perennial Israel-Gaza conflict, would it be more ethical to use lethal force to defend a blockade against civilians, or to attempt to break that blockade in order to deliver precious supplies to those in need?

Vladimir Putin ‘mankini’ bonfire effigy angers Russians

Does it still count as a hate crime if the subject of mockery could quite literally nuke you where you stand?

11.6.2014

11.4.2014

Rivals Tehran, Riyadh pledge billions to Lebanon’s army

Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have offered competing military aid packages to Lebanon as it copes with the ongoing conflict in the Fertile Crescent. The population of Lebanon, the most religiously diverse state in the Middle East, has relatively equal shares of Shiites and Sunnis; however, depending on the strategic decisions of the near future, this troubled state may soon see military and cultural advantages slip toward one or the other side of its Shiite and Sunni populations.

Could that diversity cause backlash against the upset of Islamic sectarian balance, with the losing sect potentially aligning its cause with other minorities? Or will the winning sect (and its foreign backers) prove too adept at the management of its new political power? 

Top British Spy Warns of Terrorists’ Use of Social Media

Director of UK electronic intelligence Robert Hannigan has decried US social media companies for the insecure structure of their services and systems, calling them “command and control networks” for skilled dissidents such as lone wolf hackers, paramilitary organizations, and terrorists.

With this issue in mind, is it in the best interest of modern global democracies to sacrifice informational transparency to their governments as a matter of self-protection? Is a single-blind surveillance state truly democratic – and if not, is rule-of-surveillance a perversion, or simply a newer and more reliable approach to stability and security?

The Wealth Gap Preoccupies Wall Street

Wealth inequality at both the global and national levels has increased at alarming rate in recent years, creating a vicious circle in the weak economic environment created by the recent recession. Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s recently released a report that stated, “At extreme levels, income inequality can harm sustained economic growth over long periods. The U.S. is approaching that threshold.”

Beyond the fundamental concern about inequalities, and the questions of how and for how long to address the myriad problems created by said inequalities, there arises the question: who must take the lead in driving of a solution? Will there be resistance from the plutocrats and their sycophants, or will there be sufficient power behind a government plan or popular movement to achieve true breakthrough?

90-year-old charged under Fort Lauderdale’s rules against feeding homeless

Does the City of Fort Lauderdale hate humanity?

11.4.2014

11.3.2014

Putin’s Friend Profits in Purge of Schoolbooks

Over half of Russia’s textbooks have been barred from its national curricula, citing, among other things, lack of patriotic sentiment or ethno-cultural value. But publisher Enlightenment, a Soviet era former juggernaut now owned by a longtime acquaintance of Vladimir Putin, has gotten away nearly unscathed.

Putin’s governance of post-Soviet Russia seems to clearly reflect his pre-glasnost KGB experience. But as the iconic secular patriarch of “Putin’s Russia,” is he not justified in seeking a more cohesive national narrative in primary schools, and is that cause enough to sanction the apparent favoritism and probable corruption in his methods?

 

Fragmentation Will Hinder Peace Efforts in Libya

“Libya’s militia groups have coalesced into two broad camps — the Dignity and Dawn blocs — but even within these camps, they are far from unified. Towns are competing against other towns, tribes against each other, ideological groupings against everyone — and all vying for influence and access to the state’s oil wealth.”

With a fragmented post-Gaddafi Libya posing an unfortunate – if perhaps less brutal – similarity to the results of global democratic evangelism in Iraq and Afghanistan, what social and political factors have made its current reality so different from those of its North African neighbors?

 

Amid Record Waves of Refugees, Italy Finding Limits to Its Compassion

The history of trans-Mediterranean migrations between the African and European coasts is a long and rich one. The fallout from the Arab Spring has seen a massive egress of refugees to Italy and its outlying islands, exhausting the Italian response. This latest swell of movement has entered a new dramatic phase – one rife with mistrust, tension, and occasional violence between black Africans, ethnic Arabs, and native or naturalized Europeans.

Refugee movements of this magnitude and diversity inevitably bring interlocking ethnic and cultural narratives with them into regions that may be unprepared or unwilling to adjust. Will Italian law enforcement and institutions be enough to contain, support, and condition the peninsula’s disparate press of new people? Or will unrest develop there, too, a plague of ill will spreading despite good intentions on both sides of the sea? 

 

Germany ‘Would Accept UK Exit from EU’

David Cameron’s UK has repeatedly spoken against the influx of EU immigrants, drawing anxious negotiations out of his continental counterparts – but now it seems Angela Merkel is ready to call it quits on the whole conversation.

Is this latest dialogue a step toward a final separation of United Kingdom and European Union? Or is it, like North Korea’s marionette dance between blustery paranoia, heartstring-pulling, and “charm campaigns,” simply a yank on Merkel’s golden chain?

 

Chinese officials arrested for buying corpses to meet government cremation quota

An offbeat point against Chinese communism? Or simply a statement about the absurdity of legal standards applied without review?

11.3.2014

10.31.2014

Is Capitalism Environmentally Unsustainable?

It is undeniable that there have been massive increases in the average material quality of living since the agricultural and industrial production revolutions of the 18th-19th centuries, especially leavened by Anglo-Saxon free market philosophy. Medicine, private and public entertainments, and engineering are among the chief benefits we enjoy today. But while we disencumber ourselves of pain, toil, and anxiety, another undeniable fact has emerged: our global environment pays a steep price, in often unexpected ways.

The article asks the most pertinent question: how well suited is our current free-market economy, even our global infrastructure, to the health and longevity of our natural environment? Can we continue to produce this quantity of goods with the qualities we are accustomed to, or will we have to innovate a less ecologically destructive marketplace?

Sectarian Wedge Pushes from Syria into Lebanon

The Bekaa Valley in northern Lebanon, first home of Shiite group Hezbollah, has seen Shiite-Sunni clashes as militants and insurgents from across the Syrian border find a foothold there. The threat of war looms.

Can civilian resignation and fear be overcome in favor of peace, or will sectarian hatred continue to polarize these communities to the point of senselessly re-enacting bloodshed both current and past?

NATO Cites ‘Unusual’ Russian Air Activity as Intercepts Rise

NATO intercepts of Russian military aircraft over European airspace has tripled since 2013.

With prolonged Russian involvement in Crimea, the continuing possibility of compromised intelligence due to the Snowden affair, and Russia’s geographically anxious, expansionist character, is the Kremlin testing its fences – or ours?

Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and Eric Schmidt of Google “locked horns” over the shape and purpose of freedom on the Internet, elaborating opposite views on what this freedom meant, how it should be achieved, and what it was ultimately for.

Is the worldwide web best for humanity if it is left unfettered, uncensored, and transparent, benefiting from the exchange of ideas and resources between free people – disregarding any societal blowback – or do we need a strong, paternalistic apparatus to purposely sculpt it for the uses of a single political agenda ostensibly – but not necessarily – invested in freedom and democracy? 

Scary Clowns Are Terrorizing France

The cultural epicenter of Western Europe reels at its youths’ poor taste and random acts of violence.

10.31.2014

10.30.2014

A Horse Race in Thug Land

The rebel leadership of Eastern Ukraine pushes to elect a prime minister despite being engulfed in conflict and hounded by questions of legitimacy.

The Russian-backed Eastern Ukraine may give itself a winning score, but even if they stabilize their borders and keep the old regime out, will they ever win approval from NATO and the global community?

Abbas Warning over Holy Site Closure 

The Temple Mount is closed and tensions in Jerusalem escalate yet again after the shooting of an Israeli prayer rights campaigner, allegedly by Palestinian Moataz Hejazi, who was subsequently surrounded and shot dead by Israeli police.

Has anyone considered locking the two factions in a room together and forcing them to break bread until lasting peace is achieved? If they can’t achieve peace on their own, I hear Russia is still looking for a warm water port…

Tunisia Takes Partisan Turn after Islamist Loss

Parliamentary elections in Tunisia saw a surprising upset in which the underdog Nidaa Tounes party, “an amalgam of former regime figures and secular leftists,” nosed ahead of the Islamist Ennahda party, prompting anxiety about the democratic process and the future of cooperation in Tunisian politics.

Does this signal a turn toward secularism in Tunisia, or is it simply a sign of partisan division after the high sentiments and relative success of the revolution?

High Levels of Dangerous Chemicals Found in Air Near Oil and Gas Sites

Toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene have been found in 40 percent of air samples taken from fracking sites in five US states. The levels exceed federal limits, and anyone living within the immediate vicinity of these plants is likely to suffer from serious skin and respiratory ailments.

The story of toxic sites in the industrialized world should be familiar by now – but how can the poor and working class escape this plight, when their economic survival and their geographical heritage are often linked to these unlivable zones?

Mexico Is Looking for 43 Missing Students. What Has Been Found Is Truly Terrifying

In their search for nearly 50 kidnapped student protesters, investigators have uncovered a massive underworld connecting police and government corruption directly to the cartels. 

To what extent can a state’s infrastructure be compromised by direct involvement in organized crime before it can be considered a failed state?

Dog Helps Police Arrest Owner

The loyalty of dogs: easily swayed?

10.30.2014