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