Stand with the Displaced: Victims of the Boko Haram Insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria

Original Content provided by Tam Kemabonta

 
  Courtesy of "War is Boring".com

Courtesy of "War is Boring".com

 

The Players

Boko Haram: The Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), an extremist Islamist group popularly known by the global and local media as Boko Haram in North East Nigeria whose goal is the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria and abolish anything that has to do with western education.

Internally Displaced People (IDP): The over 2.3 million people that have been displaced from their communities and homes because of the Boko Haram scourge since 2009.

Nigerian government: After delayed responses the Nigerian government after losing territory almost the size of Belgium to Boko Haram, has started making advances on the Islamist group. Currently the government has driven Boko Haram back to their strong hold – Sambisa forest – located 60 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri in Borno State.

Humanitarian Agencies: Boko Haram has left death and disaster in its wake, leading to humanitarian crises of unfathomable proportions. Thus far, Humanitarian and emergency relief has been coordinated by various international and local organizations. Some of these organizations include the Nigerian red cross, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), UNICEF, etc.

  Courtesy of Real News Magazine

Courtesy of Real News Magazine

The Background

Boko Haram has left dead and disaster in its wake since 2009. The Islamist was formed in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri Borno state. The core political principle of the group was establishing an Islamic state and denouncing western education. In fact, “Boko” which in Hausa means “fake” and Haram which in Arabic means “forbidden” could be loosely translated as “Western education is forbidden”. Due to the poverty that ravaged northeast Nigeria Yusuf was able to recruit many youths disenchanted with the corruption inherent in the Nigeria government. 

In 2009 Mohammed Yusuf was captured and extra-judicially killed by Nigerian security forces. Abubakar Shekau became the leader of the group. Under him Boko Haram’s taste for blood became insatiable. With porous borders that facilitated illegal arms trade and corruption within the Nigerian military the group was able to build a formidable army that controlled territory the size of Belgium at the heights of its power. Boko Haram became a global sensation after it kidnapped 276 were kidnapped from their dormitories at the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State. 

On the 13th of November 2013, the U.S. State Department added Boko Haram to it’s list of terrorist organizations and the UN security council includes the group in its sanction list on the 22nd of May 2014. 

On the 7th of March Boko Haram pledges allegiance to ISIS, the Islamist terrorist group that controls areas of Iraq and Syria. On the 12th of March ISIS accepts Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance, leading to name change: The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).

With over 6,644 deaths to its credit in 2014, Boko Haram became the deadliest terrorist group in the world according to the Global Terrorism Index 2015 report by the Institute of Economics and Peace. The group has been responsible for the deaths of over 20000 people and displaced over 2.3 million leading to a Humanitarian crisis in the country.

Currently, as a result of successful offensive attacks by the Nigerian military Boko Haram controls very little territory in north-eastern Nigeria, and has defaulted to the guerrilla-styled terrorist attacks it was known for in its early days. 

 
  Courtesy of "War is Boring".com

Courtesy of "War is Boring".com

 

The Story

With over 2.3 million people displaced as direct result of the Boko Haram insurgency Nigeria is facing its worst humanitarian since the Civil war in 1970. 

Nigeria is already a poverty-stricken country. With about 90% of its population living on less than $2 a day and ironically having the largest economy in Africa it might just a matter of time before the country hits full scale state failure. 

In fact, according to the Fragile State Index 2016 report published by the Fund for Peace and the Foreign Policy magazine Nigeria is number 11 on a scale of 1 – likely to fail and 178 – completely sustainable; earning itself the position of "High Alert". 

The government currently keeps displaced peoples in camps. The coordination of this is handled by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The situations in these camps is dire. According to a 2016 report by the protection sector working group (PSWG) sector in partnership with the UNHCR Nigeria there have been reports of food, water and shelter insecurity. The healthcare and safety of the IDPs are in jeopardy. Multiple cases of sexual abuse, exploitation and rape by the IDP males and figures of authority against IDP girls and women, leading to underage forced marriages of the girls by their family to their abusers and underage pregnancies have been reported.

UNICEF estimates that as many as 75,000 children would die 2017 from severe acute malnutrition, diarrhea, respiratory diseases, measles, etc. According to the Fund’s Nigerian nutrition chief, the severity of the humanitarian crises currently in north-eastern might be the worst in the world.

The Coordinator of the 2017 UN Humanitarian Response Plan, Peter Lundberg said "Due to the competing crises around the globe requiring the attention of international donors, the narrative on the humanitarian situation unfolding in North East Nigeria was largely missed in 2016 but it has now reached proportions that can no longer be ignored. The oil crisis had a knock-on effect creating a deep recession in Nigeria and the 

Government is battling to cope with a downward spiraling economy. "

Boko Haram Victims Relief, was a Canadian non-profit corporation that had to call it quits in February 2016, as they “were unsuccessful in raising significant sums of money for victims of Boko Haram.”

One is led to ask if the world is sleeping. How could this be allowed to happen? The IDPs need all the help they can get, and it is in the interest of the world to answer this call for help. 

 

Join the #iStandWithTheDisplaced movement today.

Filipino President Fuels Vigilante Violence over War on Drugs

Original content provided by Jacob Atkins

  Courtesy of Al-Jazeera

Courtesy of Al-Jazeera

The Players

President Rodrigo Duterte: casually dubbed as “The Punisher” by Time Magazine, the newest head of state for the Philippines has proven to be a controversial leader during his brief sojourn. Sworn into office on June 30, and already Duterte is worrying the international community with his evident indifference towards human rights. Almost as if inspired by the dystopian world portrayed in The Purge, currently the professionally trained lawyer is presumed to be the mastermind behind an extensive series of extrajudicial killings against suspected drug dealing criminals throughout Manilla. Amplified by Duterte’s cavalier attitude towards such allegations, vigilante violence is intensifying as newspapers continuously publish blacklists of people supposedly involved in the drug trade. While Filipino government sources say that 600 people have been targeted, local media estimate the death toll to now exceed well over 1,800. Taking into account that Duterte originally appealed to Filipino voters due to his anti-drug manifesto, such fanatical policy goals are also complemented by an array of disparaging comments to his own colleagues and foreign dignitaries. 

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg: the senior diplomat was the most recent American representative insulted by Duterte. Widely reported by Western news outlets, the Filipino president called Goldberg a gay “son of a whore” after the envoy expressed disapproval over some commentary Duterte made while serving as mayor of Davao in 1989. Specifically, the president showed little remorse or concern for an Australian missionary who was raped and murdered during a prison riot in his native city. Followed by saying, “I was angry she was raped, yes, that was one thing - but she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first - what a waste,” Duterte made zero attempt to apologize or annul his words. He even told the United States and Australia to “shut their mouths” after they asked for an explanation. On top of this, Goldberg was also bad-mouthed by Duterte for apparently interfering with the recent elections and delivering unwanted statements to better serve US interests in the region. 

Senator Leila De Lima: on a domestic level, not even Duterte’s colleagues are immune to his brashness. Formerly part of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, De Lima is one of 158 governmental workers to be publicly condemned by Duterte for secretly supporting the country’s drug cartel, despite the lack of evidence to prove such charges. Opposed to vigilante violence altogether, recently De Lima decried Duterte’s abuse of power and continuous character assassinations of public officials. Alongside others, she is one of many Filipino politicians who believe Duterte will do anything in his power to squash opposition and dissuade others from challenging his supremacy. Instead of persecuting drug addicts, though, De Lima is advocating for the implementation of more rehabilitative services. Since the drug crackdown began two months ago, over 500,000 Filipino drug users have turned themselves into authorities in hopes of avoiding any potential trouble.  

 
   Courtesy of Al-Jazeera

 Courtesy of Al-Jazeera

 

The Background

In addition to Guam, Puerto Rico, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - Spain forfeited the Philippines over to the United States after coming out defeated in the Spanish-American War. Being passed from one colonial power to another, the political situation in the Philippines has been rocky ever since it obtained independence in 1946. To acknowledge the historic ties between the Philippines and the United States, though, it’s uncanny how Duterte parallels Donald Trump. 

Both of these cantankerous men gained support over platforms to expunge crime and moral wrongdoings. With a zeal similar to the Republican presidential candidate summoning the Mexicans to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, Duterte arrived to office determined to eradicate the Philippine’s “war on drugs” with equal-levels of biased furor. Similar to Trump’s rhetoric against undocumented Mexicans as “rapists and criminals, or Muslims as inherently dangerous, Duterte has said quite candidly that citizens involved in illegal activities are legitimate targets for assassination and not worthy of second chances. Apparently Duterte isn’t the only one to believe this is true, for he won by a landslide (39% of votes in the last election) with more than 6.6 million additional votes than his closest rival, Mar Roxas. 

As previously mentioned, Duterte served as the mayor of Davao from 1988 to 1998. It was during this decade that his legacy for cleansing cities of drug-related crime began. Considering that Davao was once infamously known as the murder capital of the Philippines, today the city is rated as one of the most tranquil in Southeast Asia because of Duterte’s policy reforms. However, many suspect that Duterte accomplished such a transfiguration through contracting individuals to be part of his own personal death squad who executed petty criminals and alleged drug dealers. Between 1,020 to 1,040 people are said to have disappeared during the former mayor’s tenure. 

 
  Courtesy of Al Jazeera

Courtesy of Al Jazeera

 

The Story

Today the Filipino president is threatening to enforce martial law if the judiciary tries to interfere with the full-blown drug war. Responding to internal disputes from his ministry, Duterte delivered quite a livid speech to military troops last week where he said that, “If this will continue and if you will try to stop me, then fine. Would you rather I declare martial law?” Obviously not caring about the separation of powers, this proclamation comes after Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno communicated her concern to Duterte for releasing names of judges accused of being part of the drug trade. Rather than influencing citizens to get involved, Sereno reminded Duterte that Filipinos are entitled to legal representation before being indicted for a crime. 

Further implications of Duterte’s presidency are evident in today’s territorial disputes with China over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Out of all the countries within this contested area, the Philippines has proven to be the most vocal antagonist against China’s attempts at developing new land in a bid to obtain more access to nearby beds of crude oil. Instead of aligning Filipino foreign policy with the United States’ (as the Philippines has historically done) it appears as though Duterte is halting multilateral negotiations and reevaluating his relationship with the West - which is certainly complicated considering that over 75,000 American troops are currently deployed in and around the Philippines. 

All in all, if Duterte sticks to his words, he would be on the logical path to becoming the world’s most contemporary dictator.  

Political Power Play in India, 2004-2014.

Original content provided by Duaa Amina Noor

  Courtesy of S3 India

Courtesy of S3 India

The Players 

Indian National Congress: Discussions of contemporary politics in India would be incomplete without a mention of the Congress Party. Having controlled the central government for 49 years, it has had a leading role in shaping the political sphere and electoral politics in India. Rao and Venkateswarlu, in their book, “Parliamentary Democracy in India”, note that “The Congress Party is the only political group in the nation with all India organization”. Formed in 1885, the party is known for playing the leading role in helping the country gain independence from British colonial rule. Its post independence importance can be seen in light of actions taken by charismatic members, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Manmohan Singh and countless others. Added to this, the philosophy of the Congress based on ideals such as nationalism, secularism and social justice has garnered it devoted followers over the years.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Formed in 1980, the BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) is another major political party, force in India, and the main competitor of the Congress Party. It rests on an ideology known as Hinduvta, which seeks to link the Indian culture with Hindu, religious values, and in this way works towards promoting the unity, integrity and cultural uniqueness of the nation. The party gets the majority of its support from higher castes of society in accordance with the Hindu caste or ‘Varna’ system.

  Courtesy of CDN Voter ID Network

Courtesy of CDN Voter ID Network

The Background

In the democratic system of India, with elections held every five years, one way to examine the political power dynamics is to look at parties’ electoral success. The 2004 and 2009 elections spelt victory for the Congress party and defeat for the BJP. However in the 2014 elections, the Congress failed to impress with the BJP gaining the advantage, and consequently taking control of the government till the next elections are held in 2019.

It is important to realize that there are two sides to electoral success- correct steps taken by the winning party, and mistakes committed by the defeated party. For example, the Congress won votes due to its strategies to align itself closely with smaller local parties and the implementation of the ‘NEGRA’ (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), whereas the BJP lost out in two consecutive years due to a clash between its traditional values and the modern political system, and focusing its campaign solely on the higher caste voters of society whilst neglecting others. Hence from 2004-20014 a blend of the above factors; i.e. the Congresses strengths and the BJP’s weaknesses lead to the Congress party staying in power.

  Courtesy of Thompson Reuters

Courtesy of Thompson Reuters

The Story

Power shifted, when in 2014, in the 16thLokSabha elections the Bharatiya Janata Party made an exceptional comeback and won the majority of votes in the lower house of the Parliament. The BJP changed itself in terms of “internal transformation”. Although traditionally the party was known for support from upper and middle class voters, in the 2014 elections, it worked towards gaining the approval of backward castes. Not only did it become the party to gain the highest number of votes from “Other Backward Classes” but it also promoted the involvement of backward classes and Dalits or the untouchable caste in leadership positions. This was totally opposite to the Hinduvta ideology and frame of mind that the party had adopted in the previous elections. This change of policy was furthered by Modi who openly led the BJP in the 2014 elections. He made use of his simple background and his rise to power to help the backward classes associate with the BJP and explicitly said that “The next decade will belong to the dalits and the backwards”.


In addition to this “The 2014 elections saw a bold articulation of liberalization policy in the name of development by the BJP”. The BJP aimed to make India a force to be reckoned with in the global sphere, increase competitiveness and capital inflow for industrialization.

Ultimately, it is important to consider that in the years to come, we may see the political nature of India changing, as new parties come to the forefront, such as the recent popularity of the “Aamaadmi party”, which has come to the spotlight in the 2015 Delhi Legislative Assembly election, outplaying both the Congress and the BJP. Hence, in due time, the two leading parties might get a run for their money as now, new parties are increasingly mobilizing, participating and gaining the support of the general public.

An Open Letter from a Syrian Christian: A Light on Syria

 
  Courtesy of Channel4News, Syria

Courtesy of Channel4News, Syria

 

Original content provided by: Abboud Al-Thelab

“How is the weather?”
“Very hot this past week. We have to pick up water from the store later today. We are-”

The phone line is cut as electricity is restricted for the day in the city of Damascus.

The above script of my phone call with a cousin in Syria is not at all unique. At any given point in time, there are people sitting in compounds dissecting every detail of most likely every call in Syria in order to accumulate intelligence. These centers are not just run by the government, but by so-called rebel groups like the “Free Syrian Army” and extremist Islamic groups like the so-called “Islamic State.” Each attempting to forecast each others movements based on information that could be pulled from a concise phone call, which happens to be coded.

As far as espionage is concerned, coding might be the most basic utility. We are able to say one thing and have it refer to a context far from imaginable for the person eavesdropping, thus giving ourselves camouflage from potential assailants. We protect ourselves not because we are spies, soldiers, nor conspirators but because we are Christians.

Before 2011, Syria was one of three nations in the Middle East that largely accepted the faiths of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (the others being Jordan and Lebanon.) By “largely accepted,” I mean that no one was persecuted or treated differently for their faith when finding a job, going to university, or simply existing. This is due to the father of Bashar al-Assad, Hafez al-Assad. Having been a member of the Syrian Air Force, he served for eight years from 1950 until 1958 when he and the highest ranking members of the military decided to throw a successful coup against the then President Nazim al-Kudsi in 1963 (after a small failed coup in 1962.) Al-Assad rose to president by strong arming his way through more coups and aggressive maneuvers and found himself sitting as president in November of 1970. It is over the next thirty years that be brought together branches of Islam, specifically Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Alawites (his family’s respective factor.) And in doing so, he brought religious peace (not defined as just the absence of violence but as harmony among all) to Syria.

But Hafez did not get to the top without opposition from forces outside of Syria. In 1982, al- Assad ordered the bombing of Hama, a city in the northwest. By using jets to conduct fire bombing raids of the city, some ten to forty thousand people died over three weeks. Media outside of Syria covered this as a genocide on his own people. But by targeting the select districts in Hama, those jets bombarded the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni extremist group still operating in the Middle East and North Africa today.

 


 

By slaughtering those tens of thousands of innocent people, he ended what most likely would have been an aggressive assault on the government by the radical group and their followers. A complete hijacking of Syria was at stake and he did effectively prevent it. Do not twist my words, I am not justifying the killing of these people as this sort of behavior, to an extent, is transpiring in Syria today.

As Hafez died in 2000, his son Bashar assumed role of president, amongst great controversy of voting. A number of citizens, mostly Sunni and more conservative Muslims, were not unhappy because they wanted to see a democratic system take proper control but because it was not their branch of religion taking the throne (as the Assad family is Alawite). But this did not deter Syria from keeping religious peace amongst itself. Sunnis still lived alongside Shi’ites the same as Christians and the Muslim population.

Between 2010 and 2011 is when western media started to put Syria on CNN and other major networks. Headlines started covering events like protests and uprisings among rebel groups. They started to paint Bashar al-Assad as a gruesome dictator (he is indeed a dictator as he has essentially refused to leave power) and as a president who bombs his own people with chemicals and shrapnel. These rebels were no Syrians. A vast majority of the people at these protests were mercenaries paid by a number of countries in order to ignite a keg full of political gunpowder. I cannot give title to any country on the basis of media but I can write that it was countries like Saudi Arabia who, for one instance, released 3.500 prisoners from their jails, armed them, paid them, and shipped them to Syria. Another country blatantly guilty of attacking Syria is Turkey. They allowed groups like the so-called “Islamic State” to train and operate out of southern Turkey and slip into northern Syria in order to wage war on Assad. And they have been successful. The Syrian government has been bombing its own cities but not to the breadth nor range that western media has described. They have been dropping strikes on these mercenaries and groups in order to keep Syria what it was before it was waged war on.

Is it possible that Assad has used chemical weapons? Yes, I’m positive that almost any military has the capabilities to drop mustard gas on its people. Is it likely? Absolutely not. Syria would not risk severing ties with Russia on the basis of total ignorance for human rights.

If it were not for Vladimir Putin and the Russian state, Syria would have likely fallen three years ago. Russia has been keeping Syria protected by arming them with military planes, ammunition, small arms, and personnel. They do this not for some kind gesture of good faith but because they have several military bases on the coast in Latakia and Tartus. These bases give Russia a level of dominance over the United States in the Middle East by docking warships and fighter jets. Should Syria fall, these bases would fall prey to extremist groups or western control.


 

It is here that I must share to what degree my family has suffered during these past several years. I also cannot tell every detail, such as names, dates, or cities as I do not know who will read this article. Nor is Abboud al-Thelab my real name, as my name may put my family overseas in direct line execution by a fanatical Islamic “rebel”.

These people are not the rebels you think of when referring back to your civil studies. They are not fighting for democracy. They are not fighting for religious freedom. They are not fighting for freedom at all. They fight because they are paid. And quite often, they are paid to abduct and torture people for ransoms. This instills fear in the populations they occupy and brings in a massive amount of revenue for their group. But just as often, ransoms are brought forward, and they kill their captives for the sake of killing them. Like butchered animals, two of my cousins were dropped off in bags at what was their front door. Because they were Christian.

Because one of my cousins is a Christian teacher, her and her class were a target for a rocket propelled grenade.

If it were not for the Assad family and their allies, my family, along with millions of others, would have been forced out of Syria generations ago. No one should have to fathom what genocide truly looks like. And the examples I have given are merely two of half a dozen family members now buried.

I write this this to tell others that we as a human race are supporting groups like the so-called “Islamic State” by following what we are told.

The next time you watch a broadcast on any news network, I want you to understand that you are being told what a government wants you to think. While this is not always a wrong way to approach ‘educating’ the masses, it certainly can be deadly for those on receiving end of the barrel. Do not support random social media videos blindly because you see a child and a desert. Do not always assume that what you are learning in university and beyond is always in accordance with fact. Try to outsource your media to corporations and nations who have no bias in the respective topic. This world is filled to the brim with evil, do your part by bringing truth and light to everyone you can. 

Where do we go now? What the economic policy of the United States would look like under the leading Presidential candidates

Original content provided by Stephen Alexander

 
  Courtesy of Newsweek

Courtesy of Newsweek

 

The Players

Hillary Clinton: In her second run for president of the United States, the democrat appears to be the most likely candidate to win with a 4 point lead over Donald Trump in the Rassmussen presidential poll and a 77.7% chance of winning according to FiveThirtyEight. The former First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State looks to reform the economy with higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, nixing the TPP, and investing in higher education.

Donald Trump: The real estate mogul/reality television star/billionaire has stolen the show in the presidential cycle with his fiery rhetoric and frequent Twitter use. Though he has gotten more media attention than any other candidate, he is down in the polls to Clinton and losing ground fast. His economic policy proposals are still vague with less than 100 days to the general election, but Trump’s platform focuses on reworking current trade agreements and a massive tax overhaul.

Gary Johnson: The former two-term governor of New Mexico is running for president as the candidate for the Libertarian party. After an unsuccessful attempt in the Republican primary in 2012, Johnson regrouped and is campaigning independent of the GOP. Though relatively unrenowned for most of the election cycle, Johnson has become the leading alternative to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Johnson bills himself as a pragmatist who can solve the economic problems of the country with massive cutbacks on government spending and taxation. He is polling at 6% nationally in the Rassmussen presidential poll as of August 4th.

 
  Courtesy of ABC News

Courtesy of ABC News

 

The Background

The three leading candidates are wildly different in terms of their fiscal views, with Clinton flashing a more progressive, liberal agenda, Johnson being about as fiscally conservative as possible, and Trump remaining somewhere in the middle. Globalization has increasingly mitigated some of the influence presidential policies have on a nation’s economy, though the policies still have the power to transform the nation, good or bad.

**************

Hillary Clinton has many policy ideas in mind but to fund them she will need to tax appropriately. Her tax plan is not radically different from the current one under the Obama administration, though she plans to raise rates on the wealthy and incorporate the Buffet Rule, which ensures a minimum effective tax rate of 30% for earners over $1 million. The benefits of her plans will be vigorously debated as the Tax Foundation projects her tax policy to shrink the economy by 1% in the long run. This could eliminate over 300,000 jobs and reduce wages, albeit by .8%. Clinton hopes to significantly boost her tax plan by reshaping America’s education system and penalizing companies for moving operations overseas. Clinton proposes free community college for all Americans, which she hopes will strengthen manufacturing communities and get back manufacturing jobs that have moved abroad.

Donald Trump’s policy reforms reflect many of his ideas as a whole, simple and maybe not well thought out. Trump’s tax plan centers on simplifying the tax code to four brackets and hammering away at corporate and estate taxes. Trump plans to reduce the corporate tax rate to 15% and completely eliminating the estate tax. Though this will invigorate the economy and create more than 5 million jobs, the national debt could increase by 80% by 2036 due to the $10-12 trillion dollar reduction in revenue from taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center. This could, in turn, force massive spending cuts in the government, which may require an equally massive governmental job cuts. Trump insists he will not touch Social Security or Medicare, though he will eliminate Obamacare. This creates an issue though, as the decreased revenue from taxes will not be able to cover the expenses of the two without greatly increasing the deficit. Another highlight of Trump’s platform is his plan to eliminate bi-lateral trade agreements. Trump promises his negotiating power will be able to rework current trade agreements, add manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. and make America great again.

Gary Johnson flaunts fiscal responsibility as his greatest asset. He managed to cut taxes many times as Governor of New Mexico and left the state with a $1 billion surplus. Johnson is proposing a reduction of taxation to just a consumption tax, which would tax spending instead of income. His economic policy proposals have not been much more specific otherwise, though he encourages a less interventionist military. This could in theory create a massive windfall for the United States, as the federal government spent $598.5 billion in discretionary money on the military in 2015. Whether his success in maintaining a budget at a state level could translate to a federal one is up for debate. The United States has never been headed by a Libertarian Commander-In-Chief, so many of the proposed policies are untested.

 
  Courtesy of CNN News

Courtesy of CNN News

 

The Story

Economists are divided mostly into tax-and-spend advocates and those who think fewer taxes will benefit the nation most. This election divvies up the candidates into those camps, with Clinton in the former and Trump and Johnson in the latter. Though each side offer numerous economic models to support their theories, the many moving parts of the American economy prohibit a fundamental exhibition for either side. If elected, Clinton will face a Republican-heavy Congress which will fight her ideas and may inhibit them from taking shape. Trump may face the same issue, as he is very unpopular among GOP incumbents. Johnson does not realistically have a shot at becoming president this election cycle. The unpopularity among both candidates has his stock slowly rising however; he may benefit from gained notoriety for a run in 2020. Each candidate’s proposals are far from perfect in the eyes of most economists, but it is up to American democracy to evolve platform to policy and improve upon the concepts along the way.

Sweden sets New Precedent with Feminist Foreign Policy

Original Content provided by Jacob Atkins

  Courtesy of Veterans Today

Courtesy of Veterans Today

The Players

Foreign Minister Margot Wallström: appointed by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in October of 2014, the Social Democrat (and former representative for the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict) made headlines for her unapologetic feminist platform. From her perspective, comprehensive gender equality is paramount if global peace and security are to someday be achieved. Responsible for implementing Sweden’s external interests, her conviction reinforces the nation’s reputation as a “humanitarian superpower” setting new standards for sustainable development and conflict mitigation. Now that Sweden has become first country to fully adopt a feminist agenda, the seasoned politician must figure out what that entails exactly in regards to the Swedish military responding to recent Russian hostility.

Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist: aligned with Wallström’s ideologies, Hultqvist considers Russia to be Sweden’s largest security threat. Earlier this year he signed a non-binding agreement with the United States to ensure military cooperation and information sharing in a collaborative effort to downplay Russia’s impeding regional presence. Such diplomacy unfolded after Russia threatened to use military force against unaligned Nordic countries (such as Sweden and Finland) if they were to join NATO. Because of such perceived animosity, the Defense Minister recently deployed troops to the island of Gotland for the first time since the Cold War ended to pay closer attention to Russian submarine activity in the Baltic Sea. 

  Courtesy of WordPress

Courtesy of WordPress

The Background

Historically speaking, Moscow has generally viewed Sweden as a neutral colleague due to its non-NATO membership. Over the years this neutrality has dissipated, however, due to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. During the early days of the occupation Sweden accused the Kremlin of unlawfully operating in its airspace and sovereign waters in 2015. The political friction intensified as soon as Sweden joined the rest of Western Europe in sanctioning Russia, all while providing aid to Ukraine. Triggered by these incidents, the Riksdag (Sweden’s national legislature where parliament in located) rejects Russia’s intention to maintain a sphere of influence, refusing to be yet another entity in Putin’s “backyard.” In this sense, perhaps a feminist foreign policy embodies notions of personal solidarity free of unwanted advances in such situations.  

For all intents and purposes, it appears as though Sweden certainly has the political clout to effectively promote a feminist campaign throughout Europe. According to the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Scandinavian country is the most influential policymaker in the continent after the likes of Germany. Based on the European Foreign Policy Scorecard, the Swedish government excelled at creating activist-inspired coalitions with fellow EU members, only to be paired with the country’s continual commitment to supporting humanitarian causes. 

 
  Courtesy of WordPress

Courtesy of WordPress

 

The Story

While many applaud Wallström for her innovative platform, certain critics lambast the Foreign Minister’s program as naive or vague. Even more severe were the harsh receptions she received from certain countries, like Saudi Arabia. Apparently when Wallström was invited to present to the Arab League in Cairo upon winning the election, Saudi officials prevented her from speaking openly about gender equality and female representation in politics. Soon enough Sweden cancelled a defense agreement with the Middle Eastern kingdom for the harsh gesture. On the national level, however, many Swedes were outraged over the ministry’s resolution to scrap a treaty worth over $560 million that involved trading technology and military software. The reality of the situation is that Sweden is the world’s 12th biggest exporter of arms, meaning that losing Saudi Arabia as a trade partner was a major blow to certain Swedish enterprises. 

Another opponent of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is Israel. Once Wallström was elected she became the first EU foreign minister to officially acknowledge Palestine as a sovereign state. In line with her party’s advocacy for human rights and conflict resolution, she firmly believes in a two-state solution for a united Israel. Responding with haste, though, the Israeli foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, in 2014. Additionally, Wallström’s diplomatic immunity was suspended if she were to visit Israel- meaning she wouldn’t be granted any special protections as a diplomat or politician. 

NATO's Frustrations Towards Turkey

Original Content by Jacob Atkins

  Courtesy of the California Courier

Courtesy of the California Courier

The Players

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: the self-proclaimed “conservative democrat” with a penchant for liberal economic policy became the twelfth president of Turkey in 2014 after previously serving as the Prime Minister since 2002. In light of Turkey’s legacy of authoritarian regimes, though, Erdogan’s administration has recently been accosted by world leaders for following a similar trajectory. Although some Turkish nationals praise Erdogan for bringing economic prosperity to the Eurasian nation, others denounce the manner in which he silences dissident opinion among citizenry - made apparent during the 2013 Gezi Park protests where protesters were pummeled by national security forces for demonstrating against a large-scale development project. Some believe that right-wing Islamist nationalism is tainting Turkey’s progress as a secular democracy, therefore jeopardizing the country’s good standing in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO: this intergovernmental military alliance comprised of 28 countries was ratified in 1949 and originally aimed to subdue the perceived threat of communism during the Korean, Vietnam and Cold Wars. While Turkey joined NATO in 1952, some analysts aren’t impressed with its leaders in regards to promoting democracy or respecting human rights. Taking into account that Turkey possesses the second-largest military force in NATO after the United States, however, the country has always served as an integral “buffer” between the “Western World” versus Russia and the Middle East. Ultimately Turkey’s military prowess has evolved into a contentious issue within NATO because of the current Syrian conflict, the ongoing Kurdish insurgency and the recent (failed) attempt to overthrow the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi). After Erdogan came out of the ordeal unscathed, the president raised some eyebrows after conspiring that United States and NATO forces were responsible for orchestrating the insurgency in collaboration with the ousted Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gülen.  

Fethullah Gülen: pro-Erdogan supporters are convinced that this Turkish cleric colluded with the CIA and NATO to initiate Turkey’s most recent venture with military takeovers. Interestingly enough, though, Gülen has exiled himself from Turkey (self-imposed) due to fear of persecution and currently residing in rural Pennsylvania. As a theological figure, he is at the forefront of the Gülen Movement (known as Hizmet in Turkish, meaning “the service”) that encourages interfaith dialogue and civil engagement activities, such as humanitarian aid. Primarily they function within academic settings, with over 1,000 Gülen-inspired schools in more than 160 countries. Despite the seemingly positive intentions, Erdogan designated the group as a terrorist organization with intentions to overturn Turkey’s democracy. Moreover, Gulen became an alleged enemy of the state after he was blamed for initiating a political corruption scandal in 2012 where members of the AKP were accused of illegally trading gas for gold to Iran. 

  Courtesy of Telesur

Courtesy of Telesur

The Background

In terms of transcontinental geopolitics, Turkey is certainly at the crossroads of dynamic political tension involving an assortment of political actors, all with their own polarized objectives. Keeping this in mind, the ongoing Syrian conflict has complicated matters greatly, especially in terms of Turkey arming Syrian rebels to use against Al-Assad. According to Reuters, though, the beneficiaries of these Turkish weapons just so happened to be recruits for the Islamic State, and therefore used in the caliphate’s operations. Regardless of Turkey’s denial to such accusations, it nonetheless endangered numerous NATO members. 

Further political conundrums have transpired due to the United States aiding ethnic Kurds and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) in defending themselves against ISIS. The fact of the matter is, though, that Turkey also deems the PKK as an internal terrorist network. The left-wing militant group operating out of Turkey and Iraq (where many stateless Kurds also reside) have been engaged in an armed conflict with Turkey since 1984. Resulting from this, the Kurds who make up between 18 and 25 % of Turkey’s population, are deprived of basic political and human rights, which certainly isn’t something that NATO condones. Even more complications arose after Turkey blamed the Kurds for the March 13, 2016 car bombing in Istanbul that resulted in Turkey conducting air raids against them in northern Iraq. Considering that U.S. and Canada are backing Kurds to fight against ISIS, there is no doubt that a conflict of interest is at play here, and perhaps Turkey’s military interests aren’t exactly compatible with Western tactics. 

  Courtesy of Veterans Today

Courtesy of Veterans Today

The Story

The failed military coup showcases an accumulation of problems that are destabilizing Turkey’s present-day political landscape, all of which concern (and aggravate) NATO. Since the unsuccessful coup that left more than 350 dead, Erdogan has facilitated an extensive “purge” amongst perceived Gülen loyalists who were supposedly part of the “smear campaign” against his administration. So far numerous educators, journalists and civil servants have lost their jobs, not to mention currently being tried as war criminals. Along those lines, more than 1,700 military officials have been dishonorably discharged for assisting in the operations. In retaliation against the military, pro-Erdogan forces surrounded NATO’s air base in Incirlik on July 30 after hearing rumors of another coup in-the-making. While personnel say they were performing a “security check,” the event occurred days after a group of Erdogan supporters marched to the airbase chanting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans over a loudspeaker. Such incidents are compelling fellow NATO-members to believe that Turkey is seemingly embracing more of an “anti-western” stance nowadays.

With Turkey’s amplified sense of self-determination, critics are also concerned that conflict between Turkey and Russia is imminent, especially after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet in November of 2015. Under Article V of the NATO agreement, member-nations would be collectively expected to defend Turkey in case fighting ensued. Now that NATO’s relationship with Turkey is at an all-time low, one may wonder the extent NATO would go to prevent a military dispute from transpiring between Turkey and Russia. While effective diplomacy seems to be the most logical resolution, Turkey could very well lose its NATO-membership if their aggressiveness continues. 

Saudi Arabia: From Oil Kingdom to Start-Up Hub

Original Content created by: Lina Abisoghomyan

  Courtesy of Construction Week Online

Courtesy of Construction Week Online

The Players

Saudi Arabia:  is currently in a position of both opportunity and inherent risk. Its economic situation is extremely unique and fragile; it has the resources to do great things with most literally limitless possibilities, but the incentives, intellectual infrastructure, and bureaucratic support in doing so are shaky at best. This gives the Kingdom room to grow, but also a lot of responsibility for that growth. 

Regionl economy: will be affected by Saudi Arabia's decision in the near future as they are an extremely capital-rich but not yet unlocked regional player and, of course, a large participant of OPEC

Investors: have a golden opportunity to commit their money to an up-and-coming investment with a great deal of potential to make huge returns over the initial stages of the project. It is a one-of-a-kind investment in a diverse array of business ventures, architectural projects, and factory building. 

 
  From News Cision

From News Cision

 

The Background

According to the World Data Bank, the oil business accounts for close to 50% of Saudi Arabia’s GDP. But this number has been slowly but surely falling; in 2011, it was a 48.1%, in 2012 it fell to 45.8%, and in 2013 it dropped even lower down to 43.6%.  Saudi Arabia will soon need to realize that its economy’s sustainability and success is only true in the short term. Saudi Arabia has planned a very promising two-level approach, a domestic and an international, in tackling the need for a diversified, healthy, and inclusive economy.

The tactics for encouraging continued international involvement in the Kingdom’s initiatives include building attractive infrastructure to bring in foreign investors for the purposes of public-private partnerships. These initiatives benefit the Kingdom by including it as a player in the international business market for something other than oil. Saudi Arabia has already taken great steps in encouraging development and investment in these initiatives.

The tactic for encouraging continued domestic involvement in the Kingdom’s economic diversification through entrepreneurship, particularly in the technology and professional service sectors, can be largely seen as identifying need for and jumpstarting initiatives targeting previously underrepresented and sometimes even barred groups.

Both these important initiatives also need to be considered from the point of incentivizing business development and the assessment of long-term sustainability.  

 
  Courtesy of Daily Mail

Courtesy of Daily Mail

 

The Story

The King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is Saudi Arabia’s most notable public-private venture attempting to secure the framework for Saudi Arabia’s post oil future.The city, located on the Western Coast of the country North of Jeddah, has been developed with particular attention to attracting Western investors and entrepreneurs. KAEC is a pre-emptive solution to the over-estimated amounts and prices of Saudi Arabia’s oil being met with dropping international market prices and demand, and looks to diversify the oil-dependent economy. More than $70 billion has already been invested into KAEC by both the government and foreign investors. Recently, and quite notably, US company Mars has begun building a $200 million factory to produce its candy bars.

 

In educating and including under-represented groups in its new initiatives, the government further highlights the steps it is taking to make the Kingdom look more attractive to the international community and foreign non-oil market investors. The two most important and promising groups for Saudi Arabia’s economic development and diversification are women and newly-graduated youth. The economy, particularly in terms of the market for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) in Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf region as a whole, does not fall into the usual bi-polar classification of developed or non-developed country. It does not have the long-standing history and progression of industry that a developed country would have, nor does it have the lack of capital as a non-developed country would have. Rather, it has little to no infrastructure for production and industry but a huge amount of available capital. 

Incentivizing entrepreneurs to take advantage of these support mechanisms, to invest large pools of capital, is difficult to say the least. People have no need to invest their money in risky ventures when they are already well supported by their government, often paying no taxes and having unimaginably cheap prices for good they do have to pay for, such as .44 cents a gallon for gas.And so, when looking purely at the Kingdom’s domestic plan, it is clear that the business considerations in Saudi Arabia are largely different from those of other countries; the environmental policy debate is linked to future petroleum demand and price.This is just about the only thing that can bolster support and encouragement for the development of a local private industry.

 

The EU: The TTP’s Missing Link

Original Content created by: Lina Abisoghomyan

  Courtesy of Forbes Magazine

Courtesy of Forbes Magazine

The Players

The United States- has maintained a civil and productive relationship with China driven by their mutual interests and capacities for production in both numbers and quality because of regulation on the international market. As a dominant and growing hegemonic power, it is important for the United States to maintain its place as both a primary producer of goods and a regulator of standards, which can largely be incentivized by allowing smaller, and potential-full developing countries to trade with it.

 The East Asian countries- are a group of mid-sized, labour-rich countries that have needed a parent country that would outsource to them.

 China- the world’s second largest economy with a government highly involved with, yet highly skeptical of the Western world, China has access to one of the largest and most agile labour force in the world, with a demand for its goods that is, on the aggregate, largely inelastic. 

 The EU- The reason the EU cannot, and has not taken the initiative to, join the TPP can be attributed to its stance on China. The EU is much more accommodative to China’s demands, and turns a blind eye on many standards that it publicly goes to condemn. Though this reason may seem reason enough looking at China’s position today as the world’s second largest economy and threatening to surpass the US, if reguarded in the long term Europe stands a chance to fall behind as the Eastern Asian bloc is one with incredible promise in its growth and development, particularly with this new and more open policy that puts it on the good side of the United States.

  Courtesy of Zero Hedge

Courtesy of Zero Hedge

 

The Background

The TTP is a large-scale economic agreement involving a number of nations, and most notably excluding China, and the Western hemisphere, including the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This agreement is not only important because of its scale, but because of its effect on its participants’ short and long term economic and security realities.

The TTP redefines standards in terms of labour and production, as well as most notably and importantly in the environmental sectors as well as the realm of the new-and-coming topic of intellectual property.

  Courtesy of the United States Trade Representative's office

Courtesy of the United States Trade Representative's office

The Story

Economically speaking, the TPP might become a sort of model or template, widely accepted, and put in question certain current standards in the EU. These standards could go either way, being stricter or less strict, because of the new norm of this large scale agreement. One of the strictest adjustments is expected to be in the realm of intellectual property.

The TPP agreement may steal business from the EU, as 30% of EU’s external exports were to TPP countries.

The TPP is very strict on labour and environmental standards. It is seen as the US trying to re-engage itself in the region, blocking the path of the EU to leverage this goldmine for its own purposes by getting the first large-scale deal like this. 

The TPP ratifies a certain ease on barriers at the border for many types of industrial products, including raw goods, this would allow for better collaboration of international enterprises, as well as cultural and social collaboration between the US and East Asian countries. This leaves the EU at a disadvantage as a large world power alongside the US at it struggles to develop and encourage similar commitment and collaboration with its own enterprises and peoples. 

The largest issues the EU would have with such heavy US involvement aside from a raised bar of standards that they would be pressured to submit to, would also be the constant easier access the American lobbists would have to large and important Asian market producers. It can also, with access to the TPP, hope to gain much influence in the implementation of its interests in Asia and around the world, as an extention, particularly in its growingly innovative technological fields.

The TPP model is different from that of the EU’s mercantilist and dependent model that it practices with its allies. The TPP model features, rather, a more public and multilateral approach. 

The EU’s absence from the TPP should not be taken as a sign of its absence in the region. It has signed, or is in the process of signing agreements outside the scope of the TPP with each of the TPP countries, and will continue to participate in the region. Also, with its friendly stance on China, this gives it a favourable position in Taiwan, which could be a key to reaping even more benefits from the mainland.

 European defense is undoubtedly dependent on its neighboring countries, and the status of the global political and economic atmosphere.

Defense spending in the EU will undoubtedly increase steadily as it struggles to keep up with a rising standard and a breadth of possibilities developed and introduced by the US-West into the developing world. Defense firms may have to collaborate with allies they never thought they would join forces with, such as Russia, indirectly through China.

 

El Nino’s Effects on Food Security in the Horn of Africa

Original content provided by Henock Yilma

 Courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The Players

El Nino- This weather cycle, which increases global temperatures and interferes with normal patterns is the strongest on record threatening to increase hunger and disease for millions of people in the year of 2016.

Ethiopian government- The current ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has achieved significant macroeconomic growth helping to remove past negative stigmatism given from the famines of the past. In an effort to maintain this image, the government aimed at tackling food insecurity on its own, but have now asked for help from the international community.

Donors- After a somewhat delayed response, the international community has now stepped in. According to the United Nations, 400,000 Ethiopian children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and more than 10 million people need food aid. The international NGO Save the Children has even stated the drought is a bigger threat to children’s lives than the war in Syria. The USAID Feed the Future Program has an established mission in Ethiopia set to three categories of development. 

 
 Courtesy of the United Nations Environmental Programme

Courtesy of the United Nations Environmental Programme

 

The Background

The former Ethiopian socialist regime (DERG) under Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam identified many central types of development strategies in which the agriculture sector was seen as a crucial component of Ethiopian growth. Hailemariam’s regime focused on the improvement of food security believing agricultural productivity to be the key component. However, these objectives were vague and theoretical ideas written on paper never being practically implemented. Nearly a decade after the humiliating famines under previous Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign, Ethiopia’s dark history of food insecurity reappeared in horrible form. From 1984-1985, drought in the Northern regions contributed to famine that killed over a million Ethiopians. The dire situation was ascribed to drought, but an analysis of DERG policies and responses to the crisis proved to possibly have created and exacerbate the famine.   

 
 Courtesy of Progressio

Courtesy of Progressio

 

The Story 

      Enter 2016 and the northern regions of Tigray and Afar are facing drought worse than that of 1984. Since then, much has changed in the Ethiopian socio-political context. The northern province of Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia. That same year, the socialist regime of Mengistu Hailemariam was replaced with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The new regime has played a significant role in helping to transform the economic and agricultural narrative. In 2010, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi helped implement the Growth and Tranformation Plan (GTP), an amibitious five-year plan dedicated to a practical plan to reduce poverty. The GTP is concretely outlined in a poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) prepared by authorities of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in additional consultation with the World Bank and IMF. In their PRSP, they emphasize their focus on agriculture as a major source of economic growth. 

“The Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization Strategy emphasizes that small holder farmers and pastoralists need to use efficiently available modern agricultural technologies that increase productivity and production. In addition, the private sector will be encouraged to increase its share of investment in agriculture.”

The government has set aside $192m aside to deal with current emergency, but its sufficiency is being tested through the effects of El Nino. With Ethiopia’s having one of the fastest growing economies in the world, this threat from nature leaves many fearful that past demons will reemerge.

             

Russia's Policy in Syria and towards the West

Original content provided by Lina Abisoghomyan

 Courtesy of NBC news

Courtesy of NBC news

The Players

Vladimir Putin- Putin has made a name for himself amongst the Russian people in proclaiming anti-Western sentiment as a necessary acceptance for a staunch reality. He has drafted and run with an agenda that puts, rightfully, his country's interests first. However, he has considered the West an adversary instead of even a hopeful ally which renders his plans risky and unsustainable in the long run.

Bashaar al-Assad- Having been accused of a multitude of human rights violations including using chemical weapons against his own people, Assad has put himself in an uncompromising situation and works with the Russians as a fallback in protecting himself from the West.

the West, as represented by the United States- Since the sanctions relating to the Ukraine crisis, the West has not put up much of an on-stage fight. However, in the workings of the mechanism are deep set on skepticism. 

 Courtesy of the Washington Post 

Courtesy of the Washington Post 

The Background

Putin crafts his anti-Western argument from multiple points. 

Firstly, he quotes former US Secretary of State James Baker's promise that the West would not come closer to Russia's sphere of influence to say that the West has gone back on its promises. Secondly, he expresses confidence in Russia's ability to withstand sanctions because of close economic ties to NATO who Putin argues would not be able to hang on in the long run without Russian oil. Thirdly, Putin quotes his geopolitical strengths in influencing important actors like Iran on top issues like nuclear nonproliferation. Fourth, Putin finds particular individuals throughout the EU, top-officials such as Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and isolates them as pro-Russian supporters. Fifth, Putin points out his push-pull with his ability to set oil prices that are extremely important to the Western world. Sixth, Putin claims the US forces are weak with their overextension and deployments.

Courtesy of NBC News

The Story

The new round of the Cold War has brought about questions, as usual, of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national identity. However, it also brings about a wake-up call in the eyes of the realist. Ukraine is old news now, and has translated into a status quo.  As far as Syria goes, Putin has stepped in as a strategic stronghold and defense for Assad, knowing full well that when he ordered his men to exit Assad would be left vulnerable to his regime's collapse. This way, Putin has allied himself with Assad, who owes Moscow for his protection late September 2015 and their continued involvement recently. Facing an increasingly difficult situation, he can opt to retreat to a protected exile in Russia in exchange for allowing the entry of a pro-Russian interim government. 

 Courtesy of Asia News

Courtesy of Asia News

Population's Effects on the Relations between Russia, China, and the United States

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan

 
 
 

The Players

> Populations

Russia: 142,423,773 (July 2015 est.) #10

China: 1,367,485,388 (July 2015) #1

USA: 321,368,864 (July 2015) #4

The Background

China is facing increasing domestic responsibility with the re-settling of rural to urban areas of staggering amounts of people. Because of these, we have seen skyrocketing numbers for the investment in real estate over the years. This growth, however, has contributed to a sort of bubble because of high prices and low ability of poor re-settled farmers to pay for the fancy new homes. 

China's other issue is its aging population, with an exception of a 2:1 ratio of retirees to workers over the next twenty years. 

Russia has seen a shrinking population because of low birth rates, combined with health concerns including pollution, and drinking. The replacement rate has been marginal at best, and young men have been unable to be employed which affects family growth and sustainability. Even with immigrants, many illegal, this has still not been able to make up the gap. With an aging population and a low labour force, Russia is struggling to maintain a balance in its structural makeup.

The US is facing a largely immigrant population influx, particularly from Mexico. The non-Hispanic white population will only make up 50% of the population by the year of 2050. The US is the only country the world to have the birthright citizenship, this also affects they ability to control population. 

The Story

The population situations in all these countries varies greatly. 

Domestic strains like the government struggling to provide services and thus increasing taxes, and continued population density cause China to expand its urban population and has an effect on the economic development of the country. The Real Estate bubble is a huge concern, but has thus far been kept separate from China's strong capacity in productivity and trade with the United States. This combines well with Russia's aging population, that proves a lack of people to work in specialized and formal areas of expertise. Russia has increasingly been partnering with China in order to ensure a balanced import/export ratio in its market. 

The United States has, on the other hand, a surplus of unspecialized labour, mostly by illegal immigrants whose price elasticity provides a tax-free, low-price option for consumers. 

The relationship between these three countries is looked upon as that between two groups, the East and the West. The West is encouraging larger industrialization though there is little contribution from the legal job market, and the East is balancing resources in order to assure decreased poverty and a more sustainable system of domestic production and international trade.Therefore, we see a tension between the US and China in terms of population growth that is only slightly curbed by the per-capita GDP. The political implications are much more slight. Though there is no denying the palpable tension between the East and West, the rift can only grow so large with the cornucopia of mutual interests that drive these large industrial countries. The only competition here is in which country can prove to be the most effective in its policy, and this again leads back to the productivity it can maintain. 

“We’re going to die anyway, might as well die with a chance of making it to safety.”

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan

 

The Players

The migrants- Their country of origin cannot be clearly defined, however the largest bulk of people are undeniably Syrian. Other predominant countries of origin include Afghanistan and Pakistan. The journey is different for all, some traveling with their families while others pay ransoms for boat trips and some have been documented as kidnapped with a release conditional to a fine of some sort. 

The EU countries- The reactions of the countries facing staggering influxes of migrants have varied. Germany has proven to be the poster-child for the ideal final settlement location, and has welcomed hundreds of thousands of people onto its territory. Other EU countries have not seen the same numbers, but also have been affected by migrants either moving through or settling within their borders.

Eastern European countries- have, simply because of their geography, been the primary point of entry for many of the migrants coming by land through the East-most border. Hungary, particularly at the Hungarian-Serbian border has seen an overwhelming number to the point where its initially accommodating stance drastically changed to closing the border entirely and enforcing this with barbed wire fences and tear gas. 

The international observers- the international community has been buzzing with the very personal stories of migrants running from persecution and almost certainly death. Touching photographs have been circulating on news outlets and social media, however involvement has been reluctant. The Turkish President accuses the EU of turning the Mediterranean “into a cemetery”, and insists that Turkey is helping shelter the migrants as best it can but that the Europeans are not doing enough. 

 

The Background

The numbers are mind boggling: 12 million displaced in Syria, and 4 million fleeing into neighboring countries with hundreds of thousands who will end up in Europe, many not surviving the journey. The migration was triggered by instability in the region caused by the Syrian civil war, and most importantly, the Islamic State. 

The Story

The migration flux is a major perk for ISIS; not only are they expelling incredible amounts of 'nonbelievers' or those that simply are unwilling or able to escape their grasp, they are also destabilization of the EU as they are overwhelmed with the numbers. The entirety of the European continent is in a type of pandemonium; so many people are border-hopping, locals are divided over the migrants entering their home countries, and the migrants are desperately pushing through sometimes violent situations involving forceful police involvement.

There are regulations in place for such cases, such as the Dublin regulation, which  prescribes that the country where one enters a Schengen country should the the one playing the largest role in the legal process of their presence there. This is so that, ideally, multiple EU countries don’t have to be involved in the movement of an individual. But the system is simply not working as some Mediterranean border countries like Italy and Greece are getting the largest load of migrants because of their geographically coastal location. 

The Schengen countries have had increasing concerns with internal border crossing by these migrants, many of whom go by undocumented as on Saturday when Hungary's overwhelmed system transferred as many as 10,000 migrants to Austria. 

 

 

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune,Photo credit: IB times,Photo Credit: India Times,Photo Credit: Truthdig,  Photo Credit, Aljazeera America

Chemical Explosion in China Leaves Countless Dead and Injured

Original  content provided by Lina Abisoghomyan

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

An image of the nuclear-looking mushroom cloud that arose from the blast site

The Players

Chinese civilians- family members have no answers about those that are missing, and have little way to find out. In the mass panic, hundreds are unaccounted for. 

Civilian firefighters- contractors that fight fighters with no military status or benefits, having parents raging over the rights of those 'undocumented'. Many have believed to have perished instantly, being so close to the blast.

The Chinese government- the government has not been able to provide a concrete explanation of the cause and the intended relief efforts to come. Security forces have been attempting to prevent any kind of reporting in an attempt to lessen the panic with martial law being declared at the blast site.


Photo Credit: LA times

Thousands of firefighters have taken to the blast site in a desperate attempt to contain the explosions that continue to erupt over the past 4 days after the original explosion

The Background

What started as a fire in a chemical-storing facility in the port city of Tianjin was unable to be contained, due to mishandling of the dangerous situation. Sodium cyanide and calcium carbide, both known to be reactive with water, were hosed down by firefighters in an attempt to contain the blaze. Secondary damage to the people in the form of harmful fumes in the air has been denied by government officials, but remains a concern. The event has reached further into environmental concerns, and mass panic on social media resulting in more regulatory measures enforced by the Chinese government. 


Photo Credit: CNN

Image of the immediate damage caused by the explosion


The Story

On Wednesday night, August 12th a massive chemical explosion followed by multiple smaller explosions rocked the city of Tianjin, killing and wounding hundreds of people and displacing over six thousand. The origin of the explosion was a chemical warehouse owned by Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics. Sodium cyanide has been identified as a main component, and the mismanagement of the efforts to dull the fire by using water to extinguish reactive compounds furthered the damage. Homes up to 2 km (over a mile) away from the blast site felt significant shock waves from the blast. 

Turkey steps up after ISIS attacks inside their borders

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan

Photo Credit: RT news

The town of Suruç shown in relation to the town of Kobani


THE PLAYERS

ISIS- has and has recently had a very heavy presence in Syria, particularly at the border of Syria and Turkey, having terrorized the Kurdish population living on the Turkish side of the border, along with the town of Kobani on the Syrian side with no Turkish intervention. ISIS was able to get Turkey's attention by bombing inside its borders, targeting people headed to support victimized children in Kobani.

Turkish government- while Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu insists that Turkey does not support terrorism. Turkey has been hosting close to 2 million Syrian refugees that have fled from ISIS. It has also more recently cracked down domestically on homegrown terrorists and infiltrators. 

Victims of the bombing- the 30+ killed in the explosion believed to be the responsibility of ISIS were a group of students from the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, a pro-Kurdish leftist group. They had gathered for a press conference in support of Kobani and were planning to help those affected by ISIS there. 


 Photo Credit: Obtronique.net

Photo Credit: Obtronique.net

An F-16, fighter aircraft used in Turkey's retaliating fire upon ISIS


The Background

Turkey has long been faced international criticism for its failure to secure its 250 mile (400km) border with Syria, which has been a hotbed for ISIS defectors from around the world to enter ISIS territory and join the coalition. The threat was always very real, both for Turkey and the rest of the world. After the explosion, Turkish citizens took to the streets, urging the Justice Department to take action against ISIS. Now, Turkey has requested NATO backup in its newfound efforts.


Photo Credit: Bloomberg

Coffins of victims killed in the attack Monday on a crowd, leaving 30 dead and many more wounded


The Story

After an already tense week in the chaos of the suicide bombing that killed 30 and wounded 100 in the Turkish border town of Suruç, violence ensued with a shootout between Turkish military and ISIS Syrian-side forces leaving one Turkish soldier dead and two injured. Friday, Turkey made its first efforts to join the international efforts against ISIS and launched three F-16s at ISIS targets based in Syria. This was the first time that Turkey took the offensive, as oppose to only responding to incoming fire. Turkish official have not ruled out further attacks on ISIS, though no more have been seen since the first round. 

What is the Greek Referendum and what does it mean for Greece and the EU?

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan

Photo Credit: CBS

The Players

The Greek people- the people of Greece have been struggling greatly lately. With limited access to liquid currency, and with banks downright closing down, panic has ensued. Business owners are struggling, and day-to-day life has become unpredictable. Still, many vote no... and with happiness. The people viewed the European ultimatum as a form of anti-democratic intimidation, and joyfully took to the streets when the referendum failed 61% to 39%.

The Greek government- Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras called the Greek people brave, and dubbed the failed referendum a victory for democracy. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis also urges the international community to respect the Greek people's decision, explaining that as the government elect it is their job to carry out the peoples' will.

European governments- the overall message is of clear solidarity; it is not in the best interest of any European actor for the Greek crisis to continue, and so all EU country leaders urge Greece to come up with a feasible plan in order to resolve the crisis. Meetings are occurring amongst top European leaders like French President François Holland and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Photo Credit: The Telegraph


The Background

A seemingly simple yes or no question decides the fate of Greece: yes to stringent austerity  measures in a long-delayed repayment plan, in exchange for financial aid and debt relief or.... no. The story starts well back, in 2008, with a financial crisis that caused Greece to rack up debt. Then rack up some more, again, in 2010. After yet a third bailout from multiple donors in 2012, Greece's debt extended from just the EU to the European Central Bank and IMF, creating an even larger rift. However, when it came time to collect that money to pay it back, Greece was understandably reluctant to impose certain very austere austerity measures that included cuts in pensions, job layoffs, and less in social security. 

Photo Credit: Blogspot


The Story

The current situation is an extension of the efforts to repay this 242.8 billion euros ($271 billion). Tsipras, the leftist Syriza party  Prime Minister that came to power in January, has brought the people on board to vote on the situation. Currently, the Greek government is proposing even tougher measures that include some similar to those in the initial EU referendum. European leaders praise these efforts, dubbing them proof of Greece's determination to stay in the Eurozone, but it truly seems to defeat the final purpose of the joy in voting out the EU's proposal. 

Thumbnail photo credit: Telegraph

Danish Maersk cargo vessel detained in Iranian waters

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan
  Photo credit: BBC

Photo credit: BBC

A map of the location of the Maersk cargo vessel at the time that it was detained by the Iranian Port Authority

The Players: 

Iran- Iran has become increasingly alienated from the Western world, and so it has become increasingly on edge. Valuing its sovereignty more than ever, Iran is willing to take a strong stance to enforce its borders on land and on sea. 

United States- The US, an ally of Denmark, and one that uses soft power as a reinforcement of its hegemonic goal to spread Western democracy around the world has been monitoring the situation from Navy vessels in the area.

Denmark-  a strong US ally across the board, from defense and security to economic, energy, and environmental cooperation Denmark has been steadily and quietly taking its place next to the US.

  Photo credit: EU Observer

Photo credit: EU Observer

Former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Former US President George Bush in 2006 making public a very ambitious free-trade agreement between their countries. 

The Background:

Very ironically, the start of Danish-Iranian relations came in 1691 when a then-Persian diplomatic mission was sent to Denmark to facilitate a deal for the release of Iranian property on a Bengali cargo ship seized by Denmark. This April 2015, history seems to have a way of repeating itself after a Maersk cargo vessel was detained by the Iranian Port Authority. The dispute marks continued unrest between Iran and the West on multiple fronts, including the US-Iranian continuing talks on the nuclear program, and the Saudi-led US-backed airstrike coalition in Yemen. 

  Photo Credit: WN

Photo Credit: WN

 

Cargo from the Maersk ship

 

The Story:

During the week of April 27th, the Iranian Port Authority confiscated a cargo ship belonging to Danish cargo company Maersk on the grounds that the ship had crossed the border between international waters and Iranian waters. The incident has caused escalation on both ends- the US now allows any ship traveling with a US flag to be escorted by Navy vessels, and Iranian authorities escorted the cargo ship to an Iranian main navy port. 

Doctor, Doctor... Where Did You Go?

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan
        Photo Credit: Press TV

      Photo Credit: Press TV

A trashed hospital in Donetsk after it is hit by Separatist artillery fire


The Players:

Medical personnel- By the truckload, personnel is running away, far from the affected areas being constantly shelled by artillery despite the Minsk agreement. It's understandable- they're not themselves protected, and salaries have been withheld since October. 

The people of Donetsk- mostly elderly, as those who are able to flee have already fled to protect themselves from the constant artillery fire. The elderly are also the most helpless in getting medical attention because of their lack of mobility.

  Photo Credit: Kiev News

Photo Credit: Kiev News

A makeshift hospital is minimally equipped, and personnel are mostly trained doctors acting as volunteers

The Background

Medical aid is needed now more than ever in the the region of Donetsk, but the supply of medical personnel is dwindling. It's a touchy topic, and it's a difficult moral question- steady pay is almost unheard of nowadays, as there is no consensus on what government should pay the doctors, and individuals themselves barely have money to survive let alone pay medical bills. There is a small group of moral idealists that have stayed behind to help in whatever way they can, but largely doctors are leaving in convoys in fear of their own safety.

  Photo Credit: Medlines.org

Photo Credit: Medlines.org

Patients are brought in by family members, volunteers, and neighbours into this deserted hospital

The Story

In a desperate effort to get doctors back into the region, the interim government has offered any kind of medical personnel great incentives. Some are offered newly renovated homes to live in, others living expenses paid for. This model, however, has not been proved sustainable on the larger scale yet as there is no central government to coordinate it. Medical students in the city have advocated for participation and aid of the civilians to the best of the doctors' ability, but at the same time are having trouble sustaining themselves in fulfilling what they see as their moral obligation as doctors. 

 

Thumbnail Photo Credits: VOA News
 

How Drones Are Changing The World

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan
 

Photo Credits: Salon.com

 
The American drone program is widely unpopular in the Middle East, and is usually seen as a show of power rather than an effort to help

The Players:

The defense sector- since the release of  defense sector has been creeping into a military industrial complex since the use of drones has become instrumental in executing missions in a timely and effective manner. Previously, in order to seek out the enemy, analyze the data, and finally execute a plan would take months or weeks. Today, it takes only days. 

The private sector- Private producers such as spyware companies, and aerospace engineering firms are delighted to be able to have access to such advanced technology. Their profit comes largely from the inelasticity of the demand for this new technology. Because of the now common demand for this kind of technology, private defense companies focus less on patent activity and more on further developing the technology. 

Social sector-  Civilian access to drones has changed how we see the world,and how we interact with it. Used largely by cellular providers, drones allow them to monitor signals and concentrated use zones in order to target customers. Drones have been used by NGO's and human rights groups in order to ensure a safer primary assessment of a war-striken region. Drones have changed how we get our information, and how we understand what it means. 

   Photo Credit: Bureau of Investigative Journalism 

 Photo Credit: Bureau of Investigative Journalism 

A weapons-equipped US drone

The Background: 

Drones, UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), are a type of flight technology, developed largely for defense purposes, that can be operated remotely by either a remote control or a computer. They are most commonly known for being used to either deliver mass-scale weapons, like explosive bombs or chemical weaponry, or for surveying, through use of live feed cameras. The idea behind a tool with such remote tactics is not a new one, but the development of drones the way we know them today began by the US Air Force during the Cold War under the now un-classified code name "Red Wagon". The commonization of drones came about in the early 90's during the Gulf War, after which the technology's production rapidly increased, causing the price to,respectively,fall. This caused the commercialization of drones . After 9/11, drones were used by the CIA which significantly catalyzed their development to the degree that we see them to have today. 

  Photo Credits: Al Jazeera America

Photo Credits: Al Jazeera America

A Yemeni child affected by the US drone strikes in response to the Houti extremist violence in Sana'a this January 

The Story:

Drones have inevitably changed policy, social perceptions of war, and military tactics. Drones make military strikes more efficient, and much easier to execute. The lack of risk in human lives encourages them as a primary tool in the execution of remote operations. On the other hand, because of the lack of the human aspect, drones can indiscriminately target civilian targets along with high-risk targets. Multiple cases of US drone strikes that claim civilian lives, known most popularly in the case of Yemen, have taken the lives of civilians causing widespread protests and anti-US sentiment as a result. The question then arises, who should answer for the use of drones? Are they considered 'soldiers', or 'equipment'? 

The Thumbnail: A UN UAV drone used in their mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo Credit: Wikipedia



Taking To The International Stage: Israel V. Palestine

Original content created by Lina Abisoghomyan
  Photo Credit: CUPE

Photo Credit: CUPE

The Dome of the Rock stands powerfully against the skyline of the Holy City of Jerusalem

The Players: 

Palestine- represented officially and internationally by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), an organization that is largely recognized and has diplomatic relations with countries across the globe  in 1993. Initially looked upon by both Israel and respectively the US as a terrorist organization, until it gained recognition by the UN as an observer member in late 2012.

Israel- a full UN member and close ally of the United States, Israel disputes the existence of Palestine as a state and continually condemns the violence of the extremist wing of Hamas

The international community-  the UN has played perhaps the largest role in mediation between the two parties, aided most notably and publically by the US, and its ally Jordan 

  Photo Credit: Channel News Asia

Photo Credit: Channel News Asia

An Israeli woman mourns the loss of an Israeli soldier to Hezbollah

The Background:

Israel and Palestine have long been hostile towards each other. The establishment of the Israeli state by the UN in 1948 was a type of apology for the atrocities committed against the Jewish people in WWII, and was meant to give them a state. The land apportioned for the purposes of the creation of this state came from a chunk of the Brittish-controlled Palestinian territory. Ever since then, the violence continues, with some bursts more sever than others. Both sides accuse the other of committing acts of mass violence, terrorism, and violating the human rights of their civilians. 

Palestine has slowly been making its way onto the international stage. The recognition of the PLO as an official representative of the Palestinian people, then more recently Palestine joining as a non-member, observer state in the UN in 2012, crucially named "The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations".  Israel condemns Palestine as using terrorist tactics through Hamas, to which Palestine replies that the Israeli army has long been brutally massacring their people. In the beginning of 2012, an independent body of the UN filed a report giving evidence of atrocious human rights abuses by the Israelis and threatened to take the case to the ICC. This report was not previously able to be legitimized with Palestine not being officially recognized as a state, but after the 2012 occurrences, Palestine may now finally have its cries heard by the world.

  Photo Credits:     Media Two

Photo Credits: Media Two

Palestinian children flee their homes after they are destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on civilians
  Photo Credits: The Telegraph, UK

Photo Credits: The Telegraph, UK

The International Criminal Court (known commonly as the ICC), located in the Hague, Netherlands

The Story:

On the evening of April 1st, Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon confirmed Palestine's membership in the ICC despite Israel's argument that Palestine's membership is illegitimate as long as they are not a sovereign state. However, their argument is nulled by the legal precedent of Switzerland that became part of the ICC in 2002 when it, too, held an observer-only membership in the UN. The only avenue for Israel at this point is to conduct internal war-crime trials against its own people to prevent the ICC from intervening, something it has already begun doing since last summer. Israel itself is not part of the ICC, but it can still be tried by the ICC for violations against any state that is deemed part of the ICC, in this case Palestine. 

Palestine has said that it will begin its own investigations via its interim government, the Palestinian National Authority, should the ICC fail to pursue their request for a case in a timely manner. Meanwhile, Shurat Hadin, an Israeli NGO has filed human rights charges against Palestine, specifically Hamas. There is no telling what will happen- Israel is adamantly taking all the steps it can to mitigate any possible damage to its now powerful stance on the global stage, and Palestine is pushing with all its might to be noticed on the international stage. 


Thumbnail Photo Credit: Blog Spot