Sunday, July 28, 2013

South Sudan Faces Protracted Internal Conflicts

Jonglei state in South Sudan, where recent violence has displaced over
120,000 people.
New nations often face steep hurdles in building the political, economic and infrastructural bedrock necessary for stable statehood. For South Sudan – the world’s youngest country – these processes have been suppressed by longstanding tribal animosity, armed SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) splinter groups that refuse assimilation, and the dire economic situation which South Sudan inherited upon independence. Aside from its jurisdiction over an estimated 75% of Sudanese oil fields, South Sudan for all intents and purposes ‘started from scratch.’

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What the Heck is Going on in Iraq?

In the 19 months since the Obama Administration effectively removed the last of the U.S. troops in Iraq, the embattled state has seen slight progress – something virtually unparalleled since Saddam Hussein was taken out of power in 2003. Due to enormous, and previously unforeseen deposits of oil underneath Kurdish territory in the north and northeast regions of the country, Iraqi Kurds have had more leverage in dealing and negotiating with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite government – in fact, this past June marked the first time al-Maliki had visited Iraqi Kurdistan in over two years. On the other hand, sectarian violence, especially between the Sunnis and the Shiites, has remained incredibly high. For his part, al-Maliki has “encouraged talks”, but with a promise to continue military assaults against Sunnis he perceives as threatening, these talks are likely not to happen anytime soon. However, there certainly remains an air of increasing stability in the country – an air that has not existed in quite some time.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Face of Terror on Rolling Stone

One of the photos released by Sgt. Murphy
Rolling Stone magazine, a publication not known for its political correctness, drew fire from nearly every corner this week when the latest edition featured a tousled, dreamy-eyed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. The photo was reminiscent of famous covers featuring Jim Morrison or Bob Dylan: all three carried the glazy visage of curly-haired men. The ire-inducing difference of course being that Tsarnaev is a domestic terrorist responsible for the deaths of four people and the life-altering injuries of dozens of others. At time of writing, a Boycott the Rolling Stone Facebook page had over 170,000 “likes” and the outrage reached a fever pitch on social media over the last week.

Friday, July 19, 2013

USAID: Global Reach to Build Civil Societies Big and Small

GHANA—In a remote village hours from Tamale, USAID worker Valerie DeFillipo and her colleagues arrived to a warm welcome from the small town’s 200 inhabitants. Villagers greeted the team to show gratitude and support for a USAID-funded Planned Parenthood of Ghana clinic, the village’s only source of medical care. Dozens of locals came to hail the clinic as a fixture of community wellness and women’s empowerment and health, by providing a
fusion of family planning and other education and health services. Today, the small clinic continues to educate, heal and empower community members.

USAID’s activities in isolated communities such as the one DeFillipo visited challenge the notion that foreign aid should be reserved for and has the greatest impact on governments and large-scale programs. Of the agency’s 2,642 projects across more than 170 countries, many function in remote areas that have little or no infrastructure, health facilities nor the human and financial basis to sustain economic development. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mexico's Most Violent Cartel is Now Without a Leader, But That May Not Be a Good Thing

Just before dawn yesterday morning, Mexican Marines captured and detained the monster known as Miguel Angel Trevino Morales – the leader of Los Zetas, arguably the largest drug cartel in Mexico today. Trevino Morales has been accused of ordering the executions of hundreds of immigrant workers from Central America, and as head of Los Zetas, is responsible for hundreds of pounds of drugs moving north into the U.S. every single week. In recent years, Los Zetas have even expanded their operations further than this, to include human trafficking, distribution of pirated DVDs and CDs, and kidnapping and extortion. To say Los Zetas and their infamous leader are a detriment to society is like saying Osama Bin Laden was a criminal – it is a significant understatement. However, is this arrest worthy of the celebrating that is undoubtedly taking place throughout Mexico and many of the border towns on the U.S. side in Texas? What has really been accomplished? For anyone who knows the history of the drug cartels in Mexico, the answer is not much.

Trevino Morales

Friday, July 12, 2013

Abortion: The Global Debate

Chilean president Sebastián Piñera made headlines this week for praising an 11-year-old rape victim’s willingness to have her rapist’s baby. Not that she has any choice in the matter: Chile, like six other countries worldwide, completely bans the practice of abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life. The 11-year old Piñera was lauding for her “maturity” was repeatedly and brutally raped for two years by her mother’s boyfriend. In a television interview, the child said that having the baby would be like “having a doll,” a statement that indicates just how mature and ready to raise a child she actually is.

The global debate about a woman’s right to abortion touches virtually every country on earth. In countries that strictly ban the practice such as Chile, stories often surface of people who make good cases for its legality. In Ireland last year, the decades-long complete ban on abortion was called into question by the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died while having a miscarriage but was not allowed to have a life-saving abortion of her already dying fetus due to the fact that it still had a heartbeat. The scandal was complicated by the Catholic basis of Irish law on abortions since Savita was a Hindu. Her death has led to the first ever “exception law” being passed today in Ireland, allowing abortions in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Colombia's Newest Political Party is Tied to a Terrorist Organization

It was announced earlier today that the highest court in Colombia has once again legitimized the Patriotic Union (known as the UP), which is the political arm of the notorious FARC rebel group. In a bizarre twist of events, the ruling came due to thousands of UP candidates and supporters having been targeted - and many subsequently assassinated - by government-sponsored groups. In re-instating the UP and awarding them legal status and eligibility to present candidates in next year's elections, the Colombian courts are looking for a decrease in violence aimed towards them.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Snowden, the NSA and Why Americans Don’t Care

While trolling through Buzzfeed’s list of best signs from the July 4th protests and the comments sections of various articles on the NSA/Snowden story, I’ve witnessed bold and unafraid Americans speaking up against injustice and government overreach. One of the more ironic signs spelled out the NSA acronym as ‘New Stasi Agency,’ a reference to the intelligence apparatus of East Germany that sought to 'know all.' Additionally, many readers commented on and expressed outrage toward the unprecedented nature of recently exposed U.S. surveillance programs. It’s good to know that people take seriously issues such as unwarranted seizure of citizens’ metadata and secret courts.

Courtesy of Buzzfeed
Not seriously enough, as it turns out. New insights keep piling up with minimal reaction from the American populous: the FISA court’s precedent-setting decisions for intelligence gathering, gag orders preventing tech companies (Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google) from speaking of government requests for user data, general secrecy surrounding the NSA, FISA and the latter’s trove of jurisprudence that remains largely out of sight. No legislation is on the table calling for accountability and transparency. No one is flooding the streets and their representative’s office demanding explanation or remedy. Instead, a few protests dotted America on its birthday. No one seems to care.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Coup-ocracy: Why the Ousting of Morsi Isn’t a Good Thing

Over the past few days, I’ve heard a lot of people congratulating Egyptians on toppling their president for the second time in two years. This time, the president was a democratically elected one, selected by over 10 million Egyptians with a respectable voter turnout at 54% in the first phase. At the time, it seemed like the fundamental rights fought for by so many Egyptians were finally materializing, primarily the right to vote for and elect a leader of their choosing. With Mubarak gone, there seemed to be no limit to what a democratic, politically mobilized Egypt could achieve.

Fast-forward two years to 2013, and many Egyptians have discovered that democracy had not brought with it many of the changes they had longed for. The economy remains stagnant (actually, it's now pretty much in a free-fall), lawlessness abounds, and sexual harassment is more pervasive than ever. In a move to force a new constitution through, Pres. Morsi consolidated his executive power, taking sweeping rights away from the judicial branch and giving them to himself. He has been called “the pharaoh” and “worse than Mubarak,” and many feared that he would become just another dictator hiding behind the title of president. Instead of waiting for the presidential elections in 2015, millions of Egyptians took to the streets en masse this week, prompting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to depose and detain Pres. Morsi.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Madiba Mandela: A Father To a Legacy

By guest contributor Allyson Clancy

Madiba: the name of the isiXhosa clan that Nelson Mandela belongs to.  The clan dates back to the 18th century, and the name was originally given to a Thembu Chief.

Rolihlahla: Mandela’s birth name. The literal translation means, “pulling a branch of a tree,” but the phrase is interpreted to mean troublemaker.

Tata: isiXhosa for father.[1]

Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa and one of the most influential leaders of his time, is known by all three of the names above. From the central Transkei region where he was born to the coastal city, Cape Town in the southwestern part of the country where he proclaimed his freedom after imprisonment, to the capital Pretoria where he currently lives at the age of 94, his name has been immortalized as his legacy lives on.