Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone?

Here is Lee Fang's important article in the Nation from earlier this year explaining why Washington DC lobbyists are de-registering and moving their influence peddling underground:

Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone?

Monday, December 15, 2014

MLA Sample Title Page

Here is a sample title page from the Purdue Online Writing Lab.   You are to follow this style for  your term paper.  Repeat: This style.  No cover page!   Please refer to the Purdue site, as necessary.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sample Works Cited Page

For my term paper writers, check out link below:

Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Sample Works Cited MLA

Friday, November 7, 2014

Room 202:   Halloween and Dia de los Muertos 2014

Painting Oscar

The Artists and their Masterpiece

Xavier and Maren


Athena and Desiree



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Atlantic: How to Make a Hit Song About Ebola

Nearly half the population of Liberia is under age 18.  Approximately 40% of Liberians can't read.  These are daunting barriers to educating citizens against the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.  As this piece from The Atlantic explains, the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in collaboration with HOT FM 107.9 Liberia and UNICEF, is working with local musicians to write and produce songs about Ebola prevention for popular television and radio airplay.
Listen to one of the most popular songs in Liberia today:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Geography Students: US States

Quiz yourself in preparation for our test on Monday:  I Like 2 Learn U.S. States Quiz

Friday, September 12, 2014

Politics and the English Language

Periods 5 and 6 read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language this week.  The essay is an appropriate starting point for our study of government and politics because it focuses on language and writing, specifically how the modern decadence of our language is both a cause and effect of our corrupted thoughts.    Political language is especially important because, as Orwell, argues,  "(i)n our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer."

And when language suffers, so does thought.

Orwell tells us that fight against bad English is a noble one and a starting point to some improvement "to our present political chaos."    In the pursuit of that cause, students brought to class today examples of slovenliness of language that may be a result of our foolish thoughts and a source of them.  We discussed each.  Take a look.

Euphemisms; "words and meaning part(ing) company," "defense of the indefensible"

"Necessary Show of Force"
                (Reference to Israel's bombing of Gaza and killing of civilians, including children, made by former Israeli defense official, Michael  Herzog, in the Guardian in July 2014.)
                                                                                               ~ Syeda H.

"Enhanced interrogation techniques"
                  (term first emerged during George W. Bush Admin: treatment of prisoners...torture)
                                                                                               ~ Simon M-P.

"Already allies are flying planes with us over Iraq."
                   (President Obama avoiding phrases that sound like war in speech on ISIL 9/10/14)
                                                                                              ~ Ethan A.

Obama Administration not using term ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) but ISIL (Islamic State in the Levant)
                                                                                             ~ Mercedes P-E and Heidi A.

                  (Mitt Romney Republican debate regarding undocumented  immigrants, 2012)
                                                                                             ~ LJ

 "If you threaten America, you will not find a safe haven."
                  (Obama, ISIL Speech 9/10/14)
                                                                                             ~  Sandy V. and Julie X.

"Operation Rolling Thunder"
                  (Vietnam War: three years of intense bombing of North Vietnam)

                                                                                             ~ Noah T.
"Ethnic Cleansing"
                                                                                            ~ Leo M.

"They have no vision, but to kill."
                   (President Obama's ISIL speech)
                                                                                           ~ Riley W.

"...America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat."
                  (President Obama's ISIL speech...so what countries are part of this coalition?)
                                                                                           ~ Jennai W. and Ryan T.
"Death with Dignity."
                                                                                          ~ Kariya L.

"Change we can believe in"
                                                                                           ~ Yami U.,  Tiera F.

"The U.S. has to stop this widespread threat like cancer."
                    (President Obama's ISIL speech)
                                                                                           ~ Chanel A.

 "Stale" metaphors, similes and idioms

"I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row, for the executive action."
                   "  (President Obama on ISIL)
                                                                                             ~ Vereniki L.

 "fly in the face of danger..."
                   (President Obama ISIL speech 9/10/14)
                                                                                               ~ Gina L.

"boots on the ground"
                                                                                              ~ Mickenzie M.

"air campaign"
                                                                                              ~ Mickenzie M.

Student, Kali A. brought in a series of statements by Ferguson, MO Chief of Police Jackson foisting responsibility off on the media for his release of two store videos suggesting that Michael Brown may have been involved in a store robbery before being shot and killed by police.  Jackson later admitted that the circumstances on the tape, whatever they were, had no connection to the police shooting of Brown.

"(L)ack of precision...vagueness and sheer incompetence..," "hackneyed" phrases, "meaningless words," appeals to emotion

"Believe in America"
                  (name of presidential candidate Mitt Romney's economic growth/jobs plan)
                                                                                                 ~ Anna H.

"Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was likely struck by multiple high energy objects from outside the aircraft, causing it to break up over eastern Ukraine, a preliminary report into the deadly aviation disaster concluded Tuesday."
                   (Yahoo News July 2014)
                                                                                                 ~ Martin V.

"Here We Stay" "Here We Roar" "Here We Play"
               (public opinion campaign to keep the Kings pro-basketball team in Sac and with that fund a new arena ...always hinting that not true Sacramentan if you don't support the Kings)
                                                                                                ~ Alex P.

"I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are..."
                (President Obama's ISIL speech...from Nancy L.: "this will never end! How will you know when you've hunted down every terrorist? )
                                                                                               ~ Nancy L.

"...USA meeting them (ISIL) with strength and resolve."
                 (President Obama's ISIL speech)
                                                                                              ~   Alex S.

"This is American leadership at its best."
                  (President Obama's ISIL speech)
                                                                                              ~ Christopher I. 

"Substantial counterterrorism capabilities."
                    (President Obama's ISIL speech)
                                                                                               ~ Sue T.

"It is very difficult, practically impossible, to fight against the will of the people."
                    (Vladimir Putin)
                                                                                              ~  Aidan F.

"American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing the region."
                                                                                               ~ Jessica P.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stop and Seize: How Aggressive Policing is Taking the Property of Those Never Charged with Crimes

Many of you in periods 5 and 6 read The New Jim Crow this summer.  Here are two must-read and watch pieces that underscore and illustrate even more acutely the use and impact of asset seizure and forfeiture as explained by author Michelle Alexander in Chapter 2, "The Lockdown." 

The Washington Post, with a blockbuster multi-part investigation into police asset forfeiture practices:
Stop and Seize

CNN on police and prosecutors taking family homes:
Parents' House Seized After Son's Drug Bust

I want all of you to check these out because we will use in class in conjunction with our study the Bill of Rights and Civil Liberties.   You may start leaving comments here, if you wish.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ferguson Readings

                                 Photo: Scott Olson, Getty

Here is a very incomplete list of thought-provoking articles on the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the protests as a result and the militarization of local policy forces.

Mariame Kaba with a commentary in the Washington Post:
For Blacks, America is Dangerous by Default 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, THAT Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) writing in Time:
The Coming Race War Won't be About Race

Alex Kane writing for BillMoyers.com:
Not Just Ferguson: 11 Eye-Opening Facts About America's Militarized Police Forces

Local Writer Mark Paul on the California Fix blog:
Assault Rifles and Ice Buckets

Davis, CA:
Davis City Council Calls for Alternatives to Military Armored Vehicle

Fascinating background here on the federal program ("1033") that makes surplus military equipment available to local police departments:  Staff report to the Davis City Council on the Police Dept Acquisition of a Surplus Military Armored Vehicle via the 1033 Program

More to come...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri

The New Yorker's cover for the week we return to school,  Eric Drooker's "Ferguson, Missouri."

 “An artist friend of mine was killed by a cop in lower Manhattan, back in 1991. He happened to be black, and the police officer was never indicted.” Drooker continues, “As a resident of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I witnessed the blurring distinctions between the police and military during the Tompkins Square riots of the eighties. I’ll never forget the day the N.Y.P.D. showed up in a military tank to evict nonviolent squatter friends from buildings on Avenue B and Thirteenth Street, where I grew up.."
More on Drooker's cover art here.

Ferguson will indeed inform much of what we study throughout the year.  I will be posting links to a variety of articles and commentaries.  This blog will be one platform we use to think, share, challenge, learn...and...well, who knows what else?

See you in one week.

Monday, June 2, 2014

AP U.S. Government Summer Reading (Periods 5 and 6)

Summer reading assignment for all AP US Govt students (non-HISP) who will be in my classes next year is available here.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Afghanistan: A Photographer's Legacy

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed in Afghanistan 
on Friday, apparently gunned down by an Afghan policeman.  She and Kathy Gannon, a Canadian journalist, were shot while traveling in a government convey as they covered preparations for the Afghanistan presidential election on Saturday.  Gannon was wounded and is in stable condition.   Niedringhaus was a Pulitzer Prize winner for her work covering the Iraq war and was a veteran in the region.   One of my favorite of her photos is this, a shot of a father with his five kids paying to enter a Kabul park.  It was taken in 2013.   Remarkable.   See more of her work here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

United Arab Emirates: there's an app for that

The United Arab Emirates has launched the first-ever smart government app store. In conjunction with Google and Apple, local and federal governments have created over 100 apps to serve around 700 people at a time in one location.

The plan is for the UAE to transition to smart government by the middle of 2015, only a little over a year from now. The apps are "characterised by reliability, security, maintenance of government transactions’ data for individuals and businesses, as well as reliability." It offers apps from organizations providing electricity and water, roads and transport, public transportation etc.

The UAE is transitioning into the future, taking advantage of the ways people interact with their world on a daily basis. Is this the end of government bureaucracy? Will citizens of the future interact with their government not through snail mail, endless phone menus and "phone tag", but through intuitive, efficient, speedy apps? Or will this turn out to be massive failure and risk to thousands of people's privacy and information? 

We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, governments worldwide continue to stagger under their own weight, with minimal efficiency and little benefit to the their citizens. The technology we have available today, like apps and app stores, wifi and powerful operating systems, would allow us to streamline services to get them out to people that need them, making those on Medicaid, Medical, food stamps, and veterans not have to wait for months and months to get the services they need. 

If so many technological innovations can be utilized to help the people that need helping, why aren't we taking advantage of them?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's A Sad World, Sadly

      Writer T.M. Luhrmann recently visited India to find that Depression is slowly taking over the country, and possibly the world. The majority of people in India used to view the topic of depression and suicide as taboo, but many are bringing it up more and more as it is becoming more relevant. A lot of young people are finding when something goes majorly wrong in their life, suicide seems to be a logical way out. Many Indians are debating whether there are higher suicide and depression rates or if people are just talking about the subjects more. One thing that is known for sure is that help for people with mental illnesses has gone up over the past ten years in India, and around the world. On a larger scale, studies have found that the suicide rate has risen 60% over the past 50 years, and that depression will be the second highest medical condition by the year 2020. Many attribute the rising rates to the fact that 50% of the world's population live in cities and media, such as Facebook and TV are showing people what they can't or don't have. People see how other people are living and what they're saying, and automatically compare themselves, leading them to appreciate their lives less and not value being in the moment.
After reading this article, I was struck by how much the suicide rate has risen over the recent years. It wasn't that surprising, however, to learn that depression has gone up. It may sound silly to say I never  thought of depression going completely hand-in-hand with suicide, I always thought of course that depression leads to suicide, but I guess I thought there were a lot of other paths people took to cope with their extreme sadness. It seems that if people aren't taking anti-depressants, their other main course of action in suicide nowadays. It makes sense that people would compare their lives with the lives of others through Facebook and TV, and such, but to think that this would lead all the way to depression and suicide is truly concerning. What I also found very interesting about the article was how people in India, and around the world, are talking about depression and suicide more, yet the rate of both is going steadily up. I would think that if people felt more comfortable about discussing the topics they wouldn't be occurring as much, but I guess people feel less guilty and afraid about the effects of suicide now that it is a huge topic for discussion.

Global warming dials up our risks, UN report says--- Seth Borenstein, AP


The most recent United Nations' report about the dire global warming situation the international community faces came out Monday, saying that unless carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gas emissions are greatly reduce in the next few years, effects of the temperature increase will become catastrophic. In addition to the more than 12,000 specialists who contributed to the United Nation report, President Obama, Senator John Kerry and the International Panel on Climate Change unanimously agree with the message of impending disaster. The report states that within the next century, without any change in gas-emissions, the average global temperature will rise 7 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than the hoped for, less drastic 2 degree increase that was previously anticipated. In the next one hundred years with such climate fluctuations, countries across the globe will see massive, deadly heat waves, wildfires, and droughts, all of which will endanger the already rapidly destabilizing ecosystem, and increase famine, poverty, and introduce new stressors to the international human populations. Financial crises, disease, and possibly even threats to world peace will become more and more common as climate change destroys people's livelihoods, environments, and hope for the future. Already impoverished regions, including many African countries, will bear the brunt of the burden as heat builds across the globe. As of now, China, the United States, and India are the world's top three carbon dioxide producers. It is believed by the scientific community that the recent superstorms which have ravaged the eastern United States coastline, and various other typhoons and hurricanes are all results of these high carbon dioxide emissions. Overall, though scientists agree that much damage has already been done on the ozone layer and to ecosystems and oceans, there is still a window of opportunity for the global community to make the much-needed policy changes to induce the reversal of the adverse effects. However, time is, certainly, of the essence.

Though I am someone who typically remains rather skeptical of claims about imminent global catastrophes as a result of anthropogenic climate change, even I have to admit the recent UN report of near-future disaster on an international scale definitely has me reconsidering my current energy usage. The scientists' and experts' promises of famine, death, and destruction bring on apocalyptic scenarios in my mind that would scare even the richest oil tycoon. Not to seem nihilistic or depressive, but after reading the article it is hard to not think dark and barren the world posterity will have to live in. If ever there has been a call-to-arms (or a call to disarm and ride a bicycle), it would have to be now. To my mind, however, action must be taken primarily on the parts of average citizens across the United States and the world. Governments, I believe, are notoriously bureaucratic, and the time it would take for any serious, come-to-Jesus meetings to happen on the international stage would be too long, and the "narrow window of opportunity" discussed in the report would already have closed shut. Really shut. I believe the most effective means by which to reverse, or at least decelerate, the effects of heat-trapping gas emissions is to future educate people about what things are really at stake. Unfortunately, with the eyes of so many people constantly glued to their smart phones... Oh, wait, sorry! Instagram notification... I digress, whoops. Anyway, a wake-up call of epic proportions is now necessary to bring the international community's focus to the real issue (singular!) at hand. As cliche as it sounds, there may soon never be a turning-back point after the next few decades. In my opinion, effective change must begin at the individual level. From there, with enough fervor and pushing, regimes worldwide will take real notice and real action; not empty speeches about revolution. It is definitely discouraging, as one lone person, to read articles such as the one linked above, especially as it seems that the time-bomb is ticking faster than anyone can truly account for. On the other hand, it is in those honestly desperate moments that one must remember that every powerful ocean can be broken down into drops in a bucket.

Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan declares victory after local elections

Link to article

Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey confidently claims the victory of his Justice and Development party even before the results of the election came in. Despite all of the corruption surrounding him and his infamy in the country for the past few years since 2003 when he came into office, he still appears to be certain of his party's victory. He said that he respects people's decisions for this election, yet also threatens to pursue the supporters of the opposing party. For the past year, demonstrations have been taking place in the streets against the Turkish government. When people began to post the truth of what was taking place in the corrupted government on social media websites like Twitter, Erdogan said the information was false and blocked Twitter completely from the Turkish people. When police came to press charges against the Prime Minister, Erdogan fired dozens of police, further leading to infuriated citizens. This fascist-like rule must come to an end before another North Korea emerges in Turkey.

Kilicdaroglu, on the other hand, the leader of the opposing Republican People's Party, sees a bright future for his own party as well. He hopes to restore the democracy in Turkey and is not giving up hope. Let's hope Kilicdaroglu is right for the prosperity of Turkey.

Saudi Arabia Shuffles Leaders With New Second in Line to Throne

Saudi Arabia named Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as second in line to the throne, the latest royal promotion as King Abdullah confronts unprecedented political instability in the Middle East and economic changes at home. King Abdullah named his defense minister and half-brother Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, born in 1935, crown prince in June 2012, making the traditionalist former governor of Riyadh next in line to become king. His relative youth, extensive experience in government and knowledge of the West make him an attractive candidate. He appears to be a generally popular figure among many Saudis, whereas other royals may be more polarizing.
Full article

Some Who Fled Cuba Are Returning to Help

Recently, exiles of Cuba who fled after Fidel Castro took over are returning to their native homeland. Their previous bitterness and anger has diminished and been replaced by an empathetic need to help usher in a new era for Cuba. These Cuban-Americans previously lost their entrepreneurship ventures to the communist government, which made their businesses illegal. Previously, this group has supported the American embargo against Cuba, but has recently been helping their homeland through legal activity with the use of humanitarian and other licensed exceptions to the sanctions.

The Cuban-Americans have been able to help their country in part due to a change in American and Cuban policy. President Raul Castro opened the economy a tiny bit, which has allowed for engagement mainly through churches as a tool for Cubans to gain skills and independence. The exiles feel a sense of responsibility no longer to fight for the property they lost to the Castros, but instead to help the Cubans still living on the island. Changes in policy in Washington and Havanna has opened travel between Cubans and Cuban-Americans and allowed for the expanding exchange of people, ideas, and money. Cubans are eager to improve their weak economy, but the officials are still distrustful of Cuban-Americans as some suggest their help is part of a covert Washington plot.

After generations of hatred between the two countries, it is time for a new era of change. This requires help on both sides, including the American and Cuban officials. The Cuban's have a right to be worried about American plots against their country, due to our past of unwanted involvement in foreign affairs (including the disgraceful Bay of Pigs invasion.) Hopefully, the change in Cuban-American mind set will settle the fears of both parties and bring in a new generation of openness, which has been many years in the making.

Follow up here here

Peace talks going on in Syria, still very boring


Peace talks are going on in Geneva mediated by a UN mediator named Lakhdar Brahimi who is reported as doing an excellent job of mediating.  Good on you Mr. Brahimi.  Rebel groups and the government keep arguing about who gets what land and which rights go to which people.  In return, the government has said that women and children will be allowed to evacuate the troubled city of Homs, as well as other refugees as long as the opposition marks down who it would be.  Someone then pointed out that having a list of the rebels in a conflict city would almost surely end up with a kill list and the world would be facing a situation like what happened in Bosnia where a whole bunch of people got massacred.  
Syria's government and rebel groups are acting predictably in that they cannot come up with a compromise quite yet, but with the guidance and careful deliberation of Brahimi, the negotiations are at least civil and quiet.  

Peter MacKay wishes Canada's Afghan troops had been better prepared


Canada's former defense minister Peter MacKay recently stated that the Canadian government should have and could have done more for its soldiers in the war in Afghanistan.  MacKay said that he had wished that Canada had "provided more equipment, helicopters, mine-clearing equipment in the early days.  In retrospect, we could have perhaps prepared our soldiers better through both equipment and training."  In the war in Afghanistan, Canada lost 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist, and two civilian contractors.  Despite the losses in Afghanistan, soldiers who came home to Canada were faced with post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple suicides.  Former chief of defense staff Rick Hillier said that suicides were a tragic loss of life and that " young men and women have lost confidence in our country to support them" and called for a public board of inquiry into the Canadian Forces' handling of mental health issues.  The government has made efforts to to provide mental health providers for their veterans, which include doubling the the complement of mental health professionals and setting up support groups.

With the recent events of soldiers coming home from war and many of them having to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, I think that it is very important for countries to provide the care that these soldiers need to be rehabilitated.  Going into war, soldiers are not well informed about how damaging war can be to them and the soldiers around them.  Like the article states, Canada is going to create a "security umbrella", an act that will help to rehabilitate veterans who need the help.  

Japan and N. Korea?

        Formal talks between Japan and North Korea have been going on for nearly two years.  They are about settling some "outstanding issues."  One of them is the unsettled problem of the 17+ Japanese abductions.  According the N. Korea the matter was settled when they returned a few (not all) the abductees.  N. Korea said the others were dead.  Obviously this answer did not satisfy Japan, and the families of the abductees, so there were measures to try to get the cases reopened.  At least N. Korea is willing to say they are open to the idea of reinvestigating.  It is unknown if N. Korea is truly sincere in reinvestigating the abduction of Japanese innocence.  ( I personally don't think N. Korea will be putting any real work, if they do reopen the abduction cases.)  Anyway, if this promise is followed through, Japan has lead on they will lift sanctions.  One mentioned specifically, is the banning of North Koreans into Japan.  Which is perfectly reasonable to put into place after Japanese citizens were abducted.  N. Korea has some reasons to want this sanction lifted, may it be to have better transportation or economic opportunities (or to abduct for people), we won't know.  There is also vague mention, from Japan, about nuclear and missile development programs.  N. Korea has shown no signs of stopping any of its programs, but Japan has shown concerns for some of the testing N. Korea has displayed.  Out of safety concerns Japan filed a protest about the test launch of the two missiles launched into the Sea of Japan by N. Korea to the U.N.
           For Japan, this is clearly the goal of negotiations.  It has been Japan's goal to stop the use of nuclear missiles and any nuclear weapons for a while especially after the two nuclear bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  As a huge advocate from the U.N. for peace among countries (and partly for their own safety) Japan wants to be able to negotiate a way to stop or restrain N. Korea's programs.  Although they stopped some talk activities because of tests by N. Korea that went against U.N policy their attempt to stop N. Korea (and being successful in actually getting N. Koreans and Japanese diplomats into the same room) is appreciated.   
Read More here

Saadi Gadhafi Apologizes for Past Actions towards the people of Libya

Libyan state television has recently aired a video to the public of Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saadi, in which he apologizes to the nation from his prison cell. Saadi, one of seven, has been locked up in Tripoli jail since his extradition from neighboring country Niger. He fled Libya during the the uprising that was supported by NATO in 2011. As of now, there has been no court trial yet and no charges have been brought against him, but the Libyan government states it has evidence which links Saadi Gadhafi to the recent unrest in southern Libya.
The three minute video involves Saadi pleading to the Libyan government and the national congress for forgiveness. In the video Saadi addresses the recent rumors of him being abused and tortured in prison. The reports of him having broken ribs or bones are false, moving his limbs in the video as proof. Yet no one has been able to visit him personally to see with their own eyes how he has been treated. As a result of this, people have been concerned as to the legibility of the video. Jacqueline Frazier, an American former aide to Saadi Gadhafi, said "Watching Saadi repent in a videotaped confession without any hint of legal representation...no hope for a trial in accordance with international law in Libya."
The purpose of the release of the video creates a large amount of speculation in regards to whether the words Saadi speaks in the video are truly his own, or if he was coerced into saying them. With no legal representation and no visitors allowed to see him in person, there is no clear idea in regards to how Saadi is being treated in prison. In addition, the prison he is currently staying in also houses many of his supporters and government officials that served under him before the uprising. For all we know, the video could only have been published by the Libyan government as a way to ease off suspicion of its treatment of the prisoners in the Tripoli jail.

Read the full article here

Nigeria: Hey, at least Goodluck is trying!

Article HERE

President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to create infrastructure and improve the lives of people in the Northeast area of Nigeria. Nigeria is famous for its extremely poor human rights ratings and extremely low amount of infrastructure in the country, and with an influx of recent terrorist attacks Jonathan is trying to do all he can to improve his nation in some way.
Nigeria of late is not a very good place to be. The newspapers are completely full of stories of terrorist attack after terrorist attack (check out their newspaper called The Punch) because of religious extremist activities and conflicts between ethnic groups in the country similar to those of Rwanda. The groups fighting against each other are the Yoruba and Igbo tribes, who practice Christianity, and the Hausa-Fulani Muslims. It is a very bloody three-way conflict.  Numerous massacres have taken place over the past few years from all sides of the conflict, and extremists have taken up terrorist methods of proving their points. Many extremists sabotage oil pipelines and blow up oil drilling and processing plants. In the north, there has even been evidence of chemical weapons being used.
In addition to the violence which happens almost constantly in all parts of Nigeria, their infrastructure development is seriously lacking. Jonathan wants to build a new dam in the northeast in order to bring in more wealth via agriculture for the country, but his supporters worry that the dam is not a smart project to undertake when the country is in such turmoil. Jonathan's supporters feel like national security is more important than new infrastructure. However, Jonathan believes that new infrastructure will help the country become more secure.
My opinion on the possible building of a dam in Nigeria is a good one, because I am glad to see that the president, who is notorious for being a corrupt and unfair leader, is trying to invest in projects that will improve his country instead of ignoring them, like he has with healthcare, education, and infrastructure in the past. Jonathan usually only focuses efforts on improving Nigeria's oil economy, so it is really good that he wants to begin to start some agricultural programs. A dam is not the absolute best way to improve the infrastructure of a nation, when that nation does not have many of the infrastructure that any modern nation would have, but at least it is a start. Maybe with a new dam, the nation will be more motivated to improve its infrastructure in other ways. Also, if the agricultural economy of Nigeria grows, it is possible that the economy could support new healthcare and education programs, which are direly needed there. Hopefully the project pans out, and with a larger and more successful economy, Goodluck Jonathan can begin to focus more on human rights and putting an end to the violence in his country.

Indian dowry deaths- tradition or murder?


Annu Devi, a twenty-two year old Indian woman was one of many married women who have died from burns inflicted upon them by their relatives. Although Dowry is not permitted under Indian law, most families of the groom expect expensive "gifts" to be given to them upon marriage. If they are unsuitable or if the bride does not produce an heir, traditional Indian families are sometimes compelled to dispose of the woman. In this case, Devi's one year old daughter was also killed in the kerosene conflagration. In 2012 India had a total of 8,233 women murdered by their in-laws due to insufficient dowry.

In general, I have great respect for Indian culture and traditions. However, reading about this story, as well as seeing many others similar to it effected me greatly. I believe culture and traditions showed be encouraged and nurtured in society, but not to the point where instances like this are allowed to happen. Although there are measures against this type of death, like the outlawing of dowries, the fact that a family could collectively kill a baby girl and her mother over this is deeply concerning. Although traditions are important for a community or country's culture, in our ever developing and modernizing world, horrific traditions like this shouldn't be happening. Culture is a wonderful and beautiful part of humanity, and it should be encouraged to remain that way.

Venezuela: "No to Cubanization"

Protesters gather in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, enraged at the Cuban government. Why? They contend that their government and leader, Raul Castro, leeched off Venezuela's oil wealth, united a brand of socialism onto their country, and choreographed a broad crackdown on dissent.
After the death of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's longtime president and Fidel Castro's foreign ally, there has been a lot of fixation on Cuban influence in Venezuela's affairs, reflected by the similarity of the two countries' economic and political realities. The protesters feel strongly against "Cubanization" and the "Cuban invasion."
Venezuelans feel that Cubans control military intelligence, police intelligence, and the coordination of armed forces. However, there is very minimal evidence of the sort. Venezuelans claim this knowledge of the presence of Cubans involved in their forces from their distinct accents. The Cubans "direct the repression." The Cuban government has not responded to these assertions.
Venezuelans' high resentment toward the Cuban government is partially stemmed from the deal their country ships to Cuba each year: the $4 billion worth of oil. Cuba's return to Venezuela is paid through sending thousands of doctors, dentists, and technicians to work there. Although there are many critics against the Cubans' presence in Venezuela, a majority of the poor in Venezuela value the presence of Cuba's doctors especially. Eugenio Yanez, a Cuban commentator states, "There is a civil society in Venezuela. The Cuban opposition would love to be able to do what they're doing in Venezuela, but they can't."
Read more here.

Protests in Taipei


Just recently the Taiwanese government has made a trade agreement with China that has caused massive protests in Taiwan's capital of Taipei. Protestors are claiming that the trade agreement would leave Taiwan open to Chinese pressure and would hurt small businesses and job opportunities in Taiwan. Many of the protestors also believe, as stated by the campaign managers, that the agreement would make Taiwan dependent on China. President Ma Ying-Jeou has a different view on the trade deal and in fact supports it. He claims that the trade agreement will in fact bring economic benefits to Taiwan, the opposite of what the protesters believe. The amount of protestors have reached numbers in the hundreds of thousands. The Taiwanese government claims that at most there are only one-hundred thousand, while campaign managers claim the number is around seven-hundred thousand. The protestors are carrying signs with "defend democracy, withdraw the trade deal" written on them. The protesters are also supporting the Taiwanese students that have been protesting the deal by occupying parliament for two weeks now. The protestors are demanding that the trade agreement be completely thrown out and trade between Beijing and Taiwan be monitored more closely. In recent days the President has been trying to make concessions by having legislature review the bill however he will not throw out the bill.

I agree more with the protestors rather than the Taiwanese government or President. If that many citizens believe the trade agreement is bad then it must be. It also puts into question if their democracy is completely working correctly. If citizens have to protest something as simple as a bill then maybe their representatives are not following what the people want. Which would go against what a democracy is and stands for. However if the representatives are listening to the people and voicing their opinions then the protests should not be happening. If the representatives are actually doing their jobs and those protestors are just not getting their way, that should not be happening. Democracy does not work by protesting every time you do not get your way. If you do not get your way, you have to wait or try to get votes to try to change what you do not like. We will find out whether or not the representatives are actually following what the people are saying in time. However another point to remember is that China has always thought of Taiwan as part of China and not a separate country. 

Russian and American Diplomacy Talks Have No Progress

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry met to discuss the situation regarding Ukraine. No progress was made, as they two promised to "continue discussions" over the Crimean crisis. there was no true breakthrough, as Russia has not committed to removing the 40,000 troops that are surrounding Ukraine's border.

Progress was made over securing the linguistic and cultural rights of Russian minorities in Ukraine earlier this week, speaking of the rights Russian- speaking populations and constitutional reform. The situation regarding Crimea itself was not progressive, yet both parties are eager to resolve the conflict as Russia wants the US to stop tough sanctions over Crimea and the ongoing NATO talks. The Russian GDP is expected to fall by as much as 1.8% if no negotiations are settled, with stocks plummeting greatly below market value. Lobbyist from major oil companies such as BP are trying to loosen ties over Russia, as it has been estimated that they have lost over a billion dollars in oil investments. (source)

On a different note, Russia is imposing their own sanctions upon Ukraine. While Russia accounts for 25% of Ukraine's imports, companies such as Gazprom and the steel corporation Metinvest have increased their prices (by Kremlin influence). Even with billions in financial aid from the World Bank, Ukraine will still be hit hard as their economy continues to plummet. (source)

Russia has proposed Ukraine to "federalize"- so that each region will receive their fair share of representation for its traditions and customs. This is particularly funny because it is offering a western solution that the United States does not entirely believe in. Now we wait upon the future of Ukraine's government.

The final source can be found here.

GAHH! Argentina is so frustrated!...

...with their soaring prices. An increase in prices occurred following a 19% devaluation in January of Argentina's currency, the peso. Argentinean residents are trying to cope with one of the world's highest inflation rates, fueling social unrest, including a strike by schoolteachers and police sit-ins that led to widespread looting. Last year, Argentinians endured price rises of nearly 30%, according to an unofficial index published by opposition politicians. However, the government, which has been accused of manipulating economic data in the past, claims inflation only reached 10.9% last year. This year, inflation could reach a high of 45%.
The increase in prices has become a wearying feature of daily life. Some stores, the example given in the article was a butcher's store, have abandoned their price boards and instead improvise with a scrap of paper that cashiers update daily to keep up with prices. Women are beginning to take their former spouses to court to seek increases in alimony payments. Cafe owners are complaining that costumers are ordering less food so they can save their money. Store owners struggle to price imported goods, fearing that the peso will slip further and erode prices.
With inflation soaring, the government has placed price freezes on items like vegetables, meats, canned food, and even some school materials. Store owners that do not respect the freezes, or fail to stock the goods, will be subsequently fined or shut down by the government. While steps are being taken to keep the inflation under control, Argentinians are still weary about the peso.
Continue reading the article here if you're interested.
Brazil's attempts to clean up the streets

       Brazil is set to host the upcoming World Cup and the 2016 World Olympics. However in an attempt to prepare for these upcoming world events an initiative began in 2008 to clean up their Favelas. However a lot of the areas that have been pacified started to spout violence, once again housing firefights and murders of officers. These dug trafficking strong holds endanger the whole community. Most recently over a thousand police were backed by the military in an attempt to subdue the gang violence in Mare Favela which lies near Rio de Janeiro's international airport. All of these efforts have been in an attempt the make Brazil more travel friendly to outsiders so that they do not have to worry about their safety as much. This along with many other actions have been attempted to attract the international community to attend these upcoming world events hosted there.

       I have mixed feelings about Brazil hosting these upcoming world events. In one hand it gives them an incentive to clean up the violent drug infested favelas but on the other hand they are bypassing the rights and safety of their own citizens. First off, they shouldn't be cleaning up the favelas as a way to make it safer for outside visitors, instead they should be cleaning them up as a way to make it safer for the citizens that live in and around there. Another reason why the rush to host these events undermines its citizens is because they are investing in infrastructure that is actually hurting their citizens. The government has unfairly "compensated" more than 200 citizens as a way to gain land for a new arena to hold the World Cup. On top of that to help pay for everything they have raised the price of public by 20 cents which in a highly inflated economy with a VERY large poverty gap, raises issues with a majority of its citizens. Over all I think that Brazil needs to get their priorities straight and take care of its own citizens before they worry about attracting people that don't even live there.

Rwandan Genocide Refugees Headed For Sweden

It is astonishing to think that there are still people being affected by the Rwandan genocide every day, twenty years later. Many refugees of the genocide have been living in Uganda after seeking refuge from Rwanda in 1994 and now, 2,000 are being relocated, this time to Sweden. Having lived in Uganda since the early nineties, the refugees would expect to have received their Ugandan citizenship at some point, however that is not the case, and they need to find a place they can call home. Initially, after fleeing Rwanda, the refugees headed for the Congo, but little relief was found there. The 2,000 refugees are expected to arrive early summer in Sweden. Sweden also took in the same amount of refugees last year. The Swedish parliament set the number of refugees they would take on each year, leaving the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN's refugee agency, to decide which of the refugees are most at risk of harm to join the group moving to Sweden this summer. Sweden takes on the refugees knowing that it has been too long since they have had a place to call their home, and in their particular situation, there is no way to become a part of the country they have fled to, nor go back to their own country. Therefore, Sweden has taken it upon itself to lend a hand, and hopefully being relocated to Sweden can be the means for a new start for the refugees. If you'd like more information on the move, you can find it here. If you would like more information on the Rwandan genocide in general, this link provides some pretty basic information.

What's the point?

        Being part of the Chinese government must be so embarrassing... Always attacking their own citizens, always sticking their noses where they don't belong, always claiming what's not theirs like school children fighting over crayons.
 And now, chasing around a Philippine transport vessel like a dog after a mailman. Don't get me wrong, I think dogs understand the world better than any leftist militant moron, but China is just silly. They take all the things that are wrong with the idea of government--the attempt to establish order in a world of animals, its creepy colonoscopy-esque curiousness, the fact that it exists, ect.--and somehow think that mega-mushrooming these aspects will turn out better results. 
        The Chinese government certainly loves to mega-mushroom their pursuit for control, as exemplified by its claim to 90% of the "South China Sea". China has been using its newfound military might to blockade many sea routes within the disputed sea, most recently blocking the Philippine government from sending ship through waters disputed by the two nations. But, humorously enough, despite all the efforts of the great People's Republic of China, the Philippine vessel was able to pink-panther its way around Inspector Clouseau and safely deliver its cargo of food and water.
        So, I ask you, chairmen and secretaries and dragonheads of the Chinese government: what's the point? If, in a few days or weeks or years, you will be dead and I will be dead, and the government of the Philippines will crumble and fall to some hooded militant loser, and your nation will be drowning in soot and public unrest, and all that is left of us will be washed away to sea, what's the point of trying and failing to blockade some damn idiot maneuvering his ship through the uncontrollable ocean?

Switzerland's actions breaking its stand on neutrality?

In a statement, on Friday, Russia singled out Switzerland and criticized their measures taken to punish Moscow for the "illegal annexation" of Crimea, Ukraine. The Russian foreign ministry claimed the Swiss reaction of putting travel restrictions on Russian government officials was “unjustified and counterproductive.” Russians claimed the restrictions were part of a “prejudiced point of view” did not conform to Switzerland’s stand of neutrality. Switzerland’s Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter, condemned Russia’s actions in Crimea. He stated that the country had to balance their own interests of maintaining neutrality and respecting international laws. As a part of Europe’s single border Schengen agreement, Switzerland would apply travel restrictions against a group of Russian nationals and that these restrictions would be changed depending on how the situation in Crimea evolves. The Russian foreign ministry also claimed the Western states of the UN as putting shameless pressure on others to vote against Russia.

To read the article, click here 

Burkhalter’s words show that the country does not approve of Russia’s role in Crimea but their actions are not completely based on it. Switzerland managed to maintain being in the middle ground for the longest time and their current actions towards Russia officials is just another example. Rather than completely banning and freezing Russian visas and accounts like the EU and US, Switzerland has limited them and by doing this they have shown they stand in the middle of both sides, maintaining their place as a neutral country. Perhaps their actions can be seen as prejudiced and against Russians, but they still allowed everything to continue, with limitations rather than completely stopping it. As a country, Switzerland does not want to take sides and typically only takes stands on issues involving people’s rights. One of the issues in Crimea does involve the people’s rights and as such, Switzerland may be biased and against Russia but the country has still not done any actions directly opposing Russia and is simply trying to maintain a neutral position while following the laws of the international associations and groups that are current against Russia’s actions in Crimea. 

Like the majority of the world, Switzerland does not approve of Russia's actions in Crimea, but they have done their best in balancing their disapproval, international laws, and their desire for neutrality. Now we just need to see how the Crimea situation plays out and hope for the best.