Monday, February 24, 2014

Police finally caught the most wanted criminal, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. He was known as the drug lord who escaped the police for a decade and has been finally caught.  Guzmán was allegedly found in a hotel.. At first when the marines knocked on the door, El Chapo  sneaked out through a hidden exit in a bathroom ,but however was still caught after he was captured early Saturday hiding out in a condominium in Mazatlan, a beach resort town on Mexico's Pacific Coast.

He had a military-style assault rifle with him but didn't fire a shot, the officials said. His beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel, was with him when the manhunt for one of the world's most wanted drug traffickers ended.

Unscathed and his legend growing, the stocky son of a peasant farmer grabbed a slot on the Forbes' billionaires' list and a folkloric status as the capo who grew too powerful to catch. Then, late last year, authorities started closing in on the inner circle of the world's most-wanted drug lord. Bit by bit, they got closer to the crime boss.

you can read more here

Friday, February 21, 2014

North Korea: New Evidence of Human Rights Abuses

It's long been known that North Korea isn't exactly a land of freedom and prosperity. However a report from U.N. investigators shows that North Korea has prison camps whose conditions rival those of Nazi concentration camps and Stalin's Gulags. These prisoners are guilty of crimes ranging from watching american soap operas to being related to an enemy of the state. During the 11 month investigation, over 320 witnesses were interviewed and the stories they told were horrifying to say the least. One woman was forced by guards to drown her newborn baby. Another prisoner was held down and forced to eat grass and dirt as a punishment. Kim Gwang-il, an escapee that spent two years in one of these camps, recounted his experience partially through a series of drawings found here. The drawings depict prisoners eating live rats and snakes that they caught in the fields out of desperation as well as brutal torture.The 400 page U.N. report concluded that North Korea is a state that "does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens' lives and terrorizes them from within." In spite of hundreds of witness accounts, the North Korean government continues to insist that there is no human rights abuses in their country. They claim that it is a hoax perpetrated for the sole purpose of sabotaging the socialist system. Currently, efforts to bring the North Korean government up on charges before the International Criminal Court are being blocked by China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of foreign affairs says that bringing up charges "won't help improve a country's human rights condition." The commission of inquiry was denied access to North Korea during the investigation. Their request to meet with experts on North Korea issues in Beijing was also denied by the Chinese government.

After reading about this from several sources, I am very skeptical about China and North Korea's claims. Even if you ignore the fact that there has been no response to the mountain of evidence that these human rights violations are real, the rhetoric used to deny the accusations is hugely suspect. North Korea is claiming a massive conspiracy orchestrated by the United States and other enemies of socialism. The U.N. is barely coordinated enough to do anything of substance, let alone orchestrate a conspiracy of this scale. Secondly, North Korea has a long history of blaming everything on capitalists, while they deprive their people of basic human dignity. Also, China's claim that bringing the North Korean government up on charges would have no effect on human rights doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe I'm the idiot, but I don't see how prosecuting the perpetrators of what borderlines on genocide could have anything but a positive effect of human rights.


Girl Scout Cookies Outselling Marijuana

Uh oh! Seems like girl scout cookies profits are rising higher than marijuana. At San Francisco, California, a 13 year old girl scout , Danielle Lei,  and her mom  were selling girl scout cookies right in front of a marijuana clinic on Monday. In just two hours, at least 117 girl scout cookies were sold outside of the marijuana clinic.  Her mother, Carol, states "Her two middle-school-aged daughters have sold Girl Scout cookies outside a medical marijuana clinic before, though this was the first time they stopped by The Green Cross"

 However, it seems as if it's a different story  for the girl scouts at Colorado.  Colorado girl scout quotes "If you are wondering, we don't allow our Girl Scouts to sell cookies in front of marijuana shops or liquor stores/bars."

Well, I guess it's 'high' time for those girl scouts to sell cookies outside of marijuana clinics. It might boost those cookie sales up a notch. But remember to ask the clinic before selling them outside just like what Danielle Lei's mother did.

You can read more here

Possible Corruption in Olympic Figure Skating

Through all of the madness in Sochi, people are skeptical if the home teams are getting special privileges and special scores. Specifically, when it comes to figure skating, people are questioning if Adelina Sotnikova was given better scores than she deserved. Many think South Korean skater Yuna Kim deserved the gold, who received the silver, but was beaten out by Adelina. Many critics noticed that Adelina had a mis-step when coming down from her triple combination, which should have affected her score, but did not. Yuna is an experienced skater, known as Queen Yuna in her home country, so this is why people are concerned as well. Overall, people are mostly concerned that there is corruption within the gaming event that is supposed to bring countries together.
After reading this article, I thought it sounded a bit shady that the home country for the Olympics is winning an event that they have never won before, especially when competing against a woman who is known as the best in her sport. One thing I question is that since Yuna is from South Korea, is there bias against her because her country is not well-liked? Since critics could point out her specific flaws, it seems more believable that she did not deserve the gold, but the silver.

Panties for President

In Kazakhstan, an interesting struggle has erupted between the government and Kazakh women -- over lacy panties. The Customs Union, a "Moscow-initiated trade allliance between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus," imposed a ban on the import of the panties because they apparently didn't meet the threshold for dampness absorption that underwear need to me to be sold in Kazakhstan and were in fact, far below par in this area.

This trade bloc has been criticized before, in 2012 by then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who commented that the union was re-Sovietizing the region under cover of economic integration.

A pertinent quote by one of the affected women:
"It irritates me the most that the authorities want to decide what I should wear," Iryna Davydenko, a bank manager, who travels regulary between Kazakhstan, Russian and Ukraine, told Al Arabiya English. "As if all other issues in the country are solved and the only outstanding issue is ladies panties."
 This is such an interesting issue, one that seems too ridiculous to be true. Why should the the trade union care whether lace panties have a 6 percent absorption threshold? Most, if not all of us, would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between different absorption levels of underwear. This ban makes the non-existent issue seem more important than it really is, creating an issue where there was none before. It almost seems as if this were manufactured to draw attention away from some bigger plan.  In terms of personal rights, the freedom to choose your own underwear seems like the most indisputable.

G-20 finance ministers focus on global growth

A group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s biggest economies which make up the G-20, plan to meet in Sydney this weekend with the top priority of addressing the issue of market turmoil present within the global economy and discussing ways to reinvigorate global growth. In December, the U.S. central bank said it would start reducing its monthly Treasury and mortgage bond purchases, intended to keep interest rates low and support economic recovery in the aftermath of global recession. Investors responded by pulling out of emerging markets and channeling their money to the U.S. in hopes of higher returns, which only contributed to sharp falls in stock markets and the currencies of some developing countries.
            The key focus of the meeting will be exploring ways of restoring global growth amid indications that the world’s largest economies are once again slowing. It is suggested that boosting private investment in infrastructure would help stimulate growth, and by committing to a global growth target higher than the Interenational Monetary Fund’s forecast, which is 3.7 percent this year, the economy will be well on its way to a more stable and secure state.
            U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew states that boosting global growth and creating more jobs will be the G-20’s top priority. “Despite signs of improvement, global growth remains uneven and well below potention, while unemployment remains stubbornly high in many places,” Lew told reporters in Sydney on Friday. “The growth strategies that we will be developing must be ambitious in substance and address both deficiencies in near-term demand as well as longer-term economic challenges.”
           Another key item addressed will be the failure of the U.S. to pass the 2010 IMP reform package. Last month, Congress rejected a funding request from the Obama administration that would have double the IMF’s lending capacity to about $733 billion and increased the voting power of emerging economies. The international lending agency’s governing board gave a green light to the overhaul in 2010, and approval by congress in the last remaining roadblock for it to take effect.
            I think it is necessary that the United States support the IMF reform now in order to secure global economic stability in the future. With the funding capacity increase, the global economy will have more room to grow. This reform is not only in the interest of the United States but will be beneficial to all other countries as well. In this meeting, the members must come to a consensus and fund the best possible solution to the present deficit of global economic growth. Without the cooperation of all economies working together, nothing will ever get accomplished and the economy will continue to drop.
To read the full article:

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

Pussy Riot is at it again. On a trip back to Moscow the band members of this music video decided to stop by Sochi, Russia and produce a video showing off their hooliganism. As a result, twenty people have been arrested and are facing charges of up to ten years in another drab Russian prison. During the creation of this new video a large group of old bearded Cossacks came and beat/whipped the trouble makers, while the cops nearby let it happen. The new video is called "Putin will teach you how to love the motherland" and although it is quite catchy, it also points out the Pussy Rioters views towards the Olympic games.
"Sochi locked down/the Olympics under surveillance/Of guns and crowds of cops," are some of the lines recited throughout the song. These lines may look pretty bad, but because of all the hype up for a terrorist attack on the Olympics this year, I wouldn't blame them for having increased security.
Later after the video was taken, members of the band reported to the press that "The Olympics has turned the police state into a total police state and the authoritarian regime into a totalitarian regime with preventive arrests," and also that "The Olympics has created an environment of sweeping violations of human rights in Russia." Judging from the video, it's pretty easy to see their claims are true and maybe in fact the hooligans aren't such bad trouble makers after all. It might even be possible that they are the good guys and mother Russia is just a little out'a line on this one. All hail Putin, and make sure you think about the grand Feminist movement happening right outside while your watching Michael Phelps compete for his 23rd Olympic medal in the Polar Bear Plunge.

So Much for Fighting Corruption

      What happens when a man tries to fight corruption in the most populous African country? He receives death threats and is fired by the President. The former Central Bank Governor of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, was "dismissed" from his job for revealing that billions of dollars were missing from the coffers of Nigeria's biggest oil companies. This revelation devalued the Nigerian currency by almost 4% and instead of dealing with the corruption, it was encouraged.
      A man who stands up to corruption is a brave man, but becomes a target. When the president himself is in the middle of a tainted system, it makes it nearly impossible for one man to successfully go against it successfully. I hope that the people of Nigeria start to stand up and fight back against this corruption, because someone who is threatened and thrown around for doing what is right needs to be supported Without the support of others those that are corrupt are free to do what they want without anyone standing in their way. It takes one man to ignite the idea, but it takes the rest of the people to stand up for what is right and to pursue it.

Nigeria fires official who uncovered billions in missing oil money

North Korea Executes Relatives of Purged Uncle

Last month, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly executed the husband of his aunt, Jang Song Thaek. According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, Kim also ordered the execution of the relatives of Jang following the killing of his uncle. Those he ordered to be eliminated included Jang's sons, grandchildren, nephews, and sister and her husband, who was the Ambassador to Cuba. Some were dragged out of their homes and shot to death and others were called to Pyongyang in early December to be officially executed while bystanders watched. This action confirms that "Kim's brutality exceeds even that of his father and grandfather, his predecessors in power," and his fear of opposing forces. The insecurity of his power shows the faltering and unstable powers that North Korea faces in current and upcoming years.

In an effort to grip onto the power he has over his regime and to protect his self interests, he has eliminated possible threats to his power, even at the cost of betraying officials and family members. This traditional method of punishment of the extended families of the culprit has been passed down from father to son and shows that North Korea's ideology and culture remains strong even after three generations under the Kim regime. Although his decision to get rid of will give him a stronger hold on the government now, in the long run, it will only ensue further distrust and turmoil in the ruling regime. There will probably be a split in the government in the future; those who are in support of Kim and those who oppose him.

The elimination of any opposing forces by Kim Jong Un poses the threat not only to the common people in North Korea, but even the official leaders' who hold high positions in the government like Jang Song Thaek, who was considered the second highest authoritative figure of N. Korea. Those who watched the execution of the family members were even surprised by Kim's decision. This shows that no one is safe in the country and furthermore, reveals how far Kim is willing to go to maintain his power.

In the midst of these events, North Korea civilians are still holding an event in celebration of the deceased leader, the Kimjongilia festival. The theme is: "Kimjongilia in full bloom promising a rosy future of the great Paektusan nation." Ironically, the North Koreans are worshipping those who are caging them in this isolated country from the rest of the world, but will the North Korean people soon begin to question their leadership?


UN Warns of North Korea, Modern Nazi Germany or The Hidden Gulag

Recently the UN announced results of their ongoing investigation of North Korean human rights violations. Through a set of prison camps throughout the nation the North Korean gov't has been imprisioning enemies of the state and torture all prisoners. Some torture even goes as far as rape and forced abortions, or when the baby is born they will make the mother drown it in water. The UN warns the world to not neglect these issues in NK and to take action now; also this report claims that since now it is known of the atrocities that the common excuse of not knowing how bad Nazi Germany was back in the early to mid 1900s will not be acceptable now for NK. The UN top officials wish to take action however China will veto any action in the Security Council, therefore they direct the General Assembly and pressure that body to directly take action. North Korea, now known definitely to be the worst dictatorship in the world. The Forbes article can be found here:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

writing about the Ukraine is pretty popular so, EU imposes sanctions after deadly Kiev clashes
Sorry for link, if it does not work just copy and paste it into the url address bar.

After the Ukrainian government's recent violence towards protesters in the countries capital of Kiev on Thursday, the European Union has decide to impose sanctions on Ukrainian officials. On Thursday many of the protesters were killed by snipers and in all over 75 people (including policemen) have died since Tuesday. The Ukrainian government claims that protesters have captured 67 policemen and a number of them have been released. There were shaky peace talks between the Ukrainian government and protesters before Thursday but tensions were high and a fight ensued. Before the EU tried to avoid any direct involvement but rather emphasized peace talks between the two sides. The United States has already banned 20 Ukrainian government officials' visas. The US may be following suit, in a call by Vice President Joe Biden to the Ukrainian President Yanukovych, Biden said that the US is ready to impose sanctions. Since then the Ukrainians have continued to protest the government.

Like most people I think the violence in the Ukraine by the Ukrainian government against the protesters is savage and disgusting. The unrest in the Ukraine has been going on for a long time now and the supposed "peace talks" got nowhere. I feel like there should be more done in the Ukraine to help the protesters. The protesters are obviously fighting an oppressive government and are being massacred. We should at least provide them with a little bit of military support or the UN should provide them with peacekeepers. The sanctions that all these countries are putting on the Ukraine will probably not get anywhere, especially since the "peace talks" did not. If nothing is done, the violence in the Ukraine will continue.

Protests Swell in Venezuela as Places to Rally Disappear

NY Times Venezuela protest crack down

As protests in Venezuela continue, government crackdowns and violent intervention are on the rise. Reason for citizen unrest in the country is mainly due to dissatisfaction with current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. However, specific criticism from the protestors side include dissatisfaction with rising violent crime rates, shortages with basic goods (sugar and toilet paper), and censorship of government opposition. The protest began, and is mainly composed of, Venezuela's younger generation and college students. Since last week four people have been shot and killed by Madura's forces including ex- Venezuelan beauty queen Genesis Carmona. So far, protests are still raging and there have been no signs of let up from either Madura or the student protestors. Times writer William Neumann compares recent Venezuelan protests under Madura to the major nationwide unrest after the death of former "charismatic" president Hugo Chavez.

President Madura's response to the protests have been largely controversial due to blatant disregard for basic human rights to free speech. Madura's policy is to deny all government blame for all injustices occurring in the country. "But the government has been quick to blame protesters for the worst violence, and on Thursday the interior minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, said that one of her fellow demonstrators fired the shot that killed Ms. Carmona. “This girl died from a bullet that came from her own ranks,” he said, " writes Neumann demonstrating Madura's manipulative control. To further injustices led by Madura, the president has threatened to order in a "state of exemption" on the Venezuelan city of Tachira. A "state of exemption" would entitle extreme military intervention on the city consisting of tanks, air strikes, and government troops. Madura has also threatened to prosecute all protest leaders and politicians who oppose his rule. In order to put an end to the protests the president is strategically limiting the "space" in which citizens can voice their grievances and opposition. On a literal level, Madura has shutdown former major protesting spots so that rallies have nowhere to take place and on a less literal level, the Venezuelan President has bought out the last remaining free- voice news channel.

The more Madura tries to silence the protestors the more aggressive and motivated they become. By limiting a citizen's freedom of speech, thought, and opinions the Venezuelan Government has set itself up for massive political unrest and even more international criticism. Having the most oil reserves in the world, Venezuela is a prominent actor in the world market, however a history of economic and political turmoil has led the country into further major issues.

Wii controllers, the new sidearm of choice for space assassins to take down police departments

Small town Georgian trailer park, there's a dude on probation.  Now that you've got the scene set in your mind, lets add in some new factors:  1. parole guy has a kid- Christopher Roupe  2. Probation check, kid answers the door.
What happens next?  Being a teenager, you would not be surprised to find out that Chris played the occasional video game and owned a gaming console, which on this very afternoon he was about to use to watch a show.  To further characterize him, The Young Stunna Chris (as I've decided to call him) was active in his school's ROTC program, and intended to enlist in the US Marines when he got out of high school and all that.  So far, so good- Semper Fi and all that jazz.  Anyway, on this afternoon when Chris had a Wii gaming controller in his hand (white, plastic, looks like a remote with a wrist strap) and went to answer the door, he got the last surprise he was ever going to get.
Reports say he heard a knock and asked who it was and after getting no reply, opened the door- an inviting sign usually.  Unfortunately, the cop who was coming by to check on Mr. Roupe's probation mistook the Wii controller for some sort of futuristic doomsday phaser of Japanese gaming or something and blasted Chris in the chest, killing him soon after.  The reporting officer quickly realized her mistake and was seen crying with her head in her hands in the front yard.
Details vary from source to source, some say that the cop was there since Mr Roupe was on probation, some never mention it.

Another Redundant Current Event About the Ukraine

The Ukraine has been in the midst of political upheaval due to President Yanukovych's refusal to sign a deal with the EU in favor of a deal with Russia over natural gas prices. The protests have grown largely into citizens' demands to change the constitution and the entire power structure of the country. Regular citizens want more power placed in the parliament than the presidency. The Ukraine is supposedly often caught politically between Russia, and the EU and the West and it is an issue that has divided the population for many years. 

The situation now, however, has turned bloody. Around 100 people have died in protest-related violence and the "truce" between the government and the protesters lasted hardly a day. 

How does the rest of the world play into this? Hopefully not much at all. The United States certainly has absolutely no roll to play in the growing conflict. The Ukraine is in the middle of civil unrest quickly turning to civil war. Supporting either side militarily would be ridiculous considering it would only serve to heighten the conflict and quite frankly there is no stable, morally correct, or politically trustworthy "side" in this situation. Any third party military intervention would probably do the same thing as US intervention. Say the EU decides to send troops or maybe the UN decides to go on another "peace keeping" campaign. The outcome would be the same. More war. More unnecessarily dead people. It's one country against itself and every death racks up the same statistic. There's no reason to spur it on. I'm surprised some people actually think that military involvement is actually an option. 

So what's left to do? Negotiate. And ultimately, that is up to the Ukraine within itself primarily, Russia and the EU. Want to start a political riot? I love it. Sure, go ahead, but they better finish what they started. What would be rad to see, is the Ukrainian people transform their country for the better and actually come out on top. Overthrow is only the first step of a very, very, very long process of reconstruction and hopefully this time they don't reelect a president who puts his competitors in jail. 

I was tempted to criticize the people of Ukraine for democratically electing such a horrible leader but then I remembered what country I live in and what voters are capable of. 

Moving on, I essentially believe that this issue belongs to the Ukraine. You could say Russia had some role to play but it was their leader's decision to do deals with the Russians. It was that decision which sparked the anger because it wasn't what the people wanted. Sounds familiar. In the end, the rest of the world will probably just watch and stare until the Ukraine has a new gang of political cronies to talk to. Most of us will probably forget about this story by the end of the year anyway if the political upheaval stops anywhere short of full-on civil war which to me is the more concerning part of stories like this.

Egypt Extends Crackdown to Journalists

On Thursday, three journalists were put before the court for filing news reports for Al-Jazeera English.  The prosecutors believed that they had links to terrorists, detaining the men for weeks.  Their charges are part of a crackdown by Egypt's military-backed government that has captured reporters, filmmakers, and bloggers. This all began with the mass arrests of the Egyptian government's enemies in the Muslim Brotherhood, but has quickly expanded into a campaign against all critics of the government.  Since the military ousting of President Mohammed Morsi in July, at least sixty journalists have been detained with nine still in custody.  Peter Gretse, one of the Jazeera journalists wrote in a letter from prison, "This is a dangerous decision. It validates an attack not just on me and my two colleagues but on freedom of speech across Egypt."  Gretse along with seventeen other journalists are charged in the same cases with allegations of possessing materials promoting a terrorist organization and distorting Egypt's image by suggesting that the country is in a civil war.

In a world that heavily relies on the media as a source of news, I think that it is important that world events and crises should be seen accurately, rather than in the way the government wants.  While I don't find it hard to believe that the Egyptian government would bring these journalists to court, it is unsettling to hear.  These men are criminals and terrorists in the eyes of the Egyptian government and its not right.  Even though Al-Jazeera is owned by Qatar (a country which Egypt is in a struggle with), the Egyptian government shouldn't be taking these journalists to court for doing their job.

Link to Article

Taking Hints from Fukushima

Three years ago, the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant devastated Japan. At the time, Californians were terrified of being contaminated; by now we have all but forgotten the incident. Unfortunately, forgetting isn’t an option for the Eastern coast of Japan. Groundwater is constantly being contaminated by the site, and must be pumped out and stored in tanks to contain the damage. Although 340,000 tons of water have been collected, there is no stopping the “hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater that still flow unchecked into the Pacific every day.”

These tanks temporarily contain the problem, but are by no means perfect. Last week a leak in one of these holding tanks was discovered after one hundred tons of water escaped—water that had 3.8 million times the radiation contamination that Japanese drinking water standards allow, and contained significant levels of particles known to cause cancer.

Perhaps most worrying is the title of the article: “Worst Spill in 6 Months is Reported at Fukushima.” Clearly spills have been fairly common in the three years since the initial disaster, and if going six months without spilling one hundred tons of a highly contaminated, very dangerous material is considered an accomplishment, I’m a little bit concerned. It’s like seeing that the cheery “180 days since the last workplace accident!” tally has just been changed back to zero; it’s disconcerting. Cleaning up a nuclear power plant after a meltdown is obviously an extremely difficult and hazardous task, and it’s understandable that the company is running into trouble dealing with it—but the fact remains that eventually someone is going to have to. The question now is whether the “clean” energy the Fukushima plant once produced was worth the environmental repercussions Japan is now facing—consequences we should all be aware of. Perhaps we should take a hint from Fukushima as we decide where the future of energy is headed.

U.S. DRONE MAY HAVE KILLED A DOZEN CIVILIANS + 3 men tried in Nicaragua for stealing two bananas

A U.S. military drone strike in December of 2013 may have killed 12 civilians at a wedding in Yemen, injured at least 15 others including the bride. The U.S. officials claim that only members of Al-Qaida were killed but refused to make the details of the investigation public. The Human Rights Watch released a report on this issue citing interviews with eight eye witnesses and the relatives of the dead as well as the Yemeni officials. Yemeni and U.S. officials claim that the dead and wounded were members of militant groups, but when the Human Rights Watch asked them to identify which ones were civilians and which ones were members, they refused to reply. According to the Yemeni and U.S. officials, Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badan, is on the U.S. most wanted list and he was the one that they were targeting.
I don't know about you but anyone would be suspicious about the deaths of 12 people at a wedding of all places. The drones was a hot topic when they first decided to use them, now there are "investigations" and rumors of drones attacking and killing civilians??? They have not released any information about how they were tracking this al-Badan guy or if they were positive that he was there. They do claim, however, that he was one of the 15 people they injured, but of course, he got away.

On a totally unrelated topic.
In Nicaragua, apparently three men are getting tried for stealing two bananas. What? The bananas that were stolen is worth about 62 cents, and they are having a trial which could add up to $600. Two of the men are in a local jail while the third guy is under some kind of house arrest. Is it really necessary to put three men on trial for stealing two bananas? Ridiculousness can be found here

Putin on the Ritz

Article here

Basically, Vladimir Putin is not being entirely forthcoming (shocking!) about his personal net worth. Though he claims to have a net worth of under $500,000, that seems highly unlikely considering his rather expensive tastes. He has been seen wearing a watch valued at $150,000, has several houses and getaways, including one valued at roughly $1 billion, and access to a $40 million yacht. Clearly, either his math isn't great or he's just lying.

The article also gives a bit of Putin's job history. As he likes to promote, he came from a working-class family, then somehow pulled himself up by the bootstraps and made it through law school. From there, he worked for the KGB. After 16 years as a spy, he worked his way up through the political ranks to his appointment as the Chief of Presidential Staff to Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin promoted him to Prime Minister and named Putin as presidential successor. Supposedly, throughout his long reign as president, Putin has acquired ownership stakes in several oil companies. It's those stakes in particular that boost his net worth to approximately $70 billion.

I really don't have much of an opinion on this article, I just wanted an excuse to use this title. The website itself seems legit, though maybe it's not written by the hardest hitting of journalists. However, nothing posited by the article seems that unlikely, as Putin is more often seen as suspicious than trustworthy. And the fact he owns so many nice things is fairly suspicious. Not many people spend a fifth of their yearly income on a watch, and then can afford yachts and vacation homes worth so much more than their likely lifetime income, is all I'm saying. I don't really know what it matters if he's lying about being rich, since he'll be rich regardless, but I guess it's nice to hope for transparency in public figures, even when you know that won't happen.

China threatens damaged relations if US continues to meet with Dalai Lama

In the past there was a lot of buzz about the public protests of monks in China.  They were burning themselves alive, and sacrificing their lives in what they believed in, independence for Tibet.  Many people then became concerned, advocated for their rights and freedom.  Controversy arose, and the U.S. was crossed with the decision of help the people of Tibet or keep relations with China peaceful.  Not much was done, other than the occasional concerned opinion of bystanders.  the news eventually died down, and moved from the center of viewers attention, yet the protests still continued.  Over many years there were ideas of peace talks. Dalai Lama the leader of the Tibetans attended them and tried to negotiate, yet in the end the peace talks ended.
 Now regarding the article, the now exiled Dalai Lama has been hosted at the White House to meet President Barack Obama.  China has urged that these talks stop, because it will result in relations between the US and China to be damaged.  The US clearly stated they were not taking sides, but they were concerned with the human-rights situation for the Tibetans, and therefore they will continue the talks with Dalai Lama. 
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Mr. Obama would meet the Dalai Lama "in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader".
"We do not support Tibetan independence," she said, adding that the US "strongly supports human rights and religious freedom in China.

The Dalai Lama says in the peace talks he still highly recommends, "a middle way" for peace and autonomy, not independence.

Even though the US stated they were not choosing sides with either Dalai Lama and his movement for Tibetan peace of China, it seems as if the US is criticizing China's treatment of Tibetans.  Even if its not said, it is obvious that the US sides with Tibet and wants to create more equality for them and religious freedom.  There is also another thought that the US might be holding these talks to appease some groups of people who are concerned with the happenings of China, and would like to get them off their backs, by creating some action for concern.  Meeting with Dalai Lama is right in the middle of harmless yet powerful, China can't really cause a scene and activists can be satisfied.  Quite a smart move on the US account of maintaining low profiles so there are no ripple sin the water.

Click here for more

Deadly drone strike in Yemen failed to comply with Obama’s rules to protect civilians

Another day, another drone strike. In an attempt to take top members of Al Qaeda out, the U.S. government instead blew up cars coming from a wedding, killing 12 and wounding 15 last December. What's worse is that there has been no evidence that even anybody involved with Al Qaeda was killed or injured. A sloppy and disgusting job and an even sloppier cover up - the U.S. stated that only militants were killed in this strike. With drone strikes becoming increasing popular by the U.S. government, they need to be careful things like this don't happen. There should be no exceptions and no room for error when innocent lives are on the line for such a disgusting practice. This strike broke the regulations set by the president, who said that there would be little to no civilian causalities with drone strikes. Now we see that isn't true, and whoever authorized and planned this drone strike messed up bad.

Since the drone strike, the U.S. military has been investigating what went wrong and what precautions were taken to prevent civilians from being harmed. So far the U.S. doesn't have any legal grounds for attacking the wedding cars. This is an incredibly costly mistake and should be embarrassing for the United States. How can they say drone strikes are helping the world when they're killing innocent people? Those who were given power over the drones should be punished. There are some mistakes that aren't forgivable, and taking another human's life shouldn't be acceptable, even if it is just a faceless distant "nobody" that they killed.

Drone strikes are disgusting. I personally don't want bombs raining over my house like it's raining cats and dogs all up in here, and I doubt anybody else does. Drone strikes are invasive, cowardly, and worst of all unpredictable. How can a machine separate Al Qaeda and a couple just trying to celebrate their wedding? 'Murica dun messed up, just better hope it's not your life next time a drone comes crashing out of the sky.

Controversial Death of Teenage Syrian Photographer Sheds Light on Unethical News Agencies

Molhem Barakat, a Syrian photographer and journalist died on December 20, 2013 at age eighteen. Barakat was employed by the news agency, Reuters, and provided with cameras and equipment, although given knnadiquit protection. Barakat was not an unbiased journalist, having wanted to be a soldier in the rebellion. Although an active and serious politically involved man, Barakat's other social media was similar to a typical teens', full of selfless and rebellious posts. Because Barakat was a minor when he started working for Reuters, he used the name of an older photographer to avoid the limitations of his age.

The controversy of his death is highlighted by his employers shady policies regarding their journalists' safety. Although Reuters was suspected to be aware of his real age, they kept it in raps because as German journalist Wolfgang Bauer says, "A guy his age will risk much more than an adult. If you're 17 and need to feed your family by photography in a war area, that's a very. very dangerous combination." To escape the immoral way they employed Barakat, Reuters said that the boy simply sold photos to the agency freelance and was not bound to the company. Because of the new demands for online media news coverage, news agencies have collected cheap content from locals without the bonds of providing for their safety. Barakat was killed on a mission to capture pictures of the rebellion.

Molhem Barakat's was tragic and should have been prevented by his employer, Reuters. It is completely immoral for news agencies like Reuters to collect content from the locals in war zones, and pay them as freelance journalists instead of providing them with adequate pay and safety. Although there are many hopeful perspective journalists, like Barakat, looking for any money from they photos to help keep their family fed, these agencies should provide as many as they can with safety for their work and not take advantage of them. If they are sending journalists out into dangerous areas, it is the ethical and moral thing to provide measures for their safety.

Worst Spill in 6 Months Is Reported at Fukushima

The Fukishima nuclear power plant is still facing repercussions after being struck by a tsunami in 2011. The newest incident is the leak that occurred on Wednesday and was contained by Thursday. The leak allowed about 100 tons of highly radioactive materials to flow into surrounding water. It is speculated that the leak was not bad enough to contaminate the Pacific Ocean, like others have, but this does not make it any less serious. Tepco, the company involved, was able to blame the leak of a pair of valves that were mistakenly left open.

The leaked water was some of the most severely contaminated water following the 2011 tsunami. Of the leaked water, a liter contained [on average] 230 million becquerels of particles giving off beta radiation, as reported by Tepco. Among the 230 million particles, about half are believed to be strontium 90. Strontium 90 can be directly linked to bone cancer and leukemia if absorbed by the body. The water surpassed the safety levels by 3.8 million times the amount of strontium 90 allowed. 

Despite criticism, the government has left Tepco the responsibility of cleanup following the 2011 tsunami. Critics claim that Tepco is too slow in recognizing and caring for any problems and they fail to alert the public as to the true conditions the plant is facing.

One problem Tepco has been constantly dealing with is the water that has been seeping into the damaged buildings. They must pump the water out of the plant and into special containers to prevent it from running into the Pacific Ocean. So far, they've contained over 340,000 tons of the contaminated water. 

It seems as though Tepco is slow moving in taking care of the problems at hand. The public wants them to take action more rapidly. In addition, they should be taking action proactively and not wait for a problem to arise. However, when a problem does arise, Tepco seems to know how to control it and how to prevent more serious damage to the environment, and thus prevent it from getting to the people around them. The fact that they are just getting things under control after nearly three years is just too long. I understand that it is a long process and there are many risks, but they should be working on stabilizing the situation that was left from the 2011 disaster. The situation should be stabilized to a point that they do not make silly mistakes like leaving a valve open that leads to detrimental effects. Tepco is seen as the expert here and the fact that they are still having problems due to avoidable errors is ridiculous. While cleaning up from the damage that occurred from the tsunami, they should not be accidentally leaving valves open that leak 100 tons of highly contaminated water. Tepco is also criticized for their lack of public communication. Maybe if they open up that line of communication the public will be more aware of the situation and understand more about what is happening. I'm no expert on nuclear power plants getting hit by tsunamis, but I do not believe the general public is either. 

View the full story at NYtimes here

Climate Change: "The most fearsome weapon of mass destruction," says Kerry

Article HERE

Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to groups in Jakarta, Indonesia about the dangers of climate change for their nation. After China and the United States, Indonesia has moved into third place in greenhouse gas emissions because of its deforestation and reliance on cheap electricity from coal power in recent years. In his speech, Kerry stated that the fishing economy of Indonesia is at huge risk with the rising sea levels and temperature of oceans that are caused by global climate change. He estimates that in the next forty years, Indonesia may have to pay up to $1 trillion in damage costs for the floods that are already on the horizon. Kerry is attempting to be the leader for an upcoming UN Treaty regarding climate change, and his speeches are supposed to help smaller nations realize that they must bear some of the economic burden of establishing global initiatives for alternative energy sources.
Kerry has traveled around most of Eastern and Southeastern Asia advocating for greenhouse gas emission reductions in these production-heavy countries with rising car ownership. However, India, China, and other developing nations have ignored Kerry's requests to make changes in gas emissions because they feel as if the United States should make its own changes before forcing these smaller countries to solve climate change for the United States. Since the United States is the world's largest economy, they feel as if it should pay all of the economic costs. Kerry's speech series is trying to change their minds.
I find it interesting that Kerry is trying to change the energy policies of developing nations while conveniently forgetting to mention that Obama is considering allowing the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline across the United States, thereby jeopardizing Kerry's attempts at making a change in the nation and in the world. If the pipeline is built, I do not think Kerry has any hope of convincing any of the more stubborn nations that they need to pay for part of the global initiative of new energy sources. However, if the United States begins to lead by example by paying for its share of improving global energy sources and establishing programs for reduction of climate change, perhaps China and India will do the same. In this situation, the United States and China should pay for more of the programs because they are the primary cause of the problem, but I do not think Kerry will really get anywhere by trying to spread the burden among smaller nations who do not play as much of a role in the global climate change crisis. But if the main sources of the "fearsome weapon of mass destruction" do not act quickly, it may be too late to make this major change.

Flooding already occurring in Jakarta as a result of climate change and rising sea levels

Pistorius Murder Trial to Bring Scrutiny to South Africa

Summary of Article: On February 14th, 2013, aka Valentine's Day, Oscar Pistorious, a 29 year old Olympic and Paralypmic track star, aka Blade Runner, murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a 25 year old model and law graduate. He recently has been scheduled to go on trial next month since he was charged by prosecutors with  premeditated murder. Oscar Pistorious claims to have accidentally shot his by girlfriend by thinking she was an intruder into his home in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. This case brings forth a huge problem/idea which is the abuse of women and gun control currently going on in South Africa. Oscar Pistorious may also be charged with a potential 25 year MINIMUM jail term.

My Opinion: Why is that Pistorious has just now been recently charged with the murder of his girlfriend when it happened over a year ago? I personally think that he was able to get away with it for so long because he is rich and probably used his money to pay a lawyer to help convince the court that he did not do so. However, his plan failed since in the article said, "he has recently ADMITTED to killing his girlfriend" and he said it was a mistake. If it was truly a mistake, why is it that it took him a year to confess? If he loved his girlfriend that much and if he did accidentally shoot her, he would've confessed right away because if i was him, i would've felt so bad. Therefore, based off of this information given, i do not think he "accidentally" shot her. As the article has also said, women have been abused and what not, so what if he was abusing her in some way and she decided to take control by upsetting him somehow which lead him to become angry and eventually kill her.

Another reason why i do not believe his killing of his girlfriend is not a mistake is because he did not want to ruin his reputation. He most likely, puts his reputation first before his girlfriend. Pistorious seems to come across as a rich person that puts money before his love and relationships- which is common between many rich people. No one ever wants to ruin his or her reputation but when it comes down to it, i think, telling the truth is always key. Because of all of this, Pistorious sounds like a coward and it sounds like a Valentine's Day gone wrong. 

Link to article:

Deadliest Day: Ukrainian Protesters Remain Defiant After Dozens Killed

Reports indicate that another bloody battle broke out late Thursday, February 20, between the anti-government protesters and Ukrainian police in central Kiev's Independence Square. In the last few days, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have spent significant time advising Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, who was elected in 2010, under whom police have been given permission to use combat weapons against the protesters in order to keep "law and order." Obama has urged Yanukovych to remove forces from Kiev, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European Union foreign ministers have enacted sanctions against Ukraine for its regime's brutal actions against its own people. Currently, Ukrainian officials will not be granted access to any of the 28 EU countries, and Ukrainian assets in EU countries have been frozen indefinitely. Merkel and Obama have made their disapproval clear to Yanukovych, and have encouraged him to establish an interim leadership in Kiev so he can focus on negotiating peace with opposition factions. The protesters assembled in mid-February after Yanukovych chose to accept Russia's economic bailout of $15 billion, instead of pushing forward with EU long-term trade agreements. Ukrainians of all backgrounds have come out with deep resentment towards the president for reneging on the EU talks because they feel the Russian bailout ties them, again, too closely to the former USSR. The fighting over the past week has claimed the lives of approximately 75 people and has injured 570+ individuals, according to the Ukraine's Health Ministry. 

Over the last few days, I have heard tidbits of information regarding the protests-turned-warfare from news segments my mom listens to in the evening, headlines on papers in kiosks on the street, etc. Like the header of a chapter in a fantasy novel, the promise of gory detail in the title, and my background, though limited, on the Kiev bloodshed prompted me to read further the content. As anyone could have guessed from the opening lines, blood, blood, and more blood. The Ukrainian people seem very disenfranchised, disillusioned by their president who fell short of their expectations, their desire to be led by a man who shared their vision of an independent, self-determined economy. 

I wholeheartedly support the EU and American leaders who have made their cases to Yanukovych, in the hopes that he will negotiate with his opposition and come to some kind of agreement for national peace. Overall, as a believer in every people's right to self-determination, and the right to overthrow a regime that does not accurately, honestly represent the will of those individuals, I see the Kiev protests as a necessary act of political efficacy in a healthy, democratic nation. I hope to see the bloodshed end as soon as possible, but I also desire an outcome that satisfies the Ukrainian masses. 

See full article here.

In London, researchers have found new evidence that Greece’s financial crisis is taking a toll on the health of its citizens, including rising rates of HIV, tuberculosis, depression, and even infant deaths.
            Since the economic crisis hit several years ago, the government’s health spending has been cut and hundreds of thousands of people have been left without health insurance. Previous studies have found that suicides in Greece have increased by about 45 percent between 2007 and 2011.  Economic hardships have been found to  be a major factor in depression, research finding it has more than doubled from 2008 to 2011.
            Some pregnant women no longer have access to health care, therefore the complications later on in their pregnancy can be more pronounced. Infant deaths, which had previously been falling, increased by more than 40 percent between 2008 and 2010. It is most likely linked to the fact that babies not getting enough to eat and fewer medical check-ups.
            The medical charity Doctors of the World confirmed the Greek financial crisis has had a devastating impact on health. Deputy director Nathalie Simmonot wasn’t very optimistic the Greek government would be able to reverse the situation anytime soon, slamming their 2012 reintroduction of a law that forces drug users, prostitutes, and immigrants to be tested for infection disease under police supervision. She sees it as a violation of privacy.

            I think the government needs more involvement in the health crisis. It needs to implement more laws- laws more recent that the 2012 reintroduction of the infectious disease testing one. The health of citizens are going downhill and the research has shown some dangerous data that is not going to get better on its own. Because the economy is the source of this downfall, it is the solution to the health crisis.

For the full article click here

Uganda dismisses Obama pressure on anti-gay law

On Tuesday, Uganda dismissed Obama's call made towards Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's leader, to not sign an anti-homosexuality law, claiming that the United States was trying to blackmail their country. Obama warned that signing for this bill would complicate America's relations with Uganda and be a "step backward for all Ugandans." This anti-gay bill was first introduced in 2009 and initially proposed a death sentence but it was removed amid international pressure.
According to Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan activist, ever since the bill was passed by the parliament, "Ugandan society has become more hostile towards LGBT persons." Many Ugandans think the bill is already a law and people are already reporting homosexuals.
Homophobia runs deep in Uganda and in many other African countries. Homosexuality is illegal in 37 of Africa's nations and very few Africans will dare to live their sexuality openly in fear of the consequences of life imprisonment, violence, and losing their jobs. Gambia's president, Yahya Jammeh, says his government would fight homosexuals like malaria-causing mosquitoes. That's pretty harsh. Learn more about it herehere, and here.

Spanking Bill in Kansas Sparks Controversy

As of now, there are 19 states that allow schools to physically discipline their students. A Kansas state lawmaker, Gail Finney of Wichita, introduced a bill that would give school teachers and caregivers expanded rights to spank children. This bill would extend to the amount of spanks allowed to be given to students up to ten. The legislation specifically would allow for spankings "up to ten forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child and any such reasonable physical force on the child as may be necessary to hold, restrain or control the child in the course of maintaining authority over the child, acknowledging that redness or bruising may occur on the tender skin of a child as a result."

In her statement, Finney said that "Parental corporal discipline in Kansas, along with 49 other states, has always been permitted." She issues this statement as a response to all those who are extremely opposed to her bill. Finney later introduces the statements that the bill "is intended to (i) provide guidance to state officials in the administrative and judicial branches; (ii) serve as a guideline to parents; and (iii) protect Kansas children from abuse."

There are already many points of evidence which support the failing of the bill. A representative from DiMaggio Children's Hospital described this bill as "state sanctioned child abuse" which in turn is ironic because of what Finney adds as the third part of the bill, to "protect Kansas children from abuse." Why would you allow child abuse as a form of preventing it? There is no resolution to child abuse by introducing this bill into Kansas law. This issue becomes "legally right vs. morally wrong" and studies have shown that spanking simply leads to more aggression in mature ages. Time-outs would be a much more viable and effective means of letting children know that whatever it is that they've done is simply wrong. Just because they did something wrong doesn't mean they deserve spanking as punishment.

For the full Article: Link

Violent Protests Continue in Ukraine

In case you haven't heard, Ukraine's three months of peaceful protest have recently turned bloody.

The protests began after Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych's decision in December to back out of a trade deal involving the European Union in favor of Russia, which also set the stage for Ukraine's future and whether it will ally with Russian or European nations. Regardless of occasional use of force from Yanukovych aimed at the protestors, they remained relatively peaceful until recently in Kiev. You can read more about the background of the protests and Yanukovych's decision here.

Basically, the protesters wish to become closer to Europe and more distant to Russia; the country is home to many people who feel close to Russia, along with many who look more to Europe. Protesters on the latter side also worry of corruption within their government, while the former have been backing their president and his decision.

However, just today, protesters advanced against police lines, causing government snipers to fire upon them, marking today as the deadliest day of the protests so far, with a reported seventy people dead, along with over five hundred injured. These numbers brought the casualties up to one hundred and one, and that's just this week. If anything, these losses have only called protesters into more action to continue to push for political change in the country.

Yanukovych's resignation has the potential to bring an end to these protests, but he does not plan on standing down any time soon. Unfortunately, this isn't something that we can just close our eyes and pretend to ignore in the hopes that suddenly everything will calm down, everyone will make peace, and we'll all join hands and sing Kumbaya together. If only. No, perhaps my pessimism is showing, but I don't expect things to calm for quite a while.

From ABC News:
"The price of freedom is too high. But Ukrainians are paying it," said Viktor Danilyuk, a 30-year-old protester. "We have no choice. The government isn't hearing us."

Read the full article here. I also recommend watching the video at the top of the article (and my eternal respect for any and all reporters involved in this).

European Union Sanctions Ukrainian Leaders, Russia Complains

Thursday, the European Union decided to sanction those responsible for the outbreak of violence in Ukraine. Possible sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes, as well as a ban on the export of items that could be used to repress protesters in Ukraine. The E.U. did not want to make the sanctions harsh enough that Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych would be unwilling to continue talking with the E.U. in an attempt to resolve the crisis without further violence.

It has yet to be decided which members of the Ukrainian government will be sanctioned. The priority is finding a way to end the bloodshed, but the E.U. wants to send Kiev officials a message. One day earlier, the United States had imposed similar sanctions on 20 individuals that were determined to be most responsible for the violence. The 20 do not include the president of Ukraine.

Russia has loudly criticized American and E.U. policy in Ukraine. Russia blames the conflict on protesters and extremists, not on the Ukrainian authorities. Russia's foreign minister compared the new sanctions to blackmail aimed at President Yanukovych.

It seems like Russia may have ulterior motives for opposing these sanctions, such as its financial ties to Ukraine. Russia has promised Ukraine billions of dollars worth of loans, and probably needs the Ukrainian authorities to stay in control in order to have these loans be at all secure. Russia's position on the opposition (denounced as extremists) seems like a generalization of the beliefs of a few to the entire opposition. There are undoubtedly some extremists, but the majority of the opposition is not to blame for the conflict. I place much more blame on the Ukrainian officials who have ordered crackdowns; on those who the E.U. and the United States have decided to sanction.

Maduro losing ground on unrest. Leopoldo Lopez murder charges dropped.

Article here
        Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was charged with arson and conspiracy, having Venezuelan prosecutors drop his murder and terrorism charges. The prosecutors sentenced his reduced charges in a bus parked outside of the prison where he is being held. Although it was very unorthodox, his attorney argued that a prison was not a fit place to hold a hearing.
        Lopez turned himself in to the authorities this week during a demonstration, where violence between the anti government protesters and supporters of the government make up the unrest in Venezuela. Alejandro Camacho Beomont said, "I support the protesters. There have been more than 15 years that the majority of the Venezuelan citizens are going through tough times. There are so many problems we have to face every day, and there seems to be not a sincere attitude from the high government officials to rectify (them)." Many suggest that the Venezuelan government to listen to the protesters' needs, rather than cracking down on dissent, but Maduro, president of Venezuela, said"You think this is a novel? This is the reality that you with your hatred have created. If you don't like Venezuela, leave." Officials accuse the United States of plotting to destabilize the Venezuelan government, expelling three U.S. diplomats this week. Maduro also accused Colombian parliamentary forces and the United States of fueling the unrest. Obama responded to the accusations by telling reporters, "Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people." 

       Although the U.S. has intervened in many international issues, this is one special case where it has been barely involved. Maduro is losing ground fast because the government is truly corrupt and the protesters need a change. The government decided to violence against the protesters to somehow slow or end the unrest evident on the streets. That decision actually worsened the situation because it showed that the government lacks control of its people and it really needs to change. Citizens of Venezuela do not have their needs met by the corrupt government, where the higher ranked classes are exploiting the lowest classes. Many of their natural rights are being violated. Newspapers, television, and radio stations are blocked and censored in the public. The impunity rate is above ninety percent, which is nuts. Because the country is so inefficient and corrupt, the unrest is due to human nature, yearning for their natural rights to be met. It's a repeat of history where developing countries take the first step in actually developing themselves. Go protesters!