February 29, 2012 by Richard Lyman
When we arrived in Gondar, Ethiopia on September 21, 1962 we were assigned to houses rented by the Peace Corps office in Addis. John Stockton, Dallas Smith, Marty Benjamin and I were given a house on a hillside surrounded by several acres of fields across from the school.
The house was enchantingly reminiscent of a Joseph Conrad novel. It was of frame construction set on a massive elevated stone foundation. Each of the four rooms had louvered doors opening onto a veranda which surrounded the entire house. The metal roof added more to the mystique, especially during the rainy season when the sound of the intense rains made being heard difficult.
The house had been built by an Italian engineer for his own use during the period of Italian occupation of Gondar (1935-1941). By 1962 the ownership of the house was murky at best. A man who called himself the “landlord” would appear at our door but we suspected that he was an agent for some important person or government body that had taken ownership after the war.
February 29, 2012 by Claire McCurdy
The BBC documentary, “Inside the Meltdown,” on the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant is oddly powerful in its depiction of the savage destructive nature of the environment as it battered and subsequently caused the meltdown of the Fukushima plant. Other depictions from the documentary worth noting are a chaotic and near criminal power company TEPCO (not hyperbole—TEPCO employs many yakuza), and a prime minister faced with terrifying choices all of which may lead to disaster, while having to depend on the advice of TEPCO.
I should note that even if you think you’ve seen this story, you haven’t. Much of the footage and dialogue is unique and revealed for the first time. It has a very grim, quality—warning the viewer that this could happen again. It is well worth the viewing.
February 29, 2012 by Scott Firsing
Many hold a view that the terms Africa and nuclear security have no correlation. This is a false and dangerous perception. South Africa’s Energy Minister Dipuo Peters announced on Tuesday 28 February 2012 that her country plans to use nuclear energy as part of diversified mix to help cure South Africa’s energy crisis and to take a step closer to cleaner energy. The plan – called the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010) – places specific emphasis on various technologies including gas, imports, nuclear, biomass, renewables (wind, solar and hydro).
As it stands, about 90% of South Africa’s energy, like most African countries, is produced from burning coal, which in turn has a negative impact on the world’s climate. And like South Africa, most African countries are looking towards nuclear power as a potential alternative to fossil fuels.
February 28, 2012 by Abdiaziz Abdi
In a February article published on International Policy Digest (IPD), Somalia’s Special Envoy to United States, Abukar Arman, wrote, “Since the collapse of the military government 21 years ago, Somalia went through various levels of problems perpetuated by clan militias, warlords, economic-lords, religious-lords, regional-lords, and a group that I would refer to as the Ghost-lords.” In Arman’s analysis, the Ghost-lords are meant to denote “a loose association of paradoxical powers of the Good, Bad, and Ugly of the International Community”.
Arman contends that the Ghost-lords are “the most elusive and perhaps the biggest obstacle to the reconstitution of the Somali state”. In other words, Arman suggested that such behavior and meddling by the international community in Somalia is a cancer. While not the primary cause of Somalia’s internal tumults, it is, at least, a significant cause of what ails Somalia.
European ships are hovering over Somalia’s seas rampantly dumping chemical waste and plundering the waters of Somalia’s coast and robbing her resources. The United States is bombing the country left and right based on the pretext of chasing terrorist fugitives hiding within Somalia. Arabs are exporting their draconian interpretation of Islam with impunity and proselytizing to Somalia’s youth.
February 28, 2012 by John K. Yi
In a few weeks it will be the one year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, which had all but soured the Japanese public’s appetite for nuclear energy. What once supplied 25 percent of the country’s energy needs, nuclear power plants are being decommissioned one by one. As of February 2011, only two of the country’s 54 commercial reactors remained functioning.
While the disaster was a year ago, the Japanese economy is still feeling the after effects. Last month, Japan hit a record trade deficit at $18.59 billion, topping its previous record during the Asian financial crisis of the 1990’s. The primary culprit for the country’s lopsided import export balance is energy.
February 28, 2012 by Abukar Arman
If there is any consensus on the nature and the outcome of the London Conference on Somalia – that brought together representatives of over 50 nations, including a number of Muslim nations, it must be the fact that it was a puzzling event that raised much speculation. Now that the fanfare has ended, it is time for an objective appraisal.
However, I must confess it would not be easy to remain steadfast in that quest when most—nations, groups, and individuals—already espoused one preconceived notion or another. Skepticism was fueled by British and Italian position papers that made their way into the public domain.
Whether by design or otherwise, the conference’s, would be communiqué, was subsequently leaked days before the actual event, an act that surely defused any potential for drama. Was the conference a success? Will it go down in history as the “turning point” in the seemingly endless Somali crises?
February 26, 2012 by Daniel Wagner
The soon to be re-elected president of Russia, Vladimir Putin’s glorious ‘great power pragmatism’ will quickly be put to the test. Russia finds itself in the center of the convulsing Eurasian landscape and has also placed itself at the heart of the Iran and Syrian quagmires.
Putin must broadcast Moscow’s objectives in a manner designed to remove doubt about its short and long-term intentions, but has made it clear in the final days of campaigning that he is quite comfortable relying on what he has done best historically – stoking Cold War rhetoric.
February 26, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
The US has made it very clear; they will table a resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 19th session in Geneva. Unsurprisingly, the government of Sri Lanka is asking for more time. The Sri Lankan government knows that this might be the most pressure they ever face at the HRC. When it comes to national reconciliation, the government’s strategy continues to revolve around delay, prevarication and even outright lies. President Rajapaksa told critics to be patient because he had appointed a national body, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to handle questions related to national reconciliation and accountability.
The LLRC’s final report has been out for months and, almost shockingly, the report actually contains some good recommendations. But the government thought it imprudent to even begin to consider implementing any of those. More recently, the government’s entire strategy seems to involve linking all questions of accountability and human rights to the country’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which will take place this October. President Rajapaksa knows that the passing of time only strengthens his hand.
February 24, 2012 by Rob L. Wagner
Demands for religious and speech freedoms in Saudi Arabia have taken a heightened tone of urgency in the Western media following Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari’s ill-advised tweets allegedly denigrating God and the Prophet Muhammad. Imaginary conversations with the Prophet, deemed an insult in Islam, landed Kashgari in jail pending trial for blasphemy. Kashgari’s remarks have sparked outrage in the West over how a man’s seemingly crisis of faith could lead to a death sentence. Yet there is little to debate in Saudi Arabia: Blasphemous statements require harsh punishment.
Kashgari had the poor judgment to tweet imaginary conservations with the Prophet with statements that included, “On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”
February 24, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) recently submitted a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama. Cosigned by eleven other members of Congress, it effusively praises the Sri Lankan government for all of its accomplishments since end of the country’s twenty-six-year civil war.
The short note is heavy on rhetoric and light on reality. It talks about the enormous potential for a strengthening of US-Sri Lankan relations, going on to use words like “post-conflict,” while congratulating Rajapaksa’s semi-authoritarian regime for doing such a good job of resettling IDPs, among other misperceptions. Perhaps the most absurd part of the letter is the following:
February 24, 2012 by Marshall Auerback
The Europeans evidently thrive on instability and the ongoing threat of systemic risk.
There is nothing else to explain the renewed hardline stance adopted by both Mario Draghi of the ECB and the German government on fiscal policy, just as the markets appeared to be calming down again. In response to the question as to whether Greece was a “one-off”, or a deal which would presage similar claims on the part of the other Mediterranean debtor nations, there has been a growing prevailing belief that either the terms demanded of Greece would be so punitive (“pour decourager les autres”) or that, if Greece were to default, a sufficiently large firewall would be constructed by the Troika to ensure that the contagion wouldn’t extend to other countries.
February 24, 2012 by William Eger
The world today and the world immediately before the Second World War are strikingly similar. The military and foreign policy of the United States today is comparable to the close-minded introversion of isolationism. European countries are teetering on the brink of economic collapse. The German industrial juggernaut has reignited. The announced rearmament of Russia resembles that of the former Soviet Union, during and immediately after the First World War.
Finally, we observe a tedious relationship between the West and those of the Middle East and Africa. The situation could result in the same dire consequences as it did some seventy-five years ago.
February 23, 2012 by Conn M. Hallinan
Wars are fought because some people decide it is in their interests to fight them.
World War I was not started over the Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, nor was it triggered by the alliance system. An “incident” may set the stage for war, but no one keeps shooting unless they think it’s a good idea. The Great War started because the countries involved decided they would profit by it, delusional as that conclusion was.
February 22, 2012 by John Lyman
To secure the GOP nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney has had to make a hard shift to the right to convince social, economic and foreign policy conservatives that he’s their guy and can be trusted to uphold their values in the general election against President Obama. The shift has been transparent and increasingly awkward for a politician who many consider to be personally awkward. Romney’s button down persona has been described as square and to the right of cool.
Romney backers would counter that personal flair and style should not be a consideration in the voting booth. However, since elections can be decided on factors like Nixon’s awkward debate appearance against John F. Kennedy, visuals do play a part in deciding elections.
February 22, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
On two occasions in my life I found myself living close to the South China Sea. The sea became my escape from life’s pressing responsibilities. But there is no escaping the fact that the deceptively serene waters are now also grounds for a nascent but real new cold war.
China takes the name of the sea very seriously. Its claim over the relatively massive water body – laden with oil, natural gas and other resources – is perhaps ‘ill-defined’, per the account of the BBC (Nov 3, 2011), but it is also very serious. Countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei are uneasy but are caught in a bind.