Thousands of Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets to call for democracy and greater autonomy from mainland China. A 170,000-strong rally on July 1 followed hot on the heels of an informal referendum on electoral reform that took place from June 20-29. Hong Kong’s frustration with the mainland is clear, but it is better off treading the path of transition than revolution.
“I think the 1978 World Cup is one of the deep wounds of Argentine society.” – Norberto Liwski, former political prisoner, ESPN, Jun 9, 2014
As the elimination phase of the Football World Cup unfolds in Brazil, the political slant on such events is hard to resist. Sporting events on such a scale are political promotions and projections. Brazil’s own government was thrilled about obtaining the tournament, so much so that it ran up the bills, raised the cost of transportation, and imposed a series of near draconian measures for population control.
Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011 did little to diminish the threat posed by jihadist groups like al-Qaeda. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it” was the ‘fatwa’ issued by bin Laden in 1998. Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, the aging Egyptian Islamic theologian who leads al-Qaeda today, is having difficulty controlling the newly formed Islamist affiliates.
Mongolia’s Approach Towards Pyongyang: Offering Guidelines for Washington’s Failing North Korea Policy
On May 23rd, 2014, Mongolia provided North Korea and the United States neutral ground in its capital for track 1.5 meetings. Presumably, North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy met with two former US State Department officials to discuss resumption of the Six-Party talks, which have reached a complete standstill since 2009. Ulan Bator has been keen on normalizing Pyongyang’s fractious relations with its adversaries and assist its Soviet-era ally in implementing economic reform. In this way, Mongolia unveils an alternative strategy that could incrementally reconfigure Pyongyang’s behavior, offering the US some lessons for its failing North Korea policy.
From senior government officials working longer hours and cutting back on their golf game, to the emphasis on Hindi in official documents, there are plenty of signs that a new order is descending on Delhi. But perhaps the most poignant so far is the way Pranab K. Mukherjee, currently the president of India, has been forced into a public renunciation of the very tax policies he pursued just two years ago when he was finance minister.
Late last week, the Turkish government submitted a bill to the Grand National Assembly advancing the stalled-but-ongoing process toward resolution of the country’s longstanding Kurdish Issue. The bill arrived after a long period of dormancy in the process. Since the negotiations with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan began, Prime Minister Erdoğan has faced mass social protests, corruption allegations, and contentious local elections.
James Risen’s report in the New York Times on Blackwater’s death threat against State Department investigators in Iraq (and the US embassy’s craven decision to kick out the investigators for being “unsustainably disruptive to day-to-day operations” in response) also includes this interesting passage: “The company’s gung-ho attitude and willingness to take on risky tasks were seductive to government officials in Washington.”
When my grandfather, American author John Dos Passos, visited Spain for the first time in 1916, he fell in love with the country—especially the pueblos tucked in the chaparral, shielded from greater Europe’s corruption by the high wall of the Pyrenees. “The villages are the heart of Spain,” he wrote. Today, the villages still reward the curious, open-hearted stranger.
Two recent events focus increased international attention on Morocco. First, nine activists from Morocco’s February 20 pro-reform movement were granted bail at their appeal hearings this week. They had been jailed last month under charges of chanting anti-regime slogans and clashing with police during a protest. The activists had been arrested on April 6, while attending a mass rally in Casablanca called by the trade unions. The rally was called in protest to the austerity measures enacted by the government of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. The demonstrations were attended by some 10,000 people.
International attention over precarious living conditions in the refugee camps of Western Sahara has been growing in the past few weeks. It started last month with the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. During her tour in Morocco and Western Sahara, Pillay voiced her concern in respect to ongoing practices such as the use of torture in Western Sahara. Since then, international delegations have been flooding into the desert region.
More than half a million Hong Kong residents cast their ballots over an unofficial referendum on democratic reforms. By late afternoon on Sunday, about 636,000 ballots had been cast since voting started on Friday including about 400,000 through a smartphone application. Nearly 200,000 were cast online despite a massive cyber-attack that left the site intermittently inaccessible and forced the organizers to extend voting by a week until June 29. About 26,500 voters cast their votes at 15 polling stations which organizers operated on two successive Sundays.
Last week’s attacks on innocent civilians in Kenya are a reminder of the growing threat posed by Islamic extremists in many parts of Africa. In spite of all the resources devoted to fighting Somalia-based Al Shabaab in recent years, the group has grown stronger, and continues to cross the region’s borders with impunity. The same is true with Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The West and regional governments appear to be fighting a losing battle.
Apparently ISIS is a business, a bloody and illegal business, sort of like the Mafia. That’s what I gleaned from a McClatchy report by Hannah Allam on the group’s finances, revealed at least by a trove of documents captured by the US, turned over to RAND a few months ago, whose conclusions leaked into the public sphere today. “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sprang from a largely self-funded, corporation-style prototype whose resilience to counterterrorism operations was proven by the time Abu Bakr al Baghdadi assumed command in 2010,” Allam reports.
Does piracy off the coast of Bangladesh pose a threat? The answer is yes. Is the threat external or internal? The answer is both. While Bangladesh has long-running conflicts with its neighbors over maritime boundaries which are being solved amicably, the latest threat is now emerging from maritime piracy. How is maritime piracy threatening Bangladesh and to what extent?
Recently, several dozen fishermen were abducted from the Sundarbans. A total of 11 piracy events took place off the coast of Bangladesh in 2012. What are the factors behind maritime piracy in Bangladesh? Maritime piracy in Bangladesh is the result of a set of interrelated factors. Factors associated with the failure of law-enforcing agencies, a culture of impunity and poverty induced criminality.
The first set of factors basically stems from inefficiency and corruption of law-enforcement agencies. Most significantly, inefficiency within Bangladesh’s Coast Guard (BCG) which is charged with maintaining security for the maritime zone around Bangladesh, is overstretched, the result of a shortage of manpower and equipment. Founding Director General of BCG has suggested that the BCG is comprised of only 2,000 persons who need better equipment and more than its current fleet of 11 vessels. Eight vessels are 30 years old and cannot operate during the monsoon season. Importantly, it will be interesting to watch how Bangladesh’s Coast Guard utilizes a decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard Cutter that was transferred to their custody in 2013.
The second set of factors is associated with the failure of crime prevention and reduction. As reported by Bangladeshi media last month, police take bribes from drug dealers and criminals in Cox’s Bazar. Criminals commit crimes more and more because they know police will not arrest them. The third set of factors has been identified as poverty related.
The less work that is available, crime will increase. The implications of maritime piracy for Bangladesh are far-reaching. The livelihood and survival of many thousands of people from 16 coastal areas are dependent on fishing in the rivers in and around the Bay of Bengal. Around one million people are dependent on fishing alone in the Cox’s Bazar alone. The lack of personal security in maritime zones poses a threat to their livelihoods.
In the last five years, pirates have killed at least 411 fishermen and wounded at least 1,000 more, suggested Mujibur Rahman, Chairman of Cox’s Bazar District Fishing Trawler Owners Association (DFTOA). According to the DFTOA, pirates attacked more than 1,000 fishing boats, abducting more than 3,000 fishermen, killed over 45 and collected more than 1.28 million USD in ransoms from fishery owners of two coastal towns – Chakaria and Maheshkhali, alone from late 2011 to late 2012.
Attacks on Bangladesh’s fishing industry have profound implications for the national economy. The country will face significant economic losses if piracy cannot be controlled. Mujibur Rahman argues that coastal fishermen contribute 25-35% of the nation’s total catch which declined during fiscal year of 2012-2013.
This is the right time to combat maritime piracy. The policy of combating piracy must have two approaches: traditional and non-traditional. Otherwise, it cannot work properly. What does the traditional and non-traditional approach mean? The traditional approach is the way of preventing crime through the use of military force. But, this is not the permanent solution. Suppose the law-enforcing agencies conducted operations, seized pirates and thus reduced the crime but criminals were not provided job and earning facilities.
The problem will remain if these pirates are not rehabilitated back into society. Here is the essence of a non-tradition approach which embraces a series of tasks, for example providing basic needs to the criminals, educating them, employing them in different job sectors and reintegrating them into society. Anti-piracy social awareness campaigns can also be conducted countrywide.
While maritime piracy has been extensively covered when it is occurring off the coast of Somalia, the increase in piracy off the coast of Bangladesh must also be addressed.
Sexual assault is the new name for rape. Rape by any other name is still rape. This crude word denotes a cruel, barbaric, and inhuman act. Any type of word play does not diminish the traumatic effect of this heinous crime, certainly not by indulging in euphemisms. In an effort to shield the perpetrator, some US campuses have resorted to using ‘sexual assault’ instead of ‘rape.’ On a student’s record the ugly word ‘rape’ might diminish his future prospects. The poor boy might miss out on his chance to join the ranks of Wall Street, to indulge in another form of rape and pillage.