Category Archives: The Body Politic – International

2014 World Cup: All Eyes On Brazil

Netherlands v Spain: 2010 FIFA World Cup Final

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin my blog, I want to give you all a quick reference post for my Group Stage predictions for this year’s World Cup. Title will open the link to my predictions:

As for predictions for the knockout rounds, I’ll wait until the qualifiers are decided. Meanwhile I will give a prediction for the final for those curious: Brazil vs. Argentina which Brazil wins. Let’s see if it hold up. Anyways enough of predictions! On with my blog!

“For any country, organizing a cup is like playing a game, sweating and often suffering, with the possibility of extra-time and penalty kicks, but the final result and celebration are worth the effort.”

-Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil

The 2014 World Cup opened on June 12th with a spectacular opening ceremony at 3pm  in the newly built Arena de Sao Paulo. The competition started with the opening game of hosts Brazil vs.  Croatia. Each team by now has played at least one match to get things rolling. Even in the months and years leading to the competition, the World Cup made headlines and continues to make headlines now for all the activity on the field and off.

NOTHING LESS THAN THE WIN

Football is a matter of life and death in Brazil. Literally. I’ll get to the Maracanazo in one of my future blogs but you will understand why Brazil has to win. And nothing less. Brazil has won the World Cup five times, more than any other country. They’re one country with such a legacy in football that anything less than the World Cup is unacceptable. In fact it’s the Maracanazo that Brazil no longer wears white. Brazil comes to this tournament not ranked #1. Actually they’ve been ousted in the quarterfinals these past two World Cups. However hosting the World Cup in a country that treats football like a religion would consider the loss of the World Cup like a stab at the heart. They have coach Luis Felipe Scolari who coached Brazil to win the 2002 World Cup heading the team consisting of veterans like Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Jefferson and Frad as well as newcomers like Oscar, Bernard and rising phenom Neymar. Will they deliver to the challenge or will they choke under pressure? Already they started with a good win against Croatia 3-1 but just yesterday they had a 0-0 draw against Mexico. Makes me wondering if they found Mexico too much of a challenge or they were saving themselves for later. We’ll see. There isn’t a single team in the world Brazil can’t beat. However it is possible for some teams to beat them. Hope it’s not here.

CONSTRUCTION OBSTRUCTIONS

As you may have noticed when I did  my blogs about the stadiums, I made comments about the construction problems that happened along the way. There were even construction fatalities like back in November when a crane inside the Arena de Sao Paulo toppled and killed two workers. This bad planning is nothing new in Brazil. Brazil has a habit of building things slower than expected. However it was already noted by FIFA as far back as 2011. Stadium expenditures were originally expected to cost $1.1 million. Instead stadium works cost $3.6 billion. Some of you may remember from the Confederations Cup that Brazil had six stadiums ready for that competition. There still six more remaining. FIFA gave Brazil a deadline of December 31, 2013 to have all the stadiums completed. Six were incomplete by that time. As you may have noticed in my group blogs, there were many stadiums that took until April or May for completion. Even the condition of the Arena de Sao Paulo was in question just 24 hours before it was to host the opening ceremonies and opening match.

It wasn’t just the building of new stadiums that was the problem. Airports in many of the cities needed upgrading to cope with a huge influx of tourists coming in. Thirteen needed upgrading and it was predicted in 2011, ten would not be ready. That led to Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to auction off many of the airports to the private sector. There were even monorail projects planned for many of the host cities  but many were not completed. Some even had to be downgraded if they wanted to finish on time. In May 2014, FIFA reported that only 36 of the 93 major projects had already been completed. However FIFA secretary Jeroma Valcke did make note that many of the projects were meant to continue after the World Cup including ‘legacy projects’ sponsored by FIFA costing $20 million and coming completely at FIFA’s expense.

The slagging preparations of Brazil has garnered criticism from all around. FIFA has expressed their disappointment, even many journalists have dismissed this as the most trouble-plagued or the worst-organized World Cup in history. Even Brazil’s legendary players of the past had things to say about Brazil’s preparation problems. Romario, now a political figure, criticized Brazil’s handling of the preparations but said: “FIFA’s requirements were excessive.” Ronaldo spoke of his embarrassment of the country’s infrastructure and how: ” a series of investments were promised but won’t be delivered – only 30% will be delivered.” Pele however has been the most outspoken in his disappointment but he especially focused his disappointment on the expense of the World Cup: ”It’s clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been. Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals. … Brazil needs it.”

FORGET ABOUT THE PRICETAG?

Brazilians continued their protesting around FIFA's World Cup over its huge expense.

Just like during last year’s Confederations Cup, Brazilians continued their protesting around FIFA’s World Cup over its huge expense.

After Pele’s quote, you may be asking how expensive is this World Cup going to cost? Well, not as expensive as the $51 billion Putin and his Russia spent on the Sochi Winter Olympics but high enough. Brazil’s World Cup comes at an estimated price tag of $14 billion: close to the $15 billion spent on the past three World Cups combined. $3.6 billion were spent on either building new stadiums or fixing them for FIFA regulations. The other money was spent on the infrastructure and transit projects that I just talked about.  With them being unfinished, you may wonder what’s to blame? The spending or the poor planning? There was even an additional $900 million spent on security. It planned to have one police officer for every 50 spectators. Totals include 150,000 public security professionals and military along with 20,000 private security personnel. Other security innovations include facial recognition systems and unmanned security robots. Sure FIFA promised that they’d give $2 billion to the event but that can only go so far. Even Romario has described this World Cup as ‘the biggest theft in history’ which he believes expenditure will total $100 billion in the long run.

The projects, both successful and incomplete, and the costs that came with it sure did a lot to the opinions of the Brazilian public. A Brazilian polling company published results that stated the approval rating from the Brazilian public to the World Cup had dropped from 79% back in 2008 to only 48% back this April. 55% of respondents believed the event will give more harm than good to Brazil. Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter admitted: “Brazilians were a bit discontented because they were given a lot.”

Funny that this was not the case when Brazil hosted the World Cup back in 1950. Back then, they only needed six stadiums to contest the match and only two new ones were built. Funny how times change, especially in terms of huge sports events.

PROTESTS PART TWO

You may remember I posted a blog about the protests happening around the time of the Confederations Cup. The protests were successful in bringing changes to Brazil in most areas, if not all. Back in the original blog I pointed out that Brazil is a developing country that has made a lot of developments and improvements in the quality of life in the past 30 years. I still stand by that belief however I won’t deny that there are still a lot of problems in Brazil still outstanding. The most notable being health care and rampant crime. In fact I saw a news story around the World Cup about growing up in the slums of Rio. Crime and gang problems are so bad even the police are afraid to go in to install law and order. It’s exactly like it was depicted in the 2003 film City of God. Brazil being a developing country determined to succeed does get reminders how they’re lagging in some areas and I’m sure will over time. The big protest focus around the World Cup has been about the government’s financial management of the company. I’m sure with a World Cup as expensive as that, you can’t blame them for being disappointed.

One thing about the Confederations Cup is that both President Rousseff and FIFA president Blatter were booed before their speeches. Because of that there were no speeches at the World Cup opening ceremonies. Last years protests not only made news for them happening around the time of the Confederations Cup but also that the protests reached the stadiums. Protests leading up to the World Cup led to organizers stepping up its security. The security this time have been successful from preventing protests from reaching the stadium. It’s not to say it’s without noticeable incident. In fact two CNN journalists who were covering the protests around the June 12th opening game, Shasta Darlington and Barbara Arvantidis, were injured.

Reaction to the protests has been understandable but still disapproving. Rousseff came to the defense of the expenditures saying: “the federal money spent on the stadiums is in the form of financing that will be duly repaid by the companies and governments that are exploiting these stadiums.” She also reiterated that all the construction and infrastructure were for long-term benefits for Brazilians. We shouldn’t forget in two of the stadiums I profiled, there will be extensive land development plans for two of the new stadiums so it’s not just about having bigger stadiums. Sepp Blatter has spoken his disapproval saying the protesters “Should not use football to make their demands heard” and that expenditures were “on items that are for the future, not just for the World Cup.” Pele himself, though understanding of the protesters’ anger, but is critical of them: ”Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals. … Brazil needs it. That’s clear. On that point, I agree (with the protests). But I lament what protesters are doing, which is breaking and burning everything. It’s money that we will have to spend again.”

FIFA’S BLATTER UNDER FIRE

FIFA's president Sepp Blatter has come under fire under allegations of bribery.

FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter has come under fire under allegations of bribery and corruption.

It’s not just the World Cup that’s facing the heat. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under fire for corruption. Back in 2011, Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup. Lately there have been reports that Qatar paid for votes. It’s a wonder too for the World Cup to go to a country only 4,500 square miles wide and with a population of just over 2 million people. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing but the British paper The Sunday Times is insistent in their allegations. Already there’s talk within the FIFA membership with the most vocal opposition coming from head of the Dutch Football Association Michael van Praag and FIFA has conducted an investigation into the matter headed by FIFA investigator Michael Garcia. However it will not be handed to a FIFA jury until just days after the World Cup and Blatter says no decisions will be taken until September or October. The 78 year-old Blatter who has been president of FIFA since 1998 has always maintained that this term will be his last but already the media and certain members of FIFA want him to resign soon in the wake of the scandal and even five of FIFA’s six major corporate sponsors are demanding a thorough investigation of the allegations. FIFA has claimed it’s racism behind the accusations and Blatter himself has described the outcry as the “storm against FIFA” and “discrimination and racism” as most of those accused of accepting bribes are from African countries. The response to the scandal is something that will only be defined over time.

So there you go. This is a taste of what’s in store for the World Cup. Sure there are the pressures on the field but lots off the field too. How those get managed are bound to get some healthy media attention. Some will even require time to decide its fates. You can guarantee even after the World Cup is finished and the winning team is crowned, neither FIFA nor Brazil will stop making headlines.

WORKS CITED:

Grelard, Phillippe and Talek Harris. “FIFA’s Blatter urged to stand down” Agence France-Presse afp.com 10 June 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/fifas-blatter-urged-stand-down-214645012–sow.html>

Uncredited Author. “Pele critical of Brazil’s World Cup organization” AP- Sports Associated Press. 20 May 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/pele-critical-brazils-world-cup-172944083–sow.html>

Woolard, Rob. “World Cup poised for troubled kick-off” Agence France-Presse afp.com 11 June 2014 <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/world-cup-poised-troubled-kick-off-113730515–sow.html>

WIKIPEDIA: List of 2014 FIFA World Cup controversies. Wikipedia.com. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_2014_FIFA_World_Cup_controversies>

The Trayvon Martin Case Should Make Lawmakers Rethink Stand-Your-Ground Laws

The shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman has sparked outrage and anger across the US towards racial stereotypes and faulty self-defence laws.

The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin has sparked outrage and anger across the US towards racial stereotypes and faulty self-defence laws.

How many of you were surprised to hear of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death? How many of you were surprised to hear of the motives? And now how many of you are shocked over the verdict? I can’t blame you. I won’t talk of this being an issue of racism but I will talk about this being an issue of faulty self-defense laws. Even if racism was an issue of this, it wouldn’t be the only issue. These laws need to be looked at in good detail.

First of all let us have a look at the Stand Your Ground law in the state of Florida that started this hullabaloo. It’s a law passed into legislation in 2005 while Jeb Bush was governor of the state at the time. If you want to have a look at the exact text of the law ,click here. The law states deadly force is unnecessary unless it appears the person feels such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. The law appears to pretty much set the grounds for self-defense and its boundaries, right?

Obviously not. This was brought to my attention from a year-old video from Adam Buckley of A Dose Of Buckley. In that video he pointed out that in the year the Stand Your Ground law was enacted (2005), the number of murders in Florida increased by over 25%. He also pointed out that the per-year number of ‘justifiable homicides’ in the five years of the passing of the law was triple the number of justifiable homicides in the five years before the passing. That’s sad. Stats like those should make anyone want to reconsider either the law or the police and legal system involved in this. Also I liked how he referenced the mentality of the state of Florida. That could have something to do with it!

Now onto the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin side of that law. It was February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon Martin had celebrated his 17th birthday three weeks earlier. He lived in Miami Gardens with his mother and brother. He was an A and B student at Dr. Michael Krop High School. However it didn’t stop him from succumbing to the typical peer pressures of a teen like spray-painting graffiti and owning a marijuana pipe. He was also suspected of burglary once because of police searching him and finding jewelry and a screwdriver. However no evidence was found against him and he was dismissed.

Born to a German-American father and a Peruvian mother, 28 year-old George Zimmerman was an insurance underwriter on his way to completing a degree in criminal justice at the time. He had been married for years and had just moved to The Retreat at Twin Lakes just three years earlier. The previous year he was part of a citizens forum and even protested the fatal beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white police officer. Zimmerman had a history of violence such as assaulting a police officer while intoxicated in 2005. That same year he was also charged with assaulting his ex-fiancée.

Then there’s the neighborhood of Twin Lakes. The Retreat is a gated 260-home community in Sanford. The community was racially mixed with almost half the population white with 23% Hispanic and 20% black. Both George Zimmerman and the fiancée of Trayvon Martin’s father rented homes in The Retreat. The Retreat however had an unsafe feel for many of the residents. From the beginning of 2011 up to the date of Trayvon’s shooting, there were eight burglaries, nine thefts and one shooting. Police received over 400 calls to The Retreat during that period of time, mostly for suspected burglaries. Twin Lakes decided to start a neighborhood watch in September of 2011 and Zimmerman was selected to be the program’s coordinator. During the six-month period Zimmerman, who has been licensed to own a gun since 2009, made seven calls to the non-emergency line to the police. The most recent was more than three weeks before the shooting

Then the evening of February 26, 2012 was the moment when all hell started to break loose. Martin was returning to his father’s fiancée after leaving a convenience store. Zimmerman was driving by on a personal errand. Zimmerman then called police about what looked like to be a ‘suspicious person’ in the neighborhood. Zimmerman observed that Martin was walking around homes with his hand in his waistband. Two minutes later he told the police martin was running. Zimmerman followed him but was told by police not to do so. He stopped and the call ended. However Martin and Zimmerman encountered each other again, things turned violent and that’s when Zimmerman drew out his shotgun and fatally shot Martin. The bombshell: all Martin had on him was a can of Arizona ice tea and a pack of Skittles.

It took weeks of court meetings and legal discussions before Zimmerman was finally arrested for second-degree murder. Zimmerman pleaded ‘not guilty’ due to self-defense. The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was not used by Zimmerman’s defense team during the trial but is part of the required Jury Instruction of all Florida murder trials. Zimmerman even requested a ‘Stand Your Ground’ hearing but his defense elected to bypass it. Nevertheless Zimmerman was found not guilty.

I’m not going to deny that racial stereotyping may have something to do with the whole mess-up of justice but if it does, it’s not the only thing that is a mess-up. Just as much of a mess-up is the Florida self-defense laws like the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. In fact current Florida Governor Rick Scott responded to the heat of the highly-publicized news story by commissioning a 19-member task force to review that law just three weeks after the shooting. There were seven public hearing held all around Florida and there was a total of 11,000 comments from the public with three comments opposed to the law for every comment in support. Nevertheless the task force recommended against repealing the statute defending the use of self-defense. Several bills attempting to revise or repeal the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law since the task force have died before a committee hearing.

To sum it up, the shooting of Trayvon Martin was the result of a very paranoid person. George Zimmerman acted before he thought. He caused many alarms in the past and the shooting of Trayvon Martin tragically was his actions coming back to bite him. However a declaration of innocence would not be considered valid, except in the state of Florida. I’m confident in most other states, George Zimmerman would be found guilty and would receive a stiff sentence. They would see his shooting as a result of his paranoia rather than justifiable self-defense. Many people would believe that a black teenage boy in a hoodie is no excuse to panic and suspect crime in one’s area. However the jury in Florida thought otherwise. This is a failure of the law.

The Stand-Your-Ground law was already showing signs of the problem but were overlooked. The verdict of ‘innocent’ on George Zimmerman shows that the law cannot be overlooked any more. Not while someone like Trayvon Martin would be a victim of this. Will they revise the law, or bring it up for debate at the very least? Only time and the efforts of the state of Florida will tell.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Shooting Of Trayvon Martin. Wikipedia.com. 2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trayvon_Martin#Trayvon_Martin>

The Confederations Cup And Protests In Brazil

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

The Confederations Cup soccer tournament began on June 15th. Also what started around that time was a protest in Sao Paulo about transit fare inflation. Protests soon grew in Brazil. I’m sure the Confederations Cup competition and the worldwide media attention to that event had a lot to do with the growth. But what are the protests about? And why are they happening all of a sudden?

First it’s important to look at the country of Brazil. Most people will consider Brazil a poor or developing country. It is true to an extent. What most people don’t know is how much Brazil’s economy has grown since the 1980’s. Its biggest growth was in the industries of oil, mining and agriculture which grew at 47% or 3.6% per year since 2000. Its industrial growth rate is also impressive with an 8.8% back in 2008. Brazil’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and actually now ranks 7th in the world and has the highest GDP per capita in South America and 53rd in the world overall. Its gross national income of $10,721 US in 2011 classifies itself as upper-middle income: an income on par with many countries of Eastern Europe. It can be attributed to many factors. Some say it could be Brazil’s move to democracy that started with an Amnesty Law in 1979 and developed into its own Constitution in 1988.

The quality of life has also gone up considerably in the last 20 years and Brazil has worked to establish methods to either keep it that way or improve it. Despite huge urban sprawl in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, its cities have some of the finest public transit systems that have been copied and studied by many major cities in the world. Brazil has also reformed its Social Security programs and tax systems. There was even a Law Of Fiscal Responsibility that controls public expenditures by the Executive Branches of all government levels. Export, Industry and Trade has been increased while allowing Brazil to keep itself from vulnerabilities by methods such as not exporting the oil it consumes. It has also halved its debt through exchange rate-linked certificates which has allowed exporting to grow to as much as 20% a year and put a limit on its inflation rate to 4%. It also has an average life-expectancy rate of 72.7 years (2009) which is comparable to that of many Eastern European countries.

So what are all the protests about? Even before I get into the nitty gritty of the protests there are some facts to send a message that a bubble was about to burst. We must remember that while Brazil has improved a lot in past years and especially this century, there’s still a lot of development to go. Despite its improvements, the 53rd best GDP in the world shows they can do better. Its gross national income is roughly 1/4 of what developed countries like Canada are receiving. In addition, the minimum wage translates to an annual income of an unenviable 8,086 Brazilian Reals (R$) or roughly $3,600 American. Even in government despite being a democracy, Brazil still ranks as the 69th least corrupt country in the World according to Transparency International with a score of 43 out of 100.

The first protests actually started on June 1st, two weeks before the Confederations Cup was about to begin. The first major protest was in the city of Sao Paulo of a transit fare increase from R$ 3.00 to R$ 3.20. The first protest started on June 6 and grew over time. The real turning point came when police fired rubber bullets at the protesters and journalists on June 13th. This was widely criticized by Amnesty International and even Brazilian Amnesty Groups.

Soon after, and while the Confederations Cup was progressing further, the protests grew to as many as 250,000 in various major Brazilian cities on June 17th protesting. Rio de Janeiro had the biggest that day with 100,000. Even Brazilians in other world cities stages their own protests. By June 20th, protests grew to millions of people in 100 cities and grew over the next few days. As negotiations and government involvement in matters occurred, which I will discuss later, the protests calmed down but not without incidents.

Interesting enough is not just the number of protesters and cities involved growing but the issues too. What started off as one protest over a transit fare increase grew to a wide array of issues being protested against or demanded:

  • A bill (PEC – 37) that hindered Public Ministry to investigate.
  • The distribution of petroleum royalties to the appropriate causes.
  • Lack of criminalization of all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement.
  • Secret Voting in Congress for forfeiture of office.
  • A bill (PEC – 33) allowing decisions made by the Supreme Court going to Congress.
  • Having a Privileged Forum.
  • Taxing in Public Transport.
  • Demands to the National Pact for fiscal responsibility, control of inflation and proper distribution of funds to education, public transport and health.
  • Demands to implement means of political reform in the country.
  • Demanding 10% of the GDP be devoted to education.
  • Demanding a free-pass for full-time university students.
  • Demanding a revocation of a ‘gay cure’ bill (PDL – 234) authorizing psychologists to treat LGBT people.

Evident enough is that the growth in numbers and issues happened as the Confederations Cup matches were occurring. I still remember telecast of Confederation Cup matches on CBC that even included security updates of what was happening in the cities. Even though the protests have been successful in leading to solutions of problems being protested over, there was still last chances for opportunity as violent clashes occurred in Belo Horizonte as it was hosting a semifinal match on the 26th and in Rio de Janeiro as it was hosting the final on the 30th.

You could understand why the Confederations Cup had a lot to do with the increase in protests. With a major world event happening, it’s obvious the protesters want to highlight Brazil’s problems right while the eyes of the world are watching. Mind you these next three years are going to be very big for Brazil as they will play host to many major international events. Besides the Confederations Cup that finished yesterday, Rio will host the Catholic event World Youth Day later this month. Next year Brazil will host soccer’s World Cup with twelve major cities contesting the competition. And 2016 will have Rio hosting the Summer Olympic Games. I don’t know of any other country that has had to host this many major events in a matter of four years. For Brazil it’s a chance for them to show the world their image as a well-to-do nation as they will be the first developing country since Mexico in 1986 to host a World Cup and the first developing country since Mexico again in 1968 to host a Summer Olympics. In fact the World Cup was even the subject of protests that received less notice than most other protests. Many were protesting the government giving a lot of the budget ($12 billion US) to these sports events instead of on living conditions.

I mentioned that many of the issues being protested upon have been approved within this two-week span of time. You can assure the media attention to this had a lot to do with it. Among those approved by the governments and senate are: public transit prices reduced and taxes eliminated; petroleum royalties destined to education (75%) and health (25%); reform and improvement demands to the National Pact being granted; secret voting ended; Bill PEC – 37 being revoked; all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement being criminalized; and implementing a Plebiscite to politic national reform. Even though the Confederations Cup is over and a lot of reform and improvements have been politically approved, there are still demands outstanding. Some like the 10% allocation of the GDP to education, revocation of bill PDL – 234, and the Free Pass for students are currently under negotiation by Congress while issues of ending of Privileged Forum and the elimination of Bill PEC – 33 still remain undiscussed. On top of it, time will tell if the approved reforms are carried out and if carried out successfully or not. Another thing to look for in the future is how much impact it will have on President Dilma Rousseff. Her popularity has already been hit by the protests. It remains into question whether she will win the next election.

Even though many of the protester’s demand have been met and even though many are still pending as of now, don’t expect all the action to end just as the Confederation Cup has ended. I’m sure as long as Brazilians see injustice or wrong ways of doing things, there will continue to be protests even without the anticipated major events happening and even after they all end. Nevertheless it’s excellent opportunism to make improvements happen to a developing nation that has improved so much in recent decades but still has more to improve upon.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Economy Of Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Brazil>

Uncredited Author . “Brazil: One Million People Demand Accountability” Transparency International. 21 June 2013. <http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/brazil_one_million_people_demand_accountability>

WIKIPEDIA: 2013 Protests In Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_protests_in_Brazil>

Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Stance And The Upcoming Election

DISCLAIMER: The object of the article is not to express my personal view of same-sex marriage but to give an analysis on how it could impact the National Election.

 “I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”

That announcement from Barack Obama during an ABC news interview is seen by many as a positive move. For many Americans, this is an announcement they feel they’ve waited too long to hear. For other Americans, they are unhappy at what he declared and can’t believe that an American president would approve of such a thing. One thing to take a note of is that Obama made that announcement almost six months before the American people go to vote for President of the United States. The question remains was that a smart pre-election move or a risky move?

To get an understanding of why the topic of same-sex marriage has always been a hot button, you have to look at social history. Same-sex relationships and activities have always been looked down upon worldwide throughout history. Things started changing starting in the late 60’s. The signs of changes coming first occurred in the late-40’s early 50’s when professor Alfred Kinsey published his findings on human sexuality and activity. Part of his findings included what he learned of homosexuality and he even talked of the seven levels of homosexuality from the completely heterosexual Level 0 to the fully homosexual Level 6. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that things reached a turning point in the US when openly gay politician Harvey Milk was voted into San Francisco city council and helped defeat a bill banning homosexuals from housing and teaching jobs in 1978. The 80’s was a hard and dark time for gay men as the AIDS epidemic had gay men as most of their victims. The 90’s experienced a resurgence of pride with President Bill Clinton urging gays in the military. It’s only until this century that the gay population of the United States saw the possibility of gay marriage. And with good reason.

Hard to believe that 25 years ago, the idea of same-sex marriage was unheard of anywhere in the world. The first sign of things to come happened when same-sex relations were first legitimized in Denmark back in 1989 as ‘legalized partnerships’. Many countries followed with their own recognition, like ‘registered partnerships’ or ‘life partnerships’, but it wasn’t until 2000 when the Netherlands became the first country to officially recognize same-sex matrimony. Belgium and the Canadian province of Ontario followed in 2003 with Spain following in 2005 and South Africa following in 2006. Today thirteen countries legally recognize same-sex marriages.

The United States was always hard to achieve legal recognition. Even if a President is liberal in beliefs and stances, he will face the pressures of the political opposition. That explains why even though Bill Clinton was the most ‘gay-friendly’ President Of The United States in its history and even supported gays in the military, he compromised to a ‘don’t ask: don’t tell’ rule. In 1996 he even signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as ‘one man and one woman’ after it was passed as law by Congress. Nevertheless the right would gradually increase state-by-state. It wouldn’t be until May 2004 that Massachusetts would become the first state in American history to legally recognize same-sex marriages. The issue of gay marriage would continue to be a state-by-state issue as some states would legitimize same-sex marriages while other states would pass laws prohibiting such recognition. Even some states–most noticeably the state of California with Proposition 8– would place the issue on the voter’s ballot. Currently nine states in the United States give full recognition to same sex marriages while most other states have either a statute or a constitutional law banning same-sex marriage. Nineteen states have a constitutional law banning recognition of any same-sex union.

Now comes President Barack Obama. Like Bill Clinton before him, Obama has also had his times of personal stances and bowing to pressures from the opposition. Obama favored legalizing same-sex marriages in a 1996 interview but during the 2008 Presidential Election campaign, he stated he believed marriage to be one man and one woman. Obama exhibited similar complications when in January 2009 he opposed a federal mandate for same-sex marriage and opposed DOMA. He’d continue to say that his opinion of same-sex marriage was ‘evolving’. However the first hint of Obama siding with the position of same-sex marriage came in February in 2011 when he announced that DOMA was unconstitutional. It wouldn’t be until May 9, 2012 that Obama would finally make his stance on same-sex marriage heard. His opinion was warmly greeted by many people, especially LBGT groups and other liberals. Some people were skeptical, feeling they might still get the same raw deal they’ve been getting for years. There’s no question that the upcoming Presidential Election had a lot to do with his announcement.

Even though Obama’s gay marriage stance appears as a positive step towards the upcoming election, there is also the opposite side as this could pave the way for a Republican being President. Of all issues facing the United States, it’s this issue that best resembles the current divisiveness and polarization of American politics. Its strongest opponents of course are those that side with the Republican Party and the values it stands for. The Republican Party has always left a bitter taste in the throats of the LGBT population of the United States. They still remember how conservative icon President Ronald Reagan sided with religious leaders; including the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell who declared  the AIDS epidemic in the early 80’s as “God’s punishment to the gay lifestyle”. This may have a lot to do with the Reagan Administration’s slow acting upon the epidemic. President George Bush Sr. was strongly opposed to gays in the military and campaigned the Republican Party during the 1992 Presidential election as ‘the party of family values’: a title that has popularity stuck since. The younger George Bush even tried to push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as ‘one man and one woman’ only to lose in the Supreme Court in 2004. Many believe his opposition to same-sex marriage is what helped him win the 2004 Election.

Soon after came the right-wing of the United States of today. You can hear it in the many voices of the right-wing pundits on the airwaves constantly stating their opposition to same-sex marriage, even going as far as declaring that ‘marriage is not a right’.  Many Republicans strongly believe that defining marriage as ‘one man and one woman’ is a value instead of a prejudice. There’s even a set of voters in the millions that vote at election time on ‘family values issues’, known as ‘Values Voters’. Even Republican politician Mike Huckabee slammed Obama’s declaration of DOMA as ‘unconstitutional’ and a bad move come the Election. As expected, all candidates for the Republican Race were opposed to same-sex marriage.

You can bet after Obama’s stance that Wednesday, there was a lot of talk of the right-wing and the Republicans, especially from Race front-runner Mitt Romney. Three days after, Romney spoke to a graduating class at Liberty College reaffirming his opposition towards same-sex marriage and declaring his strong support for traditional Christian values. He even declared: that the “pre-eminence of the family” remains at the heart of the principles that underpin the nation. That drew a loud cheer from the 25,000 in the crowd.

There is an interesting footnote in Romney’s view. It’s also been known that he’s not opposed to same-sex adoption. Also interesting to know is just days after his stance on traditional marriage, it was brought to the attention that Romney was a high school bully who bullied an allegedly gay student because of his fancy hairstyle. Romney promptly apologized in public for all the bullying he did.

So Obama said his thoughts on same-sex marriage and the public have responded. His stance on same-sex marriage could either help him or hinder him. The big question is will it work against him n the upcoming Presidential Election or will it work for him? And if it does work for him, will that pave the way for full recognition of same-sex marriages in the whole of the United States? It will all be decided on November 6th, and possibly the four years after.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Timeline of Same-Sex Marriage. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_same-sex_marriage>

WIKIPEDIA: Same-Sex Marriage In The United States. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States>

Roberts, Robin. Interview.  ABC News. May 2012. 9 May 2012. <http://news.yahoo.com/transcript-robin-roberts-abc-news-interview-president-obama-001212560–abc-news-topstories.html>

Parisse, Emmanuel. “Romney adamantly rejects same-sex marriage” Yahoo! News 12 May 2012. <http://news.yahoo.com/romney-courts-young-evangelicals-promotes-values-062331045.html>

Kim Jong-il’s Death Leaves An Uncertain North Korea

The news was revealed on December 17th. Kim Jong Il was dead. At first, people thought it was a hoax. Later it became official news. Even images of his body lying in state while North Koreans mourn him have made it official. His successor is his third and youngest son, 28 year-old Kim Jong Un. He has officially assumed the office on December 24th just days before his father’s funeral. The big question is will Kim Jong Un be able to rule the tiny, private, separatist country the way his father has or will North Korea find its grip succumbing to the times?

The nation of North Korea has existed since 1948. Korea was under Japanese occupation for decades before World War II and existed as a nation after World War II ended. However it was divided at the 38th parallel under a United Nations agreement with the Soviet Union occupying the north part and the democratized world occupying the south part. It was the communist North’s refusal to participate in a 1948 UN-supervised election that led to the two Koreas being separate and Kim Il Sung being the leader of what established as the Democratic People’s Republic.

North Korea is not only unique for having only three heads of state in its existence but also from the same family: first Kim Il Sung, then Kim Jong Il and now Kim Jong Un. During Kim Il Sung’s reign, he wreaked havoc of his own. The two Koreas tried to control each other during the first few years of existence. Its escalating border conflicts led the North to invade the South which kicked off the Korean War: a civil war that lasted three years, included support for the south from UN-backed countries like the US, the UK and Canada, and left a total of over 2,000,000 soldiers and civilians dead and the borders restructured as originally planned with a heavily-armed Korean Demilitarized Zone protecting the borders. Despite the peace, relations between the North and South have been tense as was common during the Cold War times and still remain tense to this day. The North has attempted many times to assassinate leaders of the South, North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics as Seoul was the host city, and has even attempted to develop its own nuclear weaponry. Even as the South adopted a Sunshine Policy in 1998 to moderate for peace, that hasn’t stopped the North from uttering threats and causing international tension.

During the time of Kim Il Sung, he developed a ‘cult of personality’ status that would even make some of the heads of state of most other Communist countries envious. He adopted the title of the ‘Great Leader’: a title repeated constantly amongst the citizens of North Korea of all three Kims. Glorification of him replaced all religion in North  Korea. Even after his death in 1994, he’s still referred to as the ‘Eternal President’ and his birthday is a national holiday in North Korea. As a ruler, he came across as the familiar tyrant we know Kim Jong Il to have been through his own methods. During the first years of his reign, he issued a command economy with all industry owned by the state and all agriculture collectivized. His economy was focused on peasants and workers and was aimed at eliminating class differences. Heavy industry and arms production were also predominant as was a large army. While the USSR and China were moving away from de-Stalinization, Kim was infuriated and began distancing North Korea from the two countries, even denouncing any reconciliation or peace attempts with the United States. The times from 1979 onward were very hard for North Korea as China moved towards economic reform and the European Communist countries including the USSR were exercising political reforms that led to the eventual overthrow of Communism. This led Kim Il Sung to make North Korea even more isolated: an isolation that still exists to this day. Its economy was soon hurting and Kim Il Sung was investing in nuclear arms production: a process Kim was fiercely protective of up until a month before his sudden death in July of 1994.

Kim Jong Il was named by Kim Il Sung back in 1980 to be his successor and eventually succeeded his father after his death. Kim Jong Il would wreak the havoc most people are currently familiar with during his reign from his father’s death up until his own death on the 17th. He would keep the heated ‘cold war’ between South Korea alive and well with constant condemnation and threats of war. He too was heavy on developing nuclear military prowess, resisting UN demands to inspect facilities and even threatening a war if North Korea was imposed sanctions. His military prowess kept on growing by number of soldiers and weaponry the Military First policy he adopted. The policy would continue in existence even as the people in North Korea had to deal with flooding in the 1990’s which lead to a huge reduction in arable land and eventually a famine that left anywhere from 1 million to 3 1/2 million North Koreans dead. Relationships with the United States weren’t any nicer either as Kim would still portray the US as the bad guy and George W. Bush referring to North Korea as part of the ‘axis of evil’. Even as relationships appeared to be improving one moment, things appeared to go wrong the next.

Now Kim Jong Un assumes the role as the ‘great leader’ of North Korea. Over the past two weeks, we’ve learned more about him. He attended school in Switzerland as a child, has a degree in computer science and has a military rank as general. He has two older half-brothers but it was believed by many through his personal character that he was most likely to be Kim Jong Il’s successor. In 2009, it was made official by Kim Jong Il. Since Kim Jong Il’s death, it has become a reality as title after title from North Korea’s government is now being bestowed on the younger Kim. Since the funeral and transition, the media has kept a watchful eye on North Korea and Kim Jong Un. There have been countless headlines leaving one to question the state where North Korea is going:

  • 24th – North Korea To Be Center Of Japan – China Talks
  • 26th – Kim Jong Un Meets With South Korean Delegation
  • 27th – North Asks South Korea For Money At Kim Jong Il’s Funeral
  • 27th – North Calls For Enactment of Investment Pact
  • 30th – Military Says South Korea Will ‘Pay For Hideous Crimes’

Once again, headline after headline that differ, confuse and even make people question about what the North will do next. Also in question is Kim Jong Un’s reign as the new leader. Does a dictator that’s not even 30 have what it takes to run a nation with a Stalinist style governing? Will North Korea still be a fierce hermit to the rest of the world? Will North Korea’s relations continue to be fiery and even lead to the ‘war’ North Korea keeps on talking about? Or will things open up and lead to progress and improvements in North Korea, especially its citizens’ way of life? Those are answers that can only be made as time moves on. Nevertheless it’s important for all to keep a watchful eye on events that unfold.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: North Korea. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korea>

WIKIPEDIA: Kim Il Sung. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Il-sung>

WIKIPEDIA: Kim Jong Il. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Jong-il>

2011 Corruption Perceptions Index Shows Many Surprises – Including For Canada

The annual Corruption Percentage Index has been released which ranks the most corrupt countries to the least corrupt. If there are two points one would most get from this list, it would be that Canada is slipping and that this is a very corrupt world.

Since three years ago, I’ve taken an interest in a certain annual chart. It’s called the Corruption Perceptions Index and it’s released by Transparency International. Transparency International is an international watchdog association headquartered in Berlin with 70 international chapters that monitors the corruption levels in countries around the world. Every year since 2002, they publish what they call a Corruption Perception Index which shows the annual corruption ranking of each country. They rank the countries based on a scale they give from 0 to 10. 0 is completely corrupt while 10 is not corrupt at all.

Many welcome their results while others question the validity and accuracy of the results. Some question whether Transparency International really has all their facts together when they make their list. The thing we shouldn’t forget about the list is that it’s about perceived corruption: the people’s ability to sense or notice corruption in their own country. This is based on poll questions ranging from “Do you trust the government?” to “Is corruption a big problem in your country?” Without a doubt, the results are rather surprising. Plus we shouldn’t forget that most governments do a good job of hiding their corruption so it’s hard to sense.

In the past, Canada has done very well ever since the Index has been published. Canada ranked an impressive 10th-least corrupt in 2011 with a score of 8.7. However the rank becomes less impressive knowing that last year, Canada ranked 6th with a score of 8.9. Also making it less impressive is the fact that it’s Canada’s lowest ranking on the list since 2006. The lowest Canada ever ranked on that list was 14th back in 2006 and 2005, and what was around the time the Gomery Scandal was fresh in the mind of most Canadians. The most recent government scandal–the Harper government’s contempt of parliament which led to a national election–had a lot to do with Canada’s slip of four spots.

For the record, here are the Top 10 least corrupt countries, according to this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index with score in brackets:

1)New Zealand (9.5)

2)Denmark (9.4)

2)Finland (9.4)

4)Sweden (9.3)

5)Singapore (9.2)

6)Norway (9.0)

7)Netherlands (8.9)

8)Australia (8.8)

8)Switzerland (8.8)

10)Canada (8.7)

Viewing the overall results can give some interesting facts and figures. Interesting how the Scandinavian countries and the major countries of Oceania had the highest rankings. The only Scandinavian country not to make the Top 10 was Iceland at 13th with 8.3. It’s a shame because they used to rank #1 in 2005 and 2006 with as high as a 9.7. Hong Kong ranked 12th. Many countries which has some of the most established democracies ranked lower than most people would expect like Germany and Japan ties for 14th, United Kingdom in 16th, the United States in 24th and France in 25th and Italy in 69th. The highest ranking country under a dictatorship was Qatar in 22nd. The highest ranking African country was Botswana in 32nd.

An interesting find is that 49 of the 183 countries ranked received a 5.0 or higher, sending a message about how this is quite a corrupt world. The country at #49 is Rwanda with a 5.0. That’s especially surprising since many people could remember the bloody civil war they went through back in 1994. The list is as good at monitoring improvements as it is in monitoring weakenings. Rwanda had the highest jump up from 4.0 from last year. For the record, the biggest drop in pointage came from Slovenia which went from 6.4 last year to 5.8 this year. The dictatorship of Cuba ranked a surprisingly high 62nd, outranking such democracies like Italy, South Africa and Greece. Syria and Yemen, which made bad news this year for its constant clashes with people marching for freedom, ranked 129th and 164th respectively. Also Venezuela, which continuously makes bad news with its dictator Hugo Chavez, ranked 172th. Since we’re on the topic of Venezuela, here’s the ten most corrupt countries on the list, the ‘Bottom 10’:

182)Somalia (1.0)

182)North Korea (1.0)

180)Myanmar (1.5)

180)Afghanistan (1.5)

177)Uzbekistan (1.6)

177)Turkmenistan (1.6)

177)Sudan (1.6)

175)Iraq (1.8)

175)Haiti (1.8)

172)Venezuela (1.9)

172)Equatorial Guinea (1.9)

172)Burundi (1.9)

Most of the bottom countries are already well-known for their governments continuously making bad news. They remind us that when things seem to be going wrong in our country, there are countries where corruption is not only very present but sometimes part of daily life.

So there you have it: a brief summary of the 2011 Corruption Perception Index and its interesting finds. With the politics of the world changing frequently and varying from country to country, there should be many interesting finds for 2012. The politics in Canada will determine if we can improve on our 10th-place ranking. The nation of South Sudan should make its debut next year. Also Arabic countries which had successful fights for freedom this year could see interesting results for next year. If you want to keep track, Libya ranked 168th, Tunisia ranked 73rd and Egypt ranked 112th for 2011. Stay tuned for next year’s rakings.

If you want to learn more about Transparency International and the Corruption Perceptions Index, which I have used in my article here, here are the links to go to:

Transparency International: http://www.transparency.org/

2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (with link to list): http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/

9/11 Remembered

September 11, 2001: A day that will live on forever. A lot has changed in the ten years since. Air security is way tighter. Arabic names and words no one could pronounce previously have since become part of our everyday vocabulary. Entering the United States is more regulated. Being Arab American has not been a friendly experience for many. We have a no-fly list and a terrorism alert of color grades. We have people claiming conspiracy theories. We have had two wars declared since which has further divided political sides. We’ve caught many to do with the terrorism but have more to go.

Around this time, you will read many articles and views surrounding the events, political climates and beliefs of the writers. You will hear many stories from those involved to those who lost loved ones to those in political power. As for me, I won’t be focusing on such. Instead I will focus on the day as I remember it.

Tuesday, September 11th 2001 started off like any other day for me. I wasn’t yet 30 and had recently moved to Vancouver months earlier and living in a character house with at least six other residents at the time. I was off to work and listening to a radio show talking about a bizarre contest where people do crazy stunts for the sake of an entry. Things wouldn’t be the same after that. In the morning while I was on a break from my first job, I saw one of my co-workers laughing. When I saw him, he said a plane hit the World Trade Center. Some of you may think it was insensitive but looking back, I think he was laughing at the bizarreness of the event. When I first heard the news from him, I first thought it was probably a small passenger plane and it hit one of the Twin Towers by accident. That afternoon I was working at my second job for a government business. I heard one of my supervisors talking about what happened and saying that it could have happened to a building like ours. Hearing that, I started to think that this may not be an accident after all, but how?

Later on in the day as I was returning home, I saw news stories and images of the events that happened. There was even a second newspapers issued that day about the events. I saw one of the towers hit by an airplane was burning while another airplane hit the other tower. When I first saw it, I was in disbelief. I thought it was something that could only happen in the movies. Then hearing of other crashes like the plane that hit the Pentagon and one that crashed in a failed attempt to hit Camp David. Then hearing how all Worldwide commercial air ground to a halt. Then seeing images of people running and screaming for their lives as the first of the Twin Towers crashed down. The events were just completely unreal in my mind. Until then, I always thought hijacking a plane was always about the terrorist using plane passengers hostages for the sake of making demands. Until then, I’ve only heard of airplanes used as weapons during the Kamikaze attacks of World War II. I never thought that terrorist could use passenger planes for the sake of a suicide mission. The attacks on the Twin Towers also immediately brought back a memory of how back in 1993, the World Trade Centre was bombed but there were only five fatalities at the time. I also remember that the mastermind was a Muslim cleric. Remembering that got me thinking that the attackers had the failed attempt from 1993 in mind to bring the towers down for sure that time.

Then back at my home, I met with the other residents in my character house and we were all shocked. One who was visiting from the Netherlands even videotaped the speech from President Bush. The day was just completely surreal. All networks were focused on all the events that happened. There was no changing the other channel. It would continue to be that way for at least two weeks straight.

Days later, I would hear stories of those who died that day. There was even a memorial service broadcast from radio at my workplace that consisted of five minutes of silence. I also heard from those who lost loved ones. Even later on I heard even further details of the activities. Hearing about how some of the terrorists went to flying school to carry out those activities completely surprised me. Hearing how Al-Qaeda had a worldwide network with followers even in Canada shocked me. Hearing of these countries having weapons given to them by the United Stated puzzled me even further. Hearing the various reactions around the world also caught my eye. Most of the world, including many Arab countries, expressed their condolences to the events. There were some, like Palestinians, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, who considered that day a day of celebration. Then there were the speeches of Osama bin Laden. Already infamous for his years of bomb attacks on American embassies in other countries, he led the taunts. Shockingly he promised a ‘great day of terror’ weeks earlier.

Despite all the nastiness, there were also a lot of positives. The United States however refused to let it defeat them and a renewed sense of patriotism happened. New York City also developed its own pride in itself. People who used to diss the police and firemen and politicians almost immediately rallied behind them. Families would help out stranded air passengers during that time. Nations would come to the support of the United States and some other nations even lost citizens of their own.

Ten years have passed. Yeah, you could say a lot has changed. Even reflecting back on the happenings of that tragic day still boggles my mind. Commercial planes used as weapons for a suicide mission. Four flights hijacked with the intent to destroy four places. Thousands dead. I was never involved with it nor did I personally know anyone who died that day but even ten years ago, it does seem like yesterday.

Anyways those are my thoughts on 9/11. I just wanted to reflect on what I remember from that day. I didn’t want to get into any political speech or political thought. If you want any political thought from me, read my Osama bin Laden is Dead article. Since I wrote it, Al-Qaeda has elected a new leader. Whether he has the same sophistication as Osama or not is something only time will tell. I just hope there’s no massive loss of life in the process. There you go. That’s the most political I will get in this article.

I hope you liked what I had to say because that’s what I remember. I was never an actual part of the events. I never knew anyone lost that day. Nevertheless I still remember the constant broadcast of the day’s events and the atmosphere surrounding it. You can’t deny how much it’s changed the world and changed people. I end my article saying: God Bless the souls of those lost that day and may God continue to be with the families.

Is The End Of Gadhafi A New Beginning For Libya?

The news just broke days ago. After months of fighting, warfare and rebellion, the rebels deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi and have just raided his compound as of now. Gadhafi is currently in hiding but refuses to believe he has been removed from power. The news of Gadhafi’s overthrow was expected over time. After 42 years, many feel this will be a new change for Libya but the question is will it be positive or negative?

Before 1969, Libya was a kingdom with increasing oil wealth. It adopted a constitution to model the freedoms and liberties similar to that of European and North American states. It also received huge foreign influence from countries like the United States, Italy and Great Britain in aiding increased levels of wealth and tourism. While most welcomed these contributions, there were many who saw it as a threat.

On September 1, 1969, a group of young soldiers led by 27 year-old Muammar Gadhafi staged a coup d’etat on King Idris and launched the Libyan revolution. In 1973 Gadhafi imposed Sharia law on all of Libya, purged of the ‘politically sick’ and a ‘people’s militia would ‘protect the revolution.’ The revolution was both in culture and administration. 20% of workers in Libya were under heavy surveillance by Gadhafi. Executions of dissidents were made public and broadcast on state television. In 1977 Gadhafi officially declared Libya the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahirya and adopted a national flag that was completely green. Gadhafi opposed any Arab country that sided with Israel and even declared a four day war on Egypt. He also supplied arms to any of its allies, both nations and terrorist groups.

Another key note is that Gadhafi was heavily influential in terrorism during the first two decades of his reign.  Some believe he was the tour de force of terrorism at the time that would pave the way for groups like Al Qaeda. He formed the Black September movement which caused many attack in the 1970’s including the Olympic Attack in Munich where 11 Israeli athletes were killed. His terrorists were also instrumental in hijacking airplanes which led to the tight security on airplanes that still continue and become stricter to this day. In 1985, it was discovered by the United States that Gadhafi harbored a camp for training terrorists. This led to President Ronald Reagan to declare an airstrike on Libya in 1986. The strike failed to kill or depose Gadhafi but killed his daughter. His terrorist activities died down soon after but not without one last infamous attack of a bomb on a flying plane exploding over Scotland in 1988, killing hundreds. Even despite his terrorist activities dying down, he still talked tough and sided with Arab leaders who were anti-Israel.

In 2011, people’s movements in Tunisia and Egypt led to the overthrow of their heads of state. The revolutionary spirit spread to other Arab countries including Libya starting in the month of February. Gadhafi quickly condemned the uprising and claimed it was being engineered by Western elements and Israel.  By March, much of Libya had tipped out of Gadhafi’s control where even members of the Libyan army were joining the revolt. Gadhafi loyalists were encouraged to kill the protesters. Soon international forces from the United States, the United Kingdom and France had joined forces to declare a military operation to remove Gadhafi. In June, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for systematically planning and implementing attacks on civilians. By August 22, 2011, rebel fighters had gained influence and control of Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square. Meanwhile Gadhafi asserts he’s still in Libya and will not concede power to the rebels.

Now the overthrow of Gadhafi is definite or eventual, if not official. There comes the big question. What will come of Libya in the future? Will it become a better stronger country? Or will it face its own problems?

The country is now mostly controlled by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gadhafi’s former justice minister who established the National Transitional Council shortly after the Libyan revolt began. The Declaration of the council includes many key aims like: ensuring safety of its citizens and liberating the rest of Libya, restoring normal civilian life, have the military council achieve a doctrine protecting Libyan citizens and defending the borders, draft a new constitution, pave the way for free elections and guide the conduct of foreign policy and international relations.

The policies appear promising but the big question is can it be attained over time? Many Arab countries that have established new freedoms and new liberties have faced the threat from dissidents, terrorists and loyalists of the former dictators. Afghanistan and Iraq have held elections and drafted new constitutions after their revolutions but have constantly faced attacks from many dissident factions that still happen to this day. Also it is possible of another coup d’etat in the future from a new dissident or Gadhafi loyalist with military power. The future of Libya has yet to be determined in the wake of the deposition of Gadhafi that continues as we speak.

Libya also has the 10th largest oil reserves in the world and the 17th highest petroleum production. It’s high petroleum production and low population has given it the fourth-highest GDP in Africa. During Gadhafi’s reign, the money was used to buy arms which led to many of the terrorist attacks. The wealth was not evenly spread out amongst the people. Under a new government in Libya, will the wealth be used more generously for the sake of developing the nation and the quality of life for its citizens? Or will it be a heated political debate in the future?

Since Gadhafi’s official overthrow is eventual, the future of Libya is a big question. The future of the country and the leadership that follows will be a new chapter in the country’s history but which direction it goes, and whether the new intended freedoms and liberties will be successfully carried out, still remains a question that only time can answer.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Libya. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya>

WIKIPEDIA: National Transitional Council. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Transitional_Council>

South Sudan: The World’s Newest Nation

Hi. This is an article that I have delayed posting here for the longest time. Hope you like it.

It was declared on July 9, 2011. South Sudan was now an official independent nation of its own. Its population is an estimated 8,000,000. The capital city is Juba, a city of an estimated 400,000 people. Hearing about what the people of South Sudan went through, you’d feel their independence from the main Sudan was hard-earned.

Map of Sudan and regions. Area declared South Sudan is in red.

Firstly Sudan was originally a joint condominium between Britain and Egypt until they declared independence in 1956 as the Republic of Sudan. Despite Sudan being independent, it was not unified. The northern and southern parts of Sudan were sharply divided.  The main divide between the two was based on ethnicity but also about religion; the northern part of Sudan was predominantly Muslim while the southern part of Sudan had a Christian majority. Conflict between Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan had already existed for a year and would continue until 1972. That war would be known as the First Sudanese Civil War. Half a million people were killed. It would take an agreement in Ethiopia in March 1972, known as the Addis Ababa Agreement, that would end that civil war. The goal of the Agreement was to address and appease concerns of the southern Sudan liberation and succession movement. This would help to give some autonomy to the Southern Sudanese region and would give peace to Sudan for almost a decade.

The one thing the Agreement failed to do is dispel the tensions that caused the first Sudanese Civil War. Then in 1983, Sudan’s President Gafar Nimeiry declared all Sudan an Islamic state, The Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was abolished on June 5, 1983 and the Addis Ababa Agreement was ended. This would lead to the Second Sudanese Civil War. This war would last from 1983 to 2005 and would have one of the highest civilian death tolls since World War II. Two million people were killed as a result of the warfare, famine and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people from Southern Sudan have been displaced during the times of the war. At the start of that war, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement was formed as both a rebel group and a political party in response to the crises.

The war finally ended in January 2005 after a comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. The purpose of the agreement, known as the Naivasha Agreement, was to develop democratic governance countrywide and share oil revenues. It further set a timetable by which Southern Sudan would have a referendum on its independence. The referendum happened during the week of January 9-15, 2011. Almost 99% of South Sudanese voted for independence. Independence was declared on July 9, 2011 and the United Nations recognized South Sudan’s independence on July 14th.

Despite being the world’s newest nation, South Sudan still faces problems and challenges in the time ahead. One problem is that the famine that is occurring mostly in Somalia also includes South Sudan and other nations. Another problem is that conflict between Sudan arose again a month ago with the South Kordofan conflict that still exists today. Another problem is of possible intertribal enmity within the country. One challenge South Sudan will have to face in the future is organizing the nation and its rights amongst the people. It is currently on a human rights watch by the UN, and rightly so. The SPLA may have been able to get South Sudan its independence but is also known for human rights atrocities of their own. Even the CIA has suspected of genocide in southern Sudan last year. One thing the elected President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has promised is respect to freedom of religion. Kiir himself is Catholic with a Muslim son.

South Sudan: the world’s newest nation. Will it be a better, wealthier, more developed, more just country that Sudan was and still is? Or will it have its own problems or atrocities? Only time will tell.

WORKS CITED

WIKIPEDIA: South Sudan. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan >

IMAGE CITED

WIKIMEDIA: Regions Of Sudan. Wikimedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Regions_of_Sudan.png&gt;

Osama Bin Laden’s Death Doesn’t Make The World Safer

The news came unexpectedly on May 1, 2011. Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi hermit and terrorist leader of Al-Qaeda who was the master mind of the attacks on US soil on September 11,2001, was finally found and killed. He had been on the run from the law and taunting the US by videotape for 9 1/2 years until he was finally caught and killed. Reactions have been numerous and varied. One thing is for sure, that his death leaves an uncertain question about the safety of the world, particularly the United States.

 Before September 11, 2001, the world was not a safe happy place. The World was a place that was already as precautionary as it felt to be. Airline terrorism had been a reality for almost 40 years and prevention procedures were already in place and carried out as best as they did. Terrorism from Muslim extremists, especially against the US, had been known for years. Until then the biggest terrorist attack on US soil from foreigners was the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center which left six dead but failed to bring the two towers down. Osama bin Laden was actually already on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. His connection to money and his ability to access arms was already legendary. He formed and headed the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, which means ‘the foundation’. He helped to empower the Taliban in Afghanistan and they would become his biggest ally.  He was the admitted mastermind of the 1998 US Embassy bombings: the August 7, 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya that left hundreds dead. He had already been known for making a ‘death wish’ against the United States for his wish to see every American dead. In 1999, just two years before 9/11, Bill Clinton had already encouraged sanctions against Afghanistan in an attempt to extradite him. Weeks before 9/11, bin Laden promised in a videotape a ‘great day of terror’ to the United States.

Then 9/11 happened. Terrorists with flight training knowledge committed possibly the most shocking terrorist attack ever. The Two Towers destroyed by terrorists in a Kamikaze-style attack. Part of the Pentagon was also destroyed by a plane attack. A fourth plane meant for the Camp David site crashed outside it thanks to the vigilantism of American passengers. In the aftermath, thousands of Americans were dead. The world’s airline system was shut down for days. Memorial services were conducted all around the world. Some Arab countries and Arab peoples considered it a great victory for them and punishment from Allah to the US. Bin Laden himself acknowledged the attacks and praised the ‘martyrs’ in the attacks. He promised more in the future and promised never to get caught. Soon President George W. Bush declared war in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Bin Laden was now the World’s Most Wanted man.

Even while at large for years, Osama still had access to money and had a huge worldwide group of allies with the ability to carry out a terrorist attack anywhere in the World at any given time. The war in Afghanistan and the subsequent war in Iraq have fueled further attacks since. Osama’s Al-Qaeda have carried many terrorist acts out since that have left a total of hundreds dead: the 2004 Madrid Train bombings; the 2005 attacks in London; two bombings in Algiers in 2007; the 2008 bombing of the Danish embassy in Pakistan; a 2009 shooting in Little Rock; and two failed bombing attempts.

You could say the world has changed a lot since 9/11. Arabic words we never knew before are now part of our everyday language. Airline security has become more advanced and becomes increasingly stricter after additional foiled terrorist attempts. We have no-fly lists. We have a colored alert system whenever a terrorist threat appears coming. Right-wing and left-wing politics in the United States have increased in their division. We have a ‘Patriot Act’ which claims to be a prevention to terrorism. We had a terrorist list introduced in attempts to catch those connected to the bombings or terrorist associations. There have even been conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks with protesters seeking attention for their cause. A lot has changed in the past ten years. The one thing that remained unchanged during that time was Osama bin Laden was alive and still at large. His lack of access to any means of modern technology besides a personal courier helped keep him from being found for years. He was capable of orchestrating terrorist attacks and shelling out videos to Al Jazeera television while remaining at large from authorities. Billions of dollars and cooperation from many nations failed to capture bin Laden. But on May 2, 2011, that all changed.

On May 2, 2011 in Pakistan (still May 1 back in the US), Osama had been killed by shots to the head and chest by an operation ordered by Barack Obama on his compuond some 40 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan. This operation was conducted by Navy SEALs under the command by the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA. It will forever be remembered at Operation Neptune Spear. Many other associates of Bin Laden, including his courier, one son and two others, were also killed. Soon after the killing, his body was taken to Afghanistan for identification and confirmation, then buried him at sea within 24 hours.

Reaction around the world was almost immediate. US President Barack Obama made the address on US television with the phrase “Justice has been done.” There was cheering in the streets, especially in New York around the area where the Twin Towers stood. Many Americans, especially those who lost loved ones on 9/11, were met with relieve that the killer had finally been brought to justice. There’s also cynicism too. Some conspiracy theorists are adding to the claim it’s a conspiracy. Many are demanding that the ‘death photo’ be shown. In the Arab World, reactions were mixed. Pakistan is denying ‘hiding’ bin Laden since his compound was so close to the capital of Islamabad. Some were happy of his death. Others were hurt and angry that their hero had been killed by the Americans.

It is because of the latter reactions that it’s too soon to believe that the world is a safer place now that Osama is gone. Both Obama and Bush have stated that. We should not forget that Al-Qaeda was a group built on revenge. That is why they carried out their terrorist attacks. Osama even stated that the 9/11 attacks were for revenge of all the Arab blood. Osama has also stated in previous tapes that he had people to carry on his mission even after his death. Even Al-Qaeda promised revenge shortly after acknowledging Osama’s death. That is the top reason why the US won’t release the death photo of Osama. Plus with Al-Qaeda spread so far out around the world, including countries like the US and Canada, there’s no telling when and where the next terrorist attack will happen. Also there’s no telling who from Al-Qaeda would be the new mastermind and there will be no telling what new security precautions will result because of this. So the terrorism precautions used shortly after 9/11 still have to be in effect. Also airlines have to maintain top professionalism and security competence to keep any further security risks. we should not forget that part of the 9/11 attacks’ success was taking advantage of the security ‘weak spots’ at airports.

While millions of people are probably still celebrating Osama’s death, the celebrations can’t last for long. The next ten, possibly twenty, years will tell whether this was a smart movie for the US to carry out. I personally wanted to see Osama arrested, tried by a World tribunal court, and executed. Also the next years will tell whether Al-Qaeda was in fact weakened by Osama’s death or only grew stronger and wider. Only time will tell.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Osama Bin Laden. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osama_bin_Laden>

WIKIPEDIA: Death Of Osama Bin Laden. Wikipedia.com. 2011.Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Osama_bin_Laden>