Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Newest (nonmember) State: Palestine

The United Nations just voted to make Palestine a ‘nonmember observer state’, marking, “a stinging defeat for Israel and the United State.” Hopes in the UN are that this recognition will lead to a two-state solution to the Gaza strip conflict that has reemerged in the past few weeks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has claimed that this sort of solution is Palestine’s ultimate goal, and that this international vote is an important step towards such. The rhetoric in his UN address continued to highlight Israel as an aggressor, and suggest that the Palestinians are the victims of the situation.

What this may reveal to the United States is that the international community is not on board with much of the US agenda in the Middle East. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was openly displeased with this decision, and is quoted saying that the UN resolution is, “unfortunate and counterproductive.” While the US remains loyal to the Israeli side in the conflict, voting states of the UN have proven through this resolution that they do not blindly follow the US opinions on world politics. In fact, many countries do indeed see Hamas as the victim, and may even support Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza over Israel. Perhaps the US will be forced to reevaluate its priorities in the region.

The Immortal Jellyfish!

Does anyone else have a phobia of jellyfish?
Now there’s a type of Jellyfish that refuses to die! This species apparently reverts back to their developmental state to revive themselves, like a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar. How cool is that?? And apparently scientists have known about it and have been studying it for decades. So if you’re trying to live forever, maybe you should start here.

M23

M23 is a testimony to the fact that in some regions of the world, conflict resolution is stagnant. Nicknamed M23, the movement is a group of soldiers from a former rebel army that signed a peace deal on March 23rd, 2009 with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s government. Last spring, however, “hundreds of them mutinied, claiming that the government had failed to meet their demands under the 2009 agreement,” reports this article. The largest grievances that M23 had were that the Congolese government did not pay them fairly, and that they had discriminated against the army for its large Tutsi population. Thus the M23 rebel movement was revived, and it has been recently on the move and escalating. Most recently the rebels have been gaining ground while moving into the city of Goma, with claims of larger assaults on cities such as the capital Kinshasa to come. Just this morning they have set the conditions for the withdrawal from Goma, which include the release of political prisoners and the disarmament of Congolese troops. These demands are not expected to be met.

As expected, defusing the M23 movement has steadily become an international issue. The United Nations is playing a role in the DRC, and has set up peacekeepers in hostile areas, (though it is reported that they can do little to stop interior violence, a recurring limitation that many human rights activists have come to detest). In addition, the eastern neighboring nations of, “Uganda and Rwanda are named in a report by the U.N. Group of Experts as key backers of the M23 rebels,” supposedly to follow through on their own interests in the region. Both nations have denied these accusations, and have pointed out that they have wrongly been cited as assisting rebel movements before.

Where is the M23 movement to end? Clearly the Congolese government does not have the capacity to readily stop the rebellious army. Unfortunately, this story is already decreasing in media popularity, minimizing the awareness of the conflict. What must be kept in mind is that this loss in media coverage does not equate to any lesser level of violence in the DRC. There have been no solutions to the clash, even if we are hearing less about it. And conflict resolution, especially through international intervention, only occurs when there is an international audience. Without this audience, chances that the conflict will wrap up soon diminish greatly.

Tweets of Live News from the Gaza Strip


If you’ve been keeping with the news then you’re already aware of the escalating conflict that is currently the Gaza Strip, a piece of the Mediterranean coastline roughly twice the size of D.C. Expectations here are that you should buckle down and prepare for more updates, because the violence between Israelis and the Palestinian group Hamas that currently occupies the strip is only expected to get worse.
Israel invaded the Gaza strip in 2008, and now the past few days have seen some of the most intense violence of the past four years. On November 14th, two days ago, an Israeli airstrike killed the commander of the Hamas military wing, resulting in the launching of hundreds of rockets from Gaza into Israel. On the 15th, Isreali planes struck down several Hamas militant sites, in part trying to disarm some of the rocket sites. Now this morning Israel troops are preparing for a ground assault into the strip.

There is currently a compilation webpage of Live Twitter Updates from the journalists and local citizens in Israel and nearby nations, composed by Robert Mackey, which is serving to update the rest of the world in real-time as events happen. This is in many ways the best way of keeping with the conflict, for the people living and stationed in the heart of the conflict will be those with the best coverage, and it is social websites like Twitter that have proven to be the quickest method of reaching a large, interested audience.
Most political scientists agree that it was the use of social media, picture and video cell phones, and sharing websites that made the Arab Spring so rapid and successful. The revolutions that took place, (and in some cases are still happening), all over North Africa and the Middle East differ from a majority of regional transitions to democracy, such as in Latin America or Southeast Asia, because of the existence and extensive use of social websites to publish live clips and events, express discontent, and organize. Now we have another large-scale conflict building in the Middle East, and the world can perhaps best witness the evolution of it through these real-time means.

The Hyperbole of the Chinese Perspective

Why the emphasis on China? Because China has become, “one of a small number of countries that have significant national interests in every part of the world and that command the attention… of every other country and every international organization.” For all of the Pacific Rim and perhaps even for the United States, China is the most important nation to pay close attention to. It seems determined to expand both its physical and influential power in its region, and by having the largest economy, population, and military in East Asia, nearby states are getting increasingly concerned. Already China has flexed its muscles in relations with Japan over the Diaoyu islands, the Philippines over disputed fishing waters, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the list goes on. And because of this ‘aggressive behavior,’ many political scientists, China specialists, and Congressmen argue that China has a certain negative perception of what the Unites States thinks of all this. How China Sees America by Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell covers one opinion of how the Chinese perceive the Unites States [see cartoon below]. The article would make it seem as if China has intense distrust; distrust not only of the United States but of many and most large foreign governments.
So how legitimate is this opinion of distrust? It stems from the fact that we have two countries with grossly different governmental structures. The United States prides itself on the transparency of its government, while China has a history of working in the shadows and sees little wrong with doing so. This inherently makes the United States suspicious of China’s cloaked decisions. And because of the Chinese belief that governments are genuinely secretive, they tend not to trust the openly expressed American statements. Thus this idea that the U.S. is (secretively) secret is often what the Chinese are accused of believing.

How true is this? Only the Chinese government could tell you for sure. There is little doubt that  China often takes what foreign superpowers say with a grain of salt. But then again they deserve to, for the United States, the E.U., and Japan all have a histories of suddenly altering policies. At the same time, however, the idea that Beijing is writhing its hands in frustration, attempting to decipher what foreign governments are secretly up to is a fallacy. Especially with Secretary Clinton at the helm and now that President Obama has been re-elected, the Chinese are more comfortable believing what the United States openly says. Yes there are tensions over Taiwan, currency manipulations, and job exporting. But relations these days are generally improving, and though the Chinese do not trust the United States to align with Chinese interests, they are more confident that what the United States and other powers state to the international community is the political truth.

Syria’s Threats to Intervention

President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria spoke out to say the price of a foreign invasion on Syria is, “more than the whole world can afford.” Syria President Warns Against Foreign Intervention in Syria reads the International Herald Tribune article. Oh, what a surprise that the President of a war-torn nation whose authority is under severe scrutiny thinks that intervention is a bad idea. Would involvement be costly to the United States and other NATO or UN nations? Yes. Would they, ‘not be able to afford it?’ I don’t think so.

Africa’s Growing, but Hunger Remains

Africa Can Feed Itself. The World Bank reports that Africa is growing enough food for the continent to feed its population, and many NGOs specializing in food security agree. But often there is starvation and malnutrition in the lesser developed nations of Africa, and nations are forced to import increasing amounts of food from other world regions. What gives?

Improper distribution is the culprit. If you’ve seen Black Hawk Down, you have viewed the devastating scene of the Somalian government denying citizens of Mogadishu bags of grain. There is no denying that there have been moments of intense starvation in Africa’s recent history. Even though Africa now produces enough food, there are still high “cross-border restrictions on the food trade,” resulting in many nations not having the food security they could easily obtain. And with rapidly growing populations, food insecurity issues will only get worse if nothing changes.
Why create barriers to trade, especially with other African countries? Governments in Africa often oppose the export of foods out of their countries theoretically to stabilize their food supply, and to insure that their nation in particular does not run a deficit. But this strategy can and does leave their neighbors with shortages, and it can be lose-lose situation for the exporting nations then miss out on the capital they could make from the exports.
Free trade has not yet taken the priority with many of Africa’s governments, who have separate priorities or may simply believe that safeguarding their own resources will in the long-run most benefit their nation. Realistically, it probably won’t. When the countries on the same continent refuse to help each other they all lose out. So these restrictions should be eliminated. Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia are a few of the exceptions that generally allow free trade of food supplies, and have been successful in decreasing hunger and growing their economies domestically. Africa has the ability to feed itself, and now the policy changes must be made in order to do so.