Archive for the ‘Regions’ Category

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Cancun Mayor Campaigns from Jail

June 15, 2010

Current Cancun Mayor, Gregorio Sánchez.

Current Cancun Mayor, Gregorio Sánchez was arrested two weeks ago on charges that he was helping out two drug dealers from the current “War on Drugs” in the northern states of Mexico.

He stashed a total of $2.5 million dollars throughout a half dozen bank accounts across Mexico for them. Though he denies the allegations; Sánchez is currently in a high security prison in the state of Nayarit.

Sánchez also announced that he will continue to run for governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo from his jail cell, over 1,000 miles away on the Pacific Coast. If his name stays on the ballot for the July 4th election, and he wins, this could be very interesting for the future of politics in Mexico. His win could even bring more hope to the drug cartels as they continue to corrupt and infiltrate the Mexican government.

Drug corruption in their city comes as no surprise to the residents of Cancun. They have seen five of the last seven mayors be involved in similar activities. In a time when the “War on Drugs” is at its highest having corruption in cities like Cancun will only hurt President Calderon’s efforts to end the war.

To the people of Cancun, Sánchez is known as “Greg” and he has plastered a billboard slogan “Greg is With You” all over the city.

Time will only tell if “Greg” is with the people of Cancun and Quintana Roo, but currently he can only be with them in spirit from his cell block.

-By Jamie Bowen

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Iran’s Secret Weapon—Not What You Think

December 10, 2009

(Reuters)

In recent years, the global community has rightly expressed concern about Iran’s apparent efforts to acquire a nuclear bomb. If Tehran eventually becomes a member of the world’s elite nuclear club, it would change the geopolitical scene across the broader Middle East, especially given ongoing tensions between Iran and nuclear-armed Israel. That’s one of the reasons both Israeli and U.S. military planners have not eliminated the idea of launching preventive strikes against Iranian uranium-enrichment facilities.

But according to a report released by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, such an operation could be enormously costly. And not for the usual reasons, such as diplomatic fallout, operational expenses, or the potential for civilian casualties. Instead, it has to do with a heavily-trafficked body of water off Iran’s southern coast, the Strait of Hormuz.

The strait—one of the most strategically important waterways in the world—is only about 30 miles wide at its narrowest point. And it’s through here, between the shores of Iran and Oman, that about 40 percent of the globe’s oil passes, en route from the Persian Gulf to the world at large. ONI officials are now warning that thanks to upgraded naval power and improved weaponry, Iran could essentially shut the Strait of Hormuz down in the event of an Israeli- or American-led war.

With the world still experiencing severe economic troubles, the sudden and massive drop-off in oil supplies caused by the strait’s closure would be devastating. Tehran has long known this, but now has the capability to make good on its threat. So while Iran will likely keep the world guessing about the nature of its nuclear program, one thing seems certain—the potential risks of waging preventive war just got a lot higher.

-Russell Sticklor

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Global (Affairs) Warming

December 9, 2009

(AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

The elusive common ground in climate talks is in jeopardy at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen after developing countries responded angrily to leaked documents that show world leaders will be asked to sign an agreement that further empowers rich countries and undermines the UN’s role in future climate change negotiations.

The leaked documents—according to the Guardian—allegedly drafted by the Danish government, outlined the plans to force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts that were not part of the original UN agreement. The documents categorize certain developing countries as “the most vulnerable”.

The documents are being interpreted as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

Negotiations for climate change have unexpectedly been shifted to an imbalance in sovereignty exasperating the disparity between wealthy and developing nations. The text was intended by Denmark and other wealthy nations to be a working framework, which would be adapted by countries over the next week. It is especially inflammatory because it sidelines the role of the UN in the negotiating process and implies that rich countries are desperate for world leaders to have a text to work from when they arrive next week.

Despite difficulties, optimism is at an all-time high with the expectation that President Obama, who plans to attend closing days of the conference next week, will formally commit the United States to making cuts in greenhouse gases. President Obama is expected to tell delegates in Copenhagen that the United States is working vigorously to confront the problem.

These include far-reaching cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from big polluters like the United States and China, and a commitment from wealthy nations to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars in financing to poor countries, which are incapable of dealing with a problem they did little to create.

When all is said and done, coercing rich countries to lay money on the table for poor countries may prove to be the most significant obstacle to reaching a consensus.

While there are discrepancies about the adopted measures there is one issue that continues to haunt global affairs: parity.

-Mark Ericson

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Isolationism Returns to U.S. Shores

December 8, 2009

(AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

On the heels of President Obama’s announcement last week that 30,000 more troops will be heading to Afghanistan over the next six months, isolationist sentiment among the American public has soared to the highest levels seen since the late 1960s.

According to a poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (http://people-press.org), 49% of Americans think the U.S. should “mind its own business” overseas. By comparison, fewer than one in three Americans had the same feelings in late 2002, just months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. (In terms of the Obama administration’s decision to increase the American troop presence in Afghanistan, about one-third of respondents said they were in favor, while 40% said the number of soldiers currently deployed should be drawn down.)

It’s no surprise that both Americans stationed abroad and living in the States are war-weary after 8 years of continuous conflict—especially considering how open-ended the campaign in Afghanistan looms at the moment. But there is a growing perception among Americans that the down economy, coupled with the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has already done much to erode U.S. power on the world stage. More than 40% of respondents to the Pew survey said the U.S. now plays a less critical role as a leader of the global community than it did 10 years ago.

Still, the biggest question may be what the pulse of American public opinion will be six months to a year from now—once the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Obama administration’s troop increase in Afghanistan starts to become apparent.

-Russell Sticklor

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Remembering Bhopal: 25 Years Later

December 3, 2009

(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

On December 3, 1984, the city of Bhopal, India, became the site of the world’s worst industrial accident. Shortly after midnight, 45 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas started to leak from a pesticide factory operated by a local subsidiary of Union Carbide, a U.S. company. The fumes quickly suffocated the city. Over the next few hours, some 3,000 local residents died, while tens of thousands more were injured—either by the gas or in the rush to escape the city.

In the ensuing years, an estimated 15,000 more Bhopal residents died from health conditions linked to the disaster, while another 500,000 were left with chronic medical problems, ranging from breathlessness and immune system disorders to blindness. Making matters worse, birth defect rates in children born to Bhopal survivors have been abnormally high, making this tragedy one that has spanned generations.

So what ever came of the company responsible? In 1989, five years after the disaster, Union Carbide agreed to a settlement of nearly $500 million. But it refused to assume any additional liability, a move that outraged India and much of the world. Then Union Carbide officials—showing the type of class one might expect from a major petrochemical company—announced they had no intention of cleaning up the site. Today, the hulking shell of the plant remains, rusted over and abandoned, and the city continues to suffer from environmental contamination.

The legacy of the Bhopal disaster is a tricky one. On one hand, there have been no industrial accidents on such a scale in the quarter-century since, suggesting that perhaps safety standards worldwide have improved. On the other hand, it is a known fact that Western-owned corporations continue to open factories across the developing world precisely because they know they don’t have to abide by the tight safety regulations they would have to adhere to in developed nations.

If it is only a matter of time before the next Bhopal, one can only hope that the company responsible be held more accountable than Union Carbide ever was. In the meantime, the memory of Bhopal remains ingrained in the world’s collective consciousness, its name mentioned in the same breath as places like Three Mile Island, Seveso and Chernobyl. Here’s to hoping more names don’t get added to that list.

-Russell Sticklor

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Al-Qaeda…in English

November 24, 2009

(AFP)

Since the early 20th century, English has been considered the main language of the globalizing economy, thanks to the power and influence of the British and, later, the Americans. These days, it turns out English is also fast becoming one of the main languages to promote Islamic extremism. At the moment, there are some 200 Internet sites disseminating al-Qaeda’s views in the language, and recent years have seen the rapid proliferation of such sites. (Back in 2002, there were only about 30.)

It’s no secret that al-Qaeda has been tech-savvy enough to maintain a continuous online presence in the Internet Age. It sometimes even seems that without the occasional video or audiotape posted online, Osama bin Laden might just as well be stuck in a Pakistani mountain valley, his microphone unplugged.

But al-Qaeda knows well the strategic importance of the web, and that’s why it has been busy translating its message for the English-speaking online world. Religious sermons, op-eds, speeches—if they preach the al-Qaeda message, you can bet there are a number of folks writing up or recording English-language versions. Al-Qaeda’s increasing reach online has allowed it to build its brand in the West, where it hopes to pull disillusioned Muslim youth into its ranks.

And it’s savvy move. Worldwide, nearly half a billion people speak Arabic as their first or second tongue. The total number of English speakers—considering that many people learn the language even as a third language—is several times higher. So while the al-Qaeda ideology may remain morally bankrupt, its message is arguably being spread more widely than ever before. Whether the trend drives away or attracts potential recruits in the West is the big question.

-Russell Sticklor

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India: Challenges and Opportunities of Being a New Power

November 20, 2009

(AP/Gurinder Osan)

Though India has often been eclipsed by the rise of China over the past two decades, there is an awful lot of moving and shaking going on in New Delhi these days. Some 60 years after independence, India—now home to the world’s second fastest growing major economy and a population of some 1.1 billion—is well on its way to securing major player status on the international scene. And both Bush and Obama administrations have delighted that one of India’s foreign policy priorities has been and continues to be cultivating deeper economic, security and political ties with the U.S.

Earlier this week at a talk sponsored by George Washington University’s Sigur Center for Asian Studies, C. Raja Mohan—one of India’s preeminent strategic analysts—described how things are beginning to “click” for India. Mohan talked about how since the late 1940s, India has traditionally experienced a mismatch between its lofty geopolitical ambitions and its more modest economic and military capabilities. But he added that as India has achieved rapid modernization during that last 20 years, that gap finally seems to be narrowing. This means that in the relatively near future, India could see itself exercising political leadership and driving trade growth with a newfound sense of purpose, not only in South Asia but elsewhere around the world.

The U.S., for its part, is keen on teaming up with India, first and foremost because it is a fellow democracy and major trade partner. But U.S. policy makers are also well-aware that a stable and prosperous India is important because it serves as a strategic counterweight to the power of a rising China on the other side of the Himalayas.

Expect U.S. courtship of India to be in high gear early next week, as the two countries seek to sketch out a new chapter in their relations. Beginning Monday, Washington DC will morph into Little Delhi, as the White House hosts a state visit from Indian PM Manmohan Singh. Looks to be a lovefest all around.

-Russell Sticklor