Australian Premier Moves Swiftly Against ISIS, but Analysts Question Benefits

Australia, ISIS

As tends to happen in countries with binary political systems the pendulum of opinion swings from one end to the other. Australia finds itself leaning on the more conservative end. While other parties do exist, the two party preferred vote keeps power between the Coalition or Labor parties.

Since taking power Tony Abbot’s conservative Liberal party (I know that sounds like a oxymoron here in the US) has played one of the surest cards someone on the right can play: xenophobia. While Australia has few Muslims, the panic throughout the world over ISIS has given Prime Minister Abbott a good excuse to look tough and as a result reap the benefits of higher opinion polls. Sending fighter jets and soldiers is just one way one way to distract Australians from any of his misgivings at home. War and looking tough have long been tools used by politicians to shift the attention of the public away from domestic issues. Granted at times there are cases when foreign policy should be at the forefront of public attention, i’m skeptical as to whether Tony Abbott is really doing this for the good and safety of the Australian people.

Welcoming Refugee Children

Recently President Obama has approved a plan to allow thousands of young children from Central American countries to apply for refugee status and immigrate to the United States to join family members already living here. Because the long journey across Mexico is so hazardous, Obama approved this plan because it will discourage children from making the trek. Thousands of children have been pouring into America claiming to be fleeing from rape and gang violence. The trek across Mexico is thought to be potentially even more dangerous than the situations the children are fleeing from in their home countries. Although the flow of children crossing the border has decreased since the summer, this new program is supposed stop this flow even further because now children will be able to apply for refugee status in their own country. Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the White House said,

We are establishing in-country refugee processing to provide a safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that children are currently undertaking to join relatives in the United States.

One of the big questions about this program is how the United States plans to handle these immigrants when we are already dealing with millions of illegal immigrants. Some critics warn that the program may even encourage more illegal immigration. Furthermore, more people will apply for immigration if they can do it easily from their home country. How will this affect our economy? How will this affect our population?

Obama counters these concerns by saying that only 4,000 of the 70,000 refugee visas should be given to children immigrating from Latin America and the Caribbean. Officials have said that “several program parameters” are still being worked out and that there will eventually be rules that will determine the age the children must be and what dire conditions they must face in order to be eligible for admittance to the United States as a refugee.

Human rights advocates love the idea of this new program because it will help protect the basic human rights of children and prevent cases of violence against children by drug trafficking gangs in Mexico and their home countries.

So, where do we draw the line with immigration? Is it better to protect children by loosening constraints on immigration and refugee status? Or is it better to keep the borders tight and work on the major current illegal immigration issues we are already facing?

As a former intern for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), I am a strong proponent of this program. But there are plenty of opposing opinions.

Pope Urges Europe to Open Doors to Refugees

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis urged Europe to open its doors to refugees in remembrance honoring the anniversary of the ship full of refugees that capsized off the coast of Sicily a year ago.

Pope Francis has always been open about his support of aiding and welcoming refugees, often comparing their plight to that of Jesus. He has asked the international community to stop this “globalization of indifference” towards those to risk their life to move to safe places hoping to make a better life for themselves. Millions of refugees already reside within Europe’s borders, but with economic issues that many countries within the EU are facing, the willingness to take in more refugees has dwindled.

– UNHCR/H. Caux

Hardships for refugees don’t stop once they’ve reached their destination; cultural, religious, and economic barriers come into play and can make life in the new country very difficult as well. That is what Pope Francis was referring to when he mentioned the “globalization of indifference”. Citizens within the countries that refugees are fleeing to often aren’t willing to help, or go out of their way, to make life easier for them, often seen as a burden on the society.

Let us be their neighbors, share their fears and uncertainty about the future, and take concrete steps to reduce their suffering. – Pope Francis

Conflicts around the world are growing, and therefore increasing the need for aid and residence for refugees, but with growing domestic economic issues in these countries, is it likely they’re going to open their borders?

In Hunt for Funds, Somalia Found Trouble

Somalia has spent the last 5 years wrangling with foreign interests to get money they thought belonged to them. They have had great difficulty doing so because of multiple corruption allegations, have had little success in getting it, and have ended up with a tarnished reputation in the international community. There is a good bit of complex finance behind the issue, but this seems to ignore an underlying issue with foreign aid in general, namely, that foreign aid may not help poor countries in any significant way, and may actually harm them.

Why is it that giving money to countries could have a negative effect? For the same reason that allowing your grown child to stay in the house and live off your means may inhibit their growth; they become dependent on what you give them. When providing money to poor countries, it is quite possible that they may become dependent on this money. They may not, of course, and could use it to climb out of poverty, but such is not guaranteed by any means. In addition, as shown in the case of Somalia, corruption can often filter foreign money away from its intended destination.

Can foreign aid help economic growth? Probably so. However, it is important that careful evaluations be made before spending significant funds on such endeavors.

Ebola americano

The CDC confirmed today that the United States’s first case of Ebola has arrived, and is in Texas. A traveller from Liberia, visiting family, began displaying symptoms a few days after his arrival.

Health experts have warned that ebola would reach the United States sooner or later. How the United States deals with this health threat will set a precedent for future cases. The infected man came into contact with family members and community members, and they will need to be monitored every day for 21 days to see if they begin to exhibit symptoms as well.

Health officials seem confident that this issue will be contained. They report that any hospital with the ability to treat infectious diseases in isolation is prepared to treat ebola patients.

How many more cases can the United States expect? The man was screened before leaving Liberia, and did not show any sign of fever or symptoms. If screenings cannot prevent ebola from entering the United States, then it stands to reasons that there will be more cases. Hopefully a pandemic is avoidable.


Standing Up For Hong Kong

In a gratifying shift in rhetoric today (see NYT article), British government officials condemned Chinese actions towards Hong Kong, specifically their repression of recent pro-democracy protests. Britain has usually adopted a diplomatic approach when it comes to its relationship with China, but has now begun to take a firmer stance. This shift in rhetoric coincides with recent Chinese actions that flaunt the policy of preserving the freedom of Hong Kong, which dates to a Joint Declaration signed by both nations in 1984.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is expected to meet soon with Chinese authorities to convey British concern with the way the upcoming Hong Kong elections are to be conducted. China has placed restrictions on the candidate selection process, saying that only candidates who proclaim complete loyalty to Beijing will be allowed to participate in the elections. Said Mr. Clegg:

…the Chinese authorities in Beijing seem determined to refuse to give to the people of Hong Kong what they are perfectly entitled to expect, which is free, fair, open elections based on universal suffrage.

With Britain taking a firmer stand against Chinese actions in Hong Kong, it is hoped that China will realize that it is in its interests to maintain the stability and economically vibrant Hong Kong. Many would argue that the best way to achieve this is to allow Hong Kong to maintain the liberties it currently enjoys, and to allow Hong Kong to have an open and fair election come 2017. But will Britain really stand by its former colony, and with more than just words? What will be the country’s response should China escalate the situation? How committed is Britain, and indeed the West as a whole, to the continued freedom of Hong Kong?

The Effort to Stop Ebola

What is really being done to stop the spread of Ebola? According to President Obama, the United States is taking good strides to help curb the spread. In a meeting of the United Nations focused on limiting the spread of Ebola, Obama pushed for other nations to take the same steps. But how much has the United States really done? How much is there to be done? Sadly, this reminds me of a semi-popular game on mobile devices called Plague Inc. The point of the game is to create a virus that will spread across the world. Yes, it is not the happiest game in the world! But the reason I bring up this game is that it illustrates just how quickly a virus can spread; but, if brought down in its’ earliest stages it can be stopped somewhat easily. Now is a crucial time in taking a stance against this epidemic. Over 6,000 cases have been reported, one of them in the U.S., and there are certainly more beyond those reported. We must fight this battle now or it may soon be a lot more difficult to win it. This virus may topple a very fragile part of the world and the domino effect could be devastating. Now is the time; hopefully the rest of the world will see that and help to save the lives of thousands or more lives.

Catalonia: Do they deserve a referendum too?

Although Scotland has probably been the most visible, there are many independence movements going on throughout the world.  Perhaps the next most likely will be Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain– home to Barcelona and the strongest part of the Spanish economy.  However, while the UK allowed Scotland to hold a referendum concerning their independence, the Spanish government is not allowing Catalonia the same privilege.

The fight over Catalonia’s future is proving more contentious and has turned into the biggest political challenge for Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, since he took office in late 2011. Mr. Rajoy has vowed to prevent a secession vote, scheduled for Nov. 9, saying it would violate Spain’s Constitution.

Should Catalonia be able to a vote similar to Scotland’s?  Or is Mr. Rajoy justified in blocking one?  Read more here.

Is Model UN Sexist?

In my gender and politics class earlier this week, we read a research publication entitled “Gendered Discourse in the Political Behavior of Adolescents.” In this publication, they wanted to measure whether gender discourse in Model UN is highly masculinized and if so, what effect does this have on its participants.

The results are as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.01.33 PM

- Male delegates took 1409 speaking turns, 67.6 percent of the 2082 turns recorded in committee deliberation.

-The vast majority of female delegates participated only minimally if at all, while a larger proportion of males took turns.

-Male delegates also spoke first, taking 72.0 percent of first turns, a proportion higher than that of overall turn-taking.

-The role of the chair is critical -> on average, male chairs recognized just over three male turns for each female turn, while on average female chairs recognized 1.67 male turns for each female turn.

-Female speakers were not treated differently by the delegates as compared to male speakers

-It appears the delegates did not alter their behavior based on whether the initial speaker was a female.

-A female chair presiding over the committee is significantly and positively associated with female turn-taking.

-Females are more likely to take turns in larger committees presumably because there are simply more females present.

What are your thoughts on this? How would your strategy going into a conference change, based on this research?

A Mayor’s Words Inflame a Debate on Attitudes Against Women

I have heard time and time again from both men and women in my life that “Women’s equality is not an issue anymore.” This topic is something that is outdating and that people, specifically women, just keep “beating a dead horse.”

The following article ( from the New York Times gives great evidence as to prove the prominent issue that is still upon us. The following quotes are excerpts from the NYT article:

“Women, the mayor also suggested, should be more cautious about when and where they go out rather than expect the police to patrol every city park to protect them.”

“Eight women were killed last month by their husbands or former partners, the most deadly August in five years, according to the government.”

“Last month, a court overruled a contentious decision to cut the compensation to a woman who was raped in London because she had been drinking that night.”

“About 120 million girls and young women under the age of 20 have been raped or sexually assaulted, equivalent to one in 10, according to a recent study by Unicef.”


Do you think this isn’t an issue? I dare you to say no…..


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers