Funeral of Shimon Peres brings together Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Simon Peres, former Israeli prime minister and key player in the Oslo Accords, a plan for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, died on Wednesday Sep. 28. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s president,  attended his funeral on Friday, in addition to other world leaders like François Hollande, President of France, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former President Bill Clinton.

Abbas claims that Israel is not upholding its end of the Oslo Accords, and has threatened to do just that with Palestine’s end of the bargain. He and Netanyahu have a frosty relationship as well. The hope that sprang from the Oslo Accords has more or less vanished. However, it does say something that Abbas, as The New York Times said, “risked political damage at home by agreeing to attend.” He is already considered to be too friendly with the Israelis, but that fact that he was willing to go to Peres’s funeral says a lot. Was this a move of humility by Abbas? What does it say about the future of Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The article says a warming of relations is unlikely, but I feel Abbas’s move was honorable and shouldn’t be overlooked. Of course, that won’t solve a whole lot in the long run, but I think its a start.

NOTE: BYU Students studying at the Jerusalem Center also attended the funeral and are quoted in the article

“Fees Must Fall”: Anatomy of the Student Protests in South Africa

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Protests have arisen in South Africa due to the rise of college tuition to students already buried in debt. Decreasing academic budgets have forced universities to increase tuition against the community’s pleas. Communities already struggling financially. The protests began as simple demonstrations by students, but quickly escalated as the police got involved, using tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets against students as an attempt to subdue the growing masses.

This article not only brings up the difficulties that students have at the time of graduation with massive student loans, it also discreetly mentions the growing dissatisfaction between the public and the police. However, this article’s focus in on the student’s struggle with college debt, using the South African protests to showcase our similar problems in the US.

The United States faces the same problems regarding the high prices of tuition and the looming debt students carry from their student loans. College is expensive, yet has become essential in developed countries to the point where it is near impossible to get a good job without it. Because of this, students look at student debt as a necessary evil, when it does not have to be. It is interesting to compare the difficulties countries such as the Unites States and South Africa face regarding tuition, to countries like Germany and Norway who have tuition-free universities. Growing up in a world where higher education has become the standard, you have to wonder what actions need to and will be taken for future generations to achieve that increasing level of expectation.

 

Media and Murder Trials

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Oral Nicholas Hillary was acquitted for the strangling of six year-old Garrett Phillips, due to lack of evidence.Mr. Hillary had a reasonable alibi, and no physical evidence linked Oral to Garrett’s death. Potential motives included revenge-Mr. Hillary had been in a relationship with Garrett’s mother-and race.

While not as concerning as the case itself, Jesse McKinley’s coverage illustrates a dangerous trend in media: concern only for readership rather than concern for subject matter. Dramatizing the case as “a mystery tinged with race, jilted love and questionable prosecution,” or “steeped in raw emotion and drama: the violent, unsolved murder of a child, an unheard-of crime in a small town, and a long imperfect search for a killer,” McKinley manufactures suspense, rather than sympathy. What is the role of a journalist? What does a journalist’s stylistic choice say about readers? Can issues be covered respectfully and engagingly? Achieving balance is difficult; while writing this post I felt a desire to value readability over moderation. What does respectful, honest, and engaging journalism look like?

NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/nyregion/oral-nicholas-hillary-potsdam-murder-trial-garrett-phillips.html?_r=0

Image:http://www.thehistoryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/keepcalm.jpg

When You Must Choose Between What is Right and What is Easy…Don’t Trust Congress

The legislative drama of the past few months has finally come to a head as Congress voted yesterday to overthrow President Obama’s veto and allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. This law will give the families of 9/11 victims their “day in court” and allow them to sue the Saudi government or Saudi officials who are proven to have aided the terrorist plot. While it is natural for these families to seek for justice and find someone to blame, this law could have many far-reaching consequences.

Most importantly, this law replaces a 1976 law that gives foreign governments (not individuals) sovereign immunity from U.S. lawsuits. The principle of sovereign immunity is an important norm of international law, and this law will set an unhealthy precedent for future interactions. It will leave the United States vulnerable in the event that private citizens from other countries wish to file a lawsuit against the United States. Because of the U.S.’s heavy overseas military involvement and international presence, we are particularly vulnerable to these types of lawsuits.

Additionally, this further complicates the American diplomatic process. Currently, foreign policy is complex as it is shaped by the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the CIA (to name only a few). This legislation now gives private citizens dangerous influence on U.S. foreign policy. If the administration is trying to negotiate a peace agreement or a trade deal, civil lawsuits conducted against the foreign government simultaneously will vastly weaken our diplomatic posture. This has already begun, as Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off “hundreds of billions of dollars of holdings in the U.S.” to avoid having their assets seized in a lawsuit.

Finally, independent investigations in both Saudi Arabia and the United States have concluded that there is “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the [terrorist] organization.” So, even if U.S. families can sue Saudi Arabia, there is virtually no existing evidence that would allow them to win such a lawsuit. The United States has sacrificed its sovereign immunity for, essentially, nothing.

If there were so many issues with this agreement, how did it override Obama’s veto with a 97-to-1 vote in the Senate?

Politics at their finest. Though logic does not support this law, the emotional pleas of the victims of 9/11 families have convinced Congressmen to look the other way. While all feel sympathy at the tragic heartbreak of these victims’ families, the politicians in Washington knew that it would be bad publicity if they were seen voting against this law. Within hours after the passing of this law, thirty Senators signed a letter expressing unease about the consequences of this vote. Despite strong misgivings, all of these Senators still voted for the law.

And the one “against” vote? Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. A senator who, incidentally, is not running for re-election. Reid was in a position to vote for what was best for the country, and not what was best for his polls.

President Obama sums up the situation perfectly:

“I think [this vote] was a mistake, and I understand why it happened. It’s an example of why sometimes, you have to do what’s hard, and frankly, I wish Congress here had done what’s hard…if you’re perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that’s a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/us/politics/senate-votes-to-override-obama-veto-on-9-11-victims-bill.html

Finally. Peace

On Monday, September 26th, a historical event happened in Columbia. After years of violence with “some 220,000 people lost their lives, and more than five million were displaced” a peace agreement was entered into between FARC and the Colombian Government. From kidnappings to ransackings to massacres FARC, a Marxist rebellion group, has been engaged in a war with Colombia since the 1960’s. This moment has been anticipated by some in both parties for awhile. President Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, spoke on this saying “What we sign today is a declaration from the Colombian people before the world that we are tired or war that we don’t accept violence as the means of defending ideas.” Rodrigo Londoño, the top commander of the FARC, added their sentiments, ““Let no one doubt that we will now pursue politics without weapons.” The peace agreement will be ratified by the people of Columbia this week. Some are actively opposed to it saying, ““With these agreements, there is neither justice nor truth for the victims.” But the vote is expected to be in favor for peace. This moment will be a moment of unity, a moment of progress, and a moment of peace; moments that have never been experienced by some in their own home country.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/world/americas/colombia-farc-peace-agreement.html?_r=0

   

Russian Bear and International Relations

Russian Bear and international relations
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/world/asia/malaysia-air-flight-mh17-russia-ukraine-missile.html

Recently, the dutch investigation has concluded that the missle responsible for bringing down a Malaysia Airlines airplane down in Ukraine was Russian. It was given to Ukrainian separatists, which they used in shooting down the plane and then returned it to Russia. They are concluding essentially that Russia is directly responsible for the this unprovoked attack and deaths of innocent people.

How they concluded that the missile was Russian or that Russia supplied it to the the separatists, I do not know. However, this article provoked me to think how the United States would act if a nearby country joined an anti-american alliance. I am by no means going to try and defend the unprovoked attack on the Malaysia Airlines but what i hope to do is explore why Russia has acted so strongly to the Ukrainian Revolution and the new-found desire of a Ukrainian-NATO alliance.

How i interpret these actions is that NATO was created as an anti russian alliance. at the end of the cold war, It was my understanding that NATO reached an agreement with the old Soviet union russia that they would not expand to threaten russian interests. However, Since ukraine is a substantial part of the Russian border the expansion of the anti-russian alliance is a definite threat to Russia and her sphere of influence. The significance of Ukraine joining NATO is that it would receive NATO military equipment and military bases.

How would America react of Mexico, joined a league of Anti-american interests with Russia and China? What if Mexico ousted its democratically elected president and installed a new leader that wanted pushed for Mexico to join this anti-american league? I strongly suspect that America would not tolerate a border country to join a league that was created to undermine american interests. Now, how would rereact if Mexico started receiving military equipment from this alliance and placed it at the American border, with missile technology that would allow mexico to reach major US cities including Washington DC.

I think we all remember what happened when this ALMOST happened with Cuba? How did we react then? How do you think we would react now?

What the separatists did by shooting down the Malasyia Airline was wrong. How Russia is reacting to Ukraine is wrong. But i think that it is understandable? And when we read these news articles, i think it is important that we imagine how our own country would respond to similar circumstances.

Death Squad Mayor Becomes Filipino President

Newly elected Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has been lashing out at everyone from the EU to the US. This is shocking to the world but most Filipino citizens of his home town of Davao are not surprised. When he was the mayor of Davao he was known as the “kill squad.” Since taking office he has threatened to kill all criminals and in 3 months of his presidency 3,000 people have been killed.  When the European Parliament confronted Duterte aabout the deaths he said “F—— you” and gave them the finger. He recently announced that they would stop doing joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea putting at risk the Philippines’ greatest ally found in the US. He even referenced President Obama as the “son of a whore.” Many Filipinos are concerned about losing the US as their strongest ally. Needless to say, President Duterte has been raising concerns in the Philippines as well as around the world.
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The Philippines has a history of dictators that have done a lot of damage to their economy. The most significant in recent history was the dictator Marcos. Having served my mission in the Philippines, I imagine that many Filipinos are afraid of Duterte becoming a dictator like Marcos who declared marshall law in 1972. The scars that Marcos left are still deep, and I hope that Filipinos recognize that and overthrow this new president before he causes more destruction to the Philippines.

Iranian Women’s Rights Activist Is Given 16-Year Sentence

Narges Mohammadi has been sentenced by the Iranian government to a 16 year sentence for leading an activist group and “conspiring against the state”.  She is being held in horrible conditions with many other female political criminals.  She says that they often keep the prisoners in solitary confinement and that the psychological strain is the worst.

Friends and fellow activists say that she committed no crime.  She is a lawyer and was only doing her job.

Ms. Mohommadi went on a hunger strike after being told that she could not talk to her children and husband over the phone.  This seems so extreme and inhuman.  The psychological strain of being alone, not even being able to talk to your family, seems like the worst form of pain.  It is too much for anyone to handle, especially someone who really has done nothing wrong and definitely hasn’t done anything deserving of such punishment.

After a social media campaign, the regulations were softened a bit, but it is hard to believe that they happened at all.

When I hear about things like this I automatically think of what I could do to change it, what our country can do.  It is frustrating because we can’t just interfere in another government and the way that things are run but there is a part of me that feels guilty for letting this happen in the world at all.

Iranian Women’s Rights Activist Is Given 16-Year Sentence

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: The Dutch Officially Implicate Russia

Many have claimed that Russian military was directly involved in the annexation of Crimea and other recent violent events in Ukraine. Many claimed that Russian fighters in Ukraine, or at least Russian weaponry, shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. But, Russia directly denied this and there was little concrete information. But, as reported by the New York Times, a team of prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine just released the results of a meticulous investigation into the two-year-old incident, and they directly incriminate Russia. Dozens of Dutch scientists died on the flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and now there is legitimate information about it. But, it doesn’t seem like they or the world can do much. Russia is a nuclear-armed military superpower and they are part of the UN, where they vetoed a Dutch attempt to start an international tribunal over the incident. It seems all the world can really do is share the truth of the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin’s actions. It may make a difference among the minds of Russia’s own citizens and maybe they will be able to elect a more peaceable leader, but at the least, the world can inform its citizens of the danger of Russia and can discourage alliances and sympathy. Furthermore, I believe our nation’s leaders and future leaders should go nowhere near celebrating or honoring Putin and his history of warmongering and tyranny.

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(Image originally from Wikipedia.)

Women Are Leaning In—but They Face Pushback

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This article, written by the chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., Sheryl Sandberg, discusses how women in the workplace still have much progress to make when it comes to promoting gender equality. Women are far less likely than men to be promoted from entry level to manager, and they continue to lose ground incrementally the more senior they become. This gap in female leadership is not due to attrition as many believe; in fact, women and men are leaving their companies at about the same rate.

Research shows that gender equality is as good for business as it is for individuals. Diverse teams and companies produce better results and higher revenue and profits, which lead to more opportunity for everyone, not just women. While companies are highly committed to solving the problem, they are struggling to put their commitment into practice. Sandberg assures that companies can make a difference in investing in gender-bias training. Companies can also encourage every employee to talk openly about gender stereotypes in order to provide women with more leadership opportunities, access to sponsors, and recognition for their contributions.

I believe that we can make a difference in continuing to encourage women to be strong, opinionated individuals and to keep negotiating—until the day that it’s seen as perfectly normal, and even expected, for women to ask for more.

Full article here