Investment or Environment?

What price are we willing to pay to make a profit? Last year, huge multinational plantations used blazes to clear over 10,000 square miles of forests and in the process caused a massive health problem for citizens of Southeast Asia which was estimated to result in a $16 billion economic loss. In addition to the sickening haze that spread over the entire region, these blazes also ravaged the natural environment and the organisms that call this area home. This region is home to the majority of wild orangutans left in the world, with at least nine orangutans killed in these corporate blazes. Although this Indonesian providence is equipped with the largest primate rehabilitation center in the world, a spike in facility-housed primates over recent years shows just how poorly government initiatives are at protecting the rich biodiversity in this region.

Although laws are in effect to protect the environment, “enforcement is lax.” Several criminal investigations are underway against these major corporations but not a single case has had any headway over the last year. Unless proper measures are taken to freeze the deforestation in this region, this problem is likely to continue. Due to the severity of last year’s fires, the government has deployed a new mission to prevent land from rights being gained by these corporations and has encouraged them to increase productivity on the land they do possess as opposed to cutting down more forest. Rehabilitation worker Eman Supriyadi said, “Investment is good, but so is the environment, there has to be a balance.” Hopefully as these new initiatives are deployed, this lopsided scenario does as Eman said and regains some balance. Achieving this goal is not only crucial to the primate species within the area, but also to the Indonesian citizens in the area who should be safe from the harmful side effects these fires cause.

The Peril of the Panama Papers

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Credit: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

With the reveal of the Panama Papers, political ramifications are already beginning to take effect. In Iceland, Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson announced his resignation after the papers leaked his involvement in the creation of a company in the British Virgin Islands (where a conflict of interest could arise) and trove of off-shore bank accounts (NY Times). With the launch of new criminal investigations into the accounts, protests have broken out with calls for more transparency.

Iceland is not alone. Other leaders such as UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif also had similar holdings and are currently under pressure from protests and investigations.
Is it possible that these papers will lead to a new wave of protests and revolutions like the Arab Spring? Some people believe that the release of documents on WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011 acted as a catalyst for the Arab Spring (The Guardian). From the current effects and the spread of protests, it appears likely that many countries will undergo financial reform and transparency to settle the protests. In countries such as China, where the Panama Papers leaked holdings surrounding members of the Politburo, the government has censored the information to its citizens. Regardless of the censorship, the Panama Papers have changed the game for governments listed in the papers. Governments can seek reform and change–even in leadership–or become more repressive to control any damage because of the papers.

As Non-American as Baseball

Baseball. America’s favorite pastime for almost as long as anyone can remember. It used to be looked to as one of the pioneers when it come to race and progression, but there’s been a big time change in the game. Last year, only 8% of professional baseball players were Black, and many people have wondered what’s happening in the sport. Is baseball too white? As a sport it is still making plenty of money and has a lot of dedicated fans, but the World Series has become less and less popular over the last few years. Many accuse the MLB of white-washing, and it’s starting to raise some eyebrows. 

There is, however, one interesting aspect to this story. There’s been a huge increase in the number of Latino players. In fact, starting next year, teams will be required to have a Spanish translator. 

So what’s up with baseball? Can it still be considered progressive, or are other factors at play? 

Article (op-Ed) here.

Corrupted President who can’t be Impeached

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma has been under intense scrutiny for quite a while now. He has faced massive backlash for his use of millions of state dollars for improvements on his private home. If you have the time, go ahead and search the web for Nkandla, which is the name of his residence.
Last Thursday, the constitutional court ruled that Mr. Zuma acted against the constitution by ignoring a national watchdog agency which told him to reimburse the sate for the non-security improvements.
The President and the ruling party defended their actions saying that Mr. Zuma acted in good faith, but was led astray by bad legal advice. They stuck to this theory in the impeachment court on Tuesday. The article says, “The impeachment motion required a two-thirds majority vote to pass, but the ruling party has a comfortable majority in the Assembly”. Obviously the vote failed, and President Jacob Zuma will not be impeached for his misuse of millions of dollars for personal gain.

Fight to the End

With the recent win of Ted Cruz in Wisconsin, the republican party is again left to play a guessing game of who will be the nominee. For the first time since Iowa, Cruz won by a large margin, with Trump’s popularity at an all time low. Indeed, some exit polls said that if Trump was the candidate they would support Hillary Clinton, a third party, or none at all. Interestingly enough, even with last nights win, Cruz doesn’t have a safe bet for the nomination, thanks to John Kasich, who has enough support to take away key candidates.

How is this race going to swing? Trump is deeply controversial. Yet Cruz, his top contender, is notoriously unpopular in his own political arena, the senate, and was once considered incredibly divisive himself. If the nomination is decided at a party convention, who will the nominee be? If it comes to that, I wonder if the republic delegates will choose neither Cruz nor Trump, but try to draft someone more uniting. One things for sure: it’s going to be an interesting ride.

Too Much?

In recent events, Mainland China refused to air the Hong Kong Film Awards Ceremony because of the film that won first place. This film was called “Ten Years” and is about a dark future for Hong Kong being bullied by Mainland China into assimilation. In reflects on how Mainland China’s “one country two systems” policy isn’t actually being carried out. CCTV suddenly switched from the airing to show a cooking show at the time when it was supposed to be broadcasted. A Chinese newspaper reported that the film was “absurd,” a “thought virus,” and “fear mongering.” The event shows an increase in tension between Hong Kong and Mainland China. But what do you think; did either side go too far?

 

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/world/asia/hong-kong-china-film-award-ten-years.html?_r=0

Pennsylvania Uncovers More Clergy Sex Abuse

This story is beginning to sound slightly familiar, women and men from their late sixties to early forties are beginning to come forward with stories of being sexually abused by clergy members in their childhood. In her preteens Maureen Powers was sexually abused for two years by her priest who told her it was for the purpose of “research”. Her case is not an anomaly. Many priest raped and sexually abused children for years while their superiors, and even at times the police have assisted in covering their actions. Later in life many of the victims have committed suicide. These chidden and adults had no one to turn to. It goes with out saying how horrifying the story is.

But now some kind of justice is being served, Mark Rozzi who was sexually abused himself as a boy, is fighting to change laws in the state of Pennsylvania so living perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions. Churches are taking down any form of banners and pictures honoring the accused bishops. Though these actions are bringing some relief, its sad to realize these victims will never find true healing. I think we need to work harder as a nation to prevent and expose sexual abuse, especially in institutions like universities, any kind of school and churches. These institutions are supposed to be safe places for adults and children and I think everybody should be in charge of keeping it this way.

 

The Panama Paper

The revelation of the “Panama Paper”, which leaked the information of thousands of offshore bank accounts and tax havens used by many powerful people, has shocked the world. At first glance because of the sheer magnitude of the information found (2.6 terebytes of data) but also because of what this reveals about the worlds political and social leaders.  Although having an offshore bank account is not in and of itself illegal, many people use it to avoid paying taxes or other things, and so everyone with accounts is being called into question.

The first leader to be affected is the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to resign, yet there are surely many to follow. The discovery of the Panama Papers has impacted the world because it has exposed a secret realm where the rich and powerful continue to benefit while the average citizen suffers because of their selfishness. Tax evasion affects the whole nation, because citizens are no longer able to benefit from the programs and resources that the government could have offered with those paid taxes. We must also keep in mind that this manipulation of money also affects the economy as a whole. It is disappointing to see just another way that the world’s elite are selfishly taking advantage of others and I think that there should be consequences to pay for those who have been involved in these secret activities, including the banks involved.

view the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/opinion/the-panama-papers-sprawling-web-of-corruption.html?ref=world

Arabic Soon to be Second Most Spoken Language in Sweden

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In Sweden, Finnish has for decades been the second most spoken language. The closeness in proximity and cultures has for centuries fostered a natural interaction. But for the first time ever, Arabic is about to push Finnish aside to become the second most spoken language in Sweden.

While many may be surprised, in taking a closer look there are a few key facts to point to. Many of the Finnish speaking population is older, and beginning to die out. They might have spoken the language with their children, but living in Sweden, most probably prefer to speak Swedish in their daily lives. The other influencer is that last year, 163,000 migrants, mostly from the Middle-East applied for asylum in Sweden, considering estimated 155,000 people of Middle-Eastern decent lived in Sweden in 2012, that number easily begins to swallow the 200,000 who report Finnish as their first language.

Europe has always been a crossroads of civilization, as seen by the sheer number and diversity of the languages and cultures. But I find it interesting seeing this culture mixing happening now, even though similar things have occurred for thousands of years. How will Eastern cultures change Europe? I don’t know. Many in Europe are panicking, talking about the loss of their culture, which is understandable. But haven’t cultures always adapted and shifted, borrowing things from each other? This idea that culture is a fixed, rigid thing that needs to be protected from other cultures is absolutely incorrect.

Read the full story at Sveriges Radio.

“While others Fiddle and Diddle, California Moves”

We’ve all observed the recent inactivity of Congress, but California lawmakers decided to not let Washington’s lack of progress stop their own. This has been a big week for the state, which passed a plan to raise the minimum wage by 2022 to $15, is working on a secure retirement savings plan, and is pushing other liberal ideas through their legislature. Yesterday, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to provide 6 weeks of fully paid leave for both parents of a newborn or newly adopted child. The United States is one of the last countries to not offer some form of paid parental leave through national legislation, but San Francisco is blazing the trail in responding to the growing demand for such protection. There has been great attention to the issue of paternal leave as major tech companies offer full benefits to their employees (Twitter will begin offering full-time employees 20 weeks of paid leave in May) and as public figures, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder who took a considerable leave after the birth of his first child, establish public support for the policy.

The new law will protect from people merely using the system because it provides stipulations on length of employment before the paid leave can be applied to an employee and it will be implemented in phases so as not to overwhelm employers or produce major push back. It is the first step towards national action on the subject. Californian lawmakers are frustrated with the gridlock in Congress, so they are taking action on their own to protect the social interests of their citizens. It is great that a family-focused policy such as paid leave for both parents is getting so much national attention and, hopefully, other cities and states will soon follow California’s lead to force national action on the issue. Families deserve time at the beginning to become established and form those connections. And, while California continues forward, I hope the rest of us aren’t far behind them.

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