Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Turkey's newly built Borsphous Tunnel connects 2 continents

Turkey has done the impossible and necessary, Turkish construction companies recently completed one of the world's deepest and transcontinental tunnels that will allow the underground flow of traffic between Istanbul's European and Asian sides. The world's largest city now has an underground passageway to ease its famous congested bridge Borsphous and roads crisscrossing the city. The Borsphous Tunnel now joins the Transsiberian Railroad in Russia, English Channel, Transcontinental railroad in the US and Burj al Arab in Dubai as one of the world's architectural feat and marvels. It is also fulfilling a 150 year dream of a sultan.

Turkish tunnel links to continents

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Migrants' hell isn't over in Europe

African migrants who survived death and detention still continue to face legal limbo. Their requests for asylum and calls to be allowed to stay in Europe have been ignored as politicians debate how to handle migration and review border policies. The Italian government has reiterated as its done for years that other European governments step in to help manage migrant arrivals and stranded boats in the Mediterranean Sea. For most Africa and Arab migrants, their nightmare is not over. Many migrants face huge debt from human smugglers and anxiety in a new environment. They continue to face exploitation at the hands of scrupulous businessman working in the shadows. Unable to gain access to lawyers or having to wait weeks if not months just to process their documents, many san papeles (illegal immigrants) who have left the detention camps in Lampedusa now found themselves literally on the margins of Italian society. The migrants live in rundown makeshift refugee camps in old crumbling buildings or parks as they dodge the police. All this causes stress and leads to further health problems. Many migrants who have critical health problems either rely on local medical NGOs or charity works for medical examines or must improvise when the NGOs are not in reach.

No home, No Hope: Refugees in Rome reeling from austerity, anger and economic recession and limited housing

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bill to reopen government has pass

The bill to reopen the government and raise the debt limit has finally pass by the last minute vote from the House of Representatives. The bill came down from the Senate offering a comprise to reopen the American government to avoid economic catastrophe and negotiate with the president to pass the long term budget. The markets have rebounded on the good news, the global economy can breathe a small sigh of relief as it continues along. China is still watching the scene. the amount of money lost from the three week old shutdown measures in the hundreds of millions. Lives of millions of Americans were has been disrupted economically and socially in the name of punishing the President and his supporters for healthcare. In the long term many people will reconsider the priorities and goals of the extremist Republicans and their Tea Party supporters.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Suffer the People: Shutting down the Government and Debt Ceiling defaults

The young right wing Republicans led by Ted Cruz in cohorts with House of Representatives speaker John Boehner. Drawn by Carl Grandohl
Nearly two and half weeks have passed since the Republican led Congress shutdown the government. Some media pundits are referring to it as a partial shutdown. However for millions of Americans it is a full on shutdown that has far reaching political and economic consequences. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed basically having to stay home without pay until the shutdown is lifted. These non working federal employees across the country have been dubbed "non essential staff" in the same manner of embassy staff working in US diplomatic missions abroad during times of political crisis. Only critical infrastructure ie the food administration, public safety, dams, national security, school administrations and hospitals including VA, housing, will remain functioning under the partial shutdown for obvious reasons. National parks and monuments that are generally big tourist attractions continue to be close draining the tourist industry in the capital and other cities across the country. Early childhood development programs such as head start and public funded ie government funded educational/daycare programs for women and children have also been suffering funding or had to close temporary. Contrary to mainstream media, millions of Americans do rely on government social services not only for welfare but for educational and health services which includes nutritional meals for children, care for surgeries and treatment for cancer. The shutdown is aimed at hurting the Democratic Party and President to demonstrate the incompetency of the Obamacare which the Republican Party and its young right wing led by Ted Cruz see as a form of Big Government (read Keynesian economics and social services) and socialism. The Republicans have long complained and tried to paint President Obama as a Socialist which in American politics is still regarded as a left over curse word for Communist from the Cold War Era. However, the shutdown truly harms the people, ordinary Americans and their families who have little control over ending the deadlock. Anger has been growing among Americans who are frustrated by the shutdown and closure of important services. Protesters have been holding vigils and carrying banners in front of the Capital Building but many more do not have the means to march down to Washington. Last week a man lit himself on fire on the National Mall which is both a public park and tourist attraction in DC.

Veterans who have survived World War II, Vietnam and countless other wars including Afghanistan and Iraq have removed barricades from the World War II memorial in anger and protest to dump the barricades onto the front of the White House's North lawn to show their frustration at the real harm towards the people and ridiculousness of the Government shutdown. Truckers previously threatened to block the Beltway or loop that encircles Washington, DC voicing anger at the stalling by both political parties. 

Veterans storm White House with barricades 

The dipping of the Dow and Nasdaq

As with most political instability and lack of a fully functioning government, the American economy has been dipping downward. The Nasdaq and the Dow continue to be in the red as the global financial markets reacts to the now two week old government shutdown in the United States. Fitch has warned the US that if a deal is not reached on the debt ceiling issue, the US' credit rating would be downgraded. The global economy still chuggs along. African and Asian tiger economies are experiencing slowing but continual growth. India's currency, the rupee has recently been depreciated after performing decently for a couple of years. China's growth has been stalling over the past year. However its stake in the American shutdown lies in the US debt it owes to China from decades borrowing loans via treasury bonds. Congress also has to rise the debt ceiling on October 17 otherwise the economic downturn will continue. World leaders have insisted that the US end the bickering and pass the debt ceiling to avoid loosing potential global investments and financial opportunities. Tomorrow evening we shall see if the US will default on its national debt numbering in the trillions. If the country does default on its debt which would spell gradual financial doom for the global stock market, will also deepen the current recession. Mainstream media insists that the country has been out of recession since 2009. However, the recession has always existed since the 2008 financial crisis. It has not disappeared as unemployment continues to increase and austerity measures has led to the near collapse of the PIGS economies in Europe. Thousands of protesters in Athens and across various Greek cities every other week is a constant reminder that Americans could soon be joining angry Greek protesters in taking to the streets to protest against Congress. Americans have been seeing their income and wages depreciate for years since and even before the Dollar Devaluation of 1973 when the international currency standard was replaced by Gold for the paperback US dollar. The majority of the world's petroleum, currency reserves and exchange rates rely on the strength of the dollar to keep the global economy and financial markets from dipping as the Dow and NASDAQ are experiencing. The financial markets and stock exchange are eagerly awaiting the final last minute House deal that Speaker John Boehner and his young partner in crime Ted Cruz are waiting to solve until tomorrow. The deadline for the House of Representatives and Senate to reach their deal on the debt ceiling is Wednesday at 12AM. If a debt ceiling limit is not dealt, the financial markets will panic although it may not be immediately felt. China is watching the economic events in the US and has called for the De Americanization of the world. As with previous large empires, the United States is facing an abyss that it has dug for itself. All previous empires collapsed from political instability and financial ruins as the US is currently facing. It is inevitable. A country that continuously spends more than it has or expand (military wise in three wars and spend ridiculous amounts on defense and extracting resources) regardless of political parties' in power or in the White House is bound to bankrupt itself and suffer its people financially. The independence leaders and presidents of USA have predicted that if the country is destroyed it will be destroyed from within. Even if the House does pass a deal on the debt ceiling, the markets could take awhile to recover to pre-government shutdown levels.
Birth of the De Americanized World

A history lesson

This is not the first time that a government shutdown occurred in the US. There have been some 17 government shutdowns since 1976 that are often not taught in American school textbooks nor are common knowledge. With the exception of the 1995 Government Shutdown. When the last major government shutdown occurred (lasting 21 days) during former President Bill Clinton's administration in 1995, (incidentally the shutdown began after Clinton attempted to pass a reformed healthcare bill) the economy was experiencing a boom cycle. The housing bubble had not burst and new dot com companies continued to grow the economy. While the rust belt states and cities Detroit, Chicago, Michigan, etc laid off thousands of workers as car manufacturing and production moved overseas to China, Mexico, Thailand and across the emerging economies. Outsourcing is not new but it increased greatly during the 1980s through the 1990s. Unlike today's government shutdown, the economy was not overtly effected but still experienced contractions. When the Republican Congress finally reopened the government, the United States and the world was introduced to the Contract with America that sought to pass backlogged legislation in 100 days. The contract also stated that Congress members would abide by etiquette rules and manners that would ease Capitol Hill's image as wasteful and aloof to the ordinary people's plight. There has been no mentioned of a new Contract with America from the current Republican Congress. A deal has been spoken about by the House speaker John Boehner and the Senate but it has not moved a long quickly as needed. All this is occuring while the American people's frustrations over closed public/government programs has impacted their lives financially and socially. The nation's capital Washington, DC actually relies on the Federal government for its political functions since it is not its own state or an autonomous region as are other national capitals around the world. 

Taliban mocks US Government shutdown

President Bill Clinton's remarks on 95 Government Shutdown

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Malala Yousefzai, the cause celebre for women's education

Malala vs Taliban
Malala with her family at the British hospital: father, brothers and mothers in the foreground. Photo from SBS World service via Mindfulness Now

Malala Yousefzai, the 16 year old Pakistani activist from Swat Valley fighting for women and girls' education and a special speaker at UN, missed winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The award went to the nuclear organization responsible for inspecting and destroying Syria's nuclear weapons stockpile. However, the media interest in Malala has been resparked by her runner up status for Nobel Peace Prize. A year ago, Malala came to the world's attention and became a cause celebre after being shot twice in the head by the Taliban. Her facial nerves were damaged by the bullet and speaking was limited. As a child activist beginning at age 11, she fought non stop and bravely stood up to the Taliban's strict ban girls and women receiving an education in her hometown Mingora, Swat. Currently, the Pakistani military is fighting the Taliban to keep the organization out of Swat and from reimposing their oppressive rule. The Taliban's rule over Swat paralleled the methods they had applied to Afghanistan. Not only were women and girls deprived of an education, they and their families were also flogged, publicly punished and hung as a lesson to fellow residence of the city. The Pakistani army has been fighting a war against the Taliban since 2009 as part of the larger war in Afghanistan. The government has used amnesty and negotiation to avoid further terrorist attacks and violence occurring in the North Western Frontier province where Swat is located. The Swat Valley itself is regarded as a paradise on Earth with scenic mountain views, lush valleys and relative peace prior to the Taliban's arrival some three years ago. Despite the mainstream media's championing Malala's story of the brave girl standing up to terrorists and militants, some residence in Malala's hometown see Western media's admiration for her as a stooge or puppet serving as a reminder of the Taliban rule in Swat Valley. Malala's story has included a recently published book about her young life, numerous public appearances, interviews with mainstream news channels from BBC, CNN, NPR and Al Jazeera and spokeswoman for women's education. Furthermore, her image plays on the stereotype of white savior rescuing the brown woman or girl from harm by her fellow countrymen. Many Pakistani men and boys protested against Taliban and their attack on women long before Malala was well known in Western countries.. While Malala was given specialized and top notch medical treatment in Britain for her life threatening injuries, her fellow schoolmates who were also injured in the attack did not receive the same treatment. Nor did children who have been killed by American drones and bombings occurring in Swat Valley as well as Afghanistan and Yemen. Malala has insisted to her compatriots in her hometown that she is not a puppet of Western politicians nor is she seeking glory for herself but is fighting on behalf of all women and girls inside and outside of Pakistan. She has considered becoming a politician after her father who is her inspiration, hoped she would become a politician to continue her fight despite her non interest in politics. The Taliban has threatened on several occasions to kill Malala. She has responded to the threat by suggesting to meet and dialogue with the Taliban despite the dangers she faces from the Taliban.

Malala's Story: From New York Times

Malala speaking during World Youth Day at the UN on her 16th Birthday. Compliments of UN 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Migrants drowned and water

Migrants who made it to Lampedusa's shores

Only 100 migrants out of a group of 300 survived a dangerous sea crossing from Northern Africa to the island of Lampedusa. Overcrowded boat with African migrants from North, West and East Africa have been arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa in hopes of reaching mainland Europe. For years, hundreds if not thousands of migrants have drowned attempting to reach the island before being captured by Italian Coast guards. Most migrants, though innocent have relied on human smugglers to pay their way to illegally enter the borders of Italy via overcrowded boats that often capsize off the coast of Lampedusa or face death through drowning without rescue from Italian coast guard authorities. Lampedusa and other Italian societies seem to regard the migrants' lives as doomed and worthless than others. Since Libyan Conflict 2011,thousands of migrants have fled Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea (even though the Eritrean government and country has been stable for most of its history) and elsewhere to travel for weeks overland to Tunisia than on the Mediterranean Sea often facing rough waters and dehydration to reach Europe. Europe that has gradually transformed itself into a fortress with a far reaching security apparatus that shows no sympathy for migrants or illegal travelers crossing the seas. Even asylum seekers face difficulty from restrictive immigration policies and border patrols who regard illegal and legal migrants as invaders rather than people with legitimate requests and needs for safety and stability that they can not find in their own countries. Pope Francis visited Lampedusa two months ago to pay his respects to the thousands of migrants who lay at the bottom of the sea and the thousands more in detention centers across Lampedusa. The survivors will most likely be sent to detention centers where many migrants are often caroled and kept separate from the local population for weeks on end. Migrants who are able to leave the detention centers are sent to Sicily than either deported or if fortunate are able to find contacts in France, Italy or another Europe country. Libya, Morocco and Egypt had signed deals and cooperated with European nations to halt illegal migration by sea from across African countries and Middle East. However since the North African revolutions and instability in Libya, migrants have found a loophole in previous migration agreements between Europe and North Africa. Both Gaddhafi's death two years ago, Libyan border authorities had gone to great lengths to capture and deport illegal migrants back to their countries of origins while being applauded by European countries for doing so.

The Italian Coast Guard is currently aiding medical personnel to rescue surviving migrants from sunk boats while recovering the bodies of drowned migrants from the current and previous capsize boats. The recovery/rescue operations have been going on for over a week and will continue for days to come. Even as migrants are being recovered from the waters, new migrants continue to face death on overcrowd ships. The UN and other international groups have insisted that Italian authorities and European countries practice what they preach on safeguarding the lives of migrants through easing restrictive/migration policies that has led the lost of life of hundreds of people.

What happens to child migrants arriving in Europe?