Much has been written and argued over the Israeli settlements that now exist on land that the International Community considers to be the “occupied territories” of the incipient Palestinian state. That state is supposed to include the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. It is being argued that the existence of these Israeli settlements is the cause of the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians in their mutually stated aim of creating two states, living side by side in peace and security.
In 2005, then-Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon believed in that vision and with the approval of the Israeli parliament ordered the dismantling of all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip as the first step in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Those Jewish settlements included private homes, schools, synagogues, farms, businesses, hothouses, and small industries that actually provided Israel with the best produce available. Indeed, the unilateral dismantling of those communities, without any reciprocal gestures by the Palestinians, was traumatic for the settlers, and represented considerable economic loss for the Israelis. But they were willing to make that sacrifice in the interest of peace.
Gadhafi is now dead. After more than four decades of brutalizing the Libyan people, he died a brutal death. His convoy was hit by NATO bombs as it fled the city of Sirte. Western-backed revolutionaries finished the job, wildly shouting “Allahu Akbar” — usually translated as “God is great” — as they ripped his hair out, smashed his face in, and finally, put the fatal bullet through his skull. American officials celebrated the ghoulish announcement.
Gadhafi was born in 1942 to poor parents outside of Sirte, Libya, a country then ruled by Italy. Raised in a tent, he eventually joined the military. And in 1969, while pro-Western Libyan King Idris was away, Gadhafi led a coalition of military officers in a bloodless coup that abolished the monarchy.
After seizing power, the budding despot promptly shut down Western military bases in Libya and set up “Revolutionary Committees” to quash opposition. While working to bring in his version of Arab socialism, Gadhafi also developed a massive system of informants to silence dissent. Critics were often publicly executed.
Using oil money instead of debt, Gadhafi’s regime did significantly raise Libyans’ standards of living — life expectancy and literacy rates surged. Blacks and women were also given equal “rights.” Many analysts cite the dictatorship’s socialist programs and robust welfare state as a reason he was able to cling to power for so long. Like most governments, Gadhafi ensured some level of popular support by using divide-and-conquer tactics and creating whole classes of citizens dependent on his regime’s largesse. Fear also played a key role.
Retired Army General Otto Pérez Molina won Sunday's runoff presidential election in Guatemala, seizing on voters' concerns about growing insecurity in the Central American nation. Pérez led with more than 53 percent of the vote, Guatemala's election authority said. His opponent, businessman Manuel Baldizón, garnered 46 percent of the vote. Both candidates had promised to tackle growing insecurity and the presence of Mexican drug gangs in the country, an area of special concern to the Central American nation, due to its prominence as a key transit point for drugs from South America to the United States.
Pérez, a retired army general who pledged to take a tough stand on crime, was the frontrunner heading into the election. He won the most votes in the first round of voting in September. Low voter turnout was reported in Sunday's election, according to the state-run AGN news agency. The issue of security in Guatemala, which has worsened as Mexican drug cartels have stepped up operations in parts of the country, dominated the vote. In a Vox Latina national survey in July, more than two-thirds of Guatemalans said violence was what concerned them most, far outpacing the combined totals for the economy, unemployment, poverty, and lack of education. In a debate co-hosted by CNN en Español this year, Pérez called for "elite units of the army" to play a larger role in the nation's battle against gangs and drug cartels. The retired general pledged to bring a mano dura — firm hand — to Guatemala's highest office.
As speculation continues over possibilities of a unilateral attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration is sending a clear signal that it is prepared to work with the victorious factions arising through the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring — including self-avowed “Islamists.” In the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “what parties call themselves is less important to us than what they actually do.”
According to a story from the Associated Press, the Obama administration is now openly embracing the Islamist shift which is taking place as a result of the past year’s series of revolutions that have swept through a series of Islam-dominated countries. Speaking to the National Democratic Institute, Clinton made it clear that a profound shift is taking place in American foreign policy. In the words of the AP story:
Clinton offered a forthright embrace of the democratic changes enveloping North Africa and the Middle East at a time when the euphoria of the successful revolutions from Egypt to Libya is giving way to the hard and unprecedented work of creating stable democracies.
After decades of partnering dictators throughout the region, her message was that the U.S. would approach the new political landscape with an open mind and the understanding that long-term support for democracy trumps any short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes.
Government programs often begin with limited, easily identifiable purposes, then grow over time to become expensive, wasteful, and even dangerous monstrosities. Such is the case with the federal War on Drugs, which began with little fanfare under a modest 1914 anti-narcotics law and has since grown to enormous proportions, eviscerating the Bill of Rights and entangling the United States in countries all around the globe in a futile effort to eradicate the supplies of highly sought-after commodities.
On Monday, a number of media outlets predicted that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s next quarterly report on Iran's nuclear potential (set to come out this week) would set the stage for a preemptive attack on that country. Experts indicated that the document would reveal the so-called “smoking gun” that would justify a war against Iran. Leaked portions of the report, however, reveal no such information, instead focusing on seemingly idle observations and speculation.
After being slapped with a $2.4-million bill by the Beijing tax bureau, Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei could be charged with illegal fundraising. Ai disclosed to the public his hefty tax bill only last week, and since then nearly 20,000 people have donated more than 5.3 million yuan ($840,000) to help the artist pay an enormous sum of back taxes and fines.
The Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, castigated Ai’s funding measures and suggested that using the contributions to pay back the government "could be an example of illegal fundraising." The newspaper also attempted to downplay Ai’s support from the Chinese people. "It is absolutely normal for a certain number of people to show their support for him with donations. But these people are an extremely small number when compared with China's total population," the newspaper’s commentary read. "Ai's political preference along with his supporters' cannot stand for the mainstream public, which is opposed to radical and confrontational political stances."
Communist China has long been seeking to increase its influence over the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, whether through economic, industrial, diplomatic, or militaristic means, as part of its gambit for geopolitical dominance. Part of this overall mission has been the establishment of formal ties with various African nations, most of them impoverished and home to petty dictators, such as the beleaguered nation of Zambia, where concerns have been raised that China is engaged in widespread human rights abuses against Zambian copper mine workers, according to a report released last week from Human Rights Watch.
In a 122-page report, " 'You'll Be Fired If You Refuse': Labor Abuses in Zambia's Chinese State-owned Copper Mines," the international rights watchdog said that despite improvements in recent years, safety and labor conditions at Chinese-owned mines are worse than at other foreign-owned mines, and Chinese mine managers often violate government regulations in their treatment of Zambian workers. These violations include poor health and safety conditions, regular 12-hour and even 18-hour shifts involving arduous labor, and anti-union activities, all in violation of Zambia’s national laws or international labor standards. The four Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia are subsidiaries of China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation, a state-owned enterprise under the authority of China’s highest executive body. Copper mining is the lifeblood of the Zambian economy, contributing nearly 75 percent of the country’s exports and two-thirds of the central government revenue.