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May 10 2011

Mississippi River Flooding Headed Towards Memphis

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The Mississippi River continues to rise to record high levels since the 1930s. The flooding has reached Memphis, TN and is swamping homes and forcing hundreds of people out of their homes. Officials are confident that the levees will protect Memphis from the serious flooding. Memphis is home to some of the world’s most famous musical landmarks. Graceland and Beale Street are both located in Memphis, however they are not in areas that will be affected to the water.

Over 1,300 houses have been informed about the damages the flood may cause and to be prepared. Proper clean up plans have been established, however officials believe the worst is over.

“Where the water is today, is where the water is going to be,” according to chief of geotechnical engineering for the Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis, Cory Williams.

Bob Nations, director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, ensure that the river levels are “going to recede slowly, it’s going to be rather putrid, it’s going to be expensive to clean up, it’s going to be labor intensive.”

In Louisiana, officials have begun evacuating prisoners in the states harshest penitentiary. They also opened floodgates that will “relieve pressure on the levees outside New Orleans.”

It worries me how confident officials are that the flood won’t have a huge affect on Memphis. I hope they are correct, however I believe it is better to be safe than sorry. We have had several natural disasters within the past five years and we need to be prepared as much as possible for another one. I am glad to see proper steps have been taken to ensure an effective cleanup system, however I hope they are evacuating enough people.

May 10 2011

Pakistan Intelligence Failure

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Since Osama Bin Laden’s death on May 1st, speculation has spread that Pakistan’s intelligence was aware of bin Laden’s whereabouts. On Monday, May 9th, suspicion augmented “Pakistan’s intelligence service leaked the name of the CIA chief in Islamabad to local media in anger over the raid” that occurred outside of Islamabad last week. The U.S. has said tension between the two countries has grown because of the reveal. Despite the CIA chief being exposed, he will not be pulled from his position.

In Pakistan, the intelligence services and military have suffered scornful disparagement from its people for not stopping the U.S. operation. Even if Pakistanis were pleased about the death of bin Laden, they do believe the raid was a violation of their sovereignty.

In response to Pakistan’s disapproval to the raid, U.S. officials have admitted they didn’t inform Pakistanis because they were concerned personnel may tip off bin Laden. Not only did the United State’s Navy SEALs raid bin Laden’s compound without telling Pakistan official first, they also used helicopters with radar-evading technology to prevent the military from tracking them.

Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was sure to defend his intelligence services and military.
“[It was] disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or for being in cahoots with al-Qaida.” He continued to state, “Yes, there has been an intelligence failure. It is not only ours but of all the intelligence agencies of the world.” Gilani believed the assassination of bin Laden as “indeed justice done,” but he warned the United States not to try another covert raid ever again.

Even though the Pakistani Prime Minister admits to a failure in the intelligence servies, it is difficult for me to believe that the government did not know bin Laden was hiding out inside their borders. I am also surprised with the response from the Pakistani people. I can understand the feeling of a lack of soveriegnty. But can they really blame us? The most wanted man in the world was living within their community, how would we not take action?

May 09 2011

Gas Prices Soaring

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Costly gas prices has consistently been an issue that American face on a daily basis. In the past two weeks, the average price for a gallon of gasoline has risen to 11.98 cents. On May 6th, the United States average price for self-serve, regular unleaded gas was $4 per gallon. Fortunately, oil prices decreased last week which industry analysts are saying will signal in lower costs to come.

The all time high cost of gas was in July of 2008 when a gallon of gas was $4.11. According to Trilby Lundberg, the editor for the nationwide “Lundberg Survey,” “If the current oil price stays, gas prices will slide.” To support his assumption that the gas prices are declining, there is evidence that the wholesale market (retailers and commercial buyers) prices are also dropping.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the oil prices will continue to decline. The oil production in Libya has not been re-established which is affecting the U.S. gasoline demand. The highest average of self-serve gas is at $4.50 in Chicago for self-serve, regular unleaded gas. The lowest price of self-serve, regular unleaded gas is in Tucson, Arizona at $3.62 per gallon. The last time gas prices were this high, the economoy collapsed.

“We can’t know what oil prices will do,” said Lundberg. “The main drivers of oil price increases have not gone away.”

Many people are angry because they believe Wall Street speculators are driving up the gas prices in order for them to make more profit. As they are raising the prices, Americans are suffering from the high price.

May 09 2011

Anit-Violence March in Mexico City

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Violence and turmoil continues throughout Mexico. Since drug kingpin, Arturo Beltran, died in December 2009, bloodshed has become more prevalent in the southwest region of Mexico’s capital, Mexico City. Beltran died from a shootout with marines in Cuernavaca, which lead to a splintering of his cartel. Rivals of Beltran are commonly known for hanging mutilated bodies from bridges along Mexico City and Cuernavaca highways.

These conflicts have resulted in over 34,000 lives lost “since Calderon deployed federal forces in 2006 to battle cartels. An extraordinary amount of drug bosses have been captured and/or killed. Once the bosses are killed, splintering of their cartels occurs and the fighting reaches a horrific level. Last month in Tamaulipas and Durango, secret graves were discovered that help hundreds of bodies.

An anti-violence march took place in Mexico city took place Sunday. The march was spread over a four-day trek and was led by Javier Sicilia, a poet whose son had been slain. His son, Juan Francisco Sicilia, was killed in March in Cuernavaca along with six other people. Investigators believe that some of those that were murdered may have had a conflict with the suspects several days before the attack happened, however Sicilia was not involved.
Hundreds of people gathered in Cuernavaca on Thursday and marched the 50 mile route in silence. Estimations of about 100,000 people were in attendance. Sicilia made a speech to the crowd which demanded that Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna resign from his position. Sicilia also made comments against the Mexican Government for “failing to curb Mexico’s relentless drug violence despite the deployment of thousands of soldiers and federal police to cartel strongholds across the country.”

“If we have walked and arrived here in silence it’s because our pain is so great and so profound, and the horror that causes it so immense, that there are no words to describe it,” Sicilia said. “We still believe that it is possible to the country to be reborn and rise from ruin and show the agents of death that the sons and daughters of this country are standing up.”

How far will the violence in Mexico go until serious action is taken to stop it? The Mexican Government is failing to provide safety for its citizens and thousands of people are dying because of these drug wars. Although these marches spread awareness of the violence, more significant action needs to take place for violence to end. The international community must take action to stop the violence.

May 09 2011

Libya: Gadhafi’s son warns of civil war

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Earlier today, Sunday February 20th, Moammar Gadhafi’s son appeared on state-wide television to clarify that his father is remaining to be in charge of Libya’s army backing and is going to “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” This speech was presented directly after the anti-government strife spread to Tripoli (Libya’s capital) and protesters detained military weapons and bases. Moammar’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, warned the protesters that they were risking to ignite a civil war that would destroy Libya’s oil wealth. He said that the regime tolerable with eliminating some restraints and will begin to discuss a constitution. He has proposed to change several laws, including laws that cover the penal code and the media.
Since the unrest began, six days ago, there have been over 200 causalities. Gadhafi denies this death toll. He believes that the number has been exaggerated and there has been a total of 84 deaths. According to medical officials, exiled dissidents and human rights groups, the 200 deaths includes a bloodbath that occurred right before Seif a-Islam gave his warning on television. Security forces shot at thousands of protestors and funeral marchers. The event resulted with 60 people dead.
The Western countries are starting to show concern over the increasing violence occurring in Libya. William Hauge, the British Foreign Secretary, told Sief al-Islam that Libya must begin to “dialogue and implement reforms.” During the younger Gadhafi’s speech he warned protesters that they will eventually “…get Americans and European fleets coming your way and they will occupy you.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has informed the press that President Obama is “very concerned” over the reports that Libya military has been firing at passive protesters in the city of Benghazi.

May 09 2011

Pakistan’s Threats

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For decades, relations between Pakistan and United States have been questionable. Although the relationship has not been stable, keeping Pakistan as an ally has been a priority for the United States. On May 1st, the death of Osama Bin Laden was announced to the world by the United States government. At first, details of the assassination were unclear, but later it was revealed that Bin Laden had been living in a Mansion outside of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. The al-Qaeda leader had been hiding in “an enormous compound in an affluent suburb.” Bin Laden’s compound has been compared to the size of West Point’s campus. Directly following the attack, Pakistan’s military chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, ordered Pakistani forces to take arms against any American troops that attempted to raid anywhere on Pakistani ground. Kayani demanded that the U.S. military be removed from inside Pakistan and that “any future raids into the country would prompt a far-reaching reevaluation of Islamabad’s ties with Washington.”

On Monday, May 1st, highly-trained Navy Seals raided Bin Laden’s compound and recovered DVDs, hard drives, and a wide array of computers. All of this was done without one single American casualty. The Pakistani government had not given permission for the raid, nor did they have any knowledge of it.

So how could the most wanted man in the world be living under Pakistani security personnel in a compound comparable to the size of West Point for five years without anybody knowing? Why should we continue relations with the Pakistan government if they are holding they man we have spent a decade looking for?

Democratic Representative Howard Berman of California has urged the Obama administration to rethink its military alliance to Pakistan in result of bin Laden’s discovery within their borders.

“I am writing to express my deep and ongoing concerns regarding the impact of United States security assistance to Pakistan—concerns that have been exacerbated by the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad. Certain elements of the Pakistani defense and intelligence establishments continue to provide direct and indirect support to groups that directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s own stability…Pakistan’s continued resistance to cooperate with the United States in counterterrorism bespeaks an overall regression in the relationship. “

The United States is urging Pakistan to enhance “intelligence sharing about other wanted militants, especially bin Laden’s probably successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is thought to be hiding in the country’s lawless border regions, and to take stronger military action against the insurgent safe havens along Pakistan’s porous border with Afghanistan.” I believe the U.S. should continue to put pressure on the Pakistani government. Pakistan should not have the upper hand when they failed to communicate with the U.S. on bin Laden’s whereabouts. I believe Pakistan’s security personnel knew that bin Laden was living within their borders and they should be concerned on making amends with the U.S. rather than vice versa.

May 08 2011

The Cost of Osama

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Osama Bin Laden has cost the United States over $3 trillion throughout the past 15 years. From the war and increase in U.S. security prompted by the terrorist attacks he directed, the issues he brought upon our domestic economy and the direct efforts to hunt him down, Bin Laden has become “the most expensive public enemy in American history.”
In result of Bin Laden’s actions, the United States has over 150,000 troops occupied in war in the Middle East which is drying up a quarter of our defense budget. The soaring oil prices are also related to the global war on Bin Laden’s terrorist network and involvements. Our national debt continues to increase at a rapid pace, heavily impacting the United States economy.
Our largest expense has been spent on development of an unmanned aircraft, Predator drones. Linda Bilmes, a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government stated, “We have spent a huge amount of money which has not had much effect on the strengthening of our military, and has had a very weak impact on our economy.”
Although Bin Laden is dead, is this exactly what he had wanted? The United States’ debt is persisting to increase and the economy is weakening. In a taped speech Bin Laded stated, “We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.” Part of his goal was to “make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations.”
On May 1st, the United States’ government confirmed that the World’s Most Wanted Man had been killed. Many Americans felt a sigh of relief and closure, some celebrated, and others grew more concerned of al-Qaeda’s retaliation. I think America definitely gained a moral victory with Bin Laden’s death. His death also probably boosted morale throughout the troops deployed. Unfortunately a moral victory only lasts so long. Eventually people are going to realize the amount of time, money and lives were lost because of this man’s life. Was he really worth all of what we lost? As an American I am very relieved Osama Bin Laden is dead, however I am not fully satisfied with his death.

Mar 28 2011

Australian Anti-Smoking Campaign Targets Aborigines

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Every year, 20 percent of Aborigines in Australia die from smoking related illnesses. About 50 percent of Aboriginal people smoke. Cancer, heart problems and other chronic diseases are mostly results of smoking among Aborigines. Also, Aborigines have a significant shorter life span than other Australians. Statistics have shown that Australian Aborigines’ lives are up to 11.5 years shorter than non-indigenous Australians. They are also twice as likely to die as infants.
The Australian government recognizes the health risks the Australian people are facing and decided to take action to reduce the amount of Australians smoking. On Monday, April 28th, Australia launched their first national health television advertising campaign. The commercial is aimed at the Aboriginal people. The Australian Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, hopes that the country will be able to halve the amount of Aboriginal people who smoke by the year 2018. The campaign is costing about $4.1million U.S.
The campaign is obviously much needed with over 50% Aborigines smoking. My concern is why they didn’t decide to do this earlier? It would have smarter for Australia to start this campaign several years ago, rather than waiting till indigenous people had shorter lives of up to 11.5 years. If the Australian government had started the campaign earlier, they may have also cut down on costs. However, overall I believe the campaign is necessary for Aboriginal people.

Feb 21 2011

Libya: Gadhafi’s son warns of civil war

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Earlier today, Sunday February 20th, Moammar Gadhafi’s son appeared on state-wide television to clarify that his father is remaining to be in charge of Libya’s army backing and is going to “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” This speech was presented directly after the anti-government strife spread to Tripoli (Libya’s capital) and protesters detained military weapons and bases. Moammar’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, warned the protesters that they were risking to ignite a civil war that would destroy Libya’s oil wealth. He said that the regime tolerable with eliminating some restraints and will begin to discuss a constitution. He has proposed to change several laws, including laws that cover the penal code and the media.
Since the unrest began, six days ago, there have been over 200 causalities. Gadhafi denies this death toll. He believes that the number has been exaggerated and there has been a total of 84 deaths. According to medical officials, exiled dissidents and human rights groups, the 200 deaths includes a bloodbath that occurred right before Seif a-Islam gave his warning on television. Security forces shot at thousands of protestors and funeral marchers. The event resulted with 60 people dead.
The Western countries are starting to show concern over the increasing violence occurring in Libya. William Hauge, the British Foreign Secretary, told Sief al-Islam that Libya must begin to “dialogue and implement reforms.” During the younger Gadhafi’s speech he warned protesters that they will eventually “…get Americans and European fleets coming your way and they will occupy you.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has informed the press that President Obama is “very concerned” over the reports that Libya military has been firing at passive protesters in the city of Benghazi.